Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW Date: October 5, 2017 Guest: Elijah Cummings, Shane Harris
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST, ALL IN: Before we go, I want to tell you, we have a huge show tomorrow night. A rare interview with the great Lin Manuel Miranda on his efforts to bring awareness to the crisis in Puerto Rico. And I`ll be joined by Ta-nehisi Coats. Both interviews tomorrow night right here on "ALL IN."
That`s "ALL IN" for this evening.
THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now.
Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: A, that`s very impressive about tomorrow, but, B, that conversation that you just had about Facebook was I think the first time I have ever been edge of my seat interested in anything about Facebook in my life.
HAYES: Well, I`m glad. I actually did want to do that for an hour, so I was like I hate be like we`re going to have to leave it there which I basically had to do. But --
MADDOW: That was really good man, well done.
HAYES: Thank you.
MADDOW: And thanks to at home for joining us this hour.
So, that escalated quickly. It started last night. "Reuters" reporter Mark Hosenball was an excellent veteran investigative reporter. Mark Hosenball last night was first to report that Robert Mueller special counsel investigation has taken over the FBI`s work related to the so- called dossier, right? The dossier about President Trump and his connections to Russia.
That`s the dossier that was produced during the election by former MI6 British intelligence operative named Christopher Steele. He was working on a contract with a D.C. research firm called Fusion GPS.
Earlier this week, three Russian guys associated with a giant Putin-linked Russian bank called Alfa Bank, three Russians sued Fusion GPS over the way they were described in the dossier, in sort of criminal and political allegations made against them in that document. These three Russians are the same guys who previously sued "BuzzFeed".
Now, "BuzzFeed" was the first media organization to publish the dossier back in January. They sued "BuzzFeed" before. Now, as of this week, they`re also suing Fusion GPS, which is the company that paid for the dossier, and they`re suing Fusion for allegedly not taking sufficient care with that document in the first place which they say ultimately led to "BuzzFeed" publishing it.
So, you know, it`s a it`s a high bar to prove libel in this country and you know serious litigants don`t pursue libel lawsuits in this country all that often in part because you`re opening yourself up to your libel lawsuit becoming a vehicle to investigate whether or not any of the charges made against you might have a kernel of truth to them, right?
So, the way that libel is litigated in this country, it can be a dangerous legal strategy if you have anything to hide at all. It doesn`t mean there is never a successful libel suit, but they can be the means of opening up very controversial topics and really putting a spotlight on people who are willing to sue.
So, that lawsuit against Fusion GPS, that may itself become an interesting source of information about the allegations in the Trump Russia dossier as time goes on. So, that lawsuit filed this week could end up being important down the road, just sort of stick a pin in that for now.
Regardless of that lawsuit, though, the dossier is obviously already radically controversial and that`s in part because it includes salacious tabloidy claims about Donald Trump`s alleged behavior when he was just a businessman operating in Russia. But more importantly, it`s incredibly controversial because what that document does overall, the overall point of the dossier is that it describes a well-developed conspiracy of cooperation between Trump world and Russian intelligence agencies as Russian intelligence agencies were taking all sorts of different actions to try to benefit Donald Trump in the presidential election.
The dossier overall, regardless of any of its individual claims, the overall argument of the dossier is that there was collusion. There was a conspiracy of cooperation between Trump world and the Russian leadership while the Russian leadership was directing this campaign to have Russia influence our election. And in terms of the specific claims in the dossier, some of them are contested by the people who are named in the dossier, including by those three Russians who are now suing over its publication.
The dossier as a whole is routinely dismissed and disparaged and attacked by the president and by the White House as a completely unfounded thing.
The Republican chairman of the Judiciary Committee in the Senate, Chuck Grassley -- Judiciary Committee is supposedly investigating some of the more serious charges related to the Trump campaign in Russia -- Senator Grassley has really had it out for the dossier. He`s engaged in a month long crusade to try to portray the dossier itself as no Russia scandal. He`s tried to impugn anybody who had anything to do with creating that dossier or anybody who`s ever cited it, or anybody who`s ever used it as a basis of investigation, he`s tried to make the dossier itself a scandal.
And it is -- it is definitely true that some of the most salacious stuff including the personal stuff in the dossier hasn`t been proven out by any subsequent reporting, at least not yet. But there are parts of the dossier that really have been proven out and that we`re right about stuff that we now accept was true about the Russian attack on our election, except the dossier was right about it months before any of the rest of us knew, months before there was any public reporting.
For example, before there was any public reporting on Russia being the entity behind the hacking and stealing documents from Democratic Party organizations, it was the Christopher Steele dossier that described Russia as being behind those hacking operations and those thefts. The Steele dossier had that before there was any public source reporting on it, before reporting from "The New York Times" and a very belated admission from the Trump Organization proved that President Trump in fact pursued a Trump Tower Moscow project during the campaign, months before that ever became publicly known, it was in the dossier. Christopher Steele in the dossier described Trump exploring the real estate sector in Russia, including in Moscow.
Before anybody had any proof that Russian government sources directly offered derogatory information about Hillary Clinton to the Trump campaign, before "The New York Times" was first to report about that meeting at Trump Tower were all the top officials from the Trump campaign showed up in person for a meeting because they`ve been promised Russian government information that would make Hillary Clinton look terrible, months before we learned about that Trump Tower meeting where they`d showed up to get the Hillary Clinton dirt, months before that, Christopher Steele in the dossier was describing the Russian government as part of this conspiracy with the Trump campaign, providing the Trump campaign with derogatory information about Hillary Clinton.
So, a lot of this he had dead to rights. A lot of this stuff that seemed nuts we all read this when it was published in January since then has been reported out and proven.
So, the Christopher steel dossier was produced by this British intelligence agent during the campaign. It was first published openly in January by "BuzzFeed". It has been the subject of incredible scandal and derision and undermining efforts since then.
But parts of it keep proving up. So, now, Mark Hosenball at "Reuters" is reporting that Robert Mueller`s inquiry has taken over the work that was already happening at the FBI to try to corroborate the dossier, to follow up the claims made in that dossier. That was first. That was last night. Then tonight, CNN was first to report and NBC is now confirmed this but CNN was first to report that Bob Mueller`s team has interviewed the former British intelligence officer who wrote the dossier Christopher Steele.
Quote: Special counsel Robert Mueller`s investigators met this past summer with the former British spy whose dossier on alleged Russian efforts to aid the Trump campaign spawned months of investigations that have hobbled the Trump administration.
Quote: The FBI and the U.S. intelligence community last year took the Steele dossier more seriously than the agencies have publicly acknowledged.
Now, that`s a little woolly it sounds like a little -- sounds like an interesting generalization, but look at this detail that they`ve got. Quote: The intelligence agencies, particularly the CIA and the FBI, took Steele`s research seriously enough that they kept it out of a report released in January on Russian meddling in the election, in order to not divulge which parts of the dossier. They had corroborated and how.
OK, this is interesting. It`s one thing to say, oh, they took it more seriously than people think. This is specific and really interesting, right? You put this together with Mark Hosenball`s report and what we`ve got is Robert Mueller tracking down these allegations that were made in the dossier, Mueller`s team meeting with Christopher Steele.
And this report that the FBI and the CIA took care after internal debate, they took care to not explicitly discuss the dossier, to not explicitly include mention of the dossier when they reported on Russian meddling in the election last year, and the reason they didn`t include the dossier in those reports is specifically because they had corroborated some of the claims in the dossier. And if they were going to put those claims, and if they were gonna mention the dossier in their reporting, they would ultimately have to explain how they corroborated it, how they figured out that what Christopher Steele said in that dossier was correct. However, they did that, however, they corroborated what they corroborated was too sensitive to tell, say Donald Trump. So, they didn`t write it down.
I mean, they briefed outgoing President Obama and incoming President-elect Trump in person, directly about the fact that this dossier existed. But even though the dossier apparently is part of how they came to understand the Russian meddling in the election, when it came time to produce their report about the Russians meddling in the election, they didn`t include the dossier in that because any classified version of that report would have to include how they knew the dossier was true.
Quote: In the weeks before the U.S. intelligence community published a January report detailing Russian meddling efforts in the 2016 election, top officials at the FBI, CIA and the Director of National Intelligence Office discussed including parts of the Steele dossier in the official intelligence document. The intelligence community had, quote, concerns about that. Quote: If that report included the dossier allegations, the intelligence community would have to say which parts that had corroborated and how. That would compromise sources and methods, including information shared by foreign intelligence services.
So, there`s this dossier saying that the Trump campaign and the Russians were in cahoots. They were involved in a conspiracy of cooperation to influence the election to help Trump, to put the thought put a foreign thumb on the scale to get Trump in office. You got a brief Trump on how you found out what parts of that were true, who might he tell once you told him?
So, in the end, they didn`t put what they had learned from the dossier in their unclassified or classified report about how Russia meddled in the election, to protect the methodology that they used in order to prove it, right? They were trying to protect the fact that the dossier had proven out when they checked it out. But parts of it at least proved out when they checked it out and so now, Bob Mueller is in charge of checking out all of it. And according first to CNN and now confirmed by NBC, Bob Mueller and his investigators met with Christopher Steele, this summer, as part of their special counsel investigation.
So, Hosenball last night, CNN tonight, NBC confirming, and now we right here can add to the reporting on this subject as well.
Yesterday afternoon, Richard Burr and Mark Warner, top Republican and top Democrat, on the Intelligence Committee, they gave what they described as an update on their investigation into the Russian attack on our election and the question of whether or not there was Trump campaign collusion. The senators said they had been able to thoroughly check out the circumstances surrounding Donald Trump`s big pro-Russia foreign policy speech at the Mayflower Hotel last year. They said they had been able to thoroughly check out the circumstances under which the Trump campaign insisted on changing the Republican Party platform to make it pull more pro-Russia.
But the Republican Chairman Richard Burr insisted that when it came to checking out the Christopher Steele dossier, he said, yes, yes, yes, we`ve been able to follow these other things as far as we can, but with the Christopher Steele dossier, we`ve hit a brick wall there.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. RICHARD BURR (R-NC), CHAIR, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: As it relates to the Steele dossier, unfortunately, the committee has hit a wall. We have on several occasions made attempts to contact Mr. Steele, to meet with Mr. Steele, to include personally the vice chairman and myself as two individuals making that connection. Those offers have gone unaccepted. The committee cannot really decide the credibility of the dossier without understanding things like who paid for it, who are your sources and sub- sources.
We`re investigating a very expansive Russian net worth of interference in U.S. elections, and though we have been incredibly enlightened at our ability to rebuild backwards the Steele dossier up to a certain date, getting past that point has been somewhat impossible. And I say this because I don`t think we`re going to find any intelligence products that unlock that key to pre-June of `16.
My hope is that Mr. Steele will make a decision to meet with either Mark and I or the committee or both, so that we can hear his side of it, versus for us to depict in our findings what his intent or what his actions were. And I say that to you but I also say it to Chris Steele.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: So that`s the chairman of the intelligence community yesterday saying there`s a brick wall here, explaining to the press what`s going on about them not being able to talk to Christopher Steele about this dossier, but saying, I`m saying this to you as the press, I`m saying it to you too Christopher Steele.
So, it`s interesting in context in terms of what`s happening in Washington with investigating this scandal, right? You do have the Republican chairman of the judiciary committee, Chuck Grassley, trying to say that the dossier itself is a scandal, it`s inherently dubious or fake somehow maybe is definitely implying and sometimes just flat-out alleging than anybody associated with it is somehow in trouble and should have to answer for their actions.
In the other Senate committee investigating the scandal, in the Intelligence Committee, the Republican chairman there, he doesn`t describe the dossier as a scandal, but he`s basically describing it as a mystery here, right? You know, we`ll never get to the bottom of this. The credibility of the dossier will never be established because we can`t speak to the author it`s all unknown it will remain unknown and we`ll never understand whether or not any of this is real because we really just can`t investigate it.
All right. That claim falls short on two fronts now. And number one is what was first reported by CNN tonight that Christopher Steele is reportedly talking to the Mueller investigators. So, if their questions ask Christopher Steele about that dossier, he`s talking to American investigators about it, he`s talking to the special counsel`s office.
The other way that claim falls short is what we can report tonight. An associate of Christopher Steele relays to us tonight that there is no brick wall that Senate investigators have run up against when it comes to trying to investigate the dossier or speak with Christopher Steele, an associate of Steele tells us tonight that in fact, very recently, in late September, Christopher Steele in London relayed to Washington, through this associate, that Mr. Steele in fact would be happy to meet with Senator Richard Burr and Senator Mark Warner.
Apparently, Senators Burr and Warner had requested, as they said in this briefing yesterday, they had requested to meet with Christopher Steele the answer from Christopher Steele through this associate was yes, yes, I will meet with you. According to this associate of Christopher Steele, the next step as they understood it was just a pick a date on which that meeting would happen. The associate who relayed this offer to meet from Christopher Steele was surprised to hear Senator Burr say yesterday that all avenues of communication had been cut off with Christopher Steele and that a brick wall had been hit and there was no way to get him to answer the committee`s questions.
So, we reached out to the Senate Intelligence Committee, to the chairman and the vice chairman, Senator Burr and Senator Warner, tonight, and they did give us a statement in response to this new reporting from us. They gave us an interesting statement. It doesn`t refute what our source told us, but let me read you what they said.
Quote: The committee has made multiple requests to meet with Mr. Steele over the last nine months, including outreach to his attorneys. We remain open to any credible offer to meet with Mr. Steele whether in Washington or in London.
And what we`re hearing from the Steele side of the equation is that Mr. Steele is happy to meet with Senators Burr and Warner, just a matter of picking a date.
So, there may be a continuing political interest in Washington in trying to make the Christopher Steele dossier seem like a scandal or seem like an unplumbable depths that we`ll never be able to understand and nobody will ever be able to investigate, we`ll never know if any of its true. But I get the political drive to come to one of those two conclusions or maybe both.
But in reality, based mostly on open source reporting from the American media, in reality, A, a bunch of the dossier has proven to be true, B, the FBI and the CIA have reportedly validated parts of it as true and have apparently used it as the basis of some of their ongoing investigation. C, the special counsel Robert Mueller is investigating the veracity of the dossier, including interviewing Christopher Steele about it. And D, Senate investigators apparently can meet with Christopher Steele if they want to, even if the Republican chairman of the Intelligence Committee yesterday said otherwise.
So, Republicans are obviously under a lot of pressure to wrap this thing up. Trump campaign manager Steve Bannon has now left the White House, but from his new position as a person who gets interviewed about the White House, which is it`s all funny, Steve Bannon has made clear that the only problem related to Russia and the presidential election is that Republicans in Washington haven`t yet blocked the investigation into what Russia did.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEVE BANNON, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF STRATEGIST: It`s Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan have allowed three -- there`s three investigative committees on Capitol Hill. They have full subpoena power. They have unlimited budget. They`re going after the President Trump. They`re going after him every day.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The problem with trying to stop these investigations into what happened with Russia and the Trump campaign is that we keep finding new stuff that makes the investigation seem warranted and worthwhile, right? And some of that is coming from within the investigative process itself. But a lot of it is coming from the media, where hardcore investigative reporting and a free press is turning up evidence of stuff that makes it hard to say these investigations should be turned off.
The president`s response to even this latest news from the Senate Intelligence Committee is that the thing the Senate Intelligence Committee ought to be investigating is the news media in this country, and that tells you a lot about the attitudes of this administration towards anything it perceives as a threat. But you know what? It tells you absolutely nothing about how our understanding of this scandal will continue to progress, because the investigations are not stopping and a major reach in the investigations are not stopping, it`s because reporters will not stop working on it.
And honestly, every freaking day, there is something new.
MADDOW: So, politico.com has a scoop tonight that`s a little bit alarming. I feel a little alarmed by it from a just a national security perspective. I don`t see this as a White House Washington drama story. I see this as a national security story.
It`s about John Kelly recently retired four-star general. Until last year, he ran Southern Command for the U.S. military. On January 20th, he was sworn in as the secretary of homeland security. He served as secretary of homeland security until July 28th of this year. July 28th, he left Homeland Security to replace the fired White House chief of staff.
Well, now, politico.com reports tonight that according to three U.S. government officials, quote: Chief of Staff John Kelly`s personal cell phone was compromised, potentially as long ago as December. Apparently, the chief of staff had noticed that his phone wasn`t working properly.
So, he did what you do when you work in an organization, he called IT and asked them to fix his busted phone for him handed over his phone. The tech support people were trying to figure out what was wrong with this phone and they realized, oh, the phones that belongs to the White House chief of staff has been externally breached.
According to "Politico`s" reporting, quote: Kelly turned his phone into the White House tech support this summer, complaining it wasn`t working or updating software properly. Kelly told the staffers the phone hadn`t been working properly for months. That`s when they discovered that it had been compromised.
Now, one security expert talking to "Politico" tonight describes the worst case scenario for this. It`s not just that somebody might have been able to access the data on his phone, they may conceivably have been able to turn on the phone`s microphone or camera, thereby you know tagging along wherever it was that John Kelly held that phone. And given that he was running the Homeland Security Department and then running the White House over that time period when his phone was compromised, this news does sort of send a chill down my spine in terms of American national security.
Now, the White House has known about this for a while. According to politico.com, a one-page memo last month summarizing the incident circulated throughout the administration and apparently, John Kelly now has a new phone. Oh good.
I mean, it`s one thing to worry about the national security, you know, instincts of this administration, their capacity for dealing with complex and dangerous international situations. It`s one thing to think about their national security decisions in their history of having even very senior national security personnel compromised by foreign governments and nevertheless operating in a very high level inside the White House. But it is quite another thing to hear that the compromise might be, of this nature, might be a technological compromise, and it might have been going on until very recently, and it might have wormed its way into the inner echelon of the White House in a way that even this White House wasn`t aware of and couldn`t control at the time.
So, there`s been some reporting recently about White House staff being briefed on the importance of security issues about their personal devices and their personal email. But we can`t report tonight on some new guidance that has apparently gone out to Secret Service personnel involved in White House protection. Now, I should tell you, the White House is not confirming anything about this memo to us tonight and neither is the Secret Service, when we contacted the Secret Service for information about this. They just redirected our query to the White House.
But according to a document that we have reviewed, Secret Service personnel were notified last week that as of this week, as of Monday, there is a, quote, new restrictive policy that is going into effect related to the West Wing, that will, quote, prohibit the use of all personal mobile devices, cell phones, tablets, smart watches, et cetera, within the entire west wing. Oh. All personal devices will either be secured in provided lock boxes or turned off completely prior to entering the West Wing. There will be a 30-day management period before this policy is fully enforced by the administration. The policy`s governance only applies to personal devices within the West Wing.
Again, this is according to a document that we have reviewed exclusively that says this policy is in effect as of this week, as of Monday, at the White House. Secret Service personnel have been notified about this change, but they`ve also been told according to the same document that, quote, beginning this Friday, October 6th, this policy will be in effect for West Wing tours as well, and it will include all pass holders and their guests. Pass holders and their guests will be required to secure or completely turn off their personal devices prior to entering the West Wing.
Now, this is the kind of policy that has long been in effect for four SCIFs, right, and for other secured meeting spaces in the White House and in other parts of the executive branch. But, apparently, as of this week, according to this document that we`ve reviewed, everybody entering the West Wing for any reason, phones in a lockbox, or turned all the way off. Again, that reporting is exclusive to us tonight, I can tell you that we`ve reviewed a document that provides that document to the Secret Service, but neither the secret service nor the White House is confirming the contents of this report -- this apparent new policy.
But this news comes amid a new scandal concerning the president`s daughter and her husband who both serve as senior advisors in the White House. Late last month, Politico.com reported that Jared Kushner had been using a private family email domain to conduct some of his White House business. The following day, the day after that report came out, Congressman Elijah Cummings, the top Democrat on the Oversight Committee, he sent Jared Kushner a letter demanding that he preserve all the government-related business he might have done on this private email account.
We now know, thanks to a scoop this week from "USA Today", that within 24 to 48 hours of receiving that letter, plus a follow-up signed by both Elijah Cummings and the Republican chair of the oversight committee, between one in two days after being asked in writing by Congress to preserve those email records of that government business conducted on a private email server, within 24 to 48 hours of that demand, according to "USA Today", Jared and Ivanka rerouted their private email accounts to computers run by the Trump Organization.
So, as you might imagine, Congressman Cummings is -- well, he has questions about that income. He turned out four letters today one for the company that hosts those servers, which is GoDaddy, which is funny given the context here, GoDaddy. One for the president`s real estate company, Trump Organization, Jared and Ivanka got one. They will share that copy their letters I guess. And finally, Congressman Cummings sent one of these letters this week to the FBI, asking the FBI to please open up a security review of Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump`s mysterious email dumped onto the president`s company`s servers after they had been told to retain those emails at the request of Congress.
Joining me now is Congressman Elijah Cummings from Maryland. He`s the top Democrat on the Oversight Committee.
Congressman Cummings, it`s nice to see you. Thank you for your time tonight.
REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D-MD), RANKING MEMBER, OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE: It`s good to be with you, Rachel.
MADDOW: There`s political context here which we shouldn`t ignore, which is that the Republican Congress and the Trump campaign made a huge stink last year during the presidential campaign about Hillary Clinton as secretary of state having used a private email server. That context here resonates in terms of the hypocrisy of potential double standard. With that --
CUMMINGS: No doubt about it.
MADDOW: Yes. With that --
CUMMINGS: No doubt about it.
MADDOW: With that understanding, what do you think is the appropriate level of concern to have about them using a private email server in this context?
CUMMINGS: Well, we have a situation where, Rachel, first of all, they -- it`s against the law -- it`s not against the law to use the private server, but they have to transfer information within 20 days, government information and official information, to government servers. Obviously, they did not do that.
What we are most concerned about is what you said it to be any of this segment. We`re concerned, Rachel, about national security. We don`t know what`s in these documents. But the thing that really concerns us is that, you know, within 24 to 48 hours after Mr. Gowdy, the chairman and I, sent a -- what we call a preservation letters, which may means don`t destroy any (INAUDIBLE) documents, do not relocate them, because they may very well be a part of an investigation and we may need these documents,
They then suddenly -- that is Ms. Trump and her husband Mr. Kushner -- transferred them to the Trump Organization. And so, we don`t have a clue as to, you know, what these documents say, why they did this? Are they trying to avoid us having an opportunity to determine whether or not they`re classified or not? And, well, you know what`s -- what are they appearing to hide?
And so, I`m very concerned and we all should be concerned because if you`ll recall, Rachel, when Hillary Clinton`s information was divulged about her using a private email and that kind of thing, we spent probably millions of dollars and hundreds of man-hours just dealing with that. And now, it seems as if the Republican is just saying, well, boys and girls would be boys and girls, and that`s not good enough for the national security of the United States.
MADDOW: And let me just zero in on something you just mentioned there about the preservation request, the preservation demand that you made to --
MADDOW: -- Ms. Trump and Mr. Kushner about this, it specifically said that they should not relocate these documents. It wasn`t just don`t destroy these emails, but don`t move them. And that was explicit sort of the request right before they moved them? That`s exactly right. It was very specific. These are standard letters and, you know, the interesting thing, Rachel, is they never even notified us, said they were rerouting these emails.
And a lot of people will ask the question, well, what about Hillary Clinton? Keep in mind, when Hillary Clinton -- when all this came out about Hillary Clinton with regard to the private email server, she said, release everything, you just put it all out there, and let`s figure out -- figure out from there. It seems as if Mr. Kushner and Ms. Trump have decided that they want to go send -- reroute this to the Trump Organization.
And by the way, keep in mind, they have been saying that they were not connected with the Trump Organization, which is controlled by Donald Trump and the other brother. So, there`s something wrong with this picture. It sounds -- it smells very fishy. And so, we`re going to figure out exactly where the smell is coming from and how bad things are or good.
MADDOW: Congressman Elijah Cummings, who`s the top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, it`s really nice to have you on the show tonight, sir. Thank you for being here. Appreciate it.
CUMMINGS: It`s good to be with you.
MADDOW: All right. Thank you.
We got much more to come. It`s a busy night. Stay with us.
MADDOW: One of the hallmarks of this new administration is that it hasn`t passed anything. Republican control the White House, Republican majority in the Senate, a huge Republican majority in the House, but there has not been a single significant piece of legislation passed through Congress and signed by President Trump since he took office at all.
The biggest things they have done since Trump has been in office, at least through the legislative process, biggest things they`ve done have been to undo some of the things that were done by President Obama and his administration. Never really done anything of their own accord.
But the first substantive rollback they did of something that had happened during the Obama administration was this. This is something that they got through Congress and the president signed. House Joint Resolution 40.
This is something that had the sole and explicit purpose of making it easier for mentally ill people to buy firearms. Now, to be clear, you saw the length of that, right? This isn`t part of some big large or bill. This was not one line in some multi-page piece of legislation. This was the whole bill.
It specifically and only targets people who are adjudicated to be seriously mentally ill, so seriously mentally ill that they cannot say handle their own affairs when it comes to getting social security checks or something. So, it only targets people adjudicated to be mentally ill and the only thing it changes about those folks is it makes it easier for them to buy guns. That`s it.
Now, at the time, Congress passed that and President Trump signed it. It seems strange that that was really the first big legislative thing Republicans were going to do in the Trump era. It seemed weird when they did that first.
Over time, it has come to feel all the more amazing that they did that first right out of the gate, given that they`ve done nothing else other than that since then in terms of legislation.
But this week, that being priority number one for this new administration, taking overt active discreet measures to make it easier for seriously mentally ill people to get guns, that being the first thing they did, this week, it started to feel like something else. This week, it started to feel like a whole different thing ever since Las Vegas.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I can tell you, he`s a very sick man. He was a very demented person.
He`s a sick, demented man.
He was a sick man, a demented man. A lot of problems I guess and we`re looking into him very, very seriously. But we`re dealing with a very, very sick individual.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Says the president whose most substantive and first legislative accomplishment is making it easier for the seriously mentally ill to buy guns.
Now, today, in the wake of the Las Vegas shootings, the focus is on this gizmo, bump stock. It`s an attachment you can buy that makes a semi- automatic weapon fire as if it`s fully automatic. You can buy them online for $100 to $200.
The Las Vegas shooter had some of them on several of his weapons. It appears that he may have used them from the video that makes it sound like he was firing an automatic weapon, even though we don`t know that any automatic weapon was found in his hotel suite.
Fifty-eight people died, almost 500 more were injured, some critically. The bumped stock is the kind of gadget. It feels like lawmakers of the president might actually concede should maybe be off the market. If so, it`s probably literally the very least they could do.
But so far, there`s no indication that Republicans might consider revisiting the trajectory that they started this administration on, beginning with that first big legislative action they took when the president first took office.
MADDOW: In August last year, FBI agents wearing military-style uniforms and armed with long guns, they raided this modest home in Maryland. It`s a man -- that belongs to this man, Harold Martin. At the time, Harold Martin was working as a contractor at the NSA, National Security Agency.
When the FBI raided his home, they found thousands of NSA documents, as well as computers and other electronic devices. According to court documents, the agents recovered, quote, many terabytes of information -- many terabytes of classified information taken from the NSA.
So, that raid happened in August. The details weren`t actually reported until October of last year when "The New York Times" published its scoop about the raid. After Edward Snowden, that Harold Martin arrest last year was the second high-profile recent breach at the NSA.
It`s important though that unlike Edward Snowden, authorities don`t believe that Harold Martin was sharing of that any in -- sharing any of that information he took from the NSA, sharing it either publicly or privately. What investigators think about Harold Martin is that he was just recklessly taking his NSA work home with him and keeping it there in an unsecured way, right? When you work for the NSA, even that sort of thing is a serious crime.
But that was the last major NSA breach we knew about until this summer when an NSA contractor named Reality Winner got arrested by FBI agents after she allegedly gave a reporter classified NSA material about the Russian attack on the election last year. So, these things -- they don`t happen all that often. You can sort of keep track of him on one hand, right?
Snowden, now in exile in Russia. Harold Martin allegedly hoarding stuff at home. Reality Winner allegedly leaking to a reporter classified stuff about the Russian election attack.
Well, now, today, ding, we got a new one. A report of another breach at the NSA and this one potentially could be more serious than all of the others, and that story is next.
MADDOW: Today, "The Wall Street Journal" reported that in 2015, Russian hackers working for the Russian government stole highly classified information about how the national security agency penetrates foreign computer networks, the computer code it uses for such spying and how it defends networks inside the United States. That would seem to be very valuable information for the Russians to have from our NSA.
The Russians reportedly got access to this valuable, highly classified information after an unidentified NSA contractor took material home from work and put it on his home computer. That was his first mistake. Second mistake, according to "The Journal", the hackers working for the Russian government targeted the contractor after identifying the files they wanted through the contractor`s use of a popular antivirus software made by Russia-based Kaspersky Labs. Kaspersky Labs.
Big company, millions of dollars of sales in the United States. But last month, you might remember, the government ordering Kaspersky antivirus software off all U.S. government computers due to alleged links between Kaspersky and Russian intelligence.
You might remember those a hearing back in May when the FBI director, the CIA director, the director of national intelligence and the NSA chief were all personally asked if they would use Kaspersky software on their own computers. The answer down the line from FBI, CIA, DNI, NSA, uniformly, their answer from all of them was nyet, nyet, nyet, no way, no.
Kaspersky all along has consistently denied that there`s any reason to worry. They have said they are not an instrument of the Russian government. In July, NBC`s Richard Engel went to Moscow. He interviewed the CEO of Kaspersky Lab, Eugene Kaspersky, who it should be noted was trained by the KGB, but he claimed any cooperation with the Kremlin was purely defensive in nature.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD ENGEL, NBC NEWS CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: Never been asked to cooperate in a offensive operation with Russia intelligence.
EUGENE KASPERSKY, CEO, KASPERSKY LAB: Zero. We are cooperating with the Russian agencies responsible for the cyber crime investigations, not with them spying, not over there -- we can play this defensive part, not as offensive. Zero contacts with offensive agencies in Russian intelligence.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Well, today, Kaspersky responded to this "Wall Street Journal" report about their involvement in an incredibly offensive Russian intelligence operation targeting the NSA by calling it a false accusation.
Whatever Kaspersky`s role turns out to have been in this though, this reporting today from "The Journal" marks the first known instance was the first reported instance of Kaspersky products being used to conduct high level espionage against the United States. "The Journal`s" reporters say today U.S. investigators have determined that armed with the knowledge that Kaspersky software provided, hackers working for Russia honed in on the contractors home computer and obtained a large amount of information.
Joining us now is Shane Harris. He`s a national security reporter for "The Wall Street Journal", who was the top byline on this story.
Shane, it`s great to have you with us tonight. Thank you very much for this.
SHANE HARRIS, NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: Thanks, Rachel. Good to see you.
MADDOW: So, this is -- this is the -- there`s been a lot of concern and suspicion about Kaspersky being related to Russian intelligence. As far as I understand it, this seems to be the first reported incident of a granular incident in which Kaspersky products were used by Russia to conduct espionage in the U.S. Is that right?
HARRIS: That`s right. For years, intelligence officials have had this suspicion and these fears and what we`re seeing now essentially is a case study of exactly how they worried that Kaspersky might be used by hackers in Russia to find in from -- find ways into information systems in the United States. And what`s very interesting, you alluded to that banning of Kaspersky software on government computers and, of course, that statement that came out along with the ban did not refer to anything specific.
But if you look at the hypothetical scenarios that are laid out in the statement accompanying that ban, they are exactly parallel to what investigators believe happened here, that Kaspersky essentially was like a scout that went out and found files for these Russian hackers that they might be interested in and allowed them to homed in on this particular contractor, who as you noted, had made the egregious violation of taking classified material home with him from his office at the NSA.
MADDOW: And, Shane, can you tell us from your reporting if Kaspersky software in this case was able to identify first of all his computer, that there was classified information on his computer and then further it could identify which files might be of interest to these spies?
HARRIS: There`s still some key things that we don`t know about precisely how it went about the identification and -- but what we have learned about the investigation is that Kaspersky essentially did the scan if you like and registered the files that were on that computer. And it`s important to note that antivirus software does work this way. It makes a note of what`s on the machine to make sure there`s not something on the computer that`s not supposed to be there, i.e., a virus. That`s why it`s antivirus software.
At some point, though, this catalog essentially if you like, this menu of what was on there, that became available to the hackers that then got onto the system, we think, and obtained the information from it. So, exactly the sequence of that is still something that I think investigators themselves may be trying to understand, but they have concluded that if not for a Kaspersky, they do not believe that these hackers and this instance would have been able to identify the files on this computer and then retrieve them.
MADDOW: What you described as the -- as what was plundered in this case sounds incredibly scary to somebody who`s just a lay observer of these things -- how the NSA penetrates foreign computer networks, the computer code it uses for penetrating foreign computer network, how it defends networks inside the United States from the same kind of attacks from outside. How serious was this breach?
HARRIS: It was very serious and officials were extremely alarmed about this. The situation was so dire that it was actually given a secret code name so that officials could talk about it in a closed setting, and we understand that multiple officials across different agencies became aware of this because of the implications that this held for other government agencies that could be either running Kaspersky or whose contractors might or employees might have it at home.
But these are the kinds of tools and the kind of computer code that the NSA uses to spy on other countries. I mean, if you like it`s -- you could analogize them to the tools that they use for spying or the methods for spying. When this kind of thing gets into an adversaries hands, it tells them how to not only defend their own networks against what we`re trying to do, to gain information from them, but potentially how to take these tools and use the against other countries maybe even against us. It`s the kind of thing that you just protect as a basic element of intelligence tradecraft.
MADDOW: Yes, and it`s the sort of thing that you want to believe there is an enthusiastic, unified, a where whole-of-government approach toward recognizing that threat, defending against it and being honest with the American people about the seriousness of the intent behind this kinds of attack. And I will not ask you to comment on that because you don`t deserve it.
Shane Harris, national security reporter for "The Wall Street Journal" -- thank you for helping us understand this scary, scary reporting.
HARRIS: Thanks, Rachel. Good to see you.
MADDOW: Thanks a lot. You too.
All right. I will say this is a this NSA breach I think it`s hard for those of us who just use computers and you don`t understand cyber security is like a national security thing. It`s hard I think for us to see these breaches in terms of how dangerous they are for national security. But both the magnitude of what was stolen here and the means by which it was taken off this guy`s computer are super serious and super scary. Again, this happened in 2015, coming to light now because this good reporting from "The Wall Street Journal".
All right. That does it for us tonight. We will see you again tomorrow.
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL".
Good evening, Lawrence.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END
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