Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW Date: March 12, 2018
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour as well. Happy Monday.
Don`t think of it as an hour less of sleep. Think of it as an extra hour of daylight at the end of the day.
All right. Big show for you tonight. This is the new book from investigative reporters Michael Isikoff and David Corn. This book comes out tomorrow morning. Mike and David are both here tonight in person for the very first interview they are doing about this book.
That means not only do you get to see Michael Isikoff and David Corn. That also means that this show tonight is the first opportunity we have to break some of the news that is in this book. So that is coming up momentito. Stand by for that.
Because tonight -- one of those wacky coincidences -- tonight, the night before Russian roulette comes out house Republicans decided to surprise everybody by announcing with no warning that they`re not doing any more interviews in the Russia investigation that in fact their whole investigation is over as of today -- surprise.
And having declared the investigation over today, they somehow today also completed their 150-page reports on the results of their investigation. What they have concluded is that there was absolutely positively definitely no collusion by the Trump campaign and Russia they`re sure. And also, maybe Putin wanted Hillary to win, who can say?
Now, I say this was all a surprise tonight, because literally even people who are supposed to be intimately involved in this investigation, they had no idea this was happening or this was coming tonight. "The Wall Street Journal" was first to report this story this afternoon that the Republicans might be quitting the Russia investigation and just announcing that it`s done.
In response to that reporting from "The Wall Street Journal", the Democrats on that committee were like what they`re doing what now, the investigation is over? A senior Democratic staffer on the committee telling "The Wall Street Journal" as of this afternoon, quote: We have not been informed that there will not be any more interviews conducted. We have not been informed that the investigation has ended.
But then poof, it was over. Republicans just ended it on their own and declared no collusion, no collusion, no collusion, while the Democrats on that committee weren`t even yet under the impression that things were wrapping up. This is called unsubtle.
Now, with all due respect for the leadership of the Intelligence Committee in the House, particularly its Republican chairman who was part of the Trump transition team, I`m not sure anybody was waiting with bated breath to see if Congressman Devin Nunes was going to get to the bottom of anything here, but unless Democrats can retake the House in November and restart the investigation under different and perhaps more committed leadership, this latest stunt by Congressman Nunes just declaring today, surprise, it`s over everything`s fine, this means as of today that there is no congressional investigation into the Russia scandal anymore, at least not in the House.
Republicans on the Judiciary Committee in the House said, no, they wouldn`t look into it. Republicans on the Oversight Committee decided they`d prefer to just keep investigating Hillary Clinton instead. In the House, Intelligence was basically it, that was all they were doing and they have now shut that down.
Now, the top Democrat on that committee, on the Intelligence Committee, put out a blistering response tonight, saying, Republicans, quote, placed the interest of protecting the president over protecting the country and history will judge their actions harshly.
Congressman Adam Schiff also in this in the statement tonight`s interesting, he also left some breadcrumbs, just criticizing the Republicans really harshly for doing this, saying: History is going to judge you harshly. But he also leaves bread crumbs for people to follow where the investigation had led thus far. He says quote we`ve learned a great deal about countless secret meetings conversations and communications between Trump campaign officials and the Russians, all of which the Trump administration initially denied would later misrepresent and would finally be forced to acknowledge.
And now, check this out: On a whole host of investigative threads, our work is fundamentally incomplete. Some issues partially investigated, others remain barely touched, like those involving credible allegations of Russian money laundering. If the Russians do have leverage over the president of the United States, Republicans have simply decided they would rather not know.
So, there are minor political explosions going off tonight over House Republicans shutting down the whole Russia investigation at a time when Democrats who are part of that investigation say that among other things, there were credible allegations of Russian money laundering that may indicate Russian leverage over the president of the United States, but Republicans are refusing to look at that.
So, we`re going to have Congressman Adam Schiff here with us tonight in just a few minutes with more on that.
With the House investigation shut down though, there are obviously still some other games in town in terms of getting to the bottom of this scandal. In the Senate, the investigation there apparently proceeds apace, at least as far as we can tell. The investigation in the Senate is led by Republican Richard Burr and Democrat Mark Warner. They`ve been silent as church mice in recent weeks, but we think their investigation is still plugging along, maybe.
There`s also obviously the special counsel investigation, which has so far produced dozens of felony charges against Trump campaign officials and a whole bunch of Russians. Some interesting new reporting today that the Trump campaign may be trying to bring on a new blue chip lawyer to augment the strength of the president`s legal representation for dealing with the Mueller team. We`ll have more on that ahead tonight.
There`s also some interesting new reporting from Bloomberg News tonight about how Mueller is proceeding and what he still hasn`t done. Bloomberg reporting tonight that neither Donald Trump Jr. nor his sister Ivanka Trump nor longtime Trump bodyguard Keith Schiller have been interviewed by Mueller yet. I mean, depending on what exactly Robert Mueller and his team are pursuing, you might imagine that all three of those people would ultimately be on deck for him and his team, but none of them have been interviewed yet.
So, the only investigation in the House just got killed tonight. The investigation in the Senate is a black box. The Mueller investigation is an even blacker box, but at least they pop into the light every few weeks and indict a whole bunch of people.
But, you know, if we the American people are going to get a clear view of what happened to us as a country what happened to us in the election and who done it exactly, well, you know how we`ve gotten most of the information that we`ve had thus far, right? Most of the information that we`ve had thus far as American citizens has been from the other investigation, the investigation that runs parallel alongside what`s been done by the House and the Senate and Robert Mueller.
Where we`ve learned the most is from the investigation that never stops, from the one that that can`t be shut down by Republicans, from the investigation that can`t be fired. It`s the one that has taught us almost everything we know thus far about this scandal. It`s, of course, the investigation that`s being done by journalists, investigative journalists.
The best book written about what went wrong getting this country into the Iraq War in 2002 and 2003, that was a book called "Hubris", which was written by investigative reporters David Corn and Michael Isikoff. "Hubris" is still the seminal book about what happened in the lead-up to that war. That`s the last book that Isikoff and Corn wrote together.
Now, tonight at midnight, it`s the release of the next one, "Russian Roulette". And they`re going to be doing a big old lunch tomorrow morning on CBS`s network "Morning Show", but they are here tonight first.
And one of the things they`ve got, let`s go through a little bit about what they found. One of the things they`ve got which we`ve never heard before is the reaction from President Obama when he was first briefed on the Steele dossier, and they`ve also got the somewhat priceless reaction from Vice President Joe Biden when he first heard after the election about the intelligence reporting on connections between Trump`s campaign and the Russian government.
So, this is from "Russian Roulette", quote: On Thursday, January 5th, 2017, the day before its public release, the intelligence chiefs briefed Obama and his senior staff. White House officials were taken aback. It was the first time all the pieces came together for us, one senior official said. It seemed a much grander conspiracy than it was during the election. This was an intelligence failure and a failure of the imagination.
When Vice President Joe Biden was briefed about intelligence reports on the connections between various players in the Trump orbit and the Kremlin, Biden had a visceral reaction. He said, quote: If this is true, it`s treason.
A few days earlier, national security advisor Susan Rice had encouraged intelligence chief James Clapper to tell President Obama about the golden showers allegation during the president`s daily intelligence briefing. That, of course, is one of the salacious claims in the Christopher Steele dossier about alleged Russian dirt on then-candidate Donald Trump.
Obama turned to Rice and said, quote, why am I hearing this? He was incredulous. "What`s happening?" he asked. Susan Rice said the intelligence community had no idea if this golden showers story was true, but she said Obama needed to be aware that the allegation was circulating.
You don`t really expect to hear the term golden showers in the president`s daily brief, a participant in this meeting later said or that the guy who`s going to become president may be a Manchurian candidate.
So, in that -- those little two paragraphs are reporting, we get the president`s response to that piece of information, why am I hearing this? And news that a senior official operating at that level of clearance in the Obama White House believed that Trump may be a Manchurian candidate. Also, we learned that Joe Biden said that if these allegations were true, that would be treason.
Now on the subject of the aforementioned alleged golden showers, I just -- I just leave my body, I`ll be back in a minute. David Corn and Michael Isikoff`s new book actually I think knocks down a few pegs the odds that that particular thing ever really happened. But -- I mean, you can you can read this however you want but they have lots of new detail about that allegation.
First, in Moscow, Isikoff and Corn do report out that the night Mr. Trump stayed in Moscow during the Miss Universe pageant in 2013, he did in fact stay at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Moscow and specifically, he did stay in the same room that Obama had stayed in when he had visited Moscow four years earlier. That is in keeping with the allegation from the dossier about Trump in this alleged videotape of sexual behavior that supposedly took place in that room that the FSB was going to use as leverage over Trump for years to come.
At the same time, though, David Corn and Isikoff also get very specific about the window of time in which this alleged activity would have had to take place, and it`s not a big window of time. Isikoff and Corn report in their new book that Donald Trump was at a party in Moscow until 1:30 a.m. local time on the one night that he was in Moscow he was at a party with other people until 1:30 in the morning. He was then due on set for a photoshoot the next morning at 7:45 a.m. And that was his only one night in Moscow on that trip.
And so, if he was leaving the party at 1:30, he had to be somewhere else at 7:45 the next morning, that gives him maybe in total a 2:00 a.m. to 7:00 a.m. window, and maybe that`s plenty of time to get up to some serious shenanigans that live forever in the tape library of the FSB. But that that is a pretty tight timeframe in which this would have had to happen.
Corn and Isikoff also, quote, the author of the Steele dossier, Christopher Steele, as asserting less confidence in the golden showers kompromat tape allegation, than he has in the rest of his dossier. Quote: Steele`s faith in the sensational sex claim would fade over time, much later after that report and it`s follow-up memos would become infamous, Christopher Steele would say that he believed 70 to 90 percent of the broad assertions in his reporting were true, that Russia had mounted a campaign to cultivate Trump and had colluded with the Trump campaign.
As for the likelihood of the claim that prostitutes had urinated in Trump`s presence however, Steele would say to colleagues it`s 50/50. Quote: Steele with later wonder if there was a connection between Trump`s 2013 visit with Emin Agalarov and Rob Goldstone to a Las Vegas nightclub, The Act. Maybe there was a connection between that visit to that nightclub and the golden showers story in his first memo, but he didn`t know.
Now, that reference to the appearance at The Act`s nightclub, that`s from the very first chapter of Corn and Isikoff`s book. They report that in June 2013, Trump and a bunch of people who`d been involved for the planning for the Moscow Miss Universe pageant. They were in Las Vegas, and they went to a nightclub called The Act in Las Vegas.
Quote: Shortly after midnight, the entourage arrived at the club. The group included Trump, Emin Agalarov, Rob Goldstone who later became famous for the Trump Tower Russia meeting during the campaign, also the reigning Miss Universe was with them and the outgoing Miss USA was with them.
The club`s management had heard that Trump might be there. The owners had discussed whether they should prepare a special performance for him, perhaps a dominatrix who would tie him up on stage. But they nixed the idea.
Corn and Isikoff then report that simulated urination as part of a sexual performance was among the activities of that club that later resulted in a Nevada state judge issuing an injunction barring any more such performances at that venue.
Since Isikoff and Corn released an excerpt of their book making those claims, at least one photo of Trump inside that nightclub that night has emerged.
So, the reason everybody calls the Christopher Steele dossier a salacious thing is because there is this sexual activity allegation in the dossier. It`s important in the broader scheme of things, not so much for its direct content as for the allegation that the Russian government had evidence of this thing that it might use as leverage against the president in an ongoing way.
Well, if you are interested in that part of the Russia scandal in that part of the Steele dossier, David Corn and Michael Isikoff have in this new book turned up more than anybody ever wanted to know about it. They have more fully reported that part of this scandal than anybody else has. Both what could have happened in Russia and where that allegation might have come from if it didn`t come from the president`s actual behavior in Moscow.
While I`m scaring my mom with all this kind of talk, let me also give you one of their Steve Bannon quotes that they turn up. When during the campaign, Trump announced his foreign policy advisors, Steve Bannon reportedly had a very robust reaction to that announcement, specifically including the announcement of George Papadopoulos. George Papadopoulos would later go on to plead guilty and cooperate with the Mueller investigation.
This is from Corn and Isikoff`s book. Quote: After the list was released, Steve Bannon, then the publisher of "Breitbart News" called up a friend on the Trump campaign, saying, quote: These people are a bunch of clowns. As for Papadopoulos, Bannon asked his friend, quote: how the F did he get on this list?
Corn and Isikoff also have a scoop on what George Papadopoulos later told Robert Mueller and his investigators about how Trump reacted to Papadopoulos efforts to set up a Putin meeting for him. Quote: On March 31st, 2016, George Papadopoulos attended the first meeting of the Trump campaign foreign policy committee in a conference room at the old post office in Washington, then under construction to become the new Trump International Hotel. With Trump presiding, the members introduced themselves.
When it was his turn, Papadopoulos mentioned he had contacts in the U.K. who could set up a meeting between Trump and Putin. Papadopoulos later told investigators he believed Trump gave him encouragement. According to sources familiar with Papadopoulos` account, Trump said the idea was interesting and looked at Sessions as if he expected Sessions to follow up. Sessions nodded in response.
So, that is what George Papadopoulos has reportedly told Mueller`s investigators, that Trump was encouraging and wanted follow up when Papadopoulos was trying to get him together with Vladimir Putin.
Here`s another strange piece of reporting from the book about Trump`s reaction to another Russian overture. This is what where we actually saw the interaction happen on tape, but we didn`t get the reporting about how this was seen by the Trump campaign until now, until this book comes out. This was the interaction from during the campaign.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, THEN-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: OK, let`s go.
TRUMP: Yes, ma`am?
REPORTER: I`m from Russia.
TRUMP: Ah, Putin, good friend of Obama, Putin.
REPORTER: My question --
TRUMP: He likes Obama a lot. Go ahead.
REPORTER: My question will be about foreign politics. If you would be elected as a president, what will be your foreign politics, especially into the relationships with my country? And do you want to continue the politics of sanctions that are damaging of both economy, or you have any other ideas?
TRUMP: OK, Obama gets along with nobody. The whole world hates us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That`s a start of his answer. He goes on from there for a long time, gives about a five minute answer.
This is how it`s reported tonight in the new book from Corn and Isikoff in the "Russian Roulette".
Quote: At FreedomFest, a conservative evangelical event in Las Vegas, Maria Butina, a tall striking redhead who we learned in the book has ties to the Kremlin and the NRA, she stood up and questioned Trump during a Q&A session. She said, I`m from Russia, do you want to continue the politics of sanctions that are damaging both our economies or do you have any other ideas?
Trump had not yet spoken about this issue as a candidate. During a five- minute-long response, Trump said, I know Putin. Putin has no respect for President Obama, big problem, big problem. Obama`s policies had driven Russia to ally itself more closely with China and this was a horrible thing for the United States, he said.
I believe I would get along very nicely with Putin, OK? I don`t think you`d need the sanctions. I think we`d get along very well.
Thanks to Maria Butina and that question, the Russians now had Trump on the record opposing the sanctions despised by Moscow.
Quote: Much later, Trump`s campaign advisers would watch the video of this encounter and wonder about it. Steve Bannon raised it with RNC chairman Reince Priebus. How was it that this Russian woman happened to be in Las Vegas for that event? How was it that Trump happened to call on her? And Trump`s response, it was odd, Bannon thought, that Trump had a fully- developed answer.
Trump`s own campaign was weirded out by that interaction. That`s in "Russian Roulette", which again comes out at midnight.
And there`s a lot more. David Corn and Michael Isikoff are here next. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Very first time we learned that there was an American intelligence investigation into former Trump campaign foreign policy advisor Carter Page was September 2016, before the election. It was this report from Yahoo News chief investigative correspondent Michael Isikoff. It was also Isikoff who would report months later that sure enough, as soon as Trump`s team entered the White House they set about trying to lift Russian sanctions unilaterally.
About six weeks after Isikoff had reported that intelligence investigation into Carter Page, a reporter named David Corn at "Mother Jones" had a different kind of bombshell. He reported, quote, a former senior intelligence officer for a western country who specialized in Russian counterintelligence tells "Mother Jones" that in recent months, he provided the bureau with memos based on his recent interactions with Russian sources. These memos contend that the Russian government for years has tried to co-opt and assist Trump.
That scoop way before its time was a week before the 2016 election, those memos described in that "Mother Jones" report, of course, would come to be known as the steel dossier, but it was reported David Corn who first reported their existence. These two reporters keep advancing the story well before anybody else catches up to what they`re doing, and they`ve been doing that their whole careers, and now, Michael Isikoff and David Corn have written a new book together.
It`s called "Russian Roulette: The Inside Story of Putin`s War on America and the Election of Donald Trump". It comes out tomorrow, which is very, very soon, it`s very, very good.
DAVID CORN, CO-AUTHOR, "RUSSIAN ROULETTE": Thank you. Thank you for supporting us.
MADDOW: Sure. Well, it helps me -- I cover this stuff intensively. I learn new stuff and it helps me put it in context in a way that I was not able to do before reading this. You have very much advanced my own understanding about what we`re --
CORN: That was part of the point, because this is a story that`s been going on now for a year and a half if not longer, and it goes in very different directions and we get great scoops from reporters throughout the media. But there -- a bit here and a bit there, and the way the world works these days, we seem to forget things very quickly become oh so fast.
So, we thought this was a particularly good moment in time to bring together and a sort of narrative what we`re weaving together, of everything that we do know up through the election and beyond. And so, it seems actually tonight, it`s actually very appropriate because while the House Intelligence Committee says the Republicans, they`re going to have page report, we don`t know what`s going to be in it -- well, we have a 300-page report here that`s probably is more extensive and more comprehensive than what they`re putting out there.
MADDOW: Yes, the surprise announcement tonight from House Intel.
MICHAEL ISIKOFF, CO-AUTHOR, "RUSSIAN ROULETTE": It doesn`t have to go through a declassification review. You could read the whole thing. There`ll be no blacked out pages.
ISIKOFF: Although you can have them yourself if you want to feel intrepid while you`re reading.
MADDOW: Let me ask you about some specific stuff in here. You guys do a better job than anybody else has it talking about some of the sort of unusual characters that ended up on the Trump campaign. Obviously, Page and Papadopoulos end up with, you know, reams of narrative about them and other context in terms of how they ended up on the campaign and their contacts with Russia.
You have this great quote from Victoria Nuland who was Obama`s assistant secretary of state is overseeing Russia. She says the moment when she heard that Trump had hired Paul Manafort to be his campaign CEOs, campaign chairman, she says she thought, quote, metaphor -- he`s been a Russian stooge for 15 years.
MADOW: The Manafort, Page, Papadopoulos, all these guys who have very unusual Russia ties all end up on the Trump campaign. Did you end up with any sort of more holistic understanding about how all these people came to be on the Trump campaign?
ISIKOFF: Trump had staked out ground and you go back to that Miss Universe pageant in 2013, where he goes to Moscow. He`s obsessed with meeting Vladimir Putin.
ISIKOFF: As we described, he can`t wait as Putin coming, have we gotten a phone call from him. What have we heard? That seems to be his primary focus.
Now, what was going on in that event? He was trying to do a business deal. He was trying to do a business deal with Aras Agalarov, the Russian billionaire oligarch known as Putin`s builder, who had co-sponsored the Miss Universe pageant. They wanted to build a Trump Tower in Moscow. He knew he needed Putin`s approval and one way of getting it was to say all these flattering things about him, fawning in many ways and ignoring all the sort of really nasty things about Putin`s regime.
So, I think once he had done that, he had staked out his ground with the Russians. The Kremlin knew where this guy was coming from, and I think that gave them the opening to everything that came afterwards.
MADDOW: To shove people in his direction who might be able to --
CORN: That`s who he ended up attracting. Who became his top national security advisor? Michael Flynn, who in December 2015 had gone to that famous RT celebration and sat at a table with Putin.
So, I think, you know --
ISIKOFF: That was paid $40,000.
CORN: He was paid for $45,000.
MADDOW: And one point that you guys make about that event which I did not realize before, is that that was seen as a really big propaganda coup for Russia, for the Russian government, that they were able to get the head of DIA to come over and be part of that event.
CORN: When top spy -- spy chiefs in American society, in American government, to come and sit with Putin who --
MADDOW: And applaud RT.
CORN: Yes, and you know, the propaganda outlet that Putin knows is part of this massive information warfare operation that he has unleashed. They`re working in coordination with the Internet Research Agency the troll farm in St. Petersburg. They knew that Russian hackers by that point were trying to get into Democratic targets. They maybe they hadn`t decided what they would do with that information.
So, when Flynn is sitting there and applauding RT, he -- you know, I would love to know what Putin thought. You know, Lenin had a phrase "useful idiot", you know? And so, here`s this guy applauding RT, which Putin is now using in this campaign against America.
ISIKOFF: And let me just add, that`s 2015, December 2015. As we reveal in this book, in 2014, the U.S. government had a secret source inside the Kremlin that was providing a ream of information about what Putin was up to, and his plans for a massive cyberattacks information warfare against Western democracies and the United States. This was all being reported through channels to top U.S. government officials.
So, it was known at the highest levels of the U.S. intelligence community what Putin was up to. And, you know, one of the sad conclusions of the book is, there really was a massive intelligence failure here.
MADDOW: And that source --
ISIKOFF: Because the agreements were all there.
MADDOW: I want to -- we`re going to take a quick break and come back. I want to ask you about that source. That was the first thing that made me close the book and call somebody on my staff to talk to them about this, because that stuff about the source deep inside the Kremlin with an access to Putin`s inner circle actually found terrifying. We`ll talk about that with Isikoff and Corn when we come back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: This is from chapter four.
In the days following the end of the Sochi Olympics, a veteran U.S. official assigned to the Moscow embassy looking for intelligence on Putin`s plans reached out to a secret source, a senior Russian government official who had access to the Russian president`s inner circle. The source had become a goldmine of information for the U.S. government, passing along juicy tidbits about the debates and rival factions maneuvering for power inside the Kremlin.
Page later, 2014, the Russian source delivered what was perhaps his most stunning and consequential revelation later that spring as the Ukrainian crisis continued. He told his American contact that the Kremlin was planning a wide-ranging, multifaceted campaign to attack Western institutions and undermine Western democracies. The clandestine operation was to include cyberattacks, information warfare, propaganda and social media campaigns. It fits Putin`s larger strategic vision to destroy NATO, to destroy the European Union and to seriously harm the United States.
Two things are amazing about that, the content of the warning, the seriousness of the warning, but also the fact that there is that kind of source inside the Russian government who was talking to U.S. intelligence at this point in 2014.
CORN: But not to U.S. intelligence. He was not a spy per se when he started out as providing gossip. We always been on in Kremlin circles and then he started giving more I think important information about plans the Putin had for the invasion of Crimea.
And he also talked about how Putin regarded Barack Obama as sometimes as a weakling, sometimes as almost a super -- a super manipulator who could do anything in Russia to try to you know get Putin. And also, you know, the people around Putin talking about Obama in very racist terms, calling him a monkey, use the N-word.
And then, you know, as he evolved giving -- you know, some of it was chitchat I think but then it became you know a lot more serious when he started giving these warnings, that did go through the channels and it still remains somewhat of a mystery today why the us intelligence community in the agencies --
CORN: -- did not take this and some other indicators they had and around that time frame in the year since of recognize what we recognized what was coming.
ISIKOFF: He was not a U.S. intelligence asset -- asset in the formal sense -- but he was reporting to a U.S. government official who was reporting through intelligence channels.
And if you know anything about the way U.S. government works, the rivalries among U.S. agencies, where the U.S. intelligence community would tend to sort of look down on that which is being reported by other agencies. So, it`s possible and likely that this guy`s reports, which were all documented and we talk about them how they were --
CORN: Top secret.
ISIKOFF: Top secret sent in cables was kind of dismissed by some in the intelligence community because it wasn`t one of their guys.
But this is part of -- you know, what I said before, was this massive intelligence failure.
CORN: And it`s very much like 9/11. You remember the famous line from the 9/11 Commission. There was a failure of imagination.
And we see these indications and we see that a lot of it wasn`t hiding in plain sight, what the Internet Research Agency, the trolls were doing was reported first in the Russian media, and then even in "The New York Times" in 2015.
ISIKOFF: "New York Times Magazine" in 2015, they laid it all out.
CORN: And none of this kind of registered. We reported --
MADDOW: It didn`t all seem like links in a single chain. It all felt like individual strange stuff and nobody was taking a strategic look at it to recognize the real risk of what had happened, including in the highest levels of the Obama administration until after the election was done.
CORN: Right. And they depend -- the policymakers depend on the intelligence community to present information to them.
And when the Russian attack was underway, they were getting good intelligence on what was happening in terms of the cyber attacks, the cutouts, who was dumping it and why. They got good intelligence that Mike first reported on about Russian efforts to penetrate and probe state election systems.
But on this --
MADDOW: But this concerned them a lot.
CORN: But on the social media front and other fronts, they were totally lost in all those deliberations they had in the summer and fall, not once at the high level when they`re trying to figure out what was gone with this Russian campaign did they ever focus on what was happening on the social- media front.
MADDOW: One thing that you will want to read this book for, friends at home, is the list, this very concise list that David and Mike have turned up of things that the Obama administration considered doing, put on the menu as options for trying to brush Russia back on this, things they did not do but could have, part of the takeaway from that is, of course, those things conceivably could still be on the menu if we were looking to brush Russia back any time soon.
Michael Isikoff, David Corn, the book is called "Russian Roulette: The Inside Story of Putin`s War on America and the Election of Donald Trump" -- congratulations to both of you.
CORN: Thank you so much.
MADDOW: Thank you, thank you, thank you.
I know you guys are doing a big launch tomorrow morning on CBS. I really - - I really appreciate you being here tonight first.
CORN: Happy to be here.
MADDOW: Yes, don`t tell them. We`ll keep it between us.
All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: House Republicans tonight surprised everybody by announcing that they have concluded, wrapped up and finished their Russia investigation. Democrats on the committee that was supposedly participating in that investigation expressed surprise at the Republicans decision they had not known it was wrapping up.
The top Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff, put out a statement in response saying: Today, the House majority has announced it`s terminating the Russia investigation, leaving to others the important work of determining the full extent of Russian interference in our election.
The statement concludes: In coming weeks and months, new information will continue to be exposed through enterprising journalism, indictments by the special council, or continued investigative work by committee Democrats and our counterparts in the Senate. Each time this new information becomes public, Republicans will be held accountable for abandoning a critical investigation of such vital national importance.
Joining us is Congressman Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on House Intelligence.
Congressman, thanks for joining us. I know this is a big and important night.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), RANKING MEMBER, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Thanks, Rachel. Good to be with you.
MADDOW: So, I was struck by this rocket that you fired off tonight to your Republican counterparts on House Intel. You say history will judge their actions harshly.
How surprised, how blindsided were you by them announcing this thing is over as of today?
SCHIFF: Well, not completely surprised. Only in the timing of it being today. They have signaled really for weeks now they were under immense pressure to end the investigation and it became apparent really from very early on, from almost a year ago with that midnight run to the White House that the Republicans on the committee viewed the job as protecting the president, not investigating what took place and so, they would call in witnesses I think to go through the motions of doing a credible investigation and ask them questions like, did you collude with the Russians? Did you conspire with the Russians?
And if the answer was no, they were content to leave it at that. They were not willing to subpoena the records that would prove or disprove what witnesses were saying. When witnesses like Steve Bannon, when he stonewalled us, they would beat their chest and say, well, we can`t conduct an investigation this way and need to get answers and they would refuse to follow through to get answers.
So, not a surprise, Rachel, but a grave disservice to the country, essentially, it`s the intelligence committee majority saying, we just rather not know if it`s going to be bad news and that is I think a betrayal of the promise that was made that we would follow the facts wherever they lead.
MADDOW: I was struck, by the way, that you closed your statement on this tonight. You suggested that in coming weeks and months, new information will continue to come out about this scandal, whether it`s from journalist or from the special counsel`s indictments. But you also said it could -- some of that new information could come out through continued investigative work by committee Democrats.
That suggests that you are not stopping your work if the Republicans on the committee have.
SCHIFF: That`s right. We`re going to continue to do the investigation. It will obviously be much more difficult. We`ve never had the power to call in witnesses, but we`ve learned a great deal when the majority would.
At the same time, there are others that come forward to the committee and come to committee Democrats with information and will continue to put pieces together as we learn things publicly through investigative journalism, through the work of Bob Mueller, through the indictments. We learned some additional granular detail in the last indictment, for example.
But what I mean by holding the Republicans to account is, there will be revelations as there was just within the last week that witnesses that have come before our committee like Erik Prince may not have been fully truthful. There`s a witness who has come forward that has been reported, that George Nader that said that this was an effort, at least reportedly, to establish a back channel with Russia.
That`s part of the core of our investigation to see if that was going on and the Republicans will have to answer why they`re not interested in finding out, is Erik Prince telling the truth or is George Nader? We should get to the bottom of this and we`ll continue pressing them and in the days to come, Rachel, we intend to demonstrate all of the investigative leads that need to be followed, the witnesses that should have been called, the documents that should have been produced, in hope that it will guide journalists, it will guide our colleagues in the Senate, and may even be of assistance to Bob Mueller.
MADDOW: Congressman, let me ask you a big hypothetical. I`m thinking about this because there is an important and high-profile congressional special election in the 18th district in Pennsylvania tomorrow. It was a Trump plus 20 district. Democrats think they have a shot at taking that seat tomorrow, even though Trump won it by 20 points in November 2016.
If the Democrats, if your party does have a big night in November and does take back the House, that would put you in line to be the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee under a Democratic speaker of the House. Would you expect in that circumstance, that you would reopen this investigation, that you would do it the way you think it ought to be done in the first place?
SCHIFF: What I would expect is that we will look at the work that`s been done. If the work has been done by the Senate Intelligence Committee or by special counsel Bob Mueller and we have done a full investigation, that they may not be necessary. And if it hasn`t, then we`ll have to evaluate what work there that remains to be done to protect the country.
You know, one issue that concerns me, Rachel, for example, is that we were not allowed to investigate whether the leverage that the Russians have over this president is money laundering, whether the Russians did hear what they have done elsewhere and laundering money through the Trump organization. The Senate is not investigating that, either.
Now, I hope that Bob Mueller is, but should issues like that that expose the country to leverage or over the president of the United States not go investigated, then we would need to.
Now, I want to say one other thing that really stands out to me about this sad chapter in our committee and that is I think many of us could see that Donald Trump was going to be a very poor president. What we couldn`t see is many people would be complicit in that, how many people would be willing to resign their obligations under the Constitution in our system of checks and balances in the service of that deeply flawed president.
Our Constitution is only as good as the people who uphold it, and by shutting down this investigation, it shows that the people upholding it are really not living up to their responsibility.
MADDOW: Congressman Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the Intelligence Committee in the House, where the Russia investigation has been shut down by the Republican majority -- sir, thank you for being here tonight. I really appreciate it.
SCHIFF: Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Last week, this retired Russian military officer was found slumped over, do we have that picture? Last week, this retired Russian military -- here he is. A retired Russian military officer was found slumped over and unconscious on a park bench in England.
Years before, he`d been jailed in Russia for passing Russian state secrets to the United Kingdom. In 2006, he`d been sentenced to years in prison in Russia. But then four years later, in 2010, he was one of four prisoners who were released by Russia in exchange for 10 Russian spies who`ve been picked up in the U.S. by the FBI.
After that prisoner swap, that retired Russian officer came to the U.K. for whom he had been spying. He was living in the U.K. and that`s where he and his daughter were discovered barely alive on that park bench last week. His daughter had collapsed right next to him.
Late last week, Scotland Yard announced that the two had been poisoned. Doctor said they found traces of a nerve agent in their systems. They called the incident and assassination attempts.
Today, we learned exactly what kind of nerve agent British authorities think was used in this case and we learned it from the top, from British Prime Minister Theresa May.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: It is now clear that Mr. Skripal and his daughter were poisoned with a military-grade nerve agent of a type developed by Russia. This is part of a group of nerve agents known as Novichok. The government has concluded that it is highly likely that Russia was responsible for the act against Sergei and Yulia Skripal.
Mr. Speaker, this attempted murder using a weapons-grade nerve agent in a British town was not just a crime against the Skripal. It was an indiscriminate and reckless act against the United Kingdom, putting the lives of innocent civilians at risk and we will not tolerate such a brazen attempt to murder innocent civilians on our soil.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: British Prime Minister Theresa May today pinning this directly on the government of Russia, saying also that she is willing to consider a credible response from Russia sometime between now and Wednesday, two days from now. But without one, she says she`s ready to debate the full range of measures the British government could take in response to what she called this unlawful use of force by the Russian state against the United Kingdom.
That language is important. Unlawful use of force by the Russian state against the United Kingdom. United Kingdom is part of the NATO alliance and so are we.
At the heart of the NATO alliance is a commitment to Article 5. Article 5 is collective defense. It says an attack on one country in NATO is seen as an attack on all countries in NATO.
If the U.K. is saying this was an unlawful use of force by the Russian government against the British state, against the U.K., an attack, a state attack. That has serious implications not just for them but for us as members of the NATO alliance. They say they`re going to debate this as of Wednesday. This is really important for Britain. It`s really important for us to.
Watch this space.
MADDOW: I mentioned this a few moments ago with Congressman Adam Schiff that we have come to another election eve. This time, it`s the 18th congressional district in Pennsylvania, which is right outside Pittsburgh.
Now, this is a seat that was once held by a Republican congressman named Tim Murphy. Tim Murphy is a famously anti-abortion Republican congressman who chose to resign his seat after it was reported that he`d try to convince the woman, he was having an affair with that she should get an abortion. This is a solidly Republican districts, one that Donald Trump won by a lot.
Donald Trump on this district by 20 points in 2016. So, this obviously should be a very easy seat for Republicans to hold on to. They are not acting like it though.
Early on, they dispatched Vice President Mike Pence to go rally for the Republican who`s running in the race. This weekend, they sent President Trump himself to the district for a rally that seemed drunk if you were sober and seemed like a horror movie if you were tipsy.
Then earlier today, Donald Trump Jr. was on the ground, shaking hands at a local ice cream parlor. Republicans have spent over $10 million to try to hold on to this seat. Trump won it by 20 points.
Well, now, the state`s Republican Party chairman is trying to play off this race as taking place in a Democrat district, a Democrat district that Trump won by 20. There is optimism among Democrats that they could at least have a shot at taking the seat, according to the latest poll from Monmouth University, depending on the turnout. If it matches what other special election turnouts have looked like, or if it`s higher because of Democrat enthusiasm, or actually even if the -- if the turnouts a little bit lower, in any of those circumstances, Monmouth`s latest poll is showing the Democrat ahead in this race.
That same poll asks about Trump`s job approval, again -- this is a district that Trump won by points in 2016, but now, voters are split on how well they think Trump is doing 49 strongly or somewhat approve, and 49 say they strongly or somewhat disapprove. So, both parties have a lot at stake here and both parties are really trying to spin this.
This seems like a legit toss-up which itself is amazing for a district that Trump won by 20. Polls close at 8:00 p.m. Eastern tomorrow in Pennsylvania, so just a few more hours until we see how it all turns out.
That does for us tonight. We`ll see you again tomorrow.
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL."
Good evening, Lawrence.
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