Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW Date: September 15, 2017 Guest: Anthony Cormier, Josh Lederman
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. Happy Friday.
The first one, which is often called a firing but it wasn`t, it was a resignation, the first one came just 24 days into the new administration. Three and a half weeks in, and they were already shedding their first senior staff. February 13th, Trump national security advisor Mike Flynn resigned from the White House. That was in February.
Then in March, next out was the deputy White House chief of staff, Katie Walsh. Then in April, it was the deputy national security adviser, K.T. McFarland. Then in May, it was the White House communications director, number one, Mike Dubke. He was out in May.
Then in June, it was the vice president`s chief of staff, a guy named Josh Pitcock. Stick a pin in that one for a second. Vice president chief of staff.
And then in July, July ended up being quite busy. I swear they saved this up for when I went on vacation in part of July. In July, they lost the deputy chief of staff of the National Security Council, who`s a Breitbart person named Tara Dowdell. Then they lost the White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer. Then they lost the assistant White House press secretary Michael Short. Then they lost Reince Priebus, White House chief of staff. Then they lost White House communications director, number two, Anthony Scaramucci.
And then we rolled into the lazy days of August. And in a normal universe version of Washington, nothing happens in August. But in this one, August meant it was time to fire or accept the resignation of the senior director for intelligence at the National Security Council, Ezra Cohen Watnick. And then -- I mean I should say about him he`s a guy who nobody was quite sure why he was there in the first place, but he was gone as of August.
Then all on the same day, it was White House chief strategist Steve Bannon and a special assistant to the president named Julia Hahn and a director of public liaison the director the public liaison office at the White House. He was also out.
And then the special advisor on regulatory reform, Carl Icahn, he was out, too, that same day. He appears to have had some law-enforcement interest follow him home from that job. Then, a week later, still in August, it was that strange guy who doesn`t really have a job title Sebastian Gorka.
All gone. I mean, and this is just like the people who have knowable titles, right? All gone and this administration isn`t that old. This doesn`t show like a revolving door. This is like somebody turning the carousel motor up to 100 miles an hour and people just fling off the thing with centripetal force into the night, right?
And, of course, that`s not even counting the no-notice firings of dozens of federal prosecutors and the firing of the acting attorney general, Sally Yates, and the firing of the FBI Director James Comey. I mean, this is all just White House.
Last night, "The New York Times" broke the news that on the day Robert Mueller was appointed special counsel to investigate the Russia matter, President Trump reportedly lost his mind at the Attorney General Jeff Sessions, because Sessions had recused himself from anything related to Russia.
Quote: When the phone call informing him about the Mueller appointments ended, White House counsel Don McGahn relayed the news to the president and his aides. Almost immediately, Mr. Trump lobbed a volley of insults at Jeff Sessions, telling the attorney general it was his fault they were in the current situation. Trump told Sessions that choosing him to be the attorney general was one of the worst decisions he has made. He called him an idiot and he said he should resign.
"The Times" then reports that Jeff Sessions did resign. He wrote a resignation letter to the president and gave it to the president but the president would not accept it. Quote, Trump ended up rejecting Sessions` resignation letter after senior members of his administration argued that dismissing the A.G. would only create more problems for a president who had already fired an FBI director and a national security adviser.
So, his senior advisors told him that accepting Mr. Sessions his resignation would only sow more chaos inside the administration. Really?
The idea that this administration didn`t want to let anybody go, it would attract too much attention. They were afraid of shedding anyone as of May? They took drastic steps even against the president`s wishes to stop losing key and high-profile staff as of May because that would be too much chaos, really? They stopped letting people go -- how does that square with their actual behavior?
It doesn`t make sense that senior White House advisors wouldn`t let the president fire anyone too high profile as of May, because in reality, as of May, they were just getting started with the flinging people off the carousel into the good night, and that went all through the summer and now it has continued into the fall.
"The Times" further reports that president Trump asked again if he could please fire Jeff Sessions in July, and again, the answer was reportedly no. No, that would be too disruptive. Too disruptive to fire somebody in July? Why? Because Jeff Sessions might clog up the outdoor that they were using to fire all these other people and then there might be a pileup, he was going to block the fire exit?
Honestly, that explanation for why the president couldn`t fire Jeff Sessions when he wanted to it honestly makes no sense, given the number of people fired from this White House. This situation with the president and the attorney general supposedly having the standoff, it will end weirdly, I can assure you. But something about the way that conflict between the president and the attorney general, but was something about the way that palace intrigue is being described is off when you put it in context against the way the White House was otherwise behaving at the time these supposed conflicts really came to a head.
Regardless of Jeff Sessions though, today, there is one new name to add to the list of people being flung off the carousel in Washington. Today, we got the resignation of the press secretary to the vice president, the man named Marc Lotter. Vice President Mike Pence`s press secretary gone as of today. Vice President Mike Pence lost his chief of staff back in June, lost his press secretary today.
And for all the turmoil in this White House and all of the scandals about various people and the quitting and the disappearances of all these senior staff, Vice President Mike Pence has been caught out in way more of these scandals than his bland beltway press coverage would have you believe. I mean even going all the way back to the first dramatic departure from this White House, going all the way back to Mike Flynn, right?
Mike Pence was the head of the transition. This is a letter that he received as head of the transition notifying him in writing about concerns that soon-to-be national security adviser Mike Flynn appeared to be on the payroll of foreign governments. In addition to this notification in writing from Congress, Mike Flynn`s lawyers also said that they too notified the transition in person, telling them that Flynn was on the payroll of foreign governments.
Vice President Mike Pence was running the transition when all those warnings about Mike Flynn came in. He nevertheless claims that he never heard, no idea. As head of a transition, he had no idea, nobody could have had any idea that Mike Flynn might have been on the payroll of foreign governments. That is plainly not true.
Vice President Mike Pence also solemnly intoned the American people that there was no way that Mike Flynn had had discussions about Russian sanctions with Russian officials during the transition, despite the fact that he said it very solemnly that was also not true. Vice President Mike Pence also insisted, insisted, that there were no contacts at all between the Trump campaign and Russian officials during the campaign. That, of course, was not true either.
Vice President Mike Pence insisted that James Comey was fired as FBI director because of an internal process at the Department of Justice, had nothing at all to do with the White House`s needs or desires, certainly nothing to do with the president`s feelings about the Russia investigation. Although that`s what Mike Pence told the American people about the firing of James Comey, we now know that President Trump gave Pence a letter that outlined his rationale for wanting to fire James Comey the day before the Department of Justice ever produced their rationale for why the Justice Department might want him fired too.
So, Mike Pence`s Comey firing explanation was not only not true, we can tell based on the timeline that he knew it was not true at the time that he said it. Oh, but wait, there`s more. This week, Mike Flynn`s son Mike Flynn Jr. was described by NBC News as being a subject of the investigation by Robert Mueller in the special counsel`s office.
Mike Pence has a good one about Mike Flynn Jr. as well. Controversy, of course, emerged during the campaign but also during the transition about toxic conspiracy theories that had circulated during the campaign, and controversy arose specifically around Mike Flynn Jr. continuing to defend some of the most odious conspiracy theories from the campaign, even after a disturbed young man showed up at a D.C. pizza parlor and started shooting because of that conspiracy theory. Mike Flynn Jr., in the ensuing controversy, was fired from the Trump transition.
Again, Mike Pence was head of the Trump transition. His explanation for what happened there was that Mike Flynn Jr. wasn`t really being fired from the transition because he was never actually part of it. That was not true. Mike Flynn Jr. was part of the transition. We have evidence for this but in the form of among other things the fact that Mike Flynn Jr. had been happily emailing his conspiracy theories to reporters from his official Trump transition email address for quite some time before Mike Pence tried to get away with lying about that too.
So, Mike Pence has a real problem in the Russia investigation and in some of these White House scandals. Again and again and again, Vice President Pence really has made brazenly untrue public statements about some of the most controversial elements of this new administration and the Russia scandal specifically. Now, Vice President Pence having already lost his chief of staff, today, he lost his press secretary. Vice President Pence has himself hired a high-powered Washington D.C. lawyer to represent him on the Trump-Russia scandal.
After the vice president took the unprecedented step of setting up his own political action committee, something no vice president has done at this point in a new administration ever, after he set up that PAC, Team Pence initially floated the idea that this PAC might be used as a fundraising vehicle to raise money to pay for Mike Pence`s legal fees in the Russia scandal. After they got some pushy press enquiries about that though, the vice president backed off those plans and they now say the PAC won`t be used to fund his legal defense. We don`t know how the vice president is planning to pay for his legal representation on the Russia matter, but he`s not a man of Trump level means. It`s going to be a real issue for him and his family. It`s got to be on their minds.
In July, the head of the Office of Government Ethics, Walter Shaub, left that job in frustration. You probably remember is a very high-profile resignation. As he left, he warned that one of the things we should watch for at the Government Ethics Office now that he was leaving, he said we should watch for who the Trump administration was going to appoint as his successor at that ethics office.
Walter Shaub warned us as he was leaving office that the administration might try to pass over the most senior person under him at that office who would otherwise have been in line for the job. He said that person is highly qualified and would do an excellent job with the ethics office. He said it should send red flags for everybody if they bypass that senior person, if they bypass that senior official who`s next in line to be the acting director and instead, he warned us -- watch to see if they instead want to pick this one other particular guy who works at the office.
The Trump administration then did exactly that. They picked that lower ranking staffer in the ethics office who Walter Shaub warned explicitly should be expected to have a more pliable attitude on ethics toward this White House.
Well, that is the guy who`s in charge of the ethics office now and he has now revised the rules around legal defense funds for administration personnel. Under the new interpretation of ethics rules around these things, Mike Pence and any other White House staffer needs to fund his legal defense will be able to accept unlimited anonymous donations from lobbyists to defray any legal bills that arise out of these White House scandals.
Oh, good, what could possibly go wrong? If there`s one thing I want lobbyists to be able to anonymously fund it`s the legal defense for White House officials facing the Russia inquiry.
Tonight, the administration announced that they do not want this to be seen as a change in policy. I`m sure they don`t. But the outgoing director at the ethics office, Walter Shaub, has been banging the drum over this for the last couple of days since they made this change, warning that this really is a turn for the worse.
Today, for the second time, we learned of a witness being called to testify before one of what we believe are the two grand juries that have been convened by special counsel Robert Mueller and his investigation. The first person we know to have testified at the grand jury is Rinat Akhmetshin, Soviet born naturalized U.S. citizen who was part of that Trump Tower meeting last June during the campaign. Rinat Akhmetshin is known to have ties to Russian military intelligence. He was the first person we know who spoke to the Mueller grand jury.
The second person we now know who has spoken to the Mueller grand jury was today it was Jason Maloney, who is the spokesperson for a Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort. It`s a little bit weird to think about a spokesperson being called to testify before a grand jury, but presumably that reasoning will all become clear in the end. Paul Manafort does appear to have a real bull`s-eye on him in this investigation, both in terms of Mueller part of it and in terms of what`s happening in Congress.
The top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee in the Senate, Dianne Feinstein, yesterday, she was asked by reporters why there`d been such a delay in getting Paul Manafort to come in and give testimony to that committee weeks and weeks and weeks and weeks after it had been announced that he had been asked to come in. She responded by attributing the delay in part to the committee`s own need to up its game when it comes to investigating complex financial matters. Dianne Feinstein announced yesterday that her committee has just hired two new investigative financial staffers to, quote, trace the money.
Now that those investigative financial staffers are in place, Senator Feinstein suggested that that interview with Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort might go ahead.
What that means for potential liability or money trails leading up to the White House, we don`t know. Paul Manafort is long gone from Trump world, right? He resigned from the Trump campaign more than a year ago now, but you know, even since they`ve been in the White House, we are starting to realize that in Trump world, the way this works is there`s going to be a lot of people left behind. There are going to be a lot of people involved in lots of interesting things who are long gone by the time we realize what exactly they know and what they might have been up to before they left.
When it comes to a scandal and an ongoing investigation like this though, just the fact that somebody has resigned or been fired, it`s not necessarily enough to get their smell off you. The very first guy they shed from the new administration, it didn`t even make it four weeks in, Mike Flynn, he is still ricocheting around this White House breaking stuff. For example, in this damning and intriguing new report that has just come out from "BuzzFeed News". That`s next.
MADDOW: Reporters Jason Leopold, Chris McDaniel and Anthony Cormier have just published this new report at "BuzzFeed News", and what can reporting in the first instance is a new addition to the exceedingly long list of secret meetings with foreign officials that the Trump campaign and the Trump transition didn`t disclose until after that meeting ended up in the press.
"BuzzFeed" today reporting on a previously secret meeting held in January in New York that involved Mike Flynn, Steve Bannon, Jared Kushner and the king of Jordan. Now, there`s nothing inherently scandalous about the king of Jordan. There`s nothing inherently scandalous about members of a presidential transition team meeting any foreign leaders. It happens all the time.
It is unusual that they didn`t disclose it. Jared Kushner initially left the meeting off his security clearance application. Mike Flynn left the meeting off of his security clearance application. Steve Bannon, we don`t know about his security clearance application yet, but trust me, we`re working on it.
Beyond just the secrecy about this, the fact that it has not been disclosed until now, here`s another really acute problem about what "BuzzFeed" has just reported. Democrats on the House Oversight and Foreign Affairs Committee reported on Wednesday morning this week that another thing Mike Flynn failed to initially disclosed was that he was a paid agent working to advance a business proposition to partner with among other companies, Russian nuclear and security companies in order to do this gigantic multi hundreds of millions of dollars project that would build nuclear reactors in the Middle East. Most of them would be in Saudi Arabia, which, yes, floats on a sea of oil. So, question mark about nuclear power anyway. But also in the nation of Jordan.
So, congressional Democrats on Wednesday release this information that they said shows that Mike Flynn was involved in that project. He was being paid to advance that nuclear project including taking a trip to the Middle East in 2015 to pursue that project. He was doing all that without ever disclosing that trip, without disclosing any of the foreign meetings with foreign leaders he took in conjunction with that project, and certainly without disclosing the payment that he received for doing that work. He didn`t disclose any of that in his security clearance application. House Democrats say they are therefore forwarding that information to Robert Mueller so he can decide if that`s a prosecutable offense.
So, that was Wednesday morning. By Wednesday afternoon, "The Wall Street Journal" had reported that once Mike Flynn actually was national security adviser working in the Trump White House, he continued to advance that Russian nuclear business proposal, up to and including telling National Security Council staff members that they had to take meetings with the companies who were involved in that business plan.
Well, now, what "BuzzFeed" reports is that not just Mike Flynn but also Steve Bannon and Jared Kushner who does still work in the White House, "BuzzFeed" reports that the three of them were in on a meeting, a previously undisclosed meeting with the king of Jordan during the transition at which they talked about that nuclear deal.
Again, this is Jason Leopold, Chris McDaniel, and Anthony Cormier. They`re the reporters on this at "BuzzFeed".
And it`s really interesting, they get denials -- I love the way that they`ve sourced this -- they get denials from three individuals, one close to Flynn, one close to Kushner, and one close to Bannon. And each of those three people close to each of those guys denies that Flynn`s nuclear reactor business deal thing was discussed at this secret meeting with the king of Jordan.
But now, check this out, check out this wording. Quote: People close to the three Trump advisers say that the nuclear deal was not discussed, but a federal official with access to a document created by a law enforcement agency about the meeting said that the nuclear proposal was one of the topics the group talked about.
So, a federal official with access to a document created by a law enforcement agency about the meeting. Law enforcement agency? Why was a law enforcement agency aware of that meeting? How do they know what was discussed at that meeting?
And if that law enforcement agency is right about what was discussed at that secret meeting, what would it mean if Kushner and Flynn and Bannon are all lying about it?
Remember, can you put that panel back up? Yes, a lot of people are gone from this White House. Flynn`s gone. Bannon`s gone. Kushner is still there.
Joining us now is Anthony Cormier. He`s a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter with "BuzzFeed News".
Mr. Cormier, thank you for being here.
ANTHONY CORMIER, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER, BUZZFEED: Thank you for having me.
MADDOW: Let me ask you -- the way I stack that up was there`s a few things that you guys have broken here that add to other people`s reporting and get some new news. Previously undisclosed meeting, a second meeting that seems to involve this one nuclear deal and the question about whether or not these guys are telling the truth about what the content was of that meeting.
MADDOW: OK. In terms of the undisclosed nature of this meeting, there`s nothing inherently scandalous about transition members talking to foreign leaders.
CORMIER: None at all.
MADDOW: In what way should this have been disclosed?
CORMIER: Likely they should have gone to the NSC, the National Security Council, and let them know that the foreign at the head of state is in the United States, and they probably should have reported it on their security disclosures.
Now, we know that Mr. Flynn did not. We know that Jared did not on his initial disclosure, he did subsequently.
And we don`t know what Mr. Bannon did. We`ve been trying very hard to get that document out of the White House. They have so far refused. The people around Mr. Bannon have refused to give us any indication of what he put there.
MADDOW: There are a lot of meetings between members of the Trump campaign, the Trump transition with foreign officials that did not get disclosed until after the fact. Interesting reporting this week about the crown prince of the United Arab Emirates turning up at Trump Tower in December, meeting with Flynn.
CORMIER: Same groups.
MADDOW: Same group.
MADDOW: Kushner, Manafort, Bannon. In that case, it appears that U.S. intelligence agencies were aware of that meeting in part because they were weirded out that the crown prince from United Arab Emirates was in the United States without telling the U.S. government which would be protocol.
MADDOW: Is there any indication that the king of Jordan took that meeting without telling the United States government that he was doing something?
CORMIER: You really would like to know that?
CORMIER: We have not been able to figure it out yet, and no one will tell us. It`s a rather simple question, right?
CORMIER: Like, it`s did you tell our national security apparatus that a foreign head of state was in the United States, at a bar in Lower Manhattan? It`s a fairly simple question.
We`re a little bit weirded out that no one will answer it, or no one will give us a straight shot at it. So, I can`t answer it. I wish we could.
MADDOW: OK, and the king of Jordan, it should be noted -- I mean, King Abdullah has incredibly warm relations with the United States, especially on security and national -- security and intelligence matters.
So, do we know anything about from his side of this in terms of whether he is willing to answer questions from investigators, reporters, willing to talk about these things?
CORMIER: You might be willing to talk to investigators but he`s not talking to journalists.
CORMIER: So, we`ve left we`ve tried to reach desperately out to the embassy. In fact, the only thing that we found rather obscurely on their Website is a brief message that says the king has returned home from a foreign visit, which is --
MADDOW: He said -- well, of a private nature.
CORMIER: That`s right, yes. Which is this visit. That`s the only public statement from anyone involved that the king of Jordan was in the United States at the Four Seasons Hotel, and ultimately meeting with three of, you know, the incoming White House officials.
MADDOW: And according to your source with access to this law enforcement document, that private visit was talking to Jared Kushner, Mike Flynn and Steve Bannon about a potential nuclear deal involving the Russians.
CORMIER: That`s --
MADDOW: That doesn`t sound like a fun private visit.
CORMIER: That`s yours, not mine.
MADDOW: Anthony Cormier, this is a really interesting scoop, and as you can tell from this discussion, I have a feeling it`s going to lead to a lot more --
CORMIER: We hope so.
MADDOW: -- interesting information. Thank you for helping us understand - -
CORMIER: Thank you so much. Thanks for having us.
MADDOW: I appreciate it. Thanks.
All right. Much more to come, busy night tonight. Stay with us.
MADDOW: There`s some disturbing new details tonight about that just absolutely terrible story following Hurricane Irma about the nursing home that was across the street from a working open hospital that had power but nevertheless eight residents died in the nursing home in sweltering conditions. It`s a terrible story. We`re getting some both provocative and worrying new information about that tonight.
First, there`s new video tonight from inside this nursing home in Hollywood, Florida. It was taken by a concerned relative just a few hours before patients started dying there. The start of the nursing home losing their air-conditioning system was when a tree came down and hit the transformer that controlled power to the nursing home their A/C unit was apparently not hooked up to a backup generator. So, the A/C went down, and as you can see in these footage, in this footage, they resorted to fans and portable cooling units to try to keep people cool.
But clearly, it wasn`t enough. Eight residents died. That nursing home in Hollywood, Florida, is now closed. It`s also now a crime scene. Federal, state and local authorities are pursuing a criminal investigation. They were granted a search warrant overnight. This morning, teams were inside photographing evidence.
In terms of potential charges, the nursing home operators could be facing up to manslaughter charges if the state attorney`s office concludes that employees, administrators or the owner of the center acted with culpable negligence, acted with an utter disregard for the safety of those residents. Charges like that could carry a sentence of up to years in prison.
One retired homicide investigator who`s 94-year-old mother-in-law was inside that nursing home told the "Miami Herald" today, quote, they should have called 911. Somebody should go to jail for this.
Well, tonight, we are learning that the nursing home says that they did place emergency calls for help. They say they called Florida Governor Rick Scott.
Investigative reporter Jim Defede of CBS 4 in Miami reports this tonight. Quote, 36 hours prior to the first death, officials at the facility called on three separate occasions an emergency number that Governor Rick Scott had given to health care institutions, including nursing homes so they could have a direct line to the top of the state government if they were in need of help.
Nursing home officials say they called that number three times asking for help, they say they place the first call to Governor Scott six hours after the hurricane made landfall on Sunday, then they say they called again the next day on Monday, then they say they called again that the next day on Tuesday. They say those calls went unanswered.
Now, NBC News is reporting with some specificity about these calls. According to NBC News, the first call was made at 5:34 p.m. on September 11th. Then, another call was made at 5:59 September 12th. Then, a final call for help was made at 12:41 p.m. later on September 12th. So, we`ve got specificity in terms of what the nursing home says they did, and we do know that the Florida governor gave out that number for medical facilities, health care facilities, including nursing homes to get help.
That said tonight, the state of Florida and the governor are refuting the account from the nursing home. Tonight, the governor`s office says that, quote, every call made to the governor was referred to the agency for health care administration and the Florida Department of Health and quickly returned.
Again, the nursing home is saying they made three calls for help to that emergency number that was supposed to get them through to the governor and help. They say they never got a response.
Expect the effort to pinpoint exactly whose failure to act may have doomed eight vulnerable people. Expect the effort to figure out exactly what went on here to go on for some time and to factor into what is looking like a pretty considerably aggressive criminal investigation.
Watch this space.
MADDOW: In 2015, China summoned the senior American envoy to China, to protest the U.S. selling almost $2 billion worth of weapons to Taiwan. China really did not want that. They threatened to impose sanctions on U.S. companies that are involved in the arms sale. They dressed down the envoy.
China was furious. So, they called the top U.S. envoy to that country.
Then, in May of this year, it was Turkey. Turkey summoned the U.S. ambassador to Turkey to protest the treatment of Turkish security officials in the U.S. This was after the Turkish president`s security detail attacked a bunch of protesters outside the Turkish embassy in D.C. and started beating them up. Our ambassador got that call from Turkey right after we called up their ambassador to us, because we were so mad about them carrying out that brawl on our own soil.
I mean, usually when a host country summons the top diplomat of some other country, especially when it you know what happens it`s a big public way, usually that means that people are mad. Usually that is to voice a complaint. Usually that means somebody`s getting in trouble for something.
So when the Cuban President Raul Castro summoned to the top American envoy to Cuba recently to discuss what the United States was saying about these weird health effects and hearing loss that was breaking out among U.S. diplomats in Havana, it seemed like this would probably not go well. It seemed like somebody was mad. But "The Associated Press" has this remarkable report today that that rare face-to-face conversation between the president in that country and our top diplomat there wasn`t because anybody was mad.
According to the "A.P.", President Castro paid that call to not to voice a complaint, he did it to express his concern. And according to the U.S. officials familiar with what happened at this meeting, President Castro seemed baffled by the attacks, as baffled as the United States has been. He denied responsibility for whatever has been happening to U.S. diplomats in Havana. U.S. officials were reportedly taken aback by the way he addressed the matter.
Cuba also reportedly offered to let FBI agents come to Havana to investigate this thing. Cuba is not usually psyched about inviting FBI and the agents anywhere.
Well, NBC News can confirm tonight that the FBI did send additional FBI personnel to Cuba to investigate the sonic attacks. But it`s unclear whether they`re still there now.
Cuban sources also tell NBC News that the Cuban government allegedly sent a diplomatic note on this issue to the State Department, offering that they themselves would help investigate the incident. They offered to be part of a bilateral investigation with the United States into this matter. Cuban sources tell NBC News that they sent this note to the U.S. State Department never got a response back. I understand they`re having some staffing issues at the State Department. They didn`t get a response?
We first learned about these strange attacks, these strange symptoms emerging among U.S. diplomatic personnel in August. CBS Radio`s first to report that American diplomats in Cuba were reporting incidents which caused a variety of physical symptoms super vague and the initial reporting, it was very unclear what types of incidents were happening here. The State Department was totally bafflingly vague and confusing on the subject. We now, thanks to good reporting on the subject, we now know that it`s a scary and weird as it seemed before we knew the details.
We now know there are medically confirmed cases, some of which involve permanent hearing loss or traumatic brain injury. Yesterday, "The Associated Press" published some scary details on the attacks let me just read to you straight from the "A.P." story.
Quote, the blaring grinding noise jolted the American diplomat from his bed in a Havana hotel. He moved just a few feet though and there was silence. Quote: He climbed back into bed. Inexplicably, the agonizing sound hit him again. It was as if he walked through some invisible wall cutting straight through his room.
Quote, in several episodes recounted by U.S. officials, victims knew it was happening in real time and there were strong indications of a sonic attack.
We really don`t know what`s going on here. Yesterday, the State Department spokeswoman said there`s an aggressive investigation underway, but she honestly has offered no more information than she did a month ago. State Department`s most recent line on this is, quote, the reality is, we don`t know who or what has caused this.
But we also now know that the State Department is not responding to the Cuban government when they have been offering to bilaterally investigate what`s happening.
Joining us now is Josh Lederman. He`s a national security reporter for "The Associated Press". He`s been reporting out this terrifying story.
Mr. Lederman, thank you very much for your reporting and thanks for being here tonight.
JOSH LEDERMAN, NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS: Hi, Rachel.
MADDOW: So, the thing that I don`t -- the thing I can`t get my head around this with this story is that I don`t understand if there -- if we believe there to be a type of weapon or some sort of electronic device or some sort of tactic that could cause the kinds of injuries that have been seen in these diplomats. Do we know that there`s something like this and we just don`t know if who`s been deploying it?
LEDERMAN: That`s really what has made this puzzle impossible for U.S. investigators to solve. There are devices or technologies that could explain parts of what we`re seeing. They could explain the noises people are hearing, maybe the vibrations. There are devices that could explain some of the symptoms that people are hearing and feeling and experiencing, but then not others. And none of it is consistent.
And so far, investigators haven`t been able to find a single theory that fits all of what they`re seeing among the now 21 Americans who are confirmed to have been affected by this.
MADDOW: It does -- the targeting part of it that you explained in your story this week is beyond spy movie in terms of thinking about this, in terms of how scary it must have been for these people to go through it.
Can you just clarify that what these people have reported in some instances is a palpable sensation or a noise, something that`s causing discomfort or at least disturbance, and it exists in parts of a room but not in others. You can literally move in and out of the sort of zone of interference.
LEDERMAN: Right. it`s as if there was some type of an invisible wall splitting the room and you`d walk through it and then you couldn`t hear what you could hear on the other side of it, except people were just or feet away from the bed where they had been before when they were hearing that.
Now, there are some devices that can do that. Electromagnetic waves can be targeted very narrowly like lasers for instance, and also ultrasonic waves can also be targeted. There are these devices called Elrads. They`re used sometimes to disperse crowds or to try to prevent pirates from boarding ships. But they don`t explain the totality of the symptoms.
And that`s why investigators are still so flummoxed almost a year after Americans started getting sick.
MADDOW: And, Josh, we`ve got Americans who have now been identified as having been affected by this more or less some of the symptoms a possibly permanent terms, a permanent hearing loss. Some of the other symptoms have been more transitory.
You have some interesting reporting that this may not have just been confined to American residences or workplaces. Actually, this may have also included a hotel?
LEDERMAN: That`s right. "The A.P." first reported this week that at least one hotel was hit. There was an incident that took place in the Hotel Capri. That`s a Spanish-run hotel, but it`s in downtown Havana, near all of the big sites and the Malecon, that famous boardwalk.
We now can confirm today that there were several other hotels where this seems to have taken place.
MADDOW: Wow. Josh Lederman, national security reporter for "The Associated Press", an absolutely confounding story. And you`re reporting on it is clarifying and scary. Thanks for helping us understand it.
LEDERMAN: Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: One thing to watch on this. We`ve been watching this story unfold since we first learned about it. One of the disturbing things that Josh and his reporting team have described as the fact that this appears not to be over when the State Department initially started talking about this. They made it seem like these incidents happened long in the past and this was resolved and they were just sort of retroactively trying to investigate it.
It now seems that his recently as less than a month ago, there were additional -- there was at least one additional attack. Also, the geographic, non-specificity of this in terms of hitting people in their office, their homes and also in multiple hotels. It`s just absolutely confounding.
The investigation is apparently aggressive, but there are these new disturbing details that we got tonight about the State Department apparently blanking Cuba when Cuba often to offer to help with this investigation.
Crazy stuff. Watch this space.
MADDOW: Last week, we got a strange report that the House Intelligence Committee was subpoenaing the FBI and the Justice Department on matters related to the Trump-Russia dossier and the Robert Mueller investigation. Now, I say that was strange because we`re used to seeing the FBI and the Justice Department issuing subpoenas. We`re not used to seeing them getting subpoena themselves.
Well, it turns out there`s a reason why that whole thing seemed a little bit weird. It turns out it wasn`t the whole House Intelligence Committee that was sending out those subpoenas. It was just this one guy, Devin Nunes, the rogue chairman of that committee who has supposedly recused himself from Russia matters but he nevertheless continues to toss out subpoenas unilaterally like their free t-shirts at a ball game.
If you want to understand how Team Trump is actively trying to turn the Trump-Russia investigation to some kind of Democratic scandal in to definitely somebody else`s problem, then Devin Nunes is the guy you have to watch. When President Trump claimed falsely that he had been wiretapped by President Obama at Trump Tower, Devin Nunes was the guy who had that whole bizarre episode where he ran off to the White House in the middle of the night to try to prove it. That got him kicked off the Russian investigation and investigated by the Ethics Committee.
Devin Nunes then tried to turn the Russia investigation into an Obama administration scandal about unmasking. That also blew up in his face. Not only did those intelligence intercepts and interviews with Obama officials show that they didn`t do anything wrong, those intercepts actually raised new questions about whether Trump associates broke the law and took secret meetings with foreign leaders without disclosing them. Oops.
Devin Nunes` latest attempt to help team Trump on the Russia thing is apparently to try to discredit the Trump-Russia dossier that has gotten so much attention over these last nine months. Whenever you think about some of the salacious stuff in that -- in that dossier, a bunch of key claims in that dossier have turned out to be true. The dossier claimed that Trump campaign had accepted damaging information from the Kremlin on Hillary Clinton.
Now, thanks to the reporting about that Trump Tower meeting, we know that they did. The dossier laid out various conversations between Trump campaign officials and Russians during the campaign. Trump campaign denied that that ever happened, but U.S. intercepts have since corroborated that many of those conversations took place between the same individuals on the same days as what was described in the dossier.
The dossier says then candidate Donald Trump was actively exploring a real estate deal in Moscow during the campaign. We also know that to be true. Trump Tower Moscow.
I mean -- this was supposed to be the big week where Devin Nunes was going to expose the FBI and upend the whole Mueller investigation because of any reliance he could prove on the Trump-Russia dossier.
This also appears to be strike three for Mr. Nunes. When the attorney general and the FBI director failed to respond to these subpoenas that he sent them, demanding they turn over FBI information about the dossier, Devin Nunes got really mad and he publicly threatened that he would hold them in contempt. He sent this threatening letter with a deadline, September 14th, yesterday.
In this letter, he said: if these documents on the dossier were not produced by September 14th, quote, the attorney general and the director of the FBI shall appear before the committee at 9:00 a.m. sharp on that day at an open hearing to explain under oath their unwillingness to comply.
That was yesterday. I don`t know if we missed something. Those big showdown at the O.K. Corral and everybody was like getting a breakfast sandwich at the time. But today is September 15th, nothing happened yesterday. We have tried contacting Devin Nunes` office all week long to see if they got these documents they`re demanding. All week long, silence.
But yesterday 9:00 a.m. came and went. I kind of looking forward to seeing what Devin Nunes does next.
We`ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We now know that they were sowing discord during the election, with phony groups on Facebook. They were running anti-immigrant, anti-me, anti Hillary Clinton demonstrations. They were, you know, putting out all this fake news, all these negative stories that were untrue, to really divide people. And so, we`re going to make Facebook own up to everything. They`re just begun to own up. They have a long way to go before they get to where they need to be in my opinion.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: I`m going to make Facebook own up to everything. That was Hillary Clinton and her interview on this show last night, making the case that Facebook needs to show their work. They need to own up to the fact that they let their platform be weaponized by Russia as part of Russia`s attack on our election last year.
Facebook, of course, denied for months that Russia used them at all in their attack. Now, Facebook has reversed course and admitted, OK, yes, they did. But they won`t say how they figured it out or what they found when they looked into it. It`s been hard to figure out what exactly Facebook turned up in their records that finally made them change their tune on this story all these months later, what made them finally admit that they`d sold ads to Russian interests.
I haven`t been able to really figure out how they did it, how they got to this conclusion. Until today we got this from Senator Mark Warner, top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee. You can see that he retweeted a CBS News story about the Facebook Russian ads thing. You can also see though that he made a critical addition to this tweet. He added six words of his own.
This is what he added: And they paid in rubles. Seriously.
That was this whole tweet, was that like a joke, right? What does that mean? Russia bought ads in the election. Russians buy things in rubles, ha, ha, ha.
But Mark Warner is the top Democrat on the Intelligence Committee. He doesn`t say things about this investigation by mistake. It seemed unlikely he jumped on Twitter to like, you know, workshop his Russian currency jokes.
So, we called Senator Warner`s office today. We asked what he meant when he fired off that tweet and we got a very satisfying answer. His office told us tonight, quote: It`s literally true. Some of the ads were paid for in rubles.
So, that was not him making a joke. According to the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Facebook really did accept rubles to sell those ads that were part of Russia`s hack on the election. That`s what took Facebook`s crack investigators months and months to figure out.
You would have thought act like a currency check and their records might have sorted out, hey, did we get paid in rubles for any political ads in the campaign? It took them months. That was the operational secret Facebook didn`t want us to know about how they were looking into this. Amazing.
That does it for us tonight. We will see you again on Monday.
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD". Ari Melber in tonight for Lawrence.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
Copy: Content and programming copyright 2017 MSNBC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Copyright 2017 ASC Services II Media, LLC. All materials herein are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content.