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New scrutiny on State dept. firing. TRANSCRIPT: 03/16/2018. The Rachel Maddow Show

Guests: Ellen Barry

THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW March 16, 2018 Guests: Ellen Barry

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. Much appreciated. Happy Friday.

The national security advisor to the president of the United States did not get fired today and that counts as both news and a surprise because the White House sparked a thousand headlines last night and a raft of competing scoops all day today about the president`s intentions to fire the national security adviser H.R. McMaster.

And honestly, I have very little -- they have very little appetite -- I have no appetite at all for Kremlinology-style coverage and speculation about who`s in favor and who`s out of favor and who`s been able to move their desk a little closer to the Oval Office and who might someday be fired and who`s angling for what job.

The government is not supposed to be conducted like the gong show, right? But it has been a weird 24 hours in the news because of this word that went out from the White House last night, that the national security advisor H.R. McMaster was to be fired why did the White House put that word out last night? I don`t know and neither do you.

But you should know that right before the White House put out that word last night, this is the last public thing that national security adviser H.R. McMaster did. This is what he did yesterday afternoon.


H.R. MCMASTER, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Russia is also complicit in Assad`s atrocities. The Russian government has bombed civilian areas and provided political cover for Assad`s crimes. From February 24th to February 28th, Russia conducted bombing missions every day in the eastern Ghouta and Damascus areas in Syria. Russia has also repeatedly thwarted efforts by the OPCW to hold the Assad regime accountable for using chemical weapons.

This morning, the United States, France, Germany and the United Kingdom condemned the abhorrent nerve agent attack on Sergei and Yulia Skripal that took place in Salisbury, United Kingdom, on March 4th. The statement made clear that we believe that Russia was responsible for this attack.

And if Iran and Russia do not stop enabling the regime`s atrocities and adhere to U.N. Security Council resolutions all nations must respond more forcibly than simply issuing strong statements. It is time to impose serious political and economic consequences on Moscow.


MADDOW: That was a H.R. McMaster, national security adviser making the strongest comments he has made against Russia during his full time as national security advisor. That`s the last thing he did publicly yesterday before we got that spate of headlines last night that he was about to be fired.

H.R. McMaster made those remarks yesterday afternoon veteran national security reporter Spencer Ackerman covered that speech and then rushed back to "The Daily Beast" to file his report on McMaster`s comments. You see the headline that he put on his report, quote: H.R. McMaster gives the Kremlin a double bird salute, by which he means two metaphorical middle fingers.

So, that was H.R. McMaster`s afternoon yesterday. And then last night, there was this explosion of reporting that, yes, he`s going to be fired.

Now, one possibility here is that those two events are totally unrelated. It`s total coincidence. They had nothing to do with each other.

Another possibility is that McMaster knew he was getting fired, that we were in the ramped up to him being fired, he knew he was on his way out and therefore he felt like this would be a good time to take some shots at Russia since they`re getting rid of him anyway. Maybe that`s possibility.

But another possibility here, of course, is that McMaster made these strong anti-Russia remarks yesterday and then that somehow precipitated the president`s desire to fire him or to at least start telling lots and lots of reporters that in fact he has decided to fire him. And it`s weird that we even have to consider that kind of a possibility, but part of the reason we have to consider that possibility is that in the last few days we just went through something very similar with the Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was fired by the president on Tuesday morning. On Monday night, reporters traveling with Rex Tillerson on an overseas trip said that they had no sign from him that he might eminently imminently be leaving his post.

But on Monday night, speaking to reporters, he did make some remarkably strong comments against Russia. Like H.R. McMaster, they were the strongest remarks he has ever made against Russia since he has been serving as secretary of state.

Question, have you been tracking the ex-spy`s poisoning in the U.K.?

Answer from Secretary of State Rex Tillerson: I just got off a phone call with British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, we`re going to be putting out a statement to support what their findings have been. This is a really egregious act. It appears that it clearly came from Russia. This is a substance that`s known to us, it does not exist widely. It`s only in the hands of a very, very limited number of parties.

I`ve become extremely concerned about Russia we spent most of the last year investing a lot into attempts to work together to solve problems to address differences and quite frankly after a year we didn`t get very far. Instead, what we`ve seen is a pivot on their part to be more aggressive. This is very, very concerning to me and others, that there seems to be a certain unleashing of activity that we don`t fully understand what the objective behind that is.

And if in fact this attack in the U.K. is the work of the Russian government, this is a pretty serious action.

So, Tillerson spoke those words he made those remarks to reporters we`re traveling with him on Monday night. He then put out a written statement, this is the final written statement that was issued under his name as secretary of state before he was fired.

Quote: we have full confidence in the U.K.`s investigation and its assessment that Russia was likely responsible for the nerve agent attack that took place in Salisbury last week. There`s never a justification for this type of attack, the attempted murder of a private citizen on the soil of a sovereign nation. We`re outraged that Russia again appears to have engaged in such behavior. From Ukraine to Syria and now the U.K., Russia continues to be an irresponsible force of instability in the world, acting for -- acting with open disregard for the sovereignty of other states and the life of their citizens. We agree that those responsible, both those who committed the crime and those who ordered it must face appropriately serious consequences.

Those who committed the crime and those who ordered it -- that was the last written statement put out by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Then the following morning, he was fired.

Now, as with H.R. McMaster and his Russia criticism in that afternoon speech right before the White House put out word last night that he is going to be fired, like the situation with McMaster this absolutely could be coincidence, there could be no connection between these events at all.

It could just so happen that the president wants to fire these guys or is mulling over firing these guys at the same time that this Russia crisis is happening with what appears to have been a Russian state attack using a nerve agent on a private citizen on British soil. It could just be that this is all just coincidentally happening at the same time, so these are the kinds of public remarks these national security officials would typically be making at this time regardless of whether the president was in the process of firing them or not.

But now we have seen this same dynamic play out twice in a week. We saw this play out in very quick succession with the McMaster news last night. Before that, we saw it playing out in very quick succession with the Tillerson firing on Monday night into Tuesday morning.

And because it`s now happened twice, it may be worth looking at what`s going on here, right? It`s not just it`s not just palace intrigue, right? This is not just the president enjoying chaos around him.

These are serious men in serious jobs. This is the American secretary of state. This is the top national security official in the U.S. government, both of them having their jobs either taken from them or threatened openly, both of them immediately after they made strong critical comments about Russia and Russia`s leadership.

And the reason I think even further, this is worth looking more closely is because there is a piece of this that the White House is lying about. And I don`t say that lightly. I think it`s a big deal if the White House lies about something.

Whether or not you think it`s a big deal, whether or not you care about the White House lying just as a general experience, my experience in covering the news is that one high-ranking people go out of their way to concoct a lie about a checkable thing, whether or not you care about them lying you should probably look more closely at the thing they`re lying about because that`s probably going to end up being the juicy part of the story, not just the fact that they lied, but why they had to lie about that thing.

And in this case, what the White House has lied about is how Rex Tillerson was fired. This was how we found out that Rick Tillerson was fired. It was this tweet from the president on Tuesday morning.

Mike Pompeo, director of the CIA, will become our new secretary of state. He will do a fantastic job, exclamation point. Thank you to Rex Tillerson for his service, exclamation point.

That was how we learned the secretary of state was being fired. Then shortly thereafter, the president explained to reporters on Tuesday morning how this all came about.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As far as Rex Tillerson is concerned, I very much appreciate his commitment and his service, and I wish him well. He`s a good man.

REPORTER: Mr. President, what did you tell Rex Tillerson?

TRUMP: Rex and I have been talking about this for a long time. We`ve got along actually quite well, but we disagreed on things.


MADDOW: After the president announced on Twitter that the secretary of state was being fired, you saw him explained to reporters there, Rex and I have been talking about this for a long time. Rex and I have been talking about this for a long time.

That story directly from the president then morphed into a different sort of but related account from anonymous White House officials who started telling reporters and multiple news outlets that Rex Tillerson is firing didn`t come up -- didn`t come up suddenly on Tuesday.

It was no surprise. There was nothing that suddenly occasioned it Tuesday morning. In fact, White House officials told reporters Rex Tillerson had been notified on Friday that he was fired, or maybe he`d been notified on Saturday that that he`d been fired. In any case, though, White House chief of staff had definitely called him days in advance and told him that he was fired.

It turns out that`s not true. As best as we can tell, Rex Tillerson hadn`t been told on Friday that he was fired. He hadn`t been told on Saturday that he was fired. He had certainly not been talking about it with the president for a long time.

The undersecretary of state for public diplomacy, number four position in the State Department, a man named Steven Goldstein, soon put out a statement that explained Tillerson`s state of mind when he found out about the timing of all this.

Quote: The secretary had every intention of staying because of the critical progress made in national security. He will miss his colleagues at the Department of State. The secretary did not speak to the president and is unaware of the reason for his firing, but he`s grateful for the opportunity to serve and still believe strongly that public service is a noble calling.

So, when the president said he and Rex had been talking about this for a long time, according to Rex, they had not been talking about this for a long time. The secretary did not speak to the president.

When White House officials then put out word that Tillerson had been notified days earlier, he had been fired by Chief of Staff John Kelly`s days before, I should tell you John Kelly incidentally is still telling reporters that story tonight. John Kelly reportedly bragging to reporters tonight at the White House that Rex Tillerson was on the toilet coping with the effects of a stomach bug when John Kelly placed the call to him, letting him know he was going to be fired. And that`s nice and its own right.

But that story, toilet or not, appears not to be true because, you know, Rex Tillerson would know whether or not somebody had called him up and told him he was being fired. And what he says is that he hadn`t spoken to the president and he didn`t know why he was being fired and in case there was any ambiguity about it, senior State Department officials later clarified directly to NBC News that, in fact, Tillerson found out he was fired from Trump`s tweet on Tuesday morning.

And that timing ends up being really important because that means the timeline here is not that Rex Tillerson was a dead man walking and he`d already been told he was fired when he made those strong anti-Russia comments and put out that strong anti-Russia statement on Monday night. What this means about the timeline is that Tillerson made those strong anti-Russia comments on Monday night, then he got fired on Tuesday morning -- surprise.

And for some reason, the White House has tried to create an alternate timeline of his firing to make it look like he wasn`t fired right after his strong Russia criticism, and that`s why for all the palace intrigue, all the who`s up who`s down, you know, White House personnel merry-go-around reporting that there`s been in Washington all week long and that the president appears to so enjoy stoking, what really stands out here that the White House has not really had to answer for at all is that in addition to firing Rex Tillerson on Tuesday morning, later in the day on Tuesday, they went on to fire another senior official from the State Department.

They fired the guy who put out the statement. They fired the undersecretary of state for public diplomacy. This is the guy who put out what we believe is the true statement explaining the real timeline of when Tillerson was fired, the timeline that says he was fired right after his Russia remarks, the timeline that puts a freaking spotlight on this unbelievable question of whether his Russia criticism could conceivably have been the precipitating event for why he got fired.

The statement Steven Goldstein put out that Tillerson hadn`t actually spoken Trump, despite the president saying they had the statement not Goldstein saying that Tillerson hadn`t been fired days before, that he only found out he was being fired on Tuesday morning when the president tweeted about it, that it was news to him he had intended to stay -- that statement from all our reporting appears to be 100 percent true, and they fired him for it.

White House officials later explained to NBC News that the reason Steven Goldstein was fired was because of that statement, contradicting what the White House was saying about the firing of Rex Tillerson. He was fired because he contradicted what we believed was an untrue statement that the White House is trying to put out about this firing, offering aid alternate timeline to what really happened. And this wasn`t just some low-level staffer who they fired. They didn`t just decide to shoot some lowly messenger here.

This guy is the number four official at the State Department. There`s only six permanent under secretaries of state in the United States of America. He was one of them. They fired him for putting out a true statement about when they fired Rex Tillerson and how -- a true statement that put a spotlight on something uncomfortable that the president isn`t having to answer questions for because of this alternate timeline that the White House has invented which appears to be false.

And, you know, in a different White House, in a more normal administration, the fact alone that the White House had fired the number four official at the State Department, that itself would be huge news. The White House firing the number four official at the State Department for telling the truth about something the White House is lying about, that would typically be a really big scandal, both that they`d fire somebody for telling the truth but also because the firing appears to be an effort to cover up their lie. In a normal administration, this would be a very big deal. And even this administration, frankly, it is a big deal.

The Steven Goldstein firing should probably get more attention than it is getting. I mean, if we`re going to obsess about people coming and going from the administration, here`s a scandal for you.

Joining us now is Andrea Mitchell, NBC News chief foreign affairs correspondent and the host of "ANDREA MITCHELL REPORTS", weekdays at noon here on MSNBC.

Andrea, it is great to have you here tonight. Thank you so much for being with us on a Friday.


MADDOW: So, can you talk to me about the Steven Goldstein firing? As far as I understand, the Steven Goldstein was not a hugely well-known quantity inside the State Department. He had not been there for a very, very long time.


MADDOW: What do you know about the circumstances of his firing and the reaction to it.

Well, it`s as you reported, he was fired and in fact was fired for telling the truth for describing at least how Tillerson thought or perceived his firing. The fact that he did not know about it until he was called and told that there was the tweet. He had arrived at Andrews Air Force Base at 4:00 a.m. The tweet was at 8:44 a.m.

He had the night before on the trip, according to all the people whom I spoke to who were on that plane, including NBC`s Abigail Williams, Gardiner Harris from "The New York Times", Josh Lederman from the ABC, from -- excuse me, the -- Josh Lederman from the "Associated Press", from "The A.P."

All of these people and I just circled back to them yesterday, all reported that in his briefings to them, when they were on the trip, when they were refueling in Cape Verde, and then they finally came home overnight, he was talking about North Korea, what they were about to do. He was talking about Russia as you read, and it was all forward-leaning.

He did say that he had had a problem with Ethiopian food and that`s why he cancelled his schedule on Saturday and that he had been awakened by a call. He didn`t say it was from John Kelly, but by a call at 2:30 in the morning -- but not that he`d been fired.

And I think there is a disconnect here -- either John Kelly did not say explicitly to him what he says he said, or Rex Tillerson, having been threatened before with firing, thought he could tough it out. And I`m sure that he said to Kelly, I want to talk to the president, he`s going to have to, you know, fire me to my face. That`s what he`s been saying, I`m not going to quit. I want to stay on this job. And that`s what he had said to us publicly for months and months.

So, obviously, it was rocky. What we have been told is that the president never forgave the October 4th NBC report that back in July, he had after a Pentagon briefing called the president a moron in front of enough witnesses that Tillerson to his credit never denied that, just sort of said, I`m not going to talk about things like that. He never lied about the fact that he had in fact said that.

Obviously, there were disagreements about Iran. That was profound. He was very angry, we`re told, infuriated that Tillerson spoke, as you just described, about Russia, after Sarah Sanders had refused to agree with the British at the last public statement from the White House on Friday. So, this was his briefing on Monday when he very explicitly said I just got off the phone with Boris Johnson and it was the Russians and very few people have this and we think it likely was the Russian government, and this is egregious and all the rest.

So, the Russian issue did bother them, and obviously, Iran he was trying to renegotiate with Europeans and try to fix the Iran deal by toughing it up and trying to get the president from blowing it up with a next deadline takes place in May. There were a lot of policy disagreements. But the profound part I think was that they just were a mismatch, the chemistry was all wrong.

And as to Steve Goldstein, Steve Goldstein had been hired by Rex Tillerson confirmed and came on board in December and was certainly perceived as Tillerson`s man and while the chief of staff, a very controversial person, Margaret Peterlin and her deputy, were permitted to resign gracefully later in the day and are still at the State Department helping Tillerson close up shop by March 31st, Goldstein was summarily dismissed.

MADDOW: And just to underscore what you just said there about Goldstein specifically, from your reporting and from everything we understand about these circumstances, the White House says -- admits to NBC News that Goldstein was fired for this statement. The statement does contradict what the White House said about Tillerson`s firing but Goldstein statement which he was fired for is actually the version that was true, in term -- at least as Rex Tillerson understood it.

MITCHELL: Exactly, and when you said that there are six interested undersecretaries he actually was the only confirmed undersecretary other than one who`s already resigned, veteran Tom Shannon who`s going to be leaving. So, now, there are none.

MADDOW: Wow. Andrea Mitchell, NBC News chief foreign affairs correspondent, the host of "ANDREA MITCHELL REPORTS", weekdays at noon -- Andrea, I realize this is this -- I think to some people, this will feel like intricate reporting about these departures at the State Department, with so many other buffeting winds right now in Washington, but I think the circumstances of these departures is strange and bears this scrutiny. Thank you for helping us through it.

MITCHELL: Well, let me just say it certainly reflects the meanness, the desire to humiliate -- and that comes from the top.

MADDOW: Andrea Mitchell, thank you, my friend. Great to have you here.

MITCHELL: Thank you.

MADDOW: Again, just underscoring what Andrea just said there. You know, obviously, in terms of why Rex Tillerson left and we`re still waiting to find out if H.R. McMaster will be pushed out as well. But the president there obviously describing the day that Tillerson left, having long- standing differences of opinion with Tillerson on a number of matters, and we know that to be true, differences of opinion on Iran, differences of style and approach to various matters.

They`d never previously been known to have differences of opinion on Russia. And whatever the long-standing differences were between the president and Rex Tillerson on any number of matters, what Andrea just describes there as the president`s fury, his anger about Tillerson comments on Russia, those -- the Russia comments were the ones that happen right before he got fired, and I think this deserves more scrutiny than it`s getting.

We`ll be right back. Stay with us.


MADDOW: We have some breaking news about the lawsuit between the adult film actress who is suing the president -- this is a thing you get to say in 2018, but I still admit it feels weird to be talking about the president and the adult film actress. But Stormy Daniels sued the president of the United States earlier this month to get out of a non-disclosure agreement that she entered into with Trump, right before he won the 2016 election. She agreed that she would not talk about their past sexual relationship in exchange for him giving her $130,000.

She now says that because the president himself never signed his half of the NDA, she shouldn`t have to keep up her into the bargain either. She should be allowed to talk about their alleged relationship. She filed that case in the L.A. County court system.

Well, today, the lawyers on the president`s side of this case tried to move the case into federal court in California, which itself is interesting in terms of trying to change the jurisdiction in the venue here. But when we took a look at the court paperwork, the effort to move this into federal court, we noticed something interesting on the paperwork. The electronic signature on this fairly routine court document list the attorney of record for a defendant Donald J. Trump as Charles Harder.

Remember who Charles Harder is?

Charles Harder was the lawyer who won a $140 million judgment against the news Website Gawker after Gawker posted a sex tape of Mr. Harder`s client, the pro-wrestler Hulk Hogan. Gawker ultimately settled for less, but they still went out of business, as that suit was designed to force them to.

Charles Harder is also the attorney who represented First Lady Melania Trump when she filed a defamation lawsuit against a blogger in Maryland, a guy who had said on his blog that it was widely known that Melania Trump was not working as a model when she first came to the United States but instead as a high-end escort. The problem for the blogger was that that is not widely known because there`s no evidence that it`s true. Mrs. Trump sued him, sued "The Daily Mail" for making a similar claim. Both the blogger and the British tabloid ended up apologizing and issuing retractions.

But even then, Melania Trump and her attorney Charles Harder didn`t let it go, the whole thing didn`t get wrapped up until Melania Trump had been first lady of the United States for several months. She settled with "The Daily Mail" reportedly for nearly $3 million in April 2017.

So, seeing the name Charles Harder as the president`s attorney of record, new attorney of record in the Stormy Daniels case, could be a sign that the Stormy Daniels case is not going to go away quietly. This effort to move it into federal court and also to add a lawyer who`s known for suing people into the grave means that this case has just changed materially. It also means that the president probably thinks this case is a really big deal and worth spending some big legal fees on.

Watch this space. Stay with us.


MADDOW: Maxine Waters was first elected to Congress from greater Los Angeles in 1990. Maxine Waters is a Democrat. She`s got a high national profile. She has been in Congress for 27 years. She has a Republican opponent for her seat this year. He also ran against her in the last election cycle. He`s a man named Omar Navarro.

Omar Navarro is an ardent Trump supporter. He`s a former car salesman. He lost to Maxine Waters in 2016 by more than 50 points. Still, though, he`s given it another try, this time with backing from high-profile Trump supporters from all over the country. Among them, Trump advisor Roger Stone, pardoned former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, and the Info War`s guy who says the Sandy Hook massacre didn`t really happen.

As for Mr. Navarro himself, according to "The L.A. Times", he resigned as a local traffic commissioner last year after a pepper spray incident. He was accused of pepper spraying a child while he`d actually been aiming to shoot pepper spray at rallyers at a pro-sanctuary cities event.

He also pled guilty last fall to a misdemeanor that had to do with an electronic tracking device he attached to his wife`s car. After pleading guilty, he was sentenced to a day in jail and months probation and he was ordered by the court to take an anger management course.

Now, listen to what happened when the local paper "The Daily Breeze" tried to ask him about that.

Quote: He initially said there are a lot of Omar Navarros, implying that perhaps someone else with the same name was convicted of the same charge, on the same day, involving the same wife. Then he said the incident that led to the criminal charge occurred years ago. It actually happened last year. And finally, he acknowledged the conviction, but first he blamed the orange county district attorney`s office and the media for fake news.

And then, finally, he admitted that it was his own doing in any case I can tell you, as of this week, Omar Navarro is apparently no longer on probation. "The Daily Breeze" says he was set to get off probation on Monday, four days ago, which is great timing because he`s got a big campaign fundraiser tonight and he is picketing up the coveted endorsement of -- Mike Flynn. Seriously, General Mike Flynn.

Ex-Trump national security adviser and himself a newly minted felon having pled guilty to lying to the FBI and the Mueller investigation. General Flynn was set to make remarks at this fundraiser tonight and to announce his personal endorsement of Mr. Navarro. So, a candidate who is just off probation on Monday is getting a coveted endorsement from the cooperating witness in the special counsel investigation while he is now awaiting sentencing. Whether that endorsement helps a Republican in California`s 43rd district or anywhere for that matter who knows, but it is a reminder that Mike Flynn is out on his own recognizance, while he`s awaiting sentencing.

And he`s apparently a draw on one very specific fundraising circuit. That`s more than you can say for Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who is now confined to his Virginia home and wearing two ankle bracelets, as he faces dozens of felony charges, including nine counts of bank fraud and bank fraud conspiracy that he allegedly committed during the campaign that he was running.

Today, "BuzzFeed" cites documentation from inside the Treasury Department in reporting new details about yet more allegedly suspicious reported bank activity related to Paul Manafort, relates to Paul Manafort bank accounts in California. According to "BuzzFeed`s" new reporting they say this California bank closed Manafort`s accounts after transactions were flagged due to suspicions about the source of the funds, suspicious wire transfers and electronic fund transfers, suspicious use of non-cash monetary instruments and a transaction with no apparent economic business or lawful purpose.

According to this report today, Manafort got his bank account shut down in that California bank after these transactions took place and the transactions took place between August 26th and September 6th of 2016. So put that on the timeline, Paul Manafort left the Trump campaign August 19th. These reported and suspicious transactions that were seriously suspicious enough to shut down his bank accounts, they started within a week of Manafort exiting the campaign.

That timing tracks was some of our earlier questions about strange financial circumstances surrounding Manafort`s departure from the Trump campaign. The day he resigned as Trump`s campaign chairman, Manafort created a shell company called Summer Breeze. He then used Summer Breeze to acquire roughly million dollars in loans from multiple banks around the country, from August through the election and an up until around the time of the inauguration. Loans that Robert Mueller now charges were fraudulently obtained.

We`ve always had this question about why Trump would pick Paul Manafort to chair his campaign and why Paul Manafort would chair it for free, but there is also this question of what Paul Manafort was doing right after he left the Trump campaign that triggered this strange bank activity, all over the country, bank activity that led to his bank accounts we now know being shut down in California and that have led to multiple felony charges from the special counsels office here on the East Coast. Open questions, he`s not pled guilty. This week, he did hire a new white-collar lawyer, Richard Westling, became the third high-powered attorney to join Paul Manafort`s defense team this week.

We know from a transcript this week that the judge in Virginia is not inclined to let Mr. Manafort wander around because he`s potentially facing life in prison. So, he sits at home waiting for the first of his two trials to start in July. Meanwhile, across the country, the general who pled guilty in this investigation is apparently giving remarks at the fundraiser for the longest of long shots candidates.

If you thought this investigation and the characters in it couldn`t get any weirder, just hold your breath for a few seconds. Surprises at every turn.

Much more ahead tonight. Stay with us.


MADDOW: I know you`ve heard about the Russian guy who appears to have been the victim of a Russian nerve agent assassination attempt in the U.K. last week this is not a story about that guy. This is a different guy, also Russian, also in the U.K., except this second guy he`s not fighting for his life at U.K. hospital like Sergei Skripal and his daughter are.

This second Russian guy, he`s definitely already dead. This week, police in the southwest London neighborhood of New Malden started putting up blue tents outside the home of Nicolai Glushkov. After Glushkov was found dead in his home on Monday night.

Now, London police at first called this desk -- called the death just unexplained, but now they say they`ve launched a murder investigation and they`re not having this murder investigation handled by just local police in southwest London, they`re having this murder investigation handled by British counterterrorism police.

Nikolai Glushkov`s death follows the Russian rare nerve agent poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter by only eight days. These two incidents happened eight days and only about miles apart in Britain. Unlike Sergei Skripal case though, Nikolai Glushkov was reportedly not poisoned. Police say he died as a result of compression of the neck, which sounds to me like a way to use for words instead of one to say strangulation. But for whatever reason the phrase they`re using is compression of the neck.

British authorities say, so far, there`s no known link between Nikolai Glushkov`s death and the attempted murders in Salisbury eight days earlier. But you could see why they might be looking into it, right? And that makes this new murder inquiry under the auspices of the counterterrorism police particularly fraught. The U.K. is already overtly blaming Russian President Vladimir Putin for Sergei Skripal`s attempted assassination and their expelling Russian diplomats and all the rest.

If there ends up being a second connected attack in Britain that gets linked to Russia, it`s hard to know how the U.K. might further escalate its response. But that story is next. Stay with us.

The way Vladimir Putin became president of Russia is that he was basically elevated into position to be ready to take over the top job by Boris Yeltsin. Yeltsin was president in the 1990s. An August 1999, he promoted this relatively unknown guy, Vladimir Putin, to be prime minister and he announced his belief that Putin should succeed him as Russia`s president.

In the 1990s when Yeltsin was president, the richest man in Russia, the most powerful of all the oligarchs in Russia in the Yeltsin era was this guy, Boris Berezovsky. Berezovsky basically acted as a fixer and a financial backer for Yeltsin and his family. He helped finance Yeltsin`s political campaigns. He was as influential as you can possibly imagine.

It`s believed that Berezovsky was one of the architects of that maneuver to get Putin elevated into the prime minister job and put in the right place at the right time to be ready to take over for Yeltsin as president. But in the snake pit of Russian corruption and politics and Russian politics and corruption, Boris Berezovsky ended up falling out with Putin. He ended up fleeing Russia for the relative safety of Western Europe. He took his billions and he decamped to London.

In London, he became a fierce critic of Putin. He hosted and supported other Russian exiles and people who`d been chased out of Russia by Putin. Berezovsky openly funded opposition movements against the Kremlin. He fought Putin and his loyalists for control of his own Russian assets and holdings.

Ultimately, those were huge legal fights that Berezovsky mostly lost. At one point, Berezovsky even started talking about the necessity of the violent overthrow of the Putin government, saying that he would fund that.

In 2013, Boris Berezovsky was found inside his home in England dead, in his bathroom with the door lock and a rope around his neck. Police said at the time they believed he took his own life but there was no official cause of death listed.

In 2006, former FSB officer Alexander Litvinenko who had been granted asylum in the U.K., he was poisoned as someone who slipped radioactive polonium into his tea. Alexander Litvinenko was an associate and colleague of Boris Berezovsky. A British government inquiry later found that the likely culprit in the Litvinenko assassination was the Russian government.

The year after Litvinenko died in 2007, another business associate of Berezovsky, a guy named Yuri Golubev was found dead in London. The year after Golubev died in 2008, another business partner of Berezovsky died in London, possibly of a heart attack, possibly poison. He was a Georgian oligarch his name was Badri Patarkatsishvili.

And then there were the two British lawyers Stephen Moss who died suddenly of a heart attack at age 46, and Stephen Curtis who died in a helicopter crash, both associates of Boris Berezovsky. Both suspected of helping Russian oligarchs funnel money out of Russia.

Last year, "BuzzFeed" did an investigation into suspected Russian hits on people in the United Kingdom, they found a total of nine men in Boris Berezovsky circle, including Berezovsky himself, whose deaths were declared by British police to be non-suspicious but now, quote, "BuzzFeed News" is reporting that MI6, Britain`s secret intelligence service has asked its us counterparts for information about each one of these deaths, quote, in the context of assassinations. They`re all friends or business associates of Boris Berezovsky, this former Russian oligarch who turned on Putin and became his enemy.

And now, another friend of Berezovsky had turned up dead in London. Nikolai Glushkov is found dead in London at his home on Monday night. It`s a death that is now being treated as a murder in an investigation led by British counterterrorism police. Glushkov had been a director at the Russian airline Aeroflot and at one of Berezovsky`s companies.

Around the time that Berezovsky fled Russia for the U.K., Russia charged Glushkov back home in Russia with money laundering and fraud related to those enterprises. They sentenced him to five years in prison. He served that time in prison but when he got out he too fled to the U.K. The U.K. granted him asylum.

Once he was there, he helped out his old friend Boris Berezovsky. In 2011, Berezovsky brought a lawsuit against another Russian oligarch, an ally of Putin, claiming that he had stiffed him for billions of dollars. It was a clash of the titans legal battle, the former Russian oligarch versus the current Russian oligarch who was still favored by Putin.

Glushkov got up and testified for Boris Berezovsky against this Russian oligarch close to Putin. The judge threw out Berezovsky`s claim. He lost that case, a lot -- he lost a lot of his wealth.

After Berezovsky`s body was discovered in the bathroom at his house, it was Nikolai Glushkov who came forward to the press and said he didn`t think it was an accident. He said, I don`t believe it was suicide. He said too many deaths of Russian exiles have been happening.

You know, Glushkov himself has turned up dead.

Joining us now is Ellen Barry, an international correspondent for "The New York Times". She`s been covering Russia for a long, long time.

Ms. Barry, thank you very much for being here with us on a Friday night. I know it`s very late where you are.


MADDOW: As of the Monday night, the death of Russian political exile Nikolai Glushkov was being called suspicious. Now, authorities are calling this a murder investigation. Do we know why they decided to do that today?

BARRY: Well, Britain has a real problem with enemies of the Russian state turning up dead on its soil and this has accumulated gradually, many of these deaths were quite ambiguous looking. They look perhaps like heart attacks or in some cases like suicides. But the heat is really up now because of this Skripal case for the authorities to kind of clump these cases together and address them as a sort of category of crime.

So, Glushkov`s death happens just at a point where they have to be much more decisive and articulate about what`s happening.

MADDOW: Materially, this being handled as a matter basically of national concern the counterterrorism police being involved here it`s being declared a murder in Korea and despite the few days where they hadn`t said that about Glushkov. These reports that previous deaths of Russian expats in the U.K. are going to sort of be re-examined.

Do we expect that all of this new attention will bring actually new investigative power to the -- looking at those previous deaths, do we expect there to be new information or potentially new attribution for those deaths, even though many of them are years old?

BARRY: Well, I think all the new cases that come up are going to be addressed differently. There`s been long been a case made within Scotland Yard that they should be categorized and dealt with by a senior officer who is just focused on suspicious Russian deaths. And I think now you know that cases has become overwhelming.

I mean, there`s really only two cases that have been sort of very clearly pinned to Russia. The first was Litvinenko`s death, and the second is now Skripal`s. But I think the fact that there are now, you know, more than a dozen cases on the list has made the British authorities look ineffectual in the way that they`re handing them.

So, Amber Rudd said this week that they would reopen all of the cases I believe that were in the "BuzzFeed" report that you mentioned. Whether they`re going to be able to find new evidence in those old cases, I think that`s unlikely. There are very few cases as relatively clear as the Skripal case.

MADDOW: Ellen Barry, international correspondent for the "New York Times" -- I really appreciate your time tonight, especially with the time difference and how late it is in London. Thank you for joining us.

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


MADDOW: So we got this sort of unbelievable news tonight about Trump national security advisor Mike Flynn turning up at a fund-raiser in California for a Republican congressional hopeful who himself just got off probation this week.

General Flynn, of course, pled guilty in December to lying to the FBI. He`s a cooperating witness in the special counsel investigation. He`s personally awaiting sentencing for his felony guilty plea. Despite, that he`s apparently free to travel and we know that because he just turned up tonight at this southern California Republican fund-raiser.

And we just got in this footage. Look at this hero`s welcome he gets.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As national security advisor to United States President Donald Trump, General Flynn`s military career, include a key role in shaping U.S. --


MADDOW: Michael Flynn tonight, awaiting sentencing on his felony guilty plea, but being -- essentially basically ready to crowd-source there at that Republican congressional fund-raiser in California. Apparently, you can do that while you`re waiting sentencing.

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


Good evening, Lawrence.