Authorities in TX responding to explosion. TRANSCRIPT: 03/20/2018. The Rachel Maddow Show

Guests: Carol Leonnig, Mark Warner

THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW March 20, 2018 Guest: Carol Leonnig, Mark Warner

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HGOST: And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.

We have a lot to get to tonight, really a lot to get to over the course of this hour, including this breaking news this hour from Austin, Texas, where as you just saw with Chris, law enforcement has been dealing with a series of scary and in some cases deadly bombings.

The bombings started on March 2nd when a package exploded and killed a man on his porch in Austin. Altogether, the bombings this month in Austin have killed two people and wounded four before tonight. Now, plus, another person who was hurt when a package exploded before dawn this morning at a FedEx facility about an hour south of town.

Well, now, tonight, we have reports just within the last hour of another explosion. This would be the sixth bomb, the sixth explosion.

The initial reporting from the "A.P." is that it happened at a Goodwill Store. We`re told that a man in his 30s has been injured in this latest blast. He`s been taken to the hospital with potentially serious but reportedly non-life threatening injuries. We`re going to be talking live to a reporter on the scene in Austin, Texas, in just a moment, as you`ve been watching this news unfold. You can tell that this story is developing, and we`re just starting to get first information, first credible information from first responders and law enforcement on the scene. And so, we will be getting a live report on that in just a few moments with a reporter on the scene.

Now, I should also tell you that we`ve got Virginia Senator Mark Warner here tonight for the interview. This is -- I think an important time to have Senator Warner here, it appears to be a moment of crisis for the Intelligence Committees in Congress. Senator Warner is going to be joining us live for an extended interview coming up later on this hour.

On November 9th, 2016, the day after the Trump Clinton presidential election, the CEO of the data firm that the Trump campaign had used during the election, they put out a proud statement about what had just happened. They put out a statement that said, quote, we are thrilled that our revolutionary approach to data-driven communications played such an integral part in President-elect Donald Trump`s extraordinary win.

That statement in response to the news that Donald Trump had just won the presidential election that was from the CEO with the firm Cambridge Analytica, Alexander Nix.

Today, Alexander Nix, was removed from the firm Cambridge Analytica. The company`s board of directors announcing that they`re removing him as CEO pending an immediate investigation into his recent statements about the company`s practices in recent election campaigns. This follows a third day of reporting from Britain`s Channel 4, including new tape today where Alexander Nix proudly explains what his company`s role was in getting Donald Trump elected.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPORTER: Have you met with Mr. Trump?

ALEXANDER NIX, CAMBRIDGE ANALYTICA CEO: Many times. We did all the research, all the data, all the analytics, all the targeting. We run all the digital campaign, the television campaign, and our data informed all the strategy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: All the research, all the data, all the analytics, all the targeting we ran, all the digital campaign, the television campaign and our data informed all the strategy. We did it, basically.

That CEO of Trump`s campaign -- Trump campaigns data firm is now out at that company as of tonight. British investigators are seeking search warrants for the company`s servers and databases here in the United States. The Federal Trade Commission has now announced an investigation into Facebook because of its dealings with this company.

And in the context of the ongoing special counsel`s investigation by Robert Mueller and his team of prosecutors, questions are now being raised about several aspects of this firm and its work for the Trump campaign, including this new revelation from a whistleblower from the firm`s former research director who says the core data that the firm was built around that the spine of the company was data that was obtained for the company from Facebook illicitly by a Russian-speaking Cambridge University professor who had a joint appointment at a Russian university and who`s been getting research grants from the Russian government.

The same whistleblower from Cambridge Analytica is also reporting that a Russian oil company close to the Putin government also took meetings with Cambridge Analytica ahead of the U.S. presidential election, meeting specifically focused on techniques to influence American voters. Why would a Russian oil company care about that?

So, that`s all were sort of roiling the background, right, in today`s news. The president reportedly approaching yet another Republican super lawyer to try to add some talent to his Russia legal team. "The Washington Post" reporting that the president`s request to former Solicitor General Ted Olson came, quote, as the president is feeling more vulnerable to the investigation led by special counsel Robert Mueller. The president has told confidants he wants to recruit top-tier talent for his legal team, which is probably not a very nice thing for his existing, not necessarily top-tier legal team to read in "The Washington Post".

But, alas, Ted Olson has turned down the president, has turned down the president who requested that he joined his Russia team. This comes after at least one other blue chip lawyer in recent days has also reportedly turned down the president. But the mere fact that the president is trying to get new lawyers on board at this late date tells you something of how serious things have become in recent days, or how newly serious the White House perceives them to be.

Our closest overseas ally in the world is Great Britain. I think they -- I mean, they still -- I mean, at least that`s what we`ve all thought for the past several generations. Let`s just assume there`s still our most important overseas ally.

As such, it`s important to us as a country that Britain right now is dealing with an incredibly serious situation of their own.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

THERESA MAY, PRIME MINSTER, UNITED KINGDOM: The attempted assassination of two people on British soil for which there is no alternative conclusion other than that the Russian state was culpable, it is Russia that is in flagrant breach of international law and the chemical weapons convention. We will never tolerate a threat to the life of British citizens and others on British soil from Russian government.

BORIS JOHNSON, FOREIGN SECRETARY, UNITED KINGDOM: Our quarrel -- our quarrel is with Putin`s Kremlin, and with his decision. And we think it overwhelmingly likely that it was his decision to direct the use of a nerve agent on the streets of the U.K., on the streets of Europe for the first time since the Second World War. That is that is why we are at odds with Russia.

MAY: The United Kingdom will now expel Russian diplomats who have been identified as undeclared intelligence officers. They have just one week to leave.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Those Russian diplomats, undeclared intelligence officers, they got kicked out of the U.K. today. We`ve actually got footage of them leaving. These are the Russian diplomats and their families. Altogether, the Russian embassy says it was about 80 people in total bundled into vans and taken to Stansted Airport outside London, where they then boarded a Russian state-owned plane which flew them all to Moscow.

These diplomats or undeclared intelligence agents, they were expelled by Britain today, as punishment for the nerve agent poisoning of former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in the British city of Salisbury, and attack that Britain and its European allies and the U.S. government all agree was carried out by the Russian government. Now, one of the reasons everybody`s so certain this poisoning was carried out by the Russians is that the nerve agent used in the attack was invented by the Russians. They`re the only ones on earth who are known to possess it. It`s a class of nerve agents called Novichok.

And when you`re dealing with a proprietary secret military weapon that incidentally is illegal and that only one country has, it`s particularly scary to think about something like that being brought into a provincial town in Britain and used in an attempted assassination. But even beyond the fear factor, just as a practical matter, we as the general public can`t even really imagine what this particular agent might physically do to people when it`s used on them.

Since the Skripals were attacked on March 4th, more than two weeks ago, it is striking how little we found out about the condition of the two people who were attacked. We know that Sergei and Yulia Skripal have been in the hospital, in critical condition since they were both found slumped on a bench on March 4th. We are told they are both still alive, but that`s it.

Today, a Russian publication called "The Bell" ran an interview with a man who says that he helped create this class of nerve agents for the Russian military, and if what this scientist says is true, it`s a lot more information but it`s not the kind of information I`m -- I`m not sure I`m happy to know this information. It`s unsettling.

In "The Bell" today, this reporter asked the scientist, quote, is there even a minimal chance that the victims of this poisoning might recover? He replies, quote, most likely, they will suffer the same fate as earlier victims. There is no antidote to these agents. I can say with nearly 100 percent certainty that if Skripal and his daughter are taken off of life support, they will die, although they are now only technically alive.

So, that`s the assessment of this man who says he was one of the creators of this Russian nerve agent. We posted a link to "The Bells" English translation of that interview on our Website tonight. Fair warning, it will keep you up.

That scientist, though, also says that the Russian government manufactured this type of nerve agent in the 1970s, in the 1980s, in batches as large as several kilos, as in several kilograms. He says he has no idea what happened to those stockpiles, quote, large doses were stored in a special warehouse in sealed packaging. I don`t know anything else about what then happened to those doses beyond where they were stored.

So, that`s the situation in our closest overseas ally right now. Two people remain in critical condition after an attack with a Russian nerve agent. The existence of which is a surprise to most people on earth, let alone its appearance on a British park bench.

Twenty-three diplomats and their families expelled as of today. The U.K.`s leaders condemning Russia in the strongest possible terms. Oh, and another death of another Russian Kremlin critic on British soil now being investigated by British counterterrorism police in a murder inquiry his death eight days after the Skripal attack. It`s very serious stuff in Britain right now.

Meanwhile, here in the United States, it was just five days ago that the Trump administration finally enacted some sanctions on Russia for their interference in our election in 2016, after slow-walking for months the sanctions that the Trump administration was legally required to impose on Russia, after denying the intelligence community`s conclusion that Russia was responsible for that attack, finally, five days ago the us government under Donald Trump finally admitted that, yes, the Russians did mess with our election and, yes, we will OK agree to do something about it. And so, they, finally, for the first time put these sanctions on. That was five days ago.

Also, five days ago, the very same day the U.S. finally issued these sanctions on Russia for its actions in the 2016 election, at the same time that same day, we also got this very serious technical announcement from the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security about Russian government attackers going after American infrastructure, specifically going after U.S. power plants. This technical alert from the department of homeland security and the FBI announcing that Russian government entities have hacked into U.S. power plants not just to mess with them or steal data, but so they would have the ability to turn the American electric grid on and off at will.

It`s been sort of an intense couple of weeks, right? Poisoning two people with a previously unknown nerve agent in broad daylight on the streets of Britain -- freaking serious, right? Hacking into the American electric grid so as to have the power to turn it on and off, at will -- also frigging serious. Not to mention all the election stuff, right? I mean, Russia`s behavior is a little bit off the hook right now.

And this morning, this is what the president of the United States had to say about it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I had a call with president Putin and congratulated him on the victory, his electoral victory. The call had to do also with the fact that we will probably get together in the not-too-distant future. We had a very good call and I suspect that we`ll probably be meeting in the not-too-distant future. So, I think probably will be seeing President Putin in the not-too-distant future.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: President Trump called Moscow to congratulate Vladimir Putin on his big election win this weekend, which was easier to win because he wouldn`t let his opponents run.

But just in case you missed the important part, he repeated it three times for you -- such a good call, he`s such a good guy, did I mention we`re getting together in the not-too-distant future? In the not-too-distant future where we`re getting together, I think we`ll be seeing him in the not-too-distant future.

Oh, and by the way, the reason we knew there had been a call at all was because once again, the Kremlin announced it. Quote: on the whole, the conversation was constructive and businesslike with a focus on overcoming the accumulated problems in Russian-American relations, said the Kremlin this morning.

And then a reporter asked Trump about it because we`d gotten word from the Kremlin and that allowed him to deliver the great news about, yes, scoring a meeting with Putin.

Well, now, tonight, "The Washington Post" has one of these scoops that sounds like it was made up for a satirical movie about this kind of situation at the top of American political leadership. Carol Leonnig, David Nakamura and Josh Dawsey are now reporting that when the president decided to make this call to President Putin today, he sort of went rogue even against his own advisors. Here`s the lead of their story -- again, this is almost unbelievable, just listen to this.

President Trump did not follow specific warnings from his national security advisors when he congratulated Russian President Vladimir Putin today on his re-election, including a section in his briefing materials in all capital letters stating, quote, do not congratulate. I`m just going to leave that up on the screen there for a second so you can let that wash over you.

The president`s national security advisors wrote him a note in all capital letters saying, do not congratulate Putin for his sham election victory, do not legitimize that fake election, do not say congratulations, all capital letters. And then the president gets on the phone with them and says, hey, congratulations.

There`s more. Quote: President Trump also chose not to heed talking points from aides instructing him -- instructing him to condemn Putin about the recent poisoning of a former Russian spy in the United Kingdom with a powerful nerve agent. Make sure you don`t congratulate him and condemn him for the nerve agent thing.

Earlier in the day, we did have the heads-up from the White House that somehow that difficult subject just didn`t come up.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPORTER: And you said election meddling didn`t come up in the call. I`m curious, did the recent poisoning in the United Kingdom come up in the call?

SANDERS: I didn`t believe that was discussed in today`s call.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: You know, it`s funny you should mention. I don`t think that came up. I don`t.

Well, now, thanks to this new reporting from Carol Leonnig and her colleagues at "The Washington Post", we know that that subject didn`t come up even after national security aides at the White House specifically advised the president that if he was going to call Putin, he really needed to condemn Putin for that.

Remember, the U.S. government has joined the U.K. in concluding that that nerve agent attack was committed by the Russian government and condemning that attack. So, the president aides say -- president`s aides say if you`re going to call the person who we as the U.S. government have said is responsible for that attack, you have to bring up that attack.

Why would the president disregard that kind of advice? Why would the president blow off and thereby sort of legitimize a nerve agent attack on British soil that the U.S. government has said was committed by Russia? Why would he neglect to mention that? Why would he forget to condemn that?

Why would the president ignore the old capital letters warning: do not congratulate when he nevertheless congratulates Putin and just ignores the nerve agent attack. What`s driving his behavior? What is driving his behavior that is so different than what his own national security staff believe is the right thing for the country?

What explains the distance between what the president is doing and what his own national security staff say the president of the United States needs to do?

Joining us now is Carol Leonnig, one of the reporters on this piece just public by "The Post" tonight.

Carol, congratulations on the scoop. Thanks for joining us.

CAROL LEONNIG, NATIONAL REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Glad to be here, Rachel.

MADDOW: So, the phrasing in your report is that these were warning -- specific warnings to the president from his national security advisors. Do we know what kind of advisors these were, the people within the administration who are giving the president this kind of advice?

LEONNIG: So, whenever the president has a call with a foreign leader, there is usually a lot of effort put into briefing him about the important hot topics in that region. What he`s likely to be asked by the foreign leader and what issues that are really like the hot lists that he should address with that person. And there`s a panoply of people that are involved in putting together this information to prepare the president for an important call. Each one of these calls is considered part of our foreign diplomacy.

And cue cards essentially -- I mean, index cards are provided to kind of guide this president and others in the past through the call. And apparently, these staffers felt that it was important to make clear that there were key topics that should come up and some key things that shouldn`t be said, and the president seemed to basically choose for himself what he should do, which is his right.

MADDOW: Is it clear that the president did accept some of the other advice of his national security aides and these were -- on this Putin call in particular, that this warning not to congratulate Putin, this warning that he should make sure to condemn the nerve agent attack in the U.K., were those the only things that he disregarded advice about or do we know?

LEONNIG: That`s really all that we do know, other than what the president and Sarah Sanders and some sources have said did -- were topics that came up in the meeting, for example, Syria and North Korea. But these are the two places where we know things kind of went off of the script.

And the reason that it is concerning is not because the president has the right to make these decisions all on his own, but there was a perception that it would not be very good given the current state of affairs. We`re under investigation here in the White House for potential campaign ties to Russians, outreach from Russians to the Trump advisor team. It wouldn`t look too good because really, our ally, the United Kingdom is now facing the attack on its own soil on a -- not a citizen, but a person who was in their country. That`s considered very serious.

One of our allies is struggling with that issue and believes that the Russians are culpable. It was not viewed as a particularly good idea to congratulate Putin on his election in this moment, but the president chose to do it.

MADDOW: We`ve seen -- and you mentioned this in your piece and I thought this was an important reference, that we`ve seen the president hold handwritten notes giving him sort of cues for conversations with people before. This one famously where the fifth point on the handwritten note was I hear you. This is for a meeting with shooting survivors after the Parkland, Florida school massacre. So, we`ve seen the president get these kind of notes before.

What`s particularly striking in this case is that we haven`t learned about this all caps warning, do not congratulate Putin, the warning make sure to put to condemn Putin over the nerve agent. We haven`t learned this because somebody in the case of that -- like in the case of that shooting, took a snapshot of the picture we managed to get a glimpse of it.

Clearly, people who are familiar with these warnings from the president`s national security aides wanted to make it known to national security reporters to you and your colleagues at "The Post", that the president ignored this advice.

I don`t want you to -- I`m not trying to get you to talk about your sources, but is it your sense and your reporting that that this was an effort by the president`s own staffers to kind of signal to him that what he did was wrong or that it was dangerous or to try to sort of raise the alarm about the president`s behavior.

LEONNIG: I`d be careful about intuiting too much about our sourcing.

I will tell you, Rachel, that after the president`s call with Vladimir Putin, there was quite a kerfuffle in the White House about what had just gone down, a sort of OMG moment of what are we going to say about this call? Are we going to say that the president congratulated Putin? Well, the Russians kind of took that choice out of the hands of the White House by announcing that that Trump had congratulated their leader.

But there was quite a burst of activity trying to figure out what to do, so this became fairly widely known pretty quickly.

MADDOW: That`s remarkable.

Carol Leonnig, national reporter for "The Washington Post" -- again, congratulations on this scoop. This is obviously really important. It`s also just fascinating. Thanks.

LEONNIG: Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW: Again, just to underscore what Carol just said, her phrase exactly -- quite a kerfuffle, an OMG moment and a burst of activity in the White House to figure out how to make sense and explain this call between the president and Vladimir Putin today.

We had not known in advance this call was going to happen. The Kremlin was first to announce it, and now we are told that the president ignored his national security aides` direct advice that he should not congratulate Putin, he went ahead and did it, and that he should make sure to condemn the Russian nerve attack in -- nerve agent attack in the U.K.

Remarkable reporting, remarkable story.

All right. Coming up next, we`re going to go live to Austin, Texas. We are getting some new and important information about the reported explosion that sent one person to the hospital tonight, in a city that is very much on edge after a series of -- a series of bombings in that Texas city. We`ve got that live report coming up, along with Senator Mark Warner.

A lot going on tonight. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: We`re looking live at the scene in Austin, Texas, tonight, where we`re following breaking news. Now, this was initially reported as an explosion after a series of five bombs that have exploded in and around Austin since March 2nd.

Just in the past few minutes though, Austin authorities are now saying that what happens at a Goodwill store in south Austin tonight wasn`t the result of a bomb but instead they`re saying it was some sort of incendiary device. Austin police just put out a statement that says at this time, we have no reason to believe this incident is related to previous package bombs.

Now, this incident tonight reportedly happened as I said at a Goodwill Store. A man in his 30s has reportedly been taken to the hospital with what are being described as serious injuries -- serious injuries though that are not life-threatening.

Austin, Texas, of course, is one of America`s great cities, a cultural capital that is unique and beloved and important at lots of different levels. And Austin has been in the grip of this bizarre string of bombings all this month. In the past 19 days, two people have been killed, another five people have been injured in five separate explosions before whatever this was at this Goodwill Store on Brodie Lane in Austin tonight.

The first bomb in Austin went off on March 2nd. A package was that was left on a porch exploded and that seemed like a bizarre standalone story. But then it happened a second time, and then it happened a third time, then over this weekend, a bomb was set off by what investigators described as a tripwire, which made it seem like a whole different type of device. Two people injured with the tripwire bomb.

Then, overnight in the pre-dawn hours, there was an explosion of a package at a FedEx facility. And then a second package at that same facility that was reportedly intercepted before it could explode. Now, authorities believe those incidents are all related.

And then we got word of another explosion in Austin tonight. But again, this intriguing and interesting news just moments ago from the Austin Police Department, Austin police saying they don`t believe the one tonight is related.

Their statement tonight says, quote: There was no package explosion in the 9800 hundred block of Brodie Lane in Austin. Items inside package was not a bomb rather an incendiary device. At this time, we have no reason to believe this incident is related to previous package bombs.

So, this is a still developing situation. Let`s go right to our reporter on the ground in Austin tonight. NBC`s Gabe Gutierrez who`s been following this story closely.

Gabe, thank you very much for joining us.

Let me first just ask you to correct me if there was anything that I just said right there that does not comport with your understanding of events.

GABE GUTIERREZ, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Hi there, Rachel,

No, you pretty much hit it spot-on. The one thing you did mention that there was a second bomb that was intercepted at a FedEx facility down near San Antonio. That actually was intercepted at effects facility near the Austin airport, but as you mentioned just within the past couple of hours authorities had linked all five of those previous explosions plus that six package as being part of this serial bomber.

But as you mentioned, within the past few minutes, we just got word that this latest -- what we thought was an explosion -- is now being labeled not a bomb but an incendiary device. But we can tell you, Rachel, as we`re here on the scene, in Brodie Lane right now, this is a massive, massive police presence. A strip mall has been evacuated.

Just a few moments ago, I spoke with the president of Goodwill of Central Texas, he gave us just a few more details on what exactly happened here. He says, just a short time ago, one of his employees in his 30s was actually looking through a bag of donations and that is when he noticed a flash of some sort, according to the president of Goodwill Central Texas.

And that flash, people started moving away from the bag of donations and this employee suffered minor injuries to his hand. So, initially we had heard there were serious injuries according to this -- the president of Goodwill of Central Texas. He says that it was minor injuries.

He actually, as we were speaking to him, he was getting updates from his -- from his staff, and it does appear to be a very fluid situation here. And, Rachel, I really think this speaks to the -- how much this city is on edge just a -- you know, a short time before maybe an hour, an hour and a half ago, the initial call was that this was yet another explosion and the ATF, FBI, Austin police were all responding to this as if it could be yet another one of these explosions.

But again within the past few minutes that the breaking news that this is not believed to be related to those other explosions, the five other explosions. This was that sixth package that was intercepted, Rachel.

MADDOW: Now, Gabe, in terms of the authorities saying that those other bombs as other packages as other explosions are all linked. Crucially, we`re talking about five ones that blew up and one that didn`t. From everything I know from talking to law enforcement sources in cases like this, having an unexploded device, having an intact piece of evidence to look at can be crucial in terms of trying to do forensics, to find the bomber and to figure out what`s been going on here.

Do we know anything about how they linked the five bombs, how they concluded that those were all linked and whether this unexploded device that the second FedEx facility has been a key to their investigation?

GUTIERREZ: Well, as you know, Rachel, authorities have been very tight- lipped about the details of those packages. But we can tell you the fourth in the fifth bomb at least is our understanding that it contained nails in order to inflict more damage. That`s according to -- in the fourth bomb, the tripwire bomb, we spoke with the grandfather of one of the victims who says that his grandson had nails in his (INAUDIBLE) and was very seriously injured.

In the fifth explosion, that one that just happened overnight just north of San Antonio, in that case, according to the dispatch logs, the initial report was, yes, that there was that there were nails in that package as well.

We do not know in the sixth package, the one that went -- that was not detonated or not a -- did not explode, we`re understanding it was they were about to detonate it later on the day, at least authorities were. We don`t know what type of, you know, forensic information they were able to get from that package.

But certainly, Rachel, today has been a crucial day for investigators because they have been able to not only get that package, but also surveillance video from that on another FedEx facility where the serial bomber suspected of mailing two of those packages. That was another FedEx facility in an Austin suburb also on Brodie Lane that authorities are looking at right now to try and determine more information about how this all went down.

MADDOW: NBC`s Gabe Gutierrez on the scene for us in Austin, Texas -- Gabe, I know that you`ve been working this story really hard. Thank you for joining us tonight. Much appreciated, my friend.

GUTIERREZ: You bet.

MADDOW: What Gabe was just saying there in terms of the progress of the investigation is heartening. This is a long time to have gone and this is a lot of bombs for Austin to have gone through and a lot of people hurt and too many people killed, to not yet be closing in on someone.

But again interesting news tonight that although there was a sixth incident in Austin, this incident at a -- at a Goodwill store and the 9800 block of Brodie Lane in Austin, Texas, Austin police are saying that in this case, they do not think this latest incident was related to the earlier five bombs and the sixth unexploded device they were able to recover from a FedEx facility.

Much more to get to tonight. Senator Mark Warner joins us next. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARK TURNBULL, CAMBRIDGE ANALYTICA MANAGING DIRECTOR: The brand was "Defeat Crooked Hillary". You`ll remember this of course? "Crooked Hillary", I mean, and the zeros, the OO of crooked were a pair of handcuffs and it was all about --

REPORTER: Like prisoner?

TURNBULL: She belongs behind bars.

REPORTER: And you have created this?

TURNBULL: "Defeat Crooked Hillary". And then, we put -- we made creative, hundreds of different kinds of creative, and we put it online.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: The Os, the Os more handcuffs in crooked, get it? Like prison handcuffs.

The guy talking about that neat word art is named Mark Turnbull, he works for a company called Cambridge Analytica, just the data firm hired by the Trump campaign in 2016. But the handcuff shaped Os in crooked are not the only thing the company is taking credit for.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALEXANDER NIX, CAMBRIDGE ANALYTICA CEO: When you think about the fact that Donald Trump lost the popular vote by 3 million votes but won the Electoral College vote, that`s down to the data and the research. If you did your rallies in the right locations, you move more people out in those key swing states on election day, that`s how we won the election.

REPORTER: Have you met with Mr. Trump?

NIX: Many times. We did all the research, all the data, all the analytics, all the targeting. We run all the digital campaign, the television campaign, and our data informed all the strategy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: All the research, all the data, all the analytics, all the targeting, all the digital campaign, all the television campaign and we provided all the data for all of it, all the things.

Britain`s Channel 4 releasing more undercover video today from its multiday investigation into Cambridge Analytica. Footage today of CEO Alexander Nix bragging about his firm`s work for the whole -- the Trump campaign, follows that the footage they put out yesterday of the same CEO detailing fairly sordid services that he said Cambridge Analytica could offer to help you win your election, something involving Ukrainian girls being sent to your home.

At the heart of this reporting is the allegation that Cambridge Analytica built its whole operation on Facebook data, that it took without permission from as many as 50 million unsuspecting Americans.

Well, today, Alexander Nix got suspended from his own company effective immediately and indefinitely. This comes amid multiple new investigations on at least two continents into the company`s practices.

With all that coming to a roiling boil, the Senate Intelligence Committee investigating Russia`s attack on our election took a piece of their investigation off the stove today, telling us -- calling it basically cooked. Senate Intel put out their list today of security recommendations for how America should shore up our elections against another attack that is surely coming.

The chairman of that committee today saying, quote: With a great deal of confidence, it`s clear the Russian government was looking at the vulnerabilities in our election system.

So, the CEO of the Trump campaigns data firm is suspended. There are investigations and all that stolen data that flooded our election. The Senate closed up a big chunk of their Russia investigation today, saying it is complete.

And just a few days ago, the deputy director of the FBI was fired. Andrew McCabe saying he was fired by the administration to discredit him as a witness in special counsel Robert Mueller`s probe, in an effort to shut the whole thing down.

So that`s three really big things going on simultaneously right now. I have questions about all of them for the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Joining us now is Senator Mark Warner who is the vice chair of the Intelligence Committee. He joins us now live.

Senator, thank you so much for your time tonight. I know it`s an incredibly busy time.

SEN. MARK WARNER (D-VA), RANKING MEMBER, SENATE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW: Let me ask you first about Cambridge Analytica. Obviously, you have a tech background yourself. You`ve taken a particularly acute interest in the data side and the money side and the sort of not front page side of how the Russian attack worked in our election.

How concerned are you about these recent journalistic revelations about Cambridge Analytica? Are these things that are now being reported about the firm and the way it operates news to you or some of the stuff that you have been able to figure out in the Intelligence Committee`s investigation?

WARNER: Well, Rachel, I had questions about Cambridge Analytica since the beginning of this investigation. This is a pretty sketchy firm that not only operated on behalf of Mr. Trump but operated in a series of countries. They were known for their ability to disrupt an electoral process and it potentially explains why in so many ways, the Trump campaign in effect crept up on a lot of folks because their ability to use data, to use our social media companies in ways prior to this last election. I don`t think the United States government and frankly some of these companies were prepared for.

But Cambridge Analytica, I think there`s a lot more stories to be told from that firm.

MADDOW: When the firm does the sales pitch -- because of the undercover investigation by British Channel 4, we`ve seen them marketing themselves and bragging about their capabilities to an undercover reporter who they thought was a potential client. When I look at that reporting and I see the way Cambridge Analytica describes itself in public versus the way -- they described itself in private versus the way they played down their influence in the Trump campaign in their public statements, part of me is left wondering, you know, is this just typical political strategy? Is this the way that all strategy firms work, that they talk a big game in private, that they try to play down their effectiveness in public, they don`t necessarily want to get blamed for anything dirty.

Is it clear to you that they were doing something substantially different than other public political consulting firms do?

WARNER: Well, Cambridge Analytica in effect said they had a new formula, a better ability to really drill down on millions of Americans in terms of personal wants and needs, and I believe because some of this effort was supplemented at least indirectly, we don`t know whether it was directly by a number of fakes accounts that the Russians used social media on Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms and this brew -- their claims are pretty outrageous but as had been mentioned by the former CEO or the CEO was suspended, they were using other techniques with actually humans in other countries.

MADDOW: Is it clear to you that there is any link at all between Cambridge Analytica and the Russian attack on our election during 2016?

WARNER: I think that is a question that still needs to be explored. For a long time, there were questions raised. How was the Trump campaign able to so better target swing voters better than any other campaign?

Now, part of this, we found some of the answers of the last few days, they used a so-called academic, a Russian British individual who solicited individuals, 275,000 who agreed in effect to do a survey where they told this individual about their likes and dislikes. Using that survey, they were able -- this individual who had an affiliation with Cambridge Analytica, was able to in effect penetrate not only those 275,000 who signed up, but literally 50 million Americans` accounts on Facebook, and they were able to in effect leverage that information in ways that we need to get answers on that potentially affected the auction results because clearly, Facebook knew this was happening before the 2016 election cycle. They said it was inappropriate.

Now I believe the lawyers are now deciding and arguing about whether Facebook had a legal obligation to notify these 50 million Americans that their personal information may have been used on behalf of the Trump campaign. The lawyers can argue about that, but I would hope a company that relies on the basic trust of so many of us, that they would do the right thing and notify those 50 million Americans that their personal information may have been abused.

MADDOW: Senator Warner, I know you and Senator Burr made some important announcements today about wrapping up, essentially coming to some conclusions for part of the Senate investigation into the Russia attack. If you don`t mind taking a quick break with us here for a second, I`d love to talk to you about that when we come back.

WARNER: Sure.

MADDOW: All right. Senator Mark Warner will be back with us in just a moment. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: Senator Mark Warner, the top Democrat in the Intelligence Committee, is still with us tonight.

Senator, thank you again for being here.

Just as we were getting on the air tonight, "The Washington Post" broke the news that the president ignored written directions to him today from his national security aides when he called President Putin of Russia today. His national security advisers reportedly told him in all capital letters, do not congratulate Vladimir Putin. He congratulated Vladimir Putin on his election this weekend. He also reportedly ignored their direct advice that he should condemn Putin for the nerve agent attack in the U.K.

First of all, I just wanted to ask your reaction to that news, and your reaction to the president`s congratulatory call to President Putin today.

WARNER: Well, Rachel, I think John McCain put out a statement today, and his words were better than mine. He says the leader of the free world doesn`t call up and congratulate a dictator over a sham election. And clearly that`s what happened today.

And what is evident is that even Mr. Trump`s own advisers say it`s time now to stand with our closest ally, the U.K. He chose not to raise that issue.

Obviously, this was an election in Russia where the candidates who had a potential chance of better contesting Mr. Putin didn`t even get a chance to win.

America has always been about free elections and spreading democracy around the world. And here, we`re congratulating a leader who`s against the principles that America stands for.

And unfortunately, Rachel, before you went to the break, you`re talking what we did with our committee, one of the reasons we acted today with the Illinois primary happening, with elections already happening this year is we`ve had in the last three weeks, public testimony again from Trump advisers who were the FBI director, the director of national intelligence, the National Security Agency director, all saying that Russia was going to continue to intervene. They did it at a very cheap price. They would continue to do it. They`re intervening in other elections.

And they all said they had not received any directions from the White House to make election security a top priority.

So, our committee came out bipartisan, virtually every member of the committee showed up at the press conference today and said, hey, we need to do some basic blocking and tackling. We need to make sure that election security officials have appropriate clearances so they can be informed if we see patterns of election interference. We need to make sure every voting machine has an auditable paper trail. Even if they hack, there is a paper trail that we can audit.

We need to make sure that we provide very information sharing so we are on guard because these Russian tactics did not end in 2016, and they will continue unless we`re better protected. That`s why I thought it was important for us to act as a committee.

Again, I would point out in a bipartisan way on this topic of election security.

MADDOW: And as you point out, it is very important that those are bipartisan recommendations. There`s been so little that is bipartisan in the public discussion about the attack in 2016 and the way to prepare for it. Moving ahead, is there a -- is there a vehicle, is there a legislative vehicle, is there a funding vehicle for getting some of these recommendations accomplished and quickly?

WARNER: Well, there is actually broadly based bipartisan legislation which I agreed to co-sponsor today. Three Republicans, three Democrats. It`s common sense. This shouldn`t require huge action.

This is -- you know, nothing is more basic than protecting the integrity of our voting process. And we`ve got to have that paper trail. We`ve got to have that information sharing. You know, there is protecting the actual voting machines, protecting the voter files.

I also frankly think we need to put out some good cyber hygiene habits for basic campaigns. Campaigns are the ultimate startups, and they oftentimes may not have cyber high on their list. But we have to be protected because what we`ve seen, and not only in terms of Russian intervention in our elections, but Russia attempted interventions in the French elections, observations they intervened in the Spanish Catalan elections. The British have come and visited because they`ve seen intervention in terms of the Brexit vote.

We in Western democracies have to be on our guard.

MADDOW: Senator Mark Warner, the top Democrat, the vice-chairman of the Intelligence Committee, thank you, sir. I really appreciate the time with you tonight. Thanks.

WARNER: Thank you, Rachel.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: I knew that there might come a day when I would need a record of what had happened not just to defend myself but to defend the FBI and our integrity as an institution and the independence of our investigative function.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Before the president fired him from the FBI last year, FBI Director James Comey made a habit of writing down in detail what happened between him and the president. As he says, the president tried to get him to pledge his personal loyalty and as he says, the president asked him to back off the Russia investigation involving Trump`s national security adviser.

James Comey has stuck to his telling of that story to spite attempts by the president to embarrass him or even scare him off. The president repeatedly calling him now lying James Comey and now playground taunting that James Comey`s notes about his interactions with the president are somehow fake memos.

This weekend, James Comey called that question directly. Quote: Mr. President, the American people will hear my story very soon and they can judge for themselves who is honorable and who is not.

Part of that I believe is that Mr. Comey has a new book coming out. It`s called "A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies and Leadership". James Comey`s book comes out in mid-April.

The other important thing to know though is that on the occasion of that book, James Comey is going to be doing interviews in public, including sitting down with me here on this show. That date will be April 19th, Thursday, April 19th, 9:00 p.m. Eastern. I am so excited about it that I`m telling you now we are just getting started on the prep work. It tells you how long it takes us to do stuff like this, but it also tells you we`re pretty excited.

James Comey live, April 19th. You can put it in your date book now.

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

Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD" tonight with Ari Melber sitting in for Lawrence

Good evening, Ari.

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