Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW Date: November 14, 2017
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. Very happy to have you here with us tonight.
Who here, show of hands, who here is old enough to have ever used a typewriter? I took typing class and it was on a typewriter. I'm that old.
Typewriters started off with a mechanism that looked like this. You pressed a button on a keyboard for a specific letter, but then a little arm, a little bar would swing up from the guts of the keyboard and smack that letter into the inked typewriter ribbon, and thereby pressed the imprint of that letter on to the paper, right? So, that was the mechanism.
Each keystroke on the typewriter would cause a piece of metal to fling itself up toward the paper, a different little bar with a different letter on it for each keystroke. That was how they started out.
But then in 1961, IBM changed all of that. IBM invented a whole new kind of electric typewriter, where instead of each letter, each number, each character having its own little type bar that would swing up and on to the paper every time you hit a keyboard -- a stroke on the keyboard. Instead, selectric typewriters had this little ball, like a little kiwi or golf ball, they called it the font element and you could change out that ball for a different ball if you wanted to have a different font to type with.
And the innovation here was that with the selectric, instead of a distinct and different piece of individual piece of metal, flinging itself up at the paper for every letter that you typed, now it was just this one piece of metal. This little ball that would rotate and pivot to position the appropriate letter or number or character in line with the ribbon to make its mark on the page.
It was a big engineering advance in terms of the way typewriters worked. And it definitely changed typing.
But it turns out, it also changed spying. Because starting in the 1970s, Soviet Union invented secret small technology that could be fitted inside an IBM selectric typewriter. And they disguised it really well, so the only way you could find this thing was by X-raying the typewriter and knowing what you were looking for.
But what their spying device did inside of a selectric typewriter is that it could detect the movement of little arms and pushrods inside the selectric typewriter that positioned that ball, that pivoted and rotated that ball as you typed the letters and numbers that you wanted to appear on the page. They put a device inside selectric typewriters that could feel the difference, that could detect the difference that ball being rotated to type a letter X and that ball being rotated to type like a number seven.
It turns if you were sensitive enough to detect the movements inside that selectric, to position that ball the right way, you could detect an individual and specific signal that translated to each letter or number that was being typed. So, this device inside the selectric would listen in as you were typing and it would translate that information into a digital signal and then it would transmit that digital signal to the KGB, to spies, who were listening in on that typewriter.
And in so doing, starting in the mid-1970s -- again, the selectric only existed from 1961. But by the mid-1970s, the Russians had so hacked it, they could essentially get a real time broadcast of anything that was being typed on one of these IBM selectric typewriters that they'd been able to get a bug into. It was absolutely engineering spy genius.
And from 1976 to 1984, there were 16 IBM selectric typewriters at the U.S. embassy in Moscow that were bugged by the Soviets with one of these bugs that could listen in to the little arms and pushrods that moved the selectric ball. And for eight solid years, for those eight years, everything typed on those 16 IBM selectric typewriters was beamed directly to the KGB.
And the only reason the U.S. figured it out in 1984 is because another country that had been bugged this same way by the KGB figured it out in one of their own facilities and since they were our ally, they tipped us off that maybe that we should check this. Hey, you guys using selectric typewriters? Particularly at your embassies and consulates in Russia? You may want to get them X-rays and check for that particular sophisticated bug that the Russians made up and we have found them using against us.
So, those compromised -- those 16 compromised IBM selectric typewriters, those were an intelligence disaster for the United States for eight solid years as they broadcast everything typed inside the embassy. But they were finally discovered in 1984.
And when that got found out in 1984, that was the time when we were finding out a lot of other things that were very, very bad about our embassy and the Russians spying on us and spying on that embassy around that time.
One of the biggest scandals, one of the biggest failures ever on the part of the United States when it came to spying and Russia started in 1969, when then President Richard Nixon came to hard-fought agreement with the Soviet Union. And the agreement was that the Soviets would be allowed to build a new Soviet embassy in Washington. And we, simultaneously, would be allowed to build a new American embassy in Moscow. That was agreed to after much negotiation in 1969.
They weren't actually ready to start construction itself in Moscow until a decade later in 1979. But if you think about that time in modern U.S. history, this was a very chilly part of the Cold War, right? And by the time the U.S. was ready to start construction on our new embassy is Moscow in 1979, the sure fact that that embassy would be a target of advanced Russian spying operations was very much on American officials' minds. It was very much in American news.
I mean, this was -- this was a front and center concern about building a new embassy in Moscow. Not just because U.S. and Russian spies were always targeting each other, but also because, right before we started construction, we had just discovered a major Russian intelligence operation for them to spy on our existing facilities in Moscow.
This is a news report from 1978, the year before we started building the new embassy. Part of the reason I want to show this is because it's relevant to this story, but part of the reason I want to show it is because of the amazing graphics in this news report. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The most recent Soviet/American rift involves the discovery of yet another Soviet listening device in the American embassy in Moscow. Events of this kind are not always made public, but this one, discovered on May 25th, was disclosed by American officials today.
Ford Rowan has the details.
FORD ROWAN, NBC NEWS REPORTER: The Russian KGB agents operated out of an apartment building just across the street from the American embassy. They used a cable which ran from the listening post through a secret tunnel under the street into the embassy basement and up a ventilating shaft to the seventh floor. American personnel found surveillance equipment in the shaft, including a disc-shaped antenna-like device. During the search, the Americans surprised a Russian agent who fled from his listening post.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: So in 1969, Nixon had agreed with the Russians that they would get to build a new embassy here. And that we would get to build a new embassy there. And all through the '70s, we continued to discover the Russians bugging our existing embassy in our diplomatic facilities in Russia, including them having a secret tunnel under the street into our embassy as late as 1978.
But then in 1979, we started building our new embassy in Moscow. And it's now clear in retrospect that in that decision, we made what is now quite obviously, in retrospect, an absolutely ridiculous error as a country, right? And this was a high-level negotiated thing. You know, the highest levels of the administration were involved in negotiating this fact that the Russians get to build their embassy and we get to build our embassy and it's simultaneous and there's a big team of high-level government people negotiating the exact terms that the construction will be managed.
This is something the government worked really hard on for a number of years. But somehow at the end of that progress, the U.S. agreed to a process that had a major flaw. See if you can figure out what it was.
On the Russia side of the equation, when they were building their embassy in Washington, their part of the deal said that all building materials for their embassy would be constructed on site. They had Soviet officials on site overseeing every aspect of the construction, down to the level of every single beam, every single board. Everything that went into that embassy was cut and cast and assembled at the building site under their own people's supervision.
And just to be doubly safe, every component that went into building the Russian embassy in Washington, D.C. was x-rayed piece by piece as it was put together to make sure there was no funny business, there was no CIA bugs for the Russian embassy, right? Nothing had been concerted into the construction materials somehow. That was the Russian side of the deal.
The American side of the deal was different. The American side of the deal, for our building in Moscow, U.S. government negotiated that, yes, American workers and American officials would be responsible for all the finish work, like, the fine work inside the building, but when it came to the basic guts of the building, like the beams and the concrete and the pre-cast floor panels and all the columns, those would all be prefab manufactured in Soviet facilities by Soviet workers and then brought complete on to the construction site where the U.S. would watch, basically, while the Russian workers assembled our new embassy for us in Moscow.
Who made this deal?
So, yes, like, American workers got to put in the windows and the doors and stuff. But when it came to the actual building building, that was built by the Russians for us. Ah, that was very nice of them. They controlled the design. They controlled all the fundamental construction, building of that embassy in Moscow started in 1979. By 19 -- honestly, by 1979, by '80, by '81, by '82, the U.S. realized we had a serious problem on our hands with that building.
The 7,000-pound pre-cast pieces of the building were arriving at the building site to be installed in the new embassy. They were arriving completely made. People who were in charge of making sure the embassy wasn't going to be spied on said from the very beginning, whoa, this is going to be a problem. The U.S. had security engineers reviewing the construction materials as best they could, but the Russians were running the design and the construction process.
By 1982, the U.S. government was so worried that we had secretly dispatched a specially trained team of bug detectors for the still under construction building. And I kid you not, they were trained rock climbers. They put dudes in rock climbing harnesses and special cold weather gear that had been supplied by Eddie Bauer and in the dead of night, in the dead of the Moscow winter, with temperatures dipping to 40 degrees below zero, they had these guys, these specialists, rappelling down the sides of the building under construction with specially made x-ray machines to try to find all the Russian bugs. And boy, did they find a lot of Russian bugs.
"New York Times" did a great recap in 1988 as to what had gone wrong with the case of the bugged embassy. Quote: They discovered interconnecting systems so sophisticated they couldn't be removed from the steel and concrete columns, the beams, the pre-cast floor slabs, the sheer walls between the columns. They found electronic packages where a piece of steel reinforcement in the flooring should have been. They found resonating devices that allowed the Russians to monitor electronic and verbal communications.
One engineer who worked on the site from 1980 to 1982 said, quote, we found things that didn't belong there, based on the shop drawings. We found cables in the concrete. And it wasn't like some low-level hack job. It was very sophisticated.
Ron Kessler from "The Washington Post" later wrote a book that touched on this subject. His book called "Moscow Station." He explained in his book how some of the bugs the Russians put in in the construction process were found in places where metal beams were welded together and they would make the bugs out of materials that had the same density as the metal in the joint, so even if you did X-ray that joint, you wouldn't detect them.
So, the U.S. government negotiated for that building in '69, started building it in '79. By the early '80s, they'd gotten rock climbers to be rebelling down the outside of the building in the dead of night saying, uh- uh, this place is intrinsically bugged. By 1985, they actually stopped working on it when it was two-thirds done and kicked all the Russian workers out.
And then the government appears to have had no idea what to do with their partially built, ruinously compromised KGB Christmas present that the U.S. taxpayers had just funded to the tune of many millions of dollars right in the heart of Moscow. And then on top of all of that, the KGB won again at the U.S. embassy, when for the first time in the history of the United States, a U.S. marine was charged and convicted of espionage.
KGB had sent young female officers to seduce and then blackmail U.S. Marines who were providing security at the existing American embassy facilities in Moscow while the new one was under construction. KGB knew it was illegal for the marines to fraternize with local Russian women, so they did their best to get those Marines to break that rule and then they squeezed them. They threatened to expose their wrongdoing unless these Marines helped them out. So, lots of young, attractive KGB officers got all sorts of access to U.S. embassy facilities.
In the worst instance, the Marine who was convicted of espionage and served nine years in prison, he apparently handed over blueprints for the embassy facilities. And then as that Marine Moscow honey trap scandal was becoming public in 1987, the story also finally went public about the KGB embassy construction scam fiasco, and how Russia was able to sew intrinsically compromise the basic building bones of our embassy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The new ambassador to Moscow, Jack Matlock, arrived today. His first job, secure the embassy. The State Department has asked the nation's top-secret national security agency to sweep the agency before Secretary of State George Shultz arrives in ten days.
While marines allegedly compromised the current embassy, lack security was just as damaging next door at the new embassy now under construction. These officials believe the new offices are bugged top to bottom. They recommend the building be torn down and re-built from scratch. The cost, more than $1 billion.
When the Soviets built their new embassy complex in Washington, they insisted all building materials be constructed on site. Each beam and board was scrupulously X-rayed.
But according to intelligence sources, American officials in Moscow, were quote, outplayed from the start. Soviet workmen pre-cast the concrete off- site without American supervision. Workers on-site say security was a joke. The result, sophisticated listening devices embedded in foundations, floors, and walls.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: "NBC Nightly News" Ann Gairls (ph) reporting in 1977. This is a big deal, right?
The Senate voted more than two to one that then Secretary of State George Shultz shouldn't go to Moscow as long as our embassy couldn't be rendered safe for his visit. Led to a big tit for tat fight with the Russians where we both expelled lots of people in both countries, and also led to a very frustrated and angry President Ronald Reagan.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RONALD REAGAN, FORMER PRESIDENT: I just wanted to come in here to tell you that I'm deeply concerned over the breach of security in our embassy. The United States will not occupy our new embassy building in Moscow unless and until I can be assured that it is safe to move into a secure embassy environment.
REPORTER: Mr. President, if the Gorbachev changes his mind, will you then allow Soviets to become re-employed at our embassy there? And how extensive is the problem in other Soviet block embassy?
REAGAN: We are investigating the whole area of embassies. So, listen, Frank is going to take all of your questions, unfortunately, and I'm not ducking you, I tried to answer a few.
REPORTER: Would rehire them, sir, if Mr. Gorbachev changes his mind?
REAGAN: No, I think we should have our own personnel.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Would you rehire Soviet personnel to work at that site of the U.S. embassy? No, we should have our own personnel.
President Reagan, April 1987. President Reagan left office after serving two full terms in January 1989, and in January 1989, as one of the last things he did as president, Ronald Reagan recommended that the entire U.S. embassy in Moscow just be torn down, razed to the ground, start over.
Five years later in 1994, the U.S. sort of, partially, did that. Some of the embassy was demolished and new top floors were installed, top floors installed by U.S. workers, using U.S. materials, under U.S. supervision this time. So, at least those top floors of the embassy could be made secure.
They did, however, just pop those new secured top floors on the top of the old infected base of the building that we let the Russians put up for us, right? It was an absolutely ridiculous 25-year saga, that embassy.
Today, Andrew Higgins, Moscow correspondent for "The New York Times" reports on a new decision that has just been made about that embassy of ours in Moscow, a decision made by the U.S. State Department, under Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. According to this new reporting, the U.S. State Department has awarded a no-bid contract for security at the U.S. embassy in Moscow, it's a no bid contract, $2.8 billion contract, awarded without competition.
That security contract has gone to, quote, a private Russian company that grew out of a security business co-founded by Vladimir Putin's former KGB boss, a veteran spy, who spent 25 years planting agents in Western security services. Quote: Security guards at the American embassy in Moscow and at U.S. consulates in St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg, and Vladivostok will be provided by Elite Security Holdings, a company closely linked to former head of Soviet counterintelligence in the KGB. His name is Victor Budanov.
Viktor Budanov and Russian President Vladimir Putin worked closely together as KGB officers in East Germany. He has been vocally support of President Putin. Mr. Budanov helped start the firm, according to Russian sources quoted in "The Times" today. It's now run by his son, Dmitri.
So, you know, what could g wrong?
The firm that will now be screening visitors to the U.S. embassy in Moscow, in other words, handling security matters at the U.S. embassy in Moscow is a Russian firm, linked not just to Russian intelligence, but specifically to Vladimir Putin's former colleague in the KGB, who rose to run counterintelligence for the Soviet Union.
And at this point in the story, I would usually make some joke about, hey, why not just hand them the keys? But literally, they're going to be running security at the embassy, so they are going to have the keys.
Again, a no-bid contract awarded by the State Department under Rex Tillerson, first reported today in "The New York Times."
Why would you do that?
President Trump returns from his longest overseas trip tonight. Even though it was a trip to Asia, he still managed to squeeze in three meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin on this trip. Despite the fact that the White House never confirmed in advance whether or not those meetings would happen, luckily for us, the Kremlin and Russian media was able to let us know that those meetings had happened, as our soonest notification as Americans.
After his meetings with Putin, president Trump found time to make extensive and uniformly supportive comments about Putin and Russia.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I believe that he feels that he and Russia did not meddle in the election. I believe that president Putin really feels, and he feels strongly, that he did not meddle in our election. What he believes is what he believes.
And, you know, people don't realize, Russia has been very, very heavily sanctioned. They were sanctioned at a very high level. And that took place very recently.
It's now time to get back to healing a world that is shattered and broken.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Really sounds like quintessential Trump, right? It's the kind of thing you heard from Trump every day. It's time to get back to healing the world.
Isn't that the way our president typically talks? The great healer. Remember "the art of the heal"? Remember?
The president's attitude toward the Russian Federation and Russian President Vladimir Putin is unlike his evident relationship with anybody else. Let alone the president of a country that is not just an active adversary, but a country that was aggressively involved in our domestic affairs last year, to the point where the previous administration kicked out tons of their diplomats, closed their diplomatic facilities in the United States, and made unprecedented declarations from the unified American intelligence community expressing alarm about what Putin and Russia had done.
So, in terms of what's going on there, between our president and Putin, we still don't know. He behaves toward him the way he behaves towards no one else.
In terms of the president's campaign, the investigations into the links between the Russian attack on our election and President Trump's campaign include now known contacts between the Trump campaign and a Russian lawyer and a Russian lobbyist and a Russian-linked academic and a Russian who said she's Putin's niece and a Russian military intelligence veteran and a Russian oligarch, and Russian energy executives and also the Russian deputy prime minister, and, of course, the Russian ambassador.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions today upgraded his memory stick once again to declare to the House Judiciary Committee that despite his previous denials that he'd had any information about any Russian contact by members of the Trump campaign, he now does recall that he may be had been aware about some of those contacts during the campaign.
He insists that his evolving statements on these matters is all truthful, is all true. It's all innocent. He insists that he's consistently told the truth, even though his story has consistently changed.
We don't know everything the Trump campaign was doing with all of these Russian contacts, while Russia was interfering in the election to help Trump win it. But after Russia interfered to help Trump win the election and then Trump won the election, the Trump administration has continued to behave toward Russia in ways we don't have to speculate about. We don't have to wonder about. We can see it.
I mean, look what they have just decided to do with security at the beleaguered U.S. embassy in Moscow? Look at how Rex Tillerson has decimated the U.S. State Department. Look at how the president has expressed how Russia has really been very heavily sanctioned and now it's time to get back to healing the world. Look at how Secretary of State Tillerson has closed the office at State Department that administers sanctions.
Look at even the basic stuff about Russia being able to announce the behavior and meetings of our president before we can. Look at the president inviting Russian officials and a guy with a bag of camera equipment into the Oval Office without ever telling the United States media that that was happening. So, the Russian press would break news of that first. And then once they were in there, he told them code word protected intelligence that had been gathered by one of our allies that he did not have permission to share.
Russian attacks on our election last year is an unprecedented thing. But time and time again, the behavior of the administration towards Russia since they've been in office is just previously unthinkable submission. Whatever happened during the campaign, it really appears to not be over. It's not just what they did back then. It's what's happening right now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ZOE LOFGREN (D-CA), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Did you discuss changes to the Republican foreign policy platform with Mr. Flynn at any point during the campaign?
JEFF SESSIONS, ATTORNEY GENERAL: I don't recall it.
LOFGREN: In January, were you notified when the administration was notified of Mr. Flynn's lie and his susceptibility to Russian blackmail?
SESSIONS: I don't believe so.
LOFGREN: Did you at any point discuss with Michael Flynn the possibility of then candidate Trump or his surrogates meeting with the Russian government?
SESSIONS: I do not recall such a conversation.
LOFGREN: Did you know that Flynn was working for the Turkish government while acting as a surrogate for the Trump campaign?
SESSIONS: I don't believe I had information to that effect.
LOFGREN: Did you know that he was working for the Turkish government at any point after the election?
SESSIONS: I don't believe so.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: California's Zoe Lofgren trying today to get Attorney General Jeff Sessions to remember anything, anything at all, concerning Trump national security adviser, Michael Flynn, from the time of the Trump campaign, where Jeff Sessions was supposed to be in charge of national security issues on that campaign.
Given reports of the very serious legal jeopardy that Mike Flynn may now be in, given the recent indictment of the Trump campaign chairman and his deputy, given the guilty plea and cooperation of a Trump foreign policy adviser, whose role on the campaign, the attorney general, was reportedly overseeing, did today's testimony by Attorney General Jeff Sessions shed light on whether he himself may be in legal jeopardy, either from the Russia investigation, or from anything else that has grown out of it. What did we learn today?
Joining us now is Matthew Miller, he's the former chief spokesman for the Justice Department.
Mr. Miller, thank you very much for joining us. Really appreciate it.
MATTHEW MILLER, FORMER CHIEF SPOKESMAN FOR THE JUSTICE DEPARTMENT: Of course, thank you.
MADDOW: I want to ask you first about Mike Flynn. I wanted to play that SOT from -- that sound from Zoe Lofgren today, because I found it remarkable that sessions is essentially making it seem like he's never heard of Mike Flynn, he certainly didn't know anything salient about him. Even once Mike Flynn was in office and everybody learned that he had been working for the Turkish government, Jeff Sessions was pretending, at least to my mind, that he has no idea who he is.
How serious is Mike Flynn's legal jeopardy right now, as far as what we know? And does it matter if people on the campaign pretend they didn't know?
MILLER: Mike Flynn's legal jeopardy has been great for a long time. And it's gotten bigger, just based on the reports that NBC has broken in the last week or so, where we've learned that not only was he acting as an unregistered foreign agent for the Turkish government, not only did he potentially lie on his security clearance forms and lies to the FBI about his conversations with the Russian ambassador, but he may have been discussing -- receiving $15 million in exchange for either a kidnapping scheme, by one telling of the story, or for helping facilitate the extradition of a Turkish cleric who lives in the United States, who the Turkish government has been trying to get for a long time.
And, you know, it's really important with respect to the rest of the investigation, because the president's exposure and potentially the attorney general's exposure largely centers around obstruction of justice, at least as far as we know. And that all started with Sally Yates warning to the White House that Mike Flynn was somewhat of a national security risk and that caused, you know, the president to start a series of meetings with Jim Comey, asking for a loyalty pledge, asking him to back off the Flynn investigation, that are really start central to all of this.
MADDOW: So, if the Flynn -- on that point there, just to be clear. If the Flynn underlying investigation, that James Comey says he was being pressured about by the president, if the Flynn underlying investigation was about not promptly registering under the Foreign Agent Registration Act, or if it were about something that's the kind of thing that's turned up in the Manafort and Gates indictment, something about bank fraud or tax evasion or something like that. Would that be a different quality of obstruction of justice than if what Flynn's investigation was about, was actually a violent felony like attempted kidnapping?
MILLER: You know, not necessarily. You can be convicted of obstruction of justice, even when there was no underlying crime that is ever charged by the Department of Justice. But when you look at this, with you know, you always are looking for the most compelling narrative you can tell a jury. That's what prosecutors will tell you.
But in this case, when you're looking at a compelling narrative that ultimately would be subject to an impeachment proceedings, I think most legal experts agree that's where this would end as it relates to the president himself, it is a much more compelling theory if you can show that the reason that he was asking Jim Comey to back off on Mike Flynn was not just because Flynn was a friend of his or that he thought Flynn was a good guy, but that he knew that Flynn had underlying legal jeopardy that would cause him serious problems, and even worse, if you could show that those serious problems extended into the administration itself.
So, if there were acts that Mike Flynn took while he was a national security adviser, for example, asking to speed up this extradition or asking to start this extradition while he was potentially taking $15 million in bribes, that would make that story about Donald Trump obstructing justice much more compelling.
MADDOW: Matthew Miller, former chief spokesman for the Justice Department. This was a marathon hearing today. Thanks for helping us absorb it. Much appreciated.
MILLER: Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. We've got a lot more to get to tonight. Stay with us.
MADDOW: The member of Congress you see right here is Congressman Mo Brooks. He's a Republican from Alabama. He's been in office since 2011.
I have to show you his picture now because in this next clip, Congressman Brooks is moving awfully fast and you may not recognize him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Do you believe Roy Moore over the women?
REP. MO BROOKS (R), ALABAMA: I believe that the Democrats will do great damage to our country.
REPORTER: So, you will still believe Roy Moore?
BROOKS: I believe that the Democrats will do great damage to our country on a myriad of issues.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Click, click, click, click, click, click. Hey, you're from Alabama. Can we talk about Roy Moore! Sir, I have a question about Roy Moore.
That's Tom Llamas of ABC News tonight running after Congressman Mo Brooks and doing so in dress shoes. And doing so very well, holding the handrail for safety. Well done.
Judge Moore has become an albatross around the neck of the Republican Party. He has put them in a tough spot. Republicans do not want to look too friendly to him, given the allegations against him. They don't want to look too supportive, but they really would like to keep that Alabama Senate seat in Republican control.
And all the Beltway hand-wringing and all the running from reporters down staircases might make it seem like there's no obvious and easy way out here for Republicans.
But you know what? There is totally a way that would totally work. They have done it before. And it worked way better for them than running away down the stairs. They could totally do something.
Hold that thought.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: So, you will still believe Roy Moore?
BROOKS: I believe that the Democrats will do great damage to our country on a myriad of issues.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: This was the front page of "The Washington Post" on November 22nd, 1992. So less than three weeks after the big presidential election that year. Packwood accused of sexual advances, alleged behavior pattern counters image.
Four-term Republican Senator Bob Packwood of Oregon had just been re- elected three weeks before. But then there was this bombshell scoop on the front page of "The Washington Post," spelling out ten alleged incidents dating back to his first year as a United States senator. Quote, in some cases, the women said the behavior took place when he'd been drinking. Several said he was abrupt, grabbing them without warning, kissing them forcefully and persisting until they made clear they were not interested or had pushed him away.
Eventually, 19 women in total came forward to accuse Senator Bob Packwood of sexual misconduct. The Senate Ethics Committee opened an investigation into him. They investigated Bob Packwood for 33 months, during which time the Republicans regained control of the Senate from Democrats.
Even with Republicans in charge, the committee refused Senator Packwood's repeated requests that he should be allowed to participate in public hearings on the matter. They said no to that. They proceed on their own terms.
And after that 33-month investigation, the Senate Ethics Committee released a report. A ten-volume damning report on Senator Bob Packwood. It was over 10,000 pages long. It weighed 40 pounds.
For a while, it made for some non G-rated reporting on the "Nightly News".
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The committee released more than 10,000 documents, including embarrassing excerpts from Packwood's diary. In them, the senator claims to have had sexual encounters with 22 members of his staff, some in his office, some described in explicit detail.
He wrote: She has the most stunning figure, big breasts. Needless to say, I did not stop myself.
He also wrote that it was his Christian duty to make love to one staffer.
Even more potentially troublesome, the committee laid out how diaries were altered by Packwood, in what was deemed an illegal effort to cover up and obstruct the Senate investigation. The matter was referred to the Justice Department for possible criminal charges.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Senator Bob Packwood had held out for 33 months. But after that 10,000-page report from the Senate Ethics Committee, he quit. He quit that same day.
Senator Bob Packwood was done. He resigned before he could get officially expelled from the U.S. Senate. He resigned in tears on the floor of the Senate.
And the person who forced that, the chair of that Senate Ethics Committee, who went so far as recommending federal charges against his fellow Republican, who whipped the rest of his committee to vote for an unanimous expulsion vote for Bob Packwood, who rolled out that 40-pound indictment against his fellow Republican to make sure that Senator Bob Packwood would resign, the chair of that Ethics Committee who played such hardball on that issue, who made all of that happen was a Republican senator from Kentucky named Mitch McConnell.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), CHAIRMAN, ETHICS COMMITTEE: The committee has heard enough. The Senate has heard enough. The public has heard enough. The evidence is compelling and it seems to me the appropriate response would be resignation.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Both senators specifically challenged Packwood's claim that he was, at worst, guilty of over-eagerly kissing women.
MCCONNELL: He used physical coercion against his victims, frightening them, and causing them severe emotional distress.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Mitch McConnell, now the Senate Republican leader, he really did lead the charge against one of his own Republican colleagues in the early '90s, ultimately making sure that Senator Bob Packwood had no friends in the Senate and had no rational choice but to resign, in tears.
And as Republicans deal with a not-quite-exact but weirdly similar situation on their hands now, now a Republican candidate for Senate, accused of sexual misconduct against teenagers, honestly, there's no one better suited in the United States Senate to manage a crisis like this, to end a crisis like this, than Mitch McConnell. There is no one who has more apt experience for how you make a problem like this go away.
Calling for Roy Moore to drop out of the Senate race in Alabama is a thing. Calling for Alabama voters to reject him and vote for his opponent instead, that's a thing.
But Roy Moore isn't just trying to win a random contest. He's trying to join something. He's trying to join the United States Senate. And that body has considerable say over whether or not Roy Moore gets to do that.
And yes, they could wait until after the election to start working then on expelling Roy Moore once he gets to Washington, but the Senate could also begin holding hearings on Roy Moore right now and his fitness as a potential United States senator. They could start taking care of this today, and Mitch McConnell absolutely knows how to do that.
It's not like this is a dilemma with no way out. They could start this now. The model is there. It's their own history. They invented this model. They have done it before.
The great Steve Kornacki joins us next. Stay with us.
MADDOW: (AUDIO GAP) news that despite all the controversy over Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, all the individual Republican senators and the Republican Senate Campaign Committee all cutting ties with him, despite all that, NBC news reported that as of last night, the RNC, the Republican National Committee, still had 11 national party operatives on the ground working in Alabama, trying to get Roy Moore elected to the United States Senate. That was last night.
Tonight those Republican field operatives have now left Alabama. The RNC has ended their work in Alabama. And as of tonight, the RNC also is no longer part of the fundraising agreement that it struck with the Roy Moore campaign. Sort of knew it would happen eventually. Didn't know it would happen that fast.
But now, it's just the Roy Moore campaign and the Alabama Republican Party fending for themselves. They think they'll win that Senate race next month. And a lot of Alabama observers think they are right. Then what?
Joining us now is the great Steve Kornacki, national political correspondent for NBC News and MSNBC.
Steve, it's great to see you. Thanks for being here.
STEVE KORNACKI, NBC NEWS AND MSNBC NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Great to be here. Yes.
MADDOW: So, I had John Archibald here from the "Birmingham News" last night. He says even what the fifth accuser coming forward and John Archibald describing her as very credible in Alabama terms, he still thinks Roy Moore is going to win.
What do you think?
KORNACKI: I think it's certainly possible. I mean, to put it in some perspective, you've got to go back to 1996 to find a Senate race in Alabama that was even a single digit race. You got to go back to 1992 to find a Democrat who actually won a race there, and that was Richard Shelby who switched parties midway through the term.
KORNACKI: So that's the history they're up against here.
I do think on the other hand, it's possible he could still lose this race. Keep in mind here, Roy Moore last ran for office in Alabama in 2012 for chief justice. It was on the same day Mitt Romney was on the ballot for president. Mitt Romney won Alabama with 62 percent of the vote. Roy Moore got 51 percent in the race for chief justice.
KORNACKI: So even before all of this, he was an unusually polarizing figure in Alabama. I know that was a statewide race, not for federal office. Federal office could introduce more polarization into the race.
I think it's certainly possible he could lose the race. If there is ever a circumstance where Republicans could lose a Senate race in Alabama, you're looking at it right now.
But, yes, you can't look at that history and say Roy Moore is certain to lose this thing. It is possible he'll get elected.
MADDOW: And then what do you make of the Washington machinations today what the Republican Party could or might do to basically rid themselves of him to keep him out of the Senate or to expel him from the Senate if he does win?
KORNACKI: Yes, if he does win, I mean, look, it's hard when you look at the statements that are being made right now about the intent to expel, and also the rationale for expulsion. The comments being made about Roy Moore's character, about Roy Moore's actions, these look like comments that will be very difficult to walk-back from if you're a Republican. So --
MADDOW: The Republicans won't be able to change their mind?
KORNACKI: It's hard to see. It's hard to see them saying eh, the people spoke, because they've already said, look, there is an election, but we're not going the wait for the election to say this man is unfit to serve in the United States Senate. So, you then look at a scenario where, OK, if he does win and the Republicans stick to this -- what they're saying right now about expulsion, they would seat him. The Senate Ethics Committee would launch the investigation. You just went through what happened with Packwood.
And that's sort of the threat that McConnell, that's leverage that McConnell, if he has any leverage with Moore, it's that. It's the threat of, hey, you're going to have to go under oath. You're going to have to answer questions about this under oath.
It's very different than, you know, a generic comment you're going to make to a reporter or something. You can't duck the ethics committee like you duck a reporter. So, that's the leverage right now.
But if he gets elected, he gets seated, the ethics committee opens the investigation. They could then find grounds for expulsion. They could then vote to expel. The seat would be vacated and we go right back to the same process we just had.
MADDOW: The governor would appoint somebody.
KORNACKI: The governor would appoint somebody. A special election could be called. Roy Moore could run in the special election. We could be, you know, in circles here.
MADDOW: Could -- could run again, right. Could McConnell delay his swearing in?
KORNACKI: No. The swearing in is not something -- the Constitution is clear -- the court rulings are clear on that, because there was a fight in the House about 50 years over Adam Clayton Powell. And the court was emphatic that when it came to seating a member, if a member is elected, there is no choice, you got to seat the member.
When it comes to expulsion, now, of course, if they do move to expel and Moore wanted to challenge in court, that could get interesting because this about actions that preceded his election to the U.S. Senate. There are some legal theories on this that you can only expel for actions that actually occurred while somebody was in the Senate or while somebody was in -- this is unexplored legal terrain. We haven't had an actual expulsion since 1862. But, certainly, there is a difference right now at least it seems between seating and actual expulsion.
MADDOW: OK. And if they do -- if he does win and they do have to seat him, it's up to Mitch McConnell whether or not he gets any committee positions, how they handle the expulsion investigation or any proceedings there. And as we know, Mitch McConnell is good at that sort of thing when he wants to be.
KORNACKI: He is experienced too.
MADDOW: Steve Kornacki is the national political correspondent for NBC News and MSNBC. He's been too long, my friend. Good to see you.
KORNACKI: Yes. Great to see you, too. Thank you.
MADDOW: Come back soon.
All right. We have new news tonight from last week's election actually. There is a lot to chew over. A lot to chew, to chew specifically. That's next.
MADDOW: Public service announcement, again. Those teeth are still waiting for somebody to claim them. Somebody left these false teeth behind in a -- these specifically. These teeth in a Portland, Maine voting booth on Election Day a week ago tonight.
Now, a very helpful elections clerk scooped them up and kept them safe, and a local paper put out word in the "Portland Press Herald" that the teeth have been collected, and these clean, lovely choppers are waiting for their rightful owner to come reclaim them. And really, people have looked everywhere. Today, the news reached the republic of Malta, which I'm telling you is 4,000 miles and an ocean away from Portland, Maine.
The hunt for these poor lost teeth has circled the globe. But still a week later, nobody has claimed them. You would think that somebody missed them.
We spoke to the Portland city clerk's office today. They told us that one person called about the teeth yesterday morning, but, quote -- I'm sorry, quote, the questions he asked did not match the dentures we have.
MADDOW: So, this raises interesting questions. Did more than one voter lose a set of teeth in Portland, Maine, while voting last week? What happened to the owner of the teeth that have been found such that he or she is not missing these teeth even a week later?
How long will it take to find that person? And which will happen first? All the House of Delegates races gets called in Virginia or the dentures will get claimed in Portland? We do still have three undecided delegate races in Virginia from last week's election. But there is this one dental appliance that's waiting there the Portland city clerk's office.
All I can think is that somebody brought those in to the voting booth, had to pop them out in order to think hard enough to make good decisions in voting, and then was -- just hasn't had another really hard decision to make since. If we hear, you will hear, first thing.
That does it for us tonight. We will see you again tomorrow.
Now, it's time for "THE LAST WORD". Joy Reid in for Lawrence tonight.
Good evening, Joy.
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