Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW Date: October 12, 2017 Guest: Adam Schiff, Carmen Yulin Cruz
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST, ALL IN: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts now.
Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thanks my friend.
HAYES: You bet.
MADDOW: I appreciate it.
Thanks to at home for joining us this hour. It`s been a busy news day.
We got a new nominee to run the Homeland Security Department today. We reported last night that this was likely. Today, it was announced that Kirstjen Nielsen will be nominated to run that agency. She was chief of staff to John Kelly when he briefly served as homeland security secretary this year. And when John Kelly left that job to become White House chief of staff, Ms. Nielsen came with him from homeland security over to the White House.
So, if her nomination is approved, she`ll now go back to the Homeland Security Department to become the new person running that agency. She`s known for her expertise on cyber security in particular. It`s notable for this administration that she`s not seen as somebody totally unsuited to this position. She`s not seen as having dramatic conflicts of interest that would preclude her from serving in this position than any other administration or attuned to ethical concerns.
Politically, Kirsten Nielsen has been known as a relatively mainstream Republican, I believe maybe a Jeb Bush supporting Republican during the primaries I think. So, you would think that might preclude her from getting a job in this administration, but they did roll out that nomination today. And so far for whatever reason, the pro-Trump conservative media machine doesn`t seem to be going nuts about her. So, we shall see. Homeland Security Department has had nobody running it since July that Kirstjen Nielsen has now been nominated.
She`s not the only Trump administration nominee who made news today though. Today, we learned that the acting director of pipeline safety in the Trump administration, the newly appointed top federal regulator charged with overseeing the safety of oil and gas pipelines, she apparently has not given up her outside business interests in order to take that job. And one of her outside business interests is selling equipment for oil spill response.
That`s like if there`s one guy in your town who has a business selling tires and fixing broken axles, and you decide to put him in charge of filling the puddles in town, like maybe he`ll be great at that. But if he isn`t great at that he`s definitely got a plan B.
"The Washington Post" also broke the news today that the president has chosen a new administrator to lead NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The Trump picked for that job as a businessman who has long sought to privatize the National Weather Service, specifically to limit the amount of information the weather service provides to the public for free, so his family business instead can do that for profit.
A for-profit National Hurricane Center, right? Yes, what could possibly go wrong.
We have a story coming up this hour about one of the disaster medical assistance teams that has been dispatched to Puerto Rico as part of the response to hurricane Maria. This story that we`ve got coming up on that tonight is not a good news story, but it is -- as far as we know -- the latest Trump administration I`m quitting in protest stories so we`ve got that story coming up a little later on.
I want to start tonight though with some stuff that has been a little bit swamped in the news over the last couple of days but it is now starting to feel like you ought to be aware this is going on. Adams Schiff, the top Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, is going to be here tonight to help us sort through some of this in just a second.
But just check this out. Today, you may have seen this report at politico.com, very well-written, well-reported piece, which says that the president might offer to sit down for an interview with special counsel Robert Mueller who`s leading the investigation into the Russian attack on our election last year. If the White House did decide to do this, that would make Trump the first president since Bill Clinton to face questions under oath from a federal prosecutor.
And you remember what happened then, right? Bill Clinton`s four hours of sworn testimony in the Whitewater affair and the Monica Lewinsky matter, that testimony later became in large part the basis of House Republicans impeachment effort against President Clinton.
And it`s not like other presidents haven`t testified or talked to prosecutors in other criminal matters but that impeachment history with Clinton and this particular presidents tendency to say stuff that just pops into his head particularly what he is under pressure, those factors I think made it a surprise to a lot of people when this story came out of politico today saying that the president`s legal team on Russia was going to want the president under oath with Mueller`s 18 prosecutors. It just seems like a surprise they want that anytime during this lifetime, let alone anytime soon.
Here`s the thing though. The president`s lead lawyer on Russia stuff I think, I think it`s his lead lawyer on Russia`s stuff now. It`s not always easy to tell. There`s been a few different ones.
The guy who I think is the president`s lead Russia lawyer, he apparently does not consent to this strategy. He may have not been aware that this strategy was being discussed, let alone pursued by the White House with regards to the Russia investigation. "Politico" had posted this article saying Trump`s going to sit down with Mueller. Posted it at 5:00 a.m. this morning. They updated it a few hours later just before 11:00 a.m. to add a comment from John Dowd who I think is supposed to be the Trump`s -- supposed to be Trump`s lead lawyer on Russian now.
I`m just going to quote directly what he told "Politico". This is just quoting directly from the article.
Quote: The president`s personal lawyer John Dowd initially declined to comment for this story. However, in an email sent after this article was initially published, Dowd said, quote, totally false -- exclamation point, exclamation point, exclamation point, exclamation point, exclamation point, exclamation point -- he went on for 16 exclamation points, 16.
So, the White House tells "Politico", yes, we want President Trump to talk with Robert Mueller`s prosecutors. Trump`s lawyer on Russia then swallows his tongue and starts gargling, no, no, no, no. That`s a terrible idea, with 16 exclamation points.
And then another one of the president`s Russia lawyers Ty Cobb, the amazing mustache guy, he calls up a conservative Website to drop some further highfalutin legalese on this sensitive subject. His comment on this matter to "The Daily Caller" Website was, quote, nobody in the White House would be this stupid. Well, you never know.
This is a president facing the most serious criminal and counterintelligence investigation ever levied against any U.S. president ever. Actually, it`s probably the most serious investigation ever levied against any high ranking us official ever, not even just presidents. And his lawyers for this fight are just not who you`d expect to be representing a U.S. president in a fight like this. There`s just a little touch of the carnival act to these guys.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: CNBC caught up with Mr. Dowd just a short time ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Do you have comment for CNBC though?
JOHN DOWD, ATTORNEY: Get the (EXPLETIVE DELETE) out of here.
DOWD: That`s what I got to CNBC.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: So that`s John Dowd. That`s the president`s lead private counsel on Russia. He`s the one with the sixteen exclamation points in his last comment to politico.com. He`s also the one who forwarded those secessionist emails to reporters apparently without meaning to a few weeks back. He was also the one who sat down with the president`s other lead Russia lawyer, the one whose salary were paying as a White House official now. He and Ty Cobb sat down apparently unwittingly next to a "New York Times" reporter who at the time was taking pictures of them and writing down what they were saying as they were discussing the president`s legal strategy and how much they didn`t like the White House counsel.
And the reason that conversation in the picture of them having it ended up in "The New York Times" is because they chose to have that conversation at an outdoor table at a restaurant that is literally immediately next door to the Washington bureau of "The New York Times", and it never occurred to them maybe guys take it inside.
These guys took over as the president`s top Russia lawyers after this other one had to disappear once his first written statement on the Russian matter misspelled the word president, I kid you not, and then his first verbal statement on the Russian matter was an announcement that he was filing a plate against James Comey and then he never did, and his first known email communication on the Russia matter was this, sent to a random stranger in the middle of the night, quote, I know where you live. Watch your back you -- think that rhymes with ditch. I`m on you, you will see me.
Marc Kasowitz, who would previously represented Donald Trump in the Trump University case where the president had to pay $25 million in a fraud settlement. He was going to lead the president`s defense on Russia matters. Apparently though, he has either been raptured or he`s become invisible or something`s happened to him because after his very inauspicious debut, he`s just disappeared.
So, now, it`s the 16 exclamation points guy and the mustache guy at the restaurant, step right up, anybody can play. They are a funky bunch. But they are -- no offense to the actual funky bunch -- but this is the legal team representing the president of the United States on this incredibly serious investigation.
If they were a more normal legal team we might expect a more normal stream of information from them about how the investigation is proceeding, about how the president was mounting his defense. I mean, instead with these guys, it really is -- you know, the swearing and the exclamation points and calling people stupid and it`s just sort of basically up to us to figure it out, this very serious thing about the future of our country.
So, let me just give you a couple of things one I think is potentially very serious. One is maybe not so serious. But they`re both things we might otherwise expect to have real information about in a presidential crisis that is itself is this serious we`re sort of left to figure these things out ourselves so let`s try to figure it out.
First ones this -- Friday night, Department of Justice made a court filing federal court in Washington D.C. in conjunction with a lawsuit brought against the Trump administration by a watchdog group. Now, there have been news reports that members of the White House staff had started using encrypted messaging apps at works. They`re doing official business on encrypted apps that can be programmed to delete messages right after they`re sent or received.
Based on those reports the watchdog CREW sued the Trump administration under the Presidential Records Act. The Presidential Records Act was passed as part of the post-Watergate reforms in 1978. It`s a very simple law. Richard Nixon had tried to declare that the Oval Office tapes and White House communications and diaries and notes were all his personal property, nobody had a right to see them. There with big legal fights over that.
The Presidential Records Act made clear that presidential records are public records and as a consequence, you can`t destroy them. So with every administration post-Watergate, the Presidential Records Act has just made it crystal clear in advance unequivocally that we the people and historians and journalists and investigators will eventually get access to presidential papers. We don`t get everything right away and there`s always some exceptions in terms of privacy and national security, in terms of what exactly we get.
But in general, presidential records are public records they are not private. That`s clear in the law, and we the people have a right to access to them. And therefore, White House staff can`t you know keep White House papers for themselves. They can`t trash them. They can`t steal them. They can`t do anything that`s designed to keep those records from being accessed by the public.
So, CREW files this suit and in response to this lawsuit on Friday night quietly, the Trump Justice Department makes its argument in response to their lawsuit. And their argument is that that whole presidential records thing, that`s over -- on the messaging app issue but also on -- they mentioned potential tape recordings of conversations in the White House -- they discussed the prospect of the president deleting his tweets, they discussed the prospect of White House staff potentially purging information off their phones or their computers. Presidential Records Act does not apply, that`s their argument.
And this finally, Friday night, the Trump Justice Department quietly made this seemingly very radical legal argument that they have the right to delete anything they want whenever they want to and nobody can review it. This is just the first line of the brief that they filed on Friday night. Quote: Courts cannot review the president`s compliance with the Presidential Records Act.
They continue later in the brief, quote, the law does not permit judicial review of whether the president is properly managing and preserving records that are subject to the Presidential Records Act. Again, this filing was made on Friday night. It was posted online by the heroic online archivist Restkick (ph). It was then written up at the Hollywood Reporter", God bless `em, but it hasn`t had a lot of attention outside that.
Here`s the question though: is this just a like random, shot in the dark legal argument from the administration or is this their declaration that this is how they`re handling presidential records? I mean now that the Trump Justice Department is declaring in this legal filing that it is the view of this administration when it comes to White House records, tapes, all White House records, electronic or otherwise. I mean, the brief says that this attitude applies to all records created or received by this president and his closest advisors.
If their argument about that is that no court can tell them those things have to be reviewed, preserved, right, is this a sign that say investigators might not be able to get their hands on records from the Trump White House? If this is the Trump administration`s legal opinion about whether they even have to keep those records does that mean that we should expect no records to end up in the hands of investigators, let alone historians, let alone the public?
So, again, Adam Schiff, one of the members of Congress who`s leaving one of those investigations in Congress, top Democrat in the intelligence committee, he`ll be joining us in just a few minutes we can ask him about that.
But here`s one more, it`s the last thing I`m going to raise here, and this may not be the most serious thing in the world, but if a president facing this serious a criminal investigation had a less slapstick legal team, right, sort of more normal lawyers advising him, this would be the sort of thing that would have already been explained by now. But because we have these guys, because we have 16 exclamation points, right, this thing I`m about hanging out there now with no explanation about why this happened or how this happened or what could possibly be innocent for it.
And I will preface this by saying, I recognize this one may not end up being all that serious, part of the reason I want to give you that caveat is because where this all started was with kind of a dirty joke.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAY LENO, LATE NIGHT TV HOST: Now, what`s going on with you and Trump? You and Trump have some kind of beef going. What -- what happen? It seems like you two should be good friends I can`t imagine.
BILL MAHER, COMEDIAN: He`s the one who`s been tweeting mean things about me.
MAHER: And you know, look, I`m not looking for a feud with Donald Trump and I certainly only wish the best for the syphilitic monkey who does his Twitter feed.
LENO: A syphilitic money, which is even worse.
MAHER: Well, the monkey thing, that -- I think that`s what got him so mad.
MAHER: We did a new rule one week that suppose that perhaps Donald Trump had been the spawn of his mother having sex with an orangutan, because -- well, I didn`t just make this up. The color of his hair --
MAHER: -- and the color of an orange orangutan is the only two things in nature of the same color.
LENO: I wonder what that was for --
MAHER: I`m not, I`m not saying it`s true, I hope it`s not true.
MAHER: But unless he comes up with proof, I`m willing to offer $5 million --
LENO: Wow, $5 million.
MAHER: He will come -- that he can donate to a charity of his choice --
LENO: Charity of his choice.
MAHER: Hair club for men.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MAHER: I`m not endorsing the joke, but this happened in public life, this was around the time that Donald Trump had offered president Obama $5 million to the charity of his choice if he released his college records, right? This is around the whole birther thing.
So, this was Bill Maher`s response to that public behavior by Donald Trump well before you ever ran for president. I`ll give you $5 million if you can prove that you`re not the son of an orangutan. That happened in 2013.
What ends up being arguably important about that it`s not the joke itself, it`s the fact that Trump actually hired a lawyer to sue Bill Maher over that joke in part by submitting proof that he Donald Trump was not the son of an orangutan.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, THEN-BUSINESSMAN: He made an offer on the show, and that involved my birth certificate and other things, and it was a $5 million offer to charity, and I immediately accepted his offer, sent a legal letter out to him by very good lawyer, who told me you have an absolute case as soon as you accept his offer. So, we essentially sent him a bill, a legal representation for $5 million. So, he has -- I don`t know if he has $5 million, maybe he doesn`t, but he made an offer of $5 million. I accepted the offer.
MAHER: His lawyer sent me a letter I (EXPLETIVE DELETED) you not, this is real. His lawyer sent me a letter that says and I, quote, attached here to is a copy of Mr. Trump`s birth certificate demonstrating that he is the son of Fred Trump and not an orangutan.
MAHER: Do these morons even know it`s impossible for people and apes to produce offspring?
And look at the lawyer`s signature. It just kind of trails off, as if to say, I`m not too embarrassed to even finish it. Scott, (EXPLETIVE DELETED), I`m Trump lawyer.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: OK, the name that trails off there, the man who Donald Trump describes as his very good lawyer who filed this official representation with Bill Maher that Donald Trump was the son of Fred not the son of a monkey, that is a real lawyer and his name is Scot Balber, and that should be another forgettable chapter in Donald Trump picks lawyers, right?
But you know where that guy popped up this week? On Monday, "The Washington Post" reported they`d obtained new contemporaneous documentation about the Trump Tower meeting that happened last summer involving Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner and a whole bunch of Russians linked to the Putin government and two Russian military intelligence.
The new documentation obtained by the email about the Trump Tower meeting from Natalia Veselnitskaya, the Russian government lawyer who set up that meeting. Her email was sent on the morning. Her email asked the British intermediary who would contact a Donald Trump Jr. to set up the meeting if it would be OK if she brought with her to the meeting a lobbyist and trusted associate.
Now, I don`t think that additional email from the Russian lawyer shed all that much more light on why the Trump campaign was taking that meeting with Russian officials promising dirt on Hillary Clinton in the middle of the election. What stands out about that new email that "The Washington Post" obtained this week, that email from the Russian lawyer, what stands out about that is that the person they got that email from is a lawyer working for the Putin-linked Russian billionaire in this case, the guy who handed over that email from the Russian lawyer about that meeting this week, that lawyer is Scott Balber. The same lawyer who represented Donald Trump in his stupid fight with Bill Maher in 2013 over whether or not Donald Trump was secretly half an orangutan. He represented Donald Trump on matters like that, although who knows how many matters like about there were, maybe it was just the one.
But he was Trump`s lawyer on something like that. He`s now representing the Russian side of the Trump Tower meeting we`re the top echelon of the Trump campaign took a meeting with Russian government officials to get Russian government assistance in the election, including dirt on Hillary Clinton, same guy.
We contacted Scott Balber today to ask him if there was any connection at all between his previous representation of Mr. Trump and the fact that he`s now representing the Russians behind the Russian government offering dirt on Hillary Clinton during the election, Mr. Balber responded to us tonight promptly which was very nice of him.
His response was this, quote: Nice try, but absolutely no connection whatsoever.
There is no such thing as a normal investigation of an American president for his ties to a hostile foreign government that interfered in the election that elected him president. There`s no normal version of that, right? But when somebody who used to be the president`s lawyer quite recently turns up in the middle of that investigation representing the Russian side, that seems like something that requires more than nice try as an explanation.
If the president had less hilarious legal representation in the first place, we could probably expect an explanation for something like that. But in this world that we live in, we got to figure these things out ourselves. We do our best.
Top Democrat on the Intelligence Committee joins us coming up. Stay with us.
MADDOW: We`re starting the fourth week now since Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico and we continue to get dramatic footage of how bad conditions are. But now that it is more than three weeks out from when that storm hit, the fact that conditions are still so difficult is no longer just a manifestation of how big and powerful the storm was, it`s how insufficient the response has been.
We got a very acute specific piece of news about the relief effort in Puerto Rico today, specifically about what are called disaster medical assistance teams, DMATs, that our teams of doctors and nurses and paramedics who deploy during natural disasters. This is a great resource that the federal government has in terms of disaster response.
Well, today, we learned that the senior medical officer on one of the federal DMAT teams in Puerto Rico, a doctor who has been on humanitarian missions in 10 countries, a doctor who has done DMAT work in Haiti after the earthquake there, in Japan after Fukushima, she has just quit her disaster response team in Puerto Rico because she says what`s happening in Puerto Rico is a response that`s being run in a way she has never seen in her 20 years of federal disaster response experience.
Today, that doctor sent us these images which she says show a spa day that was organized by federal medical staff health and human services medical staff, a spa day they organized for themselves in the middle of the disaster. This doctor tells us that they used the triage tents that are supposed to be from medical care for Puerto Ricans, but instead they brought in local Puerto Rican residents to give the medical workers cut- rate manicures and pedicures, while these medical professionals were being paid for their work as part of the disaster relief, but instead they were getting spa treatments.
The senior medical officer wrote to her reporting officers at the Department of Health and Human Services and told them, quote, I find this gross use of -- gross misuse of taxpayer funds and abuse of our privileged physicians personally a -- personally a -- excuse me, personally abhorrent. She pointed to the quote optics of NDMS medical personnel responsible for seeing injured in ill Puerto Ricans who have no homes food or instead having a spa day on taxpayer money.
Then she said, quote: I can no longer serve with honor on this team. And then she quit, after more than 20 years of experience doing this work.
And her objections were not just that this is the way the federal response is spending taxpayer money in Puerto Rico. This doctor told us that part of her objection was that these were sterile environments. They`re supposed to be. This is places where patients are supposed to be being treated, but as you can see the medical professionals there were wearing flip-flops instead of sterile scrubs and boots because they were drying their pedicures.
We reached out to the Department of Health and Human Services about this today and they told us, quote: The National Disaster Medical System, NDMS, has been made aware of the situation that this doctor has raised. NDMS has initiated an internal inquiry regarding the matter and will take appropriate action as necessary.
Last night, we reported on this maddening situation in which you have people starting to die, Americans starting to die in Puerto Rico because of treatable bacterial infections, infections they are getting because they still three weeks on have no access to drinking water and so they`ve now been so they`ve now been drinking for weeks out of creeks and streams. People are starting to die from waterborne bacterial infections treatable infections while apparently, spa day, but also while the USNS Comfort, hospital ship, is docked in Puerto Rico. The Comfort has hundreds of beds. It has 800 highly trained medical personnel, has state-of-the-art hospital facilities.
And as of Monday this week, the USNS Comfort was treating seven patients. On Tuesday, it went up to eight. They have hundreds of beds, 800 medical staff. They are treating eight people as of Tuesday while people were dying of treatable bacterial infections at the hospitals on the island where the Comfort is docked. Bacterial infections that people shouldn`t be getting in the first place, one of the things the Comfort can do is manufacture drinking water, but even people who get these infections should not be dying from them because they are treatable if they can be treated.
But Americans are dying while this floating miracle of a hospital ship is right there docked in Puerto Rico. What good is a floating miracle of a ship if they`re not getting anybody on board to treat them?
What this is is an organizational failure. This is not the storm was too big. This is not there`s no resources. The resources are there. The trained staff are there.
This is not a matter of trying to summon resources. This is just organizing it. This is leading the effort. This is just trying to connect what`s available and what is needed.
This storm is no longer killing Americans. The federal government`s response to this storm is now killing Americans, and we`ve got a live report coming up. Stay with us.
MADDOW: We were expecting right now to be talking live with the mayor of San Juan, the capital city of Puerto Rico. She is I`m told quite near to our camera but not near enough yet. So, we will be going to be going to her in just a moment.
We also though have Congressman Adam Schiff, the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee standing by. We`re going to be talking with him in just a minute as well.
And in order to do that, I want to show you some impassioned comments from Senator John McCain which we spoke on the Senate floor in late July. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: My friends, the United States of America needs to send a strong message to Vladimir Putin and any other aggressor that we will not tolerate attacks on our democracy. That`s what this bill is all about.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: John McCain speaking in the Senate late July. It is rare for a bill of much significance to get anything approaching blanket support in Congress. But this summer, a bill to punish Russia for attacking our election got approved in the Senate 98-2. In the House, the vote was 419- 3. If you combine both houses, which you`re not supposed to, that makes the vote 517-5. Just overwhelming support in Congress for new sanctions on Russia in response to them interfering in our election.
And the bill also included new protections for sanctions that were already in place against Russia. So, President Trump couldn`t come in there and mess with the existing sanctions. He couldn`t end those sanctions on his own.
That last part of the bill was not because of just hypothetical worries that Trump might try something like that to help Russia out. He did try something like that. On June 1st, Michael Isikoff of Yahoo News reported that the Trump administration did try to get rid of existing Russian sanctions the moment they first showed in Washington, D.C.
Quote, in the early weeks of the Trump administration, former Obama administration officials and State Department staffers spot an intense behind-the-scenes battle to head off efforts by incoming Trump officials to normalize relations with Russia. Unknown to the public at the time, top Trump administration officials almost as soon as they took office tasks State Department staffers with developing proposals for the lifting of economic sanctions on Russia and the return of Russia`s diplomatic compounds. These efforts to relax or to remove punitive measures that had been imposed against Russia alarmed some State Department officials who immediately begin lobbying congressional leaders to quickly pass legislation to block what the Trump administration was trying to do.
That`s why that bill that landed on the president`s desk, with all that overwhelming support, that`s why it didn`t just call for a new punishment against Russia for them messing with our election it was also designed to stop Trump from trying to remove existing sanctions on Russia, because he had already tried to do that from day one.
President Trump objected to that bill but he was up against those gigantic veto-proof majorities and he signed it, signed it privately with no pageantry. None of these -- didn`t do any of that, signed it quietly nobody there and then he left it to the Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to explain.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REX TILLERSON, SECRETARY OF STATE: The action by the Congress to put these sanctions in place in the way they did neither the president nor I are very happy about that we were clear that we didn`t think it was going to be helpful to our efforts but that`s the decision they made. They made it a very overwhelming way. I think the president accepts that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: And I`ll have to accept things we don`t like sometimes.
The president signed the Russia sanctions bill on August 2nd, and here`s the interesting part. Signed it on August 2nd -- the thing he signed, that new law, gave him a deadline of October 1st to implement these new sanctions against Russia, to punish them for attacking our election. October 1st was the deadline. So, he signed at August 2nd, we waited all through August. Then we waited all through September. It`s now October 12th, and those sanctions are not in place. He hasn`t done anything.
And now, the bipartisan sponsors of that sanctions bill are mad. John McCain and Ben Cardin in the Senate have now written to the president, quote: The delay calls into question the Trump administration`s commitment to the sanctions bill which was signed into law more than two months ago. Quote: They`ve had plenty of time to get their act together.
Maybe the White House, you know, will get around to doing something maybe sometime or maybe they really did come into power with a burning desire for some reason to help Russia out by easing up on the sanctions against them.
Joining us now is Congressman Adam Schiff. He`s the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee.
Congressman Schiff, it`s nice to see you. Thank you for being here.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), RANKING MEMBER, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: You bet.
MADDOW: Let me ask if you share the concerns about this sanctions matter. The White House was supposed to have acted on this by October 1st. They appear to have done nothing.
SCHIFF: I certainly do share the concern. I strongly supported the legislation that was put in place, so that he couldn`t weaken the already existing sanctions and to strengthen the deterrent on Russia from meddling in our affairs. So, yes, I`m very concerned about it and, you know, frankly, I`m not sure, and this is part of our investigation, whether this is completely disconnected from your earlier story, and that is you were pointing out how the same lawyer, the former Trump lawyer is now a lawyer representing an oligarch close to Putin, an oligarch who helped set up that meeting at Trump Tower.
And, of course, one of the things that is alleged in the dossier which we are investigating and try to corroborate is the claim that there was an agreement to ease sanctions on Ukraine, in exchange for getting derogatory information about Hillary Clinton. If that is what is motivating this, obviously, it would be consistent with the dossier.
Now, we don`t know that that`s the case but there are obviously a lot of things that concern us about the president`s policy to Russia when you look at all being vote that you pointed out both Democrats and Republicans recognize the need to sanction Russia in this way and, of course, we have profound questions about why the president differs from that very strong bipartisan sentiment.
MADDOW: You know, you referenced the dossier and what the dossier says about how -- if there was a quid pro quo here, it appears to have been or it was it was supposed to have been described in the dossier as having been about Russia wanting sanctions relief.
We had Mark Hosenball on the show last night, legendary investigative reporter at "Reuters". Senator Sheldon Whitehouse is on the Judiciary Committee in the Senate, told him for a piece this week, that when it comes to the dossier, a good deal of the information and it remains unproven but none of it has been disproven, and some of it have proven true. When he said none of it has been disproven, that caught my eye, because I think a lot of people assume that parts of the dossier have been disproven.
Can I ask if you -- what you make of Senator Whitehouse`s assessment there, if you share that?
SCHIFF: Well, I certainly share the view that there are parts of the dossier that have been corroborated and that seemed credible. There are other parts of the dossier that we`re trying to determine are they true, are they not true, and you know, still other parts of the dossier I think we`re not even close to being able to confirm or reject.
So, I think in a literal sense, that`s true. I don`t think we can disprove parts of the dossier yet. But there`s a lot of work that remains to be done and frankly, that`s where we ought to have at least part of our focus. It shouldn`t be on trying to discredit the messenger but rather find out how much of this dossier is accurate and that`s really what we`re trying to accomplish.
MADDOW: The chairman of your committee, the Intelligence Committee, who said he was stepping aside from the Russian investigation, Devin Nunes, signed off on subpoenas this week or sometimes -- not this week -- signed off sometimes recent -- sometime recently. We found out this week subpoenas targeting the firm that was behind the dossier, targeting Fusion GPS. There`s been some confusion as to whether or not that was his subpoena that he unilaterally decided to issue, even though he hasn`t been participating in the investigation, thus far. There`s been some conflicting reports as to whether you were consulted on that subpoena or whether even other members of the committee on the Republican side we`re committed -- we`re consulted on that.
What can you tell us about that?
SCHIFF: We are supposed to be consulted as a matter of the committee rules, but we were not consulted on it.
Look, I think that those subpoenas are part of an effort to create a alternative narrative and the alternate narrative is that essentially the FBI and the Department of Justice were hoodwinked into becoming an arm of the opposition research to Donald Trump. It`s a variation of what you see in criminal trials as I remember from being a prosecutor where if the defense has very poor facts to deal with, they try to put the government on trial. So this I think is a part of an effort not to get to the truth what the Russians did, but rather to shift the focus on to the FBI and the Department of Justice.
It`s really disservice. You know, these issues are incredibly serious. If U.S. policy is being distorted either because of promises made or because there is leverage over the administration, that`s serious business.
Those sanctions we were talking about a moment ago, the reason why those are so significant, the reason why the Russians top priority is getting rid of those sanctions is that Putin doesn`t fear losing a democratic election. He`s not going to lose a democratic election. A viable opponent in Russia now ends up in jail or dead.
But he does fear mass protests and the ability of people to gather and demand better or true men demand the removal of an autocrat and if his economy continues to suffer, then that is a threat to the regime. So, this is why it was such a high priority for Putin to remove those sanctions, why certainly if they`re willing if there was going to be a deal struck, it would be about removing those sanctions and why so many members of Congress in both parties questioned this administration where is it coming from, why is it behaving this way to this adversary that intervened in our affairs.
And we took that step to protect ourselves but the investigation also has to get to the bottom of this.
MADDOW: Top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Congressman Adam Schiff -- sir, thank you for your time tonight. Really appreciate it.
SCHIFF: Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: A key point there from the congressman in terms of how important those important those sanctions are to Russia. What we may see them as just one element of our policy towards Russia, that`s the prime mover for them. And so, when you`re looking for people who are acting in their interest, those are their interest when ask them.
The mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico, joins us live next.
MADDOW: Take a look at how day 22 began today in Toa Baja. Toa Baja is about half an hour west of San Juan, capital city of Puerto Rico. These folks lost their homes in Hurricane Maria 22 days ago. They are living inside a local school. That`s where they`ve been for the last three-plus weeks.
Toa Baja is not a remote mountain region. This is not interior mountainous Puerto Rico. This is right outside the capital city.
And in Toa Baja today, people were collecting rain water from the gutters, because that`s their access to water 22 days since the storm.
And today is the day the president started threatening to pull out federal relief effort from Puerto Rico, federal relief effort such as it is.
Joining us now is the major of San Juan, Carmen Yulin Cruz.
Mayor Cruz, thank you very much for joining us. I know it`s still an incredibly busy time.
MAYOR CARMEN YULIN CRUZ, SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO: Thank you very much for having me.
MADDOW: I do want to know your response to the president`s threat to withdraw federal aid today. But more than that and before that, I want to know how you are and how is San Juan and what`s your overall assessment of your people and your city right now?
CRUZ: Well, number one, we`re entering the second phase of San Juan gets back on its feet. The first phase was opening the roads and making sure that we got to the elderly population in retirement homes, making sure that we got to as many people that were sick as possible and ensuring they got their medication. And ensuring that we established a robust distribution system of food and drinkable water, enough to sustain people for initially it was one week.
This week we started giving them provisions for two weeks so we have about 55,000 people in our system right now, with 18 community kitchens, providing food for thousands of citizens of San Juan. And we are really, really happy that the NGOs and the churches and leadership at the communities are taking on the task of distributing. They come into a central location and they take what they need and they distribute it to everybody.
So, we have now the capability of providing people with enough food. Not enough water. But enough food for two weeks and enough water for at least one week.
So, we are in the process of with Operation Blessing, comes from Virginia, and NGO, putting water purification plans in different areas of San Juan. And next week, we`re going to start delivering a -- just a small purification device for people to use in their homes. We`re starting to see that we can get our two schools, three schools, municipal schools, already working in the next week or so. About one third of our head starts and early head starts will begin working in about a week. And our community college has already started working.
All of our seven health clinics are working in terms of the emergency units that they have. And we expect our hospital to be up and running, fully operational next week. So, because of private donations, because I have to say in the last week since we have had a direct route to Homeland Security, FEMA has stepped up.
Are we getting everything we need? No. Are we getting much more than we had last week? Certainly yes. And the channels of communication are opening up.
So, I can imagine the light at the end of the tunnel now. Of course, that is not the case in many of the rest of the 77 municipalities today. We got SOS calls from three municipalities in different parts of Puerto Rico needing water, especially drinking water, needing medication, and needing food because what I`ve been talking about, Ms. Maddow, is a robust supply chain of aid.
I cannot feed ten families this week and forget them next week. We have to have enough food to provide for them and we have been able to do that in San Juan in two week cycles now, which helps us a lot in our distribution.
We are -- we need to step up our game in terms of the debris. We haven`t been able to get that under control in San Juan. Ever since Maria, we picked up more than 66 million pound of debris and general trash. But there`s still a lot more. So we have hired additional contractors today, four different companies. Additional to the one that we have already at the municipality to increase the power base we have in order to get that under control.
MADDOW: Madam Mayor, we have been following with some concern these new reports about people dying from water-borne illnesses and bacterial infections. Not necessarily people in San Juan, but people in other parts of Puerto Rico not as well-served. Obviously, you have been one of the first people signaling the alarm that people in remote villages and cities were having to drink from creeks and streams. That appears to be paying off now in the form of treatable bacterial infections killing people.
We`re concerned about the basic medical care getting to people who are being forced to live in the conditions. And people who are starting to die from those conditions. Do you know anything about the overall plan for the island in terms of that kind of medical care?
CRUZ: Yes. The secretary of health for Puerto Rico has advised in the next coming days an educational program will begin to make sure that people know how to -- that they need to boil their water if they`re getting it. That they need -- if they`re getting it unfiltered water, they need to use the chlorine pills to make it drinkable. They not only drink it but wash everything that they use and not walk around with bare feet. Essentially, don`t drink from any creeks.
We are having 50 community leaders tomorrow in San Juan to teach them and say, because it`s not only, Ms. Maddow, just a drinking water. We are having a very big problem because we are in a Caribbean island with mold. So, if mold does not get taken out of the homes and those homes that need a tarp, this kind of bluish FEMA tarp gets put on it, you`re really creating a toxic environment from everybody in there.
So, the lack of drinking water, even in San Juan. You may think, well, we are not drinking out of creeks but all of the creeks and rivers we get the water from, you know, can turn out some sort of this bacteria. We have already had reports in our own staff of two members that are suspected, still not confirmed, of having diseases that are related to non-drinkable water.
Scabies is a problem. Conjunctivitis is a problem. Gastritis is a big problem because people are not eating enough, or are not eating their regular diet that they`re used to.
So, we are running into a situation where we may be in the verge of a health crisis, without enough medication and without enough hospitals to deal with. There is a hospital that`s on board of a ship from the United States Navy, I believe. And people are being transported there. But I have no information of how many patients, no confirmed information of how many patients are already in there and for what conditions they have been taken to the ship.
MADDOW: San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz, really appreciate you keeping us updated tonight, Madam Mayor. Please keep us apprised. Thank you for being with us tonight.
CRUZ: Thank you very much.
MADDOW: Thank you.
All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOWW: One last story for you tonight.
Amid all the taxpayer funded ethics trouble that Trump cabinet secretaries have gotten into over the last few week, if you had to pick one cabinet secretary who was really milking it, who was really pulling out the stops to have the best possible time at taxpayer expense, no question, it`s Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and his boys` own adventure of taxpayer- funded horseback rides and the private jet trip to go see the hockey team and the other private jet trip to go on the snorkeling tour, and then to the ski resort and then to the Alaskan steakhouse.
And now, we learned he also has his own personal flag and staff to raise it, every time he goes to work. Quoting from "The Washington post" tonight, an Interior Department staffer, quote, takes the elevator to the seventh floor, climbs the stairs to the roof and hoists a special secretarial flag whenever Ryan Zinke enters the building. When the secretary goes home for the day or travels, the flag comes down.
Spokeswoman for Ryan Zinke calls the flag hoisting, quote, a major sign of transparency, because now anything you want to know if someone`s rappelling down the side of the Interior Department sometime soon, all you have to do is look for the flag to see if he`s there, as soon as he leaves, somebody runs up and takes it down.
It is a form of transparency. Other things, too. But -- that does it for us tonight. We will see you again tomorrow.
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD" with Ali Velshi, filling in for Lawrence O`Donnell tonight.
Good evening, Ali.
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