Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW Date: October 11, 2017 Guest: Mark Hosenball, Jodi Kantor
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST:. Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thank you, my friend.
HAYES: You bet.
MADDOW: And thanks to you at home for joining us.
Got a lot going on in the news right now. We got a big show planned for tonight.
Legendary investigative reporter Mark Hosenball is here from "Reuters" tonight with his latest scoop. He has a scoop that answers a mystery about the Russia investigation that has been lingering for months now and Mark Hosenball has got the goods on that tonight in a way that nobody else has been able to get. So, Mark Hosenball is here tonight.
We`ve also got Jodi Kantor here live tonight for the interview. Jodi Kantor was, of course, "The New York Times" reporter who broke the news about Hollywood mega producer Harvey Weinstein and the numerous serious sexual harassment and sexual assault allegations against him. She broke that story late last week in "The New York Times" and it`s a story that has since become a supernova in the news.
I think it`s worth appreciating that lots of different reporters and lots of different news outlets took a shot at that story over the course of more than a decade. Jodi Kantor is the one who finally did it and got it to press, and you`ve seen the impact that it`s had. Jodi Kantor is here tonight.
So, it`s big show tonight.
Over the past few weeks, there have been increasingly detailed and increasingly frequent reports about some ethics trouble for a number of Trump cabinet secretaries including Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. Previous reports have found that Ryan Zinke charged the taxpayers to fly him on private jets to do things like give an inspirational speech to a hockey team that was owned by his biggest contributor. Taxpayers also paid to fly Secretary Zinke on a private jet to an awesome-sounding snorkeling tour that he took in the U.S. Virgin Islands well before the hurricanes hit.
Now, today, Politico.com reports that Ryan Zinke also charged taxpayers to fly him to a ski resort and to fly him to an awesome sounding steakhouse in Alaska. Almost all of these trips that we have learned about for the interior secretary were for him to attend Republican political fundraisers. Now, as a member of the cabinet as the head of a federal agency, he`s allowed to go to political fundraisers but only if he does it on his own time and on his own dime. We the taxpayers are not supposed to be paying for him to do that.
So far, of course, the Republican-led Congress has shown very little appetite for policing anyone in the Trump administration for anything, for not just flagrant waste, these elaborate junkets at taxpayers` expense often on military jets or private jets, but the Congress hasn`t even shown an appetite to police members of the Trump administration over serious stuff like the prospect that some of these trips might have been illegal if they violated the Hatch Act which bans public officials from having taxpayers fund their political activities.
Whether or not Secretary Zinke ends up facing the music for how he has behaved in office in his short time there thus far, you do have to sort of grudgingly admire the way he`s treated this job is like a boy`s own cabinet adventure, right? Horseback riding to his first day of work. How much fun must not have been to shut down traffic in D.C. to be able to do that? Screw you taxpayers, I`m commuting by horse in downtown Washington. How awesome is that?
Then there was the ski trip that taxpayers flew him to. Then there was the trip to the steakhouse in Alaska. Then there was that time he got to go to the pro-hockey practice. Then, there was the snorkeling tour.
I mean if nothing else Trump`s interior secretary really is making the most of what he could conceivably get taxpayers to pay for. Presumably, he will figure out some way to whitewater raft into his Ethics Committee hearing if he ever gets called to pay for any of this stuff. And then he`ll shoot this place up with paintball.
But you know, at least the Department of the Interior has somebody nominally running that agency even if he is treating the agency`s resources like the world`s best funded Cub Scout troop. In this new administration - - nothing against the Cub Scouts. In this new administration, the largest federal agency in government after the Defense Department and the Department of Veterans Affairs is the Department of Homeland Security, and there`s been nobody running the Department of Homeland Security since July. That`s when retired General John Kelly left his job as homeland security secretary to instead become the new White House chief staff.
Now, there has been a thrum of reporting over the past few days about what John Kelly`s job is like these days in the White House. There`s been vaguely sourced but sort of alarming reporting about the extraordinary measures that John Kelly has had to take to basically constrain the president in terms of the president`s access to people and information that he might otherwise seek out, and in terms of how John Kelly is sort of allowing the president to be seen and who he`s allowing him to have contact with. There`s also been reporting over the last few days over the prospect that the White House chief of staff job under this president may be an impossible one for anybody and John Kelly may not be able to stay on much longer in his role running the White House.
Reporter Gabe Sherman at "Vanity Fair" tonight at some eye-popping details to those earlier reports with this short piece that he`s just up that has just been uploaded at vanityfair.com, citing two sources familiar with the conversation. Gabe Sherman reports tonight, quote, Trump vented to his longtime security chief Keith Schiller, quote, I hate everyone in the White House. There are a few exceptions but I hate them.
Also citing several people close to the president who have recently described the president as unstable, losing a step and unraveling. Gabe Sherman says, quote, West Wing aides have also worried about Trump`s public appearances. One Trump advisor tells Gabe Sherman that White House staff, quote, were relieved when Trump cancelled his appearance on "60 Minutes" last month. Quote: He`s lost a step. They don`t want him doing adversarial TV interviews.
Also, in light of the NBC News report from early this morning that Trump randomly and out of the blue insisted at a pentagon meeting in July that the U.S. should add tens of thousands of nuclear weapons to our stockpiles of the United States should literally increase by a factor of the number of nuclear weapons that we have on hand. In light of that reporting today from NBC News, Gabe Sherman quotes a former administration official who was willing to speculate to a reporter about what the nation might now have in terms of novel nuclear fail-safes for dealing with this particular president.
Quote: One former official even speculated that Chief of Staff John Kelly and Secretary of Defense James Mattis have discussed what they would do in the event Trump ordered a nuclear first-strike. Would they tackle him, the person said.
And just in case that`s not unsettling enough, here`s how Gabe Sherman`s piece ends tonight at "Vanity Fair", just going to quote this verbatim. Some West Wing advisors were worried that Trump`s behavior could cause the cabinet to take extraordinary constitutional measures to remove him from office.
Several months ago, according to two sources with knowledge of the conversation, former chief strategist Steve Bannon told Trump that the risk to his presidency wasn`t impeachment. It was the 25th Amendment, the provision by which a majority of the cabinet can vote to remove the president in the event that the president is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.
Bannon mentioned the 25th Amendment to the president. The president reportedly said in response, what`s that?
According to a source, Bannon has told people he thinks Trump has only a 30 percent chance of making it through the end of his full term. Thirty percent chance of making it. So, that would make it a 70 percent chance that Trump`s own cabinet could remove him from office because he`s unable to serve as president or he`ll be impeached or he`ll quit or I don`t know, he`ll be removed from office some other way and that`s being attributed tonight to former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, giving him a 30 percent chance of finishing his term.
You know, and take that for what you will, but bottom line: it is not good when that`s the general character of the leaks that are being attributed to -- the leaks and comments that are being attributed to current White -- current West Wing staffers and former administration officials and people personally close to the president and people who have served as his top advisors.
I`m highlighting this reporting though specifically because there is something here about what may be about to happen next. Quoting from the same report: Two senior Republican officials say Chief of Staff John Kelly is miserable in his job and is only remaining there out of a sense of duty, to keep Trump from making some sort of disastrous decision. Today, speculation about John Kelly`s future increased after politico.com reported that Kelly`s deputy Kirstjen Nielson is likely to be named Secretary of Homeland Security. The theory among Republicans is that John Kelly wants to give her a soft landing before his own departure from the White House.
So, Politico.com was first to report today that John Kelly`s deputy Kirstjen Nielsen would be the administration`s new nominee to run homeland security, and NBC News has since confirmed that Kirstjen Nielsen will be nominated for that job.
And who knows? Maybe that nomination that expected nomination does foreshadow, did come about because of some yet to come, further drama in terms of White House departures and more top-level senior staffers fleeing this young administration. Maybe that`s why it`s happening.
I mean, presumably the White House could just keep running even if it was just the president and his immediate family right I mean maybe Eric could be chief of staff. Could the first lady fill in? I don`t know. It`s Tiffany busy?
I mean, I don`t know. When you have this many senior people leave the administration, you start to wonder how many of them you really need. I mean, the whole Trump organization was like six guys, right, who weren`t related to the president, right? How many people do we really think he needs to run the federal government?
But with -- if further departures are expected, if that`s the reason we`re about to get a homeland security nominee, maybe we are still about to get a homeland security nomine. And you know what, that could matter a lot more than any of the soap opera and the palace intrigue and the continually unspooling chaos around this president and his unbelievably chaotic, impenetrable White House. It would -- regardless of why it`s going to happen, I don`t really care why it`s going to happen.
If we do end up getting a homeland security secretary because of that mess and out of that mess, that would be important, if only because it would be really nice for us as a country to have someone running the agency that oversees FEMA, for example. Famous part of homeland security, who`s running homeland security? Nobody since July.
Today, there was some very bad news out of Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico, home to 3.5 million Americans, it`s been three weeks since hurricane Maria made landfall. Today, the governor of Puerto Rico confirmed the first deaths on the island that he attributed to a bacterial disease called Leptospirosis.
Leptospirosis is a bacterial infection that humans can get when they are using water sources that have been contaminated by animals. So, if humans are drinking or otherwise in contact with water that`s contaminated with urine from wildlife, particularly urine from rodents, this is the -- this is the kind of disease that you can get from that and it is treatable. But if it is not treated, it can kill you.
Two weeks ago, when we first spoke with the mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico, she told us on the air about having turned around some supplies that she`d been given access to as the mayor of San Juan because she found another mayor who needed them more. She encountered a mayor from another town in Puerto Rico where people weren`t just hard up like the residents of San Juan, the capital city. I mean, as far back as two weeks ago, she was telling us on the air about people in other Puerto Rican towns, about a mayor of another Puerto Rican town, where they had zero access to clean water and where they were already drinking from creeks and streams to stay alive. That`s how you get something like Leptospirosis.
And, you know, this was not us doing some investigation. This is me sitting in New York talking by satellite with a local official who was describing to me that this was happening, two weeks ago. This is local officials, Puerto Rican mayors, sounding the alarm, letting the mainland United States know through the national media as far back as two weeks ago that this is what Americans having to do for drinking -- water streams and creeks and springs.
And now, we`re two weeks on from that, it`s three weeks into the crisis and that is still how these Americans are having to cope, a third of the island still has no drinking water even as of now. And so, not my choice but by necessity, these American citizens three weeks on are still drinking from rivers, drinking from creeks, drinking from springs, collecting rainwater.
And speaking of useful Trump cabinet officials, Scott Pruitt`s Environmental Protection Agency, they put out this as their Hurricane Maria update for today. Did you see this?
Quote: There are reports of residents obtaining or trying to obtain drinking water from wells at hazardous waste superfund sites in Puerto Rico. EPA advises against tampering with sealed and locked wells or drinking from these wells as it may be dangerous to people`s health.
Imagine if you and your family, American citizens, your town is landlocked, you are penned in, no way out, three weeks without assistance, three weeks without electricity, three weeks without water. You can`t live without water. And so, you -- for you and your kids and your family, you`re choosing between death because of a lack of water or drinking from a creek or trying to drink from the sealed locked well at the EPA superfund site. Which would you pick?
And now, we`ve got confirmation from the top public official on the island that waterborne illness is starting to spike the death toll there. And, of course, it is, because that`s what happens when merit -- when people in a - - when people end up having to drink from creeks and streams for weeks.
Before the governor`s confirmation today we had heard reports of deaths that were suspected to be from Leptospirosis from local hospitals, from local mayors, from the state epidemiologist. But now, it`s the governor confirming, and that follows a pattern in terms of the reporting on the overall toll of this disaster, a pattern that led Vox.com today to warn that even though the death toll today officially reached 48 in Puerto Rico, there`s good reason to expect that the real death toll may be considerably higher. It may in fact be well into the hundreds already. "Vox" alone was able to find an additional deaths that were attributed to the hurricane that were not people who have been listed in the official death toll.
NPR reported an additional 49 bodies with an unidentified cause of death sent to one hospital morgue since the storm. According to one of the largest newspapers in Puerto Rico, there are 350 bodies being stored at the state medical examiner`s office. The Institute of Forensic Sciences, 350 bodies, many of which are still awaiting autopsies.
So, a week ago, the president went to Puerto Rico through people paper towels and congratulated Puerto Rico on the fact that there were only 16 people listed on the death toll. Well, the official death toll now is and it`s not because the hurricane kept hitting. It`s now 48, and continuing to climb, including the first confirmed deaths from treatable waterborne illness, at a time when we know that whole towns have now gone for a couple of weeks, at least, subsisting on water sources like creeks and streams.
And, yes, this is a big hurricane and it caused a huge amount of damage. But this is the United States of America, and the deaths that are happening now -- these are not the result of the hurricane. The deaths that are happening now are a result of the response to the hurricane, which is an organizational disaster, and I can be specific about what that means.
The deaths the governor`s attributing to Leptospirosis today, which is a treatable bacterial infection, you treat it with doxycycline, you treat it with penicillin, you treat it with I.V. antibiotics if you get it as an advanced case. These deaths from Lepto happened, according to the governor, in one of Puerto Rico`s beleaguered hospitals, right? You`ve heard that the hospitals have had such trouble.
Well, one component of the Trump administration`s response to this disaster was belatedly to send the USNS Comfort down there -- this incredibly well- equipped, floating miracle of a hospital ship. And they didn`t send it right away for some reason, it was sitting in port in Virginia for days instead of heading down to Puerto Rico to help while the hospital`s down there we`re struggling to find generators in the fuel to run them and people were dying in the intensive care units because there was no power to fuel the machines, right?
But the USNS finally got dispatched down there. It finally got there last week. The USNS Comfort really is a miracle. It`s got 800 highly trained medical personnel on board. Some of the best trained medical personnel in the world. They`ve got hundreds of beds state-of-the-art full-service hospital facilities on board the USNS Comfort.
It can make clean drinking water. It can make power. And it can provide advanced medical care to hundreds of people at a time.
As of Monday of this week, as of two days ago, the USNS Comfort was treating seven patients, in total, while people were dying of treatable bacterial infections and having their dialysis cut short and being turned away from the hospitals on the island where the Comfort is docked and sitting basically unused while Americans are dying.
So, it is great to have containers full of food and water and medical supplies sitting in the San Juan harbor, right? Sitting in the capital city at the part there. It`s great to have the USNS Comfort dock there with 800 medical personnel, trained, ready, willing, equipped and able, desperate to serve.
But if your response is so poorly run that even three weeks into this, you can`t get those containers out of the port, you can`t get dying patients on to the hospital ship that is ready to serve them that is their, then the problem is not shortage of resources, the problem is not people`s willingness to help, the problem is not first responders, right? The problem is not even the size of the crisis.
The problem is, who`s in charge? The problem is who is running this ongoing catastrophe that is the failed response that followed the natural disaster?
Well, as of today, there is a rumor that we may eventually get someone put in charge of the agency that oversees FEMA, maybe because of continuing chaos in the White House, and maybe that really is only happening now because maybe another senior White House official is going to quit. But at this point, who cares why it`s going to happen. Putting somebody in charge is just starting to seem like a good idea no matter why they`re going to do it.
Meanwhile, the death toll in the California fires has risen to 21, with many of the worst fires in terms of threats to life and property in Northern California, many of the worst fires still burning basically completely out of control. In parts of Northern California, there are now warnings about the worst ever readings for dangerous air quality. There`s ash falling from the sky and even far-flung corners of the densely populated San Francisco Bay Area.
In the face of these ongoing, lethal, and in fact worsening disasters, what`s happening in Washington? President made news today at the White House by inveighing against the First Amendment, saying in the Oval Office today, that it, quote, is frankly disgusting that the press is able to write whatever it wants to right. People should look into it.
He then threatened to take NBC news off the air by revoking NBC`s license to broadcast, which is not something that actually works that way, but we know what he means.
The source of his anger was reportedly that NBC News report which cited three officials in the room who described the president as suddenly springing the news on military leaders at a Pentagon meeting this summer that he wants the United States to go back to having 32,000 nuclear weapons please like we had in the `60s.
Our stockpile right now is about 4,000 nuclear weapons. He says he wants 32,000. He wants more than there`s ever been, presumably because more is more, it`s bigger.
There are a couple of different kinds of existential threats to the citizens of a country that has unstable or incoherent or corrupted leadership and one of them is the one you think about most often in advance when this is a hypothetical situation. Yu imagine such a leader might create a whole new disaster for the country, like starting a war or launching a nuke on purpose or maybe not. Or, you know, trying to dismantle the other branches of government or something, right? You -- that`s one kind of crisis, one kind of potentially existential crisis for the citizens of a country with a real leadership problem. You imagine that that type of leader might create a whole new disaster out of whole cloth.
The other great existential risk though is not a hypothetical thing to worry about. It is something that is happening to some scale right now, and it`s already killing Americans and that`s not some sci-fi, dystopian thing. It`s just the risk, the inevitability that stuff will happen, that crises will arise, in the more or less normal course of events.
Disaster will befall us. We`ll have a terrible hurricane season. And when that happens, we will not have the basic governing organizational capacity to deal with it.
It`s not a sci-fi, hypothetical, dystopian risk. That is what we are living through right now. That is what Americans are dying because of right now in Puerto Rico.
MADDOW: It has been a mystery for months now as to how exactly this guy, Paul Manafort, came to be running the Trump for president campaign last year. Paul Manafort didn`t have much of a relationship with Trump before he suddenly got hired to run that campaign. He hadn`t been working in American politics in a dog`s age.
He`d been working in the former Soviet Union for pro-Russia, pro-Putin interests and then, all of a sudden, there he was last year running the Republican nominees presidential campaign. It has been an intriguing question as to how that happened and why.
What we`ve been told thus far is that a close Trump friend wanted Paul Manafort to help the campaign deal with the Republican convention and that Paul Manafort`s eventual pitch for himself to do that included these words, quote, I am not looking for a paid job. We`re told that was key to him being hired.
Hire me, I`m the affordable outsider. You won`t have to spend anything on me, don`t ask me why I want to do it for free, OK?
But it has appeared thus far that the bridge between the Republican candidate and this mystery out of nowhere campaign manager was this billionaire friend of Trump`s, real estate tycoon Tom Barrack. Tom Barrack is now given "The Washington Post", a long, in-depth, fairly heartfelt interview about his relationship with the president.
And check out what he says about how Paul Manafort went from pro-Russian obscurity in the former Soviet Union to being in charge of electing Donald Trump president. Remember in "The New York Times" in April, a spokesman for Paul Manafort had said it was Tom Barrack who wanted Paul Manafort to join the campaign, wanted him to help deal with the convention.
But today in "The Washington Post", Tom Barrack tells that story the other way around entirely. Quoting from "The Post", Paul Manafort told Mr. Barrack he wanted to work as Trump`s convention manager, helping to navigate what they expected to be a contentious affair.
And then we get the other most memorable words ever from Paul Manafort, quote: I really need to get to Donald Trump, Mr. Manafort said, according to Tom Barrack.
So, maybe this helps us understand it. Maybe this is bingo. Maybe it was Paul Manafort who was really desperately trying to join the Trump campaign.
It wasn`t that he got sought out. It`s that he launched himself at the campaign. He`s the one who said he really needed to get to the Republican frontrunner.
Whatever happened, Paul Manafort did join the Trump campaign a month after that conversation. By May, he was promoted to run the whole campaign. By July, he was showing up in the infamous Trump-Russia dossier where he was alleged to be part of a, quote, well-developed conspiracy of cooperation between the Trump campaign and the Russian leadership managed on the Trump side by the Republican candidate`s campaign manager Paul Manafort.
For the record, Manafort absolutely and stridently denies that allegation. But it seems like an important thing to know, how he came to be in charge of the Trump campaign given where he`d been before. And that partial explanation, at least that alternate explanation of how it happened, that comes today from this interview with Tom Barrack in "The Washington Post".
And it comes today as "Reuters" veteran investigative reporter Mark Hosenball has also reported out something that we also have been trying to pin down for months, something we`ve been working on for months, we`ve been trying to suss out and get people on the record about for months. Today, Mark Hosenball got it, and that story is next.
MADDOW: If you`re raising your kids to be investigative reporters someday, Mark Hosenball is one of the textbook entries that you will be consulting for what it means to be an investigative reporter and why it`s worth it. Mark Hosenball`s national security reporting after 9/11, for example, it is and will be taught in journalism schools for the rest of the time that any of us are alive. He`s the real deal.
And today, Mark Hosenball nails down something important in this relatively low profile report for "Reuters". Reports that three congressional committees have been fighting among themselves over the Trump Russia dossier which was put together by Christopher Steele, a former British spy under the auspices of Fusion GPS, a D.C. research firm.
Hosenball reports today that some key Republican members of Congress have been working to undermine the dossier and working to undermine the former British intelligence officer who put it together. Now, we know that the dossier has been the subject of congressional investigation. Mark Hosenball documents today how some Republicans have been trying to undermine it and turn it into a scandal, valuable stuff.
But you know what? There`s a really specific part of this that we`ve been trying to suss out for months. We have been trying to figure out for months if any of the investigation into the dossier thus far has disproven any of the claims in the dossier. We know they have been looking into it. We know they have been fighting about it. We know there`s a partisan fighting about it.
But while they have been looking into it, has there been any conclusion in any of these committees that anything in the dossier is false? We`ve been trying to figure that out for months.
Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse is on the Judiciary Committee in the Senate, which is one of the committees that has been doing this investigation. Sheldon Whitehouse is privy to what lawmakers are learning about the dossier, as they fight about it on that committee. Well, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse goes on the record with Mark Hosenball and this is what he says.
Quote: As I understand it, a good deal of his information, meaning information on the dossier, remains unproven, but none of it has been disproven, and considerable amounts of it have been proven.
Oh, really, tell me more.
Joining us now is Mark Hosenball, national security correspondent for "Reuters". Mr. Hosenball, it`s a real pleasure to have you here. Thank you for being here tonight.
MARK HOSENBALL, NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT, REUTERS: Thank you for having me.
MADDOW: So the reason I`m keyed in on this quote from Senator Whitehouse is because we`ve been trying to figure out for a long time whether any of the investigations that have followed the dossier or tried to problematize the dossier have been able to sort out parts of it, find parts of it that are definitely not true.
Is Whitehouse asserting that he that he knows that it hasn`t been disproven, or is he asserting that he wouldn`t be in a position to know if it happened?
HOSENBALL: No, I think he`s asserting that he knows that it hasn`t been disproven. Now, that may be a bit of an overstatement. Certainly, bits of it have been denied by some of the characters. I mean, clearly, Trump has denied some of the most salacious bits about his -- let`s just say unconventional behavior in Moscow during the Miss World competition in 2013.
Also, Trump`s lawyer Michael Cohen has emphatically denied an allegation in the dossier that I think he went to Prague and met weird people there. And certainly no proof that I`m aware of has surfaced to prove that he was in Prague and you know at least people I know who worked on this and the government are at least willing to accept the possibility that he wasn`t in Prague, although, you know, perhaps he was in Prague, and I don`t think the citizens, I don`t think what`s the name, Steele, supporters have necessarily entirely abandoned that and certainly it`s possible to get to Prague from Overland, you know, in the European Union without using a passport across a whole bunch of country lines.
So, I don`t think anything in the dossier has been conclusively disproven but certainly bits of it have been challenged. By the same token, you know, it`s pretty clear that at least some bits of it have been confirmed this character Carter Page who`s now I think suing everybody in sight. It`s pretty clear that he -- you know, was in Moscow at the time that Christopher Steele said that he was there, whether he really met the people that Christopher Steele says he met is unclear. He sort of denies some of it.
But by the same token, you know, it`s been established that he was under investigation by I believe the FBI because he was in contact with a Russian undercover officer, undercover spy, who was an officer of a bank based in the United States or a bank office a Russian bank office based in the United States.
So, you know, at least some of this is certainly true and there`s certainly a lot of people in the intelligence community that believe the basic point of the dossier and to -- from what I can tell, the dossier itself really did help to touch off or literally touched off this entire investigation into Trump in Russia and remains kind of the spine of both investigations by intelligence agencies, the FBI and at least at the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is why two other committees in Congress, the House Intelligence committee and the Senate Judiciary Committee seem to be devoting a bunch of energy and resources to try and discredit it.
MADDOW: Do you get the sense from your reporting and for what you know about this story and how you`re approaching it -- do you get the sense that real investigatory work is happening on the committees, on any of the committee?
HOSENBALL: Oh, I have no doubt whatsoever that the Senate Intelligence Committee is conducting a serious investigation into the allegations that Trump was somehow you know manipulated or compromised by Russia or Russia somehow manipulated the election. I certainly know also that the House -- sorry, the Senate Judiciary Committee, sorry, is conducting a rather aggressive investigation into Christopher Steele and his associates to apparently try and demonstrate somehow that the FBI misused Christopher Steele`s dossier when seeking some kind of warrants to do surveillance on people in connection with its investigation.
I also know that, clearly, Congressman Nunes, the nominal chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, even though he`s been removed from its investigation related to Steele in Russia, he`s still conducting his own personal investigation related to Steele and only yesterday sent subpoenas to something called Fusion GPS, which is a Washington private investigations opposition research firm, which hired Christopher Steele to gather information on Trump initially for a Republican supporter I believe of Jeb Bush and then later for the Clinton campaign.
So, yes, the committees are doing things but not necessarily things that the complement each other shall we say.
MADDOW: Mark Hosenball, national security correspondent for "Reuters" -- I respect your work immensely and have for a very long time. And thanks for helping us through this tonight. I appreciate it.
HOSENBALL: Thank you for having me.
MADDOW: Thank you.
Jodi Kantor, "The New York Times" reporter who broke the Harvey Weinstein story after years of other people trying to break it and failing, Jodi Kantor, who started this whole thing happened that has blown up the news cycle for the past week, she joins us live next.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: One of the women who tried talking to him directly was named Zelda Perkins. She was an assistant in Harvey Weinstein`s London office. She was 25 years old at the time, she says, her boss the head of the studio, Harvey Weinstein, had been subjecting her to inappropriate requests and comments and harassment. She was 25. She was an assistant at the company. He was the tippy-top boss, and she confronted him. She told him to stop or else.
According to "The New York Times", Zelda Perkins told Mr. Weinstein she would go public or initiate legal action unless he changed his behavior. In response, Weinstein`s company sprung into action. Soon after this 25- year-old assistant confronted Weinstein directly, one of the entertainment lawyers from the company Miramax got sent over to London to offer Zelda Perkins a settlement. Here, the company will pay you money to make this go away. That was 1998. That`s one way to make this stuff go away.
Well, how about not just taking it up with Harvey Weinstein? How about taking it up with the company directly in writing formally?
Young executive at the company, young woman had seen other employees coping with and quitting the company for years because of Weinstein`s alleged behavior. She said she had her own experience of it as well. She wrote it up in scorching detail. "The Times" reports that the memo made it to the board of directors at the company. One board member insisted that a lawyer outside the company should look into these allegations, see if they`re true. But then, no.
Instead of anybody investigating the allegations, they paid her a cash settlement and sent her out the door. At least eight women got cash settlements, according to "The Times" reporting, most agreed to confidentiality clauses to keep them quiet about the things they said they knew about Harvey Weinstein.
Eventually, at least one accuser, a young model, tried talking to the cops. That woman says she was groped by Weinstein in 2015. She went straight to the nearest police station. The police wired her. They put a recording device on her and sent her back to meet with him again. She then recorded a conversation with Weinstein in which he seems to have continued to harass her and he seems to have explained his groping her the day before.
That tape went back to the cops, police took that tape recording and then nothing. Local authorities dropped the case. Go to Harvey Weinstein himself, go to the company go to the police.
Finally, how about going to the press? We had Ronan Farrow on the show last night. He published a long piece in "The New Yorker" pushed the story further along this week, also published the audio recording that we just described. Ronan told us last night that those tactics to keep those victims quiet didn`t stop when women left the company. In the course of reporting out his story, Ronan says victims he talked to got harassing phone calls for Weinstein`s lawyers to try to keep them from talking to him. One of those harassing phone calls had a very dramatic effect. One source Ronan Farrow spoke with was threatened with legal action if she spoke on the record. She withdrew from the piece after having previously been willing to use her name.
Ronan Farrow says he himself was threatened with a lawsuit from Weinstein during the course of the reporting.
We know that`s also true of "The New York Times" which was first to report out the decades of sexual harassment allegations against Weinstein. When that bombshell story dropped on Thursday, it opened up just this incredible spigot of stories from Weinstein`s alleged victims that is still flowing today.
And this story from "The Times", this first on the record account of Weinstein`s alleged abuse toward women spanning decades, all along, it has been a story about his alleged abhorrent behavior and about his victims. For the record, Weinstein has denied any allegations of non-consensual sex, denied any allegations of retaliation against women for refusing his advances. The board of his company has denied any knowledge of his alleged conduct.
But beyond just the record of the alleged behavior, this in an ongoing way is a story about time after time, women coming forward for years finding all sorts of different ways to raise red flags in all the different ways. They were silenced paid off, and bullied into going away until finally that stopped working.
Joining us now for "The Interview" is Jodi Kantor, "New York Times" investigative reporter. She broke this story last week and had another big story about him yesterday.
JODI KANTOR, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Thank you. It`s great to be here.
MADDOW: How come you were able to break this story after so many years of so many different people trying to and failing to get this to print?
KANTOR: Well, I can`t talk about anybody else`s reporting, but I can talk a little bit about ours.
First of all, "The Times" has had a huge commitment to sexual harassment reporting this year. We did the Bill O`Reilly story. We did the Silicon Valley stories. And so, we felt like we had a lot of experience and we had a playbook in how to figure these stories out.
Also, I think the fact that we reported so hard on settlements really helped us, because we were able to find the legal and the financial trail that became almost like the ladder we were climbing in the story. Normally, what settlements do which you just beautifully described is that they hush people up, right? They involve using money to make things go away.
But we found that there was that legal and financial record that said, hey, something happened here. It`s not a conviction in a court of law, but a lot of money was paid to a lot of women over these years, and there`s some sort of trail. So, even though in these stories we, of course, always want brave women who will go on the record.
We also want a lot of other forms of proof. We want the internal company memos, you just described. We want that as many settlement accounts as we can get and we want the women speaking personally about what they experienced, because in a way, our story was not only about the harassment allegations, it was about the cover-up of those allegations again and again.
MADDOW: And it`s -- which makes it a corporate story, which makes it a systemic story, but also makes it -- you`re sort of unraveling the playbook about how these things get hidden not just in the entertainment industry but in all sorts of industries, whenever you`re talking about powerful people being accused of these kinds of things.
KANTOR: The system seems so broken because settlements are kind of our society`s way of dealing with sexual harassment. But settlements mean -- these confidentiality clauses mean that the women who have these allegations can`t tell anybody about what happened.
KANTOR: They can`t warn other people, where is the people who were accused of harassment, they get to pay money and the record is wiped clean.
MADDOW: Yes, that`s not their money that`s being paid.
KANTOR: It`s not even that much money. If you look at what we were able to find that Weinstein paid to these women over the years, it`s like $80,000, $100,000. This is compared to movies that were making hundreds of millions of dollars at the box office.
MADDOW: Jodi Kantor, can you stay right there for a second?
MADDOW: We`ll be right back with Jodi Kantor right after this.
MADDOW: We`re back with Jodi Kantor from "The New York Times" who is the reporter who broke the story about Harvey Weinstein, the sexual harassment, sexual allegation -- sexual abuse allegations against him.
Jodi, thank you for sticking with us.
KANTOR: Of course.
MADDOW: One of the things that I was very struck by particularly in your first follow-up piece in "The Times" was the damage that you described two women`s careers when women were able to get away, resist, rebuff these advances, in these attacks, somehow. That`s always the implicit threat in any sexual harassment situation, but in this case, it feels like it is a threat that at least a lot of these women say was carried out and their careers were hurt or they were forced out of the industry, because of saying no.
Is that litigatable? Is that -- is that pave the way for there to be some sort of -- some sort of court-ordered remedy here?
KANTOR: That`s a really hard question because I would say that both our social and legal definitions of sexual or harassment are all over the place. If you just talk to people about this reporting, like even when I did this reporting, people don`t agree on a common definition of sexual harassment, even with casting couch stuff. A lot of Hollywood people will diminish it. They`ll say, oh, yes, he chased her around a desk once and then you talked to the women and their description of it is completely terrifying.
Legally, there`s also a lot of confusion. The Supreme Court definition of sexual harassment is that it has to be severe and pervasive, and so, you know, who`s to say whether a court of law -- I would be fascinated to see how a court of law would treat the kinds of charges that we report it.
MADDOW: Will it make a difference and how important was it in your reporting to find the way that the company was involved, the assistants were involved, the other executives, lawyers were involved both in knowing that this was happening, witnessing it, but also making it go away?
KANTOR: I think we just have to raise the question of complicity, because there is essentially a chilling description that emerges from this reporting of Weinstein having a system. Look, plenty of actresses in Hollywood will tell you, OK, there`s like casual sexual harassment, I`ve had an unwelcome hand on my thigh, I`ve had a leering account -- you know, I`ve had a leering comment and an audition. A producer hit at me -- hit on me at a bar.
This was something different, according to our sources. That they allege is that Weinstein essentially constructed a system of harassment that -- and Ronan Farrow reported, also allegations of sexual assault -- that was basically constructed around, you know, all of these logistics to get women alone --
MADDOW: Which all involved other people.
KANTOR: Which all involved other people and involved the company money. It involved assistants. It involved hotels. It involved travel bookings.
It said -- it involved essentially creating the appearance of work meetings but in fact when the women got into what supposed -- what were explicitly designated work meetings, they said that something very different happened inside.
MADDOW: Jodi Kantor from "The New York Times", investigative reporter who broke this story, congratulations on breaking this. I know it was a daunting thing to approach, if only because of all the other people who tried to get there before you and didn`t. But you`re the one who did and broke it open and it`s -- deservedly huge story. Congratulations.
KANTOR: Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: This is one of those nights when a reporter ends up featured in great detail at the top of my show, in this case, Gabe Sherman, for his new eye-popping reporting on what`s going on at the White House in "Vanity Fair" tonight, and then, and then, that same reporter turns up live with my colleague Lawrence O`Donnell in the very next hour on this network.
So, that does it for me tonight. But we will see you again tomorrow. And in the meantime, you must stay because "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL" starts right now and he`s going to be talking to Gabe Sherman.
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