Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW Date: May 24, 2018 Guest: David Kris
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thanks to you, my friend.
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST, "ALL IN": You bet.
MADDOW: Much appreciated.
And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. Happy to have you here with us tonight.
The former head of the national security division at the Justice Department is going to be joining us tonight. I`m very much looking forward to that.
We`ve also got Andrea Mitchell here tonight to talk about the collapse of the North Korean summit, which honestly was never going to happen. But now, it`s officially never going to happen.
There`s been a whole bunch of news today. I think it is going to be a very interesting show over the course of this hour.
But I want to start tonight with Congressman Steve Stockman. Congressman Steve Stockman is a Republican. He`s from Texas. And right now, this second, he is in prison.
He was arrested last spring. He was convicted last month. And immediately after he was convicted, he was taken into federal custody, to await his formal sentencing, which is expected to happen, I think, in August, sometime in late summer.
It was reported at the time of Steve Stockman`s corruption trial that his lawyers were surprised that they put Congressman Stockman in handcuffs and took him away into federal custody immediately after his conviction. They took him right from the courtroom. Apparently, his lawyers thought he`d be allowed to go home and live free while he appealed his convictions or at least prepared for his sentencing.
But no, Congressman Stockman was convicted on a whole lot of felonies. He was convicted on 23 felony charges. They brought 24 felony charges against him. Jury came back and convicted him of 23 of the 24. And if you do the math on that, that means at his sentencing, he was facing a theoretical maximum sentence of over 450 years in prison.
And so, maybe because of the sheer amount of time he`s now facing, maybe because of other things about Congressman Stockman, which we`ll get to in a moment, the judge in this case decided that the congressman was a real flight risk. And so, the judge did not allow him to go home after being convicted, and so now he resides behind bars. And it is kind of an amazing thing for a member of Congress to get convicted of more than 20 federal felony charges.
But in Steve Stockman`s case, it`s not like people were even that surprised. When he was convicted, "Texas Monthly" ran this headline about his conviction. Quote, a jury of his peers and karma convict Steve Stockman. Quote: Steve Stockman was always one of those kind of creepy politicians that other politicians tried to keep at a distance just in case it might rub off. He always acted as if the rules didn`t apply to him, sometimes even as if human decency did not apply to him.
Stockman won two non-consecutive terms in Congress in somewhat fluke elections. Over three decades, he ran in more elections than he won. Finally, today, Steve Stockman`s string ran out, as a federal jury in Houston convicted him of 23 counts of fraud, punishable by up to 20 years in prison on each count.
Barring a successful appeal, Steve Stockman is about to spend more time in a federal penitentiary than he did in Congress. Everybody`s a hero in their own hometown, right?
The charges against Congressman Stockman were related to him basically stealing tons of money from donors and then laundering it. They included a more or less elaborate scheme described by federal prosecutors in which he basically set up a fake charity and then opened up a whole bunch of bank accounts in his own name, but doing business as the name of that charity, and then he just took the money that was given to the charity.
But it`s interesting. When Congressman Stockman got sent to prison last month, it turned out to be not the first time he was getting locked up. In 2014, just four years ago, Congressman Stockman decided to run in the Republican Senate primary in Texas to try to unseat Texas conservative Republican Senior Senator John Cornyn. Steve Stockman said he had to run against Cornyn because Cornyn was too left-wing.
So, Stockman gave up his House seat to challenge the sitting senator instead. The challenge against Senator Cornyn ultimately included a libel lawsuit that Steve Stockman brought against a political action committee that was supporting Senator Cornyn. Stockman sued that PAC because they said on their Website that Steve Stockman had, by that time, already been imprisoned multiple times.
Stockman filed a libel lawsuit against them for that. Problem is, he had actually been imprisoned multiple times. Even before his current stint in prison right now. Back in the day, he was in jail a lot, it turns out. And that turns out to be the sort of thing that can be fairly easily checked in public records.
And Steve Stockman had already admitted his multiple stints behind bars to multiple reporters on multiple occasions. So, it wasn`t a super smart idea to bring a libel suit on that point in particular. But that`s Steve Stockman. Steve Stockman, Texas Republican congressman, convicted felon, currently in federal custody awaiting sentencing and all-around piece of work.
Also, ambassador to the United Arab Emirates maybe? Look at this document, this letter. You`d see that letterhead there on the left-hand side. It`s on the letterhead from Congressman Steve Stockman`s office. And it is a letter from Steve Stockman in March 2017. This is just before he was arrested.
And in this letter, he makes the case that he would be a great U.S. Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates. Quote: I would enjoy it, as I have many friends there. Well, who can argue with that?
This letter from now imprisoned Congressman Steve Stockman makes the case that he should be our nation`s ambassador to the United Arab Emirates, and it`s amazing on a few different levels. This is amazing is just the concept that Steve Stockman should be the ambassador to anything. He is in prison right now. A week and a half after he sent this letter pitching himself for this ambassadorship, a week and a half later, he was arrested, 24 felony charges, 23 of which he was convicted for.
That said, when Stockman was arrested a week and a half after he wrote this letter, "The Houston Chronicle" reports that he was arrested while attempting to board a flight to the United Arab Emirates. So maybe he did have friends there. Maybe he would enjoy the ambassadorship. But he never made it there. They got him at the airport.
He was on his way to Doha, right? So maybe there`s something there that we just don`t understand. He`s on his way to Dubai. Sorry.
Anyway, well, here`s something that we definitely do not understand. Look at who this Steve Stockman letter is sent to. See the address there? Dear Nickie, is how it is addressed. Nickie is Nickie Lum Davis, who is not a famous person. There`s no reason you would have heard her name in the news.
But at the time that Congressman Steve Stockman, soon to be arrested, was sending Nickie this letter presenting his credentials for the ambassadorship, Ms. Davis was working as a consultant to Elliott Broidy. So Steve stockman sent the letter to her, attached his resume, here`s the letter, I want to be ambassador, please pass it on. The ultimate intended audience for the letter and his attached resume was Elliott Broidy.
And the letter made it to its destination. Stockman sent this letter saying, I want the ambassadorship, sent it to Nickie Lum Davis. Nickie Lum Davis then forwarded it with its attachments to Elliott Broidy. And we confirmed all of that today, both with Ms. Davis and representative of Mr. Broidy, so we know that is what happened.
Here`s the question. Why would Steve Stockman, in all his glory, think that if he did want to be ambassador to the United Arab Emirates, the person he needed to convince of that, the person who needed to receive his letter begging for that job and making his pitch for that job, would be Elliott Broidy? Why did he think that Elliott Broidy would be able to get him an ambassadorship?
And Steve Stockman, now in federal custody, he stands out alone as sort of different of your typical member of Congress, but on this issue, about him discerning this route to this particular job that he wanted, he actually had lots of Republican company. "Newsweek" reported a couple of months ago that another person who wrote to Elliott Broidy to spell out her desired job in the Trump administration was a woman named Marie Royce.
Marie Royce, among many other things, is the wife of the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the Republican-controlled Congress. Her husband is Congressman Ed Royce. Ed Royce`s wife wrote a letter to Elliott Broidy telling him that her, quote, number one position of interest in the Trump administration was that she wanted to be assistant secretary of state for educational and cultural affairs.
She wrote that letter and sent it to Elliott Broidy. And wouldn`t you know it? Marie Royce is actually now the assistant secretary of state for educational and cultural affairs. She wrote to Elliott Broidy to get that job. She got that job. She`s still there today.
That said, Ed Royce, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, has announced that he`s resigning from Congress. Why was Elliott Broidy collecting people`s wish lists of their preferred jobs in the administration? Why was he in a position to be doling out jobs? And not just the cranks and hangers-on, but to, you know, current and former members of Congress and their wives. Why was he in a position to get people appointed to things?
And it was not just Trump administration jobs that people believed Elliott Broidy could deliver. As "The Wall Street Journal" first reported in march, Mr. Hangers-on, but to current and former members of Congress and their wives. Why was he in a position to get people appointed to things? And it was not just Trump administration jobs that people believed Elliott Broidy could deliver. As
"The Wall Street Journal" first reported in March, Mr. Broidy and his wife were also promising at least one overseas client, who is now a fugitive from justice, that one of the things Broidy and his wife could offer for sale was the ending of a major multimillion dollar fraud lawsuit that had been brought by the Department of Justice. If you look at that case in the public docket, that DOJ case, it`s interesting, probably just a coincidence.
But one of the Justice Department lawyers on this multimillion dollar fraud case that`s been pursued by the Justice Department happens to be one of the high-profile prosecutors who`s working for Robert Mueller in the special counsel`s office. That is probably just a coincidence. But as "the Wall Street Journal" first reported a couple of months ago, Elliott Broidy and his wife offered a legal contract to a Malaysian businessman, who is caught up in a massive multibillion dollar fraud scandal in Malaysia. They offered him a contract, which spelled out that they somehow could get the Justice Department to drop that case.
Well, we can now show you the contract that they offered. It`s dated this time last year, May of 2017. And as you can see in the contract, which we`re showing here on the screen, it`s a fixed fee agreement for litigation services. The contract in Exhibit A describes the -- gives a description of the matter at the heart of this agreement. The matter, which is in quotes there, is this case number, which is a case, a gigantic multimillion dollar fraud case brought by the Justice Department, brought by the United States of America against multiple entities involved in this big Malaysian fraud scandal.
As "The Wall Street Journal" first reported, you can see here in this contract that Elliott Broidy and his wife were offering that they could get that Justice Department case settled. They could make it go away. I could tell you the specifics, too. What they were offering is that if they got that case settled within 180 days, they would get paid $75 million, him and his wife, $75 million. If it took them a little longer, if it took them a full year, 365 days, to get that case to go away, they would only get paid $50 million.
But even if they weren`t successful at all, they would still get paid $8 million as a non-refundable retainer. To retain their services in making that matter go away. Their services were apparently -- I mean, what, what is it that you do to get the justice department to drop a gigantic ongoing international fraud case against people who are secretly paying you to make it go away before they become fugitives from justice?
I wonder if that`s anything like the services you offer to a soon to be imprisoned congressman when you lead them to believe for some reason that you can get them an ambassadorship. It might in fact be the exact same kind of services it takes to install a congressman`s wife in a very fancy- sounding job at the State Department where she still resides today. Why would all of these people go to Elliott Broidy for all of these services? What exactly does Elliott Broidy do?
The most important answer we can give to that question right now is that we don`t know. We really don`t know, and us not knowing what he does and why all this money and influence seems to have flowed both ways through him, us not understanding that yet is very important. Our lack of understanding about what that means actually is the most newsworthy thing about Elliott Broidy right now. And it`s the most important thing we have to understand about the most controversial thing that happened in Washington today.
I mean, with Elliott Broidy, the public reporting about him is intriguing. In some cases, it`s fascinating. But we really don`t know how it all fits together or if it all fits together. I mean, Elliott Broidy was reportedly given a $600 million defense contract from the United Arab Emirates.
Mr. Broidy is kind of a film producer by training. So, his $600 million defense contract is intriguing. Mr. Broidy spent much of last year apparently in business with a man named George Nader. George Nader, of all things, has multiple child molestation and child pornography convictions in his past in multiple countries.
But Nader is the one who reportedly brokered a still mysterious meeting after the election between Erik Prince, who`s a purported representative of our newly elected president, and the head of a Russian sovereign wealth fund. A meeting set up in the Seychelles islands by George Nader on behalf of the United Arab Emirates, this meeting involving Erik Prince and this Russian guy. What was it about? No idea.
Just this week, it`s been reported that Erik Prince met with George Nader another time. Erik Prince, George Nader, and an Israeli guy who also reportedly has ties to the United Arab Emirates and who reportedly shut down his company in Israel as soon as he was questioned by Robert Mueller earlier this year.
Also at that meeting, Donald Trump Jr. What were they talking about three months before the election at Trump Tower? Today, Senator Chris Coons of Delaware said that based in part based on that reporting about that meeting Donald Trump Jr. appears to have lied to the U.S. Senate in sworn testimony. Senator Coons wants him brought back in a public hearing to address the things that seem not true in what he told the Senate under oath.
So, this guy, Elliott Broidy, is connected to the United Arab Emirates and he`s connected to lots and lots of money and he`s connected to George Nader, and George Nader is now a cooperating witness in the Mueller investigation. Nader`s the only person to whom the Mueller investigation has offered immunity in exchange for his testimony. What`s he testifying about?
The most important thing to know about all of those reports, all of those still unfinished stories, all of those connections or at least dots that we wonder if they connect, the most important thing to know about all that stuff is we don`t know what any of that stuff means or if any of those things are important to the ongoing criminal and counterintelligence investigation that`s being run by the special counsel`s office. We do know that the special counsel`s office has interviewed multiple people related to those meetings and those connections and those flows of money. In at least one instance, one of the people who has been talking to them about it has been offered immunity in exchange for what he has been saying.
But we have seen nothing in court documents yet that explains the legal significance of any of those inquiries. None of that stuff has come to fruition at least in terms of what we can see.
Today, there was an absolutely unprecedented meeting in Washington, in which the White House appears to have ordered the Justice Department and the FBI and, I guess, maybe also the director of national intelligence, to hand over information from inside the ongoing special counsel investigation. Initially, the White House demanded that the Justice Department and the FBI and the national intelligence director, that they should hand over this information from inside the special counsel`s inquiry just to two of the president`s hand-picked allies from Congress. That ultimately led to some interesting and I think pretty consequential wrangling over who exactly would get that information, who would get to go to this meeting, who would get briefed about this confidential source and when and by whom.
And we`ll get to some of that tonight. But regardless of who actually got in the room in the end, it`s just bizarre. This is a bizarre thing to have happened.
I mean, there was the president`s chief of staff and the president`s lead lawyer in the Russia scandal convening what ended up being two meetings today, because the White House and Republicans demanded to see information from a confidential source who`d been used by the FBI to gather evidence in the early days of their still ongoing investigation. Specifically, that source was sent by the FBI to talk to three people in the Trump campaign that the FBI I believed were in contact with Russian agents who were in the process of interfering in the election.
And it`s interesting and it is important that we don`t know what`s going to happen to that part of the investigation. Just like with all that mysterious and intriguing and weird Elliott Broidy stuff. And all of that George Nader stuff, with him as a cooperating witness. All of that stuff about money flows and offers from the United Arab Emirates.
We don`t know where any of that stuff is going. We have seen no charges filed on any of that stuff yet. And we have seen no charges filed yet on some of the very simple stuff that we absolutely know that Russia did to mess with our election that was a crime under U.S. law.
Take George Papadopoulos, that Trump campaign foreign policy adviser, right? A big part of the reason the FBI started its counterintelligence investigation in the first place is because Papadopoulos revealed that he had been given advance notice that Russia had stolen Democratic e-mails. Russia stealing Democratic e-mails is very simply a crime under U.S. law. The special counsel`s office has thus far filed no charges related to Russia stealing Democrats` e-mails.
So, we know the crime was committed. We know from the intelligence community`s assessment Russia did it. We know that there was some connection to the Trump campaign at least in terms of Papadopoulos having some advance notice of that. But we don`t know where that crime is going to end up in terms of how the Mueller investigation brings charges and who they bring charges against or what they decide to do in terms of a report or an indictment or anything else.
We know that crime was committed. We don`t know what they are doing with that yet. But yet today, in Washington, the White House forced the exposure of information about that source, that human source, and the evidence that that source collected, in part, through his contact with George Papadopoulos during the campaign, when the FBI was investigating, hey, how`d you have advance notice?
That is a live, ongoing investigation that has not yet come to its end. We do not know what prosecutors are trying to do with that information, if anything, and how they are going to charge through his contact with George Papadopoulos during the campaign, when the FBI was investigating, hey, how`d you have advance notice? That is a live, ongoing investigation that has not yet come to its end. We do not know what prosecutors are trying to do with that information, if anything, and how they are going to charge that crime if they do.
But that part of the investigation is being pried open anyway, because of the president`s demand that he should be able to see that. Last night, Robert Mueller filed a document in federal court in D.C., arguing against a media lawsuit that`s trying to get access to search warrant stuff and some of the other material from the ongoing special counsel`s investigation. And the filing from Mueller last night is specific to that lawsuit and those circumstances, but it`s also very helpful document for understanding what went wrong in that meeting today in D.C.
Quote, special counsel`s investigation is ongoing. The investigation involves interconnected areas of inquiry. And the government continues to investigate key questions within the scope of the special counsel`s authority. The special counsel`s investigation has not concluded simply because it`s resulted in several indictments and several defendants have pled guilty to criminal information. A complex investigation is not necessarily over when some defendants have been charged.
Mueller cites, quote, tangible investigative harms from disclosure at this state of the investigation. And special counsel Robert Mueller just spells it out. Quote: Disclosure of these materials could reveal sources, methods, factual and legal theories and lines of investigation.
Quote: the government does not dispute that the public is interested in understanding the special counsel`s investigation. But the government objects to public access at this stage. Revealing warrant materials could tip off subjects to investigative methods and techniques and enable them to evade detection or destroy evidence. Yes.
And so, therefore, you do not let stuff out in the middle of an ongoing investigation, except they did today. With all this stuff still unresolved, with all these lines of inquiry still live. How bad is that?
Hold that thought. We`ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), RANKING MEMBER, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Today`s Gang of Eight briefing was conducted to ensure protection of sources and methods. Nothing we heard today has changed our view that there is no evidence to support any allegation that the FBI or any intelligence agency placed a spy in the Trump campaign or otherwise failed to follow appropriate procedures and protocols. Thank you.
REPORTER: Was it appropriate to have Emmet Flood at this meeting, sir?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Congressman Adam Schiff, one of a handful of members of Congress who was ultimately allowed into a weird and unprecedented briefing today in which the White House appears to have ordered the justice department and the FBI to hand over information about a confidential human source who gathered information for the FBI in the early stages of their counterintelligence investigation into Russia interfering with the election. That investigation is ongoing. So, it is truly unheard of that law enforcement would be forced or at least told that they have to hand over evidence and information from their investigation to anyone.
Now, we don`t know exactly what was handed over today. Were they given access to documents or the evidence that the source turned up, we don`t know what happened in those meetings. There`s no doubt, though, about why the president wanted this information from this ongoing criminal investigation involving his campaign. There`s no need to guess at that.
The president`s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, laid it out today, over overtly. He told politico.com, quote, he, the president, wants them to turn over the information that exists about the informant. All the memos they have. That will indicate what the informant found. Then, those should be made available to us on a confidential basis. We should at least be allowed to read them so we know this exculpatory evidence is being preserved.
Robert Mueller`s team within the last 24 hours has argued in court filings that their investigation is very much active and ongoing and there are a lot of elements of it that the -- excuse me, that the public has no idea about and that must be shielded from public view. At the same time, there`s the president`s own lawyer demanding information, not just related to an FBI source who was part of the investigation, but specifically demanding the evidence that that source turned up and how that evidence has contributed to the ongoing investigation.
And that was all before we learned that another one of the president`s Russia lawyers, Emmet Flood, actually would turn up unannounced at both of these briefings today. He was spotted exiting one of the briefings today by an eagle-eyed producer from CNN.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TED BARRETT, CNN SENIOR PRODUCER: How are you, sir? Is it appropriate for Emmet Flood to be in that meeting, sir?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: And that`s how we learned that Emmet Flood was in that meeting, sir.
The White House said this is no big deal. President`s lawyer on Russia matters was only there at the beginning of the meeting to facilitate and to, quote, relay the president`s desire for as much openness as possible under the law. I think before today, we all thought there were more rules than this against this particular kind of openness under the law.
Joining us is someone with extensive experience in these matters at the highest levels of the Department of Justice, David Kris. He`s the former assistant to the attorney general for national security.
Mr. Kris, it`s nice to have you with us tonight. Thank you for making time to be here.
DAVID KRIS, FORMER ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR NATIONAL SECURITY: Thank you.
MADDOW: Let me just ask you to treat me like a first-grader here, in terms of the basics. For why there are legal rules, why there is certainly tradition, why we understand that generally the way things work that while an investigation is ongoing, the public generally and anybody who might be a subject or a target of the investigation isn`t allowed to know what evidence the government has or what shape their investigation is taking?
KRIS: Well, the main reason is the one that you cited in quoting from Bob Mueller`s filing, which is to protect the integrity of the investigation, you often have to keep the investigation secret. That`s true in law enforcement as much as it is in foreign counterintelligence. If you reveal what you`re doing to the subject of the investigation or to your adversary, they can take countermeasures and thwart your investigation.
So, of course, people don`t want that to happen. That`s why they keep these things under wraps until they`re ready to air them out in court.
MADDOW: Mr. Giuliani said today, and it was striking to me that he wants information not just about, say, the identity of this confidential source, he wants Justice Department memos reflecting the work of this source, essentially, as far as I can tell, describing any evidence that this source might have turned up. He said, we should be allowed to read those memos so we know this exculpatory evidence is being preserved.
It sounds like he`s using legal terms there. Is he talking about an actual legal concept?
KRIS: He`s using legal terms but he`s not making any legal sense. What he is demanding here is not normal. And people ought to know that. And it is very, very dangerous.
The government does not reveal the names or identities of human sources to Congress. It does not brief Congress on ongoing investigations, both because it does not want to reveal what`s happening in those investigations and also to preserve apolitical law enforcement, free from the political influence of Congress.
Still less does the government brief either directly or indirectly, whether he was in the room for some or all of the meeting, the lawyer for the person who is the subject, a subject of the investigation, here the president of the United States. None of this is normal. All of it is dangerous.
MADDOW: When you were running the national security division at the Justice Department, did you ever face demands from either the White House or from members of Congress, whether or not they were on the relevant oversight committees, that you should disclose confidential human sources or ongoing evidence in ongoing investigations that had not yet come to fruition?
KRIS: So, I`ve served in both Republican and Democratic administrations. And in my experience, the White House, ever since Watergate, has been very, very careful to avoid interfering or even creating the appearance of interference with an ongoing criminal investigation, because, again, we have a tradition of apolitical law enforcement.
Now, for Congress, they will occasionally make demands for information, and there is always a healthy tension between the executive branch and legislative branch, but it is well outside the norms of history for the executive branch to brief the identities of sources, because they need to protect those sources. As FBI Director Wray said, the day we can`t protect our sources identities is the day we don`t have anymore sources.
MADDOW: If this was an order from the White House to the Justice Department and to the FBI to disclose the identity of this source or even more detailed information about the source`s work, could the FBI and the Justice Department have refused such an order? Could they have said no?
KRIS: Well, it would be very difficult, because after all the attorney general, the acting attorney general, the FBI director are all the subordinates of the president and they are supposed to work for him.
The president in some other kind of situation might be able to change these long-standing traditions that regulate the way these things are done. The really strange and troubling thing here is that he`s doing it in the context of an investigation in which he is a subject. He is laboring under a massive conflict of interest, and that`s the norm that is probably most severely being violated here.
MADDOW: David Kris, former assistant attorney general for national security, which means he ran the national security unit at the Justice Department. Currently the founder of Culper Partners, a consulting firm. Really appreciate having you here, Mr. Kris. Thanks for your service in law enforcement. Thanks for talking to us tonight.
KRIS: My pleasure.
MADDOW: All right. Much more to come tonight. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Here`s an amazing lead for you. This is how it`s done. This is from "A.P." reporter Robert Burns today. And here`s how his story starts, just cold, off the top.
Quote: One airman said he felt paranoia. Another marveled at the vibrant colors. A third admitted, quote, I absolutely just loved altering my mind.
Meet service members entrusted with guarding America`s nuclear missiles. That is a lead.
And this is not about some crazy secret military testing program back in the day, where they, like, used members of the Air Force as guinea pigs for a controlled drug experiment or something like that. This is -- this is a whole bunch of active duty service members whose job nowadays is to fire live nuclear missiles if called upon to do so and they`re all taking acid. They`re all taking LSD.
Robert Burns at the "A.P." broke this story today, and it is a little nutty. Quote: Air Force records obtained by the Associated press show the airmen bought, distributed, and used LSD and other mind-altering illegal drugs as part of a ring that operated undetected for months on a highly secure military base in Wyoming. The accused service members are from the 90th Missile Wing, which operates a third of the nuclear-armed Minuteman 3 intercontinental ballistic missiles that stand on alert 24/7 in underground silos across the northern Great Plains.
You know, there were not a lot of political scandals during the Obama administration. There was a lot the conservative media and Republicans complained about. But the Obama administration really -- hate me for saying it or not -- they were the first administration in a blue moon where nobody got indicted. Nobody working in the White House ended up with a legal defense fund. It just didn`t happen.
But there were, during the Obama administration, there were all those problems in the Secret Service, remember? There were also some serious problems in the military, including, specifically in the part of the military that`s supposed to protect and handle live nuclear weapons.
In fact, during the Obama administration, after the head of the whole nuclear missile program got fired by President Obama in 2013, the Pentagon sent the number two official in the Defense Department out to F.E. Warren, one of these bases where they keep the ICBMs, basically to show interest, attention to this part of the U.S. Air Force. And at F.E. Warren, while this visiting pentagon official was there, they actually staged a demonstration for him, for how a missile security force squadron would force their way into a nuclear missile silo and retake it, if some hostile power ever managed to get inside and try to commandeer one. Very dramatic.
The "A.P." reports today that the actual squadron that demonstrated for the deputy defense secretary and the reporters back in the day, that commando break-in, retaking the missile silo thing that they demonstrated, that exact squadron that showed off for the deputy defense secretary, that squadron, those were the actual guys, these same people, who we now know were all taking acid. Fourteen airmen disciplined in the LSD and live nuclear weapons scandal that broke today in the "Associated Press". Six of them are convicted at courts-martial.
And how are you feeling about your nuclear security now?
F.E. Warren, where everybody was taking acid, that`s one of the three nuclear missile sites that we`ve got in the northern Great Plains. There`s another one in Montana. There`s another one in North Dakota, Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota.
Minot has been in the news the past couple of weeks, because first, we got word from the local sheriff near there that the unit responsible for the security of nuclear missiles at Minot had lost something important off the back of a truck. Quote: Air Force officials said a security forces team from the 91st Missile Wing at Minot were traveling between missile sites on rough roads when the back hatch of their Humvee opened and the ammunition container with the grenade rounds in it fell out.
Live grenades. Big crate of them. They narrowed it down to a six-mile stretch or so where they might have lost their grenades. Not sure exactly.
Looked for them for a while, couldn`t find them. Finally a few days later, they told the local sheriff, with a warning that, oh, God, those things are dangerous, don`t touch them. Offered a $5,000 reward to plead with the public, please return our box of live grenades. Still haven`t found them.
Days later, same Air Force base, same unit responsible for the safety and security of nuclear weapons there, reported that in addition to losing the big box of live grenades, they also lost a pretty fancy machine gun. No idea where that got to, either.
After the live grenades and the machine gun went missing, the commander of that unit got fired. And now their sister unit at another nuclear missile base in the northern Great Plains turns out to be all on acid. We tried calling the Air Force today. We specifically tried calling Minot air base to ask whether they had found the missing grenades of the machine gun yet.
We called a lot. If anybody ever picks up the phone, we will let you know if they have any leads on those missing grenades in North Dakota yet, but so far, it just rings and rings and rings. But that`s the part of our nuclear arsenal about which our government today exercised its bragging rights, because that`s the part that`s working, comparatively speaking, when it comes to the possible nuclear end of the world, and that story is next. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Within the past few days, a group of about 20 international journalists, including a couple of Americans, flew over from North Korea. They came from all over the place, from Britain and China and Russia, from here. North Korea said they were going to blow up their nuclear testing facility. They`ve been testing nukes inside a mountain. They said they were going to destroy the facility inside that mountain. They invited this troupe of reporters to watch. It was sort of a controversial thing, because there was questions raised about whether this site might have already been unusable anyway, so maybe the whole thing was just for show.
North Korea, in any case, decided these reporters could watch this happen, but they wouldn`t allow any nuclear experts to witness the destruction of this supposed site. It`s been kind of a kooky trip for these journalists so far, one of the most dangerous parts of the world, particularly for foreigners.
Once they landed, the journalists took a 12-hour train ride toward the nuclear facility. Next, they took a four-hour bus ride. Then, they finished the trip on foot. They hiked for two hours to this mountain, this nuclear facility.
The journalists were allowed for a little while to walk through the tunnels where they have tested the nukes. They saw the tunnels strapped with explosives. The journalists were then led out of the tunnels and over to some viewing stands, and then, boom.
A reporter for Britain`s Sky News said, there was a huge explosion. You could feel it. Dust came at you. The heat came at you. It was extremely loud. So, that was today in North Korea.
And then a few hours later, right after North Korea announced that they had blown up their nuclear testing site with two dozen international journalists still on the ground in North Korea under the watchful and controlling eye of North Korean officials, that is when our president sent North Korea letter calling off the U.S./North Korea summit that was supposed to happen a couple weeks from now.
Quote: Sadly, based on the tremendous anger and open hostility displayed in your most recent statement, I feel it is inappropriate at this time to have the long-planned meeting.
It has always been a little hard to believe that Donald Trump was going to become the first U.S. president ever to meet a dictator of North Korea. The effort to bring that meeting about has been chaotic and disorganized and sometimes nonsensical from the start.
But when the president sent that letter this morning with those foreign journalists, including American journalists, still on the ground in North Korea, completely under control of the North Korean government, that put those journalists in danger, in wanton danger. The president said American forces today were ready if necessary -- ready if necessary in case the North Korean dictator decided to do something foolish after he decided to tank these nuclear talks.
I bet that was a long train ride back to the airport for those reporters in that moment.
MADDOW: Reporters have been on the ground in North Korea since Tuesday, invited there to witness what North Korea says was the destruction of their nuclear testing site today. When the president took this day, this moment, to announce that he was calling off the upcoming nuclear summit with North Korea, one reporter on the ground for that reporting trip said, quote, being inside this country just hours after they`ve blown up their nuclear site and learning of this, it was a very awkward and uncomfortable moment. I bet, and probably a dangerous one, too.
Joining us now is NBC chief foreign affairs correspondent, host of "ANDREA MITCHELL REPORTS" here on MSNBC, Andrea Mitchell.
It is great to have you here. Thank you for your time tonight.
ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC CHIEF FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Thank you so much.
MADDOW: Has this thing been dead for awhile, but they just showed us the body today? Was it clear before today this wasn`t going to happen?
MITCHELL: Well, the first big warning was last week when State Department officials and White House officials went to Singapore for a planning meeting with their North Korean counterparts and the North Koreans stood them up. That should have been a warning.
Also, Pompeo was told on his visit some 10 days ago when he met with Kim Jong-un and brought back, as you recall, the three Americans, he was told that there would be no experts from the U.S. or other international organizations, no nuclear inspectors who could go to that site today and watch the blowing up, to verify what was going on.
That certainly should have been a warning they were not going to denuclearization and agree to the kind of intrusive verification that was in the Iran deal, that they criticized so roundly. That these two dozen reporters who were put out on a limb and put in potential danger today, they, like a lot of us who have covered nuclear arms control for decades, they are not experts. They are not able to verify what was being blown up.
MADDOW: And Andrea, whether or not the administration knew that this was coming in advance, whether or not we should have all known that this wasn`t going to happen, it does seem like two groups that were caught off-guard were those Western reporters who were on the ground inside North Korea when the president made this announcement, but also our most important allies in this issue.
I mean, did South Korea and Japan really have no idea that this was going to be the day that Trump pulled the plug?
MITCHELL: They had no warning at all.
MITCHELL: I was covering the Chinese foreign minister, the Japanese, the others visiting yesterday. Moon had just returned, President Moon of South Korea, had just been in the Oval Office on Tuesday. Yes, they had discussed the hiccups and the concerns. And the concerns that the president hinted at publicly, that China had toughened Kim Jong-un`s stance, just in that visit on May 8th, his second, Kim`s second visit to China.
But the fact is, they had no warning. They did not know it was coming, and it was humiliating and politically dangerous, really, for Kim -- for President Moon to learn that his meeting with Kim Jong-un, he went to the DMZ, they did that dance across the DMZ line, he put everything into this, it was his campaign platform, when he ran for election, you know, pacification, reunification, and he is now really vulnerable for having put so much into this.
The big loser is President Moon. The winner is China.
MADDOW: In terms of this country, and whether or not this was some sort of plan, I mean, did -- I can`t believe I have to ask this, though, but was the White House planning on doing it this way in order to make Moon go out on a limb, was this an effort to screw things up or did they screw things up by accident?
MITCHELL: I think they screwed things up -- well, you can call it accident, you can call it incompetence, in-fighting between the newest national security adviser, Bolton blindsiding Pompeo to a certain extent, according to the latest reporting from my colleagues, my White House colleagues at NBC, they posted that on our national security Website, on NBC.com, but the fact is that they were not coordinating. That Bolton had taken the hard line and, yes, he had taken the stance about the so-called Libyan model on April 29th and that was repeated by Mike Pence, not helpfully, just the other night.
But the fact is, China, I think, was the key player here. They felt left out. They should have been included. They should have been brought along and not put on the sidelines, and they have the most at risk here, according to most of the experts I`ve talked to.
They have the most at risk because they are next door to North Korea. They have the most important ally to North Korea. They do not want a democratic capitalist society next door and they are threatened by not being involved and they should have been.
MADDOW: Yes, and they ended up being the mover here. They`re the ones who determined ultimately what happened.
MADDOW: NBC chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell, thank you so much, my friend. It`s great to have you here. Thanks.
All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: One thing to watch for tomorrow, those were shots of some of the thousands of Irish voters living abroad who have been flying home to Ireland today so they can vote tomorrow. The Irish constitution effectively bans abortion outright. Tomorrow, there`s a referendum in Ireland that could change that and Irish citizens from all over the world had been coming home to vote.
Polls open in Ireland tomorrow at 7:00 a.m. Final count is expected by this weekend.
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.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END
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