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NYC Attack suspect facing terrorism charges Transcript 11/3/17 The Rachel Maddow Show

Guests: Mark Mazzetti, Kyle Cheney

Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW Date: November 3, 2017 Guest: Mark Mazzetti, Kyle Cheney

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST, ALL IN: That is "ALL IN" for this evening. THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW start right now. Good evening, Rachel.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thank you, my friend. Have a great weekend.

HAYES: You bet. You too.

MADDOW: Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. Happy Friday. President Barack Obama tried very hard to close the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo in Cuba throughout his two terms as president. It was a campaign promise that he tried to keep, that he intended to keep, that I think he thought he would keep.

But in the end, Congress really was able to thwart those efforts by the president and his administration and Guantanamo was still open for business by the time Obama left office. To people who served in the Obama administration, and particularly people that worked on that issue in the Obama administration, I think that was a real disappointment from President Obama`s two terms, that they weren`t able to get Guantanamo closed, even though they really wanted to.

But that said, they also didn`t send a single new prisoner there for the entire eight years that Obama was president. For eight years, nobody was added to the prisoner population at Guantanamo.

Well, now that Donald Trump is president, this week, we did add our first new name in eight years to the prisoner roster at Guantanamo. The new guy at Guantanamo, as of Wednesday this week, is Brigadier General John Baker of the United States Marine Corps. He`s the second highest ranking lawyer in the United States Marine Corps. He`s the chief defense counsel in the military commissions that are held at Guantanamo.

And as we reported here for the first time on Wednesday night, a judge at Guantanamo, who incidentally, I should tell you, is just a colonel, he locked up this general at Guantanamo on Wednesday to start a period of confinement that was due to last 21 days. The general ended up serving 2- 1/2 days of that sentence at Guantanamo, but today we can report that he`s out. The second highest ranking lawyer in the United States Marine Corps has been freed from custody at Guantanamo.

In fact, this is a snapshot that "Miami Herald" reporter Carol Rosenberg took of the general, who does not seem all that happy about Carol Rosenberg taking his picture today. But this is documentary proof of him after he was released from custody, and whereupon he immediately headed back to his office at Guantanamo where he works on the defense side in the pseudo-court system that`s set up down there.

Now, the reason the general was freed from custody today, is because of a ruling there this -- the Pentagon -- it`s sort of a Pentagon overseer of the military commissions at Guantanamo. Honestly, my read of this, it seems like the Pentagon might have intervened and freed the marine general who they had locked up. I think they might have done that today largely to prevent a civilian judge in a normal court in the United States from ordering him to be freed either today or over the weekend. I think they wanted to head off that possibility.

But even though as of tonight they`re no longer locking up a brigadier general from the Marine Corps, that pseudo court system they`re running down at Guantanamo, it really is completely imploding. This morning, three civilian defense lawyers who are defending a guy who is accused of the USS Cole bombing from back in 2000, the judge ordered those civilian lawyers to appear by video link to represent their client, even though these three defense lawyers have quit in protests. They say they can`t ethically represent him. The judge ordered them all to appear anyway.

Today, they didn`t appear. So what? So, what`s going to happen now? Is the judge going to have these civilian lawyers arrested? The U.S. military is going to issue an order in Cuba that three American civilians in the United States should be arrested and then flown to a foreign country where they will be forced to provide legal services against their will and against their professional ethics for a defendant they say they no longer represent or speak to? Really?

I mean, maybe the judge will try to force the lawyers to do that by video link from the War Court headquarters in Virginia, even though the lawyers live all over the United States. Maybe they`ll force them to go to Cuba. It`s insane.

So, this brigadier general in the Marine Corps has now been freed against the wishes of the judge at Guantanamo. The lawyers are still on the loose in the United States, and they`re refusing to go to Guantanamo, either in person or by video link.

But the judge is trying to force the proceedings to go ahead any way, and we don`t know what he`s going to do. We don`t know what he`s going to do to those lawyers, we don`t know what is going to happen to the marine corps general, who has just been freed against the judge`s will.

We`re all sort of waiting until Monday morning to figure out how that made up court system at Guantanamo is going to continue to explode, because it`s going to continue to explode. It`s not going to fix itself. It just appears to have come to the end of the legal life support system that has been limping along on for so long. And that story about stuff going wrong at Guantanamo is fascinating in its own right, right?

I mean, military commissions at Guantanamo over their 16-year life span, they`ve convicted a total of eight people and four of those convictions have been overturned. And now, the system itself is dissolving. And the only people that now appear to be able to convict and lock up are defense lawyers and American generals. It`s just -- it`s getting really weird. And that is a story that is worth telling and worth knowing about in its own right.

But that story got an extra special spotlight put on it this week, in particular because the day after the terrorist attack in New York City this week, in which eight people were killed by a man pledging allegiance to ISIS, the day after that attack on Tuesday, the president told reporters that, in his view, the normal judicial system in the United States is a joke and a laughing stock, and he says that he would prefer to send the suspect from that terrorist attack to Guantanamo. That was the same day the justice system at Guantanamo locked up a brigadier general in the Marine Corps.

Sure, it seems like that system is working just as designed. I`m not sure if the president saw any coverage of that problem or he somehow got wind of the fact that things were actually falling apart at Guantanamo. But the next day after he said he wanted to send that suspect to Guantanamo, the next day he apparently changed his mind and said, no, now he thinks the New York City terrorism attack suspect should not go to Guantanamo, he should caps lock, get the death penalty!

OK, I don`t know if nobody has explained this to the president or if the president knows this and he doesn`t care, but whether or not you think the New York City terrorist attack suspect should get the death penalty if he`s convicted, whether or not you think he should get the death penalty, the only way you could assure that that suspect cannot get the death penalty is for the president to make a public case that he should. I mean, there`s a reason presidents don`t comment on ongoing criminal matters, it`s because their remarks as president and commander-in-chief about somebody who`s being tried in any American court, those remarks from the president are viewed as prejudicing the likely outcome of the trial, either in terms of that suspect`s guilt or in terms of the appropriate sentence.

And so, there are really only two ways that a president can directly and dramatically affect the administration of justice in this country. Number one, the president can pardon people. Number two, the president can go down a list of criminal defendants and say, guilty, guilty, guilty, guilty. I think that person`s guilty. I think that person is super guilty and they definite hi ought to do the maximum sentence. I mean, that`s the other thing a president can do, because when a president does that, when a president makes public pronouncements like that, he gravely interferes with the ability of the justice system to ever legitimately find that person guilty or sentence them without prejudice.

And that`s true either in the normal criminal justice system or in the military justice system, or even in the half baked military commission system that`s blowing up right now at Guantanamo. The president has just to say about somebody who`s on trial, I think this trial ought to end up that way, and the whole -- and then you have ensured that the trial will not end up that way.

The president`s remarks about a person`s guilt or innocence and the sentence they should received, those remarks have legal bearing. And so now, because of the president`s tweet, whether or not you think it`s a good thing or not, because of the president`s tweet, the terrorist attack suspect from New York City this week will not ever get the death penalty in this country, because of what President Trump said this week publicly about his case.

And maybe that`s a good thing. Maybe that`s a bad thing, but was it intentional?

Even if nobody explained that consequence to him, even if nobody explained to him, hey, you`re save thing guy`s life by tweeting this, there`s still a reason the president could reasonably have been expected to be mindful of that possibility when he made those remarks about the terrorism suspect this week. There`s a reason you think he might have had it in mind, that there might be a consequence of him saying something about that case. The reason he might have had that on his mind this week is because of Bowe Bergdahl, right?

Bowe Bergdahl walked off base in Afghanistan in 2009. He was picked up within hours by the Taliban, held by them, mostly in cages for five years. He was freed in 2014. The army charged him with desertion and misbehavior before the enemy, which is a strange sounding phrase, but it`s a very serious charge, it comes with a possible life sentence. Bowe Bergdahl pled guilty, he didn`t fight the charges.

But when it came to sentencing him, it was President Trump who did all he could as president to make sure that Bowe Bergdahl would get as light a sentence as possible, right? It was a standard feature of Trump`s stump speech during the campaign to denounce Bowe Bergdahl as a traitor. He would even act out the physical act of executing him, to call for Bergdahl to not just be executed, but to be executed in specific ways. He`d say to the crowd, you know, Bergdahl ought to be thrown out of a plane without a parachute. He`d mime about shooting him in the head.

The president said all that stuff during the campaign about Bergdahl and that arguably itself might have had a prejudicial outcome on Bergdahl`s legal proceedings, Trump speaking as a presidential candidate. But then once Trump was president, and he was asked about Bowe Bergdahl, he couldn`t resist. He told reporters that he wanted to remind them of what he`d said about Bergdahl during the campaign. And bingo, just like that, the president personally ensured that some measure of lenience would be shown to Bowe Bergdahl during his sentencing specifically because of President Trump and his inability to not talk about this case.

And in fact, the judge in the Bowe Bergdahl gave notice earlier this week that the president`s inability to stop himself from continuing to talk about Bowe Bergdahl, that would be seen as prejudicial to Bergdahl`s ability to be treated appropriately and fairly within the justice system. It would be seen as, quote, mitigating evidence in deciding Bergdahl`s sentence. And Bowe Bergdahl was sentenced today. He was sentenced to a loss in rank, a fine, dishonorable discharge, nut no prison time.

Prosecutors asked for 14 years, he got none prison time. And upon that sentence being handed down today in consideration of the mitigating evidence of the president trying to weigh in on how Bergdahl should be treated, once that sentence got handed down today, the president did it again. He put out a public response as president, as commander in chief, to the Bergdahl sentencing, calling it a complete and total disgrace to our country and to our military. And I hope that felt great to the president to get that off his chest.

But you know what? The practical effect of him getting that off his chest is that Bergdahl`s lawyers will use that in their appeal. And their appeal is going forward and because everybody in the military has to answer to the commander-in-chief and the commander-in-chief has now expressed his personal displeasure with the lenience of the initial sentence in this case.

That means in practical terms that further legal proceedings against Bowe Bergdahl will also have to mitigate against the impact of the president`s comments today. They will have to adjust to the way they treat Bergdahl in court to account for the fact that the military justice system will now be inherently biased against him because of those words expressed on Twitter today by the commander-in-chief. Oops.

The president is not the top law enforcement official in the country. The president is the head of the executive branch. The administration of justice, both in military and civilian courts, is supposed to be conducted and removed from all political concerns and certainly removed from the personal interests of anybody in government, including the president himself. There really are only a couple of exceptions to that. One exception is the thing that presidents do on purpose. One exception is the thing that presidents do when they`re drunk or when they screw up or when their faculties momentarily desert them.

I mean, the one they do on purpose is they use the power of the pardon, right? They can commute sentences. They can pardon people for federal convictions. That`s the one they do on purpose.

The one that presidents can do when they screw up is by guaranteeing the justice system will lean in the opposite direction of a preference expressed by the president during an ongoing criminal proceeding, so as to compensate for the president`s undue influence over that matter of justice, right? You can do it on purpose or you can oops.

So far, the president has pardoned one person, Sheriff Joe Arpaio in Arizona. And in terms of oops, he`s blundered into at least a handful of other criminal cases, including two just this week. And I think it`s worth being clear how the president has exerted himself when it comes to the administration of justice, either on purpose or my accident, because the president now appears to have started a fourth round, a fourth round of strange and I think not quite what it seems open conflict with the guy who really is the top law enforcement official in the country, the attorney general of the United States.

In the last couple of days, once on a conservative talk radio show, and today, to reporters at the White House, the president openly lamented the behavior of Attorney General Jeff Sessions. He lamented that he doesn`t have -- that he the president doesn`t have more personal control over what the Justice Department does. The president has spent the last few days tweeting furiously that the Justice Department and the FBI and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, they should be investigating and locking up Hillary Clinton and Democrats.

And that has led to a happy feedback loop in the conservative media where the president says, why isn`t Jeff Sessions jailing Hillary Clinton? And the conservative media says, yes, why isn`t Jeff Sessions locking up Hillary Clinton? And the president says, everybody is wondering why Jeff Sessions isn`t locking up Hillary Clinton.

And these expressions of disgust and disappointment by the president toward his attorney general is being covered now as another like personality fight or another episode of palace intrigue in the administration, with the president and his attorney general not getting along. There seems to be a real conflict between them. I wonder how this will work out.

Let me just put this out there. We have no idea of what`s really going on between Donald Trump and Jeff Sessions. And we have no way of really knowing.

Jeff Sessions was Trump`s earliest supporter in the Senate, they campaigned together for months. Sessions ran a large part of the Trump campaign. Sessions, for his part, has never been known to say a crossword about the president, ever. And maybe there`s some heartfelt personal conflict between them as men. I don`t know, I don`t care.

But I do know that this is the fourth round of this president shoveling public criticism onto this attorney general for a specific reason. And creating an expectation among his base where Jeff Sessions is, as popular as he is, creating an expectation among his base that maybe Jeff Sessions isn`t so great after all, that maybe Jeff Sessions has to go.

And there have been three instances of this before now. We`re having the fourth one now. The first was in March when Jeff Sessions was found to have had contacts with Russians during the campaign, contacts he didn`t disclose, even under oath. When those contacts were exposed, Sessions responded with that news by recusing himself from overseeing the Russian investigation.

Now, that was the very beginning of march. The president reacted to that, the president reacted to Jeff Sessions recusing himself from the Russia issue by going, quote, ballistic. The president erupted with anger. The president feels Sessions` recusal was unnecessary.

So, that was the first time. Trump flashes anger over Sessions` recusal. That was one. The second time was two months later in May. We learned about that one from "The New York Times". Quote, "Shortly after learning in May that a special counsel had been appointed to investigate links between his campaign associates and Russia, President Trump berated Attorney General Jeff Sessions in an Oval Office meeting and said he should resign.

The president attributed the appointment of the special counsel to Sessions` decision to recuse himself from the Justice Department`s Russia investigation, quote, ashen and emotion. Sessions told the president he would quit. And he sent a resignation letter to the White House. Quote, Trump ended up rejecting Sessions` resignation letter after senior members of his administration argued that dismissing him would only create more problems for the president.

So, the first time the president blew up at Jeff Sessions and let it be known publicly and it resulted in headlines how furious he was at Jeff Sessions, was when Sessions recused himself on the Russia thing in March. And two months later, the president again goes absolutely ballistic at Jeff Sessions, gets a resignation letter from Sessions.

What`s the source of the president`s anger? Again, Jeff Sessions being recused from the Russia investigation.

Then the third time was in July. Now, mid-July was very tough time for the White House on this story, right? The Trump Tower meeting involving his son and his son in law and Paul Manafort and all those Russians, gets exposed by "The New York Times." The president himself reportedly drafts the initial false statement explaining that way, which immediately gets public disproven by his son`s own e-mails. His son then has to hire a criminal defense attorney, the White House itself has to hire a new Russia lawyer. His son gets threaten with a subpoena. All that is blowing up and very close to home, the president in July opens up another salvo at his attorney general, Jeff Session.

And what`s he so mad about Jeff Session about? Guess.


TRUMP: Sessions gets the job. Right after he gets the job, he recuses himself.

NYT REPORTER: Was that a mistake?

TRUMP: Well, Sessions should have never recused himself. And if he would -- if was going to recuse himself, he should have told me before he took the job and I would have picked somebody else.


MADDOW: Why is it so important that Sessions recuse himself? What would you expect him to be doing now in the Justice Department if we were overseeing the Russia investigation?

That was the third big blowup between this president and his attorney general, right, starting yet another round of intensive media coverage of whether or not the attorney general and the president were really fighting, whether they disliked each other, whether he was going to have to go, this terrible rift between the president and the attorney general. How personal is it? It`s emotional, right?

That was -- that was the third time. The first one is when he recuses. Second one is when Mueller is appointed. Why did you recuse yourself? That`s why Mueller was appointed.

Third one is when the Trump Tower meeting comes out. Why isn`t he recused? Why did he recuse?

And now, we`re having the fourth one, and this came on indictment week.


TRUMP: A lot of people are disappointed in the Justice Department, including me.


MADDOW: So this is now the fourth round of more or less open conflict between this president and his attorney general. Not so much conflict as it is the president shoveling stuff onto the attorney general. And all four times that it`s happened, it appears to be keyed to the Russia investigation and the president`s anger is focused or his -- at least the focus on his criticism is on Jeff Sessions recusing himself. Why isn`t he running the Russia investigation?

If you are concerned about the Russia thing, about the Trump campaign, contacts with Russia during the election while Russia was influencing the election to help him, if you`re concerned about that, Jeff Sessions is probably one of the people from the campaign you are concerned about, right? This plea agreement for the Trump foreign policy advisor George Papadopoulos that was unsealed this week, in that plea agreement, we now have yet more instances of the attorney general apparently suffering very convenient memory lapses when it comes to him forgetting about contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia that he was definitely in on.

I mean, obviously, he knew about his own meetings with Russian officials during the campaign, but he forgot about them under oath. He knew about this adviser trying to set up meetings between the Trump campaign and Russian officials, but he forgot about them under oath. It now appears that he knew about a Trump campaign adviser taking a trip to Moscow in the middle of the campaign, to go meet with Russian officials. But he forgot about that too under oath.

I mean, if you`re concerned about the Russia contacts between the Trump campaign and the Russian government, and in particular the efforts to keep those contacts secret, then Jeff Sessions really is at the heart of what you`re probably concerned about. That said, do you think Trump should fire him? Because the reason Trump wants to fire him is because Sessions is recused from overseeing the Russian investigation. If Trump fires him, he will replace Sessions with somebody who is not recused from overseeing the Russia investigation, someone who would be more to Trump`s liking on that point specifically, because that`s the point that Trump keeps hitting with Sessions. It`s that.

When all of these other things -- it`s not. Four times is not a coincidence. Four times, he goes after him on the recusal. It`s the recusal. If he gets rid of sessions, he`s going to put in somebody who will not be recused, and that will be the reason he gets rid of Sessions.

So, should he get rid of him? I mean, if you think the Russia attack and the possibility of the Trump campaign was in on it is a serious national security matter for this country, a serious political crisis for this country, what`s worse? Having an attorney general of the United States, a serving attorney general who is up to his neck in that scandal, what`s worse, that, or not having that attorney general who is up to his neck in that scandal?

I mean, if you`re Congress and you want to go after the bad actors in this scandal, should you go after Jeff Sessions or is Jeff Sessions the one person that you absolutely should not go after under any circumstances no matter what he did because he needs to stay in that job. You tell me.


MADDOW: Every freaking Friday.

You know, there`s a theory as to how to be able to do this kind of a job with longevity, which is why you want to pretape your Friday shows, because you need a little break, you want to get an extra handle on the weekend, get out ahead of the traffic, and besides, nothing happens on Fridays.

We need new common wisdom. We need a new approach to longevity in this job, every Friday.

All right. "The New York Times" has just broken this news. Mark Mazzetti and Adam Goldman are the byline. Trump campaign adviser met with Russian officials in 2016.

All right. This new news just broken by "The New York Times" within the last few minutes. This derives from just one of the lots of people who has testified to the House Intelligence Committee this week. You`re familiar with Carter Page, who was a foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign. There`s been a lot of effort to minimize his role in the Trump campaign since it emerged that he not only turns up in the indictment of a Russian spy ring that was operating in New York City, but he did travel to Moscow during the campaign.

What "The New York Times" has just broken tonight is -- it derives from the testimony yesterday -- Carter Page`s testimony this week in the House Intelligence Committee. But it seems to confirm two things about a trip that Carter Page took to Moscow during the campaign. It confirms number one that he lied about it publicly. And number two that the campaign definitely knew that he took that trip and he met with Russian government officials on behalf of the Trump campaign during that trip.

In multiple interviews that Carter Page has done with the press, he had according to "The Times" either denied meeting with any Russian government officials during this July 2016 visit or he had sidestepped the question saying he met with mostly scholars. But according to "The New York Times," quote, Carter Page, a foreign policy adviser to the Trump presidential campaign met Russian government officials during his July 2016 trip that he took to Moscow. So, Carter Page has been mischaracterizing this meeting.

The more important part of this, whether or not you`re invested in Carter Page`s integrity as a person who describes his own history is that he appears to have described his meetings with Russian government officials to the Trump campaign at the time. So when the Trump campaign senior figures say Jeff Sessions or say Donald Trump, when they say they were unaware of anybody having contacts with Russian officials during the campaign, an e- mail that Carter Page sent back to the campaign after his Moscow trip appears to give lie to that.

Joining us now is Mark Mazzetti, Washington investigations editor at "The New York Times", one of the reporters on this new piece about Carter Page that just broken.

Mark, thank you very much for joining us on short notice. I really appreciate it.


MADDOW: So, Carter Page is an unusual figure because he does a lot of media interviews and he doesn`t appear to have a lawyer and he speaks in ways that make him seem like a comic figure. That said, what you described here is serious in terms of how honest the campaign has been about knowing about Russian contacts by people in the Trump campaign during the campaign. Is that basically the gist of it?

MAZZETTI: Right. I mean, I think the only reason this emerged is because during the testimony yesterday before the House Intelligence Committee, Page was presented with an e-mail that he apparently sent to the campaign after the trip, sort of describing his interactions with government officials, business executives, et cetera. And the e-mails came as a part of the House Intelligence Committee`s investigation and they were produced by the campaign.

And so, as you say, he -- Carter Page has been out and about in the media for months. "The New York Times" has talked to him frequently and it`s been very difficult to get any clarity on who he met with, and whether he met with government officials. In some cases, he just flat out denied it. So, that`s why this is significant and it`s significant because he seemed to have notified the campaign about the contacts.

MADDOW: So, and to that point specifically, Mark, one of the things that we heard after he came out of this House Intelligence Committee testimony, the committee was frustrated because he didn`t hand over any documents to them. This e-mail that was produced at the hearing with him while he was giving his testimony was not an e-mail that Carter Page produced saying, I wrote this e-mail to the campaign. Rather, this is an e-mail that the campaign produced, which proves that they received it from him, correct?

MAZZETTI: That is our understanding, yes. The investigators who have been sifting through thousands of e-mails had come across it, and then asked him about it during his testimony yesterday.

MADDOW: And do we know who he sent this e-mail to? Do we have any idea who he either felt he needed to notify about his trip to meet with Russian government officials or who received this e-mail?

MAZZETTI: We don`t. We`re still trying to learn more about that part.

MADDOW: OK. But somebody -- it would appear under the circumstances that somebody on the campaign got this, at least to the extent they had it and were able to hand it over to congressional investigators.

MAZZETTI: Right. And it`s -- his status at that point, he was still on the campaign officially, and as you know, the campaign tried to distance itself from Page by later that summer, and certainly now, and sort of saying he was an unpaid adviser, he never met with Trump, et cetera. But it did show during the campaign or during that trip in July 2016, he was connected to the people in the campaign and he was still in touch and he was briefing them on what happened.

MADDOW: Including his meetings with Russian government officials in Moscow. Remarkable.

Mark Mazzetti, Washington investigations editor at "The New York Times" -- thank you for your time tonight, particularly on short notice, Mark. Congratulations on the scoop.

MAZZETTI: Thank you.

MADDOW: Thanks.

All right. Again, just to underscore what "The New York Times" has just reported, according to these e-mails that have been obtained by the House Intelligence Committee, which were apparently read aloud when Carter Page testified this week, he not only took a trip to Moscow that was approved by the Trump campaign during the campaign, he met with Russian government officials while he was there. He reported on his meetings with Russian government officials back to the campaign. That means that every time people on the campaign denied that they had any knowledge that anybody in the Trump campaign was talking to Russian officials, I don`t know if it means they were lying, but at least there`s evidence that the campaign had been notified that was under way. Fridays.

All right. Much more to come tonight. Stay with us.


MADDOW: I want to switch gears here for a second. I want to give you a window into what it`s like to report one very difficult, very underreported story in this country right now. By now, by tonight at least we thought we`d be able to give you new information about a story we`ve been working on for a few weeks now.

"USA Today" actually had a great update on this today. They spoke with doctors and nurses who are part of the recovery effort in Puerto Rico, who are even now a month and a half after the storm, that island still has not restored electricity or running water. Doctors and nurses at USA Today spoke to are now reporting widespread symptoms related to unclean water in Puerto Rico.

They also published this photo of the kind of water people are getting out of the tap in places where they do have running water right now. Look at the blue color. That`s from a town 20 miles outside of the capital in Puerto Rico.

So, we`ve been following the public health threat posed by the lack of access to water in Puerto Rico and how American citizens in Puerto Rico are having to make do to find whatever water sources they can. There have been very good, very critical reports recently from CNN and "BuzzFeed" about whether or not we know what the overall death toll is in Puerto Rico, especially given evidence that hundreds of bodies were cremated in Puerto Rico soon after the soon, with nobody ever making any determination as to whether those deaths should have been considered storm-related.

Well, in covering the issue of potential water born disease caused by the lack of running water since the storm, we have been chasing the data on how many people have died specifically from water born illnesses since the hurricane, right? The death toll from the storm is only 54, I mean, only 54, 54 which -- you know, given that hundreds of bodies were cremated after the storm, there`s a lot of pressure on that number.

The official death toll is 54. The government says of those 54, there are three deaths so far that they attribute to a water-born illness called Leptospirosis, three. Here`s the thing, though, here`s the thing I want to show you. In addition to the three deaths from Lepto that the government says are official, the government also told us that there are another 76 cases that are under suspicion, being investigated. What we have been trying to determine is if that means there are another 76 fatalities they are investigating as having been possibly caused by this water-born illness.

I mean, if we only have an official death toll at 54, is the government looking at another 76 possible deaths here? That is an answerable question. But that is not a question the possibly caused by this water born illness. If we only have an official death toll at 54, is the government looking at another 76 possible deaths here? That is an answerable question. But that is not a question the government will answer, all right?

And this is what I want to show you. This is RACHEL MADDOW SHOW producer Lisa Ferry trying to pry that known and knowable information out of the government. I realize we`re kind of showing you our work here. But just listen to this. I just I want you to hear this. This makes me insane.


TRMS: Of those outstanding cases, how many of them are fatalities?

DESADA: OK, what I can say is, that that is under investigation.

TRMS: Is it possible that of those outstanding 70-some-odd cases, that some or many of them are dead?

DESDA: We have to do the confirmation testing. Just make sure that it`s Lepto.

TRMS: Do you even know how many of the 74 cases are fatalities?

DESADA: We have 76 suspected cases. Of those, we have two confirmed fatal cases, and to confirmed hospitalized cases.

TRMS: And of the remaining 72, are any of those fatalities?

DESADA: We have 72 suspected cases that we still have to investigate and confirm or not.

TRMS: But, but, right, you have to investigate whether they`re lepto or not, but do you know if they`re alive or not?

DESADA: First, we have to confirm that they`re positive or not?

TRMS: Do you even know if they`re alive?

DESADA: Yes, we have a list of who is fatal and who`s not and we`re getting Samples from all of them.

TRMS: So, I understand, you won`t -- your office won`t confirm if those 76 patients are alive or dead.

DESADA: Well, absolutely, we know who`s dead or not. The thing is, we at this point, once we have those results, we will give that information. Sure.


MADDOW: Absolutely. We know who`s dead and who`s not. But we`re not going to tell you. We`re not going to release that information yet.

I have to tell you, we`ve been sitting on that for several days now, we`ve been waiting for the "yet". We`ve been waiting to get the information that we are promised there, because the CDC in Atlanta would not tell us. They sent us to Puerto Rico`s department of health. Then the Puerto Rico Department of Health would not tell us.

They sent us to the state epidemiologist, and the state epidemiologist told us that this week, this week, they`d let us know. They`d get -- they`d let us know how many dozens of those cases were fatalities, and whether we`re potentially looking at a death toll, not from the storm but from the botched response to the storm that could be more than double what they`re currently admitting to.

They know whether these 70 plus cases they`re investigating of water born illness are through people who have died or from people who haven`t. They know that. But they will not tell us.

Again, they do know how many of the suspected cases of Lepto have been fatal, they just don`t want us to know. The government told us a week ago tonight that they would be announcing the results this week from the CDC in Atlanta, this week, with an updated number of fatalities. We waited all week. It`s Friday night now.

There`s a reason we didn`t do this until now. We`ve been calling. We have been following up. They have not released the numbers, and we will stay on this.

But Puerto Rico tonight still doesn`t have running water. And as far as we can tell, the ongoing death toll, because of that, should be regarded as unknown -- at least as of now.

Watch this space.


MADDOW: In the year 2000, the General Accounting Office released this report: suspicious banking activities, possible money launderings by U.S. corporations formed for Russian entities. It sounds a little boring, I know. But the story that was told in this report about this one particular guy was a very eye-popping story.

They traced in this report, they traced to one guy more than $1.4 billion in suspicious wire transfers that were deposited into 236 different American bank accounts, all from Russia and other Eastern Europe countries. Literally, one guy was running a billion and a half dollars through 236 different American bank accounts. He also personally set up more than 2,000 different shell corporations for Russian citizens. One guy.

That report in 2000 led to changes in the law to make it harder to launder money here in the United States.

The name of that one guy, who was never charged but whose status is the poster child for money laundering, led to changes in American law, he was a dual U.S.-Russian national. A guy named Ike Kaveladze. Does that ring a bell?

That poster child for money laundering, that report on Ike Kaveladze was in the year 2000. It was about his activities during the 1990s. In 2016, that same guy, Ike Kaveladze, turned up at the meeting in Trump Tower last June, which involved Donald Trump, Jr. and Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner. He was there at the Trump Tower meeting.

In the wake of the meeting, we learned that Ike Kaveladze`s partner in that $1.4 billion money laundering scheme from back in the `90s was a Soviet banker with ties to former KGB officers.

Then, a few weeks ago, "The Guardian" newspaper reported that Ike Kaveladze was involved in the 2003 takeover of a U.S. mining company by one of Russia`s wealthiest oligarchs, a very close friend of Vladimir Putin, who personally lobbied President Bush on behalf of that deal.

One of the five people the Russians handpicked to serve on the board of that new company was Ike Kaveladze.

Well, yesterday, Ike Kaveladze turned up again, when he testified behind closed doors to the House Intelligence Committee. And you can imagine there would be a lot of tough questions from members of Congress, right? Considering his past affiliations and the way he`s turned up, right? And even U.S. government reports, right?

What did you learn, Congressman Tom Rooney, Republican member of the committee, what did you learn?


REP. TOM ROONEY (R), FLORIDA: He just sort of seemed to be another guy in the room. He was supposed to be there to be a translator and then there happened to be another translator so he didn`t even do that. But he was a very good witness just to sort of like assist us and what, you know, went on during the meeting.


MADDOW: He was just another guy in the room. He`s a very good witness. Did you Google him?

We have been hearing Republicans in Congress that they want the Trump- Russia probe to wrap up as fast as possible. Maybe this is just me, but how does Ike Kaveladze with his long, lurid, like poster child making history of suspected money laundering and ties to Russian oligarchs and the KGB, how does he end up as just another guy in the room really handy he was there. He was super sweet. I mean, did you know anything about him before you talked to him, member of the intelligence committee, right?

In addition to Ike Kaveladze, the House Intelligence Committee just this week has met with three other witnesses, ex-Justice Department officials Sally Yates and Mary McCord, also with Carter Page, who "The New York Times" reports today, in fact, met with Russian officials during a trip to Moscow last summer and advised the Trump campaign when he returned of how those meetings with Russian officials went.

House Intelligence Committee has been meeting with a lot of very, very important people in the middle of this investigation. Whether they have been prepared for those interviews, I don`t know. But they`re doing a lot of them really fast right now, and I think we might know why that is and that`s next.


MADDOW: So, "The New York Times" breaking news tonight that campaign emails of the Trump campaign show that Carter Page notified the Trump campaign that he met with Russian government officials on his trip to Moscow during the presidential campaign last year. That gives lie to the denials from the Trump campaign that they had any idea there were contacts between their campaign and the Russians.

That revelation comes from "The New York Times", but it also comes from the House Intelligence Committee, which met with Carter Page this week and reportedly read aloud to him that campaign e-mail. But honestly, the House Intelligence Committee is kind of meeting with everybody and their mother right now. They`ve had a ton of high profile witness this week and they`re planning to continue to do that next week. I`m curious as to whether this pace they`re operating at right now might mean that they are wrapping up or maybe they`re just being incredibly efficient.

Joining us now is Kyle Cheney who reports on Congress for

Mr. Cheney, thank you for being with us. Appreciate your time.


MADDOW: Is there -- am I right to sense that there has been an uptick in the pace, particularly in this House committee?

CHENEY: No question. And I mean, this committee if you remember back they were absolutely hobbled by partisanship for months in a bay people wondered if they would gate investigation off the ground at all. So, it`s not totally surprising that they`re suddenly -- they righted that ship a little bit and having people in, but the notable intensification of that pace of bringing in witnesses and not just any witnesses but high-profile witnesses, people close to the president, people close to the campaign gives you a sense that they`re sort of reaching a climax or a crescendo here and maybe nearing the end which I think a lot of Republicans would be happy to hear.

MADDOW: I highlighted the story of Ike Kaveladze and his testimony this week a moment ago, in part because he seems like such an important and complex target given his ties to the Putin government and to money laundering on an epic scale, at least according to a government report.

Is there any sense that the pace of these witnesses might be impeding the ability of the committee to actually prepare to ask them hard questions?

CHENEY: Well, I think you`ve heard frustration from some Democrats of a sense they`re feeling rushed that maybe there`s pressure, political pressure or otherwise to get this thing done with. I don`t think -- I mean, they met with Carter Page yesterday for seven hours. Just about seven hours and I think they`re getting ask the questions they want to ask in those windows of time that they`re inside the committee room. But can they synthesize everything and come to any concrete and satisfying solutions that aren`t partisan in nature? That`s the part that I think is frustrating some lawmakers right now, too.

MADDOW: Kyle Cheney, congressional reporter for, Kyle, thank you for being with us particularly on a Friday night.

CHENEY: Great to be here.

MADDOW: Really appreciate it.

All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.


MADDOW: Lawrence O`Donnell is here tonight in uno minuto, buckled in, ready to go, don`t touch that dial. But I want to advise you on one thing first for your plans for earlier next week. I don`t know if you forgot and made other plans but Tuesday night is -- election night. Election night all over the country with big marquee governor`s races in New Jersey and Virginia. You need to check now to see if you need to be voting where you live on Tuesday in any state or local elections. But then, make your plans for Tuesday night to watch all the returns.

Again, sit tight now. Here comes Lawrence, but plan ahead for Tuesday night. There`s going to be special live election night coverage all night Tuesday night right here. You need to cancel whatever else you were planning on doing it.

That does it for us tonight. We`ll see you again on Monday.

Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD" with great Lawrence O`Donnell.

Good evening, Lawrence.



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