Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW Date: July 20, 2018 Guest: Emily Jane Fox, Brad Ashford
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Ali, it`s been a pleasure to be your successor, to come after you all this week. You`ve done an excellent job with this 8:00 hour. Love having you in primetime. I know you`ve been working your tail off working double time. Thank you for doing it, my friend. Great to have you here.
And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. Happy to have you with us. Happy Friday and what has been a fast moving news day.
We`ve actually got some fresh reporting to add to a couple big stories of the day. First, we can report tonight that in the trial of the president`s campaign chairman Paul Manafort, lawyers for Manafort, his defense lawyers and also lawyers for the prosecution today received from the judge who is going to be overseeing Manafort`s trial the list of potential jurors who are in the jury pool for that case.
Now, we have been expecting the Manafort case to start in federal court in Virginia on Wednesday. This indicates that that is on track. According to our reporting from a source very close to the case, both sides now have this list of potential jurors.
We expect the potential jurors to show up at the courthouse on Tuesday. When the potential jurors get there on Tuesday, they`ll start filling out paperwork and answering questionnaires, those would be the initial steps in the jury selection process for the Manafort trial. But it`s interesting, before those jurors go into court on Tuesday, there`s going to be one more hearing before the trial starts. That will be Monday morning in Judge Ellis`s courtroom in Alexandria, Virginia.
Now, this is the hearing that Judge Ellis delayed from earlier this week. That raised a lot of eyebrows because Judge Ellis never delays anything. That raised intriguing about whether or not there might be some meaningful change going on in the Paul Manafort`s case. Maybe he was considering a potential plea deal. It now appears that that is not what`s going on.
Again, according to a source very close to the case, we are told there are no signs of any sort of plea negotiations going on on the part of Paul Manafort, the Trump campaign chairman. So, we will see the judge on Monday morning. He will hold that hearing.
At that hearing, he will consider what we expect to be Manafort`s final pretrial motion to try to delay the start of the trial for several months. And, you know, the caution here is that anything can happen. We`ll find out soon enough when all of these things start to actually unfold before our eyes in federal court next week. But it now seems safe to surmise that Judge Ellis on Monday will not be inclined to grant Manafort`s motion to delay the start of the trial, at least it doesn`t seem that way with the judge sending out the list of potential jurors to both the prosecution and the defense today, all those jurors have been told to turn up on time on Tuesday morning.
It does look like Paul Manafort is not going into plea negotiations. We are surmising that it looks like his trial is not going to be delayed. Jury selection is about to start and it looks like he`s going to be on trial as of Wednesday next week.
And we`ve known this is coming for a long time, right? The whole way we`ve been wondering if there`s going to be some off-ramp if Manafort might decide to stop fighting these charges and instead cooperate with prosecutors. It looks like we`re going to get right to the trial without that happening. So, it`s -- we`ve been expecting this. We`ve been watching this get closer.
Don`t lose of the sight of the fact, though, just step back from this for a second, and recognize that this is a historic thing. This is a historic thing and it potentially has big contemporary consequences. I mean, this is the sitting president`s campaign chairman being tried on multiple felony counts in open federal court just outside Washington, D.C. It`s a trial that anybody can go see. We`re expecting lots of drama including witness who have been granted immunity in order to testify and we don`t know who they are till they appear in court.
There`s also Manafort`s deputy, the president`s deputy campaign chair who was previously charged alongside Paul Manafort but instead he flipped and went state`s evidence. So, presumably, we will hear from him at the trial, as well. He was the deputy chairman of the Donald Trump for president campaign. And now, Trump is president and this trial is about to start.
The spectacle is in gear. It is moving forward. And again, I believe we are exclusively reporting tonight that the list of potential jurors has been distributed today to the prosecution and to the defense in the Paul Manafort case and so that means it really looks like we`re on track.
Also, late last night, another 1,452 documents, files and other items were handed over to prosecutors in the Southern District of New York. These are not special counsel Robert Mueller`s prosecutors. These are federal prosecutors from the U.S. attorney`s office in Manhattan. These 1,400 some odd items were handed over to prosecutors by the special master who is reviewing evidence in the criminal investigation of Michael Cohen, the president`s long-time personal attorney and a long-time executive at the president`s business, Trump Organization.
Now, these 1,400 plus documents are items that Michael Cohen`s lawyers and/or President Trump`s lawyers had actually singled out and said these documents were privileges and they should not be given to prosecutors. Late last night, the special master who is dealing with the evidence in that case disagreed. She rejected that claim these items were privileged and instead said nope, these items are not privileged. They are going to prosecutors despite your objections.
Now, no criminal charges have been brought against Cohen. But he is the subject of an active criminal investigation which gave rise to the search warrants which were used to obtain all of these millions of documents from his home and his office and his safety deposit box even from a hotel room in which he was living. And we`ve had weeks and weeks now of back and forth in court over whether federal prosecutors would actually get to see the stuff that was seized, whether they would get to see and use these documents and files taken from Cohen under those search warrants.
Cohen has been arguing some of these documents can`t go to prosecutors because he`s an attorney and some of the documents that were seized by the government represent confidential communications between him and his clients. And therefore, they should not be handed over to prosecutes, prosecutors should never see them. We`ve had weeks of wrangling over whether this stuff is privileged.
You might remember at the very start of this, right after Cohen was raided, his legal team started off in court claiming that millions of the documents that were seized would turn out to be privileged. They had turn out to be covered by attorney/client privilege, and so, prosecutors wouldn`t be allowed to see them. That`s what they said right off the bat in court. It hasn`t worked out that way at all. Almost everything that was seized from Michael Cohen has been reviewed by this special master who`s overseeing the evidence in this case and upon her review, ultimately, almost nothing has been found to be covered by attorney/client privilege.
As a consequence of that, almost everything seized from Michael Cohen has been handed over to prosecutes who as we speak are using that evidence and anything else they`ve turned up in their investigation to decide whether or not they are going to bring federal criminal charges against Michael Cohen. Now, that said, are you about to hear some new reporting right here right now that says that one very, very newsworthy item that was seized from Michael Cohen as part of the process, it actually is one of the few items in this case that was marked privileged. That was considered to be an attorney/client privileged communication that prosecutors could not get.
Again, in the grand scheme of things, almost nothing was labeled by the special master as OK, yes, that`s privileged. Prosecutors can`t get it. But this item that you have heard so much about today actually was labeled privileged.
This is the tape that you have heard so much about today, in which Michael Cohen is said to have recorded himself talking in person with Donald Trump in September 2016 two months before the election. They`re talking reportedly about $150,000 payment that was made to a woman named Karen McDougal. Karen McDougal says she didn`t have a one off sexual encounter with Donald Trump nor is this one of his sexual harassment or sexual abuse allegations. Ms. McDougal rather says she had a long consensual affair with Donald Trump, shortly after he married the woman who is now first lady, Melania Trump.
Now, the president`s friend at the supermarket tabloid, "The National Enquirer", they paid Karen McDougal $150,000 in August 2016, so a month before this taped conversation we learned about today. And that payment from the "National Enquirer" to Karen McDougal in August 2016, that appears to have been sort of a hush money variation, kind of a riff on the hush money theme. It was a payment that quite clearly that publication made to benefit then presidential candidate Donald Trump. But the question is exactly how?
They paid Karen McDougal for exclusive rights to the story of her alleged long affair with candidate Trump. They then didn`t publish that story, right? So, bottom line it`s hush money.
She gets paid and the story goes away. Then, a few weeks later, Trump gets elected president. Ta-da!
But there`s open questions as to the nature of that payment and potential criminal liability that may attend to that payment. And now that "New York Times" has broken the story today that a tape exists of Michael Cohen and the president talking about that payment. And there`s one part of this story that is really important now to understanding why we`ve all learned about this today and what might mean and who might conceivably be in trouble because of it.
Deep into their story today, "The Times" noted this, quote: Mr. Cohen`s lawyers discovered the recording as part of their review of the materials seized from Cohen`s home and office. And Cohen`s lawyers then shared it with Mr. Trump`s lawyers. "The Times" cites three people briefed on the matter in order to make this claim. So, there`s this open criminal investigation into Michael Cohen. As part of that investigation, the FBI seizes stuff from him.
Among the things that were seized was this recording that Cohen apparently made of himself talking with candidate Trump about this payment. Over this week`s long, now months long back and forth process that we`ve been able to watch where this court has been reviewing all the stuff that were seized from Cohen to figure out which should be considered attorney/client privilege, Cohen`s attorneys apparently reviewed, found, came across this recording as one of the items seized, they reviewed it, they shared with Donald Trump`s attorneys.
If this new reporting that we`ve got tonight from Emily Jane Fox at "Vanity Fair" is true that this tape was marked privileged, that means a very specific thing. That means prosecutors would never have gotten it. So, that means the only people who would have had access to this thing are Michael Cohen`s lawyers and President Trump`s lawyers. And Michael Cohen`s lawyers apparently didn`t leak this thing to "The New York Times" today, which means by process of elimination, that President Trump`s lawyers did.
So, there`s been all this sort of breathless reporting today, oh, look what they got on Trump. Oh, this looks so bad for Trump. You know what? Don`t get your chain yanked on this one.
What appears to have happened is President Trump`s lawyers found out this tape existed. For obvious reasons, they apparently realized it might be a potentially pretty ugly thing for the president to have exposed or have brought up in court as a surprise. And so today, the president`s lawyers themselves appeared to have leaked the existence of this tape to get out ahead of this story.
And so, yes, the story appears to be real. Today is the day in American history where we get the headline of the FBI seizing a tape of the president discussing a secret payment to a playboy model right before the election, right? But you should know that the reason we got those headlines today is because the president`s legal team decided that you should see this story today. They did it themselves.
And you can think of a few rational reasons why they might have done that. I mean, number one, I have no idea if this was in their mind. But this does put something else on the front page after five straight days of hey, is the president actively working as an agent of the Russian government? I mean, this has been treason week.
The subordination of the president to the Russian government has been the story of the week which has not gotten better over the course of this week. Today, it did get supplanted a little bit by reports about this lurid tape. And yes, these reports today are about a new Trump scandal too, but at least it`s a different scandal than whether or not he`s controlled by Russia.
That`s one effect of this action today. Also, by releasing the story themselves today, the president`s lawyers I think hoped to share -- to shape the narrative about this tape and thereby lessen its impact if it had arrived later on as a surprise. One of the president`s lawyers Rudy Giuliani literally tried to sell reporters today that the whole point of this tape was, quote, in the big scheme of things, well, it`s pretty powerful exculpatory evidence.
Actually, it`s the president on tape talking about paying off a Playboy model who he says he previously definitely didn`t have at affair with and had no idea she was paid. This is a lot of things, it`s not exculpatory. But I think the president`s lawyers are assuming that if they could release this information on their own time to put their own kind of spin on it however ridiculous, maybe somebody will be dumb enough to believe that. So, I think they`re trying to get out ahead of this story so it`s their story and no one else`s.
Here`s another dynamic at work here though which makes this is new reporting that we`ve got from Emily Jane Fox really important. Special master who has been reviewing the evidence in the Michael Cohen criminal investigation, she has processed millions of documents already, right? She`s handed, as I said, almost all of them over to the prosecutors in the Southern District of New York. Those prosecutors have been weighing that evidence while they decide whether or not they`re going to bring criminal charges against Michael Cohen.
That process has been going on for a long time. It will not go on indefinitely. It will come to a close and then if prosecutors are going to bring charges, Mr. Cohen and his lawyers will have to start talking to those prosecutors about the kinds of charges he might face and the prospect that he might try to get a break from the government, might try to get some lenience from the government in exchange for his cooperation.
And cooperation in this instance doesn`t mean that he agrees to be nice. Cooperation in this instance means he agrees that he`ll give them some information, information that would be of greater value to those prosecutors than whatever value they might see in putting him in jail. Now, if they`ve got the goods on you and you`re facing serious charges, you`ve got to have a something really good to give them in order to persuade those prosecutors to accept that information you`re giving them in exchange for not nailing you to the wall, right?
The worst trouble you`re in, the better story you`ve got to be able to give prosecutors about something else that already matters to them. Well, if one of the things that Michael Cohen had was a recording of the president two months before the election, discussing a secret payment to a Playboy model to avoid the disclosure of his alleged extramarital affair with her right before the election, after he had publicly denied both the affair and any knowledge of any such payment to her. That might be seen by prosecutors as a valuable thing that Michael Cohen could provide to them, that he could testify about, he could talk to them about.
Remember, if this recording was, in fact, marked privileged, that means prosecutors didn`t have it. Michael Cohen had it. Michael Cohen was in a position to potentially make that available to them.
But instead, the president`s lawyers leaked the existence of this tape and made it public anyway. And in doing so, Trump`s lawyers have essentially taken this away as something Michael Cohen might have otherwise been exclusively able to offer prosecutors for their pursuit of any other charges and other people they might be interested in. Michael Cohen would need to be able to give prosecutors something valuable that only he could give them in order to get a already good deal from prosecutors, right? This presumably reduces his chances of getting any at the sort of great deal, at least to the extent it hinged on this piece of evidence that he could give them about the president.
Now, obviously, the president right before the election talking about a secret payout to a playboy model, right, it`s potentially -- it`s definitely of lurid interest. It`s potentially of political importance. Would it be of interest legally to prosecutors? We don`t know for sure. And we probably won`t know till we see if this comes up in court or in an indictment.
But there`s a number of ways in which this reported discussion of a payment to Karen McDougal might conceivably end up being legally consequential for the president. And this is just, right, this is in the abstract given what we know of the described conversation. I mean, starting with the least serious, this may impact the president`s financial disclosure forms.
President`s lawyer today, Rudy Giuliani, suggested that this conversation on the tape was about whether or not Trump should reimburse the "National Enquirer" for that payment that the publication made to Karen McDougal. If so, that might indicate that that $150,000 payment was made to her on Donald Trump`s behalf and he had always intended on paying it back. In that case, it was a loan to him. Any such loan should have been disclosed on his financial disclosure forms. So, there`s that.
Moving up the ladder in terms of seriousness, the payment could also potentially put the president on the hook legally. In terms of campaign finance violations, if that payment was made to influence the outcome of the election by protecting him from the disclosure of this affair right before voters went to the polls that payment would in effect be a campaign donation and not processing that kind of donation properly, accepting a donation that large in contravention of federal election laws, that`s the sort of thing that most of the time honesty just gets you a slap on the wrist and a fine.
But if it was a knowing willful violation, that could be a criminal matter for the president, a kind of thing for which a person could go to jail. Stick a pin in that for a moment. We`ll come back to that.
I mean, further up the chain in terms of more serious consequences, depending on the exact nature of that payment, and the so-called contract that Karen McDougal entered into with the "National Enquirer" on the president`s behalf, there`s also the possibility that fraud could be a relevant consideration here. If that contract was fraudulently drawn up, so it was not really what it said it was for, fraud could potentially -- criminal fraud could potentially be implicated here.
As a close cousin to that, there`s also the possibility there could be money laundering concerns here, if the source of the funds was disguised or the ultimate recipient of the funds was disguised, so it looks like somebody else`s money is going somewhere else other than where it`s actually going, that could potentially be money laundering.
Now, if any of those potential charges were going to be pursued here around this hush money payment, for a number of them, particularly that campaign finance possibility, prosecutors would also likely need testimony or some other kind of evidence that would show the mind-set of the people involved in this alleged crime, while -- when these violations were committed. If and when this tape turns up at a criminal trial, you might expect Michael Cohen would end up on the stand testifying as to the authenticity of this tape and the context of this discussion.
If there are criminal liabilities associated with this conversation, you might expect that Mr. Cohen and the other person in this conversation might both end up being called to testify as to what is this conversation was about, what they understood it to be about, what they meant, whether they acted on what was described in the conversation. Michael Cohen was one of the two parties in this conversation. The president was the other person.
I mean, learning about the existence of this tape was good for 1,001 headlines today, right? The American people actually hearing this tape will presumably result in an even larger impact packet if that happens. But imagine how the White House must feel about the prospect of President Trump having to testify in front of a court or a grand jury as to that payment, the meaning of that conversation whether or not it incriminates him in criminal behavior.
Because of the privilege issues here, because of who had access to this thing, it really looks like it`s the president`s own legal team that put this out today in order to try to get ahead of this story. And maybe in so doing, they have reduced the chances that Michael Cohen will flip against the president. But the prospect that the president will end up in legal wrangling about these types of payments and cover-ups has to be an uncomfortable prospect for this White House. I mean, this isn`t the Russia scandal at all but for all the reporting that we`ve seen that the White House in some ways is more scared about the Michael Cohen case than they are about the Russia case, I mean, this is why, right? We know there`s at least one tape of Trump and Cohen talking about stuff the president has publicly denied. And apparently, the president didn`t know that tape recording existed until it turned up in what was seized by the FBI.
And that brings us to just one last point. The only way this is not a great source of agita tonight in the White House tonight, right, is if the president is pretty sure he won`t ever get questioned about this stuff. If the president has some reason to believe that, you know what, push comes to shove, we`ll litigate this to the end. But in the end, I know I`m not going to be bothered or touched in any way by this, by any civil inquiry criminal inquire on this or any other matter while I`m president.
If the president is pretty well assured of that being the final word on whether or not this stuff is going to get to him as president, that would be a great load off the White House`s mind at a time like this. Well, there is a magic wand that the president is trying to wave in order to get that for his presidency. That magic wand is named Brett Kavanaugh. He`s the president`s Supreme Court nominee.
Quote: Mr. Trump`s choice for the court, Judge Brett Kavanaugh, has expressed strong support for executive power, hostility to administrative agencies, support for gun rights and religious freedom. These are all conventional positions among conservative lawyers and judges. But there`s one stand that sets Judge Kavanaugh apart and it could not be more timely, his deep skepticism of the wisdom of forcing a sitting president to answer questions in criminal cases.
Quote, it is not fall farfetched to think that the question of whether President Trump must respond to a subpoena could come to the Supreme Court shortly after the confirmation process for the next justice, says Walter Dellinger, former acting solicitor general of the United States. Quote: I do not know of any judge who has stakes out as strong a position on presidential immunity even from questioning as Judge Kavanaugh has.
And I know this is different parts of the universe crashing into each other, right? But this is where these things overlap, right? The Russia scandal, the Michael Cohen mishegoss, the pending Supreme Court nomination. I mean, Sally Yates was on air last night saying, you know what, the White House absolutely was aware that Flynn was the subject of an open investigation on the president and went to the FBI director and pressured the FBI to end that investigation.
Can the president be questioned about whether or not that was obstruction of justice? I mean, Sally Yates said last night he was certainly trying to influence that open FBI investigation. Was that actually criminal obstruction? When does the president get asked about that?
On the Michael Cohen case, if on this tape the president is heard planning to reimburse this publication that paid off his alleged mistress, because they wanted to keep her story out of the press before election, was that a criminal campaign finance violation of the kind that could put a guy in jail? Could that hush money payment which the president apparently lied about and said he didn`t know about, could it further criminally implicate him in terms of fraud or money laundering or anything more serious.
I mean, completely separate and apart from whether or not he and his campaign were involved in the Russia attack, the other big story this week, right, these other things are absolutely live active criminal inquiries at this moment. And here`s the president`s nominee for the Supreme Court in this environment. Here he is in his own words, quote: We should not burden a sitting president with civil suits, criminal investigations or criminal prosecutions. I believe that the president should be excused from some of the burdens of ordinary citizenship while serving in office.
Congress should enact a law, quote, providing that any personal civil suits against presidents be deferred while the president is in office. Quote: Congress should consider doing the same with respect criminal investigations and prosecutions of the president. A president while in office should be, quote, exempt from criminal prosecution and investigation, including being exempt from questioning by criminal prosecutors or defense counsel.
Quote: even a lesser burdens of a criminal investigation, including preparing for questioning by criminal investigators those things are time consuming and distracting. Like civil suits, criminal investigations take the president`s focus away from his or her responsibilities to the people. Moreover, the indictment and trial of a sitting president would cripple the federal government such an outcome would ill serve the public interest.
How did you pick that guy?
With the Russia investigation, with the obstruction of justice investigation, related to the Russia investigation, with the Michael Cohen investigation, with the president`s lawyers now learning the hard way in the Michael Cohen investigation, lordy, there are tapes of the president. How do you think President Trump alighted on Brett Kavanaugh of all people to be his nominee to the Supreme Court?
Emily Jane Fox from "Vanity Fair" joins us next.
MADDOW: The FBI searched the apartment office and hotel room of the president`s personal lawyer Michael Cohen on Monday, April 9th. Four days later, this story appeared in the "Washington Post." Trumps allies worry that federal investigators may have seized recordings made by his attorney. Gulp.
That very same day, four days after the raid, "The New York Times" reported, quote, Mr. Trump called Mr. Cohen to, quote, check in.
Now, today, "The Times" is first to report one of the many items seized in that early April raid was, in fact, a recording of the president and Michael Cohen discussing payments made to a former playboy model two months before the presidential election. A woman who says that she had an affair with the president, the president has denied both the affair and having any knowledge of any such payment made to her.
Joining us now is Emily Jane Fox, senior reporter at "Vanity Fair" who just reported an important new piece of the story. She`s also author of "Born Trump."
Emily, thank you for being here. Much appreciate it.
EMILY JANE FOX, SENIOR REPORTER, VANITY FAIR: Thank you for having me.
MADDOW: So, the piece you have reported that I think seems important to me in terms of my understanding here is that this tape which is described today in "The New York Times" was deemed privileges, was deemed covered by attorney/client privilege by the special master who is reviewing evidence that was seized from Cohen?
FOX: So, one person familiar with the situation told me this evening that this was deemed privileged by the special master. But that the president`s attorneys waived the privilege. I just spoke with Rudy Giuliani, the president`s attorney who said he wasn`t sure if the special master had deemed it privileged or not, but effectively, they waived privilege today by speaking about what was on the tape.
MADDOW: That`s how you waive privilege if you want to do it the informal way. You just start talking about the thing.
FOX: Detail the transcript of the tape. What is interesting though is that the transcript as described by Rudy Giuliani says one thing and people who are close to Michael Cohen have said well, that`s not how we hear the conversation.
MADDOW: Oh, they`ve described the content of the tape differently.
FOX: As slightly differently.
MADDOW: What`s the important difference in the way they`re describing it? Obviously, Mr. Giuliani says it`s completely exculpatory.
FOX: That`s the difference.
FOX: The difference is that the people around Cohen say it is not completely exculpatory. And actually some of the details about that were reported today by Mr. Giuliani or described by Mr. Giuliani are in direct contrast with what people around Mr. Cohen have said. In fact, the issue of who brought up paying for something in cash versus who brought up paying for something with a check is directly opposite in the two views.
MADDOW: So, Giuliani is saying part of the reason this is exculpatory is that the president wanted to pay by check rather than cash.
FOX: Because it`s transparent to do so.
MADDOW: And from the other side, people close to Cohen are saying actually no, it was me who wanted to pay by check. It was the president who wanted to pay gash.
FOX: Correct. I ran this by Mr. Giuliani as well this evening. He said that he saw the transcript and the current transcript which he said was created by three different lawyers, clearly identified this as Mr. Trump having said that this was the check. Now --
MADDOW: We will find out presumably.
MADDOW: Well, that`s -- OK, that`s why this sounds like we`re talking around the edges of this story and obviously, there is the big lurid centerpiece here which is the alleged affair and the woman being paid to talk about it. But when it comes down to criminal liability, and the president`s potential legal woes, the reason that privilege point seems important to me is if the special master said, yes, this is privilege. What she`s saying is this can`t go to prosecutors. The fact that can this came into the public domain today with the president`s lawyers talking about it and describing it means that the prosecutors now have access to it, that means that if Michael Cohen had been planning on delivering this to prosecutors when they otherwise couldn`t get it as part of his plea agreements, plea deal, plea negotiations with the government, that opportunity no longer exists for him.
This would seem to me to be something that the president`s lawyers have done to make it harder for Michael Cohen to do a deal with prosecutors.
FOX: Michael Cohen has been worried for weeks if not months that there was going to be an onslaught from people around the president, people close to the White House from Rudy Giuliani that would either defame him, that would make his legal case more difficult for him.
MADDOW: This makes his legal case more difficult.
FOX: This today is exactly the moment he has been waiting for. This is why he hired Lanny Davis to begin with. This is why he brought on a new attorney to begin with because he was worried about this kind of onslaught and he wanted to be able to have someone who could defend him from this.
But the problem with his legal situation right now is that he can`t defend this. He cannot comment about what is on the tapes right now. Even Lanny Davis, he issued a statement tonight essentially saying when people hear the tape, we`ll see the real truth.
But because there is the ongoing investigation and he is the subject of this investigation, they can`t comment on this the way that Rudy Giuliani can. So, Rudy Giuliani was able to set the narrative knowing full well that Michael Cohen was not going to respond to that. Now, we may find out that this tape is exactly the way that Giuliani said it was. And we may find out otherwise. We may never find out.
MADDOW: And honestly, what we may experience over the course of the next week or two is the president`s lee team systematically releasing all the embarrassing things that have turned up in the Michael Cohen seizure through the press, thereby undercutting the potential power of their use in court and thereby completely cutting Michael Cohen`s legs out from under him.
FOX: Sure. It`s also a great narrative change. Wouldn`t you rather be talking about this than what happened this week in Helsinki?
MADDOW: Emily Jane Fox, senior reporter for "Vanity Fair", thank you for being with us tonight. I really, really appreciate it.
FOX: Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: Keep reporting. Keep letting us know what you find.
All right. Much more ahead. Lots to come. Stay with us.
MADDOW: From the indictment of Russian military intelligence officers that was released a week ago today, there is something sticking in my craw. This is the part of the indictment that I`m talking about. Quote: it says in or around September 2016, the conspirators -- meaning Russian military intelligence -- they also successfully gain the access to DNC computers hosted on a third party cloud computing service. These computers contained test applications related to the Democratic Party`s analytics.
Now, the indictment says that the Russians military intelligence the GRU officers, they took snapshots of that data, they stole that data from the Democratic Party. But if the Russians did that, if they were able to be steal basically the math from the Democrats campaign, the analytics, the strategy as Democrats planned it out, that late in the game in September 2016, once they had it, that would put Russian intelligence in a position to deploy that information directly themselves to help Trump win or conceivably they could hand that over to the Trump campaign, so the Trump campaign could, you know, make its plans accordingly, alter their own plans to account for having the Democrats game plan stolen for them by Russian military intelligence.
This is what`s sticking in my craw. From the indictment -- again, we know that particular hack of the analytics of the DNC, it happened September 2016, what happened right after that? Well, in early October, the Trump campaign surprisingly announced a radical change in its campaign strategy.
Campaign spokesman saying, quote, you see the date October 7th, quote: Our data driven campaign is shifting resources from overperforming markets to new battlegrounds within the battlegrounds. They canceled more than $1.6 million of ad buys in eight traditional battleground states. Instead, for the first time, they started buying campaign ads in places they`d never campaigned before like Wisconsin. They started increasing their time and focus on Michigan and ever since the Trump campaign has bragged about the genius behind that late campaign shift behind that decision.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRAD PARSCALE, TRUMP CAMPAIGN DIGITAL DIRECTOR: I took every nickel and dime and I moved it to Michigan and Wisconsin, and started buying advertising, digital TV.
REPORTER: But you began to make the decision, am I correct, to send Trump in there.
PARSCALE: I started definitely getting people saying we need to go.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: And maybe it really was just pure lightning bolt genius. And part of that data driven strategy was digital ads aimed at shrinking rather than expanding the electorate, aimed at keeping Hillary voters at home. A senior Trump official told Bloomberg at the time, quote, we have three major voter suppression operations under way. These efforts are aimed at three groups that Clinton needs to win overwhelmingly, idealistic young liberals, young women and African-Americans.
Whether that "shrink the electorate" strategy had anything to do with the fact that somebody had hacked the Clinton campaign`s and the Democratic Party`s data and had all their analytics, I mean, obviously, we don`t know. But as top Clinton campaign team members are now pointing out, quote, if they had access to our data from the September analytics hack, they`d have a great road map for how to do that, for how to suppress the Hillary Clinton vote that she needed in ordered to win.
So, there`s that fight, playing out now on new terms given what we`ve learned from that big indictment. What I want to point out another underappreciated and nerve rattling portion of this last Mueller indictment, that`s next.
MADDOW: Last week`s Russian military intelligence indictment contains one serious and sort of stand alone assertion that really sticks out from everything else in the indictment. The indictment describes an unnamed candidate for the U.S. Congress in the 2016 election who asked for and received stolen information on his or her congressional opponent from the same Russian military hackers that had been attacking the Democratic Party.
Now, as laid out in the indictment, documents about Democratic candidates were stolen from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in April of 2016. Those documents started being publicly leaked in June 2016. In August 2016, the House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi informed her colleagues for the first time about the posting of those hacked materials online and the potential fallout from their release. And that was news to Democratic members of Congress -- except for one.
Nebraska Democratic Congressman Brad Ashford had been notified already in a private call the previous month in July that he had been a victim of that hacking. We`ve obtained this internal Democratic campaign document on Mr. Ashford that was among the items stolen by the Russian hackers. Congressman Ashford would go on to lose his race for re-election in November by just a fraction, by just over 3,000 votes. He was the first Democrat washed that his material had been stolen in the Russian hack. He ended up becoming the only Democratic incumbent to lose his seat in 2016.
Former Congressman Brad Ashford joins us now here on set.
Congressman, thank you very much for being here.
FORMER REP. BRAD ASHFORD (D), NEBRASKA: Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: What did you make of the indictment, the description of this incident in the indictment and did you recognize your own experience?
ASHFORD: Yes, I mean, I think it was the dots were starting to be connected. You know, we knew a little bit back in July of 2016. We knew obviously as you suggest there had been there hack. But after that, after August, it sort of went away. I mean, it was not an issue that came up in the campaign particularly.
MADDOW: Although would you know if it did?
ASHFORD: I don`t know. I mean, I think it came up in our campaign. I`m saying that we weren`t necessarily engaged with our party on the issue. It was just a normal -- we were busy. We`re doing our campaign. And all of these other things were going on behind the scenes. We were not aware of.
MADDOW: Did your campaign take any, in terms of your campaign against your general election opponent, did you -- did it take any weird twists and turns? I mean --
ASHFORD: Well, we were -- you know, we felt we were going to win the race. We had a significant lead going into the last three to four weeks of the campaign, high approval rating, so forth and so on. Yes, I mean, I can`t tell you if this hacking had anything to do with the eventual loss by 1.1 percent.
ASHFORD: But it slipped away pretty fast.
MADDOW: And we don`t -- again, we don`t know and I don`t mean to suggest by talking to you about this in this way that you were definitely the victim here, that you were the one who is cited in this indictment. We don`t know. Did you -- have you ever been contacted by law enforcement about it.
ASHFORD: No, I have not.
MADDOW: Your opponent who defeated you in November 2016, he says that it definitely wasn`t him. There have been a number of other Republican members of Congress, serving members of Congress who have come out and said, it wasn`t me either.
What do you think about this as an ongoing controversy? Obviously, it`s got to exist sort of as a strange sort of parallel story alongside your own.
ASHFORD: Well, Nebraskans are trusting people. We`re patriotic. I think what`s really -- this is a terrible tragedy what happened in 2016 and what`s really a tragedy, it`s continuing to go on.
And it`s critical that Congress act. I mean, we have to be able to Congress needs to pass the relevant laws to say that if a political party or a candidate is made aware of these things, that are they`re required to turn that information over to Congress.
MADDOW: Right, a must notify.
ASHFORD: You must notify. I mean, this is insane. A lot of what went on after August we now know was happening behind the scenes. I think leaders of both parties were trying to make some kind of an arrangement whereby they would not divulge this information. But nothing happened.
MADDOW: The Democrats asked Republicans, Democrats campaign committee asked the Republicans campaign committee, let us mutually pledge to not use this information.
ASHFORD: Ben Ray Lujan did that.
MADDOW: And the Republican campaign committee said they weren`t interested.
ASHFORD: We`re not interested.
But we can`t leave it to that. This is so tragic for the country. It`s tragic for Nebraska. It`s tragic for the entire country. And this has to be resolved. It`s going on now.
Without commenting on the Trump piece of it, Congress needs to act irrespective of what the president does or doesn`t do. I can`t -- I mean, for me, the reason I posted that we had been hacked just a few days ago was primarily to set the record straight.
I didn`t say anything during the campaign because I really didn`t know what was happening particularly. I didn`t say anything after the election. I didn`t want to be sour grapes about it. I didn`t want to say we lost because of the Russians obviously.
But Congress must act and on some of the initiatives out there that would address it. So, I -- it`s very serious business, Rachel. And I appreciate you bringing it up.
MADDOW: Former Congressman Brad Ashford, Democrat of Nebraska -- I imagine it`s been a little bit of a through the looking glass couple of weeks for you, sir. Thank you for helping us understand. Appreciate it.
ASHFORD: Thank you.
MADDOW: Thanks a lot.
All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: This week has marked a new era of nightly protests across the street from the White House. This has been every night this week now. Ever since President Trump returned from his meeting with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki amid this national outcry of what felt to a lot of people like the president`s conspicuous subordination to the Russian president.
There have been people out across the street from the White House every night. They`re there tonight, as well. This is tonight.
Tonight`s version as you can hear features a brass band. It`s been loud on purpose. You see the treason sign there?
All week long the protesters have been as loud as possible, trying to be loud enough for the president to hear them when he`s home. Tonight, of course, they would have to get a lot louder to achieve that because the president went to his golf course in New Jersey for the weekend.
But there turns out are some people there too who are hoping to catch his attention, a group called the People`s Motorcade say they plan to deck out their cars and drive in a loop in front of the president`s golf club this weekend. They also apparently do this pretty much every Saturday. But soon, they are expected to up their game significantly because they expect to receive and start implementing operation baby Trump blimp. They`re getting a 20-foot tall baby Trump balloon like the one that British protesters flew last week during the president`s visit to the U.K., the one that president said made him feel unwelcome.
So, between the folks across the street from the White House and the folks circling the president`s golf retreat, it`s probably going to be a big loud summer increasingly so.
MADDOW: If you thought this was a big news week we`ve just lived through, just wait. On Monday, that last exit before the freeway final pretrial hearing we have been talking about in the Paul Manafort case in Virginia.
On Tuesday, Maria Butina is expected back in court and that other big case that prosecutors sprang this week. She`s the Russian citizen charged with acting as a secret foreign agent in an influence operation designed by the Russian government to target the Republican Party.
Manafort`s actual trial in Virginia will start the following day on Wednesday.
Hydrate this weekend, right? Eat your fiber. Rest up. Take good care.
I will be spending part of my weekend in my own very special happy place with my friend Joy Reid. I will be with Joy Reid on her show tomorrow, on "A.M. JOY". I hope that I will see you there.
That does it for us tonight. I`ll see you again on Monday. Now, it`s time -0- well, I`ll see you again tomorrow. Then I`ll see you on Monday.
Now it`s time for "THE LAST WORD". Katy Tur is in for Lawrence tonight.
Good evening, Katy.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END
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