Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW Date: September 22, 2017 Guest: Patricia Mazzei, Luis Rivera Marin, Adam Weinstein
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST, ALL IN: Joy Reid and I are hosting Global Citizens Festival. Sixty thousand people, many of whom won their tickets by doing some form of action to fight global poverty, will pack into Central Park for annual concert. They will see performances by Stevie Wonder, Green Day, The Lumineers, and many, many more. You can watch it exclusively on MSNBC starting at 3:00 p.m. Eastern.
That is "ALL IN" for this evening.
THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now.
Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thank you, my friend. I appreciate it.
HAYES: You bet.
MADDOW: And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. Happy Friday.
Big news today obviously. We had -- we had thought that next week would be the moment of truth where we would find out if Republicans were going to be able to kill Obamacare. If they`re going to be able to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
Brookings estimates now that that would result in 21 million Americans being thrown off their health insurance.
So, we thought we`d learn about that, whether they were able to do it next week. Instead of waiting until next week for their planned vote though, the decisive moment may have happened today, this afternoon, when Arizona Senator John McCain put out this statement explaining why he will not vote for this plan.
Three Republican no votes is enough to kill this thing. Senator Rand Paul was number one no vote. He says he`s a definite no. Susan Collins says she leans no. There`s also, additionally, a lot of beseeching and wondering going on around the potential vote of Lisa Murkowski.
But if McCain is out, it looks very much like this thing may be dead or almost dead. So, Republicans do still have a few more days. They`d have another week ultimately to try to cook something else up. But it does not look good for them. We`re going to have more on that big news ahead tonight, including what I think led to this latest failure by the Republicans.
Here`s another piece of news though that arose unexpectedly today. Starting this afternoon, individual states started putting out out-of-the- blue statements about whether or not their election infrastructure and their voter rolls had been hacked during the election by the Russians. All these different states just started one-by-one making declarations as to whether or not that happened to them this past year.
We really didn`t know what to make of it. We started to see these statements coming in. We didn`t know why this was happening today, until God bless Wisconsin, the Wisconsin statement finally explains what else was going on with all these other states. The Wisconsin statement said, in part, quote, Wisconsin is one of states whose chief election officials were notified today by the Department of Homeland Security that their systems were targeted by Russians.
The Homeland Security Department did not disclose which other states were notified, but said the states were free to disclose the information. And then some of them did. Not all of them did, but some of them.
We didn`t know what was happening when this started to happen, but basically what we`ve now figured out is that Homeland Security knew at least by June that states had been targeted by Russian hackers during the election. They knew that. They announced that they knew that in June. They didn`t actually tell those 21 states that it was them until today. Why did it take this long? And now that the states know not all of the states are telling us the public about what happened.
NPR and "Associated Press" both caught to what was going on this afternoon as we were trying to figure it out. They both tried to round up what we now know, according to their monitoring of the various statements coming out from these various states today. It looks like of the states that have now finally been told by Homeland Security that they got targeted by the Russians, it looks like these are the states that have made that information public today.
We`ve posted this kind of in clip and save form. So, when more states say publicly whether the Russians hit them too, we`ll add to the list. But so far, we`ve got these.
Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Minnesota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin -- they all have now put out a statement saying that Homeland Security has notified them about Russian efforts to target their election infrastructure during the election last year. Again, we have no idea why the Homeland Security Department didn`t notify these states before today, since they`ve known at least since June which states were attacked.
Sure. Why not wait until mid-September? What the heck? How about a Friday afternoon? Probably an excellent time to submarine that news, especially by just letting it drib and drab out from individual stats here and there, rather than making any sort of actual government announcement about this thing.
President Trump is in Alabama right now, where he is campaigning for one of the candidates in a Republican Senate primary. He`s not campaigning for the Republican candidate in a general election. He`s campaigning in the Republican primary, which is not the sort of thing presidents typically do for their own party, but that kind of day.
We`ve also learned some really interesting new information what`s become of the giant slush fund of tens of millions of dollars that is apparently floating around inside the Trump administration unaccounted for since the inauguration. We had some sort of stunning reporting on that inauguration fund last night on the show and we will share with you tonight what else we learned, which will probably make you laugh out loud.
But the biggest news in America right now, undoubtedly, is something that is unfolding a thousand miles southeast of Miami, Florida. You know the name in Levittown, right?
The original Levittown was on Long Island, outside New York City. They started selling homes in Levittown, New York, in 1947, right after World War II. And a few years later, there was Levittown, Pennsylvania. Then there was one in New Jersey which dropped to the name Levittown and picked up a new name in the `60s. All these whites-only suburban developments were created in the middle of the 20th century by William Levitt and his family, and they branded these towns with his name.
And the whole Levittown idea, right, whether you see it from the street level or from an aerial view it`s still absolutely iconic, sprawling, highly planned, cookie cutter, matched houses, American suburbia. The Northeast suburban version of the segregated American dream.
It`s interesting though. The last place called Levittown the last town built as a Levittown that had the name Levittown, it wasn`t a place that was built in the Northeast. It was built in 1963 in Puerto Rico. The last Levittown was built about a dozen miles west of the capital of Puerto Rico, San Juan. They advertised a few different models of house depending on the size of your family and the size of your checkbook. The houses cost between $10,000 and $15,000.
And, you know, because it was Puerto Rico, the architecture was different than the kinds of houses they`d built on Long Island or in Pennsylvania, but it was the same idea. It was billed as the same kind of American dream fulfilling middle-class community that the stateside Levittowns were as well.
Levittown, Puerto Rico, remains one of the largest planned communities in Puerto Rico and it remains a suburban middle-class enclave. But this was Levittown, Puerto Rico, as of yesterday.
Levittown is built on marshland. When they built it in 1963, they created land to build on by draining that marsh they then used that drained water to create an artificial lake Levittown Lake right next to all the housing.
On Wednesday night, in the wake of Hurricane Maria coming ashore, when river started to well and the land got saturated, that artificial lake, Levittown Lake, overflowed massively. And even though the worst of the storm had passed by then, the flooding trapping thousands of residents in Levittown rose up after the storm had passed.
"The Washington Post" reported that not only had residents there never before been flooded out by a hurricane. They also thought the danger was over before the flooding started because the worst of the storm had passed. Even once water receded, the question there is now -- as it is in so many places in Puerto Rico -- the question now is how to get help, how to get supplies while streets remain impassable with power and phone service out virtually everywhere.
NBC`s Gabe Gutierrez was just west of Levittown today.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It`s devastating because, you know, you lose everything. You lose everything. You have to start from zero.
GABE GUTIERREZ, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): And in Toa Baja, 30 miles west of San Juan, Cristia Fenidor (ph) is desperate. The water flooded her entire first floor and she says the local shelter has run out of food.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We need gas, food, I don`t know. Someone to help us.
GUTIERREZ: The town`s mayor tells us at least eight people drowned here and authorities have rescued 4,000 to 5,000 trapped by floodwaters. Without working cellphones, he`s coordinating with rescue crews from Florida and Virginia by word of mouth.
New video released by the U.S. Coast Guard shows a woman and two children being hoisted to safety after they were stranded on a capsized boat off the coast.
Rosa Valastro (ph) rode the storm in old San Juan while a building in this historic neighborhood crumbled next to her.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And I said to myself and to my son, we have to leave the house. This is going to collapse.
GUTIERREZ: For many in Puerto Rico, your health can`t come soon enough.
MADDOW: Gabe Gutierrez reporting there tonight. That was the mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico that he showed they`re going house-to-house by both the mayor himself going out -- mayor herself going out, checking on residents, calling out to see if people are there and if they need help. That`s San Juan today. But on the northwestern part of the island right now, in this area you see circled there, 70,000 people are currently being evacuated as fast as possible tonight, because of a danger that it dam there is about to collapse.
This is the Guajataca Dam. It`s -- the National Weather Service said that at 2:00 this afternoon, it was failing. Seventy thousand people live downstream of that dam. The National Weather Service in San Juan sent out these urgent messages today in quick succession after they said the dam had begun to fissure. Flash flood emergency for a dam failure, that was followed very shortly thereafter by this, dam operators report the Guajataca Dam is failing, causing flash flooding downstream on the Rio Guajataca.
Then followed by this, this is an extremely dangerous situation. Buses are currently evacuating people from the area as quickly as they can. And then followed by this one: all areas surrounding the Guajataca River should evacuate now, lives are in danger.
These all caps warnings from the National Weather Service couldn`t have been more clear this afternoon, but it raised the question immediately of how are people supposed to get that message, right? With power down, with almost no phone service or Internet service, how are people supposed to get these warnings? It`s very hard to reach people even with any an urgent evacuation.
Now, because of that urgent necessity, the worry that the manmade lake held back by this dam is going to come all down this dam all at once, in the words of Puerto Rico`s secretary of state today, officials went back to basics to try to get people out of the way of that failing dam. Today, they just started using sirens and bull horns. They flew over endangered areas down that river, flew over the river area and that and the surrounding neighborhoods with loudspeakers urging people to get out.
We`re going to be speaking with the secretary of state from Puerto Rico live in just a moment for the latest news on that.
But all over Puerto Rico, people are facing unprecedented and terrifying conditions tonight, right now, as I speak. People -- when people get a little bit of an Internet connection, they`re sharing videos like this. You can see that the house is just underwater.
Even where the floodwaters have receded, power is still out and may remain out for months. Power is still out everywhere. A hundred percent of power out on the island. Ninety-five percent of mobile phone service remains out, and the truth is we just don`t know the condition about much of the island, particularly interior Puerto Rico because it`s a communications black hole.
We do know that hundreds of people have been rescued so far from rooftops. Those rescues will continue. We also expect the death toll to climb. We have reports thus far of deaths from mudslides and landslides, deaths from flooding, deaths from people being hit by debris.
Authorities say they worried that we`re going to learn about many more deaths in Puerto Rico as reports come in. There is an all-night curfew in effect in Puerto Rico until conditions improve. But the island is in darkness.
I mean, everybody`s in darkness unless they`ve got a generator and they were able to get gas for that generator in long fuel lines today. This storm came ashore on Wednesday. It is now Friday night.
Three and a half million American citizens here in what is increasingly a dire and dangerous situation.
Joining us now is Patricia Mazzei. She`s a reporter with "The Miami Herald". She joins us by phone from Puerto Rico.
Ms. Mazzei, thank you very much for being with us. I realize it`s not easy to get communications.
PATRICIA MAZZEI, REPORTER, THE MIAMI HERALD (via telephone): Thanks for having me, Rachel.
MADDOW: Can you tell us what you`ve -- what you`ve seen, where you were able to get out to and what`s your assessment of how bad the damage is, and how much danger people are in?
MAZZEI: Well, we were in San Juan today in some of the inland and also ocean side beach towns that got a lot of the earlier flooding. This has been kind of a slow-moving event where we are seeing kind of the flooding first at the east of the island and then the west of the island. And really, the water has been unrelenting.
Not everybody gets water high enough to have to be rescued from the roof and so they`re not paid attention to. I mean, they haven`t had any help, but that doesn`t mean that their lives are any destroyed. We went to a beach town called Louisa which is essentially underwater. It`s a couple of blocks from the ocean and they said as you notice that they thought that though storm was over after the winds had peeled off their roofs, and then came to water.
So, now, many of them are living without roof and in muddy water and they are going to run out of food and water in a few days unless they get help. And every person, you know, three people in a span of 30 minutes asked me in town today if I was from FEMA because they thought maybe I was coming to help and I had to say no, and they were disappointed that they were not surprised. And then they offered me their cold water bottles which I just thought was --
MAZZEI: -- stunning giving the conditions that they`re living in.
MADDOW: What are people able to get in terms of help? What are you seeing in terms of the official response and relief efforts, either organized just by civilians or by the government?
MAZZEI: Right now, we`re only seeing in these towns neighbors helping neighbors. San Juan, the capital, has crews of people removing trees and picking up debris and soldiers directing traffic as of today.
But inland, the residents told us they have seen no help. They have a little bit hopeful because they have seen helicopters fly over their towns. Those might have been reporters taking photographs and video, but they think that people know that they are flooded and they hope that help will arrive soon.
But one grocery store in Louisa was open today and the owner said he ordered water two weeks ago before Hurricane Irma, he still hasn`t gotten it. He has bread every day at 7:00 a.m. and there`s a line out the door and people stand for 90 minutes in line for bread and then that`s all you got, you know, that`s new. Everything else is old stuff that that is non- perishable one that he`s selling.
But it`s all a cash economy right now. There`s no banks open there, which is a risk for him and his business to keep all that cash.
So, it`s kind of one compounding problem after another.
MADDOW: Yes, it sounds like what you`re seeing is dire circumstances, but it seems like what you`re talking about is sort of the brink of despair.
MAZZEI: There`s some of these folks that really is and they are trying to put a brave face to it. But, you know, just because they`re not the ones who are getting evacuated in urgent circumstances, those mean that they`re not going to be in trouble for a long time they have no communications. I think some of the waters will take at least a month to receive based on what they have seen in flooding from previous forms, and it`s not easy to get in and out of town.
And even the folks who had cars don`t have usable cars anymore. So, they don`t have to worry about the gas shortage, because they just don`t have a way to get around.
MADDOW: Right. "Miami Herald" reporter Patricia Mazzei, thank you for helping us understand what you`ve seen. Please keep us, keep apprised and thanks for helping us understand.
MAZZEI: We will. My pleasure.
MADDOW: Thank you.
Joining us now is Luis Rivera Marin. He`s the Puerto Rico secretary of state.
Secretary Marin, you joined us as the storm was coming ashore. I asked you to keep apprise. I`m really glad you`re able to be back with us tonight. Thank you for your time, sir.
LUIS RIVERA MARIN, SECRETARY OF STATE, PUERTO RICO (via telephone): Well, welcome. Welcome. It`s important that we keep all U.S. citizens abreast of what`s happening in Puerto Rico, and the flooding waters keep to be our most important challenge.
MADDOW: Can I ask you, sir, about these dramatic reports we heard today in these dramatic warnings we got from the National Weather Service about that dam along the Guajataca River, and the urgent need to evacuate about 70,000 people downstream from that dam. What`s the latest on that situation, sir?
RIVERA MARIN: Well, we are -- we`re doing assessment. We did a flyover, and the Governor Rossello is right now in the area, together with structural engineers and what happens to be a imminent danger as to a structural damage to one of the largest dams in the island, it`s Guajataca Dam.
We`re currently trying to - with the lack of communication, with the darkness as challenges, we`re trying all the communities down streets we are trying to make them aware and evacuate them to safer ground. It`s around 80,000 citizens that could be affected if the dam cedes to the water pressure because of the range.
MADDOW: And in terms of those 80,000 people, how successful have the evacuation efforts been thus far? Obviously, we don`t have an exact prediction in terms of if there if there is going to be a catastrophic failure of that dam. And I know it`s very difficult to reach people with no communications.
What is the scale of the evacuation thus far?
RIVERA MARIN: It`s -- we`re using from rudimentary sirens, to tsunami sirens that are in place. We are using helicopters and there is social media and probably this program being watched. It`s a way to advise people.
Governor Rossello previous to the storm was emphatic to the predictions of National Weather Services to the amount of water and we had ferocious winds, but it was followed by monumental rain, and it`s in excess of 25 inches, and with rescue from rooftops close to 2,300 people already, and search and rescue efforts continue.
But the issue with the dam, it`s one that it`s a very, very delicate one and as we speak, we`re working with the communities to make sure we don`t lose any more lives. It`s up in six casualties up to date and we want to keep that number. We don`t want to increase any more casualties because of Maria.
MADDOW: Mr. Secretary, we spoke with a reporter from the "Miami Herald" a moment ago, and we`ve heard from other reporters today as well, that it seems like in interior Puerto Rico not in San Juan and not in the larger cities but in the interior of the island, there have -- people have not had any help, that there have been rescue efforts off rooftops but they -- there haven`t been supplies. People haven`t been -- haven`t been getting water, haven`t been getting offers of evacuation. People in the interior of the island feel like it`s just neighbors helping neighbors thus far.
Is that true and do you expect that to improve and soon?
RIVERA MARIN: Well, we get 78 municipalities and the mayors of each municipality to lead the emergency management the search and rescue, and we are in touch with all majors actually for a fact tomorrow morning at 11:00 a.m. I`ll be in a meeting with all mayors, making sure that FEMA supplies satellite telephones, any additional aid as to bottle water as to first aid, as to any equipment that might be needed. So, we are -- we are -- we are all in one, making sure that in the shores, in the coast and the hills, every Puerto Rican gets proper attention and certainly power is an issue, and the we`ve had because of Irma, initially, complaints about the power returning to all households, we were 90 percent on recovery.
But now, we`re back to ground zero in terms of getting up again in terms of energy, water`s coming back and we`ll make sure. It`s going to be a tough recovery, but we`re resilient and we are ready to get up, and make sure every Puerto Rican gets taking care of.
MADDOW: Luis Rivera Marin, the secretary of state of Puerto Rico, I know there`s a trying time, sir, thank you for helping us understand what you`re going through. Again, do please keep apprised in the days ahead.
RIVERA MARIN: Thank you, and any donations the first lady has set up, an account at UnitedforPuertoRico.com are more than welcome, together with your prayers. Thank you.
MADDOW: Thank you.
Again, we`re keeping an eye on that dam, one of the largest dams in Puerto Rico, that officials say is failing. Eighty thousand people live downstream from that dam. It holds back a very large manmade lake.
If the dam gives way in a catastrophic way, all of the water of that lake will be added to the downstream flooding that is already afflicting that area. Those evacuations are underway. Tens of thousands of people, this is a very serious situation tonight in Puerto Rico.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: The first one failed in March. Minutes before Republicans in the House were supposed to vote on their first kill Obamacare bill, they had to yank it off the floor. They realized at the last minute they didn`t have enough votes to pass it, so they pulled it.
That one in March, that was the first one. Then, they tried again in May. This time, the House did pass it, but just barely, squeaked through by four votes, which is a real squeaker, given that the Republicans have an almost 50-seat majority in the House.
But after that squeaker is when they had that goofy celebration at the White House right after, remember, with that incredible rich diversity of white men in suits celebrating that they got their health care bill one third of the way through the legislative process. But despite the rainbow fiesta at the White House that day, that bill also never made it to the president`s desk, that`s because the Republican-controlled Senate took one look at it and chucked it in the garbage.
So, then, it was time to try again. Next go-round was in June. The Republican-controlled Senate wrote their own bill to kill Obamacare and then that one promptly went bust as well. That one didn`t even have enough support to entertain the idea of even trying to bring it to the floor.
So, then they scrapped it, and they came up with another one, in July. This time, what they called a straight repeal of the Affordable Care Act, and they got that one all the way to the floor the Senate, but then dramatic late-night death. John McCain made his dramatic entrance, took his theatrical pregnant pause, and then gave his big -- thumbs down. OK, that was very exciting.
For seven years, Republicans have been saying they need to be in control of Washington so they can kill Obamacare. It`s the one thing they have all insisted they would instantly do as soon as they got the reins of power. But they have failed over and over and over again at trying to do it.
Since the inauguration, Republicans have held the White House and the Senate and a large majority in the House, but they have passed zero significant legislation of any kind, really they have not passed a single major bill. Not one.
And I think that`s in part because they assumed they just passed this health care thing first. They assume that killing Obamacare would be the low-hanging fruit and then everything else they`d figure it out there after. But this low-hanging fruit turns out it isn`t getting picked and it keeps bunking them on the head instead.
And that`s because -- well, this was Front Range, Colorado, today. Hundreds of people pouring into the streets of Denver against the Republican healthcare bill. You can hear them chanting health care is a human right, fight, fight, fight. Members the local ADAPT chapter were there, too. They are the disability rights activists who`ve been so stalwart and so loud about this.
And deep red Texas, these guys stood on the busy highway overpass today with this sign if you can -- if you squint you can read it. Repeal and replace Senator Ted Cruz. Given his support for repealing and replacing Obamacare, we`re told that sign was met by a healthy dose of supportive honking from passing cars.
In Roanoke, Virginia, Congressman Bob Goodlatte turned 65 today, eligible for Medicare. His constituents threw him a party to mark the occasion and to ask him not to cut Americans off their health insurance. They brought a clown. They paraded cupcakes and balloons into his office for a happy birthday celebration. They ended up donating the rest to a local hospital in Congressman Goodlatte`s name.
In Kansas City, Missouri, Senator Jerry Moran`s constituents talked about how they could lose their health insurance under the new Republican bill, while this staffer, bored-looking staffer took notes on what they said. Honestly, the best and sharpest reason why Republicans haven`t been able to do the one thing they said for sure they do, the best and sharpest reason why Obamacare, the Affordable Care Act, hasn`t been killed yet is that people like this mom decided they would change their own lives around, to try relentlessly to save it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`ve been here before to talk about his health care and his needs, and I`m not sure why, in this country, we`re asking mothers to justify why it is important to keep their children alive. Why do I have to keep coming here to ask Senator Moran to protect my son`s health and life?
It`s -- you know, having a child with the disability is stressful enough. It`s hard enough but we pushed on and we live our lives like anybody else. We -- he goes to school we`re out and about we`re everywhere in our community, we`re proud of him and we have -- I have -- I have no regrets about his life and who he is.
But what makes that possible is health care. What makes that possible is Medicaid. And the cuts in this bill will devastate us and families around this country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That kind of personal local being their showing up is a big part of why Republicans have failed over and over and over again to erase Obamacare, because that`s what their staffers have been listening to. That`s what they`ve been listening to it every event they do. That`s what their constituents are telling them every time they show their face anywhere near their constituents, and the beltway doesn`t report on it that way but you can see it around the country over and over and over again.
You know, what is different about this new Republican effort to kill Obamacare though is that this one comes with a deadline under Senate rules. The Republicans basically have to pass this thing by next Saturday if they`re going to. The prospect of that is now hanging by a thread with the news today that John McCain says he`ll vote no. Republicans can only afford to lose no votes.
Right now, counting John McCain they`ve got two definite no votes from Rand Paul and John McCain. Susan Collins says she`s leaning no. Lisa Murkowski, well, she voted no the last time and this bill is way worse for her state. If Republicans lose Collins or Murkowski or anyone else, if they lose just one more vote, this bill is toast.
We know what this looks like. We have seen them lose on this before, and we know why. But they`ve got a few more days to try to pull this off.
Watch this space.
MADDOW: OK, at the end of May, in 2006, so 11 years ago, a detachment of U.S. Marines, 112 U.S. Marines made their way to a port city off the Black Sea in Crimea. It was mainly known as a resort city with population of about 8,500 people.
The Marines headed there to lay the groundwork for a large NATO-Ukraine military exercise that was due to take place that July. It was called Sea Breeze. It involved more than a dozen countries. Obviously, Ukraine is not part of NATO, but this is NATO countries and the Ukrainian military doing a joint exercise together.
The marines touched down at dawn on May 27th and what they were planning to do there was create facilities that could be used during the exercise. They were planning on doing some goodwill stuff like building playgrounds and working on sports facilities in schools for the local population. They were there to get stuff ready, to build stuff, and to make nice with locals.
That`s why they did not expect the welcome that they got. Here`s how Lieutenant Colonel Tom Dolman (ph) describes what they walked into. Quote: We had rocks thrown at us. Rocks hit Marines. Buses were rocked back and forth. We were just trying to get to our base.
These U.S. Marines were attacked by ultimately thousands of angry protesters and what everybody thought was the sleepy resort city in Crimea, in Ukraine. The Marines ultimately were unable to move. They did get to where they could sort of hunker down, but they couldn`t get to their supplies.
They couldn`t get to their base. They couldn`t get to the supply ship that had their stuff at the town`s port. They were stuck. They were hunkered down. They were dealing with these gigantic protests against them.
One of the marines` commanding officers, Colonel Bill Black says that some of the protesters brandished what he jokingly called Ukrainian cocktails, for Molotov cocktails, plastic bottles filled with diesel fuel.
The Marines laid low for two weeks where they could and then they basically snuck out in the dead of night. They snuck out, boarded a jet and flew home. They did not complete their mission.
They ended up canceling the entire military exercise, this joint NATO Ukraine military exercise, they called it off. It was quite an international incident. President George W. Bush ended up cancelling his planned trip to Ukraine later that month. That happened in 2006.
We now know that those protests that were meant to threaten U.S. Marines, these anti-NATO, anti-American protests, they were reportedly orchestrated by the pro-Russia political party in Ukraine which is called the Party of Regions.
If that name party of regions sounds at all familiar it`s because the Party of Regions we now know was reportedly paying former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort millions of dollars by then to advise them on political strategy, according to Adam Weinstein, reporting at taskandpurpose.com, quote, Ukrainian officials and some former us diplomats I`ve spoken to are convinced that Paul Manafort knew about and possibly helped plan the anti- American protests that resulted in the attacks on those U.S. Marines. That was 2006.
Paul Manafort being paid millions of dollars by anti-American interests to work against American interests and doing so very effectively. New disturbing reports that he is at it again. That`s next.
MADDOW: This week, one of the bombshells that "The New York Times" broke was a story that Paul Manafort the Trump campaign chairman has accepted a new job working on the Kurds referendum for independence in Iraq. The Kurds who have a semi-autonomous region in northern Iraq, they`re going to be voting on Monday as to whether or not they want to become an independent country. Now, I should mention this is something that Russia has been quite supportive of, but it`s something that the United States and all our -- well, at least most of our allies -- vehemently oppose.
Ever since we went into Iraq under the false pretenses of weapons -- for weapons of mass destruction in 2003, it has been a central part of U.S. policy. It has been the central U.S. policy that the United States is trying to shore up the Iraqi government and keep the nation of Iraq intact under a single national government. One country governed by one government.
But we learned this week that around the same time that the FBI conducted that no-knock pre-dawn raid on his house in Virginia, Paul Manafort decided to take on a new gig, getting paid to help the Kurdish independence referendum that is opposed by the United States, which must have been particularly fun today when Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met with the Iraqi prime minister. How are you Mr. Prime Minister? Please, let`s not talk about the Trump campaign chairman who`s working to break off a third of your country.
The Trump campaign chairman working against U.S. interests for money is a new and increasingly present idea in terms of how we understand our world in the Trump era. But here`s one very small weird thing about this new news about him working to break up Iraq. This is from "The New York Times" story. Quote, Mr. Manafort himself may return to the region in the coming days for the vote.
So, Paul Manafort is working with the Kurds to break up Iraq, got it. Wait, he`s going to go there for the vote? Meaning like he`s flying there now. Does he have a return ticket?
I mean, given all the heat that Paul Manafort is under now from the special counsel and with the Trump administration going out of its way to distance himself from him and all the stuff that they`re trying to blame on him and saying it was him alone and nobody else, it looks like he is leaving the country or maybe he already has for the Kurdish referendum that`s happening on Monday, that he is supporting against the foreign policy of the United States.
We meet reached out to Mr. Manafort spokesman today who told us that he is not going to answer our questions. But he did insist to us that, of course, it is perfectly legal to work overseas. He said if Mr. Manafort`s activities require a foreign agent registration, he will comply.
If he is leaving the country, are we sure he`s coming back? Is anybody checking on that?
Joining us now is Adam Weinstein. He`s a senior editor at "Task and Purpose". He`s reported extensively on Paul Manafort activities, working against U.S. foreign policy in both Crimea and Ukraine and now, interestingly, as we`re learning more about Paul Manafort.
Mr. Weinstein, thank you very much for being with us tonight.
ADAM WEINSTEIN, TASK AND PURPOSE: Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: You reported provocatively and interestingly with a lot of good documentation on Paul Manafort`s connections to those U.S. Marines coming under attack basically in Crimea by angry mobs back in 2006. Do you have any sense of why it is that the U.S. officials who spoke to you and the Ukrainian officials have spoken to others, why it is that people believe that Manafort may have actually been part of the effort that led to those attacks in those marines?
WEINSTEIN: Well, it should be said at this point that beyond what those officials and what those sources have said to us and have reported to other folks in the media, this is a pretty circumstantial case, albeit a damning one. We know that Manafort was working now in this time frame for the Party of Regions. We know that he was advising them to stoke the flames of Russian nationalism in Crimea and in the eastern Ukraine, where there is a large Russian population.
And we know that shortly after that, all of this stuff went down and we also know that those officials, particularly U.S. officials, State Department officials, this is something you can see in the WikiLeaks releases of State Department cables were highly confident that the Party of Regions was responsible for organizing these protests in order to get an electoral advantage. So, you know, for whatever reason, it just happened to dovetail with Manafort`s kind of counsel.
MADDOW: In terms of the what I guess the accountability for that sort of thing, you know, we all know about the Logan Act -- this never prosecuted ancient American law that prohibits American regular civilians, private citizens from acting to undermine us foreign policy abroad is there anything else that prohibits people from -- regular Americans from working against U.S. interest or the safety of the U.S. service members abroad?
Well, you know, it`s subjective and it`s a judgment call. When it comes to direct threats to U.S. military, yes, of course, there`s a lot of -- there`s a lot of regulations that cover that, and possibly rules of engagement depending on where it happens and what the circumstances. Beyond that, there is sort of this wilderness territory and there has been for a very long time that`s been plumbed by Republicans and Democrats of counseling foreign governments or would-be foreign governments on their political strategies, and the fine line between where that is just merely problematic for money reasons and where that becomes a real problem for U.S. policy. That`s a line that`s kind of subjective in a lot of places. And I think we`re going to be asking a lot of those questions about a lot of the things that Manafort has done, not just Ukraine.
MADDOW: Adam, I know that at "Task and Purpose", that your mission and I know that your personal background gives you some insight into this next thing that I`m going to ask you. Is there -- is there anger, consternation, worry in military circles and among U.S. veterans in particular about the national security implications of this and just the personal dimensions of what he did in terms of endangering -- in terms of whether he was involved in endangering Americans?
WEINSTEIN: Yes. Those service members that I`ve spoken to and certainly people who are on our staff, we have our concerns and I think there has been a general kind of consternation or a general sort of we`re not sure exactly what to make of Trump or the people that he surrounds himself with in the rank-and-file military.
They also don`t need to be concerned with those things day-to-day just yet, although these sorts of stories when they arise, you know, they raise that issue of God`s sakes. Paul Manafort`s mentor was James Baker. He worked for Ronald Reagan. This is a man who believes in a kind of red meat, strong foreign policy of the United States, and support the troops.
And if he can be working for -- you know, we don`t even know. Whether he`s involved in these riots or not, for him to even be in the same room with some of these same people or collecting a check from them, you got to ask yourself like, where does that guy`s loyalties lie?
MADDOW: Adam Weinstein, senior editor at "Task and Purpose", and really good reporter. Adam, thank you very much for being here. Appreciate your time tonight.
All right. We got much more ahead tonight. Stay with us.
MADDOW: All week long, I have been puzzling over one simple little question. Daytime, nighttime, washing dishes, clicking stupid stuff on Instagram of one question -- when I go home this weekend and I unplug and I`m standing on a riverbank trying and failing to catch a fish, I will still be thinking about this one thing. Where`s all that money going?
Could the Trump presidential inaugural committee, which raised, what, three times, four times as much money as they need to spend for the actual inauguration this year, could that same inaugural committee us the leftover, use the unaccounted for tens of millions of dollars they have left over, could they use that to pay for other stuff now? Like maybe stuff they didn`t want to talk about paying more, like people`s legal defenses for the Russia scandal.
I put that question last night to Craig Holman from Public Citizen. Could the inaugural committee pay the legal bills for campaign officials or for administration officials?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Legally, do you think that`s possible that they could do that?
CRAIG HOLMAN, PUBLIC CITIZEN: Yes, they can do that. The only rule when it comes to inaugural funds is that the source of funds has to be disclosed after the inauguration. But how that money gets spent is anyone`s guess, no rules, no regulations. It can, you know, quite frankly, it could even go into the pocket of Donald Trump if he chose to do so.
HOLMAN: It`s a Wild West area.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: A Wild West area. That was what we heard from Craig Holman last night who knows as much about American campaign finance as anyone on earth.
And even though I was surprised enough by what he said to respond with just, wow, which you`re not supposed to do on TV, it really does appear, no surprise, that he`s right. What he said last night is right. It shocked me when I heard it, but we talked to two different experts on this stuff today who told us, yes, he`s right, told us the same thing.
There really is very little law about how an inauguration committee can spend any money that they have left over after the shindigs. I wonder if that`s why they raised triple and quadruple the amount of money they needed.
I mean, the committee does have to fill out this one form three months later disclosing who gave more than $2, how much they gave and they have to report how much they raised overall. We`ve seen that, but that`s it, that`s the end of the required reporting ever. That`s how we know they raised $107 million. What they do with it is the question.
After they filed that one thing, anything that could be considered to fit with the mission of celebrating the president`s victory anything they could anything they want to spend on, go for it. No disclosure.
That`s pretty much the Wild West. Saddle up, right? Checks to lawyers if you want for the president or is his family or anybody else, go ahead. The sheriff is drunk and passed out under a shade tree. Do whatever you need to do, spend it.
I do have one update to report on this tonight though. For the record, we`ve still got an overall no comment from the inaugural fund as to whether or not they -- the inauguration money will be used to pay Russia legal fees or whether it has been used to pay Russia legal fees. We asked them that and they told us no comment.
But I can report that Vice President Mike Pence for one is not using inauguration funds to pay for his legal defense. Mike Pence does have highfalutin legal representation on Russia. We know because his lawyer returns our calls and he`s very nice, but we don`t know at all how Pence is paying for this legal representation.
His very nice lawyer tells us that the vice president is not using inauguration funds. He also says the vice president is not using Trump reelection campaign money. He also tells us that the vice president is not using money from the RNC. He also tells us that the vice president is not using money from his own PAC.
But he is somehow paying his lawyer, right?
We`re checking now to see if maybe Mike Pence is selling his plasma, or like cleaning out his garage on Craigslist. I don`t know. We`ll keep figuring on it.
Watch this space.
MADDOW: That does it for us tonight. Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD" where Joy Reid is in for Lawrence tonight. Good evening, Joy.
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