Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW Date: May 22, 2018 Guest: James Clapper
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Greatest lawyer of her generation, endorsed by the entire primetime line-up between 8:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. Eastern on MSNBC.
Well done, my friend. Well done.
And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
This has been another one of those days when news has been breaking in big waves, big crashing waves all afternoon and into this evening.
South Korean president came to the White House today, whereupon President Trump announced that the planned summit between him and the dictator of North Korea might not happen now. Supposed to happen three weeks from today, but now it may be won`t happen at all. OK.
The Republican controlled Congress tonight has voted to repeal many of the regulations that were passed after the Wall Street collapse in 2008, which threw the country into the worst economic tail spin since the great depression, ten years down the road from that disaster. The safety features that were put in place to protect the country from any similar Wall Street crash in the future, those safety measures will now in large part be stripped away.
Congress passed this repeal literally on the same day it was reported that the big banks in this country just had their most profitable quarter ever. So, it`s not like the banks needed relief from the onerous regulation here that was holding them back. They`re doing better than ever. Congress still felt the need to do even more.
So, as a nation, we will saw the seat belts out of the cars and see what happens. President Trump is expected to sign the bill, of course. And the distant roar you hear is not peepers looking for dates. Those are champagne corks hitting the ceiling at every firm on Wall Street.
Hold onto your wallet for this one. The president`s legal jeopardy may have taken a leap forward tonight with news first broken in the "New York Times" that there is yet another new cooperating witness in the investigation that has been circling the president, his associates and his campaign. This new cooperating witness is someone who may be able to shine a light on some dark places the White House is probably not psyched to have illuminated.
Now, this is an important story. It`s a short piece run in the "New York Times." "The New York Times" reporters were able to get this story because they were there at a courthouse in Albany, New York, in a case that has not been on the national radar at all.
But what happened in that courtroom today in a 20-minute hearing has big national implications including for the president. The story is sort of incredible. The prevailing theory of the president`s legal jeopardy, the potential legal jeopardy for the president has long been driven by the prospects of who might eventually be induced by prosecutors to cooperate with them, to tell prosecutor what is they know about interactions and involvement between the president and Russia before, during or after the time when Russia was intervening in the 2016 presidential election to help Trump win.
Paul Manafort is obviously one bright link between the Trump campaign and Russia. He had been a pro-Russia lobbyist and consultant for more than a decade right up to the moment when he somewhat inexplicably started running Donald Trump`s campaign for free. Paul Manafort`s personal financial ties to the former soviet union, the financial circumstances around his time on the Trump campaign, the business dealings involving Russians that appear to have overlapped with his tenure on the Donald Trump campaign, that is all potentially very rich territory for prosecutors who are looking at the president and his campaign.
But thus far, Paul Manafort is not cooperating with prosecutors. He has pled not guilty. He is fighting the multiple felony charges they have brought against him in multiple federal jurisdictions. He`s due on trial in his first case in just a few weeks.
So, Manafort could conceivably, could potentially be a really big problem for the president if he flipped, but Manafort hasn`t flipped. The other person who is potentially an even bigger problem for the president is the president`s long time personal attorney, a long time Trump organization executive named Michael Cohen.
Unlike Paul Manafort, Michael Cohen has not been charged with anything, but there is an ongoing federal criminal inquiry involving Mr. Cohen which has been unfolding in plain view in the federal courthouse in New York City. Michael Cohen`s office and home and hotel room and safety deposit box were all searched by federal agents. A special master has been reviewing boxes of documents seized from Mr. Cohen and as many as a dozen electronic devices that the agents took as well. That special master is determining if any of those seized documents need to be kept away from prosecutors because they represent confidential attorney/client communications.
Thus far, it doesn`t seem like that determination has been this tough. The special master has already started handing over multiple boxes of documents to the federal prosecutors who are handling this investigation into Michael Cohen.
Michael Cohen is known to have pursued hush money deals for the president for multiple women who have claimed to have had affairs with him. Michael Cohen is known to have spearheaded the secret pursuit of a major Russian real estate deal for the Trump organization during the presidential campaign, one that reportedly included a financing deal with a sanctioned government controlled Russian bank and direct communications with the Kremlin to try to move the project forward.
Michael Cohen is known to have been a conduit for years for money from the former Soviet Union into Trump real estate projects, both in New York and around the world.
Of all the people in Trump world, Michael Cohen flipping to Cooperate with prosecutors in an investigation into Donald Trump and his campaign`s ties to Russia, that would likely be a very harrowing prospect for the White House, maybe even more harrowing than the prospect of Paul Manafort flipping.
Now, Michael Cohen has loudly proclaimed himself to be impenetrably loyal to Donald Trump. And again, at least thus far, he hasn`t even himself thus far been charged with any crimes. That`s important because that`s the leverage prosecutors have to get a reluctant witness to cooperate with the prosecution.
The way they get you to flip is by getting the good s on you, upping the amount of legal jeopardy that you yourself are in. Then they hoist you up on a proverbial cliff, they dangle you over the edge, they show you the immense legal threat you are facing personally. Then they tell you, but you know, we can basically make that threat go away, you can make you safe, we can make it all better for you and your family if you`ll just agree to talk.
Well, tonight, Michael Cohen started to dangle over the edge of that proverbial cliff. This is the headline in "The Times". Michael Cohen`s business partner agrees to cooperate as part of plea deal. Quote, a significant business partner of Michael D. Cohen, President Trump`s personal lawyer, has quietly agreed to cooperate with the government as a potential witness, a development that could be used as leverage to pressure Mr. Cohen to work with the special counsel examining Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Under the agreement, the partner Evgeny A. Freidman, known as Gene Freidman, a Russian immigrant who`s known as the taxi king, he will avoid jail time himself, but he will assist government prosecutors in state or federal investigations.
The taxi business in New York has been a foundation of Michael Cohen`s business career for years. No offense intended, but the taxi business in New York is also a notoriously mobbed up business. And this man, Evgeny Freidman, who has just agreed to flip and cooperate with prosecutors, he was Michael Cohen`s main connection to that notoriously mobbed up business. Mr. Freidman has also of late been in a ton of legal trouble himself.
Quote: Mr. Friedman has been Michael Cohen`s partner in the taxi business for years, managing cabs for him even after New York City regulators banned Mr. Freidman last year from continuing to manage medallions. Mr. Freidman was disbarred as a lawyer earlier this month. Accused of failing to pay more than $5 million in taxes, Mr. Freidman faced four counts of criminal tax fraud and one of grand larceny, all felonies, each carries a maximum prison sentence of up to 25 years in prison.
So, he`s been dangled over the edge. He`s already disbarred. He is banned from the business. And he was facing potentially, at least theoretically, 125 years in prison.
Now, though, now that he`s taken this deal to cooperate, he has pled guilty to, quote, a single count of evading only $50,000 worth of taxes. And if he fulfills the terms of his agreement, he`s looking at no jail time at all, just probation as long as he tells them everything he knows.
That kind of bargain makes it clear why Mr. Freidman might have taken this deal, why he`s cooperating now. But Mr. Freidman is apparently in all that legal trouble, at least indirectly stemming from the years that he was in business with Michael Cohen. And there`s a live federal investigation already against Michael Cohen.
If Michael Cohen ends up deciding that his own legal jeopardy is too overwhelming, if he ends up himself cooperating with prosecutors in the investigation into the Trump campaign and President Trump, then Katy bar the door, Michael Cohen cooperating? That would be a very big deal.
Who could possibly pose a greater danger to President Trump in terms of his own legal liability than Michael Cohen as a cooperator with prosecutors? Is there anybody who might pose a greater danger to him in terms of what Cohen`s been involved in with Trump?
The possibility of Michael Cohen cooperating with prosecutors just got much more real tonight in an out of the way courtroom in Albany, New York, with this plea deal and this cooperation agreement from Cohen`s former business partner. Super dramatic development. We actually expect that this may shake loose yet more new news tonight as the night progresses, so you want to keep the TV on.
And on top of all of that, there is James Clapper. James Clapper has written a new book that is just out today. It`s called "Facts and Fears." The title comes from a quote from General George Patton.
Quote: The time to take counsel of your fears is before you make an important battle decision. That`s the time to listen to every fear you could imagine. When you have collected all the facts and all the fears and made your decision, turn off all your fears and go ahead.
Clapper uses that quote and takes it as his title for his book that`s out today in part to explain why he has chosen to write a book. He says, quote, as I left government service, I had my own decision to make. I had not planned to write anything.
But after experiencing the election, the unprecedented Russian interference in our political process and the behavior by and impact of the Trump administration, I changed my mind. He says, quote, I think the catalyst was the stark visceral realization of seeing the fundamental pillars of our country being undermined both by the Russians and by the president. This shook me.
I should tell you James Clapper then goes on to say some absolutely remarkable things about the sitting president of the United States. I will quote you what he says about President Trump in just a moment. It will curl your hair.
But the news that James Clapper makes in this new book is remarkable not just because of the sort of position that he`s taking and the observations he`s making, the opinions that he`s voicing. What`s remarkable about the news that he`s making in this new book is remarkable because of what he is in a position to know, what he has seen, what he has been through.
Clapper was director of national intelligence under President Obama. He`s only the fourth person to have ever held that job, which is created after 9/11. He took that job in 2010. He held it until the day Trump was inaugurated in January 2017, which means Jim Clapper held the intelligence director job for longer than all three people who had it before him combined.
Clapper was there at the head of the intelligence community for all of the intelligence scandals and stories you remember for most of the last decade. Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning and the raid that killed Osama bin Laden and WikiLeaks and Benghazi and NSA spying. In the book, you get a detailed explanation from Clapper as to what went wrong in a now famous back and forth he had with Senator Ron Wyden, in which he said that the NSA wasn`t collecting data on millions of Americans when in fact it was. He gives his whole explanation about what went wrong there.
Before he was director of national intelligence, James Clapper was running a different intelligence agency which put him in a position to be intimately involved with the disastrous failure in advance of the Iraq war when the intelligence community in the Bush administration said there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq when there weren`t. James Clapper personally has negotiated the release of American prisoners from North Korea. Clapper, when he was head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, that`s -- when that agency was caught up in a huge national scandal over the pursuit of American prisoners of war and service members listed as missing in action long after the end of the Vietnam War.
James Clapper has been there for all of it. He is a controversial figure in lots of different circles for lots of different reasons because he`s been at least tangentially and in many cases centrally involved in just about every intelligence story that has made the news in the past 30 years. And intelligence issues rarely become national news stories because there`s such good news, it`s almost always when something has gone bad.
But in this new book, James Clapper is scathing about President Trump, which is remarkable itself coming from a career nonpartisan military and intel guy who has served under every president since John F. Kennedy.
But listen to this, this comes right at the end of the book -- the last giant intelligence story and scandal that Clapper was right in the middle of things for was obviously the Russian attack on the 2016 election. You heard me read the part where he explains that`s part of why he decided he was going to write a book. The book explains in great detail what the intelligence community knew about the Russian attack, how they responded, what decisions were made while the attack was underway while President Obama was still president.
Again, Clapper left the job of national intelligence director on the day of Trump`s inauguration. In the intelligence community assessment that Clapper released in January before Trump was inaugurated, you`ll remember that the intelligence community announced its conclusion that Russia had attacked the presidential election, specifically to try to help Donald Trump win, but the intelligence community didn`t try to assess whether or not the Russian attack worked, whether they actually succeeded in giving Trump the win when he otherwise would have lost.
That was where the intelligence community`s official assessment left off in January 2017, just as James Clapper was leaving office after decades in intel. Well, now that he is out of government service and a private citizen, James Clapper is ready to say what he really thinks on that front and what he really saw happen.
Check this out. By May 2017 when James Comey was fired as FBI director, we had learned that the Russian operation had been even more expansive than the intelligence community had assessed in January. We knew now that the Russians had thousands of Twitter accounts and tens of thousands of bots that posted more than a million tweets. They posted more than a thousand videos on YouTube with days of streaming content.
Facebook said Russian contact reached 126 million of its American users, which is an astonishing number considering that only 139 million Americans voted. As the leader of the intelligence community, I testified that the I.C. did not attempt to assess whether the Russian influence campaign impacted the results of the election. As a private citizen, I have no doubt they influenced at least some voters.
Looking at the savvy ways the Russians targeted specific voter groups, for instance buying ads on Facebook, promoting Clinton`s support of the Black Lives Matter Movement, but ensuring those ads ran only on the pages of white conservative voters in swing states. Looking at how they created lives that helped Trump and hurt Clinton and promoted these falsehoods through social media and state-sponsored channels to the point that the traditional U.S. media were unwittingly spreading Russian propaganda, looking at how they ran a multifaceted campaign and sustained at a high level from early 2015, until election day in 2016, Clapper concludes, of course, the Russian effort affected the outcome of the election, surprising even themselves, they swung the election to a Trump win.
To conclude otherwise stresses logic, common sense and credulity to the breaking points. Less than 80,000 votes in three key states swung the election. I have no doubt that more votes than that were influenced by these massive efforts by the Russians.
Oh, the immediate past director of national intelligence who was director of national intelligence during the Russian attack on the election says he has no doubt that the Russian attack in his words, quote, swung the election to a Trump win. That means that the immediate past director of national intelligence believes that Donald Trump is only president because of a successful foreign intelligence operation to make him president.
And as for the question of whether or not the president`s campaign benefitted from that operation just by dumb luck or whether they were in on it in some way, here`s what James Clapper says now in this book that is just out today.
Quote: As the investigations have advanced, the specter of collusion has dominated the discussion. When I left office on January 20th, 2017, I`d seen no smoking gun evidence that the Russian government and the Trump campaign were in substantive coordination of their efforts. I didn`t learn about the June 9th, 2016 Trump Tower meeting between Trump`s closest advisers and representatives of the Russian government purportedly to discuss dirt on Hillary and sanctions against wealthy Russians. I didn`t learn about that until I was firmly retired.
But what I did see as DNI is that the Russians and the campaign seemed to employ strikingly parallel messaging in social media posts and public statements, effectively complementing each other to great effect with no attempt to hide it. That combined effort appeared to go well beyond candidate Trump`s calling on a foreign power to find 30,000 missing e-mails belonging to his political opponent or his praise for WikiLeaks, for publishing materials Russian intelligence had stolen.
On a routine basis, whenever the public published an allegation that hurt Clinton, the Russians would repeat, amplify and embellish that claim. And when the Russians promulgated a conspiracy theory about her, Trump would repeat it at campaign rallies and on Twitter. Whether secretly coordinated or not, whether this was actual collusion or not, this parallelism constituted a putative team effort by the Russian government and the Trump campaign.
He served as director of national intelligence for 6 1/2 years including for the duration of the Russian attack on the 2016 election. He says in this new book just out today that the Russian attack did sway the election, that Donald Trump would not be president but for that attack. And he says the Trump campaign helped in the attack. He calls it a putative team effort.
James Clapper joins us next.
MADDOW: The director of national intelligence for nearly seven years under President Obama was James Clapper. Director of national intelligence is a very important role.
It`s not always a high profile one, though. It`s not a great way to get famous. The reason James Clapper has become quite famous since leaving that job is because, at least I think it`s because he`s not a diplomat. That`s the title of one of the chapters in his new book. Not a diplomat.
In his public remarks and in his congressional testimony since leaving that very important behind-the-scenes job, Jim Clapper has made a habit of saying important and surprising things in a blunt way, in a way that sometimes surprises the people who are asking him questions.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHUCK TODD, MODERATOR, MEET THE PRESS: Let me start with the President`s tweets yesterday, this idea that maybe President Obama ordered an illegal wiretap of his offices. At this point, you can`t confirm or deny whether that exists?
JAMES CLAPPER, FORMER DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: I can deny it.
TODD: There is no FISA court order?
CLAPPER: Not to know my knowledge.
TODD: Of anything at Trump Tower?
TODD: That`s an important revelation at this point.
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: Over the spring of 2016, multiple European allies passed on additional information to the United States about contacts between the Trump campaign and Russians. Is this accurate?
CLAPPER: Yes, it is. And it`s also quite sensitive.
FEINSTEIN: OK. Let me ask you this --
CLAPPER: The specifics are quite sensitive.
I think this past weekend is illustrative of what a great case officer Vladimir Putin is. He knows how to handle an asset. And that`s what he`s doing with the president.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You`re saying Russia is handling President Trump as an asset?
CLAPPER: That seems to be the -- that`s the appearance to me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Joining us now is James Clapper. He`s the former director of national intelligence. He`s the author of "Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from A Life in Intelligence", which is just out tonight.
Mr. Clapper, thank you for being here.
CLAPPER: Thanks, Rachel, for having me.
MADDOW: Let me ask you about what I see -- what -- the part where I got to in your book where I felt like I had to rush out and go into the bullpen where my staff works and read it out loud to everybody. You write about the intelligence assessment that was produced in January 2017. You call it among the most important products ever produced by U.S. intelligence. It`s about the Russian attack on the election.
That assessment does not say whether the Russian interference had any impact on the election`s outcome. The intelligence community has been very clear that they didn`t try to assess that. They didn`t take a position on that. But in your book, you say that the Russian attack did affect the outcome of the election. It did, in effect, elect Trump.
Why do you feel like you can say that?
CLAPPER: Well, first of all, the intelligence community is not formally chartered to -- and was not formally chartered to assess public opinion or voter decisions or anything like that in the United States. That`s beyond our charter, beyond our capabilities, beyond our authority. So, we didn`t assess that.
The only thing we said that even touched on it was that we saw no evidence of meddling with voter tallies. Not to say there wasn`t any, but we just didn`t see any evidence of it.
But after we did this assessment and I left the government and having understanding of the magnitude, the massive effort that the Soviets -- excuse me, Freudian slip -- the Russians made to interfere and influence the outcome of the election, and as you outlined in your opening monologue on the book, when you consider the fact that the election was settled in less than 80,000 votes in three key states which the Russians targeted, it just stretched logic to me that it didn`t have a huge impact on the election.
I should say, the second point I should make. This is not an indictment of anyone who voted for President Trump. What this is an indictment of and what I think should be the focus here is the threat posed by Russia, who is bent on undermining our fundamental system. And they were eminently successful, I believe, in the election of 2016.
MADDOW: You say, page 349 of the book: as summer led into fall -- this had been 2016 -- I`d begun to meet with a small group of security leaders, which included the CIA director, homeland security secretary and a few key White House staff. We agreed that Russia was behind an unprecedented, aggressive, multifaceted influence campaign, using cyber thief, cyber espionage, propaganda across the broadcast spectrum, and all the largest social media platforms and an influx of Russian money at least for buying advertisements, perhaps even laundered and funneled into campaigns.
At that part of the book, I felt like -- I was following you all along, all the way through -- working on the largest social media platforms. This idea that Russian money was part of the attack and was potentially significant is new to me. What do you mean by that?
CLAPPER: Well, the money they invested, although not in the (INAUDIBLE) scheme of things not huge amounts, but the advertising they purchased, this kind of thing wasn`t money like, you know, bribing people or that sort of thing. I meant it in terms of the money they expended to promulgate their views and to focus on specific targeted groups in this country, which basically exploited the polarization that already existed. We were a ripe target for this.
So, I don`t want to exaggerate the amounts here. They weren`t huge. But they were effectively employed.
And I think you get another insight into that. I sort of felt like the indictments that were made public in February by special counsel Mueller about the 13 Russians and what the intelligence -- the Internet Research Agency did gives you another vignette into what this was about and what the Russians were doing.
MADDOW: The reason that the idea of money being part of the campaign is of particular interest now even a year and a half out is because of the idea that money is one of the things that prosecutors are very good at tracking. That we`ve gotten good both as an intelligence community and as a law enforcement community in this country at following dollars when they pertain to criminal matters.
CLAPPER: Well, that`s a favorite slogan in intelligence, is follow the money. Whether it`s for terrorists, which ultimately rely on money, or lots of other nefarious activity that goes on which in one way or another are going to be buttressed or supported by financial support.
MADDOW: James Clapper, I have a million other things to ask you about. Will you sit tight for a second?
MADDOW: We`ll be right back with James Clapper, former director of national intelligence, author of the slightly scary new book which is called "Facts and Fears".
We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: This is from the new book "Facts and Fears" by James Clapper, former director of national intelligence. This is quite, towards the very end of the book, page 399.
I served 34 years in the military, 16 years as a civilian in government, six years in industry, virtually all of it in the profession of intelligence. I always considered this a noble calling, a sacred public trust, because simply stated, I believe in this country. Part of this instilled ethos was a profound respect for president as commander in chief. I served in that spirit every president, from John Kennedy through Barack Obama.
So, speaking critically of our current president is counter-instinctive and difficult for me to do but I feel it is my duty. We have elected someone as president of the United States whose first instincts are to twist and distort truth to his advantage, to generate financial benefit to himself and his family. And in so doing, to demean the values this country has traditionally stood for.
He has set a new low bar for ethics and morality. He has caused damage to our societal and political fabric that will be difficult and will require time to repair. And close to my heart, he has besmirched the intelligence community and the FBI, pillars of our country, and deliberately incited many Americans to lose faith and confidence in them. And it goes on from there.
Joining us once again is James Clapper, former director of national intelligence.
Sir, I wanted to quote that to you, because I am -- I know a lot from reading the book about your history as a nonpartisan intelligence and military professional, your decades of service. It is it -- is striking to hear the strength of your critique there of the president.
Was that a hard decision to make?
CLAPPER: Yes, it was. My collaborator, Trey Brown (ph), and I labored over that to make sure that we captured what I really wanted to say. Yes, it was very difficult for me. I come from a military family. My father was a military intelligence officer in World War II and through Korea and Vietnam. And even before I became a part of the military, it was instilled in me about this.
So, I have a long family and experience tradition for respect for the presidency and particularly in his role as commander-in-chief. This president makes that difficult for me.
MADDOW: The president is the subject of a long running now counterintelligence and potentially criminal investigation related to the Russian attack on the election, and the intelligence community and the FBI have come under sustained attack by him and his political allies because of that. Do you feel like, having been through what you`ve been there, there are lessons learned, there`s advice you want to give in terms of how law enforcement and intelligence should be handling that investigation while enduring those attacks?
CLAPPER: Well, I think the first point I`d make is today there`s, I think, a special burden placed on the leaders of these organizations. Dan Coates is DNI. Now, Gina Haspel is director of CIA and Director Christopher Wray to provide to the top cover so that their organizations can function in as nonpolitical an environment as possible. And that is a tall order these days.
This is -- this is a burden that I don`t think any of the predecessors -- certainly I didn`t have to worry about. They do. It`s important that the rank and file, the great men and women that compose our intelligence services and the FBI continue to tee up, serve up the truth to power whether the power listens to truth or not.
And that places a huge burden, I think, on the leaders to ensure they continue to do that. And that`s going to be a real test, I think, of the resilience of our institutions, which are kind of under stress right now.
MADDOW: As part of the counterintelligence investigation into what Russia was doing, we now know -- it`s now been reported that a confidential informant was used to speak with members of the Trump campaign. They were suspected of having contacts with Russians who are involved in that attack. The president has described that as a huge scandal and has ordered the Justice Department to investigate that aspect of the counterintelligence investigation.
Did that happen? And was it improper?
CLAPPER: Well, I wasn`t aware of it contemporaneously, nor was I aware of the identity of any informant, nor should I have been in my position as DNI for the FBI, because -- for the informants for the FBI, because one of the things you -- that`s important about this program which is quite legitimate and is a very valuable source of information for the FBI is confidentiality. And so, if someone is going to cooperate and help the FBI, they need to know that they`re going to -- their identity is going to be protected.
So, this is going to have, I think, a chilling effect on -- regrettably, the identity is out there in the media. It`s going to have a chilling effect on other informants who already help the FBI and certainly make it more difficult I think to recruit other informants. So, the damage from this potentially is quite grave.
It`s deliberately shielded from political officials. So, I am sure no one in the White House -- I certainly didn`t know about it. It would be approved at, I`m sure, a very high level within the FBI, because this is a rigorously overseen program that had rules, regulations and protocols that have to be adhered to, to manage an informant. And I just worry about the damage to what`s happened here is going to do.
MADDOW: Director Clapper, I have one last matter that I want to ask you about, which is about your contact with President Trump after the election and a request that he made of you, which you describe I think for the first time in the book. We take one more break. I`ll ask you about that when we come back.
MADDOW: James Clapper is our guest. His new book is called "Facts and Fears". It`s just out tonight. We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: We`re back with James Clapper, former director of national intelligence, whose new book "Facts and Fears" is out as of right now.
Director Clapper, I said I would ask you one thing. I lied. It`s two.
The first one is you say in September 2016, you say by September 2016, we knew that Putin was personally involved in the Russian attack. Can you tell us anything about how you came to that conclusion?
CLAPPER: I really can`t.
CLAPPER: This gets into, you know, pretty sensitive sources and methods. But we had, I thought, very, very solid evidence of that.
MADDOW: So, with two months before the election?
MADDOW: You also -- I played a clip just before you sat down where Dianne Feinstein asked you in a Senate hearing, open Senate hearing about multiple European allies reporting to the U.S. intelligence community about contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia. And you confirmed to Senator Feinstein that that happened but said the details are sensitive.
Is there anything that`s been publicly reported since then that would allow you to elaborate?
MADDOW: No. Yes, I knew that was going to happen.
I have to ask, though -- all right. Here`s something that I know you can talk about because you wrote about it. You describe a phone call that you made to President Trump after he had publicly derided the U.S. intelligence community as Nazis. You said I thanked him for taking the call and I said he had gotten my attention when he referred to the intelligence community as Nazis. I explained to him I wanted to defend the men and women of the intelligence. I tried to appeal to his higher instincts.
He thanked me. He said he valued the intelligence community and the intelligence he`d been receiving. He then asked if I would put out a statement refuting what was in the Steele dossier.
The request felt very transactional, that he would play nice if I would do him a favor. I declined, saying that I couldn`t refute or affirm what was in the dossier. He sounded disappointed.
The president was essentially making you an offer that he would make palliative statements about the I.C.?
CLAPPER: Well, I don`t know. I mean, that`s probably the implication. I mean, that part of the conversation felt transactional to me.
I mean, that seemed to be his focus, was the dossier. And I might say respect to the dossier, a very important point to make is we did not use that as a source for our intelligence community assessment. So, it was based on traditional intelligence sources.
Our whole point, though, in briefing then President-elect Trump about it was, I felt strongly and I think we all did that we owed it to him to warn him that it was out there, without respect to the content. And Jim Comey was particularly concerned from a counterintelligence standpoint, because Russians will use kompromat whether it`s real or contrived, if they can, to exert leverage.
And Jim felt we should at least warn him about that. That was the whole point, not to ascribe veracity, confirm or deny or rebut any of -- what was in the dossier. That said, some of it we did corroborate in the ICA. And of course, it appears that more of it has been corroborated with ensuing developments and what we`ve learned.
MADDOW: Is there anything in the dossier that has been disproven?
CLAPPER: No. Some of it hasn`t been proven. And some of it hasn`t been - - no. I guess the short answer to the question. The salacious stuff, absolutely no corroboration of that, to my knowledge.
MADDOW: Jim Clapper, former director of national intelligence, thank you for serving the country in so many different capacities for so many years. You`ve been involved in a gazillion different controversies, but your writing this book is itself a service, because it gives us a window into what you did and what you lived through.
And also, it is a real cri de coeur in terms of how you feel about what`s going on right now and what happened in the election. Thank you.
CLAPPER: Thank you. Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: All right. Much more ahead tonight, including the results of some big primary elections that have been coming in while we have been on the air. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Polls have closed in four southern states holding primaries tonight. Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Texas, each hosting a bunch of congressional primaries and three of those four states also hosting primaries for governor.
Governor`s race in Georgia has been getting the most attention on both sides. On the Republican side, it`s a five-candidate field that has been in a race to the bottom, particularly on one nicely divisive issue.
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BRIAN KEMP (R), CANDIDATE FOR GEORGIA`S GOVERNOR: I got a big truck. Just in case I need to round up criminal illegals and take `em home myself. Yep, I just said that.
I`m Brian Kemp. If you want a politically incorrect conservative, that`s me.
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MADDOW: Not a joke. In this Georgia Republican primary, the round up big truck was not even a clear favorite for the most intentionally offensive on this subject.
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MICHAEL WILLIAMS (R), CANDIDATE FOR GEORGIA`S GOVERNOR: We`ve got the deportation bus. That`s right, you heard me, the Michael Williams deportation bus. We`re going to implement my 287G deportation plan that is going to fill this bus with illegals to send them back to where they came from. We`re not just going to track `em and watch them roam around our state. We`re going to put them on this bus and send them home.
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MADDOW: Ah, Republican Party 2018.
That`s been on the Republican side in Georgia.
On the Democratic side, the race for governor has been build nationally as a strategy fight over how to win in a red state that`s been looking less red year after year. State lawmaker Stacey Evans argued Democrats can turn Georgia blue by courting moderate Republicans. But Stacey Evans on the left, former statehouse minority leader, Stacey Abrams, that`s the Stacey on the right, she has said that Democratic hopes instead should be in turning out disengaged Democratic voters who stayed home in 2016.
Well, tonight, Stacey Abrams has now won that primary. Meaning she will be the Democrats` gubernatorial candidate in Georgia in November. And it looks like she has won that race by a ton.
For more, we are joined by the great Steve Kornacki, who is the man you want the talk to on nights like this.
Steve, what can you tell us?
STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, not much of a contest. We know what Democrats in Georgia are in the mood for now. Put this in some perspective. We talked about how Georgia is changing demographically.
In 2016, the margin here for Donald Trump, it was five points. In 2012, Mitt Romney won this by eight points. This is one Democrats think is on the horizon with the Democratic changes and with the influx of folks, especially the Atlanta area.
And I mean Abrams, really, she just cleaned up everywhere. Nothing geographically here really stands out. The far northern part of the state where there is very northern counties here, there are almost no black residents. Even there we see Abrams winning counties tonight. So, not each much of a racial divide.
Who will see face in the general election? Well, this is interesting, Casey Cagle, the lieutenant governor, he is leading. Remember, Georgia is a runoff state. He looks like he is going to be well short of 50 percent. I think we`re going have to wait until July to have a runoff between Brian Kemp, the secretary of state, you just saw his ad there, Casey Cagle looks like a runoff.
One other race to tell you about, the surprise of the night, this is -- what a story this is. Jim Gray, this was the DCCC`s recruit. He is the mayor of Lexington, Kentucky. The DCCC recruited him to run for Congress in the one district in Kentucky Democrats think they might be able to flip.
This woman, Amy McGrath, put ad up. She`s a military veteran, a former aviator. In her ads, she talks about hey, when I was a girl, I wanted to fly planes. I was told I couldn`t do it. Look at me now.
The ad went viral. She raised two million bucks. She became an online sensation. And tonight, she has upset Jim Gray, won the Democratic nomination in Kentucky 6th district. What does that mean? Means she will face Andy Barr, the Republican.
Now, we say again, this has been a double-digit Republican district lately. Just before that, though, it was represented in Congress by a Democrat, Ben Chandler. And the very interesting thing about the performance tonight of McGrath is, this is the district right here.
Lexington is about 40 percent of it. She lost Lexington. Remember, that is where Gray was the mayor. She won the rural areas outside of Lexington big. And it looks like turnout there doubled from the 2016 Clinton/Sanders primary on the Democratic side.
So there might be some energy behind McGrath in some areas where Democrats have struggled. The DCCC didn`t want her. She might be the stronger candidate, though.
MADDOW: Fascinating night.
Steve, I have one question for you back to the governor`s race.
MADDOW: Stacey Abrams is going to be the Democratic nominee. I will say, having interviewed Stacey Abrams back in the day in totally unrelated before she was running for governor, I found her to be one of the most charismatic politicians of her generation from any state. I think she is an incredible talent.
What are her prospects statewide for that governor`s race?
KORNACKI: Yes, I mean, that`s the thing. We talk about -- Democrats are probably in a neutral year, you know, a few cycles away, the way the demographics are changing. This is one of the fastest growing states in the country, especially this Atlanta area right here. And the folks who are moving back to the state of Georgia, you`re talking a lot about nonwhite voters, younger voters. The population of single women is going up there.
So, a lot of ingredients that Democrats see. What they hope is that in 2018 that it proves to be a wave election and it basically speeds up what they see as a longer term trend. 2014 they had high hopes early in the year that was Michelle Nunn, Jason Carter, they ran for statewide office in Georgia. They each lost by about eight, nine points.
But remember, 2014 proved to be pretty much a Republican wave year. If you get the reverse of, that a few more years of demographic changes, this is a very interesting test here because the theory of the Abrams campaign is a departure from what we`re used to hearing about. We`ll see. We`re going to get some evidence this year about how that theory plays out in an atmosphere like this.
MADDOW: Steve Kornacki, I tell you, I`m terrible at making prediction, but no matter what else happens in that state and the rest of the country on November 2018, I would always expect Stacey Abrams to outperform expectations. I think she is that good just on a personal level.
KORNACKI: We`ll be watching.
MADDOW: All right. MSNBC national political correspondent Steve Kornacki is the greatest in the business.
We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Very quick note on primary results which are still coming in, last month thousands of Kentucky teachers held protests at the state capitol for more education funding, big uprising by Kentucky teachers. Some of those teachers then decided to run for office, both as Democrats and Republicans.
Tonight in a Republican primary, the house majority leader in Kentucky who was backed by Mitch McConnell, he just lost his seat to a high school math teacher named Travis Brenda. The teachers have turfed out not just an incumbent but a top party leader who was endorsed by Mitch McConnell, in the Republican primary.
That does it for us tonight. We will see you again tomorrow.
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL".
Good evening, Lawrence.
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