Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW Date: September 12, 2017
Guest: Suzanne Carlson, Noah Shachtman CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST, ALL IN: That is "ALL IN" for this evening.
THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts now, which this Thursday will feature an interview with, none other than Hillary Clinton, live, in studio, at 9:00 p.m. Eastern. You do not want to miss that.
Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST : I`m not nervous enough about that and working on that enough already. Lighting a little extra fire under me, my friend.
HAYES: I know. If there is one thing you tend to slack in these situations, you need to be motivated a little bit.
MADDOW: I`ll sleep when I`m dead.
Anyway, thank you, my friend. I appreciate it.
And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
You know, it has just been announced that two of the best and most accomplished investigative reporters of their generation, two of the best investigative reporters we have in this country are about to collaborate, they`re about to do a book together on the Trump-Russia investigation. One of these reporters is famously the reporter who first got the Monica Lewinsky story about President Bill Clinton. The other one is the one who happens to have broken the news about the Trump-Russia-Christopher Steele dossier. He`s also the same reporter who broke the 47 percent news during the Mitt Romney campaign in 2012.
As a team, these two investigative reporters wrote the definitive book on what the U.S. government lied about in the lead-up to the Iraq war and how the U.S. government sold the country on the Iraq war even though the premise for that war was false. So, they got an incredible track record of turning stuff up as a team.
And now, that same super power reporting team is going to get back together again, despite the fact they write for different news outlets, they are getting back together again to write a book together again because right now, they`ve got the Trump-Russia story in their sights. So, that was just announced today. That will end up being a big deal, I promise you. One of those reporters is here tonight.
As the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, comes under renewed pressure over his own denials that he had contacts with Russian officials during the campaign, the president himself is also having some new trouble with one of his own statements denying a connection with Russia. That statement now falling apart under new scrutiny. So, we got that story ahead, including a visit with one of those investigative reporters.
Plus, we got the editor of "The Daily Beast" here tonight, as that publication breaks the news about a new level of Russian involvement in last year`s presidential campaign. This is activity by the Russians here inside the United States that we didn`t know about before today. That report is coming up here tonight, as well.
I want to start off tonight, though, with a report that aired tonight on "NBC Nightly News." Last night on the show, you might remember we had the governor of the U.S. Virgin Islands here on the show talking about the devastation that the U.S. Virgin Islands are facing after Hurricane Irma. Well, tonight, NBC News` Ron Mott is there in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
RON MOTT, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This afternoon in Puerto Rico, a coast guard cutter loading up with supplies, heading for some of the islands Irma hit hardest.
(on camera): On board, they`re bringing everything they can to keep this relief effort going. In fact, there are TSA officers on board as well today with a critical goal of getting the airport in St. Thomas back up and running.
(voice-over): Virgin Islands whipped by category five winds.
JON LYONS: For a place once completely green and lush, everything now looks dead and bleak.
MOTT: Tonight, still largely cut off, no cell phones, limited fuel.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Long line right here. This is a gas station and everything. There are so many people.
MOTT: The devastation on the U.S. Virgin Islands of St. Thomas and St. John almost unbelievable.
DUSTIN VESEY: You could not even see the street in some areas because it was covered in trees and roofs and just every kind of debris imaginable.
MOTT: From the air, stunning images now emerging, on towards (INAUDIBLE), pieces of homes strewn across the hillsides, boats piled up.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This section of my mom`s room, the roof came off.
MOTT: You can see it from space, St. Maarten before and now after Irma came blowing through. Buildings flattened, cars crushed.
Tonight, the urgent need for relief aid across this region is growing. Residents struggling to get by.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We need water and food. It not no, maybe, it`s for sure.
MOTT: Others trying to get out. The Kentucky Air National Guard has evacuated more than 1,000 Americans from the Virgin Islands, while Royal Caribbean is using their cruise ships to bring people to Puerto Rico, left behind a tropical paradise now desperately trying to pick up the pieces.
MADDOW: Important reporting from NBC News reporter Ron Mott in the Virgin Islands, where the destruction from Hurricane Irma is becoming a significant humanitarian concern now. The three major islands in the U.S. Virgin Islands are St. Croix, St. Thomas and St. John.
St. Croix as we heard from the governor last night appears to have weathered the storm well. St. Thomas appears to have weather it less well, and St. John appears to have weathered it not well at all. Eyewitnesses in St. John estimate that three out of every five homes on St. John had the roof ripped off by the storm.
We`re getting reports that none of the wooden homes on St. John are still standing, none of them. One nurse at the local hospital in St. John tells us that fellow residents have been donating their own personal supplies of diesel fuel in order to keep power running at the hospital, which is now running on generators on diesel power.
This is day six since the storm really just wiped out this part of this American territory. It`s the responsibility of the U.S. government and U.S. Virgin Islands. Now, there is news tonight the State Department will be starting emergency evacuation flights out of the British Virgin Islands and St. Maarten as of tomorrow morning.
But the situation in some of the U.S. Virgin Islands really does appear to be quite bad and there hasn`t been that much news about it really. We`ve been talking to people in the U.S. Virgin Islands just on our staff all day today. We`ve been talking to people on the islands trying to get a beat on this story over and over again. People told us they felt like they are being forgotten by the U.S. despite these dire conditions and despite the fact that these are the U.S. Virgin Islands.
So, we`re going to have a live report from St. Thomas in just a second.
I think to be honest, part of the reason the extremely bad conditions in the Caribbean more broadly and the U.S. Virgin Islands, in particular, the part of the reason they are not getting more attention is because there is a crowd looking for attention on these stories. Just in Florida, this herculean effort under way in Florida right now to try to recover on the main land. What`s happening in Florida right now, even if you just look at electric power, we believe it to be the single largest effort to restore electric power in U.S. history.
The Department of Homeland Security says at peak, 15 million Americans had no power because of the storm. That number is slowly coming down as crews get to work but this is now at least a couple of days in for millions of Americans not having power. You can get a sense of the challenges from satellite images showing Florida before and after Irma. Now in pitch darkness until they can restore the power grid.
Florida Power and Light says electricity could be back for the east coast of Florida, the Atlantic coast, by this weekend. But other parts of Florida may have to wait significantly longer particularly in the Keys.
There is also real concerns about the drinking water in the Keys. Tonight, the Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority says the transmission main that brings water to the islands appears to be intact but in an abundance of caution, they have issued a boil water notice to anybody using tap water anywhere in the Keys. There are boil notices in at least 23 other Florida counties, including in Broward County, where residents are being told they can shower in unboiled water as long as they can be sure they won`t get any water in the eyes or mouth while showering. Again, 23 counties with boil water advisories right now.
Yesterday, after the Pentagon said that as many as 10,000 people might need to be evacuated out of the Keys, county officials in Monroe County there pushed back and said, no evacuation of that kind of scale is going to be necessary at all. But FEMA is now publicly estimating that one out of every four homes in the Keys has been destroyed, one out of every four. They are saying that of the remaining homes, nearly two-thirds of them, 65 percent of them suffered what they are calling major damage.
So, the housing situation in the Keys and livability situation on the Keys right now is a serious matter. Today, local county officials started letting residents and business owners come back to the upper Keys, come back to the Keys that are closest to the Florida mainland, but that news arrived with a warning. Quote, returning residents should consider that there are limited services, most areas are still without power, and water. Cell service is spotty and most gas stations are closed.
In other words, come down here if you need to, but don`t expect much in terms of the ability to sustain life and travel while you`re here.
Now, U.S. military has sent Black Hawk helicopters to the Keys to help with any continuing rescue operations. The Navy is using infrared technology so that they can spot anyone who may be stranded overnight. USS Abraham Lincoln, an aircraft carrier, is stationed off the Keys. One of the helpful things it can do in a circumstance like this is produce 100,000 gallons of fresh water a day, which may end up being a big deal, depending how long this goes on.
In the Caribbean, the World Food Programme of the United Nations is sending 20 tons of high energy biscuits. It`s enough to feed 17,000 people for three days. Those emergency rations are going to Antigua and to St. Maarten, along with tarps and generators and prefabricated buildings and communications equipment.
And as I mentioned at the top tonight, the U.S. State Department has announced there will be evacuation flights for U.S. citizens leaving from St. Maarten and from the British Virgin Islands in the morning. The State Department says U.S. citizens who can get to St. Maarten and the airport there to arrive at the airport no later than 8:30 a.m. tomorrow local time, and the British Virgin Islands at the airport on Tortola, the deadline for U.S. citizens to get to the airport tomorrow to get on one of these evacuation flights is 9:00 a.m.
Joining us now from St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands is Suzanne Carlson. She`s a staff writer for the local newspaper there, which is the "Virgin Islands Daily News."
Ms. Carlson, thank you very much for joining us. I know times are tough right now.
SUZANNE CARLSON, STAFF WRITER, VIRGIN ISLANDS DAILY NEWS (via telephone): Thank you, Rachel. I appreciate having me on.
MADDOW: First, let me just ask you, where were you during the storm and how have you been holding up over these last five, six days?
CARLSON: I was at the newspaper`s office during the storm and rode it out with some colleagues and it was absolutely terrifying. I never experienced anything like that. And it was -- it was extremely frightening to hear wind that sounded like, you know, a jet engine for hours on end.
Things were flying around everywhere. The building was shaking and roof was buckling. You know, it was terrifying. But the building survived and we all came through just fine.
MADDOW: It`s been hard to get a lot of information out of -- a lot of different places in the Caribbean and it`s understandable why. I mean, obviously, people are in survival mode in some cases and communications infrastructure is down. It`s hard to reach people and certainly talking to the U.S. news media and the American mainland is in everybody`s priority.
But given that, I think it`s been hard to piece together a sense of how dire the circumstances are, even just in the U.S. Virgin Islands there. Can you just give us your assessment about how tough things are right now in St. John and particular and also in St. Thomas?
CARLSON: Absolutely. I haven`t been able to make it over to St. John yet myself, but I`ve heard from people who were there and it sounds like the island is virtually wiped out. It sounds really devastating.
St. Thomas isn`t fairing that much better. Every single person here has been affected in someway. I have friends and co-workers who lost everything. Their houses are gone.
So, there are some people who are doing better than others. Some people their houses are fine. They are in good health but now, the concern for everyone is keeping food and water and supplies stocked. Gas has been a big issue.
So, it`s going to be a long, hard road for a lot of people for months if not even years.
MADDOW: And how are supplies of basic necessities? We talked to the governor last night who talked about a major effort to distribute for example bottled water but we`re also hearing that people are having a hard time getting access to food and water and very basics.
CARLSON: It`s been incredibly difficult for a lot of people. Part of the reason not much information is coming out is because we literally can`t get it out. This is a first time I`ve been able to make a phone call that, you know, have any confidence it would last for more than a few seconds.
Internet is still down. We have no Internet in the office and there`s a lot of people on the island that were struggling before the hurricane even hit. And now, they are being told, you know, they are finding themselves having suddenly to walk in search of food, water, gas, you know, a lot of people with children trying to get diapers and supplies. It is extraordinary dire for a lot of people here and there are many people suffering tremendously.
MADDOW: Suzanne Carlson joining us on the phone from St. Thomas and U.S. Virgin Islands, staff writer for the "Virgin Islands Daily News" there -- appreciate what you and your colleagues have been through trying to live through and cover this thing. Please keep us apprised as best you can. We want to keep people informed as best we can. Thank you, Suzanne.
CARLSON: Will do. Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Appreciate it.
All right. We got lots ahead tonight. Do stay with us.
MADDOW: March 1st was a tough day for the new administration. They had already lost their national security advisor Mike Flynn because of his contacts with Russian officials that he lied about. And then barely two weeks after Mike Flynn got forced out as national security advisor in that scandal, barely two weeks later, they almost lost their attorney general as well for almost the same thing.
On March 1st, "The Washington Post" and "The Wall Street Journal" and "New York Magazine" all reported that despite his earlier denials that he had any contact with Russians during the campaign, newly minted attorney Jeff Sessions had in fact met more than once with the Russian ambassador during the campaign. Now, once those news stories broke, Sessions responded initially on March 1st by continuing to deny it, continuing to deny he had any contact with Russian officials.
But by the following day, by March 2nd, he was admitting to it. On March 2nd, that`s the day when he admitted he had those contacts and he announced he would recuse himself from any investigations involving any aspect of the presidential campaign, including the Russia stuff. Now, reports at the time suggested that the president had not only told Jeff Sessions he shouldn`t recuse himself, reports at the times suggested that the president went, quote, ballistic after Jeff Sessions made his announcement that he was going to recuse.
Now whether or not that`s personally true of the president, I don`t know. And I`m not sure whether any of us should care. But in terms of what the White House did, they did right after Jeff Sessions` recusal, they did sharply turn on the Russia investigation, right after Sessions announced his recusal. Right after that, they tried for the first time to go on offense on the Russia story, to try to make the Russia scandal into something that somebody else should have to answer for, not them.
Two days after Jeff Sessions recused himself was when the president sent that bizarre now famous tweet saying that President Obama was a bad and/or sick guy. Because according to President Trump, he had just learned that Obama had wiretapped him at Trump Tower during the campaign.
Now looking back on that now, we can recognize that as the first of several efforts by the White House to try to make the Russia investigation into somebody else`s problem. They have since tried to make fired FBI Director James Comey into the villain in the Russia story. They have tried to make this special counsel Robert Mueller into the villain in that story.
They have tried to make former MI-6 officer Christopher Steele into the villain in that story. They have tried to make Fusion GPS, the firm that commissions Steele to collect the intel in the Trump-Russia dossier, they try to make Fusion GPS into the villain in the Russia story. They tried it with a whole bunch of people now.
But the very first time they tried this tactic of making somebody else the bad guy in the Russia story, that was when Trump blamed Obama. When Trump said Obama was the bad, sick villain for having wiretapped him at Trump Tower and there ought to be an investigation. Now, the White House used that allegation at the time not only to try to divert blame and make somebody else the bad guy, they also used it to try to -- literally to try to stop talking about the Trump Russia scandal.
Shortly after Trump made his allegation that President Obama had wiretapped him, Sean Spicer announced to his White House spokesman that the White House would no longer speak about this issue. The White House would not longer comment on any matters related to the Russia investigation until there had been a proper investigation into the Obama administration`s terrible behavior on this matter and wiretaps at Trump Tower. Spicer announced there would be no comment on anything Russia-related from anybody in the Trump White House until the Obama investigation was complete.
That was nice stunt, right? A nice try. You know, they were not able to avoid ever talking about Russia matters ever again despite that pronouncement that they would hence force seize to speak about it.
For what it`s worth, that investigation into the Obama administration wiretapping Trump Tower, that investigation technically is complete now. Late at night on the Friday before the Labor Day weekend, the Department of Justice and the FBI submitted a filing to a D.C. court admitting neither the FBI, nor the national security division of the Justice Department had any evidence to support President Trump`s allegation that he had been wiretapped by the previous administration. Quote, both the FBI and the NSD, National Security Division of Justice Department, both the FBI and NSD confirm that they have no records related to wiretaps as described by the March 4th, 2017 tweets by the president. Late at night, on Friday, before the Labor Day weekend.
But still, they had to do it. That confirmation that President Obama never ordered a wiretap at Trump Tower, that confirmation that President Trump actually lied when he made that allegation about President Obama, that confirmation was forced begrudgingly into the public record, into that court filing by a Freedom of Information Act demand that was filed by a group called American Oversight.
And you know what? Tactically that was a smart use of FOIA, right, as a matter of public accountability, when you think about it. I mean, here is the president saying that the U.S. government had been directed by his predecessor to wiretap Trump`s phones. If that allegation were true, reasonably speaking, there would be records of that order or at least there would be records of that order being carried out.
So, it`s an elegant part of accountability. You file a Freedom of Information Act to request any such documentation of that order being issued or followed up on and boom. If you can make them respond to your FOIA request, you get the answer. It`s a pretty direct way of figuring out if it ever happened. Now, we know it never happened.
Again, that revelation was forced into the open by this watchdog group American Oversight. And now today, American Oversight is doing it again, because when Jeff Sessions, the attorney general, had to retract his previous denials and admit that yes, in fact, he had met with Russian officials during the campaign, part of what that did is it created a political problem for the White House with him having to take himself out of his attorney general role in terms of overseeing any Russia investigations but it also created a problem for Jeff Sessions himself, because one of the places he denied ever meeting with Russians during the campaign was when he was under oath during his confirmation hearings.
He also lied by omission in his sworn paperwork that he submitted to apply for a security clearance. That security clearance application asked about your meeting with foreign officials. He did not declare any of his meetings with Russians as part of his application for a security clearance.
So, how is he going to explain that?
Well, it took a few weeks after the recusal thing happened, but ultimately, Jeff Sessions had the Justice Department put out a statement giving him not exactly an alibi but at least an excuse for what he had done. In March, he recused himself. In May, finally, you got the Justice Department to put out the statement claiming that the reason that he had left his meetings with the Russians off his security clearance application is because quote, the FBI investigator handling the background check instructed him not to list meetings with foreign dignitaries and their staff connected with his Senate activities.
The attorney general`s explanation for why he didn`t disclose his multiple meetings with Russian officials during the campaign on his application for a security clearance is because he now says the FBI told him not to. Of course, he would have. He would be happy to disclose those things, even though he lied about it to newspapers for weeks afterwards.
He were happy the disclose it. The FBI told him not to. He`s just following FBI advice.
That`s his excuse/alibi. That is checkable and today, the same FOIA artists who forced the administration to admit Trump`s wiretap allegation against Obama was false, today, they are at it again. Today, they failed a FOIA lawsuit demanding that Jeff Sessions prove his alibi. Prove his excuse for lying on his security clearance application.
People for the American Way and American Oversight today filed a lawsuit to force the Justice Department and FBI to back up that assertion, if they can. To disclose the instructions that the FBI gave to Attorney General Jeff Sessions when he was applying for that security clearance.
According to the groups that filed the suit, quote: If Jeff Sessions wants us to believe his excuse, he should prove it. Quote: These documents should be easy to produce and we look forward to receiving them promptly from the FBI.
And, you know, benefit of the doubt, maybe the FBI did tell Jeff Sessions he didn`t have to disclose his meetings with Russians when he was applying for a security clearance. Maybe they gave him that explicit instruction which is what he says happened. If so, the FBI ought to be able to prove that relatively easily and that will turn out to be a strange piece of advice they gave him, but at least, if that`s true, Sessions will get sured up in terms of his excuse why he filed that false paperwork.
If it turns out, though, that the FBI didn`t give him that instruction and his excuse is false, what will the consequences of that be?
Some day, I swear, we are going to run down all of the cover stories and excuses and denials that have come out of the Trump administration and Trump campaign over the last nine months, just on the issue of their contacts with Russians. Some day, I`m telling you, somebody, we`re going to cancel all other news and I`m just going to spend the whole hour on the show listing all of the times that various members of the administration and transition and campaign said something denying contacts with Russians that was later proved to be untrue.
It will take a full hour to get through the full list and we`ll have to kill commercials. But -- I mean, it`s a pretty astonishing list now. It includes the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, and former national security advisor, Michael Flynn, and Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner, and Donald Trump, Jr., and Mike Pence and Kellyanne Conway and, and, and, and.
I mean, to the extent there is a coordinated or uncoordinated effort by multiple people in the administration to cover up the extent of connections and dealings between Trump and Russia, there have been a lot of people in the administration and the campaign who have participated in that activity. The most important person in any cover-up, of course, would be the president himself and today, David Corn at "Mother Jones" magazine writes about a piece of the president`s effort to cover up his own connections with Russia, a piece of that is now being proven to be blatantly false and that story is next.
MADDOW: Couple weeks ago, we learned from "The Washington Post` that during his run for the presidency, Donald Trump was actively pursuing a multimillion dollar and potentially gigantic business deal in Moscow. It would be called Trump Tower Moscow.
The point person at the Trump Organization working on setting up this deal was the man named Felix Sater. This is Felix Sater`s business card, as you can see. It shows him working at the Trump organization, shows his title, senior advisor to Donald Trump.
Felix Sater has a criminal record, apparently lurid criminal record, including spending good chunk of time in prison. He`s also got lots of known mafia associations, and spent a long time as an FBI informant on mafia matters.
Over the years, despite Felix Sater`s role at the Trump Organization, there had been times when Donald Trump has conveniently denied remembering who he is and denied recognizing him. In the real estate business in particular, doing business with a convicted felon sometimes poses significant legal worries. So, a little distance can be convenient when somebody like that is on your organization and helping you set up deals.
Donald Trump not remembering him or not being able to recognize him would be plausibly true if there were long periods of time in which Felix Sater was other occupied, in which he had nothing to do with the Trump Organization, or and wheeling and dealing for them went dormant for a time.
But thanks to the recent reporting on the Trump Tower Moscow project, we now know that in October 2015, as he was gearing up to run for president, Trump himself signed a letter of intent to go forward with this Trump Tower Moscow project, the one that Felix Sater had put together.
Just weeks after that, in December 2015, and "Associated Press" reporter asked Trump in an interview about his relationship with Felix Sater. Trump told "The A.P." in that interview, again, just weeks after signing that letter of intent to do what could have ended up being one of the biggest business deals of his life in Moscow, we have Felix Sater, just weeks after signing that letter, Trump told "The A.P.", quote, Felix Sater, boy, have to even think about it. I`m not that familiar with him.
One whole side of reporting on this ongoing scandal in this investigation, one whole side of investigating the Trump-Russia scandal has been discovering and documenting contacts and ties between Trump and Russia before, and during and after the time when Russia was attacking the presidential election to help Trump win.
The other side of reporting on this scandal increasingly is documenting and keeping track of the number of proven known admitted contacts between Trump and Russia that they have tried to cover up, that they have lied about. And that means members of Trump`s immediate family, members of his campaign, members of his transition, members of his administration and yes, the president himself.
In Watergate, they said the cover-up was worse than the crime. In this one, it feels like the cover-up won`t stop. It feels like we`re all still living it now.
Joining us now is my friend David Corn, Washington bureau chief of "Mother Jones". David, it`s great to see you, thanks for being here tonight.
DAVID CORN, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, MOTHER JONES: Thank you. Thank you for the very generous introduction.
MADDOW: Well, you`re going to get more embarrassed as this interview goes on, because I want to talk to you about this book project that you were working with Michael Isikoff.
But first, I want to talk about Felix Sater. Donald Trump has lied about knowing Felix Sater in the past or at least he has suggested that he`s had no recollection of him and tried to distance himself in the past. Why do you think this time is more important?
CORN: I think this is the most important time. In December 2015, Donald Trump is the front runner for the Republican presidential nomination that might be surprising to him, as it was to a lot of political observers at the time. He`s asked about Felix Sater by "The A.P." reporter and he says, I don`t know him. I never heard of him.
Now, at the same time, as we now know but didn`t know back then, Felix Sater was brokering a deal for him to build a Trump Tower in Moscow. For 30 years, literally, 30 years, Donald Trump has tried to do business in Moscow. Many times he got close. But it never got over the finish line. He never got that Trump Tower in Moscow built.
So, here he was in the middle of a deal that would have given him $4 million up front into his own pocket, dealing with Russia. And what did he need to make the deal happen? The permission of the Russian government. Who is the head of the Russian government? Vladimir Putin. Who is Donald Trump saying oddly positive things about throughout the campaign? Vladimir Putin.
So, to acknowledge Felix Sater in December 2015, would in essence be acknowledging that he was in the middle of this deal when he was running for president, when he was telling the American public that he was going to put America first, American interests over everything else when actually he was in no position to criticize Vladimir Putin because he and his organization were asking Putin for help to build the project.
This is in some ways the most massive conflict of interest that we`ve ever seen in a modern presidential campaign and I think this is why, this is one of the most consequential deceptions of the Trump campaign. Imagine what would have happened in December of 2015. He said, oh, yes, I know Felix Sater. He`s brokering a deal for me right this very moment with Russia and I need Vladimir Putin on my side to make it happen.
What do you think would happen to Donald Trump`s presidential prospects right then and there?
He had to deny knowing Sater. He had to deny the deal. He kept this deal a secret. He hid this deal from the American public.
MADDOW: And, David, I feel like I`m starting to feel like there is this mountain of not just Trump-Russia connections and Trump Russia deals and Trump Russia financial connections, but this mountain of documented false denials and it includes this one from the president, but it also includes, you know, Jeff Sessions saying he didn`t have Russia contacts. He did. Paul Manafort saying he didn`t have Russia contacts, he did. Flynn denying he had Russian contacts, he did; Don Jr., Jared Kushner.
I mean, whether they said it out loud or they put it in writing, in sworn statements and applications for security clearances over and over and over again, it`s the same thing all going in the same direction. What does that add up to in the end? Lying isn`t a crime.
MADDOW: But consistently covering up these connections, and having so many different people consistently do it, even after they caught, where does that go in the end?
CORN: Well, even today, you know, they say over and over again, there was no collusion. When we have the June 9th meeting with Donald Trump Jr. and Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner, with emissaries from Russia. Now, they claim they didn`t get any negative opposition research on Hillary Clinton out of the deal but they certainly tried. That is colluding by definition and yet they keep saying there was no collusion.
You know, my concern is that we have a lot of pieces, you know, but we look at this as a mosaic and we look at one piece at a time that we often lose the big narrative picture. Not you. You do a good job of pulling it together, Rachel.
But media overall, we rush from one little new tidbit or nugget or revelation or new lie found out to the next one, and you got to -- if you sit back and look at what he did in terms of not telling the public about dealing with Russia, what they have done about colluding when they have colluded and, you know, throughout the campaign, Donald Trump kept saying that the Russians had nothing to do with it. His own campaign advisers knew, they were told that Russia wanted to help. That`s a big importance of the June 9th meeting.
So, you put all that stuff together, and it`s no longer just smoke. It`s fire. This is a cover-up. They`ve been stonewalling again and again.
Donald Trump was trying to do business with Russia and then six months later, Russia is trying to help the Trump campaign. It not very complicated. But I think in our current sort of one party rule in Congress and the White House, they -- the political conversation doesn`t really dig into what -- some of the big pictures are, big pictures are, and their implications. I mean, I think it`s pretty frightening at this point.
MADDOW: David Corn, will you sit there for one other second? I have one other thing I want to ask you about?
CORN: Of course.
MADDOW: I promise I`ll make it worth your while. Be right there.
We`ll be right back with David Corn just after this.
MADDOW: Four years ago, we did a documentary here on MSNBC that at the time, and maybe still was the most watched MSNBC documentary ever. It was based on a book called "Hubris" by Michael Isikoff and David Corn. It was about how we got into the Iraq war despite the false premise that war was based on.
And I think our documentary "Hubris" was good but the book it was based on was freaking brilliant. And now, today, I read in "The New York Times" that Michael Isikoff and David Corn are getting the band back together, this time to write a book on the Trump Russia scandal.
David corn, when were you going to tell me?
MADDOW: I had to read about this in "The New York Times"?
CORN: I`ve been working on this for a long time with Michael. And we would rather do the work than talk about the work.
MADDOW: Well, can you tell us at all what the book is going to focus on? Is it a historical book? Is it a book about current reporting?
CORN: A bit of both. We`re looking at everything leading up to the Russian hack, the history of Russian intelligence operations, history of U.S.-Russia relations and what happened with the hack and how the parties and the campaigns and the White House responded to it and what was going on behind the scenes in the intelligence community at the time.
MADDOW: David Corn, "Mother Jones" D.C. bureau chief, stealth announcing today that he and Michael Isikoff are back together for a new book, I can`t wait, my friend. Thank you for being here.
CORN: Thank you so much.
MADDOW: All right. Much more ahead tonight. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Today, "The Daily Beast" got a fascinating new exclusive report. They dug this up out of information other people could have dug into and found but they did it and turns out to be scary and worrying in terms of what we`ll found out next.
This is their story. Russia used Facebook events to organize anti- immigrant rallies on U.S. soil.
Now, we`ve been covering here the fact that Facebook only recently admitted that Russians used fake ads or used ad money to try to influence Americans during last year`s election. What`s new from "The Daily Beast" today is that Russia used Facebook to basically try to remote control organize real- life protests in the United States, including one in Twin Falls, Idaho.
Quoting from the piece, Russian operatives hiding behind false identities used Facebook`s event management tool to remotely organize and promote political protests in the U.S., including an August 2016 anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim rally in Idaho. "The Daily Beast" uncovered this Facebook events posting promoting that rally in Twin Falls, Idaho. It was called Citizens Before Refugees.
It was due the happen on August 27th. Citizens Before Refugees. You can see there.
That event was schedule for one day after "Breitbart News" published a discredited story about a spike in tuberculosis cases being blamed on immigrants and refugees in that locality. That event was hosted by a Facebook group called Secured Borders. It`s since been outed as a Russian op, not as an American organization at all. It`s been taken down. "The Daily Beast" describes that group as a, quote, putative anti-U.S. immigration community that was outed as a Russian front in March.
At the time Facebook took it down, though, it had over 130,000 U.S. followers.
So, Russia was not just spamming us online with fake news and Russian propaganda and promoting stolen documents they hacked from Democratic Party sources. They were also using American social media platforms like Facebook to try to get Americans to go demonstrate against Muslims and immigrants in real life in real American communities.
Joining us now is Noah Shachtman. He`s executive editor of "The Daily Beast". Noah, thanks for being here.
NOAH SHACHTMAN, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, DAILY BEAST: My pleasure.
MADDOW: At one level, this is an incremental story about another thing we`ve learned that Facebook was used for. At the other hand, I find this to be very chilling.
SHACHTMAN: Me too.
MADDOW: Yes. This is -- the idea that the Russians weren`t just promoting stuff in terms of what we looked at online, but trying to get Americans to do stuff in real life.
SHACHTMAN: Yes. No, it`s amazing. This is a real turn here. This isn`t just fake news. This isn`t just online propaganda. This is real world organizing.
And I have a feeling this just the tip of the iceberg. Facebook told our reporters late last night that they talked about multiple, multiple events. So, I think we`re going to start to see and more and of the stuff come out.
MADDOW: And multiple events associated with this secured borders front group? Or multiple events associated with lots of different groups?
SHACHTMAN: They were super coy about that.
MADDOW: OK. So, this is what is making me crazy. Facebook spent months denying that there was any Russia involvement in their platform related to the election whatsoever. Not only were they denying that they could be used as a platform for fake information, whatever. I understand that they`ve got a business reason to deny that, but denying there was any presence of Russian money or Russian operatives in their campaign, denying it for months, they now admit it.
Now that they`re willing to admit to you that yes, there was maybe this event. But they still won`t disclose anything in terms of what other Russian operations might have been organized through their platform.
SHACHTMAN: Right. So, there is either two options. One, they don`t know themselves yet, which is super weird for one of the Internet`s most powerful companies that can -- you know, has the most powerful facial recognition database in the world and has the most sophisticated algorithms for outing all kinds of objectionable content.
Either they still don`t know or they know and aren`t telling. And both of those alternatives are not great.
MADDOW: And if they know and they`re not telling, it raises interesting questions about whether or not they`re going to be available as a potential crime scene for investigators to look at for the Russia investigation writ large, whether it`s the Mueller inquiry or any of the congressional investigations. If some of the Russian crimes committed in the election or any American confederates helping them happened via Facebook, will Facebook allow investigators to follow the clues where they lead?
SHACHTMAN: Yes, my strong suspicion is they will. And I think thing is also another interesting turn here, right? The first part of the Russia scandal involves secret information, involved hacked information in the DNC, right? Now, the interesting part is part two, and maybe the more interesting part actually took place kind of in public on Facebook, and decoding what happened in public may tell us more about the turnout of the election than some hacked e-mails from DNC operatives.
MADDOW: And when you look at what we know about the public information and what your reporters were able to discover in terms of tracing these things on Facebook, what`s your understanding about whether or not this could have been a purely foreign operation, or whether or not this was something where there was domestic component in terms of operators here working in cahoots with Russian operatives who were working from St. Petersburg or wherever to make this happen?
SHACHTMAN: I don`t think we know yet. I don`t think we know what`s tail and what`s dog yet. Like I don`t think we know when these seemingly loony tunes anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim protesters are ginning stuff up, are they taking direction from Moscow? Is Moscow kind of piggybacking off of what they do? I don`t think that relationship is clear at all yet.
MADDOW: And do you -- is it your sense that that`s a figure outable thing, right? It`s one thing to not know now. It`s another thing to know whether or not this sort of activity leaves the kinds of breadcrumbs that anybody is going to be able to follow?
SHACHTMAN: Yes, this should be (INAUDIBLE) of online propaganda or something? That`s a mixed metaphor.
MADDOW: Well, you helped to advance the story in a way that makes me feel super creepy, but also better informed.
Noah Shachtman, executive editor for "The Daily Beast" -- Noah, thanks a lot. Appreciate it.
All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Senator Mark Warner is the top Democrat on the Intelligence Committee. This is what he had to say the day after Facebook finally confirmed that, yes, there had been Russian ad buys trying to affect the election.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MARK WARNER (D-VA), RANKING MEMBER, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: It was my belief that the Russians were using those sites to intervene in our elections. And, you know, the first reaction from Facebook, of course, oh, you`re crazy, nothing is going on. Well, we find yesterday there actually was something going on. I think all we saw yesterday in terms of their brief was the tip of the iceberg.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Tip of the iceberg. That was Senator Warner talking on Thursday last week about Facebook finally admitting that Russian money had made its way on to Facebook to buy ads to try to influence Americans during the election.
Well, today, with that reporting that we just discussed with Noah Shachtman, we got a little more of what is in the iceberg when "The Daily Beast" reported that not only was Russia trying to change what news Americans saw, what Americans heard about in terms of the election via information operations, they were also literally trying to organize Americans to go to anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant, anti-refugee rallies, because apparently Russia saw it in their interest that we would start having rallies like that in places like Idaho.
The story of what the Russians did in this last election, using everyday tools like your mom`s Facebook feed, it is getting to be a truly big deal in the Trump-Russia investigation. And it`s getting to be a very interesting question as to whether or not Facebook and Twitter and these other social media gigantic companies are going to cooperate with the investigation and help investigators figure out how they were used.
Today, the Democratic and Republican leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee said they are considering a public hearing with Facebook in particular, but also other social media companies. They say they want to ask about the role of Russian money and Russian ads and Russian bots in Russia trying to tip the election towards Donald Trump.
Mark Warner said about this today, quote, I question whether Facebook has put near the amount of resources they need to getting us all the facts.
That would be interesting to see on Capitol Hill. Facebook testifying if they ever choose to do it. Meanwhile, happy to say right here, Senator Mark Warner will be with us here on this show tomorrow night. I have a lot to ask him about.
Also, a little reminder. We`ve got Hillary Clinton here in studio on Thursday night for one of the first interviews that she is doing about her big new book.
That does it for us tonight. We`ll see you again tomorrow.
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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