Trump and his administrations denial of relationships Transcript 10/25/17 The Rachel Maddow Show

Guests: Richard Blumenthal, Philip Shenon

Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW Date: October 25, 2017

Guest: Richard Blumenthal, Philip Shenon

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST, ALL IN: That is "ALL IN" for this evening.

THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now.

Good evening, Rachel.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Great conversation, man. That was awesome.

HAYES: Thank you. Thank you very much.

MADDOW: Thanks to you at home as well for joining us this hour.

All right. See if you can spot the pattern here. Within days of the Trump administration starting, the Justice Department was warning the new White House -- the new White House counsel specifically, that there was a serious security issue with the president`s new national security advisor. He had been having secret communications with the Russian government and he had been publicly lying about that.

So, the acting attorney general the Justice Department came to the White House and told the Trump White House that their national security adviser was compromised by the Russian government.

It later emerged that national security advisor Mike Flynn had also not declared income that he had received from multiple Russian sources and other foreign sources. He and his business relations ended up being the subject of multiple federal grand jury subpoenas, and Mike Flynn ended up having to retroactively register as the agent of a foreign power, and even after that, we learned about still further meetings between Flynn and Russian officials during the transition that he had never disclosed.

So, Mike Flynn turns out not to have been an awesome choice to be the top White House official advising the president of the United States on national security matters. He was allowed to resign in February.

But by March, the White House was insisting honestly they`d never even really heard of the guy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPORTER: Has anyone from the White House --

SEAN SPICER, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Well, can I just amend the first --

REPORTER: Sure.

SPICER: Obviously, I just with -- just to be clear, I know that I`m trying to think through this for a second because, obviously, General Flynn, but again --

REPORTER: Right, during the campaign, before the election.

SPICER: Right, and I`m not aware of any at this time, but even General Flynn was a volunteer of the campaign.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: He was a -- Fike Mynn, Mike, Mike oh something, Mike Fin? No. We didn`t really think of him as the national security advisor. He was more like a national security coat check boy. But he`s volunteered -- a campaign volunteer. He volunteered for like a minute, he like made coffee.

So, national security advisor Mike Flynn downgraded after the fact to a volunteer for the campaign. Then there was the chairman of the campaign seen here with the last boss he`s known to have had before he somewhat inexplicably started working for the Trump campaign for free in 2016.

Paul Manafort`s previous employment before the Trump campaign was working for a pro-Putin political party and a dictator in the nation of Ukraine. Like national security advisor Mike Flynn, Paul Manafort also ended up having to retroactively register as the agent of a foreign power. He too turned out to have had multiple communications during the campaign with Russians even though for months, he publically denied that he had done any such thing.

In March, "The Associated Press" reported that Paul Manafort had signed up for a multi-million dollar annual contract with a Russian billionaire close to Vladimir Putin. The contract said Paul Manafort would promote the interests of Putin`s government around the world. "The Associated Press" published that account in March. The Russian billionaire in question sued the "A.P." over that newspaper article and denied its claims. Earlier this month, the billionaire lost his case in federal court against the "A.P.", and the "A.P." stands by that reporting.

Paul Manafort was also later to -- later revealed to have offered private briefings on the campaign to that same Putin-connected Russian oligarch Manafort made the offer for him to get private briefings while he was serving as the campaign chairman and therefore definitely in a position to deliver them.

So, I mean, when you`re chairman of a presidential campaign, that generally means you are sharing the presidential campaign, right? But just as Mike Flynn was dismissed as merely a campaign volunteer, when all this stuff started to come out about Paul Manafort, the White House -- true to form -- insisted they`d never even really met Paul Manafort. He -- maybe he was around for a while, but he was definitely like there and gone in a minute, I don`t remember what he looks like.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SPICER: And then obviously, there`s been this discussion of Paul Manafort who played a very limited role for a very limited amount of time. But beyond --

REPORTER: He was the chairman of the campaign.

SPICER: Hey, Jonathan, hold on, can you stop interrupting other people`s questions? Hey, Jonathan, somebody`s asking a question. It`s not your press briefing. Julie`s asking a question, please calm down.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Who needs to calm down? The follow-up question there was, he played a limited role for a limited amount of time -- but he was the chairman of the campaign. Calm down.

So, the pattern here is -- the pattern here is -- I mean, it`s in a way it`s kind of funny, right? I mean, there are a large number of people -- a surprisingly large number of people who were involved in the Trump campaign who turned out to have had not just undisclosed but extensive and bewildering contacts with Russian officials during the campaign or during the transition. But the way it goes is, as soon as those things get exposed, the Trump White House insists they never knew that guy.

It happened with that guy Carter Page as well.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

FREDERICK RYAN, JR., WASHINGTON POST PUBLISHER: We heard you might be announcing your foreign policy advisory team soon if there`s anything you wanted to say on that.

DONALD TRUMP, THEN-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We are going to be doing that, in fact very soon. I`d say during the week, we`ll be announcing some names. It`ll always grow.

RYAN: Any that you can start off with this morning with us?

TRUMP: Well, you know, I hadn`t thought in terms of doing it, but if you want, I could give you some of the names,

RYAN: We`d be delighted.

TRUMP: I wouldn`t mind. Do you have that list? I`ll be a little more accurate with it.

OK, ready?

Walid Phares who you probably know, PhD, advisor to the House of Representatives caucus and counterterrorism expert; Carter Page, PhD.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MADDOW: Carter Page PhD. That was candidate Trump announcing to "The Washington Post" editorial board his five foreign policy advisors on his presidential campaign.

Now, Carter Page as well turns out to have had multiple undisclosed contacts with Russian officials during the campaign and he also turns out to have turned up in an indictment for a Russian spy ring that was being run out of a bank called VEB, the same bank that inexplicably turned out to be meeting with Jared Kushner during the transition, in a meeting that Jared Kushner did not publicly disclose.

Now, the only reason we ever heard the name Carter Page was because then presidential candidate Donald Trump bragged that a guy named Carter Page PhD was one of his five foreign policy advisers for the campaign. But then once we learned about Carter Page and his undisclosed contacts with the Russian government during the campaign, then it`s like oh Partner Cage, what`s his name, Carter who, why are you saying this name? I`ve never heard of this person?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I think the one person -- I don`t think I`ve ever spoken to him. I don`t think I`ve ever met him, and he actually said he was a very low-level member of I think a committee for a short period of time. I don`t think I ever met him. Now, that`s possible that I walked into a room and he was sitting there, but I don`t think I ever met him. I didn`t talk to him ever.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: See, this is why it`s a coveted job to be a foreign policy adviser to a presidential candidate. You will never ever speak to the candidate ever.

So the pattern has been -- I mean, on the one level, it`s alarming the way this whole story is, but it has also been kind of funny in a way. And today, we got the latest iteration.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: This just came out. This just came out -- WikiLeaks, I love WikiLeaks.

All of these new charges should you see it just came down today, WikiLeaks, some new stuff, some brutal stuff.

The Hillary Clinton documents released today by WikiLeaks. WikiLeaks also shows something I`ve been warning every -- everybody, everybody about for a long time.

You know, WikiLeaks just actually came out. John Podesta some horrible things about you.

They got it all down, folks. WikiLeaks, WikiLeaks.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: In January, the intelligence community report on the Russian attack on our election described WikiLeaks as a key element of the Russian operation. Quote: We assess with high confidence that the GRU, Russian military intelligence, relayed material it acquired from the DNC and senior Democratic officials to WikiLeaks. Now, candidate Trump repeatedly expressed during the campaign how much he loved WikiLeaks, how thrilled he was he was with the with the actions taken by WikiLeaks, which we now know were on behalf of Russian military intelligence.

Mike Pompeo as a Trump supporting congressman during the campaign also praised WikiLeaks for its role in what Russia was doing during the campaign. Once Mike Pompeo, became CIA director, he noted in his first public comments after being confirmed to run the CIA that WikiLeaks is a, quote, hostile intelligence service often abetted by Russia.

Well, now, today, Betsy Woodruff of "The Daily Beast" reports that the data firm that worked with the Trump campaign during the election, to great acclaim, Cambridge Analytica -- Cambridge Analytica is run by the billionaire Mercer family who financed so much of the Trump side of the election and the conservative media for the past few years. Cambridge Analytica in which Steve Bannon has a multi-million dollar stake, in which Mike Flynn worked for as well. Cambridge Analytica, which ran data operations for the Trump campaign, today, Betsy Woodruff at "Daily Beast" reports that the head of Cambridge Analytica, the group`s CEO, quote, wrote in an email last year that he reached out to WikiLeaks about Hillary Clinton during the campaign.

According to an email described by two sources familiar with a congressional investigation into this matter, the head of Cambridge Analytica reportedly told a third party in this email that he had reached out to Julian Assange from WikiLeaks about his firm Cambridge analytic somehow helping WikiLeaks release Democratic emails.

So, WikiLeaks was a major part of the Russian operation against the presidential election last year, to hurt Hillary Clinton and help elect Donald Trump. WikiLeaks is how they disseminated a large proportion of the documents that were hacked and stolen by Russian government hackers. Those documents are very -- you know, lovingly promoted by candidate Trump himself throughout the campaign.

We have previously been able to link WikiLeaks and their behavior on behalf of the Russian government to a few different people who were basically associates of Trump and the Trump campaign, people like Roger Stone, for example. But in this case, this news story from "The Daily Beast", this is the firm that was doing the Trump campaigns data operations. It`s that firm trying to collude with WikiLeaks on hurting Hillary Clinton and helping Donald Trump during the campaign. Like this -- Cambridge Analytica doing this thing is different than like some guy Trump hangs out with doing this thing.

So, what`s the reaction from the Trump side of things? By this point, you know what the pattern is. You know it`s coming.

The Trump campaign put out this statement today after this Cambridge Analytica report came out, "The Daily Beast" report again indicates that Cambridge Analytica was at least trying to collude with a Russian cutout with WikiLeaks to hurt Clinton and help Trump during the campaign.

So, the Trump campaign`s statement today in response to this makes clear that Cambridge Analytica -- who? We have so never heard of them we can`t even spell it. This is the statement today from the Trump campaign in response to this Cambridge Analytica news.

Quote: We as a campaign made the choice to rely on the voter data of the Republican National Committee to help elect President Donald J. Trump. Any claims that voter data from any other source played a key role in our victory are false.

Umbridge Canalytica -- did they volunteer for a minute? Bannon, Flynn, Mercer, who? Right? We`ve never -- they didn`t do anything for us? Cambridge.

As more and more ties are proven between the Russian government and the Russian campaign to affect our election, and all of these different people and entities involved in the Trump for president campaign, it`s starting to feel like you know one way you can know that something is a very salient story and approval point they`re not going to be able to get away from is when the Trump White House or the Trump campaign starts denying all knowledge of the people and entities involved.

Manafort, who? Flynn, who? Cambridge Ana -- who? Carter, hmm, what`s that?

And as these things you know keep happening, it is harder to dismiss all of them as coincidences. They can`t all be random people who walked in off the street that the Trump campaign never noticed. They can`t all also just be one offs that are all disconnected from one another.

And maybe these continuing revelations are why the congressional investigations into the Russian attack and the question of whether or not the Trump campaign was involved in it -- maybe that`s why these investigations this month seemed to be going off the rails. Yesterday, we really did see Republicans walk out of their own committee interviews with the digital operations chief for the Trump campaign and the president`s personal lawyer to instead announce that they would be launching new investigations into Hillary Clinton.

We`ve seen multiple reports starting this weekend with "The New York Times" continuing through this week and multiple other publications that however weld these various congressional investigations into the Russia issue might have been doing in the past, they`re all now basically starting to fall apart.

Now, today, "Mother Jones" was first to report that one of the big investigative committees, the Senate Judiciary Committee, has officially blown up, the committee will no longer even attempt to put out a unified report. Republicans are going to do their own thing. The Democrats are going to do their own thing, and that means there will never be a judiciary committee conclusion, a judiciary committee report as to what happened, at least not as to their part of the investigation. We`re going to be speaking with a member of that committee in just a second to find out if those reports are truly accurate, and if it is really as all-over as it seems.

But there`s one last thing that seems important that we keep getting more and more evidence about and that committee that just reportedly blew up, this is specifically they were supposed to be looking at, it`s the question of obstruction of justice, whether the president fired FBI Director James Comey or took other actions to divert or suppress or try to influence the criminal and counterintelligence investigations into what happened with Russia, right?

That is what the Judiciary Committee in the Senate has been looking at. Judiciary Committee oversees Department of Justice, oversees the justice system, so that obstruction of justice is right in their wheelhouse. I should tell you, in the House, they never even bothered saying they would investigate that. In the Senate, they did say they were going to investigate that. But now, that investigation appears to have imploded.

On that issue though, there`s a whole bunch of new public evidence that is all of a sudden getting both more damning and more funny at the same time. I`m sorry that I find some of this funny but some of it is so ridiculous I find it funny. You`ll see what I mean in just a second.

In May, "The New York Times" published this photo, this article, about an investor`s pitch that was being made in China by Jared Kushner`s family`s real estate company. The Kushner`s reportedly did a presentation in China in which they appeared to offer green cards to live in the United States to any Chinese citizen who would give the Kushner family $500,000 for one of their real estate projects. And, you know, making that pitch is one thing, making that pitch while bragging and showing pictures to remind everybody in the room that your family is in the White House, that is something else.

And that was apparently the subject of a subpoena to the Kushner organization by federal prosecutors operating out of the eastern district of New York. At least one of the Kushner properties where they were apparently trying to sell this cash for green cards deal was in the jurisdiction of the U.S. attorney`s office in the eastern district of New York which is headquartered in Brooklyn. So that was the specific U.S. attorney who subpoenaed the Kushner companies over their investment for a visa program as you see in this story from "The Wall Street Journal". It`s the eastern district.

Then there`s also the southern district of New York which is headquartered not in Brooklyn but in Manhattan. "The Wall Street Journal" reported this week that Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort is under criminal investigation by that U.S. attorney`s office for alleged money laundering.

Now, it has also recently been reported that President Trump has met personally with two lawyers who he`s considering nominating to run those two U.S. attorneys offices. This is something no president has ever done before as far as anybody can tell. Meeting with people who you might appoint to be federal prosecutors in jurisdictions where you and your family are -- in your campaign or potentially involved in criminal matters that may become -- that may come before that office. I mean, no president is known to have ever done this with potential U.S. attorney nominees before.

I asked the former Attorney General Eric Holder about it right here the other night, this is how he characterized it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ERIC HOLDER, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL: Unprecedented. The way it was done in the Obama administration and the Clinton administration as well and I think in the Bush administration`s, the highest level person that you spoke to as an incoming attorney general, as an incoming U.S. attorney was in fact the attorney general. That was it. Nobody went to talk to the White House.

MADDOW: And why is that? Why was that -- why was it structured that way?

HOLDER: To again ensure that independence so that a U.S. attorney would understand that your boss is the attorney general of the United States. You`re not supposed to have any contacts and a U.S. attorney`s is not supposed to have any contacts with the White House except through the Justice Department.

And the choice is that as Lee`s has been reported of the people who he spoke to I think are interesting. Two U.S. attorneys in New York, the U.S. attorney in Washington, D.C., and the U.S. attorney in Florida who`s got where Mar-a-Lago is, and that gives me some concern that he has decided to have these interactions with the United States attorneys who might possibly be in a position to get at him.

MADDOW: And what`s the correction?

HOLDER: You know, to hopefully have good people in these positions who will in spite of the fact that they`ve had this these meetings with the president will understand what the nature of their jobs is.

MADDOW: That`s the correction? To hope they`re good people?

HOLDER: Yes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Yes.

The only corrective we know for this situation in terms of defending the independence of federal prosecutors, defending the independence of the criminal justice system is to hope that these candidates for U.S. attorney jobs but the president is inappropriately meeting with -- we were supposed to hope that they`re good people who are rigorously independent from the president and his interest despite this fact that he`s meeting with them before he considers appointing them. We just have to hope they have no connection to him whatsoever.

Well, the potential nominee to run the U.S. attorney`s office in the eastern district of New York turns out to be a member of Marc Kasowitz`s law firm. Marc Kasowitz is one of the president`s lawyers on the Russia issue. The potential nominee to the president met with for the southern district of New York is a member of Rudy Giuliani`s law firm, the president`s campaign supporter and his very good friend.

Now, you heard Eric Holder there mentioned that there may have also been a meeting with the potential U.S. attorney nominee in South Florida, one who would have jurisdiction over anything that touched on the president`s southern states in Mar-a-Lago.

We have been trying to chase that down. We`ve spoken to multiple contacts in Florida, to figure out if such a meeting has happened and who that potential nominee might be. That would be a person who in the southern district of Florida, they would have jurisdiction conceivably over anything related to the president`s estate at Mar-a-Lago.

Now, our best guess, the best reporting coming out of South Florida right now as to who the contender for that job is in the Trump White House is this man, who in this clip is feeling very sad because in this clip, he`s being fired by Donald Trump during season five of "The Apprentice". It`s a guy from Kasowitz`s law firm for eastern district, guy from Giuliani`s law firm for southern district and a guy from "The Apprentice" from Mar-a-Lago.

If the president is stacking key federal prosecutor jobs in jurisdictions where he and his family in his campaign have potential or actual federal criminal liability, this is the kind of thing you`d expect the Senate Judiciary Committee to be all over in terms of whether or not the White House is trying to pervert the federal law enforcement system in this country to meet the president`s personal needs. That`s the sort of thing the Senate Judiciary Committee might have been looking into -- until today, when apparently that blew up. That`s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CT), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Do you know any president anywhere in our history previously interviewing a candidate for United States attorney? I certainly wasn`t interview by the president. You weren`t interviewed by the president before we were appointed United States attorney. Has it ever happened before?

JEFF SESSIONS, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: Well, a lot of new candidates as you well know -- a lot of the U.S. attorneys, of friends of presidents --

BLUMENTHAL: Well, you`re not answering --

SESSIONS: -- families of the president --

BLUMENTHAL: You`re not answering my question.

SESSIONS: Well --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut want to know whether any American president, anyone, went around interviewing candidates for U.S. attorney jobs, despite the tradition of those U.S. attorney`s reporting only to the attorney general, remaining independent of the White House so they can do their jobs.

Joining us now is Senator Richard Blumenthal, Democrat of Connecticut, member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Senator Blumenthal, really appreciate your time tonight. Thank you for being here.

BLUMETHAL: Thank you.

MADDOW: There`s a number of things I want to I want to talk to you about tonight. The first one is the subject of that that questioning -- that moment that you had with Attorney General Jeff Sessions. We can`t find any other instances of presidents meeting with U.S. attorneys while considering whether or not he was going to be appointing them to jobs. Senator Sessions didn`t answer your question on that.

Have you been able to turn up any other instances of that besides what President Trump has done this year?

BLUMETHAL: There is no precedent, Rachel, for the president of the United States interviewing potential nominees for United States attorney, and the reason is very simple that it smacks of political interference and conflicts of interest, and it does certainly in these instances where the jobs have critical authority over properties that the president has over payments made to the president by foreign governments and violation of the emoluments clause, about money-laundering investigations that are ongoing, involving Trump associates and potential prosecutions of Trump campaign associates, if those kinds of cases are referred by the special counsel.

So, there are lots of good reasons that there`s no precedent for it.

MADDOW: The other thing that seems to be emerging in terms of sort of alongside this news about the president taking this unprecedented step of meeting with potential U.S. attorneys is that he appears to be considering a number of people for those key jobs, the ones where he`s been doing these personal meetings, who are people who have one or two degrees of separation from him.

Somebody who is a member of Marc Kasowitz`s law firm. Marc Kasowitz is one of the president`s longtime personal lawyers, one of his Russia lawyers. Somebody else who is part of Rudy Giuliani`s law firm. Obviously, Rudy Giuliani, a close personal friend of the president and a major campaign supporter.

There are new reports and we do not have them confirmed, but the best Florida reporters tell us it`s their best indication that there may be a former contestant from "The Apprentice" who`s up for and talking to the president about that South Florida job that would touch on jurisdiction for Mar-a-Lago.

That degree of closeness to the president, is that also troubling to you? If that seems to me like something that other presidents may have -- sort of had incursions into that territory as well.

BLUMENTHAL: More than troubling, it is profoundly disturbing, and I will do everything possible to block these nominations, especially if there`s no adequate explanation of the president`s meeting with them, which is in itself improper in my view under these circumstances.

MADDOW: Senator, former attorney general -- former senator and current Attorney General Jeff Sessions has announced that he would recuse himself from any matters, not specific to Russia, but any matters involving the 2016 presidential campaign because of his role in the Trump campaign. Should the attorney general make clear that he is recused from any matters that might involve for example the Kushner companies or Paul Manafort? There`s been reports -- credible reports that the Kushner family real estate business and Paul Manafort are both under investigation by U.S. attorneys offices in New York. Should Jeff Sessions make clear that he`s recused from those matters as well?

BLUMENTHAL: Unquestionably, he not only, should he must as a matter of preserving the integrity of his office. As a former United States attorney myself and then as attorney general of my state of Connecticut for 20 years, my basic rule of thumb was, if you ask the question, if you have to ask that question, you know the answer. And in this case, the mere question dictates the answer.

Certainly, with Kushner, any of the Trump properties, any issues involving them, he must recuse himself.

MADDOW: The chairman of your committee, the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator Chuck Grassley, and the top Democrat on your committee, Senator Dianne Feinstein, today announced that essentially, Democrats and Republicans on your committee are parting ways and no longer attempting to work together to investigate obstruction of justice or any other matters that were seen as under their committee`s purview on the -- on the Russia investigation.

Are those -- what`s your understanding of that decision that the chairman and the ranking member have come to and what are the implications of what they`ve just announced today?

BLUMENTHAL: My understanding is that they I have decided to go somewhat different paths, but not irreconcilably. Certainly from our standpoint, members of the committee on both sides of the aisle, I think there is a consensus that the result should be bipartisan. My hope is, it will be.

And the emphasis must be on obstruction of justice because of our oversight responsibilities regarding the FBI where Jim Comey was fired, potentially an obstruction, and over the Department of Justice and the Russian meddling with possible Trump collusion. We need to enact legislation to prevent this kind of harm from happening again if the Russians are not made to pay a price, they will do it again. Anybody colluding with them will do it again. And that has to be the focus of our committee in my view. And I`m hopeful we will have agreement on both sides of the aisle that that has to be a priority.

MADDOW: So, the legislative part of that you see as being something that you might pursue in a bipartisan way. But in terms of the investigation going forward, is the investigation as we have known it in your committee now over? Is that -- is that done, or do you anticipate there would be further bipartisan cooperation there despite what we heard today from Grassley and Feinstein?

BLUMENTHAL: I have been dismayed and frustrated by the lagging pace of our investigation. I hope maybe this method of proceeding on two tracks will break that logjam. So, far from being over, I think it is moving ahead.

MADDOW: Senator Richard Blumenthal, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee -- sir, thank you for your time tonight. I really appreciate it.

BLUMENTHAL: Thank you.

MADDOW: All right. We got much more to come here tonight. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: National Archives is the government agency in charge of keeping track of our country`s most important records. They also sometimes try to solve mysteries. For example, what were President Nixon and his chief of staff talking about just a few days after the Watergate break-in in the Oval Office when there was an inexplicable eighteen and a half minute gap in the Nixon White House tapes?

Now, Nixon`s secretary famously claimed to have accidentally erased that part of the tape when she was just randomly, lackadaisically stretched out across the office, just like normal people do all the time.

Then in 2001, the National Archives got a panel of forensic audio experts to take heroic measures to try to recover the audio from the original erased tape. After two years of trying, the National Archives announced now it couldn`t be done. But they said at the time they would preserve and keep the tape in case some future technology will make it possible someday.

Then, a few years later though, they took another whack at it. In 2009, National Archives turned to chief of staff H.R. Haldeman`s notes from that meeting. They believed a chunk of his notes were missing from the part of the discussion where the tape was erased. So, they set about using forensic technology to analyze the indentations on the pages of his notes that they did have, hoping that they might be able to uncover what had been written on a page underneath and then later thrown away about that part of the conversation.

They spent two years reading the indentations, trying to recover the missing pages. But again, they fell short, and so that big Nixonian eighteen and a half minute mystery is still a mystery, at least until the National Archives cooks up a new way to tackle it.

Tomorrow, though, the National Archives is going to do something that`s not really about an unsolved mystery, but a lot of people think it is, and it`s going to drive people in this country plumb crazy, let`s be honest. How crazy are people going to go about this tomorrow, that is maybe an answerable question with some expert advice. And that`s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: Two days after President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas, in 1963, his alleged shooter, Lee Harvey Oswald, was being escorted from the city jail to a police car, and in the basement of the Dallas PD, in police custody on his way to being put in a police car, Lee Harvey Oswald got shot and killed. And it happened on live TV.

Obviously, nobody knew it was coming, but NBC News was there in that moment they had a camera running and they caught the whole thing not on tape but on a live broadcast. And the reporter on the scene reacting and describing what he was seeing in real time was a reporter named Tom Pettit.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To Dallas, Texas, and Tom Pettit.

TOM PETTIT, NBC NEWS REPORTER: There is Lee Oswald. He`s been shot. He`s been shot. Lee Oswald has been shot. There`s a man with a gun, it`s absolute panic, absolute panic. We are in a basement of the Dallas police headquarters. Detectives have their guns drawn. Oswald has been shot. There is no question about it, Oswald has been shot.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: The reporter`s voice you hear there in that remarkable, remarkable live broadcast was the voice the late NBC news reporter Tom Pettit. Tom Pettit went on to become a very big deal political reporter. He interviewed every U.S. president after Harry Truman. He won three Emmy Awards. He won a Peabody Award. He won a Polk Award over the -- over his decades-long career.

Fast forward from then to 1991, Oliver Stone movie "JFK" had just come out. JFK Film by Oliver Stone posited a theory that it wasn`t Lee Harvey Oswald acting alone. It was a broader conspiracy and there had always been theories like that around the JFK assassination, but Oliver Stone`s movie really drove interest in them into overdrive.

Movie came out in `91, in `92, Congress passed the law, the JFK Records Act to establish a collection of records related to the assassination. The idea being that it might tamp down some of the assassination conspiracy theories.

The first batch of documents under that law were released the following year in 1993, and NBC sent Tom Pettit to the National Archives to report on the new details that were sure to turn up in those records. There`s a lot of interest, turned out to be kind of a bust.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PETTIT: The thousands of documents do show that the CIA was deeply involved in the assassination investigation. Nothing of any other CIA involvement so far. One file from 1963, KGB defector tells CIA, the assassination may have been planned by the KGB, but no evidence.

The CIA did serious investigating, moving Oswald was on the manifest of a bus trip from Mexico City to Dallas under the name H.O. Lee, but we already knew that.

From inside the Soviet Union had found blurred photos of Oswald and his wife Marina. Oswald had defected to Russia in 1959. We knew that too.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There`s nothing new in here that I have not seen or read before.

PETTIT: And some ordinary people have their curiosity aroused.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I didn`t really expect anything to see the glaring thing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m talking mafia, exiles, some CIA, maybe some generals. I think that they kill Kennedy.

PETTIT: About all the ultra secret stuff still held back by the CIA, it will be submitted to a presidential review board as soon as the White House appoints one. In any event, all those conspiracy theories will go on and on.

Tom Pettit, NBC News, Washington.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Conspiracy theories did go on and on and on.

The man who`s now president said during the campaign that Ted Cruz`s dad did it. Sure, why not?

But eventually, that presidential review board you heard Tom Pettit talking about there, eventually, that board did come together to review what he called that super-secret material that was deemed too sensitive to national security to be made public. That review board of course only fueled the conspiracy theories even further.

But here`s the thing: when they passed the JFK Records Act in 1992, Congress gave the National Archives a 25-year grace period, after which they had to release everything they had, including the thousands of pages they`d set aside as super-secret sensitive material.

The National Archives is legally obligated to release the last of those secret documents by a specific deadline and that deadline is tomorrow. National Archives says they`re complying with that legal deadline, president announced a few days ago that he`ll take no action to stop them. So, something`s coming out tomorrow.

Questions: what are we actually going to get? How much and what type of documents are these going to be? How hard is it going to be to go through these documents? And who knows what to look for if anyone? What`s the range of things we might learn that we didn`t know before?

And honestly, given how insane we have been as a country on this subject for more than years now, how crazy are people who are crazy about this subject likely to go tomorrow? Whether or not you`re invested in this story as many people are, should we be bracing ourselves so what the reactions going to be?

Joining us now is Phillip Shenon. He`s the former "New York Times" reporter and the author of "A Cruel and Shocking Act: A Secret History of the Kennedy Assassination".

Mr. Shenon, thank you very much for being here. Really appreciate your time.

PHILIP SHENON, FORMER NEW YORK TIMES REPORTER: My pleasure, Rachel.

MADDOW: To that first question I asked -- just a logistical issue of what`s being released, how much of it it will be, what types of documents, I wanted you -- to ask you about that specifically because you`ve written recently that you expect tomorrow to be a logistical nightmare? Why is that?

SHENON: I mean, I think it has the potential to be a mess. We`re talking about tens if not hundreds of thousands of documents released online all at the same time, millions of people around the world trying to get access to them.

When the National Archives tried a much smaller release of these documents over the summer, their Website went down and we couldn`t download anything for days. We`re talking about a much larger universe of documents tomorrow. Let`s see if the technology holds up.

MADDOW: And that earlier release early this summer was something like 400 documents, 400 pages of material?

SHENON: Right.

MADDOW: How -- do we know the number of pages of material or the number of documents they`re going to release tomorrow?

SHENON: We do. So, 400 over the summer, 3,100 documents tomorrow, we`ve never seen before and on top of that 30,000 documents that had been released previously in part that will be released in full. So, again tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of pages.

MADDOW: Did the National Archives have choice in terms of the way they release these things? Could they have released these things in a more staggered or organized or curated way, or does the law require them to just dump it all at once tomorrow?

SHENON: Well, we know that earlier this year, the Archives had talked about releasing all these documents in batches over the course of the year, which would have been a much better way of doing that -- certainly for researchers, anybody trying to make sense of this material.

They abandoned that plan I think because the White House couldn`t make a decision about which documents they might hold back. I still don`t know if they`ve made that decision.

MADDOW: In terms of the decisions that have been made over the years about what documents to hold back and the fact that those documents previously held back will be released tomorrow, what should we expect in terms of the types of documents -- the types of information that`s been previously retained that`s now going to be released? What new are we likely to see in terms of the types of government information we haven`t previously had access to?

SHENON: Well, I think a lot of information is going to emerge and again it may take months or years even for us to figure this out entirely.

But I think a lot of documents are going to be released tomorrow that will reflect just how much the government knew. The FBI and CIA knew about Lee Harvey Oswald.

You know, immediately after the assassination, those agencies tried to pretend that Oswald was this pure lone wolf who never could have been stopped in his plot to kill the president. The truth seems to be based on documents that have been declassified over the last 50 years, that actually those two agencies knew a lot about Oswald, including the fact that he may have been talking openly about killing the president weeks before the assassination. And the question is, did they bungle that information?

It`s kind of like 9/11, did they have a lot of intelligence they should have acted on but didn`t?

MADDOW: Last question for you and I respect that the way that I`m asking this, I`m asking just for a subjective gut answer here -- how crazy do you think people are going to go about this tomorrow? I mean, let`s assume that people can get access to the documents and that there isn`t such pandemonium, such a logistical fiasco that people actually can access the material, are you expecting quite a bit of upset tomorrow?

SHENON: Well, I think there`s going to be a lot of frustration because a lot of people, especially laymen just aren`t going to understand these documents. They`re going to be filled with CIA and FBI codename and pseudonyms some of them written in foreign languages. I think they`re going to be very tough to understand.

But I`ll tell you though, for the armies of conspiracy theories around the country, this is Christmas tomorrow and there will be lots of documents for them to seize on, to suggest that their conspiracy theories are true.

MADDOW: Philip Shenon, an author of "A Cruel and Shocking Act", a secret history the Kennedy assassination -- I know this is an important night for you to be getting your sleep as well. Thank you for helping us understand this tonight. Appreciate it.

SHENON: Thank you.

MADDOW: All right. Still ahead, the federal government gave us an answer tonight that has me wondering why I ask since now I`m more confused than ever. But I`ll tell you about what we got out of them coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: As we enter the sixth week since Hurricane Maria made landfall at Puerto Rico, I want to put a flag on a part of what`s going wrong there that is worrying -- it`s at least worrying to me on top of everything else we know about the lack of electricity and the lack of running water, and the compromised the hospitals and all the rest of it.

The death toll that`s being attributed to Hurricane Maria right now is 51. But we are starting the sixth week since the storm hit and so people who are dying now in Puerto Rico are not dying because of the strength of the storm. They`re dying because of the weakness of the response to the storm by the federal government.

Of the 51 deaths listed on the official rolls, three of those deaths have been attributed to a treatable infection you get from not having access to running water, from having to rely on open air sources of water like rivers and streams. Leptospirosis has officially claimed three lives in Puerto Rico since the storm.

But there`s now some evidence that the number of Puerto Ricans who are getting sick from and dying of Leptospirosis, it may be on the rise. The state epidemiologist for Puerto Rico now says there are at least 76 cases that are being investigated to see if they are Leptospirosis. They`re suspected cases, they`re being checked to see if they can be confirmed as Lepto.

That includes two deaths confirmed through lab testing and, quote, several other deaths that are pending test results. And the 76 cases being investigated are up from 74 cases that we are told they`re being investigated last week. We don`t know how many of those current 76 cases are people who have died from this waterborne disease, but we`re trying to track that number down.

It`s up to the Centers for Disease Control to determine if these cases are indeed Lepto. We contacted the CDC tonight to try to find out if this disease really is becoming a significant source of mortality on the island because of the lack of running water. The CDC told us that they are testing samples from Puerto Rico, to see if they are Leptospirosis.

But other than that, they told us this, quote: Please contact the Puerto Rico department of health for information.

Well, we reached out to the Puerto Rico Department of Health that we are waiting to hear back. As you might imagine, communications are still tough at this point. They`re the ones have referred us to the CDC in the first place.

One local Puerto Rican paper is reporting today in the more than 70 cases being investigated as possible Lepto, quote, the government still does not consider it an outbreak or an epidemic.

But just stick a flag in this, if some or all of these 76 suspected cases of Lepto turn out to be Lepto and fatal cases of it, then the response to this storm will have entered a very serious and bad new phase.

Again, the death toll right now is listed at 51, but we`re going to keep chasing this. And at the very least, honestly, whoever`s in charge of this recovery should start to answer some questions about it.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: That does it for us but there`s one thing I want to tell you about concerning tomorrow night`s RACHEL MADDOW SHOW.

Senator Richard Blumenthal told us tonight live on the air he has high hopes that even though the Senate Judiciary Committee leadership announced today that they`re no longer going to work together on the Russia investigation and Democrats and Republicans are going to go their own way, tomorrow night on this show, we are going to have a special report on a very specific problem that`s going on in that committee that has not received any national media attention, that may be a part of why that committee is blowing up right now.

That committee blowing up right now means a significant part of the Russia investigation is blowing up right now. But we`re going to have a special report on tomorrow night`s show and that`s your fair warning.

Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL".

Good evening, Lawrence.

END

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