Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW Date: October 26, 2017.
Guest: Philip Shenon, Brigitte Amiri
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: On the nose, zero, zero, zero, zero! You`re my idol on so many things, among them timing. Thank you very much, Joy.
JOY REID, MSNBC HOST, A.M. JOY: Cheers.
MADDOW: And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
You know what? They blew it! We sort of knew they -- at least, as an abstract matter, we sort of knew they might blow it. Sort of expected that.
But then, you know what, I was lulled into a -- the opposite of complacency. I was lulled into a sense of excitement. Because they, themselves seemed so excited about it.
And the White House kind of went out on a limb about how excited the president was personally about it. So, even though I knew better, it seemed for a second like, OK, maybe this thing is a priority for them. Maybe this one means so much to them, that this one, on this one thing, they will actually get it done.
They did not get it done. I should have known. The hype started last Saturday morning when they announced they were going to go ahead with the last remaining files from the JFK assassination. Then, on Wednesday, yesterday, the president tweeted about it again. He clearly wants to keep people focused on this. He seems personally excited about it.
And then there was this interesting spectacle yesterday afternoon, where the day before the JFK assassination files are going to be released. All right, these are not just JFK files. These are files about him being killed in Dallas in 1963.
The day before the release of those files, the White House yesterday had Trump fly into Dallas, like JFK had done on the day of his assassination. They had Trump fly in specifically to Love Field, which is where JFK flew in to Dallas on the day of his assassination. They had the president do a reception rope line on the tarmac, which presidents do not often do these days. But Trump did it yesterday in Dallas at Love Field, right where JFK did it in Dallas at Love Field on the day that he was killed.
And that was either really bad staff work that they didn`t notice that exact logistical parallel they were setting up for our current president yesterday, or if it was on purpose, that they put him at a rope line at Love Field in Dallas on the occasion of the release of these files. If they did that on purpose, that was super creepy.
But the president himself has entertained his own conspiracy theories about Kennedy`s assassination. Remember his idea was that Ted Cruz`s dad did it? Sure.
He`s also, of course, promoted lots of other conspiracy theories too, including the idea that President Obama was a fake baby. He was just a stunt baby in Hawaii, because the real baby, Barack Obama, was in Africa, right?
So, he -- he`s a conspiracy theory-minded guy. But when the president was tweeting about the JFK release yesterday, he not only made up a hashtag for the event, #jfkfiles, he also said that the release of the #jfkfiles was going to be so interesting!
And that characterization from the president made it seem like maybe the president had even seen what is in these new files that are about to be released. And so, maybe he`s making some characterization as to what is in them.
Well, we don`t know, because they blew it, because they blew it. In 1992, Congress passed a law that requires the National Archives to release all of the remaining documents in their possession related to the JFK assassination and related to the investigation into the assassination. They have to release all of the documents, including the several thousand documents that had previously been held back by the government as too sensitive for the public to see.
By law, by that law that was passed in 1992, they are supposed to release, completely, every word. Now, what if there`s information in those files that is still so sensitive for the public to see? Even more than a half century down the road?
Well, on the odd chance that the national security elements of the federal government really think that there`s something in those files that`s too sensitive to be let out -- well, that`s part of the gig of managing the release of these documents from the federal government. I mean, to be clear, under the letter of the law, if the president wants to just let all of this stuff out with zero reductions, can do. That`s what the law says.
But if there is something in these files that the FBI or the CIA or some other government agency really wants redacted, they really don`t want it out there, they say it would be dangerous to let it out, then part of the work of dealing with this release of document that is the administration has to account for that. They have to arrange the redactions to happen before the release date.
Remember, the release date is mandated by law. So, you have to arrange for all the work around the redactions to get done. And this is not like an -- this is not an abstract concept about the law here. This is actually a job, which requires people to do it. It takes time and effort. It takes reading comprehension skills. Probably takes some office supplies. I mean, it`s actual work that real humans need to do by a deadline.
And, of course, as we all know, work is hard. And the Trump administration apparently forgot about the work part of their responsibilities here and they just didn`t do it. I mean, this was supposed to be released today.
By law, this is release day. The president, the White House, they appear to have really thought it was going to be release day, right? They did the tweets. They sent Trump to do his "act like JFK" act on the rope line at Love Field tarmac yesterday and everything. But when the clock struck midnight last night and no documents were released.
And then this morning rolled around and nothing was released. And then today rolled on and nothing us released, finally, NBC News this afternoon got U.S. intelligence officials to admit to them that, yes, the work didn`t -- the documents spelling out what`s supposed to be redacted, that didn`t get finished. Or maybe the dog ate it. But it wasn`t ready to go.
At 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time, the National Archives told the online archivist Russ Kick from the Memory Hole Website said that the JFK document release was not going to be canceled today, but they also said, quote, we currently do not have a time frame. Again, that was close of business today. The law says this has to happen today, all the documents.
And then later this evening, the Trump White House had to issue a new order on this subject saying, OK, let`s shoot for April 2018 instead. Maybe that`s a more realistic idea.
So, some documents, they did post tonight. This is not the release they were supposed to be making tonight. We`re going to be talking with an expert in just a few minutes about what went wrong here today and what we did get. What subset of documents we did finally get after 7:30 p.m. tonight, when they finally posted a subset of the documents.
I mean, what happened here big picture is that they -- they blew it, right? They just didn`t get the work done. Nothing surprising happened today which resulted in this getting messed up. And it`s not like nobody couldn`t -- it`s nothing that nobody could see this deadline coming for 25 years.
I mean, today`s date was set in law 25 years ago. But the Trump administration had no idea. They thought you just make the announcement on Twitter and then it`s done, right?
If you are not a fan of this president or of the goals of this administration, you can sort of take your pick as to how to look at this recurring dynamic in the administration. It is either terrible news to you, or it`s great news to you, that the Trump administration really cannot seem to get things done that they are trying to do. They set their mind to stuff. They set their Twitter feed to stuff. They announce stuff.
You know, sometimes it`s serious stuff. Sometimes it`s stupid stuff. But on everything, from, you know, repealing Obamacare to spelling the name of the British prime minister, it just -- it just -- they can`t get it done.
So I feel like we have to kind of rewire our national media expectations a little bit. We have to rewire at least political media. I think political media, Beltway media, for good reason, is conditioned to cover policy and politics in this country, in large part by figuring out what the administration wants to do, what their intentions are, if there are splits within this administration, who`s going to win the fight within the administration, right?
There`s tons of -- tons of shoe leather, tons of ink spilled in the political press on what the goals are of the administration. What their plans are. That`s what makes up a significant portion of American political media, because in a normal administration, that tells you what`s going to happen. In this administration, though, figuring out what they want to do or even what they think they`re doing, that doesn`t necessarily have any relation to what actually gets done.
We`re going to release all the JFK files! We have to do work to make that happen? We`ll do it in April. I mean, that was the JFK thing tonight -- here`s another one from today`s news. You might remember in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010. It emerged that the oil companies that were drilling gulf at that time, they were supposed to have detailed emergency response plans in place in case anything went wrong with one of these underwater drilling rigs.
But when a true disaster, in fact, happened at one of those rigs, it turns out their emergency response plans were ridiculous. Their plans specifically for the Gulf of Mexico, for example, went into great detail about how people on scene should call this one scientist in particular for advice on one important point about the response to an oil spill. That scientist listed in the emergency response plan was years dead.
The oil companies also suggested detailed protocols in their emergency response plans for how local walruses should be protected from any spilled oil. Now, walruses are, of course, adorable, and everybody wants walruses to be safe in the event of an oil spill. But walruses live in the Arctic! It`s like in the garanimal set, it`s polar bears and walruses together. That`s why they have those cute little beards. They get cold, right?
Walruses don`t live in all of the Gulf of Mexico. So what are they doing in all of the oil companies` Gulf of Mexico emergency plans? No, really, what are they doing there, CEO of Exxon?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ED MARKEY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Mr. Tillerson, like the "p" on page 11- 6 of your plan, ExxonMobil`s Gulf of Mexico`s oil spill response plan lists walruses under sensitive biological and human resources. As I`m sure you know, there aren`t any walruses in the Gulf of Mexico and there have not been for 3 million years. How can ExxonMobil have walruses in their response plan for the Gulf of Mexico?
REX TILLERSON, EXXONMOBIL CEO: Congressman Markey, those response plans incorporate a number of broad-based studies, marine mammal studies.
MARKEY: These are regional --
TILLERSON: I understand.
MARKEY: -- oil spill response plans. How can walruses be in a response plan for the Gulf of Mexico? This is a regional response plan that each of you had to put together.
TILLERSON: I understand the question. And it`s unfortunate that walruses were included. And it`s an embarrassment that they were included.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Before Rex Tillerson was Donald Trump`s secretary of state, he was an Exxon CEO embarrassed about his walruses. Part of that terrible disaster in the gulf was the fact that the industry was completely unprepared to deal with the harm that they could cause. When the company`s plans for dealing with that type of disaster were dug up, it showed how much they did not care, and how much they actually weren`t ready for that kind of disaster. Because that stupid plan, even if they had followed it, might have saved the walruses, had there been any there, but it wasn`t a real plan for dealing with this kind of catastrophe.
Well, right now -- that was 2010. Right now, we have a different kind of ongoing, long-running disaster in our country. And this time it`s not a company that has explaining to do about a response, it`s the federal government that has explaining to do. "ProPublica" has an important scoop today about FEMA and the hurricane response plan for Puerto Rico that was prepared by FEMA.
Now, the good news is that FEMA, reportedly, had a detailed, long, granular hurricane response plan for a large storm hitting Puerto Rico. That`s fascinating news, because if FEMA did have a detailed, more than 100-page long granular plan on how to defend Puerto Rico after getting hit by a major hurricane, it`s hard to believe that what FEMA`s actually done in response to this actual hurricane wasn`t according to that or any plan, right? Six weeks without electricity or running waters, 3.5 million Americans put back into the Stone Ages for going on two months now. I mean, that seems like something you wouldn`t plan to do in the wake of a storm of any size.
So, assuming this did not go according to plan, what was FEMA`s plan for how they were supposed to handle a catastrophe like this?
"ProPublica" has just today discovered that that`s a secret. FEMA initially said, oh, sure, we`ll send you our Puerto Rico hurricane response plan. They later decided that their hurricane response plan for Puerto Rico is, quote, potentially sensitive. And so, therefore, they will not release it.
Other FEMA hurricane response plans for other parts of the country, like Hawaii, those you can get. But Puerto Rico? No, now secret.
As Puerto Rico stretches into its sixth week of disaster, with only one in ten schools reopening, with power and water still knocked out, with a suspect death toll that nobody trusts, who knows if they`re following FEMA`s plan. So good on "ProPublica" for trying to pry whatever the plan was supposed to be out of FEMA. But apparently, they are just not going to let that out under the Freedom of Information Act. It`s going to take other kinds of fighting to get access to that information. Watch that space.
We saw the same kind of management skills on display on another incredibly serious ongoing national disaster in our country today. The opioid crisis. You might have had a little deja vu about the D.C. news today about opioids. If you felt like, haven`t I seen these headlines before? Haven`t I heard this before?
It`s because on August 10th, President Trump kind of offhandedly, casually surprised everybody by declaring the opioid crisis to be a national emergency. He surprised everybody by saying it, but he did take care to say that it was an official proclamation when he made that statement.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The opioid crisis is an emergency and I`m saying officially, right now, it is an emergency. It`s a national emergency.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: President Trump said that on August 10th. But you know what? He never signed anything to actually make it official. When people followed up with the president and the White House to find out what it meant, what were the consequences of him declaring, officially, this national emergency, because that`s a technical thing that means something in U.S. government. When people tried to follow up and get the written declaration, the written version of the statement from the president, to get the documentation from the White House as to how this declared national emergency would be effectuated and handled by the federal government -- the answer from the White House was that the White House staff was working on that paperwork.
The president made his supposedly official declaration August 10th. Turns out White House staff were not working on the paperwork. Nothing ever happened in response to the president randomly making what he called an official declaration of a national emergency. That was just apparently something he liked the sound of, so he said it. But they didn`t follow up and do the work.
And we got all the way through the end of August with no news on what was supposed to come of that national emergency. We got all the way through September. We got this far through October. Nothing.
In recent days, the White House said the president would again, this time for real, declare a national emergency around opioids. He did not.
National emergency is a specific official act by the president and by the federal government that results, among other things, in an allocation of funds from the agency in our government that deals with national emergencies, which is the Federal Emergency Management Agency, FEMA. The same folks who I`m sure had a beautiful printed plan for how to help Puerto Rico.
The president had previously said he was declaring a national emergency. That means, among other things, money. He said that`s what he was doing in August. He apparently didn`t mean it. And he said something else today. And they said it was going to be a national emergency, but that isn`t what he said.
Today, he did not declare a national emergency. He instead declared a public health emergency, which sounds similar, but that one comes with no funding, to do anything about this emergency, that the president has now twice proclaimed, without doing anything to back it up.
Whether you like what the Trump administration is trying to do or not, this is a new dynamic at work. And I think that the press corps isn`t wired to handle it. And it`s not their fault, because it`s not the way things usually work. We`ve never really seen that before in a presidency where the president and the White House take kind of a wishing and hoping ruby slippers approach to the major responsibilities of the federal government.
Just because you say you`re going to do something or you say that something will be done, it doesn`t just magically happen by you clicking your heels together and putting it on Twitter. There`s actual tangible human labor that has to go into making things happen in government. And it`s important for the credibility of the United States of America that when a president says something is done or something is going to be done, that means the work will actually be done to make that true.
But that`s not true. It`s regularly not true, in this administration. And that`s -- it`s a serious thing for a president to proclaim something as a done deal, even when the president is speaking offhandedly at a press briefing, or randomly tweeting something before dawn, right? That`s -- it`s still important, if it`s the words of a president.
But it`s particularly important when the way a president says something is going to be done is that he signs a law declaring that that thing will be done and requiring him, under U.S. law, to do that thing. It`s one thing if he tweets sympathetic or makes an offhand comment and then doesn`t follow through. If he signs a law that says he`s doing something and then doesn`t do it? That`s the case with the only significant piece of legislation that Trump has signed since he has become president. It`s a remarkable thing.
And I think sort of an undercovered thing. And again, it may give you pleasure if you`re a person who doesn`t like this president or his agenda. But with unified Republican control of government for 10 months now, they really have passed zero major legislation, of any kind. The most substantive legislation, in some counts, the only substantive legislation that has been passed is sanctions legislation, which passed by a veto-proof margin, even though the president didn`t favor the bill.
He didn`t have a choice, basically, to veto it, because the overwhelming number of votes that the bill got. But it was sanctions legislation to punish Russia for having muddled in our presidential election last year. It imposed new sanctions on Russia for that. And that`s not just something the government said it wanted to do, that`s something the president didn`t just say he wanted to do, he signed a law that said that he was required to do it.
But the deadline for starting those new sanctions was October 1st. October 1st, 2017. October 1st, as in 25 days ago. And the administration just tonight, 3 1/2 weeks later, got around to making their first list of parts of the Russian government that might end up being on that sanctions list. Yes, no rush. It`s just the law. You`re almost a month late.
So -- and that`s all just stuff that happened today. There`s an underappreciated element in this administration. And you can really see it on a day like today. And I mean, the best -- the best fake word I can come up with to describe it is nonperformance. They say they`re going to do stuff, they say they are doing stuff, and then they just don`t follow through. They don`t do it.
Even when the president has personally put himself out on a limb to express his enthusiasm for this thing, he then does not get done, even when it`s a serious, mortal disaster for millions of Americans, even when it`s something he declares he has officially done when he done nothing and plans to do nothing, and even when it`s something that`s required by law. And sometimes I think their blatant nonperformance is because their required to do stuff they really don`t want to do.
But honestly, I think some of it is just because they can`t get it together. They can`t get it together to do the human work necessary to accomplish the things they say they are doing. But in light of that widespread, recurrent, even constant problem across this administration, it makes it all the more remarkable when it turns out there is something they are doing in government, that they are doing with diligence and efficiency, almost ruthless effectiveness.
And we have that story ahead tonight. It`s actually something the administration doesn`t much want to talk about, but they were forced to today in part because of a 17-year-old girl who beat them in court. And that story is coming up.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: The deadline for the National Archives to release its final batch of secret records related to the Kennedy assassination is a date that has been on the calendar for 25 years. Didn`t sneak up on anyone. After the president said publicly that, in fact, that release would happen. That on October 26th, 2017, they would release all of those records, the anticipation really started building for the last few weeks now, from the media, from the president of the United States himself, hyping it on Twitter.
But then, today is the 26th, and all day long, nothing happened. Nothing was released. And then well past the close of business, the White House released a new statement saying the new deadline for everything is next April, 2018. And just past 7:30 tonight, they did release a portion of the documents that were expected to be released today.
So, two questions. Anything interesting in what did get released? And what went wrong here?
I mean, we thought it might be a fiasco of the order like, they`re crashing the Website, there`s so much interest. We did not expect to have nothing until 7:30 and then a weird proportion of the documents which was not what was supposed to be released. How did they blow this? And why?
Joining us now is Philip Shenon, former "New York Times" reporter and author of "A Cruel and Shocking Act: The Secret History of the Kennedy Assassination."
Mr. Shenon, welcome back. Great to have you back with us again.
PHILIP SHENON, AUTHOR, "A CRUEL AND SHOCKING ACT": Thank you.
MADDOW: I felt like you spoke with unusual clarity last night in terms of telling us what to expect about what might go wrong today. I still did not anticipate that what might go wrong today is that we wouldn`t get anything until 7:30 and then it would be only a little portion of the documents.
Do you have any sense of what went wrong today?
SHENON: What a mess. This is the worst possible scenario.
Apparently, there really has been a mess at the White House for the last couple of weeks. Even as President Trump was tweeting out these assurances to the American people that he was going to open up this vast library of secret documents, there was these wild negotiations going on within the administration, the CIA and the FBI and apparently the State Department, going to the White House saying, no, no, no, you can`t release these documents. It appears nobody told that to the president, however.
MADDOW: In terms of the FBI and the CIA and the State Department, do we know, I guess two questions about that. Do we know the character of their objections, in terms of what they wanted held back? And do we know why that process of them expressing those objections and those things being litigated somehow, why that wasn`t handled in advance?
Again, this deadline has been there for 25 years. Everybody knew it was coming.
SHENON: Well, the second part of your question -- I mean, this has been under discussion within government agencies for years and years and years. They knew this was coming. I mean, there have been people assigned to this task for a very long time.
What seems to have happened is that most of those agencies decided months ago what documents they wanted held back and I guess that was communicated to the White House, to some extent. But apparently, there was no effort within the White House to actually organize those appeals. So, this really was handled at the last minute today, apparently, these appeals documents were landing on the president`s desk just this afternoon.
MADDOW: Wow. Do we know anything about what the -- what the -- how the contention works there? Like, let`s say the CIA wants something left out of the released documents. Who argues on the other side of it? Is it an adversarial process? Or do the agencies just get what they want?
SHENON: Well, I`ve got to say, your guess is as good as mine. But I think probably the White House general counsel`s office was involved. President Trump had said he wanted to be a champion of transparency here in releasing these documents. There may have been the assumption that these documents would be released.
But again, nobody seems to have focused on it. It just seems to have been a mishmash of mismanagement over there the last several of weeks on a very important issue.
MADDOW: In terms of what was released, have you found anything that you find to be of interest?
SHENON: Well, nobody`s had any time yet. I mean, I know reporters and citizens all across this country are now trying to pore through these things.
I will tell you something that`s very important that I can just see from the spreadsheet of what documents have been released. We have some idea of what`s out there.
So, there were two big piles of documents. There were something like 30,000 documents we`d seen before, that had been released in part. We`ve seen portions of those documents before. And then there were 3,100 sort of super-secret documents.
And I`ll tell you very, very few of the super-secret documents are out there tonight. Though, they remain, tonight, super secret.
MADDOW: So the stuff people were really hoping for hasn`t come out and now it may be April.
SHENON: Well, and will it come out at all? We now know that these agencies feel very strongly that it must not come out. So, I think there`s a good possibility we`re never going to see some of this material.
MADDOW: Philip Shenon, former "New York Times" reporter, the author of "A Cruel and Shocking Act: Secret History of the Kennedy Assassination" -- I have to tell you, it`s hard to find someone to talk to about this who is both clear in speaking but also super level-headed about it. As you know, this is an excitable topic. Thank you for being a voice of sanity for us on this. I really appreciate it.
SHENON: My pleasure.
MADDOW: All right. We have a lot to get to tonight. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Have you ever had friends who have been together for a while, but even then late in their relationship, they start having issues. And you know, you`re friends with them, so you try to be supportive and listen to both sides.
A political version of that played out on Capitol Hill today between the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Chuck Grassley, and the top Democrat on that committee, Dianne Feinstein, after it was reported that the two have decided to go their separate ways when it comes to their committee`s Russia investigation.
So, Senator Grassley, tell us what went wrong.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY (R-IA), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: I`m doing what I do. She wants to do what she wants to do. And then we`re doing a lot of things together.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: She wants to do what she wants to do.
But you know, there are two sides to every story.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D-CA), RANKING MEMBER, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: I think he has interests in proceeding in a different way. I think you need to talk to him about it. I am disappointed and I hope that as some time goes by, we`ll be able to work things out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Even when you`re both octogenarians, breaking up is hard to do. So why are Grassley and Feinstein taking a break? There is a weird possibility that it involves another woman. I`m not kidding. That story is coming up.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: It`s the kind of story that almost sounds made-up. An 81-year-old political operative confesses to a national reporter. He says he tried to collude with the Russians in order to help Republicans win the White House. He went on a mad hunt for what he believed were thousands of Hillary Clinton e-mails that had been hacked and stolen, maybe, by the Russians.
He believed those e-mails would be political gold if he could get his hands on them. The operative told people that he was working closely with key Trump supporters and the Trump campaign, including Trump national security adviser, Michael Flynn.
That 81-year-old operative, Peter Smith, confesses all of this to a newspaper reporter for the "Wall Street Journal" and then Peter Smith dies. Ten days later, an apparent suicide. Crazy story. A real story, but, admittedly, crazy sounding.
Last week, we learned that the special counsel investigation led by Robert Mueller has interviewed somebody who Peter Smith reached out to for help in his crazy-seeming quest. So has the House Intelligence Committee. And now, the Senate Intelligence Committee has asked for and has begun to receive documents from the estate of the late Peter Smith.
So, yes, it is a crazy-sounding story, but it is now an active part of the investigation, both at the special counsel level and in the intelligence committees.
Now, here`s the twist. You see here, Barbara Ledeen, long-time well-known conservative activist. She`s married, incidentally, to Michael Ledeen, who last year wrote a book with Trump national security adviser, Mike Flynn, who, of course is now the subject of many of the similar parallel criminal investigations as to what went on with the Trump campaign in Russia.
Turns out that during the lead up to the 2016 presidential campaign, Barbara Ledeen, like old Peter Smith, Barbara Ledeen, she, too, launched her own private investigation into trying to get Hillary Clinton`s e-mails. And the reason we know that is because her quest ended up in redacted FBI files. And this month, a source told "The Guardian" newspaper that, yes, the person behind that private investigation described in these FBI files, that private investigation into the Clinton e-mail server, that person is Barbara Ledeen.
And that`s newsworthy and that`s the part that somebody in Congress really ought to explain, because in addition to the special counsel`s Trump/Russia investigation, we`ve got these three committees on Capitol Hill that have their own Russia investigations going on now for months, right, House Intelligence, Senate Intelligence, Senate Judiciary.
Barbara Ledeen works for the Senate Judiciary Committee. She works for the chair of that committee, for Republican Senator Chuck Grassley. Barbara Ledeen was a Senate judiciary staffer, not just while her husband was writing a book with Mike Flynn, who`s at the center of this investigation, but also while she was mounting her own private investigation into Hillary Clinton`s e-mails.
She remains a Senate Judiciary staffer now. Her efforts to track down foreign hackers getting into Hillary Clinton`s e-mails, that may very well have been the same effort that the late Peter Smith was involved in, or it may have been her own separate investigation that just followed along the same lines.
But either way, that is a strange situation for Senator Grassley and his Senate Judiciary Committee to be in, right? Now that the Senate Intelligence Committee down the hall and the House Intelligence Committee and the special counsel`s office are all showing interest in these conservative activists seeking out foreign hackers to try to find Hillary Clinton`s e-mails, in all of those other committees and in the special counsel`s office, they`re interviewing people with firsthand knowledge of those efforts. They`re going so far to as obtain documents from a dead man`s estates about those efforts.
And the Senate Judiciary Committee has a staff member onboard, who is also involved in that same kind of effort herself? While everybody else is investigating that?
We did hear back from Senator Grassley`s press secretary today, confirming again that it was Barbara Ledeen who works for the Senate Judiciary Committee. She is works in the judicial nominations unit. Senator Grassley`s spokesperson told us, quote, she has not had access to any of the committee`s investigative materials, other than through public records. The spokesperson also told us, quote, she was instructed not to do any further follow up on this project of hers once the committee learned of her involvement.
They have not yet told us when they learned of this private investigation that she was running or why they asked her to cut it out. But all of this comes to light as the Senate Judiciary Committee`s Russia investigation really does appear to have blown up. As we reported last night and heard a bit more about moments ago, Chuck Grassley and Dianne Feinstein have agreed that they`ll stop working together on the Trump/Russia investigation, reportedly because Senator Grassley wants to investigate the Clintons and the Obama administration and Senator Feinstein wants to focus on Trump and Russia.
The Trump/Russia investigations on Capitol Hill have been fraught and contentious from the beginning. But now, one of them does appear to be over. Senator Feinstein saying the Democrats have, quote, made the decision to go and carry it ourselves. They can go ahead and do whatever it is they wanted to do.
Senator Grassley today insists that this is not over. That there will still be cooperation between the two sides. When reporters asked Senator Feinstein what she intends to do differently, she told reporters today, quote, you will find out. You will find out.
Watch this space.
MADDOW: It`s hard to get an abortion in the state of Texas, even if you`re an adult and a U.S. citizen, even though it`s your constitutional right to get one. But if you`re a 17-year-old teenager and you`re undocumented and you`re in Texas in the Trump administration, in a child refugee shelter -- well, in that case, it ends up being national news if you want to get an abortion.
Health and Human Services is the agency that Tom Price used to run before he was forced to resign under a cloud of corruption. The Office of Refugee Resettlement is part of HHS and that`s the department that runs the refugee shelter in Texas where the young woman was being held. They call her Jane Doe in the case. We don`t know her real name.
The Office of Refugee Resettlement is run by a guy called E. Scott Lloyd. He was appointed to his position by President Trump in March. No Senate confirmation needed. Mr. Lloyd is a long time anti-abortion and anti- contraception activist. And he was a strange choice to pick to run the Office of Refugee Resettlements, since he has zero experience with refugee resettlement.
Mr. Lloyd also does not have any sort of background in medicine or counseling, but we now know that at your expense, at taxpayer expense, he apparently flew himself down to Texas from Washington, D.C., so he could personally intervene with a pregnant, undocumented teenager in a shelter run by the federal government to pressure her into not having an abortion.
He was questioned about his use of time and federal resources at a hearing in the House today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Lloyd, do you have medical training of any kind?
E. SCOTT LLOYD, OFFICE OF REFUGEE RESETTLEMENT: I, I -- if I need advice regarding any medical situation, regarding any of the populations I serve, I consult the medical team.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, the answer is, no, you don`t have any medical of any kind?
LLOYD: No, I don`t.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you trained to give counseling services to young people, Mr. Lloyd?
LLOYD: Again, if counseling services are called for, then I rely on the team of counseling professionals to advise me in my role.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Mr. Lloyd explaining that he has no medical background, no counseling background. Nevertheless, as the head of this federal agency, he personally decided that he would intervene to go counsel a pregnant teenager in a facility run by his agency.
When Jane Doe first asked shelter staff for help obtaining an abortion in September, shelter staff did not take her to a clinic where she could have the procedure. They instead took her to a Christian crisis pregnancy center. The sole stated purpose of crisis pregnancy centers is to try to talk women out of having abortions. That`s it. That`s all they do.
"Vice News" to their credit got an interview with Jane Doe recently and here`s how she described that experience.
(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)
MADDOW: They brought me to the clinic and they prayed for me. At what she thought was the clinic, it all ended with them praying over her because when she was trying to obtain an abortion, that`s what they told her was the clinic. That`s where they took her from the federal government shelter.
It took a team of lawyers fighting for this young woman, Jane Doe, took three separate court decisions, all the way up to a panel of judges at the federal appeals court before this girl, the federal government, in this girl`s case, the federal government could be stopped basically. I mean, I don`t know if they were going to physically keep her in custody and prevent her from getting a clinic until she gave birth against her will. But honestly, they gave every indication that that was their plan.
Jane Doe`s case is now over. She was able to get an abortion finally yesterday. But it`s not just her case. It turns out.
By the official HHS count, they tell us there were 38 pregnant girls being held by the Office of Refugee Resettlement as of March. Seven months ago. We don`t how many girls on the list currently. We don`t know how many of the original 38 may have been forced by the federal government to keep pregnancies they did not want.
Joining us is Brigitte Amiri. She`s a senior staff attorney at the ACLU. She`s the attorney who represented Jane Doe in the case.
Ms. Amiri, thanks very much for your time tonight.
BRIGITTE AMIRI, ACLU SENIOR STAFF ATTORNEY: Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: First, let me ask you, if it is -- in our coverage of this case, we have focused on the Office of Refugee Resettlement in this new leadership at the agency, because it feels like they have taken a new personally motivated crusading attitude toward this issue. And that seems like a fresh turn in federal policy. Is that accurate? Is that your understanding?
AMIRI: That`s absolutely accurate. Starting in March 2017 when Scott Lloyd took office he made it his personal mission to obstruct, interfere with access to abortion for unaccompanied immigrant minors based on his personal background, having nothing to do with the rule of law or the best interest of these minors.
MADDOW: Now, is it clear that this woman in this situation, 16-year-old, 17-year-old girl finds out she`s pregnant in custody, is it clear that she has a legal right to get this procedure done?
AMIRI: Absolutely. Since 1973, the Supreme Court has made crystal clear that the government cannot ban abortion and that`s exactly what they did for Jane Doe. They prohibited the shelter where she was staying transporting her for any abortion-related appointments. They were literally holding her hostage, blocking the door, preventing her from obtaining an abortion.
The government wouldn`t transport her. They wouldn`t let the shelter transport her. She had a court-appointed guardian willing to take her to the procedure and they also prohibited her from taking her, as well.
MADDOW: Is this a matter of paying for it? Is this an argument of the whether or not the federal government should be expending resources to facilitate or pay for her abortion?
AMIRI: It is not. She had raised private funds to pay for the procedure itself and the guardian was willing to transport her. So, literally, this is about the government stepping aside and allowing this young woman to access the abortion she decided that she wanted to have.
MADDOW: Because if they didn`t step aside, they`re physically forcing her to bring a pregnancy to term she doesn`t want to have.
AMIRI: Correct, and I do believe that that was their goal, to hold her hostage until she carried the pregnancy to term against her will. If we had not intervened, that would have happened.
MADDOW: Is the -- for young women, for girl who is are in this similar situation right now, we have no way of knowing from HHS, how many girls are in this situation, is the case that you were able to win here, which resulted in her finally get the abortion yesterday, is it binding precedent? Will this guide what happens to other girls?
AMIRI: Well, the case keeps going. We have a class action request pending with the district court and we`re also seeking a preliminary injunction as to the class. So, we`re trying to strike down the policy to make sure that this doesn`t happen to anyone ever again.
MADDOW: If this is happening -- in her case got a lot of national attention I think because of -- because the details of it I think were so clear and easy to understand in terms of the stakes were here. Is this something that is happening in a lot of different facilities, in a lot of different places? This is a Texas specific problem?
AMIRI: It is not. This is a national policy. There are shelters all across the country that contract with a federal government to take care of unaccompanied immigrant minors. They have a legal obligation to ensure that these minors receive medical care, routine medical care, access to family planning.
But nevertheless, the federal government instituted a policy that gives Scott Lloyd the ability to veto any minor`s abortion decision and also forces any minor that requests access to abortion to visit a crisis pregnancy center, which as you mentioned, are anti-abortion by their very definition. There`s also forced parental notification to the minor`s family about her pregnancy and her abortion decision.
MADDOW: One last question for you. How`s your client? How she is doing?
AMIRI: She`s doing well. I think everyone is relieved. But it`s not that -- it`s just about Jane. It`s about all of the minors in custody and also what the Trump administration wants to do for reproductive rights for everyone. We know that they want to roll back reproductive rights for everyone and not just unaccompanied immigrant minors.
MADDOW: Yes, talk about starting with the most vulnerable.
Brigitte Amiri is a senior staff attorney for the ACLU`s Reproductive Freedom Project -- thank you for helping us understand this work. Appreciate it.
AMIRI: Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. Stay with us. We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: One last quick story tonight. Yesterday, the news broke, yesterday? Day before? The news broke that we had finally figured out who the Democratic funder was who had funded the Christopher Steele dossier through the opposition research firm Fusion GPS in Washington, D.C., right? So, we had long known that research funded by a Republican donor who was against Trump in the primary. And then after Trump had locked up the nomination, it had been funded by Democratic funders who were sympathetic to Hillary Clinton.
We now know that that sours of funding was a law firm linked to the DNC and Clinton campaign. There still remains the question of who`s the original funder? Who`s the Republican who started doing the work in the first place?
We thought we might be getting that tomorrow morning because of a congressional subpoena for the bank records of Fusion GPS. Tomorrow morning had been the deadline for when that information had to be handed over. A judge just ruled that that would be handed over on Monday instead of tomorrow. So, in case that was keeping you up.
That does it for us tonight. We`ll see you again tomorrow.
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL".
Good evening, Lawrence.
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