Report: first charges filed in Mueller Russia probe Transcript 10/27/17 The Rachel Maddow Show

Guests: Paul Fishman

Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW Date: October 27, 2017 Guest: Paul Fishman

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST, ALL IN: That`s "ALL IN" for this evening. THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts now, which I`m going to watch because I`m like what`s going on here. Good evening, Rachel.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: This is our long awaited night where we take calls from viewers on difficult gardening questions to the shoulder season. So, it`s a really been sludge year --

HAYES: Good. But do not, don`t kill that, go with your gut on this.

MADDOW: I`m telling you, every week when Susan drops me off at work on Monday morning, she says, now, you let me know if you need consulting to do the gardening show.

HAYES: Well, tell Susan I said hello --

MADDOW: I will do. We`re doing that tonight. Thanks, Chris.

HAYES: Thanks.

MADDOW: All right. Thanks to you at home for joining this hour.

So, as Chris was alluding to there, there`s a lot of to talk about right this second. I will tell you that there have been a whole bunch of scoops that have broken in the press today, this afternoon and now into tonight. This has been a Neiman lights day for a whole bunch of American journalists, for a conservative journalist in particular, for a "Wall Street Journal" journalist, somebody from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence made a whole bunch of news in his own right today. We`d just had some really, really, really interesting reporting out of the Eastern District of Virginia, which is the sleeper story, which I think is a huge deal. A whole bunch of important news has broken today. We`re going to be talking about all of those stories tonight.

But I have to tell you, CNN has reported in the last few minutes, citing two sources familiar with the matter, CNN is now reporting that the Robert Mueller special counsel investigation has produced its first criminal charges. Now, I would elaborate further right now on what CNN is reporting on this matter tonight, but that really is all they`re reporting.

This is not confirmed by NBC News. This is not confirmed by any other news organization at this point. So, this is just CNN`s work. They`re saying that a federal grand jury in Washington, D.C. today approved the first charges in the investigation that`s being led by the special counsel, by Mueller.

Now, we don`t know what the charges are. The charges are reportedly sealed, under orders from a federal judge. Let`s find out what that means in just a moment. We also don`t know who the charges are against. If they`re against one person or multiple people, or who those people are if there are, in fact, charges against them.

Now, we also don`t have any reason to believe that anybody who might be charge if this report is accurate, we don`t have any reason to believe that any of those people have been notified of the fact that they have been charged, if, in fact, these charges are still under seal.

So, the headline is very provocative. We know very little detail beyond that. I mean, other than the fact prosecutors associated with the Mueller investigation were seen entering the room where the grand jury meets in D.C., in the federal courthouse in D.C. Other than the attorneys being spotted in that room, which has happened before, we have no corroborating information about whether or not this is true.

So, obviously, this is a very provocative prospect. We`re keeping an eye closely on that for additional reporting. Lots of news organizations are scrambling to do their own corroboration, their own approach to the story. I`ll tell you as somebody who has covered the Russia story and Russia investigation probably more extensively than anybody else in cable news, I -- I`ll just tell you that there have been lots and lots and lots and lots of rumors that this was about to happen. And there have been lots of sort of credible, single source reports, unconfirmed single source reports that charges, in fact, were imminent from Mueller investigators.

But, you know, you follow all that stuff. You try to track all these things down, but until you`ve got multiple credible sources, it`s not reportable. CNN says it`s reportable at this point, nobody else does. If they`re right, this is the first reported multisource account that these charges may happen.

Now, on this story as in every story, there`s no reason to speculate further, especially with no further details to speculate on. But based on what they reported so far, how we should understand the significance of this if this story is proven out.

Joining us now is Barbara McQuade. She`s former U.S. attorney.

Ms. McQuade, thank you very much for having -- for being here with us tonight. I have a lot of other things to talk to you about tonight as well, but I`m really glad you were here for this.

BARBARA MCQUADE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Oh, you bet. Happy to talk about all of it.

MADDOW: All right. So, we don`t know -- again, NBC News has not confirmed the CNN reporting. But let me ask you about some of the terms that they`re describing, just as a law enforcement professional, as a former federal prosecutor, tell us what this means.

A federal grand jury in Washington D.C. approved the first charges in the investigation being led by Mueller. Tell us about the work of a grand jury and what it means to say that a grand jury has approved charges.

MCQUADE: Well, typically, what happens in a grand jury investigation is they hear evidence. It could be little case, where they hear it for one day, or a big case, like the one that we`ve been talking about here, where they hear testimony and see exhibits over a matter of months.

And then at some point, the prosecutor makes a decision to seek or decline to seek an indictment. They think they`ve gotten to the point where they`ve got probable cause and sufficient evidence to go forward. So, the prosecutor will draft the proposed indictment, present it to the grand jury, discuss the law and the elements of the offenses, answer any questions they have, and leave the room and leave the grand jury to deliberate among themselves and make a decision whether they approve or decline to approve -- they call it issuing a true bill or issuing a no true bill. It sounds like if this report is accurate, they did issue a true bill.

MADDOW: Now, that`s at that point, not an adversarial process. There`s nobody making a presentation to the grand jury that they shouldn`t approve the proposed indictment from the prosecutor, right? This is between the prosecutor and the grand jury without any intervening -- any intervention from somebody who might be representing the target of the proposed indictment?

MCQUADE: That`s right. And that`s why, you know, the defendant is still presumed innocent. They have not had a chance to cross-examine witnesses, confront accusers, or do all of the things they have a right to do at trial. It`s been very one sided and the standard is, not guilt beyond reasonable doubt, but simply probable cause.

But I will say this -- you sometimes hear this complaint that a prosecutor can indict a ham sandwich before a grand jury. I don`t think that`s true. Not the least of which it`s a strange metaphor but because there is an obligation under DOJ ethics rules to present the grand jury with significant exculpatory information so they are understanding the whole story.

MADDOW: Does Robert Mueller, over his years in law enforcement, in the Justice Department and the FBI, does he have a reputation in terms of how aggressive he might be about charging people? Is he known for approaching these things in any particular way?

MCQUADE: I`d say the one thing he`s known for is approaching investigations with a sense of urgency. I think we`re seeing that here, to have charges filed now. I mean, some people may not think that this is not very quick, it seems very quick to me. But it is his reputation to work very hard, to drive his people very hard, to leave no stone unturned.

And so, I think we`re seeing the fruits of that sort of effort tonight.

MADDOW: Now, according to CNN`s report, and this is not confirmed by NBC, in their language the charges are still sealed under orders of a federal judge. What would it mean for the grand jury, as you described, to have approved a proposed indictment but then for the charges to be sealed? How does that work and why is that done?

MCQUADE: Sealing is fairly common at this stage when you have an indictment that is issued -- or approved as it was -- may have been today. And the reason is that law enforcement kind of wants to get its ducks in a row before they go out and arrest the defendant or even notify them. It may be they don`t arrest whoever this defendant is because they worked out a relationship with his or her defense attorney to bring them in to appear on the case.

But, you know, it`s late on a Friday afternoon, they want to keep it secret so at a moment of their choosing, they can either inform the defendant that he or she has been charge, or they can surprise them with an arrest first thing Monday morning, Tuesday morning, whenever they choose to do it.

MADDOW: Can charges like this, an indictment like this, can it be sealed indefinitely? How long can a seal like this last?

MCQUADE: It can be sealed for some time. Sometimes there are strategic reasons to seal an indictment for longer period of times. You may want to arrest other people that you`re continuing to investigate, and you don`t want to alert them that someone else has been charged. It could be someone is a fugitive and you don`t know where they are, and so, you don`t want to alert them of the charges, in the meantime, while you look for them.

At some point, it is considered against the defendant`s speedy trial rights if you keep an indictment sealed for too long. And certainly there`s the five-year statue of limitations from the time the conduct was committed. So, it can be sealed forever. But my guess is in this case, they`re sealing for some period of time just so they can effectuate either an arrest plan or an appearance by the defendant in court.

MADDOW: Let me ask you an admittedly very damn question about this and I am not a lawyer. I have no law enforcement connections whatsoever, other than speeding tickets. But is it possible -- I`m thinking about the treatment by the special counsel thus far of Paul Manafort in particular. The no-knock warrant to go turn up at his house in the pre-drawn hours, including picking the lock. And he first finds out that they`re there when they`re knocking at his bedroom door.

The reports that prosecutors working with special counsel Mueller told Paul Manafort expect to be indicted. We have no reason to think these charges, that they have anything to do with Manafort. But I`m just thinking about that form of aggression that they seemed to have taken at least to that one figure in the case.

Is it possible that you would bring a proposed indictment to a grand jury, you`d the grand jury approve it, you`d seal the indictment, and you would do that basically as a form of pressure on a target? Pressure on a suspect, not necessarily because the end game is to put that person in jail but you want to scare the bejesus out of that person so that they tell you something for a larger part of your investigation.

MCQUADE: That seems unlikely to me. I think even the examples that you gave were not so much scare tactics as necessary steps in the investigation. Telling someone they`re a target of the investigation just puts them on notice, that if you want to come in and cooperate, now is the time. Maybe you can talk us out of it, if you can provide us information.

The no-knock warrant, I think, you know, you have to show a judge that you`ve got a reason for that. There was some legitimate concern, if that report is true, that maybe evidence would be destroyed, you know, deleting of a document that`s saved on a cell phone, for example, that would be done in a few minutes it takes for a knock and answer of a door. So, I don`t think so. I think it seems unlikely that they would file an indictment under seal just to scare somebody.

I think they mean business. I think if there`s an indictment, they`re going to show it to somebody. I think they probably will use it as leverage in hopes of getting cooperation against more egregious offenders. But I guess it remains to be seen who the defendant or defendants are in this case.

MADDOW: Barbara, let me just ask you one last question here and I`m going to ask you to stay with us for the hour and come back and talk to us about these things in a moment, but before I let you go for now, you did mention that you feel like just in your -- in your opinion, this feels quick to you? This feels like this might have been faster than you were expecting there to be charges and an indictment in this case. Can I just ask why you said that?

MCQUADE: It seems like such a complex case, you know, when you think about the big picture, about any connections between Russia and the Trump campaign, seems like such an enormous case that it could take many, many months to get to the bottom of it. But even in if it`s a charge against Manafort or Flynn or someone else, it seems there`s so much new news all the time with such complex financial issues that it seems it would take a team of lawyers a very long time to get to the bottom of it.

But as I said, Robert Mueller does have a reputation for working with urgency and he`s got a team of 16 really topnotch prosecutors so I`m sure they`ve been working days, nights and weekends to get this done.

MADDOW: Barbara McQuade, former U.S. attorney, thank you very much. And again, I`d love for you to stick with us for the hour.

MCQUADE: You bet.

MADDOW: I have a feeling we`ve got a lot more to talk about.

I want to bring in the conversation now, Matthew Miller. He`s the former spokesperson for the Justice Department.

Mr. Miller, thank you for being here tonight. I appreciate it.

MATTHEW MILLER, FORMER JUSTICE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: Thank you.

MADDOW: So, you heard that discussion that I just had with Barbara McQuade. You`ve seen this reporting that`s come out. Again, I need to -- I need to underscore that NBC News has not confirmed this reporting tonight and as of five seconds ago when I last checked with the control room, no other news agency has as well.

This is CNN`s reporting alone. They say they`re citing two sources familiar with the matter and they`re saying that the first charges have been brought. They`ve been brought. They`re under seal and so we don`t know what they are.

Let me ask your top line response to that news if this turns out to be the case.

MILLER: I think what Barbara McQuade said is accurate. This shows that Bob Mueller is moving very quickly. And he`s known for moving quickly, but, you know, there are a lot of people that thought he might pursue this entire investigation over months, into next year at some point, and then wrap this all up at one time, with a series of charges, maybe a report to Congress about actions by the president that wouldn`t result in criminal charges.

And it appears, if this report is accurate, that he`s decided not to take that course of action, but to bring, at least one indictment, maybe more another maybe more than one set of indictments early in this case while he continues to investigate other things. And I think that`s important to note.

This does not mean, obviously, that we are at the end of this investigation. I think this is the first indictment, maybe set of indictments, we`ll see when the charges are unsealed. And there could be more to come.

MADDOW: Matt, from a DOJ perspective, part of the reporting that CNN has done tonight which is more background rather than it is sort of some new fact that they`ve dug up. But the way they`re characterizing their report tonight is that the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, who`s overseeing all matters related to the Russia investigation because of the recusal of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Rod Rosenstein, as the person overseeing the Mueller investigation, would he have had to see this proposed indictment? Would he have had to have been informed about these proposed charges in order for the Mueller investigation to have gone this far?

MILLER: You know, technically, under the regulations, he wouldn`t have to see the indictment. It would really be up to the relationship that he and Mueller worked out under the terms of the appointment. The appointment document itself is very narrow about what -- you know, it kind of sets out the things Mueller can investigate, it doesn`t set out the relationship he and the deputy attorney general would have.

I would have expected Mueller would have informed Rosenstein about this, would have briefed him about who he plans to indict, when he plans to do it. But I -- you know, I don`t know if he would brief him on the actual -- you know, what he`s actually found. I think, especially given the real concerns that people have raised about Rosenstein`s independence, Mueller will be aware of those and I think he might be careful about how much detail he actually does share with the deputy attorney general.

MADDOW: Matt, on the issue of the political opposition that the Mueller investigation and that the congressional Russia investigations have run into, one of the things that`s been discussed over the last few days is whether the Mueller budget request, whether the actual funding, that needs to go in some ways go through Congress in order to keep the Mueller investigation going, whether that might be a point of leverage that Republicans in the White House could use against the Mueller investigation and given the timing of when that investigation started, when he was put in charge of this probe, which was just about six months ago, maybe that question was starting to come due.

Do that -- I want to know what your reaction is to that recent reporting and those concerns by people who were worried about the independence of the investigation.

MILLER: You know, look, I think it`s clear that everyone from the president to his allies in Congress to the conservative media have been orchestrating a kind of escalating drum beat against the special counsel, and that includes raising questions about his budget, includes raising questions about whether he ought to be fired. And I think that shows nervousness on their part about where his investigation might go, who he charge, what he might find, and what changes now.

If indictments are unsealed next week, it means you`re interfering with an ongoing criminal investigation, but you`re interfering what investigation that a grand jury has found probable causes to charge someone criminally. It becomes a question of really -- it`s obviously not obstruction of justice for Congress to do that, but it becomes, you know, blocking an investigation that as borne fruit. It becomes a more questionable activity after he`s filed charges than it was before.

MADDOW: One last question for you, Matt. One of the stories that we were planning on leading with tonight before this news broke was the interesting and unexpected news out of the eastern district of Virginia, that the U.S. attorney in the Eastern District of Virginia, Dana Boente, who has played a number of stand in roles, being brought on as acting attorney general, acting deputy attorney general, he`s now the acting assistant attorney general on national security matters, he announced his resignation today. And that may be a totally separate matter from this, it may be absolutely unrelated.

There has been some speculation that Dave Boente, because of the job he had in the Trump administration, particularly being the person at DOJ who James Comey was reporting to during that contested time that James Comey has said the president was really pressuring him on the Russia investigation, there`s been some reporting, some speculation that maybe Dana Boente may end up being a witness in part of this investigation, maybe that has something to do with him stepping down today.

Do you have any thoughts on that matter?

MILLER: You know, I don`t know if it`s true he`ll be a witness. I do know -- I talked to someone today that said they talked to Dana as recently as several days ago, and all he can talk about was how eager he was for his successor at the national security division where he`s been acting assistant attorney general right now to be confirmed so he could retake his job in the eastern district of Virginia. What that says to me is he did not decide two days after having that conversation to resign, but that he was forced out by the Trump administration.

We don`t know the answer to that, obviously. We don`t know whether it has anything to do with the Mueller investigation, but the timing has been curious with his sudden departure from the department.

MADDOW: Just to underscore what you just said there, that was a conversation he had a couple of days ago in which he did not express any desire and, in fact, expressed enthusiasm about continuing in the Eastern District of Virginia and today mysteriously, or at least surprisingly, he resigned.

MILLER: Yes, exactly right. I think you can draw from that, it wasn`t a resignation that wasn`t of his own volition.

MADDOW: Fascinating, and an important piece of this news. Matthew Miller former DOJ spokesperson, thank you for being with us on short notice tonight, Matt. I really appreciate it.

MILLER: Thank you.

MADDOW: I want to bring into the conversation now, another former U.S. attorney, Paul Fishman who until very recently was the U.S. attorney representing the great state of New Jersey.

Mr. Fishman, thank you very much for joining us on short notice.

PAUL FISHMAN, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY (via telephone): Thanks for having me back, Rachel.

MADDOW: Let me underscore again this is news that has not been confirmed by NBC. This is one news organization reporting that charges, the first criminal charges have been filed in the Mueller investigation. We don`t know what those charges are. They`re reportedly still sealed, under orders from a federal judge.

This is unconfirmed news, but this is CNN`s reporting tonight. Mr. Fishman, I know you`re familiar with what CNN is reporting. Let me ask your top line response to it?

FISHMAN: So, obviously, Rachel, when we talk about this investigation, it`s not just one investigation. There are multiple parts and lots of moving pieces to it. There`s the Manafort piece, the Flynn piece, the potential obstruction of justice, the collusion with the Russians.

And it looks from the team that Bob Mueller has assembled that he`s got multiple groups of lawyers working on different parts of the investigation, and that would make sense. It`s a great way to organize the operation. And it seems like that one particular piece of that investigation has now gotten to a place where Mueller is comfortable returning charges against at least one person if CNN`s reporting is correct.

That doesn`t mean that they`re finished. It doesn`t mean that that`s -- those will be all charges against even that individual, but he`s obviously gotten to a place, if the reports are true, where he`s comfortable asking a grand jury to indict, knowing he shouldn`t or wouldn`t do that unless he has sufficient evidence to convict.

MADDOW: And in terms of how this is being handled, again, if the CNN reporting is accurate, if the charges are sealed, CNN reports plans were prepared today for anybody charged to be taken into custody as soon as Monday. We just got an explanation from Barbara McQuade, your former colleague in Michigan, about what it means for a judge to have sealed these charges.

What is your take on the decision to seal them? The possibility they`d be unsealed on Monday? And the question of whether or not attorneys for the targets of this reported indictment will be notified?

FISHMAN: Well, so I think all of those things are possible. Typically, when an indictment is returned, what it means is the majority of the grand jury has voted that the person should be charged and then the indictment is presented to a judge and then it`s filed on the docket of the court. If the prosecutors, the federal prosecutors, believe there was a reason to seal the indictment right away, they can ask the judge to do that until certain things happen.

There`s always a reason that the prosecutors would give to the judge. Sometimes, as Barb said earlier on your show, it`s because they want the element of surprise for the arrest, sometimes it`s because the investigation is continuing, and they don`t want to unseal at the moment. Sometimes, it`s because they haven`t had a chance to tell the lawyer for the person or people who are getting indicted and because they`ve been having a dialogue over some period of weeks or months, they think out of fairness, they would like the opportunity to do that before it becomes a matter of public record.

MADDOW: In terms of the question I also asked Barbara McQuade, is it possible that these are charges that are going to remain sealed for a long time? That this is something being used as leverage against somebody in this investigation who is maybe a smaller fish who they`re trying to pressure into talking about stuff they haven`t previously been willing to talk these investigators about? Is an indictment, a sealed indictment used that way?

FISHMAN: So, sometimes it can be used that way. It`s not typical, I think. What is -- in my experience, what typical happens is when somebody like Bob Mueller gets to a place he`s ready to indict, a conversation would ensue between him or between somebody on his staff, and the lawyers or lawyers representing the target of the investigation, saying we`re ready to go, here`s a copy of the indictment. It`s time to actually come to the table and, if your guy is going to come to the table and talk.

And that happens or it doesn`t happen. Typically, though, if the person says, no, indict me, then that`s what happens. And then the person will be arrested or will be given an opportunity to voluntarily appear in the courtroom, to answer the charges and enter a plea of not guilty. And so, what we don`t know is whether on Monday and we`ll see on Monday. We`ll have a lot more information then, if the story is true. It`s possible someone could be arrested over the weekend or Monday morning.

It`s possible that on Monday, Bob Mueller or somebody could have a press conference announcing the indictment and the person`s appearance will follow by some number of days. We just don`t know. It`s too early to tell.

MADDOW: One last kind of dumb question for you. If there are people who know they might potentially be indicted in this investigation and they just heard that there`s a sealed indictment, is it possible people could like flee the country this weekend?

FISHMAN: I -- my guess is if Bob Mueller and his team of prosecutors and agents had any fear that anybody was going to flee this weekend, they probably have -- they probably would have taken them into custody either today or over the weekend to prevent that possibility. I think that`s unlikely under a circumstance like this, particularly when people have known for a while their conduct has been examined.

MADDOW: Paul Fishman, former U.S. attorney from the great state of New Jersey, Mr. Fishman, thank you for joining us on short notice. Really appreciate it.

FISHMAN: Thanks for having me back.

MADDOW: All right. So, again, this is news that is not confirmed by NBC News or by any other news organization, but CNN is reporting that the first charges have been filed in the special counsel investigation being led by former FBI Director Robert Mueller. As you know, that Mueller-led investigation started six months ago, the overall FBI investigation reportedly started a year ago. Mueller`s remit is to look at the Russian attack on the presidential election and the question of whether or not anybody associated with the Trump campaign was in cahoots with that attack.

We don`t know what the charges are, if there are in fact charges. They`re being described as sealed charges that we may find out about on Monday if they`re unsealed on that day. So, somebody can be taken.

Again, unconfirmed reports in terms of NBC News. This is CNN`s reporting as of right now. We`ll stay on it. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: Always happens on a Friday. We`re following some breaking news tonight.

According to CNN, the investigation being led by special counsel Robert Mueller has issued its first criminal charges. Now, these charges are reportedly under seal and we do not yet know what those charges are, or who may being charged, we don`t know if this report is accurate. NBC News has not confirmed this reporting yet, but we will update you if an when we get any more details on that front, either confirming or denying that CNN reporting.

But I got to tell you, this has been a wild day of scoops broken by reporters across the country. Let me start with Rebecca Ballhaus at "The Wall Street Journal".

Rebecca Ballhaus has got a scoop today that I believe may end up being one of the more important stories about the Russia scandal overall. It`s about a crucial time when we first became aware as Americans that Russia was doing something in the election. The first report that we as a country had about that was on June 14th last year.

Ellen Nakashima in "The Washington Post," last summer, that headline from her, Russian government hackers penetrated DNC. That was the first indication we had as a country that something was up in our election that specifically had to do with the Russian government. Now, the date of that first public report ends up being really important. That was June 14th last year.

Now, keeping that in mind, there was some interesting reporting earlier this week from Rebecca Ballhaus at "The Wall Street Journal" among others, that was about the data firm Cambridge Analytica. Cambridge Analytica is now famous as the data firm that worked for the Trump campaign, right?

But Rebecca Ballhaus at "The Journal" was first to report this week that investigators have seen an e-mail in which the head of Cambridge Analytica says that last June, June 2016, he made an on overture to WikiLeaks. He offered that Cambridge Analytica, his firm, would like to help WikiLeaks, disseminate all of those thousands of documents that had been stolen from Democrats during the campaign. Cambridge Analytica specifically offered to index the stolen Democratic emails and documents to make them online searchable so there could be, you know, more stories written about them so they could spread further.

Now, that offer from Cambridge Analytica to WikiLeaks that`s potentially very important, right? If you`re looking for concrete evidence of the Trump campaign helping out in the Russian plot to interfere in our election, in a way that would harm the chances of Clinton winning that election, well, that looks like a big deal, right? Here`s the Trump campaign data firm offering to literally help more efficiently distribute the Democratic documents that the Russians had stolen. That`s potentially huge, right?

But here`s the problem with that. Here`s the reason the Cambridge Analytica thing didn`t ring everybody`s bell this week. If that offer from Cambridge Analytica went to WikiLeaks in June of last year, the first important thing to know about that is that in June of last year, Cambridge Analytica didn`t work for the Trump campaign. They didn`t start working for the Trump campaign until the following month, in July.

Also, though, again about that timing. We don`t know exactly when in June that overture was made from Cambridge Analytica to WikiLeaks, and because of that, we also can`t assume that Cambridge Analytica knew the stolen Democratic e-mails they were offering to help distribute, we can`t assume they knew that those Democratic e-mails had been stolen by the Russian government, right?

The first public reporting of that was June 14th. If Cambridge Analytica made this overture to WikiLeaks before June 14th, maybe they had no idea what they were proposing to do was weaponize and further spread documents that were literally stolen by Russian military intelligence. Maybe they didn`t know. Maybe had they known that, they would have been horrified.

Now if their overtures to WikiLeaks happened after June 14th, after it became public knowledge that those documents weren`t just stolen by rondos, they were stolen by the Russian government, well, that would be a different story, right? That would be an interesting thing to figure out if that`s the case.

Is the overture before or after June 14th, before or after you knew those things were stolen by the Russian government, right? That question puts a spotlight on Cambridge Analytica. They should probably explain the specifics of that timeline so we know exactly what they though they were doing in making that overture and whether they knew they were offering to help a Russia intelligence operations.

So, I mean, there`s definitely more reporting to do there. That`s an important interesting part of this. But even if it turns out that the worst is true about Cambridge Analytica here, it remains the fact they weren`t working for the Trump campaign at the time that overture happened, so that still doesn`t implicate the Trump campaign in part of what might be Russian collusion.

If you`re looking to implicate the Trump campaign in Russia collusion, for that, you had to wait for Rebecca Ballhaus` scoop that came out tonight.

OK, remember the -- there goes my pencil. All right. Remember that date again, right, that specific date when we the public first learned that the Democratic documents that were stolen weren`t randomly taken by some thief, they were taken as part of a Russian intelligence operation. That news first broke June 14th, last year. When that news broke on June 14th, it was not a subtle thing. It was everywhere, right?

This was that initial report, Russian government hackers penetrated DNC. That started a litany, a torrent of reporting about that. Cyber researchers confirmed Russian government hack of DNC, U.S. officials say little doubt Russia behind DNC hack. Russia is behind email release. Spy agency consensus grows that Russia hacks DNC. Security experts say Russia probably hacked the Democrats. FBI investigating possible Russian connection to the leaked DNC e-mails.

I mean, it was everywhere. And you know what? Even if you can`t read and all you do is sometimes watch the TV news, no matter what kind of TV news you were watching, you couldn`t help being exposed to this story, even if the only TV news you watch is on FOX.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: From the campaign trail, "The Washington Post" reporting the Russian government hacked into the computer network of the Democratic National Committee.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They were able to access all e-mails going in and out of the DNC since last summer. So, these hackers, and apparently the Russian government, now have inside information into the Democrat strategy for 2016.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We`re tracking another major story case, a case of cyber espionage targeting the Democratic Party. U.S. intelligence agencies believe Russian cyber spies hacked into the computers belonging to the Democratic National Committee.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This was a clear espionage attempt by the Russian government to steal information about the U.S. political process.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The clues point to two Russian intelligence agencies.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A bizarre story now from where cyber space meets the campaign trail. "The Washington Post" reports the Russian government hacked into the computer network of the Democratic National Committee.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Three private security firms concluded that the hackers are Russian. Some security experts say Russian intelligence could be behind the attacks with the goal of interfering in the election. Documents taken in the hacks have been showing up on line.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Several American cyber security experts told NBC Russia`s goal in leaking the e-mails through WikiLeaks was to sow chaos in American politics and help Donald Trump win the presidency.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They are trying to give Trump an indirect edge, or an indirect weight by which they can help him accomplish his goals.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Cyber experts say the DNC was hacked by the cyber units of both Russian military intelligence and new KGB, nicknamed Fancy Bear and Cozy Bear. They used signature IP addresses and malware associated with Russian state actors.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: "The New York Times" reports on the growing FBI investigation into the Democratic National Committee email hack. Secretary of State John Kerry this morning raised the issue with Russia`s foreign minister.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: That was what the news was like last summer after "The Washington Post" first broke the news that the Russian government was behind the stealing and hacking of e-mails and documents out of the Democratic Party. Now, there was a lot of news like that. It was not subtle.

If you were contacting WikiLeaks and offering to help in this operation in early June, before any of that reporting started, it`s possible you might not have known this was pretty well understood to be a Russian intelligence operation that WikiLeaks was helping with. But once mid-June hit, this was not a story hiding its light under the bushel, right? This story was everywhere. Even if you didn`t pay attention to the news, by July 25th, Trump himself was joking about Russia leaking the DNC e-mails, quote, because Putin likes me.

By July 27th, he was making his stone-faced, nobody laugh joke, hey, Russia, if you`re listening, go get more Clinton e-mails.

This is a subject of wide, wide discussion in the regular media, in the conservative media, on the campaign, by the candidates. It was a matter of widely reported international diplomacy between the United States and Russia. From starting in mid June and through the end of June into July, into August, it was no secret that Russia, the Russian government, hacked the Democrats e-mails.

Well, tonight, Rebecca Ballhaus of "The Wall Street Journal" reports that on August 26th, so well after the Russian involvement was widely known, Rebekah Mercer, major Trump donor, founder of Cambridge Analytica and "Breitbart" and everything else in the pro-Trump media universe, Rebekah Mercer and her billionaire family, the single largest financers of the Trump campaign, full stop, on August 26th, she directed Cambridge Analytica to help WikiLeaks distribute the Democratic e-mails that by then everybody knew had been be stolen by the Russian government.

And, yes, we know from reporting this week that Cambridge Analytica had that idea on their own a couple months earlier, but she directed them to do it once we all knew those WikiLeaks documents were part of a Russian intelligence operation. And she directed Cambridge Analytica to help with that once the Mercer family was very much a part of the Trump campaign.

And that means, bottom line, the major funder of the Trump campaign, appears to have knowingly tried to help out with the Russian government hack of Democratic documents, to better weaponize them to Trump`s benefit in the presidential campaign. So, that`s a serious scoop from Rebecca Ballhaus at "The Wall Street Journal".

Then later tonight, we got another one. Conservative reporter Byron York got a scoop tonight about the Republican funder behind Fusion GPS, which is the research firm that produced the Christopher Steele dossier on Trump and Russia. We`d actually known since October of last year, since before the election, that the research firm that commission the dossier of alleged Russian dirt on Trump, we knew they`d been initially funded by a Republican who was opposed to Trump in the Republican primary, then after Trump got the nomination, Fusion GPS instead got a Democratic donor to keep funding their work, the Democratic funder in support of Clinton against Trump in the general election. We knew that already, we really did know that from the beginning, from David Corn`s first initial report on Halloween night last year.

Now, we learned earlier this week, no surprise, that the Democratic funder of the latter part of the Fusion GPS research was, in fact, a Democratic funder in support of Clinton. It was a law firm connected to the DNC and the Clinton campaign.

Well, tonight, Byron York is first to report that the initial funder was `The Washington Free Beacon". Huh? It`s a conservative website. It`s kind of like "The Washington Times" or "The Daily Caller", the Glenn Beck thing. It`s like one of these flurry of Republican web publications that started up in D.C. in the past few years.

And, honestly, no snark intended here at all, serious credit to Byron York for getting this. Even before he got this scoop tonight, Byron York had done really good work on this story. He interviewed tons of Republican operatives and even Republican candidates who had opposed Trump during the primary. He got lots of them on the record about not being the Republican funder.

But after having done the leg work tonight, he was rightfully first to report who was that funder. So, kudos to him for the scoop. Now we know.

Now, on that Trump dossier, whether or not you care who funded it, I think it`s also flown a little bit under the radar in the last 24 hours that the general counsel of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, right, so we have the Director of National Intelligence, that`s an office. The guy who`s the top lawyer there.

He has come out and declared in very blunt terms that when the intelligence community put out its assessment that, yes, Russia did attack our election, they didn`t rely on the dossier to produce that report. They didn`t even use the dossier to produce that conclusion. Robert Litt was the top lawyer in the office of the director of national intelligence under the Obama administration when that assessment came out, he`s in a position to know. He says the DNI and the intelligence community, they came to their conclusions about the Russian involvement in the election based, quote, entirely on other sources and analysis. They did not use the dossier.

So, that ends up being important for the political maneuvering that`s going on right now in Washington. The White House is trying to use this report as who funded Fusion GPS as a way of saying the whole story of Russia interfering in the election is some kind of hoax. The logic is a little thin in that claim anyway. But among this fireworks show of scoops we`ve had in the past 24 hours, is this news that the intelligence community came to its conclusions about what the Russians did in our election with no reference to the dossier whatsoever?

So, naturally, the intelligence community must also be denounced and discredited, it`s terrible, for having found a true thing.

So in all that new breaking over the last 24 hours, all through today, all through this afternoon into tonight, there is one other scoop that broke today that I actually think is the most interesting, especially given the late night breaking news from CNN about Robert Mueller reportedly issuing the first charges in his investigation, the thing that I think is the most compelling, mysterious and, oh my God, I want to figure it out story of the day is next. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: Do you recognize this man? Doesn`t really ring a bell, right? We did put his name up there which helps. Without the name, I probably couldn`t pick him out of a lineup. Do you recognize his name, though, right? It`s pronounced Boente, B-O-E-N-T-E.

In 2013, he became the acting U.S. attorney in the Eastern District of Virginia. President Obama officially appointed him in 2015. The Eastern District of Virginia is really powerful prosecutor`s office. It`s right outside Washington, D.C. They often end up doing really important terrorism and national security cases. So, Dana Boente was President Obama`s choice for that very important U.S. attorney`s job starting in 2013.

But then in the Trump era, Dana Boente became everything. He got all the jobs all at once. It was a weird thing for somebody who nobody had really ever heard of before. I mean, if you`re in law enforcement circles you`ve heard of the guy, right? But outside of law enforcement circles, why did Dana Boente start getting every job?

I mean, within the first two weeks of President Trump being in office, you may recall that he fired Sally Yates. She was the acting attorney general. She famously had personally come to the White House to warn them that national security advisor Mike Flynn was compromised by the Russians whereupon they didn`t respond for 18 days.

She wrote a memo explaining that the Trump Muslim ban was likely to be found unconstitutional in court. Trump fired her because of that January 30. When he fired Sally Yates, he needed somebody else to come in right away and become the new acting attorney general, and he chose Dana Boente who was still onboard in the Eastern District of Virginia. Dana Boente became the acting attorney general of the United States.

He served in that role until Jeff Sessions was confirmed by the Senate and sworn in ten days later on February 9th. So at that point, Dana Boente is no longer acting attorney general. At that point, he became the acting deputy attorney general. Deputy attorney general is the person who really runs the Justice Department on a day-to-day basis. He went from being acting A.G. to acting deputy A.G. once Sessions got there. He served as acting deputy attorney general until Rod Rosenstein got confirmed by the Senate to be the confirmed deputy attorney general as of late April.

Now, you might remember in the meantime, President Trump decided to fire all the U.S. attorneys all over the country. Boom no warning. Get out. Be gone by midnight. When it came time to actually do the firing, I think, I think it was Dana Boente as the acting attorney general who actually got on the phone and did the firing of those prosecutors.

But then Rod Rosenstein came on, and then became the confirmed deputy A.G., and then Dana Boente got another role. He became acting assistant attorney general for national security, which means he runs the national security division of the Justice Department. That`s a very big deal as well. And yes, in addition to all of that, he stayed on as the U.S. attorney in the eastern district of Virginia.

So, the guy had five jobs. That is, you know, that`s a lot. Even just the Eastern District of Virginia is a busy, big, important national security prosecutor`s office even in normal times.

At these times, though, in the Eastern District of Virginia, in addition to all of the other jobs he was dealing with at main Justice, in the eastern district of Virginia, it was Dana Boente`s office from which we saw the subpoenas related to Paul Manafort. It was Dana Boente`s office from which we saw the subpoenas related to Mike Flynn. It was Dana Boente`s office that has been handling the investigation into WikiLeaks and potentially charges associated with WikiLeaks, and Dana Boente`s office, right, the eastern district of Virginia, that`s where special counsel Robert Mueller first started using a grand jury.

So, this dude is like right in the middle of everything. And today, he quit.

Now, I don`t know what that`s about. We`re about to talk to somebody I hope who might know, but here`s one last really important point to what he`s been involved in, right? So, he had the jobs and running this crucial eastern of Virginia district job, right.

Special counsel Robert Mueller is reportedly looking into whether President Trump obstructed when he fired the FBI Director James Comey. James Comey has testified to Congress under oath, that the president contacted him inappropriately, multiple times, to put pressure on him about the Russia investigation before he fired him.

According to James Comey, one of the witnesses to those inappropriate overtures by the president was Dana Boente.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: After April 11th, did he ask you more, ever, about the Russia investigation? Did he ask you any questions?

JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: We never spoke again after April 11th.

FEINSTEIN: You told the president, I would see what we could do. What did you mean?

COMEY: It was kind of slightly cowardly way of trying to avoid telling him we`re not going to do that, that I would see what we could do. It was a way of kind of getting off the phone, frankly, and then I turned and handed it to the acting deputy attorney general, Mr. Boente.

SEN. ROY BLUNT (R-MO), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: After that discussion, did you take phone calls from the president?

COMEY: Yes, sir.

BLUNT: So, why did you just say you need to talk -- why didn`t you say, I`m not taking that call? You need to talk to the attorney general?

COMEY: Well, I did on the April 11th call and reported the calls, the March 30th call and April 11th call to my superior who was the acting deputy attorney general.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: The acting deputy attorney general at the time was Dana Boente who today just quit. Maybe he quit because he`s tired of being central to everything. He`s exhausted from playing every instrument in the band. Maybe that`s just tiring.

Is it possible he had to quit because he`s maybe going to have to be a witness if somebody brings charges against the president on the obstruction of justice matter?

Former DOJ spokesman Matt Miller just reported on our air moments ago that as recently as a few days ago, Dana Boente told a friend that he was really looking forward to handing off control of the national security division at main Justice so he could get back to work as U.S. attorney for the eastern district of Virginia. That was two days ago reportedly. But then suddenly, today, he quit as U.S. attorney.

We don`t know why that is. We are trying to figure it out. We are literally actively trying right now as I speak to figure that out.

Joining us again is Barbara McQuade, former U.S. attorney.

Barbara, I want to ask you, given your understanding of Dana Boente`s role, not just as a U.S. attorney in Eastern District of Virginia, but this interesting roles that he`s played in the Trump administration thus far, what do you make of his resignation today?

MCQUADE: Well, I was very surprised to see it. In fact, you know, he sort of like Rod Rosenstein, someone that I take great comfort in knowing he is there, actually. He is a career prosecutor who`s worked through Republican and Democratic administrations and I think cares about the institution and so, his departure concerns and alarms me a little bit and I don`t know the reason.

MADDOW: Is he actually the person who was called on to tell people to resign -- to fire you and all the other U.S. attorneys?

MCQUADE: Yes. I got a call from Dana. You know, they announced it publicly at about 3:00 p.m. and then began making phone calls to each of us. And, you know, we`re all in contact and e-mails each other and I heard from people in alphabetical order that they`ve gotten their call from Dana, and as I getting close to the "Ms" my phone rings and I see it`s Dana and I take the call, I said is this my grim reaper call and he said I`m afraid it is.

But, you know, he was professional about the whole thing. I commented to a colleague that I was disappointed that Dana didn`t push back about the decision to fire all so abruptly, and my colleague pointed out that we don`t know that he didn`t. So, I always had great respect for him and sorry to see him go.

MADDOW: Barbara McQuade, former U.S. attorney, thank you for being with us tonight, Barbara. I really appreciate it. Thanks.

MCQUADE: Thanks, Rachel.

MADDOW: We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: So the big news we have been following tonight is a report of CNN that the first charges have been filed in special counsel Robert Mueller`s investigation. We don`t know what those charges are, if they exist, who has been charged. NBC News has not confirmed that reporting tonight. But we do have some exclusive news on the Mueller investigation that could prove relevant, particularly if that news about charging does bear out.

"Reuters" yesterday reported a kind of bonkers story about the former CIA Director James Woolsey, who is a member of Trump campaign, adviser to Trump during the transition. You might remember, this spring, James Woolsey told "The Wall Street Journal" that he`d been present at a meeting during the campaign with several Turkish officials and Mike Flynn. Flynn was then national security adviser to the Trump campaign. He was also secretly on the payroll of the Turkish government.

At this meeting, James Woolsey said there was a fulsome, serious, unnerving discussion about kidnapping a dude in the United States and shipping him off to Turkey in the dead of night. James Woolsey was apparently unnerved by that meeting, among other things because doing stuff like that is illegal.

But now, "Reuters" reports that James Woolsey himself, the very next day after that meeting, he had his own meeting with the Turkish businessman who was paying Mike Flynn, and according to "Reuters", Woolsey offered his own services to the Turks for $10 million to mount a lobbying and PR campaign to discredit the same guy that Mike Flynn apparently discussed kidnapping.

Now, according to -- "Reuters" says that Woolsey -- spokesman for Woolsey tells "Reuters" that Woolsey has no recollection of this proposing this $10 million deal. But what he did say is that the people who funded Mike Flynn, they`re trying to smear Jim Woolsey.

Look at this quote from the spokesman. Quote: With growing speculation that indictments could be handed down soon, it`s not a surprise others attempt to accomplish in the press what they can`t in the grand jury room.

So, this story about Woolsey wanting $10 million to -- from the Turks to -- this story`s coming out right now because everybody else is about to be indicted and turning on each other, right? Interesting theory.

We reached out to Jim Woolsey spokesman today. And we asked them to expand on those comments. Mr. Woolsey spokesman gave us this statement which is exclusive to us and NBC News.

Quote: Ambassador Woolsey and his wife have been in communication with the FBI regarding these September meeting, Ambassador Woolsey was invited to attend by one of General Flynn`s business partners. Ambassador Woolsey and his wife have responded to every request whether from the FBI or recently from the Office of the Special Counsel. It`s unfortunate yet predictable that in an effort to defend themselves, certain individuals have attempted to impugn the Woolseys` integrity.

Now, this is the first we have learned that special counsel Robert Mueller has been in communication with and has made requests of the former CIA Director James Woolsey who says he was at this crazy meeting with Turkish officials and Mike Flynn, while Mike Flynn was a Trump campaign adviser and secretly on Turkey`s payroll. Woolsey went public about that meeting in March. Since then, he`s been in communication with the FBI and with the Mueller investigation.

And now, according to him, the people who had Mike Flynn on their payroll, they`re shopping this story to make James Woolsey look bad. And we don`t know why. These are very intriguing allegations from people we understand very little about.

Why is this happening? Why now? And is there any connection to this reporting tonight from CNN that Mueller has actually filed the first charges in his investigation? We don`t know but it`s going to be a fun weekend figuring this stuff out, right? That does it for us tonight. We will see you again on Monday. Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD." Joy Reid filling in for Lawrence tonight. Good evening, Joy.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

END

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