Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW Date: December 7, 2017 Guest: Natasha Bertrand
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: More ways to get more Chris Hayes.
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST, ALL IN: You know?
MADDOW: That`s very exciting.
HAYES: I`ll be there on your commute tomorrow morning.
MADDOW: I once had somebody come up to me on the subway and hold their phone up to me awkwardly, I got scared, and it was my little avatar. And they were listening to me and I was like -- don`t tell me what part you`re at.
MADDOW: Anyway, congratulations, man. Thank you.
And thanks to at home for joining us this hour. Nice to have you here.
So, a lot of news that`s broken tonight. The judge overseeing the case of Trump national security advisor Mike Flynn who pled guilty on Friday to lying to the FBI and thereupon apparently became a cooperating witness with the Robert Mueller investigation, the judge in the Mike Flynn case has tonight recused himself from that case.
Now, we don`t know the basis of the judge`s recusal. We do know the consequences of it. The way these things work there`s now been essentially a random lottery, a random drawing among the other judges in that district to figure out who will pick up the case, who will replace Judge Rudolph Contreras.
The results of that random drawing is that instead of him being the judge the new judge in the Flynn case is this man, a judge named Emmet Sullivan.
But this recusal news, it is a surprise and there are two basic things we`re waiting to figure out about it now that we`ve got this news. Number one is the impact of this decision. Number two is the explanation for why it happened.
Now, in terms of the impact, the judge in the Flynn case thus far, as far as we can tell at least, hasn`t been handling very complex matters, right? Sure, Flynn was charged with lying to the FBI. He pled guilty to that charge. The judge accepted his plea.
And the sentencing with which the judge would preside over in this case that sentencing has been delayed for three months, while Flynn apparently gets his time to cooperate with Mueller`s investigators.
So, the implications of the judge in the Flynn case being recused in the place tonight could be a very minor, could end up being important we don`t yet know. So, that`s one that the implication of this change in the Flynn case.
In terms of the explanation for why it happened, it`s possible that this was just something logistical. It was, you know, a scheduling matter with another one of the judges` cases or something. It`s also possible that the judge was discovered to have a previously unknown conflict of interest in the Mike Flynn case now if that`s the case, we may or may not get some explanation from the judge about that conflict.
In legal terms, these kinds of things happen all the time, and they`re very rarely seen as the end of the world. In this particular case though, in the Mike Flynn case, in this particular political climate around this Russia investigation, I do think it`s worth recognizing that this is this may be treated differently than a normal case. Republicans are now starting to respond to the threat that the Mueller investigation appears to pose to the Trump presidency by increasingly accusing people involved in the investigation, accusing people involved in these multiple prosecutions, Republicans are now accusing them of having political bias, some sort of political bias that ought to disqualify them all from working on this matter.
Republicans are increasingly and more aggressively every day accusing the law enforcement people involved in this investigation with having terrible conflicts of interest that have somehow corrupted the whole Russia investigation. So, again, tonight, we have this bare-bones news that Judge Rudolph Contreras is recused from the Flynn matter and we know hope they replaced by Judge Emmet Sullivan. We don`t yet know why that happened.
But if it turns out that the judge ends up disclosing some sort of conflict, if this ends up being something more than just a logistical recusal, I think it would be -- I think it`s worth considering that this may end up being yet another potential flashpoint for Republicans efforts to problematize the Mueller investigation and the multiple prosecutions it has already led to so.
Again, that news just breaking this evening. Politico.com first to report that the judge in the Mike Flynn case is recused.
Tonight, we expected that the major news out of Congress would be that the government has narrowly averted shutting down tomorrow. That is the case. They waited until the last day before the government was due to run out of money and shutdown.
But then they went ahead today and passed a two-week spending bill to avert the shutdown, which means we`ll have another come to the brink of a shutdown bout of agita right before Christmas which is nice of them.
Aside from this having been potential shutdown eve, the real drama out of Washington today was just this whiplash series of stories on ethics, started midday today when as we expected Senator Al Franken of Minnesota made public comments about his future following multiple allegations of groping and attempts at unwanted kisses from Senator Franken. He announced his resignation. We will be talking about that in more detail with Steve Kornacki in just a few moments.
Senator Franken`s resignation, of course, follows the resignation of the longest-serving member of the House of Representatives, 88-year-old Congressman John Conyers, who also stepped down this week in his case after multiple claims of sexual harassment, including some that were settled financially with members of his staff. But it was interesting today, we got the resignation from Senator Al Franken today, very dramatic moment, important moment for the Democratic Party and for the Senate and obviously for Senator Franken and his family and his staff. That resignation had basically been telegraphed with a little ambiguity, but basically telegraphed for the past hours. We sort of knew that it was coming. But then after, the Franken succession the Franken resignation today, tonight, in quick secession. We just got hit with three big new consequential announcements from the ethics committee.
Now, you`ll remember, Senator Al Franken had asked for the Ethics Committee in the Senate to investigate the sexual misconduct allegations against him. So, hypothetically, you know, counterfactually, one possible outcome of the Franken scandal could have been that the Ethics Committee investigation was allowed to go forward he could have waited for the results of that investigation. And then left the Senate then if the Ethics Committee had come out with some damn rapport.
That didn`t happen. Senator Franken resigned today. That means that ethics investigation will not happen.
But now we know there will be an ethics investigation of this man, Republican Texas Congressman Blake Farenthold. It was recently reported that more than $80,000 of taxpayer money was paid out to settle a sexual harassment claim with one of his former staffers from his congressional office. It`s been very interesting over the last week or so as the Democrats have been tying themselves into knots over John Conyers and Al Franken and now a Democratic congressman from Nevada named Ruben Kihuen.
On the Republican side, while Democrats have been twisting themselves into knots over those members of Congress, there have been almost no calls for Blake Farenthold`s resignation or for any consequences for him despite these non-disputed revelations that there was a taxpayer-funded sexual harassment settlement in his office, while the Ethics Committee announced tonight that they will start an investigation into Blake Farenthold over that matter.
Then we got word that Speaker of the House Paul Ryan has referred to the ethics committee an allegation concerning Arizona conservative Republican Congressman Trent Franks.
Now, Trent Franks has been in Congress for I think 14 years. He`s one of the more visible members of the House Republican Caucus. He`s an ardent anti-abortion activist more broadly an aggressive social conservative. He`s also a big supporter of President Trump.
Upon hearing that his case had been referred to the Ethics Committee by the speaker, Congressman Franks tonight put out a statement denying that he had ever had any sexual contact with any member of his congressional staff but acknowledging that he might have made some of his staffers uncomfortable by speaking to female subordinates in his office about potentially becoming surrogates to bear a child for him and his wife.
This story is sort of a bolt from the blue about Congressman Trent Franks. We do not know much about the allegations against him other than the way he is characterizing it in his self exonerating statement. But at the end of that self exonerating statement, Congressman Franks also announces that he`s quitting, that he is resigning for Congress, effective January 31st.
I imagine, we will get more detail as to what led to this sudden and dramatic resignation tonight from again, this long term, highly visible conservative pro-Trump member of Congress. If we get that further detail about Congressman Franks over the course of this hour, I will stop what I`m doing and I will give it to you then. But this is tonight a shock resignation from Republican Congressman Trent Franks.
And then we got further word from the Ethics Committee about the result of their month-long investigation into California Congressman Devin Nunes. Now, Congressman Nunes is chairman of the intelligence committee in the House. You`ll remember at the start of their investigation into the Russia matter, Chairman Nunes decided to become the star of his own melodramatic, poorly cast action movie, when he made a big show of marching to the White House to say he was informing the White House about damning documents that he had just received, which it turns out were documents that had just come from the White House to him.
It was weird. There were a couple of immediate consequences of that weird stunt involving Devin Nunes back in the back in March, where he tried to give the White House back things the White House that just had just given him.
One consequence was that he announced that he`d be stepping back, stepping down from overseeing the Russian investigation in House Intelligence. Republicans then promoted Texas Republican Mike Conaway to oversee the Russia investigation in Devon Nunes` place.
The other major consequence there was that the House Ethics Committee started an investigation into whether or not over the course of that weird stunt, Congressman Nunes might have illegally revealed classified information. Well, they`ve now concluded their investigation and they have cleared him. They have decided he didn`t reveal classified information. They say they consider the matter closed.
And so, presumably, that means that Congressman Devin Nunes will push Mike Conaway aside and put himself back in charge of the Russia investigation on House Intel. He`s been sort of angling to try to do that anyway in advance of this ruling from House Ethics.
If that happens and Congressman Nunes takes full control of the Russia investigation in House Intel -- I mean, let`s get real here for a second, that probably means that the House Intel investigation on Russia is over. Devin Nunes was a member of the Trump transition. He has made very clear what he thinks the Russia scandal is, which is something having to do with like, you know, Chelsea Clinton -- I don`t know, it`s -- I have to say though that is just my impression of how this is likely to go. I don`t want you to take it from me.
We`ve actually got tonight here tonight in studio a great reporter who has done a ton of work covering that part of the investigation, including a lot of the weirdness around Devin Nunes, who may be back in charge now. So, don`t take it from me. I`m very much looking forward to that conversation, which is coming up later this hour.
I should also tell you there`s new news tonight from CNN that one of the things congressional investigators have turned up is some previously undisclosed follow-up communications that involve the Trump campaign after the famous June 9th Trump Tower meeting last year where Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort and Donald Trump Jr. met with a whole bunch of Russians who had Kremlin connections.
According to this new report tonight from CNN, once again a currently serving White House official appears to be implicated in having known about that meeting, but not owning up to it. White House social media director Dan Scavino is the official who reportedly received follow-up emails from the Russia side after that Trump Tower meeting.
He got emails from the intermediary who had set up the meeting in the first place, the man who had promised Russian government provided dirt on Hillary Clinton as part of the Russian government`s efforts to support Trump`s election campaign. We know that Donald Trump Jr. was questioned extensively about that meeting, and about the aftermath of that meeting and about the eventual public exposure of that meeting just yesterday in his congressional testimony.
We know that he frustrated a number of Democrats on the Intelligence Committee when he refused to answer questions about how he and his father had responded once that meeting became publicly known. But this may end up being a serious thing. I mean, there remain real questions that we really have no answer to at all as to why the Trump campaign kept the existence of that Trump Tower meeting with all those Russians secret for over a year until it was finally reported publicly in "The New York Times".
Well, now, with this new reporting tonight from CNN, we know that another current White House official may be on the hook for having been in on that meeting, for having known about that meeting and for having not disclosed it for a year.
So, all that stuff has just happened tonight. A lot of unexpected there`s a lot of weird news.
And on the subject of weird news, this is something that I did not talk about last night because I felt a little ughy about it, and honestly I still hesitate to bring it up now but I`m going to because it has an important news consequence today. Despite my ughiness I`m just going to go there.
All right. Yesterday at the White House, when the president announced this very controversial decision that the U.S. will eventually move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, that announcement rattled nerves around the world because of its potentially explosive consequences in the Middle East and elsewhere. But at a more pedestrian level, the president`s announcement yesterday also rattled some nerves at home because of the way he was speaking at the end of his announcement.
And I do not like making a bigger deal out of these things than ought to be made of them. I do not take any pleasure in showing you this I do not find that this to be hilarious as I know many people do. I also say this in full cognizance of the fact that I am a person who talks weird and flaps my hands around a lot, and I make weird faces sometimes, like I don`t generally think people should be made fun of or scrutinized especially because they`re funny-looking or talk weird or have a strange look on their face when they`re saying something.
That said, when the president was making his announcement about Jerusalem, depending on how you look at it, he appeared to maybe have his teeth come loose, or to have just started slurring his words, or maybe he bit his heart or something. Something strange happened at the end of his speech.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Let us rethink old assumptions and open our hearts and minds to possible and possibilities. And finally, I asked the leaders of the region, political and religious, Israeli and Palestinian, Jewish and Christian and Muslim to join us in the noble quest for lasting peace.
Thank you. God bless you. God bless Israel. God bless the Palestinians. And God bless the United States. Thank you very much. Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Those are the president`s remarks yesterday as you can see he was speaking strangely. That received enough attention on late-night TV last night and over the course of today that the White House was not just asked about it in the briefing room today. They had a prepared response the White House has announced that their official explanation for why the president was talking that way yesterday was that he had a dry throat. But then they also announced that the president will get a physical.
Now, this was one of the weirder controversies of the Donald Trump for president campaign. They made it a central point of their campaign for months that they would attack the health and fitness, physical fitness of Hillary Clinton while Trump himself, the oldest person to ever be inaugurated president for a long time refused to submit any information about his own health and then he eventually turned in a bizarre, hyperbolic statement from his personal doctor who ended up being a real character. And unlike professional medical statements about a person`s fitness that we typically expect from a presidential candidate, Donald Trump instead handed in from his unusual doctor what was basically a rhyming limerick that said Trump was superman. It was really weird.
And since he`s become president, the White House has been consistently dodging the question of whether or not he will submit to a physical examination by an army doctor at Walter Reed, like most presidents do. They`ve been dodging that question for months.
But today, in the wake of the president`s strange slurring teeth loose remarks, today, they announced that he will be examined by a Dr. Walter Reed early next year. They say the results of that examination will be made public. There`s been a lot of idle speculation about this particular president`s health, if the White House sticks to its word. We now know that we`ll actually finally get some real information about his health for the first time ever early next year.
So like I said, it`s been a weird day. But there`s one more story that I want to update you on here and the front half of tonight`s show and it looks to me like a big story. It is not getting a lot of us attention right now. I think that is mostly because this is a story that just broke in Russia. It broke not only in Russia, it broke in Russian but we figured it out and that story`s next.
MADDOW: The news outlet is called The Bell. It`s a Russian news outlet. It`s a relatively recent Russian news start-up. And as you can see there, they publish in Russian. You can use Google translate on your own at home to get a reasonable facsimile of a sort of English-language version of their news stories.
But in the case of this story that they just broke, we went ahead and sprung for a proper translator to get the story translated more formally. So we could give it a closer read.
Part of the reason we were willing to open our checkbook and swivel our wrists for that purpose is that we`ve been really interested in the subject of this news story here on our show in particular, because Richard Engel helped report out a piece of the story an angle on the story when he went to Russia this summer and talked to some of the people who were involved in this story.
And it was for us a dramatic thing when Richard did that because even though Richard`s a tough guy and he served in war zones and we`ve all seen him you know in way too close to firefights to appear comfortable, you know, he`s been kidnapped on the job. Richard is an experienced guy who can take care of himself.
But it was still unnerving to us when he went to Russia to cover part of this story and it resulted in him getting basically threatened on camera. He was told from somebody who was sympathetic that the kinds of questions he was asking about this story might be putting him personally in danger in Russia.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD ENGEL, NBC NEWS CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: We managed to track down Ivan Pavlov (ph), one of the lawyers in the case. He says that because of the nature of the charges, treason, he`s not even allowed to tell us which man, he`s representing.
What specifically are they accused of having done?
UNIDENTIFEID MALE: It`s not a clear accusation.
ENGEL: But is the general accusation that they Cooperated with an American intelligence group?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, they say Americans special service.
ENGEL: Was the information related to the investigation into hacking, into the manipulation of the U.S. election?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can say this because, I wish of my clients that I don`t disclose this details of accusation.
ENGEL: Do you think they`re being held because they know --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They know much. I can`t be completely clear with you and say much about this case because it`s quite dangerous. It`s quite dangerous for me and for my client and even for you.
ENGEL: Why would it be dangerous for me? I understand for your client, he`s in jail.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s a quite sensitive information.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was Richard Engel reporting this summer in Russia on a number of arrests, including one very high-ranking FSB colonel, a high-ranking intelligence officer. We have been reporting on his arrest and keeping an eye on it and frankly worrying about it a little bit, for most of the course of 2017. Now, the arrest of that FSB colonel and arrests of other people associated with him that happened a year ago this week in Moscow.
Russia`s biggest spy agency, the inheritor of the KGB legacy is the FSB. The department within the FSB that focuses on cyber issues is called the Information Security Department. You might remember when U.S. intelligence agencies describe to the Russian hack of the Democratic Party, that was such a central part of their interference in our election last year. Remember they said there were two hacker groups one was Fancy Bear and was Cozy Bear.
Well, this department at the FSB, the Information Security Department, that was Cozy Bear at the FSB. And that FSB department, which the U.S. intelligence agencies say is responsible for part of the hack against the Democratic Party last year, the cyber unit of the FSB, they held a regularly scheduled meeting for their high-level staff this week last year, December 5th, in Moscow.
And there was an unusual interruption of that meeting. In the middle of that meeting, security officers reportedly rushed in, they seized the deputy chief of that department. They threw a bag over his head, grabbed him under the arms and dragged him out of the room and he hasn`t been seen since. That was a year ago.
Deputy chief of the Information Security Department at the FSB, he`s arrested that day. We later learned that his deputy was also arrested. Also arrested was a senior guy from Kaspersky Labs, the Russian software company. He`s someone who reportedly worked with that particular department at the FSB.
The FSB colonel who had the bag thrown over his head and got dragged out of the room. He was the Kaspersky -- reportedly, the Kaspersky guy`s contact at the intelligence agency, at the FSB. All three of them were taken into custody.
"The New York Times" later described those arrests as the highest-profile arrests for treason in Russia since the fall of the USSR in 1991. Now, the Russian government never put out any formal statement that these arrests were in fact for treason. But in January of this year, they allowed a number of Russian new services to simultaneously publish information about those arrests and by that means, they let it be known that these were treason arrests and that`s the grounds on which these guys were being held.
Well, now, as we`re all watching from the United States, the progress of this American investigation into what Russia did and whether they had help from the Trump campaign, as we`re watching that investigation here, you know, indict the Trump campaign chairman and get a guilty plea from the Trump national security advisors. We`re watching these incredibly dramatic developments on our side of the investigation. Those are rests at that FSB meeting a year ago, those are the closest things we`ve seen to any kind of parallel action happening on the Russian side, right?
And on the Russian side, presumably, they don`t want to investigate the Russian attack into the U.S. election, but they very well may want to cover it up. So, The Bell, this Russian news source has just published this new report on those arrests and it shed some new light on one very cinematic detail that we`ve had all year long. According to The Bell, the reason they put a bag over the guy`s head, that senior FSB guy when they arrested him, is because, quote: he has a black belt in karate and his FSB colleagues feared that he would resist.
OK, I know nothing about karate or black bags or FSB traditional arrest techniques so you could take that for what it`s worth. But apparently, that`s why they didn`t just drag him out they put his head in a bag before they did so.
Now, as Americans, of course, the thing we`re most interested in is whether or not those arrests tell us something or prove to us anything about what sure what Russia did in our election. In January, "The New York Times" reported that it was possible that Russia might have made those arrests to try to stop the flow of information out of Russia about what the Russian government did to hack the U.S. election. At the time, in January, at the time cited two U.S. officials as saying, quote, human sources in Russia did play a crucial role in proving to U.S. investigators who was responsible for the DNC hacking.
Well, now, from the Russia side, The Bell is reporting based on conversations with acquaintances of these men who are arrested, but the reason they were arrested is because they were the Russian sources who helped U.S. intelligence services get evidence last year that it was Russian hackers who had been involved in these attacks in the United States. One person familiar with the investigation, quote, confirmed that the arrest of Sergei Mikhailov and his comrades is connected with the U.S. elections.
Now, we`re trying to report this out with our own sources, trying to seek our own confirmation. But if in fact these Russian news reports are correct and Putin has locked up his own people who he believes told U.S. investigators about what Russia did in our election last year, including a colonel at the FSB, one of their top cyber spies, if this reporting from Russia bears out, then it would prove one important thing for us and it would raise one very important question for us. But it would prove that the Russian government is full of bullpucky when they deny they had anything to do with the attack on the election, right?
If they hadn`t actually attacked the election, they wouldn`t have to lock up people who told U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia had attacked our election. You`d only lock somebody up if they gave out real information, right? So, it would prove that.
The important question these reports would raise for us right now is if these reports are true, why is Russia letting this information out now? That FSB colonel and those other guys who were arrested with him they`ve been in jail for a year this week. Why would Russia, why would the Russian government allow us to know now that the reason they`ve been in jail all this year is because they helped America figure out that Russia hacked our election? Why would it be to Russia`s advantage for us to be allowed to know this now?
More ahead. Stay with us.
MADDOW: (AUDIO GAP) strange day on which two very different members of Congress resigned over questions of sexual harassment or misconduct. This evening, we`re following the unexpected news about Congressman Trent Franks, the senior Republican member of the House from Arizona.
Congressman Franks announced he`s stepping down after being confronted by House Speaker Paul Ryan over -- over -- well, it`s not crystal clear. But we`re told tonight that Congressman Franks apparently approached two of his female staffers about him needing a surrogate to carry a baby for him and his wife.
Congressman Franks released a statement tonight, saying in part, quote: in the midst of this current cultural and media climate, I`m convinced would be unable to complete a fair House ethics investigation before distorted and sensationalized versions of this story would put me, my family, my staff, and my noble colleagues through hyperbolized public excoriation. Rather than allow a sensationalized trial by media damage -- rather than allow a sensational trial by media to damage those -- to damage those things I love most -- excuse me -- this morning, I notified House leadership that I will be leaving Congress as of January 31st, 2018.
So, that happened. Surprise.
Also today, of course, Democratic Senator Al Franken of Minnesota announced that he`ll be stepping down in coming weeks after half a dozen women accused him of unwanted sexual advances. Yesterday, more than 30 of Senator Franken`s Democratic colleagues called for him to step down and today he did.
Nevada Democrat Ruben Kihuen is also facing pressure to resign, including from the leader of his party, Nancy Pelosi. Kihuen is a freshman congressman, that`s why you haven`t heard his very much before this scandal. He`s been accused of sexually harassing a campaign staffer last year.
But oh wait, there`s more we also learned tonight that the House Ethics Committee will start an investigation into the heretofore secret taxpayer- funded $84,000 settlement of sexual harassment allegations against Texas Republican Congressman Blake Farenthold.
You know, if this keeps up much longer Congress is going to have a quorum problem. They also though might solve the parking problem on Capitol Hill.
When a lawmaker stops being a lawmaker for whatever reason, you do have to replace them. Beyond the huge human and political drama of how all of these seats are coming to be vacant all at the same time, what is the smart way to think about how these vacancies now will get filled?
Joining us now is Steve Kornacki, national political correspondent here at MSNBC.
Steve, thank you for being here.
STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Sure.
MADDOW: All of these vacancies and potential vacancies in the House and Senate have their own contours and their own stories behind them. We learned today that in Minnesota, the governor has a plan already for how to replace Senator Franken`s seat, to put somebody Senator Franken`s seat.
Can you describe that plan to us and what you think the political implications of it are?
KORNACKI: Yes, all indications are that Mark Dayton, the governor of Minnesota, a Democrat is going to appoint a caretaker here. So, the way this is going to work is Dayton will make an appointment. The indications are, not confirmed, but the indications are it`ll be the lieutenant governor, his lieutenant governor, who will hold the seat basically for the next year and promise not to run for election next, because the election will be held primary next August, general election next November, along with every other election in the country next year.
So, she will be appointed. She`d be the senator. She wouldn`t run. And while she holds that job as a caretaker, the normal election process would play out. It would potentially be a wide-open race among Democrats. It would potentially be a wide-open race among Republicans.
And the political risk that that raises and why a lot of Democrats I think are concerned about this potential plan is, hey, if you get a wide-open primary, it`s expensive, it`s bruising, you could have a nominee who emerges sort of you know beaten up, with the treasury drained, without much time to the general election, in a state, by the way, Minnesota, we think of as a blue state. Remember, Hillary Clinton won the state by a point and a half last year.
MADDOW: Oh, yes.
KORNACKI: That movement really in the northern part of the country, non- college white voters, Minnesota was like the heart and soul of that. I mean, this is a state that you know Barack Obama won easily. You have congressional districts in this state that Obama won that swung the Trump by 15 points. That`s what`s going on on the ground in Minnesota. That`s the atmosphere here.
So, it`s not one you can really take chances with if you`re a Democrat.
MADDOW: And in terms of that -- I mean that political wisdom is going to be different in different congressional districts and different in different states, depending on what the prevailing winds are. I mean, why would you put a caretaker person in that kind of a job? What`s the political advantage to Dayton in terms of doing that?
KORNACKI: Political advantage is hard to see except if you don`t feel like choosing, if it`s a tough choice and you`re going to offend somebody, you`re going to offend a constituency, you can basically say, I`m not going to offend anybody, I`m going to let everybody in who wants to get in and then they can sort it out for themselves.
KORNACKI: That`s typically the logic.
But Dayton is also kind of at the end of his political career here. He`s not running for re-election next year. I think he`s 70 years old. So, I don`t know the long-term future.
There is that sort of old hokey notion of hey, it`s best for democracy to have an open primary. Maybe that`s what`s on his mind here as well.
Also what could enter into this as well as -- you know, his lieutenant governor was his chief of staff a couple years ago. So, her background is more, she was the chief of staff, I think to the mayor of St. Paul. She was the -- or Minneapolis.
She was the chief of staff to Mark Dayton, somebody has been sort of behind the scenes, only recently coming out into more public view. Maybe he sees it as a bit of a capstone to her, you know, public career here, too. Sometimes those things factored into it.
But what if he does do this, this is very rare, a governor who has an opportunity to make an appointment to serve a year and chooses the open primary, I -- you got to go back I think to 1992 to find a governor who had it -- who really chose the open primary that was in Tennessee and, by the way, that was a Democrat and the seat ended up in Republican hands.
MADDOW: Yes, and there`s -- you know, there`s been so much attention on the Alabama Senate race in terms of how that`s going to affect the overall balance of power in the Senate. Dayton`s decision here in Minnesota may also affect the balance of power in the Senate by just as much. But he`s making that decision under very different circumstances.
MADDOW: Steve Kornacki, national political correspondent at MSNBC here, thank you, my friend. Good to see you.
KORNACKI: Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: The attacks kicked into high gear shortly after the president issued that tweet over the weekend. Quote: The FBI, its reputation is in tatters, worst in history.
By Monday, "The Wall Street Journal" editorial board had launched their attack on the agency and on special counsel Robert Mueller. Quote: Mr. Mueller is too conflicted to investigate the FBI and should step down in favor of someone more credible.
And has been all over a certain corner of cable news as well, but they`re saying that Robert Mueller is a disgrace to the justice system. Yesterday, the head of the House Freedom Caucus and the Republican Party expressed his doubts on special counsel Robert Mueller.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MARK MEADOWS (R), NORTH CAROLINA: If Mueller was doing such a great job on investigating the Russian collusion, why could he have not found the conflict of interest within their own agency?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: These attacks on Robert Mueller and the FBI follow a report from this weekend that at a top FBI agent who had been on Mueller`s team, Peter Strzok, was removed from special counsel`s office after he was found to have exchanged some politically charged texts with another former member of Mueller`s team.
Well, today, the director of the FBI testified in the House and in the House, he was treated to Republican after Republican after Republican just tearing into the FBI.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MATT GAETZ (R), FLORIDA: Did Bob Mueller recruit people to his probe that had a bias against the president?
REP. JIM JORDAN (R), OHIO: He`s the same Peter Strzok who was a key player in the Clinton investigation, the same Peter Strzok who helped -- was a key player in the Russian investigation, and the same Peter Strzok who was put on Mueller`s team, special counsel Bob Mueller`s team.
REP. JOHN RATCLIFFE (R), TEXAS: You remember from law school that legal doctrine, the fruit of the poisonous tree. If that one agent at the center or source is decidedly anti-Trump and decidedly pro-Clinton, that raises real questions about all of the conclusions that the FBI has reached on any and all of these matters.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The fruit of the poisonous tree. This is where we`re at. Republicans have decided that their strategy is to discredit the entire FBI and specifically to discredit Robert Mueller special counsel investigation. That`s how they are now approaching the Russia investigation.
What`s the other side of that? What`s the fight back against that? That`s next. Stay with us.
MADDOW: (AUDIO GAP) She`s a political correspondent for "Business Insider" and I`ve been looking forward to talking to you for a very long time. Thank you for being here.
NATASHA BERTRAND, POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, BUSINESS INSIDER: Thanks for having me, Rachel.
MADDOW: I think that you are one of the best synthesizers of information on the Russia investigation. You have been for a long time. I mean, there`s a lot of different threads to follow at any one day, and I just feel like you`ve been really good at trying to keep track of -- will keep up, not only keep up with everything as it proceeds but keeping track of what`s important and what might be a red herring. So that`s what I wanted to talk to you about tonight.
We have learned from the Ethics Committee tonight in the House that they appear to have closed their investigation that they`ve been running for months into Devin Nunes. He`s the chair of the Intelligence Committee. He had been in charge of the Intelligence Committee`s Russia investigation.
Then, there was a bizarre pageant of waving stuff around that he did at the White House, the Ethics Committee investigated whether he had disclosed classified information tonight they say that matter is settled.
Do we expect that this means that Devin Nunes will go back to being in charge of the Russia investigation?
BERTRAND: Well, I`ve asked that exact question and I have yet to get an answer on it. It would be -- I want to say, it would be surprising to me if Mike Conaway were to step down at this point in the investigation just because he`s come so far since Nunes recused himself and the House Intel Committee is already so divided by partisanship, and it`s already quite frankly a mess, just in terms of, you know, the Republicans and Democrats kind of fighting over who they`re going to subpoena, who they`re not going to subpoena, who they want to interview and things like that, that for Nunes to now come back in, and he`s such a -- you know, kind of tainted figure in this entire investigation, that would really bode terribly for an investigation that`s already kind of compromised.
MADDOW: Is it your sense that the Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee have been happy with Mike Conaway since he took over for Devin Nunes?
BERTRAND: There`s a sense that he has been a much more neutral figure that`s way easier to work with. Of course, members of the House Intel Committee, the Democrats still have to go through Devin Nunes if they want to get anything subpoenaed or if they want to get high-level things done. Nunes in effect has not -- he stepped aside from the Russia probe, but he`s still a very net he`s always been a very necessary figure and a very present figure.
In fact, I reported the other day that he actually met with Erik Prince, before Erik Prince went to go testify before the committee about that meeting that he had with the Russian and the Emiratis in the Seychelles. So, Nunes, of course, has been, you know, finding a way to kind of interject in this investigation, regardless of the fact that he said that he stepped aside in April.
MADDOW: OK. So, even though we`ve all been saying he`s recused, because it looked like he recused, he`s been splitting hairs on that and saying, I stepped back, I didn`t technically recuse, I can get involved in anything that I want and so, he has been talking to witnesses.
It`s not totally clear that he`s been present when witnesses have been testifying behind all these closed-door testimonies.
BERTRAND: He has not. No.
MADDOW: It`s very interesting.
The other thing that`s going on there -- I mean, I don`t know that we`re ever going to get anything important out of any committee in Congress in terms of getting to the bottom of this, I really don`t. It`s -- I feel like it`s important that we ought to because there`s so many things that they can look into that wouldn`t be under the purview of the prosecutors who are working for Mueller, just in terms of getting an explanation for what happened.
But with the -- with the intelligence committee one of the things that feels like is happening right now is that they are rushing through really important witnesses really fast. We`ve seen them -- they had Carter Page in. They had Erik Prince in. They just had Donald Trump Jr. in. They`re about to have Felix Sater in.
We`ve got this list of kind of big deal witnesses that they`ve been doing really fast all in a row, are the Democrat -- I sense that the Democrats are worried that they`re kind of not really having adequate time to prepare for those people they`re not getting out of those witnesses what they`re supposed to. Is that your sense about how -- what might be the Republican strategy there?
BERTRAND: Absolutely. I mean, the Democrats are very frustrated first of all that they cannot manage to get a subpoena to many of these witnesses, and they`ve actually decided to come in for voluntary interviews. Well, voluntary interviews are actually not a good thing for the committee because it means that the -- that the subjects can just kind of get up and leave whenever he or she wants to. Jared Kushner, for example, left after two or three hours really at the beginning of when the Democrats were just starting to question, and he just decided that he wanted to leave.
So, the fact that the Republicans have now kind of begun to stonewall or distract from the main subjects of this investigation is really frustrating the Democrats, and Donald Trump Jr., of course, the other day, used this bizarre kind of attorney-client privilege defense that the Democrats now are telling me that they`re going to push back against. They`re going to make legal arguments to the Republicans for why that doesn`t fly, and they`re actually planning to call him back.
But ultimately, according to one member of the committee who I spoke to, ultimately, it is going to be up to the Republicans to call Donald Trump Jr. back or any other witness for that matter.
MADDOW: Right, because the Democrats can`t do anything on their own. Fascinating.
Natasha Bertrand, political correspondent for "Business Insider" -- thank you for coming in. I really appreciate. I really appreciate it.
All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Yesterday, the Intelligence Committee released a transcript of Erik Prince`s testimony before that committee. Before yesterday, that had only happened once before in this whole investigation with Carter Page.
Why do we get transcripts from Erik Prince and Carter Page, but not from anybody else who`s testified?
Last night, Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the intelligence, told us this is by design. A unilateral decision by the Republicans who for whatever reason want Carter Page and Erik Prince`s testimony to be made public, but nobody else`s.
The only other transcript we have been promised all this time is that of Glenn Simpson. Glenn Simpson is the co-founder of Fusion GPS, which is the firm that hired Christopher Steele to put together the famous Trump/Russia dossier. In August, Glenn Simpson spent 10 hours testifying to the Senate Judiciary Committee and afterwards, Fusion GPS said it stood behind the dossier and happy to see Glenn Simpson`s testimony released to the public, which means we could get ten hours worth of testimony about whether the dossier is true or not, and why Glenn Simpson says it is.
There`s a ton of interest on all sides of what he told the committee about the dossier, what they questioned him about under oath. There`s been a ton of interest in that including from constituents of the committee`s chairman, Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TOWN HALL ATTENDEE: I would like a transcripts released. Will you do that?
SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY (R), IOWA: Yes. The answer is, it would take a vote of the committee to do it. We can`t release it until we give Simpson and his lawyer a copy of it, so if there`s something that the transcript is wrong give them an opportunity to change it. We`ll have to give it to them before the thing you`re asking me about can be done.
TOWN HALL ATTENDEE: And will you do that?
GRASSLEY: Of course, we`ll put it to a vote of the committee.
TOWN HALL ATTENDEE: Will you personally vote for the release of the transcripts?
GRASSLEY: I don`t know why I wouldn`t.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Chuck Grassley telling his Iowa constituents he`d put the release of that transcript we`re told it runs over 300 pages. He said he`d put it to a vote as soon as the Fusion lawyers were finished reviewing it. Well, we can report tonight that Fusion GPS and their lawyers have finished reviewing that transcript. Meaning, it`s now back in Senator Grassley`s court, and if they want the release it, they can. That`s number one.
Number two, we also know based on new NBC News reporting that during an interview with House Intelligence Committee last month, a Fusion GPS official not only stood by the dossier`s claims, but provided additional leads to the committee about Russian money flowing to Trump real estate projects, particularly those overseas.
Now, that`s according to two sources that were present for the interview. We independently confirmed that today with one of our own sources. So, if you`re interested in whether or not that dossier was true, whether it`s proven out, we may be getting a bunch of new information about that soon. It`s in Chuck Grassley`s court if he wants to release it. He told the constituent that is he would.
Oh, and by the way, tomorrow night, we got this special show that we have been working on forever. It`s just about done and I actually think it`s pretty good. It`s going to air tomorrow night, 9:00 p.m. Eastern, a TRMS special on the dossier. I don`t usually say this but I actually -- I think it`s good. I think you should watch it.
I know. Usually I feel weird saying I did a good thing but I think it`s good. All right?
That does it for us tonight. We`ll see you again tomorrow. Sorry. I don`t mean to be weird.
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL".
Good evening, Lawrence.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
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