Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW Date: June 22, 2018 Guest: Efren Olivares, Emily Jane Fox, Michael McFaul
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thank you. And thanks for all your reporting on these stories this week.
And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. Rachel does have the night off. She will be back on Monday. I am Ari Melber.
And we have actually a lot to get to tonight. There is a major deadline approaching in the legal case involving Donald Trump`s lawyer Michael Cohen. Intriguing new clues about whether Cohen may be preparing to flip on his former client.
The reporter who knows more than just about anyone about what is going on in Michael Cohen`s head right now, she joins us in a few minutes. A lot of legal issues to untangle.
Also, this week we got new insights into some of the tactics used by Russia to undermine the elections in 2016 as well as new warnings that the United States may not be prepared for what Russia is up to in the next election. Now, this is something many people may have missed this week. We think you might not want to miss it tonight.
But we begin with the crisis of the thousands of immigrant children ripped away from their parents by the Trump administration, relegated to shelters all over the country with no apparent plan for whether or how to reunite them with their parents. The headlines today tell the story of chaos and confusion and uncertainty around whether this government has even the ability to reunite the families that it chose to separate, especially because the Trump administration has now begun deporting some parents without their children.
Now, we want to show you this report from NBC News chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel. It stopped a lot of us in our tracks when we started reviewing it in our newsroom this evening. And you won`t see this report anywhere else tonight.
Richard is in El Salvador reporting with the story of one man who was sent home from the U.S. without his daughter.
RICHARD ENGEL, NBC NEWS CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: Nearly 100 migrants arrived today in El Salvador, deported for entering the United States illegally. Many didn`t want to show their faces.
Among all these arrivals, we saw no children. So where are they?
It`s been 26 days since I`ve seen or heard from her, says Arnovis Guido (ph) about his 6-year-old daughter Maybelline (ph). The two left El Salvador for the United States last month. He says the dangerous trip was worth it for reasons Americans just don`t understand.
They don`t know what it`s like in El Salvador, he says. They don`t know how bad the violence is here. They say we are like a plague, but that`s not true.
Arnovis and his daughter were arrested in Texas by border agents.
I was told my daughter and I had to get on different buses because there wasn`t enough room, he says.
But when they were driven to McAllen where many migrants are being processed, 6-year-old Maybelline was suddenly nowhere to be seen.
I said where`s my daughter? The border patrol agents told me they didn`t know anything about her, that it wasn`t their problem.
Now, Arnovis was deported back to El Salvador without Maybelline, desperate and confused.
Don`t separate us. Don`t let us in. But don`t rip us apart, he says.
We reached out to the Department of Homeland Security repeatedly but received no information. Arnovis tells us he did manage to speak with 6- year-old Maybelline. He says she`s still in the U.S.
Richard Engel, NBC News, San Salvador, El Salvador.
MELBER: Our thanks to Richard for that reporting.
What this is, when you look at it, is the story of just one father deported without his daughter. I think any of us can imagine how difficult it will be for this person, this one man, to find and reunite with his child now that he`s there in El Salvador where Richard was talking with him because this person doesn`t even know where she is.
Now, it`s also proving incredibly hard even for those parents who are inside the U.S. so they`re theoretically, of course, closer to their children. Over 2,300 children by the counts according to the administration have been removed from their parents, and they`ve been distributed in these shelters or foster homes around the nation. That includes as Rachel`s reported, babies as young as 8 or 9 months shown up in the middle of the night at shelters as far away from the border as Michigan or New York state.
There`s an attorney in Texas telling "The Washington Post" she`s heard that more than two dozen stories from Central American mothers who`ve been detained for up to weeks without their children and that attorney says they haven`t been able to locate a single one of the children in those cases saying, quote: It`s just a total labyrinth.
"The Post" reporting that government officials say they`ve given detained parents a flyer with a toll-free number for the Office of Refugee Resettlement. That`s the U.S. agency usually in charge of providing shelter for unaccompanied immigrant children. But not a single one of that attorney`s clients had received one.
Reading again from the story: Lawyers maintain that when they have called the number, often no one answered. In some case when`s someone did pick up, that person refused to offer details of where children had been taken.
Another advocate telling "The Post": Either the government wasn`t thinking at all about how they were going to put these families back together or they decided they just didn`t care.
And tonight, we have word that the Department of Health and Human Services has created a, quote, unaccompanied children reunification task force, which may sound like a good idea but it also appears to be more evidence that the administration had literally no plan and no assigned staff in place beforehand when it made this new policy to undo the old policy and try to reunite some of these families split under President Trump`s orders.
I`m joined now by Efren Olivares, director of the Texas Civil Rights Project, Racial Justice and Economic Justice Program.
I appreciate you joining us.
This morning, you told people gathered outside one of these courthouses, this was in McAllen, Texas, that this is the first day in over a month that you`ve seen that there has not been charges for people on illegal entry separated from their children. What does that mean? What more can you tell us?
EFREN OLIVARES, DIRECTOR, TEXAS CIVIL RIGHTS PROJECT: So, it appears that there`s finally a change in the policy, that the government is not prosecuting criminally people who are traveling with their children and may not be separating them according to the executive order. So, that is a little bit of progress.
Now the creation of this task force as you point out corroborates the government was not prepared for this, did not have a plan to reunify these children, and only created this task force after 2,400 of them were separated from their parents. That`s outrageous.
MELBER: This is a task force created to solve a problem that was created by the Trump administration? Do I have that right?
OLIVARES: Absolutely. They`re cleaning up their own mess. And in the middle 2,400 children are caught.
MELBER: How many children does your organization -- and families overall, how many families is your organization working with?
OLIVARES: Three hundred eighty-one. Over 400 children.
MELBER: And so walk us through a little bit of how that works. We just detailed what sounds like the hurdles. But what are you doing to try to connect those families? A lot of people around the country have been looking for ways to get involved or wondering how this works.
OLIVARES: Yes. So we have been interviewing families, parents since May 24th at the federal courthouse here in McAllen who have been separated from their children. Some days, it would be 10 or 15. Other days, it would be 25. This past Tuesday, it was 34. Yesterday, it was 17 that were brought into the courtroom in shackles and handcuffs.
And then they were told they were not going to be pressing charges against them. So they were taken back. And today was the first time that there were no parents, as you said.
After we take their information, their children`s information, children`s names, date of birth, country of origin, we take that back. We systematize it in our database and then we work with other attorneys to try to locate parents, locate the children, try to find the parents and immigration attorney who can represent them in their immigration case, but potentially their asylum claim, and then in that process try to reunite them. Some cases that are priority like children with disabilities or a mom who told us that if she was not reunited with her daughter she was going to kill herself. We try to prioritize those cases.
We also call ORR when we`re trying to locate the children, talk ought ORR representatives, try to get information about the child, whether he or she is in a shelter or en route to a shelter or unfortunately in some cases not in the system.
It`s been an intense month and the universe of children and parents who have we`ve been working with has been growing every day. It appears that now it might shift a little. We are thinking and hoping that the focus is going to shift to reuniting these 2,400 children with their parents and also ensure that the administration carries out this new policy and in fact does not separate families and ultimately stopped detaining families.
OLIVARES: These are asylum seekers who have committed no crime by and large and detaining children indefinitely is clearly not the solution to this problem. The solution is to get rid of zero tolerance. That`s the root of the problem. And that`s what`s causing these family separations.
MELBER: Efren Olivares, director of the Racial and Economic Justice Program at the Texas Justice Project doing work a lot of people are interested in. Thanks for giving some of your time tonight.
At this point, if you`re watching you`ve probably heard the tape that was, of course, first published by "ProPublica" earlier this week. Powerful and shocking audio from inside a detention facility holding these kids who`ve been taken away from their parents. That would be difficult to listen to under normal circumstances. It`s even harder when you add in gaveling.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The gentleman will suspend.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For what reason, madam speaker?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The gentleman is in breach of quorum.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Cite the rule, madam speaker.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Rule 17 of the House that prohibits --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There`s no rule that says I can`t play sounds.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Rule 17 -- the gentleman will suspend.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why are you trying to prevent the American people from witnessing what it sounds like --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It prohibits the use of that device.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These are kids at a detention facility. Why do you not let the American people hear what they are saying?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The gentleman will suspend.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: The gentleman will suspend. That is your House of Representatives in action.
The gentleman in question is Democratic Congressman Ted Liu of California. He was playing that tape on the floor, this was today, the Republican running the chamber trying to silence it.
So, apparently, this is what would happen on the floor of Congress when you play that tape. But it`s not as if the White House is trying to keep a lid on what`s happening at the border. In fact, there are signs that some people there see it as a winning issue.
Take Stephen Miller. This is the leader of this policy in the White House on hard-line immigration crackdowns. He says to the "New York Times" that separating children from their parents was part of the president`s mission when it comes to immigration and one that can be turned into votes, saying, quote: All day long, the American people are going to side with the party that wants to secure the border, not by a little bit, not 55-45, 60-40, 70- 30, 80-20. I`m talking 90-10 on that.
Now, that kind of frank political calculus from a presidential adviser has made some Republicans nervous including in Congress. There`s a staffer there who says Miller led the president down a path that again ended in disaster. The Muslim ban and the immigration executive order are things that have activated both sides of the aisle and caused widespread pushback and disgust.
If there is anxiety over family separations among Republicans running for re-election in Congress -- well, that`s not shared by the head of this party. It was just this week at an event the president said the reason he takes the hard-line stance on immigration, the reason that he`s been tearing these kids out of their parents` arms under these specific orders, is because this kind of radicalism on immigration is what won him the election.
He said it works. He said it wins votes and given a chance to support the reform bills in Congress, today, the president says Republicans should stop working on reform altogether, they should stop, quote, wasting their time on it, until after the mid-terms and then wait for, yes, a red wave.
Now, that sounds like we have a president who even after this week and even after partly folding still wants to run on immigration. Now, what has been playing out so vividly on the border under that theory of the case is not an accident. It is the result of a policy and it has supporters who think this is politically beneficial and a president saying in public even after all this, even after the caving, that this is still somehow a winning campaign issue.
For more insights on this strange state of play we turn to Michael Beschloss, NBC News presidential historian.
As always, great to have you tonight.
MICHAEL BESCHLOSS, NBC NEWS PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Thanks, Ari.
MELBER: As you can tell us better than most, there is nothing new about strenuous political debates over immigration in the United States with very strong and sometimes ugly racial undertow. What do you see -- go ahead.
BESCHLOSS: I`m just agreeing with you. You are absolutely right. And you have to go back all the way to the 1840s. You know, Donald Trump makes this big point of saying he doesn`t read books, he doesn`t learn history. But he might find this interesting.
In the 1840s was begun, as you know, Ari, something called the Know Nothing Party. And their whole thing was anti-immigration. There were a lot of new immigrants, newcomers to America coming, in Irish and Germans, very Catholic in the 1840s and 19 -- and 1850s.
And this whole -- the party`s idea was that these people are taking your jobs away, you old Americans, and they are challenging the old white Protestant supremacy and they make big efforts to get in their way. One thing they wanted from Congress was to take 21 years for a newcomer to become a citizen.
And this thing was so powerful that by 1856, the ex-President Millard Fillmore ran as the candidate of the Know Nothing Party, third party candidate. He did better than any other third party presidential candidate in American history except for one.
MELBER: So walk us through what might be different here, which is on the record admitted punitive approach to children.
BESCHLOSS: That is something that we are seeing for the first time. We`ve been seeing a lot of traditions begun under the Trump administration and the obscene and vicious display that we saw this week is one of them.
And you have to assume that from what we`re hearing from the White House is Donald Trump is not getting an immigration bill that he promised during the campaign. There`s no wall. Mexico is not paying for it. He`s got midterms this year. He was talking about a red wave.
And so, you have to assume that this is a very cynical display. He figures that if he takes this hard-line stance on immigration that is so extreme that it winds up torturing little children, as we have seen this week, that it`s a way of demonstrating to his base that he`s serious about being tough on immigration and also on other things. This is a political ploy which makes it worst of all.
MELBER: We`ve also seen, as with the travel ban, all of this play out in real time, which is a bit scary if the same policy-making process was used for even more irreversible decisions, the use of heavy weaponry, the use of nuclear power. How does that compare to what other presidents have done where by and large no matter the party, no matter the ideology, there was a serious private process designed to limit collateral damage before you announce policies, let alone then reversing them days later?
BESCHLOSS: That`s what leaders do. That`s what a president who has an organization with people he relies on and gets the best advice, that`s what they do in American history. And the other thing you`ll see in modern presidents and most presidents in American history, Ari, is something called empathy. Most presidents would have seen those scenes the other day and however they emerge would have said I can`t be responsible for this, this has to stop.
Instead, we saw Donald Trump only pull back where there was criticism that was so overwhelming that he was bothered by that.
MELBER: I think that`s a striking point you make to end on. I mean, it`s called humanitarianism because it starts with seeing each other as human beings. Even if you say, well, I still have a view of what to be done about it. For that to be only processed as a PR or political matter was I think one of the saddest parts about what we`ve seen this week.
Michael Beschloss, NBC News historian --
MELBER: Yes, scary. Thank you, sir.
BESCHLOSS: Thank you. Nice to talk, Ari, as always.
MELBER: Great to see you, and I appreciate your time.
We do have a lot more on a busy Friday night. You may recall if you were watching just last night Rachel was asking for some help with photographic reporting. And I have the answer on that thanks to the team here. That evidence does exist. That`s up ahead.
Also, why Donald Trump may now have more reason to fear his former lawyer than ever before. That`s next.
MELBER: Here was the front page story in the "Washington Post" on June 3rd, 1973, above the fold. It was by the investigative duo Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward. Quote: Dean alleges Nixon knew of cover-up plan.
Now, that`s the kind of headline that scandalized the nation, even at a time when many Watergate headlines were shockers, because if true it meant there was a lawyer on the inside ready to turn, the kind of thing that could end a presidency, which it partly did because this man John Dean had knowledge almost no one else had, telling investigators Nixon had prior knowledge of payments used to buy the silence of Watergate conspirators and offers of executive clemency extended in his name and that Nixon was deeply involved in the cover-up.
This was all considered quite potent even though Dean had, quote, little or no documentary evidence to support his charges against the president and most of his allegations are based on his own recollection or purported conversations with Mr. Nixon. Wow.
I think three things jump out there. One, there`s no more dangerous person to flip than your lawyer.
Two, abuse of clemency powers can backfire. Has Donald Trump read "All the President`s Men?" OK, we probably know the answer to that. But maybe he`s seen the movie.
And three, the other thing that jumps out is how damaging Dean was as merely a witness, a person who could talk about what he said he saw. He was not armed with corroborating evidence. Imagine if he had tapes.
Well, that`s the intriguing possibility when it does come to Trump`s long- time lawyer Michael Cohen, now the subject of a federal criminal probe that has already seized many of his tapes. And tonight, we can report on some new clues that Cohen is considering the John Dean route. Some of this has been a while in the making.
For weeks, Cohen considering changing his legal team. He made that official Tuesday, tapping a former prosecutor from the same office in New York now investigating him. The next day, Cohen stepped down from a post he held at the RNC.
Now, you can do that quietly. It was weird the party kept him on this long. But a letter, a tweet could announce it.
Instead, that`s not what Cohen did. He used his resignation letter to blast Trump on a point of profound political weakness, the immigration crisis, a kind of public rebuke that would have once been unthinkable for such a loyal lawyer.
Now, are these clues are Cohen`s mindset? Are they warnings to Trump that Cohen could flip? The day after that, Wednesday, more heat around Cohen as we learned prosecutors had subpoenaed the publisher of "The Enquirer" looking for a paper trail showing that Cohen coordinated to pay a former "Playboy" model who said she had an affair with Trump and that they then basically would not let her publish the account according to "The Journal".
And the day after that, Thursday, we learned that Cohen helped turn the "National Enquirer" into kind of a secret Trump campaign oppo service. This one in the "Washington Post" reporting that "The Enquirer" did something no news outlet admits to, prescreening stories for Trump through Cohen. That is a lot.
Now, that drumbeat of pressure is the context for Cohen using Twitter to share a picture, a cameo with one of Trump`s celebrity enemies, Tom Arnold. He himself is on a mission to find rumored tapes of Donald Trump that show him in a negative light for a new show.
Now, if that`s what Tom Arnold`s after, it makes sense for him to be talking to Cohen, who according to Arnold has all the tapes. Now, Arnold also added: It`s on. I hope Trump sees this picture and it haunts his dreams.
Knowing his every move is being scrutinized and knowing what Tom Arnold is after, Michael Cohen did retweet that picture. We don`t know if it`s a message, because I can tell you that just in the last few minutes, Cohen then tweeted again, this time saying the following. We can put it up on the screen.
I appreciate the kind words, as a father, husband and friend. But this was a chance public encounter in a hotel lobby we are asked for a selfie, not spending the weekend together, did not discuss being on the show, nor did we discuss POTUS, with some hashtags after that.
To help explain it all, we turn to Emily Jane Fox. She`s a senior reporter for "Vanity Fair" author of the new book out this week "Born Trump" and a known conversation partner with Michael Cohen as well in more than chance encounters I should say.
Thank you for spending some time with us tonight. First, make sense of these twists and turns on Cohen today.
EMILY JANE FOX, SENIOR REPORTER, VANITY FAIR: I think that sometimes we all like to think that these are part of a calculated strategy, something that is well thought out or perhaps these are messages being sent to someone`s -- whether it`s the president or prosecutors. I think we have to step back and understand Michael Cohen is under a tremendous amount of pressure. He`s been spending hours upon hours a day with his lawyers finishing up the document -- culling through all the documents the government took from him.
And so, I think sometimes he`s just trying to get through the day and he`s not necessarily thinking about a long-term strategy. It`s sort of putting out every fire as they come up.
But I will say: this is coming to a different point in Michael Cohen`s life since his hotel room and office and home were searched by FBI agents. We`re coming to a point where document collection and going through the documents is over. He is switching over to a new attorney and he still has not from my reporting been talked to by the government or approached by the government.
And so, we`re beginning a new phase here. And it`s unclear how that new phase is going to work out.
MELBER: You`re talking about how the pressure`s on Michael Cohen all year are affecting him, which does go to his mindset as a potential witness or a potential cooperator. I don`t know if you`ve listened to the new Kanye West album but he talks about his troubles and basically says I`ve got dirt in my name, I`ve got white in my beard, I`ve got dead on my books, it`s been a real shaky year.
Is there that quality here, that Michael`s had a Kanye-type year and it`s all just building to the point he wants somehow to get out from under this?
FOX: I think that this has been a very long time coming for Michael Cohen. It started with the House and Senate investigations which was going through his documents.
When I met him for the first time for an interview last August, he was already exasperated. He already felt like he was a pawn in this game to try to get the president. Those are the words that he used. And so, this has gone on for almost another year and we are so far down the road. He is facing possible criminal charges.
He is exhausted and frustrated and very angry with the president and the president`s family. And so, we are at a point where he just wants the next phase to happen, whatever that next phase is. And I think that this is the worst part for anybody facing this situation, unsure of if they`re going to be charged, unsure if the government is going to reach out, unsure if this is the road he wants to go down, if he wants to cooperate, if he is going to be charged with anything.
MELBER: Right. Well, let`s get into the tapes because you know, when I practiced law people often ask why would somebody create material that would hurt them? I mean, Nixon used the taping system and it came back against him and these stories are known. We`ve seen that in other examples.
It seems to me that Michael Cohen thought that by collecting all these tapes it would protect him, that he would be able to use these strategically. Walk us through with your conversations with him how he might feel now that most of this material`s been seized and the very things that he gathered, Michael Avenatti said today that he hoarded, now seem to be in the feds` arms for whatever use they make of them and not all that helpful to him.
FOX: You know, I have to say, I don`t know what kind of tapes were collected. I do know that if anything was collected with the president recorded on it that will be considered a privileged document because the president was his client. So the government may not get to review that. And that`s why there`s this whole process of review for privileged material.
But I will say that the president would be aware of the fact that Michael Cohen has those recordings, if there are those recordings with the president because his attorneys were given any documents that were related to President Trump. And so, the government may not have their hands on them yet or may not ever get their hands on them, but the president sure knows what Michael Cohen has on him. And that is perhaps some explanation for some of the more erratic behavior we have seen in the last couple of weeks.
MELBER: Right. The only two people that know for certain what`s shared in that office are Donald Trump and Michael Cohen. But the feds now have anything that was saved. And we do know in the broad aggregate from the legal fight the vast majority of that material and Rachel`s been reporting on this, is in the feds` hands. Most of it has not been deemed privileged, which means whatever it is, we don`t know what`s in, it but the audio, the paperwork, et cetera, a lot of it is not privileged and therefore the investigation, which is fascinating.
Emily Jane Fox, a senior reporter who`s been all over this story for "Vanity Fair," we appreciate your time. I want to mention again for viewers, your book is out this week, "Born Trump," if people want to check that out.
We should also note, coming up tonight at 10:00 p.m. Eastern on MSNBC, Lawrence O`Donnell`s special guest is Tom Arnold and he`ll get his latest reaction to Michael Cohen`s gloss in that new tweet. The saga continues.
Now, up next I want to share an update. Rachel had asked and you delivered. There`s a hunt on for photographic evidence pertaining to a very important cabinet member when we come back.
Stay with us.
MELBER: Last night on the show, Rachel broke some news about Alex Azar, Trump`s secretary of health and human services, who is now suddenly responsible for all those kids who have been separated from their parents under Trump`s orders.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RACHEL MADDOW, TRMS HOST: As the number of kids taken away from their parents has reached critical mass, as the country has started to realize the reality and the scale of this policy, as his agency started to have to open their first new purpose-built facilities that they constructed specifically to hold kids apart from their parents, that first facility was opened by Alex Azar`s agency on Friday. Alex Azar spent the next day, Saturday, this past weekend, in New Hampshire attending his 30th college reunion.
Alex Azar was apparently class of 1988 at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Now, while the furor over these family separations reached a boiling point last weekend, Alex Azar, whose agency is literally scrambling to decide what to do with the health and human services for those kids, if you want to call it that, Alex was away from work out on the green at Dartmouth College.
MSNBC already reported that fact as we showed with you Rachel there, but no photographic evidence had emerged until now. This photo comes to the show from Devon Kurtz (ph), a current Dartmouth student and co-editor of the conservative paper on campus, "The Dartmouth Review." He`s on the right there. Devon spoke with the secretary. They were actually in the same fraternity.
Now, Devon says this picture was taken on Saturday afternoon. That`s within 24 hours of Mr. Azar`s department opening the tent city, first of its kind to house migrant children in Tornillo, Texas.
This is a story that has seized the national imagination with pictures. Everyone can see the impact of this policy.
Tonight adds one more picture so everyone can see the urgency and priorities of some Trump cabinet officials in charge of the impact of this policy. Our thanks to Devon for the photograph, and we`ll be right back.
MELBER: Now we turn to where politics meets fonts. And don`t worry, this will not be a debate about whether there`s any reason to type in the font comic sans. That`s too controversial even for us.
But tonight, we turn to sharp sans display number 1. This is a font that draws on an older artsy look from the 1960`s called avant-garde. And the people who create fonts were inspired by a magazine with that look and the designer who created its logo.
So, this font was a spinoff. And even if you`re not interested in fonts, this one may be familiar because just like a slogan or a logo or a color scheme, presidential campaigns pick official fonts.
In 2016, the Clinton campaign tapped sharp sans display number 1 for her campaign font. You see it there. You can see it on her bus or the plane. Of course, on the text-rich campaign chum like bumper stickers and the yard signs.
Don`t forget of course the t-shirts and the mugs and those chillery Clinton beer cozies. They`re on the brochures and the ads as well. And there it was even floating next to President Obama`s head when he endorsed Hillary for president.
Now, most people never think about it because most people have other things to think about. But a consistent font on a campaign is just look a consistent look for a corporate brand. You expect all Coke products to have that same look. It makes it official. And it cues your audience and your target audience that whatever you`re peddling is legit.
Corporations take their brands very seriously. They even pursue fraud and trademark infringement cases because if somebody is stealing your look or your font, they`re not just stealing consumers. They can undermine the entire brand in front of the world.
So, with that concept in mind, take a look at this fake ad shared on Twitter ahead of the 2016 election. It`s purported to be a Clinton ad with, of course, her logo and, as you can imagine, her font. To try to presumably make people think here you go, this is trusted information from Hillary.
But in that font, the ad actually says: save time, avoid the line, vote from home. Text Hillary with the number and we`ll make history together.
Now, of course that whole thing is false. And you can`t vote from home by text. But not everyone necessarily knows that.
Some people are voting for the first time. Some people are voting without a lot of civic education. Some people have maybe heard about advancements in technology and if they fall into this fraud trap meaning they say oh, if I`m getting a message, an ad directly from Hillary Clinton in her voice and she`s addressing them they might be more likely to think there is a new option to text from home.
Why would Hillary lie about that? Of course, she didn`t. Someone effectively lied through her brand. And this is a fake ad designed to prey on people to literally suppress their vote.
The whole thing is newly exposed right now because House Democrats have just released these fake messages which came from the 2016 election, ads designed to suppress specifically Clinton voters tricking them into not actually voting.
Now, this isn`t just a prank. This isn`t just a problem over in some corner of the Internet. This is part of the new face of voter suppression, which can be a felony, by the way. This is where innovation meets some very old, very dark tactics that we know of in American politics.
And we`re learning tonight there were many ads like this. They said things like don`t bother lining up on Election Day, text your vote for Clinton on November 8th. You can even vote early via text. Standard carrier rates apply.
Or as you get even more out there, vote by hashtag. Type the word Hillary, post it to twitter or Facebook using the hashtag presidential election to cast your vote.
And here are smiling people with their cell phones and their font doing it. Voting from home or from school or from work. There were even a bunch of these made in Spanish in that font to reach that audience. And there were fake celebrity endorsements as well.
This took a lot of work. Here`s one with a fake list of documents you would need falsely claiming you have to bring all of them to be allowed to vote in Illinois. Don`t have your naturalization certificate and all these other things? Then don`t show up to vote.
Now, again, to be clear, all of this is false. These are the tricks of voter suppression. Who did it? We know about the ads but not their origins.
The lawmakers who released all these ads in the name of transparency did not state the sourcing. We do know some were shared by automated bots and Russian information campaigns have been using.
Now, the point here is not whether these efforts themselves were really successful or totally negligible. The point`s not whether they impacted the outcome of the 2016 race. That`s actually a question that some people used to shut down accountability for what happened in 2016, more than that question is used to enlighten.
The point is there are major and sophisticated and ongoing attempts to undermine our democracy, to violate your right to vote. And they must be exposed. They must be stopped. And we need a government under enough pressure to do something about it if we`re serious about maintaining a healthy civic society.
Now, as is often the case these days, that`s not all. This week we are also learning more about spy games that go even beyond the internet, that go offline in the 2016 campaign. That story is next. Stay with us.
MELBER: When we think about Russian interference in this 2016 election, when we talk about the active measures against our democracy, we`re often talking about basically three components.
You can think of the first as the Russian hacking, the dissemination of those stolen campaign e-mails. We remember that. Number two, the Russian attempts to actually hack into state election systems. And then the third is what we were actually just touching on -- the influence operations to target Americans on social media sites to disrupt our discussions that we thought we were having with each other.
But then there`s another mysterious thing that also was happening in 2016 that we`re still learning about and had to do with Russian diplomats inside this country. "Politico" reporting it this way, this was a story actually first published in the summer of 2017. These diplomats widely assumed to be intelligence operatives would eventually turn up in odd places often in middle of nowhere USA.
One found on a beach. Another turned up wandering in the middle of the desert. Both seemed to be lingering where underground fiber optic cables tend to run. Their whereabouts led intelligence officials to conclude the Kremlin is waging a quiet effort to map the U.S. telecommunications infrastructure, perhaps preparing for an opportunity to disrupt it.
Nobody knew exactly what to make of that report at that time. This issue has been kind of dormant really until this spring. That is when the U.S. officially accused Russia of not only the things we just mentioned, but also of targeting power plants, water and electrical grids during the campaign and ongoing during the Trump presidency.
Now, those Russian diplomats wandering around the U.S. and showing up in strange places, that remained a mystery until this week, resurfacing, and this is something, during a little noticed exchange at a Senate hearing on Russian interference.
Victoria Nuland, the top diplomat in the Obama administration, testifying before the intelligence committee. She asked about those wandering Russians by Maine Republican Senator Susan Collins.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: Ambassador Nuland, in 2016, the FBI was complaining to this committee that Russian diplomats in the United States were not following the established rules about travel and they were not notifying the State Department, and it seemed that they were traveling to odd locations on short notice.
Were you aware at the State Department of the FBI`s concerns?
VICTORIA NULAND, FORMER ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE: Yes, Senator. We had significant conversations with the FBI about their concerns and took some actions and prepared others as early as July and August of 2016 with regard to their concerns.
COLLINS: Do you think that that was -- that travel was related to the Russian active measures against our electoral system?
NULAND: I do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: I do, under oath.
So those Russian diplomats wandering in the desert, here Obama`s top diplomat saying they were part of this Russian active measure effort. What were they trying to do? Did any of this work? And will we ever find out?
It`s clearly not over. I am joined by Michael McFaul, former U.S. ambassador to Russia during the Obama administration.
Thanks for being here.
MICHAEL MCFAUL, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO RUSSIA: Sure, Ari, thanks for having me.
MELBER: What does it mean that Ms. Nuland is confirming this now? And I guess I don`t have to ask you whether you as a diplomat did this kind of thing when you were abroad.
MCFAUL: Well, I think it`s significant that Victoria she did confirm it, you`re absolutely right about that. And one shouldn`t really be surprised that Russian diplomats are, you know, interacting in this way. SIGINT and HUMINT, right, human intelligence and signals intelligence intertwine and they support each other in foreign operations like the Russians were doing in our country.
That she said it on the record, though, surprised me. I`ve got to tell you honestly.
MELBER: Yes. Because -- because why?
MCFAUL: Because this is usually very classified information.
MCFAUL: I know all kinds of things that I`m not going to say to you right now about what Russians have done in this country because it`s usually classified. And, by the way, that`s what`s -- that`s one of the biggest problems with getting Americans to be more concerned about these things is we don`t talk about them in the open.
MELBER: Ambassador, I know things that I don`t talk about to you, they`re just not as important or classified as all the things you don`t tell us.
I mean, what do you say to people who say -- well, are we just signed onto the idea that with hostile countries that we have relations with, which can be a good thing, I mean, people believe in diplomacy, that some of those people are just going to be spies? Or does this track with something you and Rachel and many people have discussed as well earlier, which is that Russia took it farther, they also resorted to physical violence against some of our people in their territory, that this is far beyond what might be baked into the normal system?
MCFAUL: Well, from my point of view, it`s beyond normal procedures. In the last several years, both inside Russia against diplomats, including people like me when I was ambassador, but more importantly to me what they have done inside our country goes well beyond. I want to be clear about that. It`s not standard operating procedure.
The hard part about cyber weapons and intelligence with respect to cyber stuff is different from nuclear weapons. When we discovered Soviet nuclear weapons here and there, including most scarily during the Cuban missile crisis, we could tell the American people about the threat and then take actions to deter it. What`s hard about these cyber activities is you don`t see it, you don`t witness it, we don`t want to talk about it because we don`t want to scare the American people.
If you knew all the things I did, you would be more nervous about what Russia and other countries could do to our infrastructure, and that`s what`s hard about getting people animated enough about the threat but without getting us into some scary thing that could undermine the stock market, for instance, if people knew all the things that were happening out there on our networks.
MELBER: So, on a serious note, I appreciate you giving us some context. On a lighter note, I guess I`m glad I`m not inside your brain, because it would be easier to go to sleep on this Friday night.
Ambassador Michael McFaul, always appreciate your time, sir.
MCFAUL: Thanks for having me.
MELBER: And we have more ahead tonight. Stay with us.
MELBER: MSNBC`s Jacob Soboroff was one of the first reporters covering this forcible separation of children and babies from their patients at the border. He spent months reporting for us from the border. He`s one of the few reporters who also got inside those Texas detention centers and he has a special report on all of this new airing this weekend on "NBC Dateline".
Jacob joins me now.
What can you tell us, sir?
JACOB SOBOROFF, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Ari, look, it was one of the most harrowing experiences of my entire life. Honestly, one of the most disgusting, despicable things I`ve ever seen down there in Brownsville, but also in McAllen in that detention center where those little kids were sitting in cages as a direct result of the Trump administration policy.
And our special this weekend, you know, takes the last six days and expands them out over the course frankly of the last 20-plus years of failed border policy in the United States spanning Democratic and Republican administrations that`s culminated in a place where Donald Trump is putting little children in detention centers and stealing them away from their parents.
MELBER: What is the gap in your view, having looked at the human toll, between reasonably secure borders, which a lot of people want, and what is currently being called zero tolerance enforcement?
SOBOROFF: The way that Donald Trump describes what`s happening down on the border in Washington, D.C., is just about as far removed from reality as it could possibly be. There is no crisis on the border. It`s about as safe as it can get on the American side. Those are some of the safest cities in the United States of America, despite the violence that`s on the other side.
If you took the time to pick up his own DEA reports and read a couple of pages of them, he`d learn this spillover violence doesn`t happen, drugs come through legal ports of entry and young people who he accuses of being MS-13 members are anything but. And at the end of the day, he`s tearing apart the fabric of American society down there on the border.
MELBER: I appreciate your reporting, sir, and I also appreciate your candor because you are relaying the facts and the stories as you`re seeing them and they certainly are, as you put it, severe and need to be told.
So, Jacob Soboroff, thank you for spending a little time with us tonight.
SOBOROFF: Thanks, Ari.
MELBER: For those of you who want to see this, and this is why we wanted to plug this, much more of Jacob`s reporting is in this new "Dateline" special, "The Dividing Line", Sunday night at 7:00 p.m. Eastern/6:00 p.m. Central on your local NBC station.
My thanks to Jacob and the entire team here. Rachel will be back on Monday, so note that.
I also can tell you if you want to find "THE BEAT`, that`s Monday at 6:00 p.m. Eastern. We`ve got special guests reporting from the border and Sinbad.
Now, it`s time now 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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