Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW Date: July 17, 2018 Guest: Chris Murphy
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. Happy to have you with us.
Last night at this time, we were reporting on a new criminal complaint had just been filed in federal court in Washington, D.C. against Russian citizen who has now been arrested in this country. She is accused of acting secretly in this country as an agent of the Russian government. So last night when we got on the air, we were unable to tell you that it was a criminal complaint filed against this woman, Maria Butina.
As of right now, it is not just a criminal complaint anymore. Now, it is an indictment. A grand jury convened by the U.S. attorney, so not the special counsel`s office, not Robert Mueller but the straight-up normal U.S. attorney in Washington, D.C. handed down this indictment late today, accusing Maria Butina of felony conspiracy.
Now, according to this newly filed indictment, quote, the objects of the conspiracy were to act in the United States as an agent of a foreign government, specifically the Russian Federation, to exploit personal connections with U.S. persons having influence on American politics in an effort to advance the interests of the Russian Federation and to infiltrate organizations active in American politics in an effort to advance the interests of the Russian Federation.
The indictment then lays out the manner and means of the conspiracy. Among the manner and means of the conspiracy with which she is now officially charged, prosecutors say that Butina, quote, attempted to establish unofficial lines of communications with U.S. politicians and political organizations for the purpose of advancing the interests of the Russian federation.
Again, this is now an indictment duly sworn and signed by Jesse Liu, who is the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia.
The reason this case is so important to the overall story arc of what`s happening to us as a country and what has happened with the Russia scandal is that this Butina indictment is really a collusion indictment. It`s about collusion between as yet unnamed Americans and agents of the Russian government. At least one who was here personally on U.S. soil, acting inside this country to influence U.S. politics, specifically around the 2016 presidential election.
Now, there has been some reporting thus far, some strong reporting on who the unnamed U.S. persons are who are cited in this indictment effectively as unindicted co-conspirators in this new case involving this alleged Russian spy.
I would caution you, though, that you don`t need to go too far down the road in terms of speculating who might be involved in this case, which Americans might be in trouble because of this case, which Americans might be implicated in this collusion, conspiracy. I would just caution that you don`t necessarily need to go too far down the road to speculating because unlike all the other Russian who have been indicted thus far, who have been criminally charged by the special counsel`s office thus far and by the national security division of the Justice Department, unlike all the other Russians we have seen charged thus far in the scandal, this one Maria Butina is in custody. She is in jail tonight. And so, there is going to be a trial in her case.
What we know about the timing here thus far is interesting. Apparently, federal investigators had been looking into her for quite some time. We know that in part because her lawyer says that federal agencies served search warrant related to her a few months ago.
According to "The Washington Post" today, something happened within the last few days that led the FBI to suddenly become concerned that this woman might flee the country. You`ll recall that on Friday, the Justice Department announced the indictment of 12 Russian intelligence officer as part of the Mueller investigation. We don`t know if that was what is maybe spooked Maria Butina to make the FBI start worrying that she might leave country.
But that indictment was on Friday. The arrest warrant for her was issued under seal on Saturday. That`s when the criminal complaint and an FBI affidavit supporting that complaint weren`t filed under seal on Saturday. Then she was arrested on Sunday.
As President Trump was heading to Helsinki to meet with Vladimir Putin, she was arrested. And then hours after that summit is when this case against Maria Butina was first unsealed. So, that`s the timing, indictment of those other Russians, FBI gets worried she might flee. They went to court, filed under seal the criminal complaint affidavit why they wanted to arrest her, arrested her the next day. Then the summit happens. Then they unseal she`s been arrested.
Now, I should also tell you we have just obtained tonight the transcript of the initial court hearing that Maria Butina had yesterday in Washington before anybody knew that she had been arrested and that she would be charged. And actually, from the transcript, you actually can see how the case gets unsealed. This is from the transcript.
The judge says, quote: Good afternoon. Courtroom deputy, quote, this is magistrate case year 2018, 073-M, United States of America versus Maria Butina. Eric Kenderson and William Mackie for the government meaning the prosecutors. Robert Driscoll for the defense.
The deputy says this is an initial appearance and return on an arrest warrant in this case is currently sealed. Then the judge says, good afternoon. Mr. Kenderson says, good afternoon, your honor.
The judge says, Mr. Kenderson, again is the prosecutor, the court was informed before the case was called, indeed before the court took the bench, before I sat down as the judge, the court was informed that the United States intended to move to move to unseal this matter. I will hear from you now.
And the prosecutor says yes, your honor. The government does move to unseal this case, including the complaint and related documents. The judge says, thank you very much, Mr. Kenderson. That explosion will be granted.
So, at that moment, the case is unsealed. This is early yesterday afternoon. That`s the first moment that we got any publicly facing information that this had happened. Then the courtroom deputy says, Ms. Butina, please stand and raise your right-hand. She does that, the transcript notes, whereupon Maria Butina was duly sworn.
And the judge says to Ms. Butina, quote, now, good afternoon, will you please state your full name for the record. Butina says, Maria Butina. The court says, thank you, you may be seated.
And a judge says to Butina`s lawyer, quote, Mr. Driscoll, before we begin, may I address you please to inquire whether or not Ms. Butina requires an interpreter. I would like for you to address that, please. Thank you.
Her defense lawyer, Mr. Driscoll says: Good afternoon, your honor. I think for this proceeding she will be fine without an interpreter. She`s done other testimonial under oath events in English and successfully completed them. So, I think for this proceeding, that will be fine.
Then the judge says, very well.
Now, the other testimonial under oath events that Maria Butina has already done in English we would soon learn included congressional testimony that happened behind closed doors we didn`t know about before all this was unsealed. So, her lawyer then is saying here that are that previous experience of giving testimony under oath proves she understands and speaks enough English to get by without an interpreter in court. The judge responds by then going on at length advising Maria Butina of her rights, being assured she doesn`t need a translator, the judge is like OK, let`s go ahead then.
The prosecutors then request that a detention hearing happen her case on Wednesday, tomorrow. Everybody agrees to that. But then Butina`s defense lawyer complains to the judge at some length about the fact his client got arrested on Sunday, she`s being held in jail in Washington, D.C. and the lawyer clearly fees that prosecutors moved so quickly here that he and his client were really blindsided.
So, back to the transcript. The judge, quote, Mr. Driscoll, do you wish to be heard with respect to the government`s motion for a detention hearing?
Mr. Driscoll, yes, your honor. Thank you. Miss Butina is a 29-year-old Russian national with no interaction with the criminal justice system at all. She just graduated from American University with a masters in international relations in May with a 4.0gpa.
The government I think would contend she`s a flight risk but she has been publicly essentially in the media accused of being an agent for the government of Russia for the last nine months and she has not fled. She testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee in closed session which was not public until today. That was several months ago. She did not flee. She cooperated with that request.
She had her house searched in April by the FBI with 15 agents going through everything she had. She did not flee.
And why -- excuse me, and we have been offering to the government -- excuse me -- and we have been offering to cooperate with the government the entire time and have been met with silence, followed by an arrest on Sunday, leaving Miss Butina in central cellblock overnight last night.
So, I think she`s not a flight risk. She`s certainly not a danger to the community and there`s got to be conditions of release short of detention that would work for her. We have been trying to work something out unsuccessfully with the government who seems intent on pressing forward with incarceration notwithstanding you know, a pretty weak case. Thank you, your honor.
Whereupon the judge somewhat calmly announces in response, yes, Miss Butina will be held without bond.
So they will fight this out, the specific matter whether she has to be held in jail in D.C. They will fight this out in more detail tomorrow in federal court in Washington, D.C. I should tell you at the very end of this court hearing, there was some private communication that wasn`t transcribed where the prosecutor and defense lawyer were both allowed to approach the judge without a transcript of those remarks being made public. So, we don`t know what that was. At some point in the future, that will probably become unsealed.
But as of yet, I think we`re the only people that have got that transcript, and that`s all we`ve gotten. That`s the Maria Butina case. Tomorrow should be very interesting.
Also a big turn today in the criminal case regarding the president`s campaign chairman, Paul Manafort. Two big developments. We knew last night that uncharacteristically, the judge in Paul Manafort`s case had delayed a big hearing for Manafort that was due to take place in court today. The judge delayed that until next week.
And that was interesting for a couple of reasons. One was that it is uncharacteristic. This is a judge who doesn`t like delays of any kind. So, him delaying a big hearing in this case raised some eyebrows as to whether or not that might mean something was materially changing in Manafort`s case.
We don`t know why the judge issued that delay. It`s totally possible that he has a toothache or his dog needs to be shaved or something we don`t know. But that delay is not in -- it`s out of character for that judge, that judge is what`s considered to be a rocket docket judge. So, a delay being granted by him was something that nobody was expecting.
We`ll find out more presumably on Monday as to why that delay happened if we ever find out at all. But now today, there have been two more big developments. One is that same judge, the judge hearing the Manafort`s case, rejected Manafort`s request to move his trial out of Alexandria in the D.C. suburbs and move it instead to rural Virginia to a venue that his lawyer said might provide a more favorable jury pool for his case. That issue of moving the trial is one of the matters we thought was delaying considering until next week.
But the judge today put out an order that said no, Paul Manafort, you`re not having your trial moved. You`re going to be heard right here in my courtroom. That`s over. That was a surprise.
The other surprising development in Manafort`s case today was when prosecutors filed a notification to the judge that they may call in the Manafort case as many as five witnesses who are people who have not previously been named in any of the indictments. Prosecutors said in this filing today they are not people who have even been publicly described as having anything to do with this case, but prosecutors now say that they may call any or all of these five witnesses and they`re notifying the court that those five witnesses have been granted immunity in exchange for their testimony.
Oh really? We`re going to have some expert help figuring out exactly what that means in just a couple of minutes. But no, we did to the note that was coming before it happened today and yes, I am intrigued. Unless there are unforeseen delays or changes, Paul Manafort`s trial will start a week from tomorrow.
The legal side of the Russia scandal is chugging ahead and fast in lots of different courtrooms now. We`re going to see the substantial hearing in the Maria Butina collusion case including her in the courtroom tomorrow in federal court in D.C. as I say, a week from tomorrow in federal court in Virginia, the Paul Manafort trial will start there. That is honestly likely to be a blockbuster trial.
Within the last few days, the special master overseeing evidence that was seized by search warrant from the president`s personal attorney, Michael Cohen, that special master notified the court several hundred thousand more documents have been reviewed to make sure they`re not covered by attorney/client privilege. They have been cleared to be handed over to prosecutors. Now that the evidenced of wrangling sort of appears to be done in the Michael Cohen case, we are simply awaiting the day when government decides whether they`re going to use these millions of items of documents that were seized from Michael Cohen to be bring criminal charges against him, at which point we will learn how Michael Cohen is going to respond, whether he`s going to plead not guilty and night fight those charges or whether he might start working with prosecutors instead.
All happening right now. Dog days of summer, my butt. It is all happening right now.
And it is all now happening in a new atmosphere of crisis in American politics that has been create the by the president`s behavior with the Russian president yesterday. I know you`ve absorbed some of national freak out reaction to what happened yesterday in Finland, but you should just check out some of the headlines today.
The Newseum at their website collates front pages from around the country. So, even if you`ve seen the big national headlines like "The New York Times", Trump with Putin attacks 2016 intelligence, that was their front page today, you might have seen "The Boston Globe", Trump lets Putin deny meddling.
You should also see regional papers from around the country. This is the "Star Ledger" in New Jersey, Trump stands by Putin`s side. This is "The Hartford Courant": A win for Russia. This is "The Anchorage Daily News" in Alaska. Trump hands Putin diplomatic win.
Look at the "Chicago Tribune" headline. Like a knife through the ribs. Trump supports Russia on Mueller investigation.
Here`s the "Houston Chronicle: Trump sides with Putin, casts doubt on U.S. intelligence. Here`s "The Miami Herald," Trump questions U.S. intelligence, not Putin. Here`s a paper from Idaho, "The Moscow Pullman Daily News" from Idaho: Trump embraces long time U.S. foe Putin, doubts own intelligence. This is from Iowa City, "The Press Citizen" newspaper in Iowa: Praising Putin. Here`s Canton, Ohio, "The Canton Repository", a one- word headline: Treasonous.
So, we`ve got three branches of government and the fourth estate. The behavior by one of those barrages of government, the executive, behavior by the president has shaken the nation in a way that is reflected in that big long list of headlines from the fourth estate. People are freaking out because of his behavior. That leaves two other branches, the judiciary and legislature.
In terms of the judiciary, full steam ahead. The criminal and counterintelligence hard-core investigation of the Russian attack and the question of whether or not Americans were come police nit that, that is proceeding great guns right now. That leaves one other branch of government. That leaves the much beleaguered unloved legislature of the United States, the U.S. Congress, which is now trying to find itself, trying to find its own role, trying to find its way forward in what is now widely acknowledged to be a national security crisis in this country, surrounding the question of the president`s basic loyalties.
It`s not necessarily going the way you might think in Congress right now. Today in Congress, the Judiciary Committee in the House led by Republicans like all the committees, they were holding a hearing on social media filtering when the top Democrat on that committee, Congressman Jerry Nadler, basically pulled the emergency brake and tried to reroute that hearing in a different direction.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JERROLD NADLER (D-NY), RANKING MEMBER, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Mr. Chairman, last Friday, special counsel Robert Mueller indicted 12 Russian nationals for hacking into the Democratic National Committee, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and several state election systems. This indictment is a remarkable piece of forensic work.
Mr. Chairman, this latest indictment can surely be seen as the equivalent of the Phoenix memo about 9/11. It is a warning. We must heed it.
Yesterday in Helsinki, President Trump says he does not believe it. He sided with Vladimir Putin over his own intelligence community. This is a catastrophe in the making.
If we do not take action, the American people may not trust the outcome of the next election. This is a national emergency and our silence is unacceptable. Our nation is under attack. Accordingly, under committee rule 3B and House rule 11G2A, I move that the committee do now go into executive session for purposes of discussing the evidence in our possession that speaks directly to the special counsel`s indictment and to the president`s apparent submission to the Russian government.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The evidence in our possession. Let`s go into executive session to discuss the evidence in our possession. I don`t know what evidence the House Judiciary Committee has in its possession that speaks directly to the special counsel`s indictment about the Russian government hacking into the Democratic Party to influence the presidential election. I don`t know what evidence the Judiciary Committee has in its possession that speaks directly to the president`s submission to the Russian government.
But that`s the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee trying to halt their existing hearing today, basically declaring an emergency and trying to force that committee to go into executive session to consider that evidence that he says they have, and to start dealing with those questions.
Now, naturally, the Republicans did not go for it. But you know, for all of the statements of concern and sadness and worry and disagreement that we got from Republican members of Congress yesterday in response to the president`s behavior, moves like this from Congressman Nadler and from some other Democrats and now even every some Republicans are actually pointing a new way forward. They`re actually pointing Congress toward the opportunity to actually do something if they desire to. I know it`s a crazy idea. But conceivably they could.
In a national security crisis, we look to the president for leadership. When the national security crisis is the president, we need to look somewhere else for leadership. The other elected leadership we`ve got in this country federally is in Congress. And what`s starting to happen now is Congress is starting to get an idea of some spec things it might be able to do.
You saw that from Congressman Nadler there. Today, Senator Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire said that the Foreign Relations Committee where she`s a member should convene a hearing for them to receive testimony from the American interpreter who was present in the room when President Trump met privately with President Putin, with no other U.S. officials present.
Well, technically, that American translator is kind of a U.S. official. She works for the government. So, Senator Shaheen now says that she wants to hear testimony. The Foreign Relations Committee should get testimony from that translator because that is the only way that we as a nation can determine what may have specifically been discussed between Trump and Putin, what may have been agreed to on the United States` behalf in that meeting.
That became a particularly urgent concern this afternoon when the Russian government put out a statement in state media announcing that the Russian military was eager to start implementing the new plans for Syria that were agreed to yesterday by President Trump and President Putin at their summit. What new plans for Syria?
There was no public announcement of any new plan for Syria. There was no discussion about some new agreement between the U.S. and Russia on Syria. Nothing that was described by other U.S. officials or described publicly by other president. But now, today, according to Russian government, there was some new plan agreed to on Syria and the Russian military is ready to get to work on it with our military.
OK. How are we going to find out what that plan is? If not from I guess the translator who was the only other American sitting there while President Trump and Putin had their little turn on the tire swing together yesterday.
In the wake of the national freak-out, in the wake of the national security crisis caused by the president`s performance before the Russian president yesterday, Democrats also suggested today that one thing Congress could do is simply increase funding to the states so the states can work own their election security for the midterms.
Director of national intelligence on Friday, Dan Coats, gave a speech in which he said the warning lights are blinking red the way they were before 9/11. He said, quote, today, the digital infrastructure that serves this country is literally under attack. These agents are persistent. They are pervasive. They are meant to undermine America`s democracy.
The warning signs are there. The system is blinking. It is why I believe we are at a critical point.
In the face of those kinds of warnings, even from the president`s own appointed national intelligence director, the Trump White House two months ago did fire the top cyber security official at the National Security Council. As "The New York Times" reported when the cyber security czar had his job eliminated by the Trump administration in May, quote, the cyber security experts and members of Congress said they were mystified by the move.
Well, if mystified members of Congress don`t understand why that happened, Congress could ask. If Congress wants to now do something in the face of documented Russian attacks on our election, the intelligence community`s hair on fire assertions those attacks are continuing, the president`s public explicable denial of those attacks and the president publicly siding with Russia against his own government and his own country on these issues specifically, Congress could ask, right? Congress has the option to hold hearings if they were all so mystified, they could hold hearings on why the top cyber security official at the White House was fired months before the midterm elections.
He`s not only fired. His job was eliminated and he was not replaced. Congress has options.
Our elected officials have plenty of practical things they could do right now today, to pick up the slack on this is a national security matter, to try to protect the country, to try to figure out the extent of what has been done by Russia and their confederates while we`re still in the midst of this attack. There`s stuff to do, plenty of stuff to do. It`s not even hard to do.
Hold on. A quick very practical, totally doable to-do list, next.
MADDOW: In March, the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI issued a joint alert this March 2018, announcing that Russian government cyber actors were targeting critical infrastructure in the U.S. This wasn`t about Russia attacking our elections and political parties. This alert from March was that the Russian government was using its hackers to target America`s energy sector or, quote, commercial facilities and our nuclear sector.
How about Congress hold hearings to investigate that? That seems like a serious thing and that seems like something Congress could do right now if they were so inclined, if they wanted to find a way out of this national security crisis we find ourselves in right now.
There`s a whole bunch of super practical, super specific stuff Congress could do if they`re looking for ideas. Here`s another idea free for nothing. Last month in Singapore, President Trump surprised everyone by announcing he had agreed to cancel joint U.S. military exercises between the U.S. military and our allies in South Korea.
Now, this is not a concession that he traded North Korea. It`s not like he got something from North Korea for that. This is something at the unilaterally offered.
We later learned not only had the president not consulted South Korea about the fact that he was going to make that announcement, he hadn`t consulted the U.S. military about that before he made that announcement. We know from "Wall Street Journal" reporting several months ago that canceling of the U.S. military exercises with South Korea is something that President Trump was asked to do by another world leader. According to "The Wall Street Journal," Vladimir Putin asked President Trump to cancel those joint exercises last year in a one-on-one phone conversation.
How about Congress holding hearings on that massive policy change and its national security implications and how that policy change came about? Who was consulted on it? How was the president advised? Where did that idea come from?
Several days before that announcement from President Trump, the president again surprised everyone with his announcement that it`s the new position of the U.S. government that the G-7 should become the G-8 again. They should invite Russia to be part of that group again. Never mind all the reasons why Russia was kicked out in the first place. Russia should be back in that international alliance now.
That is something that would obviously suit Russia very well, but apparently, again, there`s no indication that anybody else in the U.S. government was part of that decision, or was consulted about it or even had notice from the president that he was about to making that radical U-turn in U.S. policy and announce it publicly. And that`s a radical change of an important U.S. policy.
How about holding congressional hearings where that policy change came from? Right? Where did the president get that idea? How were other foreign policy and national security officials in our government involved in that shock announcement and if they weren`t, why not?
If Congress is feeling up to it, they might consider holding a hearing why senior White House official Jared Kushner took a meeting during the presidential transition with the head of a sanctioned Russian bank who personally has a Russian intelligence background. The White House and that bank have given conflicting explanations why that meeting happened so we don`t really know why that meeting happened. That was a soon to be White House senior official meeting with a sanctioned Russian entity and we don`t know why. How about a hearing on that?
I mean, yesterday, literally on the same day the criminal complaint was unsealed against a Russian citizen who`s accused of using the NRA as a conduit to influence U.S. political leaders on behalf Russia, literally on that same day, the Treasury Department and the Trump administration announced new rules that would allow the NRA to stop disclosing its donors to the IRS, right?
Amid these red hot concerns and what appears to be open federal investigations into whether the NRA might have been used as a conduit for Russian influence, but potentially as a conduit for Russian money into the presidential election, on that same day we learned that a Russian spy was being criminally accused of having pulled that off. That`s the day the Treasury Department announces, no, no, we know longer need to have any sort of window into what money is flowing through the NRA and where it came from.
I mean, if Congress was looking for something constructive to do here instead of sending sad tweets, they could set about stopping the treasury from making that change, at least not until we are clear on what`s going on here, right?
If they`re too scared to investigate anything directly related to the Trump administration, maybe Congress could just be persuaded to investigate themselves a little bit in this scandal. I mean, in the indictment from Friday, all those Russian military officers indicted, prosecutors alleged that a candidate for U.S. Congress solicited and received stolen hacked information from Russian military intelligence about his or her opponent in that congressional election.
Reasonably speaking, you might think that the House Ethics complete could look into a charge like that, especially once it`s included in an unsealed federal criminal indictment, right? The Justice Department is effectively saying that hacked information presumably from the Democratic Campaign Committee, was stolen by Russia and then used in a congressional campaign because as stolen information, it was solicited by a person who was running in the general election for a seat in the U.S. Congress.
Reasonably peeking, you might think that the Ethics Committee in Congress could hold a hearing or two whether any serving member of Congress solicited that stolen information from Russian military intelligence and thereby knowingly benefited from that stolen information to secure their own election. I mean, that`s a person who was in the general election who either won that seat or lost it. If that`s a sitting member of Congress, shouldn`t the ethics committee looking into that?
Whether or not that person knew it was Russian military intelligence, he or she was soliciting the information from, soliciting stolen information to try to win your election, that`s illegal, right? Pick one. All of these things are specific, doable, totally within Congress`s comfortable wheel house. Any of these could be put in motion at any time.
I mean, you and I may occasionally feel helpless as citizens here in the midst of this crisis. But if you`re in Congress, boy, there`s a lot of stuff you could do. Take your pick.
I mean, here`s another example. One thing Congress has been willing to acts on in the Trump era is enforcing and levying new sanctions against Russia, right, even when the Trump administration objects to that.
Well, here`s one: last year, Michael Isikoff reported at Yahoo News with multiple on the record named sources that basically in the first days of the Trump administration, they tried to unilaterally get rid of Russia sanctions. Quote: Top Trump administration officials almost as soon as they took office tasked State Department staffers with developing proposals for the lifting of economic sanctions, the return of diplomatic compounds and other steps to relieve tensions with Moscow.
It was all done in the earliest days of the Trump administration unbeknownst to the public. Congress, even this Congress reportedly does care about sanctions on Russia. How about a hearing on what happened there with the other echelons of the Trump administration, the brand-new White House, brand-newly arrived in Washington ordering their first staffers at the State Department to figure out how to get rid of those sanctions on Russia unbeknownst to the public? How about a hearing on that?
Congress cares about sanctions. Do you care about trying to undermine sanctions?
I mean, there`s stuff to do. We are now the beetles on our backs moving our legs with no way to flip over. There`s work to be done here.
If you actually want to help this country get out of this national security crisis, your hands are not tied. Getting the truth, getting clarity, holding people accountable, stopping more bad stuff from happening now and in the immediate future, that`s at hand. It`s not impossible list. It`s practical stuff. The question is whether anybody will do it.
Theoretically, none of those things I just mentioned has any partisan cast whatsoever. There`s no reason why Democrats and Republicans would not work together on, you know, why don`t we have a cyber security chief anymore? Why did Russians hack our nuclear industry? Why is a sanctioned banker from Russia meeting with a White House official?
Theoretically, none of that stuff has any partisan cast whatsoever. Republicans and Democrats, you can imagine working together on stuff like that. Here in the real world though, in order for any of that stuff to actually happen, we are probably waiting on Congress to change hands and for Democrats to win control.
And tonight, you see some of the energy that might fuel that across the street from the White House where there is now a second day of basically spontaneous protests against the president and him siding with Russia over the American government. You`re going to see it with a lot more protests all over the country tomorrow.
You also saw it today in a rare sign of rationale cooperation by liberal groups of a whole bunch of different kinds of persuasions. A big joint effort announced called the last weekend to try to recruit everyday Americans who are freaked out about what`s going on in the country trying to make it the largest grass-roots effort assembled for a midterm election to get people to get out the vote for Democrat candidates, but also to volunteer for Democratic candidates all over the country.
Things do feel like they`re at a boil right now which can be scary because hot water is hot. But it can also be useful if it means things are starting to get cooking. We`ve got a lot more to get to tonight.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: Joining us now live is Senator Chris Murphy, Democrat of Connecticut. He`s a member of the Foreign Relations Committee.
Senator Murphy, I really appreciate your time being here tonight. Thanks for being here.
SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D), CONNECTICUT: Thanks a lot.
MADDOW: So, a lot of people have described this moment we`re in as a national security crisis or even a national emergency. And we`re certainly seeing signs of the country being shaken. We`re seeing a national freak- out, for lack of a better term in response to the president`s behavior with the Russian president yesterday.
I think of you as the bright light of Democrats, Democratic foreign policy thinking in Congress, and certainly in the Senate. And I also think of you as a pretty sober observer of these things.
Are people being too alarmist? Are you -- are people overstating the gravity of the situation that we`re in right now?
MURPHY: No. People aren`t overstating the gravity of the situation. Indeed, it`s not a national emergency. It`s really a global emergency because the post World War II world order is built upon the undergirding of the transatlantic alliance and that alliance is falling apart before our eyes. I would argue to you, Rachel, today that President Trump has made NATO, the primary security apparatus by which we defend the United States and our allies in Europe obsolete, at least temporarily.
He has basically told the world that he does not believe his own intelligence services about a Russian attack on the United States. And so, if he were to receive evidence of a Russian attack on Europe that Russia denied, why would he believe his intelligence or security services then? Why would he come to Europe`s defense?
Europe knows that and so I think you also have to doubt whether they would come to our defense. And so, this is a moment where all of the assumptions that we have about how we would order the defense of this nation are coming apart. And 24 hours later, I think we can safely say that Congress is not taking this emergency seriously.
And that we really are going to have to bring this question of whether there is an effective national security check on the power and the defense of the United States that the president is giving away to the electorate.
MADDOW: In terms of what can be done here, I`ve been sort of saying for the last -- well, I guess since the summit happened that it strikes me when we have a national security crisis as a country and we`ve had lots of them for different magnitudes for different reasons over the decades and the centuries, it tends to empower the president politically because the country is inclined to look to leadership, particularly executive leadership at a time of national security crisis.
The presidency is what we look to particularly in the modern era when we feel as a country we need to be kept safe. When the national security crisis is the president or is at least about the president, I`m not sure we`ve got any sort of American reflexes that kick in in terms of where else we look for security, where else we look for leadership, where else we look for a way out.
It seems to me like Congress might rise to the occasion. I want to -- I want to believe that`s possible because I don`t know where else Americans can look besides to our other elected leaders. If we`re going to be a democracy and we believe in saving democracy, we have to look to democracy to save our problems. I want to be optimistic as I possibly can that Congress will rise, but it sounds like you don`t share that even aspiration to optimism.
MURPHY: Well, listen, I wake up every day with an aspiration to optimism. But it is -- it is tough to get threw these days.
Listen, I think that it is good news that we are only four months away from an election, because I feel like the Democrats are, you know, Charlie Brown to the Republicans` Lucy on the issue of Russia. We have been so hopeful. We`ve been so optimistic that at some point, they will notice the watershed moment that we have passed.
And yet, moment after moment, when the president gets more reckless, gets his behavior becomes more indefensible, they continue to refuse to step up to the plate. And so, of course, there are things that Congress could do. We could levy another round of sanctions. We could provide complete protection to Mueller`s investigation. We could tie the hands of the president`s ability to pull out of NATO.
But I think Republicans have telegraphed to us that they are not prepared to do that. And so, I think we have to find consolation in the fact that we are four months away from an election, which the American people can stand up and say that Congress does need to be a national security check on this president and it can`t happen with the current leadership that`s here.
MADDOW: Senator Chris Murphy, Democrat of Connecticut, thank you for being here tonight, sir. I really appreciate you being here.
MADDOW: All right. More to come here tonight. Stay with us.
MADDOW: One thing happened today in the criminal case involving the president`s campaign chair which is a thing that I did not expect but I do understand. The judge in that case in Virginia denied a request from Paul Manafort`s lawyers to move the Manafort case which is due to start next week, judge denied a request by Manafort to move his case to a different courtroom in a more Republican-leaning part of the state.
That part I get. I didn`t see it coming. I didn`t know we would get that ruling today. But I get it. Manafort can`t move his trial to a more conservative part of Virginia. OK.
This is the part that I don`t get, and it came on the side of the prosecution, not the defense. Special counsel`s office today asked that same judge to grant immunity to five unnamed witnesses who they might call upon to testify at Manafort`s upcoming trial. Now, we don`t know who these five people are. Special counsel`s prosecutors have requested that their identities be kept secret unless and until they`re called upon to testify.
But the prosecutors say that they want these witnesses to be granted immunity. They say without being granted immunity, those witnesses will refuse to testify and will instead plead the fifth. That I don`t understand.
Joining us now is Joyce Vance who is kind enough to explain these things to me when they happen. Joyce is a former U.S. attorney for the great state of Alabama.
Joyce, thank you for being here tonight.
JOYCE VANCE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY IN ALABAMA: Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: So, first of all, should I see these two peas as being in the same pod? The keeping -- the identity of these five possible witnesses secret and under seal and them being granted immunity in exchange for their testimony? Do those two things always go together or those two separate issues?
VANCE: You know, they don`t always go together. They`re two separate but related issues in this case.
MADDOW: On the matter of immunity, prosecutors are saying that they couldn`t, these people are not people who have been mentioned in previous indictments, they`ve been publicly described as being associated with the case, but they wouldn`t testify unless they`re granted immunity and they want the judge to grant something called use immunity in order to compel their testimony.
What does that mean?
VANCE: So, you can`t be forced to testify against yourself. We all have a Fifth Amendment privilege that keeps us from incriminating ourselves with testimony. This means that Mueller`s lawyers believe that these five witnesses, each of them if called, would say, I can`t answer your questions because if I do, I might incriminate yourself.
And Mueller`s lawyers have also decided that the testimony of these witnesses is so important that they`re willing to give up their right to prosecute them even though they have some criminal exposure in order to get their testimony. So they`ll ask the court to give use immunity. And that means simply that the prosecutors can`t use the testimony that they give against them in a future prosecution.
So I hope I haven`t made it too complex. Use immunity means these people who have a Fifth Amendment privilege will get immunity. They won`t have to worry they`ll be prosecuted on the basis of their testimony and Mueller gets their testimony in exchange for use immunity.
MADDOW: Now, when I was reading up on this today like non-lawyers do and we always get this wrong, when I was trying to figure out the importance of this development today, the one thing that stuck out to me is that if a witness is given use immunity, as you`re saying, that means anything they testify to can`t be used against them to prosecute them even if they -- even if they testify that they did something criminal.
But there`s one exception to that. If the witness lies, if the witness gives untrue testimony under this kind of prism (ph), they can then have that testimony used against them or presumably be prosecuted for perjury, right?
VANCE: Right. They don`t get any immunity for a prosecution from perjury and the testimony can`t be used and it`s difficult to derivatively use any of their testimony. In other words to, derive additional evidence against them on the basis of their own testimony.
MADDOW: Would have been a hard call today for a judge in terms of whether or not to grant this request from prosecutors? Or is this a sort of standard issue that comes up in the case and the judge usually does what the prosecutors want?
VANCE: You know, it does. Prosecutors can`t just make this decision they want to give someone use immunity. There are standards that DOJ uses internally for evaluating these decisions.
So, for instance, we`ve got to do an assessment of how culpable the witness that you speak to get immunity for is. You don`t want to give immunity to someone extremely culpable against someone who is a minor player. So, presumably each of these five individuals is less culpable than Manafort is.
MADDOW: Joyce Vance, former U.S. attorney for Alabama, a person who keeps me sane on a regular basis -- thank you very much, Joyce. I really appreciate it.
MADDOW: Now it makes sense.
All right. We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: Here`s the thing you should know about. Last night and tonight, we have seen these basically spontaneous protests breaking out across the street from the White House in Washington in protest of the president`s behavior with the Russian president yesterday.
Tomorrow at 8:00 p.m. Eastern, that is apparently going to spread. We are told that more than 60 cities and towns across the U.S. are going to be holding candlelight vigils tomorrow under the headline of confronting corruption and demanding democracy, in the wake of special counsel Robert Mueller`s indictment charging 12 Russian intelligence officials with interfering in our election.
We expect the largest city in the country will be the largest event maybe. New York`s Times Square will be holding an event but there`s also again as I said more than 60 events planned nationwide everywhere from Atlanta to Muncie, Indiana, to Brownsville, Texas, 8:00 p.m. tomorrow night.
We`ve been watching a short of national freak-out over the last couple days. Tomorrow, we will see some of that made manifest with these vigils.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: Tomorrow night, I want to let you know, right here on this bat channel at this bat time, we`re going to have on the show a former very senior federal cyber security official. It seems like the right time.
This is not a person who does a lot of the TV. We`re bringing him to New York tomorrow for the interview on the show. I think you will definitely want to see it. There, I said it.
That does it for us tonight. We`ll 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
Copy: Content and programming copyright 2018 MSNBC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Copyright 2018 ASC Services II Media, LLC. All materials herein are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content.