Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW Date: September 29, 2017 Guest: Carmen Yulin Cruz, Georgia Wells
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thank you, my friend. Have a nice weekend.
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST, ALL IN: You too.
MADDOW: And thanks to at home for joining us this hour. Happy Friday.
All right. It started very early on. It started just two months in. Specifically, it started two months and one day into the new administration. A person named Ellen Moran stepped down.
Who`s Ellen Moran? You probably don`t know now and, honestly, nobody knew then either. She was a very low profile but she had an important job and a very impressive job title. She was the White House communications director.
Now, she was not the spokesperson at the podium, so she wasn`t like on TV every day doing the briefing. She was the person behind the scenes working on communication strategy overall. And she quit April 21st, 2009.
Word from the White House was, quote, it wasn`t a good fit.
It did seem to be an amicable departure. She left the White House but what she did was she just moved over to the Commerce Department instead, where she became chief of staff there and served happily for years.
But she was the first. Ellen Moran, she became the first high-profile departure of the Obama administration. They made from sort of day one, from January 20th and he was sworn in they made it two months and one day to April 21st, three months in one day sorry. Right? January, February, March, April. Sorry, three months and one day.
And, you know, nobody`s saying that first terms are easy, particularly when it`s a president who hasn`t run anything of the federal level before, right? There`s definitely a learning curve and you got to figure out if you got the right people around you, and there`s going to be some turnover.
And so, with the brand-new Obama administration, that one-term U.S. senator, right, coming in to be president for the first time, of course, Ellen Moran wasn`t the only White House official who turned out not to be a good fit at the start of that administration. The following month, there was the director of the White House military office. He resigned after he approved a dumb photo-op -- this is the photo -- where Air Force One flew really too close to the Statue of Liberty and people got nervous in New York when they saw it. So, he left a month after the White House communications director.
Then, three months later, in July, it was the top adviser on the auto bailout who left. And then the month after that, in August, it was the Obama administration`s advisor on cybersecurity who resigned.
Then in September, it was Van Jones. Van Jones is very well-known now because he`s a CNN guy now, but he was less well-known then as an adviser to President Obama on green jobs. In September, he resigned too.
So, if you were looking for signs of a brand new administration having trouble finding its feet, you maybe even an administration in turmoil that`s what you had in terms of major departures from the Obama administration and the first 252 days. When the Obama administration was as old as the Trump administration is today, they really had their fair share of departures, high-profile departures from the new administration.
That White House military office, a short-lived communications director a couple of advisers. They were all out.
Well, we are now 252 days into the Trump administration, let`s see how they`re stacking up on this same scale. Are you ready?
So, in the same time period when those were the major departures from the Obama administration, the Trump administration, we couldn`t even keep them all the same size. We do not mean doing tests imply that any of these smaller heads are less important than the larger heads. It`s just a -- it`s tough to squeeze them in.
The Trump administration has been here for days and so far, the Trump administration has lost or fired, are you ready? The acting attorney general, the national security adviser, the deputy White House chief of staff, the director of the FBI, the deputy national security adviser, their first White House communications director, that`s Mike Dubke there, the vice president`s chief of staff that`s Pitcock, whose name is under Dubke.
The chief of staff of the National Security Council, the director of the Office of Government Ethics, the White House press secretary Sean Spicer, the assistant White House press secretary, the White House chief of staff, another White House communications director that would be Mr. Scaramucci, the senior director for intelligence at the National Security Council, the White House chief strategist, that was Steve Bannon.
Also, the special advisor to the president on regulatory reform, they also lost a high-profile deputy assistant to the president who nobody really knew what he did -- remember Sebastian Gorka? Yes. We don`t know what he did, but he was a deputy assistant to the president.
We also lost the vice president`s press secretary and now, today the secretary of health and human services.
Everything OK you guys? Sorry, we couldn`t keep all your heads the same size.
I mean, I realize Barack Obama, new president losing his green jobs advisor in the first year. I mean, that was something that was a grave concern to like FOX News for not just weeks but months.
But the -- what`s happened at the Trump administration, this is an order of magnitude different. We`ve never seen anything like this. This latest departure tonight from the Trump administration is notable because it`s a cabinet secretary, Tom Price. Right? A cabinet secretary having to resign in a big corruption scandal, and it`s notable because it really is the latest in a tremendous flood of major departures from this very young administration, right, in this short amount of time.
But, you know, it`s also notable because you really couldn`t see this one coming, inexorably. This time last night, I said we were on a resignation watch when it came to Tom Price. That turned out to be right.
But you could also see it coming a long time ago. You could see it coming from the minute he got nominated to the cabinet. Tom Price was dogged from the beginning by a scandal from his time in Congress, where he enthusiastically bought and traded health care companies stock while at the same time, he was taking actions on the health committee that he ran that affected the price of those stocks that he owned.
At his confirmation hearing, Tom Price was questioned about the fact that some of those trades he did in health companies where VIP deals were only he and a few others select clients were even allowed to trade those stocks at those prices. Hey, Mr. Chairman of the health subcommittee, how did you get those special deals?
Tom Price, when questioned about that in his confirmation hearing, he just denied that he`d been in on any VIP stock deals. He said, oh, no, the public could have been in on any of those deals, which absolutely was not true. He was under oath at the time and he never went back and corrected those statements.
But the Republicans on the committee and in the Senate at large were happy to vote for Tom Price anyway and you know what? It turns out, when somebody during their confirmation process shows a proclivity for self dealing in government employment and when they`re more than happy to lie about that and not even bother to clean it up once they`re caught lying on it even under oath, when somebody shows you that`s who they are as they say believe them if that`s what you paid for in a cabinet secretary that is what you will get as a cabinet secretary.
But thanks to investigative reporting from Rachana Pradhan and Dan Diamond at "Politico", Health Secretary Tom Price will not go down in history as the health secretary who tried to take away health insurance coverage from tens of millions of Americans. He will go down in history as the second casualty from the Trump administration related to direct and serious allegations of corruption. They made it 252 days and only lost two people to corruption scandals. The first was Carl Icahn who left his regulatory advisor position under a cloud of allegations about how he appeared to have used that position for his own enrichment.
For Tom Price, the proximate cause of his resignation is the embarrassment over his extensive and enthusiastic private jet travel, which was all charged taxpayers. As Pradhan and Diamond published scoop after scoop about Tom Prices million dollar-plus luxury private aviation, including hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars with the flights he took with his wife on military aircraft that cost taxpayers up to twenty five thousand dollars an hour, after those scoops mounted at politico.com over the last days, ultimately, the White House got dragged into it.
The president himself started telling reporters he was bothered by what he`d heard about Tom Price and these flights then the White House press secretary took care to say yesterday that the White House had had no role in approving any of Tom Prices private flights. But then at 7:00 last night, there was yet another scoop about more than a half million dollars in military flights for Tom Price and his family that the White House did in fact approve, which makes it harder for this to get written off as some case where the president was very upset to hear about this terrible wasteful behavior by Tom Price given that his White House approved it that will be harder to get away with or at least it should be.
So, Trump`s health secretary is out now, which means maybe the focus will shift to Trump`s EPA director, who`s not only got the same private jet trouble fetish as Tom Price, he`s also lined himself up an 18-man 24-hour a day security detail, and bizarrely, he is having the EPA pay to build a secure soundproof phone booth in his office, which apparently is costing taxpayers about $25,000.
Now, his agency first tried to say that his magic soundproof room was a security necessity. It`s as SCIF. They tried to say this is just the EPA building itself a sensitive compartmented information facility so employees can handle super top-secret EPA materials.
But it turns out the EPA already has a SCIF, already built, already exists on a separate floor. What they`re building for Scott Pruitt is just what the -- what the contract calls a privacy booth for the administrator. A privacy booth in which you will presumably be safeguarded by his 18 bodyguards and to which he will be flown on one of several private jets.
If it`s not EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, who gets the attention next? It may instead turn to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who it turns out doesn`t always use a horse for his commute. Sometimes, Ryan Zinke has taxpayers pay for a private jet flight -- a private jet flight on an aircraft owned by an executive from an oil and gas exploration company in Wyoming. While as interior secretary, he`s always -- also moving to give away more federally controlled public land for oil and gas exploration.
That one private jet flight the taxpayers paid for on the oil and gas executive`s plane, that one started in Las Vegas where Secretary Zinke had been giving a motivational speech to a hockey team owned by his biggest campaign donor. That`s where the trip started. It ended at Ryan Zinke`s house in Montana and taxpayers paid for that to be a private jet flight on an oil executive`s plane.
Secretary Zinke has also charged taxpayers to pay for his private jet flights to Republican fundraisers. And then there were the multiple private jet flights he charged to taxpayers for flights to and around the U.S. Virgin Islands. And you know, to be fair, that`s the kind of one where you think OK, that one may make sense, right? We all know how hard hit the U.S. Virgin Islands were by the hurricanes.
But actually, no, in this case, Trump`s Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke charged taxpayers for private jet flights to and from and around the Virgin Islands in March, way before the hurricanes what everything was fine. In fact, what he did there was go on a snorkeling tour which the taxpayers paid to fly him to on a chartered private jet.
And with Ryan Zinke, again, could have seen this coming -- senators apparently decided they did not mind that official report on him from his time in the Navy when he got in big trouble in the Navy because he -- according to the Navy -- had fiddled his expenses in order to get the government to pay for his personal travel.
If you decide you don`t care about ethics issues like that when you nominate people the things, you get headlines like this once those people are in office. You get behavior like this.
And you can just keep going on this same theme. This really is a very deep, deep theme in this new administration. There`s also Trump`s treasury secretary who now famously requested a $25,000 an hour military flight for his European honeymoon. He didn`t get it. He did have to settle for flying his new bride on a military jet that expensive to Kentucky, to Fort Knox, where the publication "Queen World" reports the happy couple inspected the gold.
But there`s more. There`s also Trump`s Veterans Affairs chief and his wife who taxpayers apparently just paid to send on a 10-day European vacation -- sorry -- work trip that included a championship tennis match at Wimbledon and I do mean championship. It was the Women`s Final, we`re talking Serena Williams.
The trip also included a tour of Westminster Abbey and a river cruise down the Thames and a canal tour in Copenhagen, where they saw the little mermaid statue and trips to four separate palaces. In the middle of this trip, Trump`s V.A. secretary reportedly had four straight days with no daytime business whatsoever on the calendar.
They were very efficient though, clearly, he and his wife made the most of it. Four palaces is a lot. "Washington Post" points out tonight that Secretary Shulkin took this whole taxpayer-funded shebang less than two weeks after he signed a memo for other staff at the V.A., telling them to please review their plan to travel, to determine if it was really truly necessary.
Quote, I expect this will result in decreased employee travel and generate savings with the department, signed, Secretary Shulkin.
So, he signs that and then on his way out the door, bye, got to go, I`ve got -- I`m going to four different palaces and I`m going to see Serena Williams. I`m going to Wimbledon. Now, you guys get these travel costs under control. I got to go. My wife`s waiting.
So, Trump`s health secretary`s gone as of tonight. His V.A. secretary, his interior secretary, his treasury secretary, and his EPA administrator all appear to have done pretty much the exact same stuff as the health secretary. So, I guess, theoretically, if the administration is going to say that Tom Price`s behavior was a problem we should be watching to see if those other four officials from the Trump cabinet are going to go now too.
To encourage you not to hold your breath on that, after Tom Price resigned today, the president chose to display his personal disapproval of Tom Price`s terrible taxpayer-funded conspicuous waste by himself flying on Air Force One to his golf resort in New Jersey.
Today, as the White House absorbed a second day of blunt headlines about their tax plan and it`s expected effect which would be to shovel lots more money to the richest people in the country and to corporations, today, as one of the multiple Trump cabinet members caught up in a private jet greed and corruption scandal finally had to resign, today, the ninth day of a legitimate crisis continue to unfold for the 3.5 million Americans who are the victims of a terrible storm that hit more than a week ago now, but who continued to be victims of what thus far has been a botched and dramatically inadequate federal response.
The president over the past few days has been insisting like a bizarre fantasy mantra that everything`s going great in Puerto Rico.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And our team has been incredible we have had tremendous reviews from government officials. We are doing a great job. Everybody has said it`s amazing the job that we`ve done in Puerto Rico, we`re very proud of it.
As far as Puerto Rico is concerned, that`s been going -- as you know -- really well. I think it`s going really well. We`ve made tremendous strides.
It`s been incredible the results that we`ve had. People can`t believe how successful that has been. We have done an incredible job. We`ve done a really good job. I`m there to help I could tell you that.
This is an island surrounded by water, big water, ocean water. We will not rest however until the people of Puerto Rico are safe.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: After saying today that he would not rest until the people of Puerto Rico are safe, then right after that is when the president flew to his golf resort, which is where he is right now. Presumably he is not resting though.
We`re going to be live from Puerto Rico with the mayor of San Juan. Stay with us.
MADDOW: So, as a country, we do not have a health secretary as of tonight, with the resignation of Tom Price. We also do not have a secretary of homeland security anymore. We haven`t had one since July, when the head of Homeland Security, John Kelly, left that job because the White House chief of staff got fired and he got that guy`s job. It`s kind of been like that.
The acting director of homeland security is named Elaine Duke.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ELAINE DUKE, ACTING SECRETARY, DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY: The relief effort is under control. It is proceeding very well.
The response today has been phenomenal. It was strong today and we committed to continue making and keeping it strong until recovery is complete. The feedback from the governor, the mayor of San Juan, Carmen Yulin Cruz, all been positive.
I know it is really a good news story in terms of our ability to reach people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The mayor of San Juan is Carmen Julian Cruz. The administration should probably stop citing her as backup for their self-satisfied assertions about how great they`re doing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYOR CARMEN YULIN CRUZ, SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO: Well, maybe, from where she`s standing it`s a good news story. When you`re drinking from a creek, it`s not a good news story. When you don`t have food for a baby, it`s not a good news story. When you have to pull people down from their buildings because, you know -- I`m sorry but that really upsets me and frustrates me.
Dammit, this is not a good news story. This is a people are dying story. This is a life or death story. This is there`s a truckload of stuff that cannot be taken two people story.
This is a story of a devastation that continues to worsen because people are not getting food and water.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The mayor of Puerto Rico`s largest city has been sounding the alarm all week long. Today, she very clearly hit her limit.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CRUZ: We are dying here, and I cannot fathom the thought that the greatest nation in the world cannot figure out the logistics for a small island of a hundred miles by thirty five miles long. So, mayday, we are in trouble.
FEMA asks for documentation, I think we`ve given them enough documentation, and they have the gall this morning -- look at this, look at this. They think they ways enough.
They have the gall this morning of asking me, what are you priorities, Mayor? Where have you been?
And I have been very respectful of the FEMA employees. I have been patient. But we have no time for patience anymore.
So I am asking the president of the United States to make sure somebody is in charge that is up to the task of saving lives.
They`re up to the task in Africa whenever Ebola came over. They were up to the task in Haiti, as they should be, because when it comes to saving lives, we are all part of one community of shared values.
I will do what I never thought I was going to do. I am begging, begging anyone that can hear us to save us from dying. If anybody out there is listening to us, we are dying and you are killing us with the inefficiency and the bureaucracy. We will make it with or without you, because what stands behind me is all due to the generosity of other people.
Again, this is what we got last night: four pallets of water, three pallets of meals and twelve pallets of infant food, which I gave them to Comerio, where people are drinking of a creek.
So, I am done being polite. I am done being politically correct. I am mad as hell, because my people`s lives are at stake, and we are but one nation. We may be small but we are huge and dignity and in our zealous for life.
So I am asking the members of the press to send a mayday call all over the world. We are dying here.
And if we don`t stop, then if we don`t get the food in the water into people`s hands, what we are going to see is something close to a genocide.
So, Mr. Trump, I beg you to take charge and save lives, after all, that is one of the founding principles of the United States of North America. If not the world would see how we are treated, not as second-class citizens, but as animals that can be disposed of. Enough is enough.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: On day nine of this crisis. That`s Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz of San Juan Puerto Rico. She joins us live next.
MADDOW: For 3.5 million Americans, this is their second week living in darkness, wondering when food and water and fuel they need will arrive. On Tuesday, the mayor of San Juan told us about the dire situations, specifically inside hospitals and in nursing homes, in Puerto Rico`s capital city, patients dying in hospitals because the generators powering their life support keeping them alive, those generators are running out of fuel. People needing to be evacuated out of nursing homes that were going day after day with no power, no running water, no ability to provide food to their patients.
And despite what are now insistent references from this administration, from the president personally about how great the rescue effort is going, the reality on the ground is something very different and there has been nobody trying to sound that alarm than the mayor of San Juan, Carmen Yulin Cruz.
Mayor Cruz, I know you have a million things to do and places to be. Thank you for helping us understand what`s going on tonight.
CRUZ: Well, thank you for helping us get the voice out and have some connection between what has been said and reality of people are living in the streets and the hospitals and in their homes.
MADDOW: You told us earlier this week, on Tuesday, that the problem seemed to be, the chain of command, seemed to be bureaucracy. It wasn`t that there weren`t supplies in Puerto Rico, it wasn`t that there weren`t people who seemed like capable people who are willing to help. It seemed that there was no plan, no organization that actually allowed things to get out to people who needed them. How`s that improved at all?
CRUZ: No, it hasn`t. Actually, it`s gotten worse yesterday. I got the visit from the mayor very late at night asking me if I had any leftovers that he could have for his people that were drinking from a creek. That`s the mayor of Comerio.
Today, I got a mayday call from the two different neighboring mayors saying, look, we have gone to the FEMA distribution centers we get there and they give us one pallet of water, or they tell us, you know what, we have nothing to give you. Please call us next week.
The other thing is that they are asking people to -- you`re not going to believe this. Everyone knows our power grid is down, so Internet connection is almost none. So, they`re asking people if they want to be, you know, just helped by FEMA to register via Internet or to call. Well, for heaven`s sake, what don`t you understand like we don`t have any power, so our Internet connection is limited?
There is such a thing, I -- there`s a motto for the Marine Corps, you adapt, you improvise, you overcome. It seems simple. So if you do not have Internet, don`t ask people to register using Internet. You adapt and you do a different way.
So, they said, well, everything is going according to the plan. Where maybe when you`re sitting in air condition, everything is going in accordance to plan. Today, I had to rent a rig and I just thank regional manager John Raven (ph) for helping because I was still getting questions from FEMA of what are my priorities.
It seems pretty simple, you save lives with food, water and medical supplies. It just doesn`t seem like the most powerful nation in the world to be incapable of just having in a hundred by thirty-five mile long the ability to just put fuel into hospitals. And then I was told, well, hospitals I have to request to be put on the list. For heaven`s sake --
CRUZ: You know, there`s a list of all the hospitals in Puerto Rico. You just don`t have time for any of this, and it just appalling. You know why, Rachel, because it`s a disconnect to the reality of the heart of the American people.
I lived in Boston. I lived in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I gave birth there and I know that the American people are brave people. They`re whole- hearted people, and they just charge when something is not wrong, they invented. When you have to move it, you move it. When you have to go around and you go around it.
So, I have no idea why this is going on, and there`s a disconnect between what the FEMA people are saying is happening and what the mayors and the people in the towns know that is happening. So, I was promised and (INAUDIBLE) tomorrow from Mr. John Raven himself miraculously. I was told that I was going to get two containers of food and water and lo and behold, after that I rented a rig, I got a lot more.
But do you know what? That`s not the way things should happen.
MADDOW: When you say you rented a rig, Mayor -- I`m sorry to interrupt you. When you say you rented a rig, you`re saying that you had to pay cash to rent a semi-tractor an 18-wheeler, in order to move these containers?
CRUZ: No, no, no. I moved (ph) some of the containers -- I said, you know, I screamed and shouted literally and said, you know, my people are dying here. What do you want to do?
I mean, we have given FEMA piles and piles of information, piles and piles of information, but you got to fill out this form and fill out the other form, and, you know, I understand there is a process, but there are lives at stake here.
When you are at war, you just don`t say, oh let me see if there`s a radar in this field so I can land the plane to rescue somebody. No, you land the field, you land in the baseball park or whatever it needs to be done, you do it.
So, there seems to be in this emergency management, a lot of management and very little sense of emergency.
MADDOW: The one thing that I saw today that made me feel like there was a change in the organizational approach to this mayor was that the army started to send out releases about dispatching teams by helicopter into far-flung towns. Obviously, the Army has taken organizational control of the relief effort, we`re told as of today.
Have you seen any evidence of change because of the Army taking over? Are you hopeful about that?
CRUZ: Not today. I`m hopeful that the logistics that the Army is providing in this humanitarian mission is going to provide for a much needed relief and also for the continuance of this relief. You can`t just feed people one time a day, one day a week. You have to do it continuously.
So, we are hopeful as we are and we keep pushing on. We keep seeing communities come together and just doing a lot of the clean up themselves or cooking for 400 people and so forth, we keep getting people from different counties and cities and mayor of Boston, the mayor of Columbus, Ohio. They`re reaching out and they`re saying, Mayor, what do you need?
And whatever I get, I will share it with the rest of the municipalities in Puerto Rico, because we`re just one. We`re just one. And we`re doing -- giving an SOS.
This is for you. I`m going to give this to the production, because you`ve been very helpful and getting out the SOS call for everybody and making sure that our voices are heard. So we thank you very much for that.
MADDOW: San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz, thank you for talking to us. Please keep us apprised and tell us what else people need to know and please take good care of yourself. You`re doing a lot of work here, a lot of days, a lot of late nights there. You got to make it through this, too.
CRUZ: Thank you very much, ma`am.
MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Sorry. I need to make a correction from the top of the show. It`s Friday. There was one whole night this week I didn`t get sleep because my back hurt and I got the knock on effect where you`re not really tired the next day but you`re tired the day after. Sorry.
So, that`s my excuse. Here`s what I screwed up. I said at the top of the show that when the veterans` affairs chief went to Wimbledon this year, Serena Williams was playing in the women`s final.
Here is what I have to correct. The veterans affairs chief and his wife did take a taxpayer-funded 10-day European trip that did include four different palaces and a tour of Westminster Abbey, and a river cruise and a canal cruise, and four straight days with no scheduled events in the middle of their European vacation. I mean, more trip.
And veteran secretary did on this taxpayer funded trip with his wife to Europe, he did go to Wimbledon where he did see a championship match and it was the ladies` final, and it was one of the Williams sister in the final but it wasn`t Serena. It was Venus. And I need to watch more tennis, clearly. My mistake. My apologies. Very sorry.
We`ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MARK WARNER (D-VA), VICE CHAIR, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Their response was frankly inadequate on almost every level.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Mark Warner is the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee. He was among a lot of lawmakers who emerged from much-heralded private meetings with Twitter executives yesterday to pronounce themselves dissatisfied by what Twitter told them. They`re unhappy apparently about the limited information that Twitter was able to hand over to Congress about the Russian activity on Twitter during our presidential election last year.
Well, today, Twitter defended their conduct in response to that criticism from Congress. They said today that the congressional committees hadn`t actually requested any specific information from us.
Like I know you guys didn`t get what you wanted, but we didn`t know what you wanted.
We already knew from reporting in "The Wall Street Journal" and elsewhere that Twitter`s limited disclosures had angered congressional investigators. But tonight, we have one new detail to report about why congressional investigators were so annoyed.
A source familiar with Twitter`s presentation on Capitol Hill yesterday tells us that Twitter did disclose to investigators that there were roughly 200 Twitter accounts active during the election that have been linked to Russian actors, that seems like a low number. What congressional investigators are annoyed about is that Twitter apparently didn`t discover those Twitter accounts themselves, Facebook did, and so they just got that information from Facebook.
And what`s worse, Twitter did not come prepared to tell Congress anything about those fake accounts used by the Russians at all, bupkis.
According to our source, when Twitter executives turned up with great fanfare, right, to brief investigators yesterday on what they had discovered about how Russia used their platform during the presidential election, Twitter executives would not provide lawmakers with the names of any of these accounts they now say were linked to Russia, nor would they describe any of the content that was spread by any of those accounts. So then who cares, right?
As "The Wall Street Journal" reported, people closed to Twitter say the company is months behind Facebook in determining the scope of nefarious bot activity on its social network. They`re behind Facebook? Facebook is only barely admitting that Russia was operating on their platform at all.
Anybody who was observing anything having to do with the American political election last year knows from experiential anecdotal truth that there were plenty of bots and plenty of foreign, idiomatically identifiable fake accounts that were absolutely messing with everybody streams of information, both on Facebook and on Twitter. Facebook and Twitter appear to be completely convinced that we`re going to have no serious questions about why that happened and they appear to have done almost no work on their own behalf to help investigators understand how their platforms were used as the scenes of a significant crime.
The question is, why they don`t care?
Joining us now is Georgia Wells. She`s a reporter for "The Wall Street Journal".
Ms. Wells, thanks very much for joining us. Appreciate you being here.
GEORGIA WELLS, TECHNOLOGY REPORTER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: Thank you for having me.
MADDOW: So, I don`t know about the internal guts of how Twitter and Facebook work. I don`t know about their -- where they see their privacy rights and their intellectual property rights as clashing with investigators here. But it -- even from that position of ignorance, it seems surprising to me that Twitter appears to have had no information about Russian activity on their platform to hand over to Congress yesterday.
WELLS: I mean, I think it has to be uncomfortable. I think one thing to keep in mind is I think Twitter thinks of their constituency is much broader than just Capitol Hill and much broader than just the U.S. I think they think of it as a place for people to safely and anonymously share their opinions.
And so, I think they genuinely care about the privacy of these users on the platform, when at the same time, there are allegations that there were actors who, you know, we`re attempting to interfere with the American political process. And I think this is a point where and in many minds I think the privacy concerns of these foreign actors will be outweighed by the American, you know, political concerns. And I think this is the equation that Twitter is having a hard time with.
MADDOW: Right. I mean, if they`re -- it`s one thing for talking about individual anonymous speech rights and how Twitter engages with those as a global company. In this case, what seems to be the conclusion of intelligence agencies is that Twitter wasn`t used by individual actors to express unpopular opinions. Twitter was used as a venue for state- sponsored actions that were run by foreign governments to effectively, illegally influence an American election using large scale approaches to their platform, automated approaches to their platform.
Given that and given that that`s clear even from a distance, that`s clear even if you`re nowhere near that company, you can see that because we experienced what that was like during the campaign, why is Twitter months behind Facebook in your estimation in terms of -- in terms of sorting this out?
WELLS: Yes. So, we`ve reported that people close to Twitter just say that -- kind of just their understanding of the problem is months behind Facebook, but I think also Twitter would point out that they have shared more information now than they`d ever shared on it previously, including data and the longest blog post they`ve ever written about it.
MADDOW: Unless that they`re bragging about the length of their blog post. That`s brought Mr. Bao (ph) down and marvel at its height.
WELLS: I mean, I do think that they`ve been caught somewhat flat-footed, which is hard to understand given some of these concerns did begin to emerge months and months ago right after the election. I think also though that the understanding of this problem among tech companies has changed a bit and so, we`ve seen this with Facebook where right after the election, Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, made a comment that the idea that kind of misinformation on Facebook could have influenced the election was crazy and now he`s rolling that idea back and a couple days ago he posted saying that he shouldn`t have dismissed those concerns because these issues are far too serious.
And so, it`ll be interesting to see kind of how their understandings of this evolves.
MADDOW: Yes, and if it evolves in time to help investigators who are trying to figure this out and catch the bad guys.
Georgia Wells, reporter for "The Wall Street Journal", appreciate you being here tonight. Thank you.
WELLS: Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: We first learned something was wrong almost two months ago when CBS Radio reported something that was simultaneously very worrying sounding, but also, sort of too vague to worry about.
The way that CBS Radio first put it was that American diplomats in Cuba were reporting, quote, incidents which have caused a variety of physical symptoms. Incidents with -- a variety of symptoms do you say?
And that was all -- that was all the information we got in that initial report. CBS Radio definitely had the scoop, but it raised a lot more questions than it did even cogent worries. It wasn`t clear what these incidents were. It wasn`t clear what the injuries were, and the government, our government, the State Department, was the opposite of forthcoming on this matter.
Well, we have since learned and not from the State Department, that these mysterious attacks have injured more than 20 Americans, and the effects are serious. They range from permanent hearing loss, to mild traumatic brain injury. We have no idea how these injuries were inflicted. We do know that some of the attacks occurred at diplomats residences. Some of them appear to have occurred at Cuban hotels.
We also know that the Cuban government is adamant that they are not behind the attacks. Cuban government offered -- and this is unusual -- offered to let the FBI come to Cuba and investigate. Cuban government is not in that habit.
We know the FBI has been down to Cuba to investigate. They reportedly visited the homes of diplomats. They reportedly reviewed security footage, but apparently, they didn`t detect anything suspicious.
And this is interesting. They were also unable to duplicate in a lab anything that would cause the symptoms that diplomats have experienced in Cuba. So, we know these incidents started in the fall of last year and then they stopped for a while, and then this summer, apparently, they picked up again. The most recent incident reportedly happened in late August, and we know all of that stuff from reporting, not from our government, not from the State Department. They have been tight-lipped and unhelpful in providing any real details about exactly what`s going on.
Today, even though the State Department still is not sharing much about what`s happening in Cuba, they did take a big dramatic step they announced that they`re pulling about 60 percent of U.S. embassy staff out of the embassy of the United States in Cuba. Right now, there are about Americans working at the Havana embassy. The only ones who are going to stay behind now are so-called essential staff, people who are there just to carry out emergency services.
The State Department has also announced they`ll stop processing visas in Cuba and indefinitely. As of Monday, no more visas will be issued from the embassy in Havana.
Today, the State Department issued a travel advisory warning Americans against traveling to Cuba, saying, quote: We are unable to identify the source of the attacks. So, this is a very strange story. The administration has not blamed Cuba for the attacks. As of now, there appears to be no evidence of culpability that we know of by any particular country or actor by Cuba or anybody else. It`s just a really weird, spooky mystery. Whatever has been happening to U.S. diplomats in Cuba and again some of these injuries that they have sustained are serious and some are permanent.
Today`s actions would have been a big step for the State Department to have taken toward Cuba in general in normal circumstances, but it`s a giant leap given that no one it will really explain what`s going on here. We still have the State Department`s general reluctance to say anything at all about, you know, whether the attacks are continuing even now, how they are approaching it, how they are investigating it.
And now, we don`t know why they just took this big set of dramatic new measures that they hadn`t taken before. Is that because they learn something new? Is that because they just got around to doing this stuff they meant to do before? I mean, imagine if you`re -- one of your family members is one of those essential State Department personnel it`s being left behind, how do you feel about that? Is the State Department ensuring they`re safety?
It`s weird enough when it seemed like maybe Cuba or some other government was attacking American diplomats. But now, without explanation, we`ve got this dramatic action by the U.S. government, without explanation as to why they have taken this dramatic action. It`s just -- it`s just weird. It`s just weird. Lots of unanswered questions.
That does it for us tonight.
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD" with Joy Reid, filling in for Lawrence.
Good evening, Joy.
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