Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW Date: August 10, 2018 Guest: David Hickton
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
All right. So, it is a small enough range of what they`re looking for aesthetically that I`m thinking you basically have to register as having acceptable haircut A or acceptable haircut B. Those are sort of the two lanes that are available 0 to you. Under hair cut a, we have Ben Affleck, or Josh Brolin or Mark Wahlberg, or Jake Gyllenhaal, or Chris Helmsworth or the great Anderson Cooper or the great Jimmy Fallon or that guy from "The Hurt Locker" who was so good.
I think you would have to put in the category of hair cut A, James bond, aka Daniel Craig. Also, Bear Grylls. I hesitate with these last two though, because I can`t totally confirm that those aren`t just slightly photo shopped tweaked versions is of the same cover. Put those two up side by side. Look, they turned them into exactly the same dude.
So those are examples of haircut A in this environment. But don`t be fooled into thinking their aesthetic range is singular. They will also occasionally accept a cover model with haircut B, which you see here.
So if you cannot swing hair cut A for whatever reason, you are also allowed to be el baldo, especially if you have some other kind of prop, a vaguely hair-like prop to distract from your baldishness.
So, the theme here, right, the aesthetic window here is only open a slight amount. It`s a tight line here. I mean, they do occasionally break out and do something a little bit different.
For example, here`s a man in a hat. Here`s a man on a motorcycle. Here`s Harrison Ford I think taking his own pulse maybe? Here is a scary-eyed man pretending to be a magician.
Here`s a man with a slightly different photo filter than they usually use, right? So they do sometimes mix it up. But not much, right? You clearly know what to expect if you go looking for "Men`s Journal" magazine. "Men`s Journal" magazine, if it isn`t clear enough, they`ve got a happy to, they`ve got a specific look.
But now, behold. We just got the brand-new cover of next month`s "Men`s Journal". And look. Hey, wait a minute. That`s neither haircut A nor haircut B. Who is that? I mean, literally given what "Men`s Journal" usually does for a cover, what is this person doing on the front of "Men`s Journal"?
What even is -- is her name on the cover? Is she the Facebook detective? Is her name style and design? Is her name tonic cocktail? That`s not a terrible stage name. It`s ridiculous.
Turns out her name is on the cover. It is whoop, down there on the right, second to last line in the fine print right underneath master the cable pulley. It says there in red, she is Karen McDougal.
And with this most unusual cover, the readers of "Men`s Journal" magazine are invited to as you see there, get Karen McDougal`s workout.
You know what? This is kind of a departure for this particular magazine. Can you spot which one of these kids is not like the others?
But you know, it`s interesting. We did have a warning that this was coming. When I saw the warning it was coming, I didn`t totally believe it would eventually arrive but it has arrived.
A few weeks ago, "The Wall Street Journal" gave the warning we should look out for this when they reported that Karen McDougal, a former model in "Playboy" magazine, a woman who said she had a long-running fair with President Trump, the journal reported several weeks ago she would be placed on the cover of all things, "Men`s Journal" for their September issue, despite what appeared to be total bewilderment by the magazine`s own staff.
Quote: Ms. McDougal would be a rare solo cover on the cover of the high end men`s lifestyle magazine which typically showcases male celebrities such as actor Ben Affleck, TV host Jimmy Fallon, and professional wrestler John Cena. The magazine`s chief revenue officer and chief content officer have told some employees that they unsuccessfully appealed to David Pecker, the CEO of American Media which owns the magazine and who reportedly ordered the cover. They asked him to reconsider placing Ms. McDougal on the "Men`s Journal" cover.
The executive said they argued the McDougal cover would hurt the magazine`s reputation, making it harder to attract top talent for future covers and potentially alienating hard one advertisers. But nevertheless, there she is. Get her workout. Guys. It says right there in the fine print.
Four days before the presidential election in 2016, "The Wall Street Journal" published the first report that this company, American Media, most famous for owning the "National Enquirer", but it`s actually a conglomerate, "The Journal" reported four days before the election that American Media which is headed by Donald Trump`s friend David Pecker, "The Journal" reported they had given Karen McDougal $150,000, quote unquote, contract that included the excluded the exclusive rights to publish her story about having this alleged long-running extramarital affair with Donald Trump.
Now, having obtained those exclusive rights to publish that story, American Media and David Pecker decided to not run that story. So, that was -- that was widely viewed as what`s called a catch and kill deal in which American Media basically told candidate -- excuse me, basically did candidate Trump the favor of making sure that embarrassing story about this alleged affair would never run in print. So American Media paid Ms. McDougal in August 2016, really late in the game, right? Donald Trump was already the Republican nominee for president at that the point.
Now, did the presidents have this affair? She says yes. He says no. You say la, la, la, I`m plugging my ears. Stop talking about this Maddow, I don`t want to know. I understand.
But federal prosecutors are reportedly looking into whether that transaction was an effort to influence the outcome confident election. An effort that potentially was illegally coordinated with candidate Trump and his campaign. That is a matter of federal criminal investigation.
And an audiotape apparently made surreptitiously by Trump lawyer Michael Cohen has since been released which includes Trump on tape with Cohen discussing that payment to Karen McDougal before the election and specifically, the two of them discussed Trump`s intention to pay American media back that $150,000 that they paid out to Karen McDougal to make that story go away.
So, now, there`s two new things. Number one is this: American Media really has now taken this somewhat hilarious step. Where`s my Ben Affleck? Where`s my Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, right?
They`ve take this somewhat hilarious step to try to make it look like that contract they signed Karen McDougal up to right before the election, they`re trying to make it look like that contract had nothing to do with catching and killing her story about an alleged affair with Trump. They`re now trying to make it seem like that was a legit publishing contract because they really did want to lock up the cover story rights to Karen McDougal`s workout for "Men`s Journal".
If the "Wall Street Journal" is right, American Media went to such lengths to scrape this together at the last minute that they didn`t even actually take her picture for this magazine cover, or even talk to her for this magazine cover. Quote: Ms. McDougal has not participated in a photography shoot or interview with "Men`s Journal" staff, according to American Media employees and a person familiar with the matter. The magazine`s editors planned to use old pictures for the cover and to recycle archived content for a peace piece about Ms. McDougal`s fitness routine.
So that`s the first new thing. American Media and the president`s friend David Pecker putting together this magazine cover, scratching it together, all of a sudden, to make it look liking that $150,000 deal with Karen McDougal to cover up the president`s alleged affair, trying to make it look like it wasn`t that at all. They really, really were after her for her mastery of the cable pulley, or whatever.
And according to the reporting on this and according to their own employees, to take the advertiser hit, to take the editorial hit to their magazine which this entailed, we know they were warned about that by senior employees, American Media nevertheless had to think this was worth it. They apparently had to be scared enough by the legal jeopardy they thought they might be in when it comes to this contract, this woman and what they did with her for Trump during the campaign, they apparently thought it was worth it and they really did go ahead and publish this.
So, that`s one new thing. The other new thing that happened is this. Federal prosecutors considering a criminal case against the president`s lawyer Mike Cohen are now officially in possession of all of the evidence they are going to review to decide whether to try to bring federal criminal charges against Mr. Cohen.
Now, the court appointed official, the special master who had been appointed to review all the evidence that was seized from Michael Cohen, to see if any of it has to be kept from prosecutors because it`s covered by attorney/client privilege, that process has come to a conclusion. We`ve heard that both from the special master herself. We`ve had it confirmed by SDNY.
At the conclusion of that, quote, only a tiny fraction of the nearly 4 million files federal agents seized when they raided Cohen`s office, apartment and hotel room turned out to actually be protected by attorney/client privilege. Only a tiny fraction of those documents were held back. The rest have been given to SDNY.
And those prosecutors at SDNY who we believe from the Wall Street reporting, we believe they have convened a grand jury to consider the Michael Cohen matter, or that is considering the Michael Cohen matter. Those prosecutors are now in the possession of all the evidence that they need to make their own decision on whether or not to ask that federal grand jury and SDNY to bring charges against Cohen.
In addition to bank fraud and tax fraud charges that are a little bit like what Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort has been facing, one of the other issues reportedly under consideration by federal prosecutors and this be federal grand jury in New York is Michael Cohen`s involvement in that alleged payment to cover up that alleged affair. I mean to compensate Karen McDougal for how much "Men`s Journal" needed and wanted to put her on their cover instead of Ben Affleck again.
Why would the president be talking about reimbursing American Media for their contract to Karen McDougal if the contract was really just to put her on fitness magazines? Why would the president be talking to his lawyer about paying that money back?
So, it`s tick-tock at the U.S. attorney`s office in the Southern District of New York. For what it`s worth, that is the same federal prosecutor`s office that brought multiple felony charges this week against Trump ally, Republican Congressman Chris Collins.
Chris Collins was the first member of Congress who endorsed Trump for president. He served as a senior member of the Trump transition. He has now been arrested and indicted.
Same federal prosecutors that are considering Michael Cohen. So, it`s tick-tock at SDNY, Southern District of New York for the president`s lawyer. And apparently, it`s also tick-tock in Virginia at the criminal trial of the president`s campaign chairman. And boy, did this not go the way we thought it would today. This was humbling.
We really thought, I really thought with confidence heading into today we knew what was going to happen. The judge has been keeping such a tight rein on the way this trial has been going, it seemed quite clear the way this was going to unfold right through the end. We thought for sure, the prosecution would rest their case by the end of today. Then the defense woes have to decide whether or not they`re going to call any witnesses to testify in Manafort`s behalf. Then there would be closing statements, the whole thing would be done.
It didn`t unfold that way today. The prosecution has not rested its case. And the reason that happened is because almost the whole day in court was taken up today in a mysterious series of conferences at the judge`s bench between the judge and the lawyers on both sides. Also meetings apparently in the judge`s chambers where nobody could see them.
At one point, the judge himself left the courtroom and appeared to walk off not in the direction of his own chambers but in the direction of where the jury usually comes from when had he enter the court. Huh? We have no idea what happened for most of the day today at the Paul Manafort trial.
We know that the prosecutors did file another motion asking the Manafort judge to correct something to the jury that the prosecutors say he messed up. You might remember this happened earlier this week, as well.
Prosecutors filed a motion earlier this week informing the judge he had improperly scolded the prosecutors in front of the jury for something the prosecutors say they didn`t even do wrong. They asked him to tell the jury that he had been in the wrong. The prosecutors hadn`t done anything wrong and he should correct that for the jury. The judge acquiesced to that request and did that earlier this week.
Last night, prosecutors asked again. They asked the judge to clear up something else with the jury. During trial proceedings yesterday, the judge has interjected, as he has wanted to do, while prosecutors were going through a line of questioning with one witness from a bank.
The judge interjected to tell prosecutors basically they were barking up the wrong tree, that they shouldn`t be trying to problem something with the witness that wasn`t going to be legally relevant to the charges Manafort was facing. As a matter of law, it looks like prosecutors were right and judge was wrong. And so, prosecutors asked the judge late last night to clear up that point with the jury, as well.
Now, we have no idea if the judge did or did not clear that up with the jury as prosecutors requested. If it did happen it, wasn`t in the courtroom in front of all the spectators and reporters there today who had as little idea what was going on as any of the rest of us.
So, an unexpected turn on what we thought would be the last day of the case against Manafort. What are we supposed to make of this? Prosecutors ultimately at the end of the afternoon, they finally did, they brought the jury back in and they finally did start bringing in witnesses we had expected today about this allegation that Paul Manafort had offered a Trump administration job to a bank CEO who had arranged for Manafort to get millions of dollars in loans between the election and the inauguration. We had previously seen evidence in the trial and extensive public reporting that this guy from the bank thought he was going to end up being secretary of the army for his troubles.
Today, an employee of the bank testified that the bank`s CEO in fact told him he was maybe going to get to be secretary of the treasury or secretary of housing and urban development. And that`s apparently -- those apparently were dangled in addition to whatever else was damaged to a potential job running the army. So, that tale -- that interesting tale about those big loans to Paul Manafort between the election and the inauguration, and whether or not there was some quid pro quo offer associated with those loans for the bank CEO thought he was going to get something from the Trump administration in exchange for green lighting those loans, we thought that was going to be the finale today.
That tale has started to be told but now there`s still more of it to tell, because they didn`t start till late in the afternoon. Honestly, the big question now, the big mystery now is what happened during those hours long delays? What happened in all those sealed discussions that took place four hours out of the jury`s ear shot, out of reporters` ear shot all day long?
We know it`s delayed the end of the case. There will now be more witnesses for the prosecution on Monday. We`re told that closing arguments will take place only as early as Tuesday, particularly if the defense doesn`t call any of its own witnesses which they might not.
But given the strange turn, senior this the kind of thing that is a normal occurrence or at least not too strange an occurrence in a try that`s been running as fast as this one in this kind of court where things seem to be run on such a tight schedule? Whatever went off the rails today, can we tell if it has something to do with the jury or that prosecutors keep trying to correct the judge for him in their words screwing stuff up?
And when are we going to find out? This was the note we got today. And we tried to get the formal record of what happened in this courtroom today. Quote: the transcript is under seal and will not be available to the public.
Some day that may change. Until that happens, we have to ask people who were there what they saw.
Joining us now is Josh Gerstein, senior reporter at "Politico". He`s been in court for the entire trial.
Mr. Gerstein, thank you very much for being here.
JOSH GERSTEIN, SENIOR REPORTER, POLITICO: Hey, Rachel, good to be back with you.
MADDOW: Was it frustrating or fascinating or both when things sort of took off out of ear shot and in some cases out of sight in the courtroom today?
GERSTEIN: Well, it was surprising the way things kind of screeched to a halt as you were talking about earlier, we`d been moving at a breakneck case with the judge pressuring prosecutors to keep it short, keep it short and cut all their witnesses down, sometimes spending maybe half as much time as they had intended. So, to then see the judge basically consume about five hours today with proceedings that were either being held at sidebar or in secret in the judge`s chambers was a pretty startling development.
I would say it was interesting, but at the same time, frustrating because we couldn`t get really a clear idea of why the trial had basically been put into some kind of suspended animation.
MADDOW: Josh, one thing that happened outside of the direct live proceedings of the trial was this request from prosecutors for a second time that they wanted the judge to correct something that they thought that he got wrong before the jury. We saw the judge in fact a couple days ago did correct himself. He basically agreed with what prosecutors had asserted that the judge had blamed prosecutors for doing something wrong that they didn`t get wrong.
They asked him again after yesterday`s proceedings to correct another matter which is more a matter of law in front of the jury. And we know that is something there was a motion about from the prosecution. So, it wasn`t something they were fighting orally and in person.
Is there a way to know if that might have been part of why things went so differently today, why the jury wasn`t called in until so late, why the first thing that happened today was bench conferences where the lawyers were talking out of ear shot of everybody else in the room?
GERSTEIN: I think that could be part of it. I think it`s highly unlikely that that motion alone accounts for all the delay we saw. And there was enough other weird action going on as you mentioned earlier with the judge moving back and forth to the jury`s chamber there at the side of the courtroom.
That I don`t think the issue of what the judge said wrong yesterday while significant, he basically said that attempted bank fraud isn`t very important and isn`t maybe something the prosecution should be trifling with which I think no one would expect that attempted bank robbery for example, wouldn`t be prosecuted as a crime. So, it`s hard to see why attempted bank fraud would be dismissed. And that was the issue the prosecution got upset about and filed that motion about overnight.
It is surprising and unusual I think that there was no public ruling on that motion, and there was no instruction to the jury one way or another. Maybe the judge denied it. If he did, he didn`t give us any explanation on the record.
There was some speculation this morning that maybe the defense or the prosecution was seeking some kind of mistrial on that count. It might be difficult for the judge maybe to fix his mistake without suggesting to jurors he was saying that Manafort was guilty on that charge and there could have been an argument of that sort.
MADDOW: I guess we`ll find out when we find out with all these things.
Josh Gerstein, senior reporter at politico.com, I know it`s been long hours and intense coverage all week on this. Thanks for -- thanks for being our eyes and ears there and thanks for being with us tonight.
GERSTEIN: Sure, Rachel. No problem.
MADDOW: All right. Joining us is Chuck Rosenberg, former U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, where this trial is taking place, also former senior Justice Department and FBI official.
Chuck, thank you so much for being with us tonight. I appreciate you being with us on Friday night.
CHUCK ROSENBERG, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: My pleasure, Rachel. Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: As an experienced prosecutor and somebody who is very, very experienced in the Eastern District of Virginia, including being the U.S. attorney there, a lot of us who are non-lawyer and who are not frequent observers of federal trials were totally flummoxed by this turn of events today.
What`s happening? What does this mean? How weird is this? Is the thing going off the rails?
Everybody was trying to read the Paul Manafort body language to suggest if this meant the trial was blowing up in some way.
As somebody who has been there, and who knows what these things mean, how weird was today? Have you seen stuff like this happen before, especially right towards the end of a trial?
ROSENBERG: I`ve seen things like this happen before. I don`t think it`s going off the rails or blowing up. Maybe I can explain.
Sometimes a judge has to take a few hours, two, three, four hours to straighten out an issue. It`s not frequent but it`s frequent enough that we can make an educated guess. It usually involves a juror issue.
It may be something as benign as a juror is ill or has an emergency at home. That doesn`t seem to be what happened here. More likely, and I`ve seen this happen in my own trials, once or twice over many years, a juror accidentally sees something or hears something, maybe overhears a conversation in a cafeteria or a bathroom or a hallway. Maybe saw something at home at night after court recessed for the day, overheard a conversation. And more likely than not and again educated guess reports that to the judge.
And so why does it take hours to straighten this out? Well, then the judge has to essentially call a time-out and question the jury and the juror. What did you see, what did you hear?
Did you talk to anyone else? Did what you saw what you heard, did that sort of change your opinion of this trial? Can you put it aside?
So the judge probably has to make some sort of inquiry, make some sort of factual finding. That`s likely what happened here. Because when you see this thing sort of shut down for a few hours, it usually falls along these lines, Rachel.
MADDOW: In terms of when this is going to become clear to us, I showed the note we got from the court reporter today in terms of this being a sealed transcript. Is this the sort of thing we should expect to eventually become public or is this a sort of -- whatever happened today, these discussions will those remain sealed indefinitely?
ROSENBERG: I imagine it will eventually become public. There`s -- the courts really want to make all their proceedings public unless there`s some compelling reason not to. For instance, grand jury materials are always sealed.
But this is an open public trial and I imagine some day, perhaps soon, will know precisely what happened. But again, my guess is that it`s a juror issue, one where the judge had to inquire and had to satisfy himself that this juror whatever he or she saw or heard can put that aside and consider the case you know, fairly and even handedly.
MADDOW: Chuck, there`s something else that happened with the Mueller investigation today that I want to ask you about as a matter of law if you`ve seen something like this. Can you stick around for a minute?
ROSENBERG: Yes, you bet.
MADDOW: All right. Chuck Rosenberg is back with us right after this.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: Big presidential scandals are like flood tides if you live by a river. King tides if you live by the beach. One flood tide with the spring snow melt, Susan I got a whole new hot water heater came up down the river. Stuff just appears.
They wash up whole new things you never knew you had to worry about before. For example at this time in life, as an American citizen, you never before had to know the name Andrew Miller.
Andrew Miller is an American man who apparently works now as a house painter in the suburbs of St. Louis, Missouri. But in 2016, around the time of the Republican National Convention, Andrew Miller worked for a long time friend and aide to Donald Trump. He worked for a man named Roger Stone.
Now, it`s a little fuzzy exactly what Andrew Miller did for Stone but whatever it was, it`s enough that special counsel Robert Mueller told Andrew Miller that he needed to testify before a grand jury. On May 18th, Andrew Miller was told he should appear voluntarily before the grand jury and he should turn over documents. When may 18th rolled around, Andrew Miller did not show up.
So then the special counsel made it mandatory. The special counsel subpoenaed Andrew Miller to appear on June 8th. June 8th rolled around, Andrew Miller did not show up.
Then a federal judge ordered Andrew Miller to comply ruled that in fact, he really did have to appear before the grand jury on June 29th. June 29th rolled around and this time, Andrew Miller did not show up but he did file a formal motion to quash the subpoena, to get rid of the subpoena on grounds the Mueller investigation, the whole special counsel rigmarole is all unconstitutional.
Well, on August 2nd, that argument was shot down by a federal judge Beryl Howard. She didn`t just say no to his argument against the special counsel. She dismantled it in a 93-page ruling to Andrew Miller`s allegation that the special counsel Robert Mueller, quote, wields too much power with too little accountability, Judge Beryl Howard shot back, quote, the scope of the special counsel`s power falls well within the boundaries of the Constitution as the special counsel is supervised by an official who is himself accountable to the elected president.
And that ruling meant that Andrew Miller had no more wiggle room. He really did have to testify before the special counsel`s grand jury. Today. And again, he didn`t show up.
So, today, Judge Beryl Howard held Andrew Miller in contempt of court for refusing to show up, for refusing to testify before the Robert Mueller grand jury.
Now, I am no lawyer, but to me this seems like a kamikaze mission. Why do this? What is the strategy here, and where does this end? Did it just end? Does this guy potentially end up going to jail now?
Joining us again is Chuck Rosenberg, former U.S. attorney in the Eastern District of Virginia, former senior FBI official.
Chuck, thank you for sticking around to help me with this.
ROSENBERG: My pleasure.
MADDOW: I understand contempt of court in a colloquial sense, meaning you`ve been told to do something by the court and you`re not doing it and you don`t have that option. But in this case, the court holding Mr. Mueller, ruling that he is in contempt for defying the subpoena, does -- what`s the consequence of this? Does this mean Mr. Miller is going to go to jail?
ROSENBERG: Conceivably. I`m going to get a little nerdy on you, Rachel.
ROSENBERG: Yes, there`s two types of contempt. There`s civil contempt in which case the judge, Judge Howell, simply wants Miller to comply. And as soon as he complies, as soon as he testifies, as soon as he follows her order, the content is lifted.
There`s also criminal contempt. That`s designed to punish, not to enforce compliance. It seems to me she head him in civil contempt meaning testify and you`re free to go. All you need to do is comply with my order and we`re square.
So, he has an easy out. If he doesn`t comply, she can continue to hold him in contempt until he does which means conceivably, putting him in jail or finding him or finding something else to try and coerce his compliance.
MADDOW: Does a -- we can`t see the ruling in this case. We believe at least as far as we can tell the ruling is sealed. We can`t check. But if she`s now holding him in civil contempt and he continues to defy the court`s order and refuse to testify, would, when you say she would then have the option to sort of increase the leverage on him including potentially jail, would that mean she`d be converting this from civil contempt into criminal?
ROSENBERG: She could ask the U.S. attorney`s office to bring criminal charges. She could even appoint a special prosecutor to bring criminal charges. But my guess is it will likely remain civil contempt.
And that means that as long as this grand jury is sitting and grand juries sit fur a term of anywhere from 12 to 18 months, he could spend all that amount of time in jail. And by the way, the special counsel Bob Mueller`s deem subpoena him again after that first grand jury expires. And if he chooses to disobey again, he could be held in contempt again.
And so look, it`s really on him. It`s really on Miller to simply comply. When you get subpoenaed you have two lawful options. You can plead the Fifth Amendment if you have a legitimate Fifth Amendment privilege, if a truthful answer would incriminate you, or you can go into the grand jury and answer the questions truthfully.
He didn`t choose the lawful of path. He chose the contempt path.
MADDOW: Chuck Rosenberg, former U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, former senior FBI official -- Chuck, thank you. Clarifying as always. Much appreciated.
ROSENBERG: My pleasure.
MADDOW: You have to wonder why this particular guy is fighting this far. It may just be a matter of principle. It may it be desperation. If Chuck`s right, we`re going to find out when he ultimately gets in here.
All right. Much more to come here tonight. Stay with us.
MADDOW: One thing that has been remarkable and sort of weird and chilling to learn in reading all the special counsel indictments, is the specificity with which Mueller team has been able to lay out in great detail all the way in which Russian military intelligence officers worked to mess with the U.S. prejudicial election in 2016, all the different things they did, right down to them duping unsuspecting U.S. citizens. People here in the U.S. getting them to make things happen here on U.S. soil but secretly on Russia`s behalf.
It`s been creepy to learn that they were able to influence Americans all across this country. But the place where Russia really went all in on stuff like that was the great state of Florida. They organized and promoted Florida goes Trump rallies held in nearly 20 cities across the state of Florida. They made one-on-one contact with local Florida activists for in-person on the ground help. They even hired somebody to impersonate Hillary Clinton at a Florida rally.
For whatever reason, Florida was a big target for Russia`s influence campaign and for whatever reason, they were also kind of a soft target. Russians were able to find people who they could dupe into participating in their operation.
But there`s another specific way they went after Florida that we don`t yet understand the consequences of. We don`t understand the danger of it, but it`s now back in the news for right now. The details of it turned up a few weeks ago in the last big indictment from the special counsel`s office. That indictment against a bunch of Russian military intelligence officers from the GRU.
In that indict, according to that indictment, the month before the 2016 election, so October 2016, GRU officers involved in the Russian attack started checking out the web sighs of various counties in Georgia and Iowa and Florida. They just started visiting those Websites. The indictment says it was part of the GRU, quote, targeting state and county offices responsible for administering the 2016 U.S. elections.
But then there`s this is chilling paragraph in the indictment. By November 2016, but still before the election, so right, the election was November 8th. This means this happened in the first seven days of November, literally the final week before the election, these GRU agents according to indictment, quote, sent over 100 spear phishing e-mails to organizations and personnel involved in administering elections in numerous Florida counties. The spear phishing e-mails contained malware that the conspirators embedded in their e-mails.
The last week of the election? So this isn`t like -- this is a very specific thing, right? This isn`t like hijacking American political causes to make them more extreme and divisive. This isn`t organizing an protest on Facebook. This isn`t even what they did to target individual voters on line with content and propaganda that was supposed to make people hate, you know, Hillary Clinton or hate Muslims or make you think that Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump were somehow the same thing, right?
This was specific. This was the last seven days before the election, first week of November. A huge targeted blitz by Russian military intelligence blasting hacking tools malware at the individual people who were administering elections in individual Florida counties.
What did they think they could do in the final week of the election? This wasn`t a planning expedition to see how vulnerable those Websites were. This was voting time. This was go time. And Russia at that moment was trying to gain access to those crucial systems in charge of handling elections in just a matter of days.
Why that blitz? How successful were they? What are the consequences? I mean, that was 2016. That was all spelled out in the last Mueller indictment.
We don`t know whatever happened with that, what that was for, that specific part of the attacking what it did. Well, now, comes a new warning. That there isn`t just some generic threat out there related to the elections this fall all over the country. Now comes a new specific warning that there`s specifically a Russian hacking operation that is live and under way right now inside local Florida election systems.
We don`t know if this is the payoff from what they did so late in the game in 2016. They inserted malware there that allowed them to maintain access to those election systems for the next election. Maybe this is a whole new effort but apparently it`s live and under way now.
And the way we have learned about it this week is super weird and controversial, and that`s next.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
TAMPA BAY TIMES REPORTER: Senator Nelson, can you elaborate what you told my colleague Steve Bousquet yesterday about Russians being in Florida election records? Do you mean right now or were you referring to 2016?
SEN. BILL NELSON (D), FLORIDA: Right now.
TAMPA BAY TIMES REPORTER: What do you mean by they`re in the election records? What do you mean by that?
NELSON: Just exactly what I said. They have already penetrated certain counties in the state. And they now have free rein to move about.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: They now have free rein to move about.
Florida Senator Bill Nelson this week announcing there`s something going on in his state`s election system in the keep the administered is election systems in his state right now. Not 2016 but now.
The Russian hackers have penetrated certain Florida counties and now have free rein to move about. Now, Bill Nelson is running for re-election this year. His opponent is the state`s Republican Governor Rick Scott.
Scott`s administration responded to this warning from Nelson this week by insisting they had no idea what he was talking about, basically saying, as far as we know, everything`s fine. That sounds crazy. Rick Scott himself gave a speech today in which he accused Senator Nelson of, quote, making things up.
But Senator Bill Nelson is standing by his statement and he`s offering some important detail. Also, notably, the state`s other senator, Republican member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Marco Rubio, he`s not disputing Senator Nelson`s account. Today, Senator Rubio released a statement taking no issue with Nelson`s remarks and declaring that his state`s elections systems, quote, have been and will remain a potentially attractive target for attacks by foreign actors.
"The Tampa Bay Times" also reports that Bill Nelson`s account was partly corroborated by two county officials who said they heard a similar warning at a private meeting with Rubio earlier this year in May. Senator Nelson says both he and Senator Rubio warned Florida election officials about this current Russian intrusion in a letter last month. He says he sent that letter to local Florida election officials specifically at the request of the Republican chairman and the Democratic vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
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NELSON: We were requested by the chairman and vice chairman of the Intelligence Committee to let the supervisors of election in Florida know that the Russians are in their records. This is no fooling time. And that`s why two senators bipartisan, reached out to the election apparatus of Florida to let them know that the Russians are in the records and all they have to do, if those election records are not protected, is to go in and start eliminating registered voters and you can imagine the chaos that would occur on election day.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: Bill Nelson is not backing down from his claims that Russians have penetrated Florida election systems now. They`re in there now for this election cycle. His warnings, of course, come on the heels of the last indictment from the special counsel`s office which charge that Russian military intelligence for some reason bombarded county level election officials in Florida in the final seven days before the presidential election in 2016.
The indictment describing a huge late attack mounted against local systems in Florida, an attack that was designed to install Russian malware inside Florida election systems.
Well, neither the chairman or the vice chairman of the Intelligence Committee are denying what Senator Nelson says happened here. Even as the Republican governor of the state who is running against him is treating this like a joke or even some kind of gaffe by Senator Nelson. But if -- what Senator Nelson is warning about is true, if this is happening, what do we do about the fact that the state government really doesn`t seem to care if this kind of attack is real and it`s under way right now? And it is Russian military intelligence doing it again, are we really just supposed to count on random local officials to figure out if and how they want to try to defend against it?
I mean, I get that localities run election systems but if those election systems are actually hit with an international targeted attack by a hostile nation state, isn`t there somebody else who should come in and help with that? Literally we`re just having random senators warn each other and hope someone believes them and figures out a homegrown defense? That`s the plan really?
Hold that thought. That`s next.
MADDOW: In 2014, the U.S. attorney in the Western District of Pennsylvania, David Hickton, announced what was at that time the first ever criminal indictment against foreign state actors for hacking. When he brought criminal charges against five members of the Chinese military for economic cyber espionage against the United States. That made David Hickton a pioneer in the field of defending the country against foreign cyber attacks in part by using the criminal justice system.
Join us is David Hickton, also the founder and director of the Institute for Cyber Law Policy and Security at the University of Pittsburgh.
Mr. Hickton, thanks very much for joining us. Nice to have you here.
DAVID HICKTON, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY FOR WESTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: We have an unusual situation in Florida that is unfolding over last few days. The senator from Florida, Bill Nelson, who is facing re- election this year and being challenged for his seat by the serving Republican governor of the state, Senator Nelson says that there is a cyber attack under way that is targeting Florida local election systems and in his words, the Russians are in there now and have free rein to move about at will. The state in part through Governor Scott, appears to be dismissing this and calling him all but crazy for bringing this up.
From a law enforcement cyber security perspective, what`s your overall reaction to that in.
HICKTON: My reaction is that on the one hand, it points to the natural defensive reaction we get from state officials which is understandable we need to account for it. Nobody likes to admit they`ve been hacked. But the fact is that we know that in 2016, Florida was one of the seven states identified by DHS where the Russians were not only circling but they were in their system. So, I agree with the spirit of what Senator Nelson has said today.
The other thing I think it points to is I made the point on your show a couple weeks ago that we shouldn`t look at hacking as a single event. It`s really a series of events. And we shouldn`t look at elections as a thing. Elections are many things. It`s an architecture.
You know, we represent the world`s greatest democracy and we register people to vote. We educate voters on the issues through the media and other resources and the candidates. And then we have election day and then we tally the votes and in some places we do audits.
So, it`s really a broader concept. So this campaign over here is really attacking an election system over here, and the thing is that there`s just multiple on-ramps for our nation state adversaries, it`s been demonstrated time and time again going all the way back to 2008. And I believe it`s type to get our heads out of the sand about this. And we need to really address it.
And I think that men and women of goodwill who are patriotic could come together and solve this.
MADDOW: David Hickton, founder and director of the Institute for Cyber Law Policy and Security at the University of Pittsburgh -- sir, I`d like to ask you to come back and talk to us about this next week. This is becoming a political fight in Florida, but also a national security fight in terms of defending these systems. I hope you`ll come back and join us again.
HICKTON: Happy to, Rachel. Thank you for the invite.
MADDOW: Thanks. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: I have a date with a canoe that I need to make.
So, that does it for us tonight. I wish you a good Friday and a good weekend. We will see you again on Monday.
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD", where Ari Melber is in for Lawrence tonight.
Good evening, Ari.
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