Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW Date: September 10, 2018 Guest: Jim Himes, Lisa Graves
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. Happy that you are with us tonight.
Hurricane Florence was upgraded to a category three hurricane earlier today and within an hour, it was upgraded from a category three to a category four storm. This is a big one and it really does look like it is aimed right at the American East Coast.
The governor of South Carolina, Henry McMaster, has already ordered the evacuation of about 1 million people. In eight coastal counties in South Carolina, everybody is under mandatory evacuation order as of noon tomorrow. State government announced two major highways will be open half backwards tomorrow to facilitate that evacuation.
So, starting tomorrow, if you`re in one of those eight coastal counties in South Carolina and you`re following the advice that you must get out, you will have a choice. You can get on the highway and take the road heading away from the coast as you usually do, or you can drive on the other side of that highway too if you want the side of the road that is usually oncoming traffic will be turned around so that all traffic, all lanes, both sides of the median will run one direction only, out of the way of the storm.
The exact track of this storm at this point is still a little bit in flux, as it always is this far out, but we do know the basics about where it is headed. And given the size of the storm and the expectations how long it`s due to hang out there offshore, it looks like there is probably going to be a dual flooding risk of this storm. They`re expecting a large storm surge on the coast.
So, that`s salt water coastal flooding from the storm surge. They`re also potentially damaging waves, right? But then inland away from the sea, the storm is expected to bring so much rain that there will also be fresh water flooding almost anywhere the storm lingers, and that means overflowing rivers and lakes, rivers and ponds, but also just water in the street, right?
So, again, a million people under mandatory evacuation orders already. This does look like a big one of potentially national consequences. So, expect that storm as it continues churning toward the Carolina coast. Expect this to be dominating news and rightly so all week long this week.
Today in Washington, Republicans tried to set Thursday, this Thursday, as the day for the Judiciary Committee to vote on the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court. First of all, that day, Thursday, is likely to be hurricane day. Secondly, senators were still submitting additional questions to Brett Kavanaugh as of today. Expecting that process to be over and senators to be ready to vote by Thursday seems fast, even for this rushed process.
Democrats, of course, only have so much power because they`re in the minority in the Senate, but we`re told that Democrats may be able to delay that announced vote by about a week or so using Senate tactics. Remember, the math here is that if all Democratic senators stick together in opposition to Brett Kavanaugh`s nomination, they only need two. It only takes two Republicans to come to the same conclusion and Kavanaugh`s nomination will be blocked.
It`s not unthinkable. Brett Kavanaugh is a historically unpopular nominee. He has been nominated by a historically unpopular president using a process that has been rushed as fast as possible without senators or the public getting access to a vast majority of government documents that pertain to Kavanaugh`s time working in the George W. Bush White House during some very controversial stuff, including some stuff he appears not to have told the truth about under oath.
So, finding two Republican no votes is certainly not going to be an easy task in these partisan times but it is not unimaginable either. And now, one Republican senator who is seen as a possible no vote on Brett Kavanaugh, she`s telling her hometown paper that she may have a, quote, major problem with Kavanaugh as a nominee. So, we`ve got much more on that story ahead tonight. You will want to hear that news.
There was also an interesting and somewhat dramatic court proceeding today in Washington where accused Russian agent Maria Butina has been charged by federal prosecutors with essentially infiltrating the NRA and other aspects of the American conservative movement to influence the U.S. election as a secret agent of the Russian government. A judge today in Washington rejected the lawyers` request, Maria Butina`s lawyers` request that she be released from jail pending trial. The judge somewhat angrily also imposed a gag order, both on the prosecutors in the case and the defense lawyers in that case. Thus precluding either side from making any further public comments about the Maria Butina case until her trial is over and done with.
Just as we are getting on the air tonight, we just got in the transcript of the court hearing today in the Maria Butina case. You will want to hear the judge`s angry tirade about the lip syncing video that she was forced to watch in chambers for no reason. It`s really good. We`ve got that coming up just a little bit later on.
So, a whole bunch of stuff going on all at once. There`s a lot to keep an eye on in the news tonight and the next couple of days. It does seem like it`s going to be a busy and important news week this week, but it does seem clear from watching the president`s Twitter feed, if nothing else, that at the White House right now they basically consider tonight to be Woodward eve.
Some excerpts and descriptions from Bob Woodward`s new book leaked out in advance last week, but tomorrow is actually the publication date for this new book from Bob Woodward, "Fear: Trump in the White House." Having read most of the book now myself and watching Mr. Woodward start to do his advanced publicity before the publication date tomorrow, it is clear, at least to me, I think it`s clear that the title of the book, right?
The book is called "Fear." The title of the book, I think, is a little bit of a double entendre. Maybe a double edged sword is the better metaphor. It has a double meaning.
Clearly, fear is the word that Woodward thinks best describes the atmosphere inside the White House, both in terms of irrational paranoia, but also in terms of rational fear of what might be exposed or what might result from the special counsel`s investigation led by Robert Mueller. So fear on the one hand is about the feeling of fear inside the White House. But I think it`s also fair to say that "Fear" is also what Bob Woodward is suggesting we should all have about this person holding this office and how dangerous that could be both for us as a country and for the world.
I say that I think that is a fair interpretation of Woodward`s book, not only because I`m reading that, in terms of the way he tells this story, but also now that he`s talking about his book in advance of the publication tomorrow, that`s pretty much what he`s telling all his interviewers, telling -- he`s basically saying, hey, listen, the main point here is I`m telling you, you should be afraid.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOB WOODWARD, AUTHOR, "FEAR": You look at the operation of this White House and you have to say let`s hope to god we don`t have a crisis.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: "Fear: Trump in the White House" is Woodward`s 19th book and he says reporting it took him deeper inside a working White House than he`s ever been before.
WOODWARD: This one was in the belly of the beast.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And what did you conclude about the beast?
WOODWARD: That people better wake up to what`s going on.
Well, I`ve never seen an instance when the president is so detached from the reality of what`s going on.
People who work for him are worried that he will sign things or give orders that threaten the national security or the financial security of the country or the world.
What I want to do is focus on -- you know, this -- here`s the problem, this has not been treated seriously enough and the things -- some of the things Trump did and does jeopardize the real national security --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: So, Bob Woodward has started promoting this book ahead of its publication date tomorrow. He is being very clear about what he`s trying to do with this book and why he titled it "Fear" is to try to wake up the American people as to what he sees as a serious danger that he is reporting about the president.
I said that I have read most of the book. I did not do that because I enjoy being scared in that way. I did that because I`ve got Bob Woodward here tomorrow on the day the book is actually published. He`s going to be my guest here live in studio tomorrow night. Eek.
And as the Bob Woodward book launches, people can start to get their hands on it themselves instead of just getting advanced reported excerpts. I saw today that his publisher has announced they`ve preprinted something like 1 million copies of the book. They`re expecting this to be a massive, massive rollout tomorrow.
It does appear that the impending publication of this book and also probably that anonymous "New York Times" op-ed last week as well, they`ve sort of shaken a few things loose from this president and his defenders in Congress, and in particular I think there are a couple of things that we should all we watching for tonight and over the course of this week that specifically relate to this existentially challenging investigation that has this president and this White House so worried.
First thing to watch for has to do with this handsome fellow. You will recognize him from recent news coverage because this past Friday, he was sentenced to prison. He has not reported to start his sentence. I don`t actually know when he`s doing that.
But in the meantime, after his sentencing before actually going to prison, he`s been doing something close to a media blitz. And most of it is trying to make sure he`s known for something other than the first member of the Trump campaign to go to prison for lying about colluding with the Russians to help Trump win the election. He`s trying to give you other things to think when you hear the name George Papadopoulos other than just that one blunt historic fact.
But as we noted here on the show on Friday night when we got the first excerpts from the first interview with him that was published after his sentencing, an interview with "The New York Times," this Trump campaign adviser, George Papadopoulos, is now sort of contesting what was previously an uncontroverted story about how he fits into the whole Russia scandal and, in fact, why he was so important to the FBI starting their counterintelligence investigation into the president and his campaign in the first place.
And you know this part of the story by heart by now, right? It was first reported in "The New York Times" nearly nine months ago. George Papadopoulos, spring of 2016, May of 2016, after he had been named a foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign, he was in London, he reportedly had a meeting over drinks with an Australian diplomat at a London wine bar. At that meeting, Papadopoulos told this Australian diplomat that Russia had stolen Democratic e-mails and that those stolen e- mails ultimately would hurt the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign.
The Australian diplomat reportedly didn`t think much of it at the time, but lo and behold, a couple of months later, it was revealed that, in fact, the Russian government really had stolen Democratic emails, at which point the Australian called the FBI, hey, you guys, hey, you G men, hey, you feds should know that the Donald Trump campaign had advanced notice of the Russians doing this before anybody knew about it publicly, right? This guy George Papadopoulos, who is advising the Trump campaign, told our diplomat that this had taken place before any of this was ever public. Y`all should look into it, right?
So that`s the story, again, which you know by heart by now, and the reporting -- the seminal reporting on this point is that that notification from the Australian government about that conversation that George Papadopoulos had had in the spring of 2016, that notification to the FBI was the catalyst for the FBI to start investigating, not just Russia interfering in the presidential campaign, but crucially, whether or not the Trump campaign was in on it, right? To the point where they had advanced knowledge of what the Russians were doing before anybody knew about it publicly.
I mean, that supposedly was the catalyst for the FBI starting its investigation of whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia. You know, if it hadn`t been for that drunk kid in the bar flapping his jaws.
Well, that young guy is now on his way to prison, and on his way to prison he`s now saying, no, actually, that didn`t happen. Or at least I don`t remember that happening. So reconsider that story.
"New York Times" reporter Mark Mazzetti released audio excerpts of his interview on this subject with George Papadopoulos today at the website of "The New York Times." We`ve got a clip from that here. What you`re going to hear in this clip is the actual interview between Mark Mazzetti from "The Times" and George Papadopoulos. But interspersed with that is Mark Mazzetti sort of narrating it a little bit so you can follow what was happening in their conversation.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
MARK MAZZETTI, NEW YORK TIMES: Shortly after that, you`re in a upscale bar in London talking to Australia`s top diplomat in the U.K. How did that come about?
In May of 2016, so shortly afterwards, he was in a meeting, the top Australian diplomat in the U.K., a man named Alexander Downer.
GEORGE PAPADOPOULOS: This meeting was supposedly about the U.S.-Australia relationship, which, of course, I had no background in whatsoever.
MAZZETTI: The Australian wanted to meet him, in part because at this point, the foreign diplomats were still trying to figure out who was on this Trump campaign. Who are his advisers? Who is George Papadopoulos? So they meet in a bar.
What were you guys drinking?
PAPADOPOULOS: I think I had a gin and tonic.
MAZZETTI: They start drinking gin and tonics.
In the interviews, Downer has said that you brought up the Russian dirt on Hillary Clinton.
We now know over the course of that meeting, Papadopoulos told Alexander Downer what Mifsud had told me, that the Russians had all this dirt, damaging information, e-mails of Hillary Clinton, but --
PAPADOPOULOS: I don`t remember talking about that with him at all.
MAZZETTI: So you don`t remember at any point in that meeting talking about Russia dirt, Hillary Clinton?
PAPADOPOULOS: I don`t have -- no, I don`t remember that at all, actually.
MAZZETTI: He says he does remember other aspects of that meeting but doesn`t remember the part where he told Downer about this information.
PAPADOPOULOS: It was quite shocking when I read it, actually, in "The New York Times" for the first time.
MAZZETTI: Our own reporting first revealed this, that downer`s information made its way to Australia and then eventually to the Australian embassy in Washington and eventually to the FBI. And that was the reason why the FBI launched its investigation into possible connections between the Trump campaign and Russia.
He writes cables back to his government describing the meeting. And in the cables, he gives specific information that you guys discussed, not only that the Russians have dirt on Hillary, but that Mifsud had actually offered help in coordinating the release of the e-mails. That this is what came up in the meeting. That you told him everything Mifsud had told you and that it was not just, hey, we`ve got some e-mails, it`s, hey, let`s work together to release some e-mails.
Is that an inaccurate description?
PAPADOPOULOS: I have no recollection of talking about that at all.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: I have no recollection of talking about that at all. It`s a little weird, right? He`s not saying, no, it didn`t happen. Dude, I was there. I remember, just one gin and tonic. He`s not saying it didn`t happen, he`s just saying he can`t remember that happening.
Did he previously remember that happening but he`s since forgotten what he used to remember? Did he never remember what happened that night at all? Does he remember that night and know that didn`t happen but for some reason saying he doesn`t remember it instead of just denying that it happened? Hmm?
We knew this was coming because "The New York Times" reported on Friday that Papadopoulos was not denying this whole story but at least forgetting this whole part of the story. Now as of tonight, we can hear him doing so. He is also, tonight, continuing with this line of argument, or at least this weird dodge.
Online tonight, he said sarcastically, yes, quote, I supposedly told that individual, meaning Alexander Downer, about e-mails. Quote, something I have no recollection ever discussing.
I can`t make -- honestly, I can`t make heads or tails of George Papadopoulos. Literally, if I was strong enough to pick him up and throw him in the air, I don`t know if he would land head up or head down. I have no idea.
He`s on his way to prison and now we don`t necessarily understand why. But on his way to prison, he is trying to change the public perception of how the FBI started investigating whether the Trump campaign was colluding with Russia. We do not yet know why he is doing that. He`s doing that with this weird I don`t recall thing.
We don`t know why he`s doing it, but here`s a hunch as to how we are going to find out why he is doing this. This is the other thing I said to watch for today and in coming days. Axios.com is reporting that as early as this week the president is going to order the declassification of more documents about the start of the FBI Russia investigation. Quote, President Trump is expected to declassify as early as this week documents covering the U.S. government surveillance of Trump campaign adviser Carter Page and the investigative activities of senior Justice Department lawyer Bruce Ohr.
Carter Page, you remember him, we now know he was the subject of court- ordered surveillance after he left his role as an adviser to the Trump campaign. And Carter Page really is someone who was caught up in a Russian spy ring. Court records from a federal prosecution several years ago reveal his enthusiastic engagement with three dudes who were literally charged as Russian spies operating out of New York City. Two of them got away back to Moscow. One of them got caught and went to prison for being a Russian spy.
And in this case, Carter Page had a starring role as a targeted asset for the Russian spying ring in that criminal case. That`s why it`s always been a little hard to understand why Republicans in the White House have tried to make Carter Page their poster child for how wrong-headed it is for anybody to suspect that the Trump campaign might have any ties to Russia. Dude, anybody who hired Carter Page.
This guy really was caught up in a Russian spy ring. He inexplicably ended up with a job on the Trump campaign he appeared completely unqualified for. And then he kept taking trips to Russia and meeting with Russian officials thereafter.
He is not the world`s greatest argument for why it`s crazy anybody would suspect any Trump campaign involvement in a Russian government effort to elect Donald Trump president. But the application for those surveillance orders against them, when it came to Carter Page, those applications did require the government, the FBI, to spell out the basis of their ongoing investigation. So, Republicans in the Trump White House apparently want to declassify and release that information that was used to get the surveillance warrant against him because they want to, I think, sort of further cloud the issue of why the FBI started investigating the Trump campaign and Russia in the first place.
What was the basis for opening that investigation? And now this reporting at "Axios" suggests that we should expect the president to order the declassification of those documents soon. And the other thing that Trump is apparently going to declassify soon is documentation of the, quote, investigative activities of senior Justice Department lawyer Bruce Ohr.
And if Carter Page being a good guy when it comes to the Russia scandal is a weird peg to try to hang your hat on, Bruce Ohr being a bad guy when it comes to the Russia scandal is an even weirder peg to try to hang your proverbial hat on.
Bruce Ohr, you see in there drinking coffee on the right, he was one of the top experts on Russian organized crime at the U.S. Department of Justice. He`s the head of the organized crime for the whole DOJ, his specialty was international organized crime. One of the things he pulled off in that role in the Justice Department was bringing a U.S.-based criminal indictment against the godfather of all godfathers, the head of the Russian mob.
Bruce Ohr was one of the U.S. officials in 2006 who figured out a way to ban a powerful Putin-linked oligarch named Oleg Deripaska from entering the United States. They banned him from getting a U.S. visa based on his alleged ties to Russian organized crime. And according to "The New York Times" based on fears that Deripaska might be coming to the U.S. specifically to launder Russian mob money into U.S. real estate.
That was 2006. That`s when they blocked him from coming to the U.S., 2006, around the time Oleg Deripaska was doing lots of business with Paul Manafort overseas, was right around the time "The A.P." reports that Paul Manafort entered into a $10 million a year contract with Oleg Deripaska to promote the interest of Russian President Vladimir Putin and his government.
Well, we have since learned from "New York Times" reporting that almost a decade later, almost a decade after Bruce Ohr as the senior Justice Department official working on Russian organized crime, nearly a decade after he participated in this U.S. effort to ban Oleg Deripaska from being allowed to come to the United States by denying him a visa, nine years down the road, nine years after that in 2015, that same Justice Department official, Bruce Ohr, was actually instrumental in bringing Deripaska to the United States on purpose. They`d been blocking him from sitting foot here in this country since 2006, but in 2015, they decided they would give him a visa and invite him over. Why?
According to dramatic reporting from Ken Vogel and Matt Rosenberg, the reason they allowed Deripaska to come here after all those years of banning him is because they wanted to have a little talk with him. They wanted to try to flip him. They wanted to try to persuade him to start working for U.S. intelligence and law enforcement. They wanted him to start informing against Vladimir Putin and Russian organized crime.
Quote, U.S. Justice Department official Bruce Ohr attended the meeting with Deripaska in 2015, during which time the Americans pressed Deripaska on connections between Russian organized crime and Mr. Putin`s government. They were trying to flip him. It did not work.
Deripaska refused another meeting and reportedly told the Kremlin about that failed approach from U.S. law enforcement. That was in 2015. They apparently went back at him again in 2016, trying again and again. He gave them the hand.
But now, this president and his Republican supporters in Congress are apparently poised to try to destroy that Justice Department official by name. We are told to expect a leak of classified information or the declassification of information related to Bruce Ohr`s work. They will presumably use that declassified information selectively to try to make him look terrible somehow.
All indications are they will try to use Bruce Ohr and whatever they`re about to declassify about him as a means to call into question the origins of the FBI investigation. This top Justice Department official who is an expert on Russian organized crime, pushing mob-linked, Putin-linked Russian oligarchs and all these uncomfortable questions about Putin and organized crime and the Russian government. Imagine how happy they will be when Trump declassifies all of Bruce Ohr`s investigative activities.
Imagine how happy they will be to blow up his sources in the process. Imagine how happy they will be when the career of the top Russian organized crime expert at the U.S. Justice Department, who has been intensely and personally focused for years on the links between Russian organized crime and the Putin government. Imagine how happy they will be to blow up that guy specifically. Whose interests will that most serve?
More ahead. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Pro-Trump House Republicans have been clamoring for it for awhile now. They reportedly are about to get their wish. Axios.com is now reporting that President Trump is about to order the declassification of a batch of documents, quote, covering the U.S. government`s surveillance of Trump campaign adviser Carter Page and the investigative activities of senior Justice Department lawyer Bruce Ohr.
Carter Page is the Trump campaign adviser who came under FBI surveillance for his repeated contacts with Russian operatives. He was surveilled under FISA regulations that require the government to show that they believe the target of the surveillance is an active foreign agent.
Bruce Ohr, on the other hand, is a Justice Department official whose work has made him one of the top experts in the U.S. government on Russian organized crime and its ties to the Kremlin, including one dramatic instance in which Bruce Ohr reportedly met with a Russian oligarch named Oleg Deripaska and tried to convince him to become a cooperator with U.S. law enforcement against the Russian government.
The president has been sending angry tweets about Bruce Ohr for weeks now. Last month, House Republicans summoned Ohr for closed door testimony. But now, we`re told to expect the president to release classified information from Bruce Ohr`s, quote, investigative activities.
Joining us now is Congressman Jim Himes who is a member of the House Intelligence Committee.
Congressman, thank you very much for being with us.
REP. JIM HIMES (D-CT), HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Hi, Rachel.
MADDOW: What is your reaction to this reporting from "Axios" that the president is going to declassify these materials? First of all, I should mention that it`s just "Axios" reporting this. Other people aren`t matching this reporting. I don`t know if that means that they`re just ahead of the story or maybe they`ve caught on to something that isn`t going to happen. Do you have expectations about this?
HIMES: Well, I`m certainly intrigued by it. I`m intrigued by it because of course they`ve declassified other stuff that had no business being out there in the public realm. You`ll remember the FISA affidavits that they assured us were going to show this all got started because of the Steele dossier. And the reason I`m intrigued by it, every time they have declassified documents, it turns out that the truth, the actual documents completely rebut their point.
When we, you know, got a look at the FISA affidavit, it turns out that lo and behold, it was really all about George Papadopoulos who you were talking about earlier, bragging about meeting Russians who were talking about having e-mails. So, I`m intrigued by it because documents and the truth are not the Republicans` friends on this issue. So I worry, quite frankly, that if they do declassify, and when I say "they," it would be the president, of course, it will be done selectively in a way that slants the truth, because again, the truth is not their friend.
MADDOW: What do you make of the targeting of Bruce Ohr in particular? Obviously, what Axios is reporting is that there are two sets of documents coming out, one that relates to this surveillance application on Carter Page. We`ve already had a bunch of that declassified already. But also, the investigative work of Bruce Ohr.
Given Bruce Ohr`s expertise and his past work in the Justice Department, are you at all concerned? I certainly am intrigued myself as to why they`re singling him out in way that I`m expecting to be designed to destroy his career.
HIMES: Well, you know, a couple things. Number one, there is a reason why police and public officials don`t typically talk about what`s happening inside an investigation, because inside an investigation, you have law enforcement people, policemen, FBI agents doing things like following hunches and getting to dead ends. And, you know, until you`re actually ready to go to court, nothing`s ready so that`s why if you just sort of start pell-mell releasing papers, you could create an impression that is not true.
But I got to tell you, Rachel, this is infuriating, right? Bruce Ohr, by all accounts, and by the way, at some point, I hope they release his testimony, because I heard that his testimony last week actually completely rebutted the notion that he was doing anything untoward. But Bruce Ohr is just the latest guy whose career the president is intent on ending, this a 30-year professional, an expert on the Russian mob. A guy that we could actually use having his career ended.
And I say that tonight, Rachel, with particular passion, because tomorrow morning between 8:00 and 9:00, we are going to remember 17 years to the minute of the attack on our country by terrorists on 9/11 and thousands of lives lost. Why have we not had another event like 9/11 in this country? I speak with some authority with six years on the intelligence committee when I say the reason we have not had an attack like the one that struck us 17 years ago is because of Bruce Ohr and thousands and thousands of people like him in DOJ and FBI and CIA and everywhere else, all of whom are fair game for this president to spin his lies and ultimately harm those organizations that have kept us more or less safe for 17 years.
MADDOW: Congressman Jim Himes of Connecticut, thank you for being with us tonight, sir. Much appreciate your time.
HIMES: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: All right. We`ve got a lot more to get to tonight. Do stay with us.
MADDOW: Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Senator Susan Collins of Maine, together they`re seen by Democrats as two of the Republican senators who might be persuaded to stop the Supreme Court nomination of Brett Kavanaugh. Kavanaugh is a historically unpopular choice. His polling numbers are worse than Harriet Miers or Robert Bork, two nominees who were so unpopular they didn`t even make it close to the court. Kavanaugh`s nomination has less support than either of them.
In addition, though, specifically, Senators Murkowski and Collins are both pro-choice and Judge Kavanaugh`s staunch anti-abortion rights record will presumably give them both pause on Roe versus Wade alone. The Senators Murkowski and Collins may have some other specific issues with Kavanaugh even beyond that. You can see evidence of that in some of the questions directed at Kavanaugh in his confirmation hearings last week.
Senator Mazie Hirono of Hawaii specifically calling out Judge Kavanaugh`s hostility against programs for Native Hawaiians, and by extension, programs for Native Alaskans. That effort from Mazie Hirono was leading to a very key political consideration for Lisa Murkowski up in Alaska, mainly that Senator Murkowski very much owes her job in the Senate right now to the votes and the support and the money of Native Alaskans.
In 2010, Lisa Murkowski, you might remember, she got primaried from the right. She actually lost the Republican primary in Alaska for her own seat to a far-right challenger. In order to try to keep her seat in the Senate, she had to run as a write-in, which is almost impossible to win, right? But her most stalwart allies in that political storm were Native Alaskans who stood by her with votes and not incidentally, with a ton of last-minute money for ad buys.
She told them at the time, I will fight for you as long as I am able. She owes her seat in the Senate to the native Alaskan communities, and they are now reminding her of that in the local press in Alaska, and also in the hallways of the Senate where they are delivering the message that her vote to confirm Kavanaugh could, quote, be a death knell for Native Alaskans.
So, that`s some of the pressure on senator Murkowski from native Alaskan voters who saved her bacon in 2010. Do not vote to confirm Brett Kavanaugh.
As for Senator Collins in Maine, we`ve talked on this show about the voluminous and somewhat unnerving evidence that came out last week that Brett Kavanaugh may have lied under oath about a range of issues, including whether he received documents that were stolen from Senate Democrats, and whether he used those documents to help Bush nominees get through the Senate. Senator Collins went home for the weekend, saying she remains undecided on the Brett Kavanaugh nomination, but she also told her local paper this, quote, if in fact Judge Kavanaugh was not truthful, then obviously that would be a major problem for me.
Our next guest is someone who was right there inside that fight at the time. She says some of her own work is what was stolen and given to Brett Kavanaugh, and tonight she is ready to talk. That`s next.
MADDOW: On Friday, just as the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation hearings were winding down, slate.com published this little tomahawk missile. The author argued that instead of debating whether or not to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, quote, the better question is whether he should be impeached from the federal judiciary. E-mails revealed in the confirmation process for Kavanaugh show that he appears to have repeatedly lied under oath about having ever seen or been sent memos, letters and talking points that were, in fact, stolen from Democratic staffers in a Democratic scandal during the Bush administration.
Judge Kavanaugh said under oath he never was aware of anything like that, even though we now know one of the e-mails he received in the Bush White House and forwarded to others literally had as its subject line the word "spying", and then the e-mail contained a whole raft of sensitive information from Democrats about the Democrats` approach to Bush judicial nominees in the Senate.
Back to the piece in Slate. Quote: Even if Kavanaugh couldn`t claim that he didn`t have any hint at the time he received the emails that these documents were of suspect provenance, which I personally find implausible, quote, there is no way for him to assert honestly that he had no way to assert what they were after the revelation of the theft.
Quote, any reasonable person would have realized they had been stolen, and certainly someone as smart of Kavanaugh would have too, but he lied under oath. He should not be confirmed. He should clearly be impeached.
Now, the author of that indictment is Lisa Graves. She is a former Senate lawyer who wrote some of those stolen Democratic documents, the ones that Brett Kavanaugh said he never suspected could have been stolen.
Joining us now is Lisa Graves.
Ms. Graves, thank you very much for being with us tonight. It`s nice to have you here.
LISA GRAVES, FORMER SENATE LAWYER: Thank you so much.
MADDOW: So this story, which you have detailed to a degree that I think makes it very understandable on slate.com as of last week, it has really started to catch on as maybe the key hang-up, the key problem that emerged during the Kavanaugh confirmation hearings.
Do you feel like the public discussion about this now, the political discussion of this now accurately characterizes what Kavanaugh did wrong?
GRAVES: Well, I think more and more people are learning about it. As you know, the hearings have been rushed forward. And so, many documents have not been seen. In fact, 100,000 pages or more have not been seen.
But from the documents that have been provided, including documents that came out just last week, it`s clear that Manuel Miranda provided documents, talking points, materials that were taken from, stolen from Democratic staff, and he gave them to him during this incredibly intense fight over Bush`s judicial nominees. And so, one of the memos I know personally contains page after page, paragraph after paragraph of my research, the research I prepared for Senator Patrick Leahy, research on the most intense fight we were having a about the nomination of Miguel Estrada which involved the legal precedents, the historical precedents for the memos that the Senate Democrats have requested. And what Manuel Miranda provided to Brett Kavanaugh alone in one of those e-mails is chapter and verse of those strategic pieces of research, many of which have never been published before until this past week in connection with the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.
And so, I am convinced by that and some of the other documents provided that Brett Kavanaugh lied repeatedly under oath to the United States Senate about these matters. And it`s a very serious matter for the integrity of the courts and also for the integrity of the United States Senate itself.
MADDOW: Now when questioned about these matters, particularly with particular aggression from Senator Leahy this past week, one of the defenses that Brett Kavanaugh raised was that he wouldn`t have recognized these as stolen documents because there was an atmosphere on the judiciary committee and in the Senate at the time of nonpartisan, bipartisan sharing of information. And so, if he saw anything that was marked as or indicated that it had come from the Democratic side, he would have assumed that it would have been voluntarily shared because it was a more bipartisan time.
What`s your reaction to that from him?
GRAVES: That`s utter falsehood when it came to judicial nominations. And in fact, you can see from the materials that have been provided that have escaped the grasp, in essence, of the administration, which is trying to keep these documents secret, you can see that the information was provided by Miranda to Kavanaugh relate to the most controversial, most heated battles over these nominees, these very controversial nominees, including nominees who had records of being incredibly anti-choice nominees.
But leaving aside the substance of that, what`s quite clear is everyone who was in those battles, including Brett Kavanaugh himself, quite frankly, including the White House which was fighting tooth and nail to try to break the filibuster of the Senate Democrats, to try to force us to move forward with those nominees, this was not an atmosphere in which people were sharing their strategic research, their talking points, their whip counts, their letters, their strategies with Manuel Miranda or the other Republicans in the Senate. It was enormous battle throughout that year, and his statements only underscored how untruthful he`s being in this hearing and in his prior hearings.
MADDOW: Lisa Graves, former Senate lawyer who wrote some of the documents that were stolen from Senate Democrats during the George W. Bush administration, some of these documents that Brett Kavanaugh does appear to have lied about under oath -- thank you for helping us understand the story tonight, Lisa. It`s nice to meet you. Thanks for being here.
GRAVES: Thank you so much.
MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Maria Butina is currently in jail in Washington, D.C. awaiting trial on charges that she was the agent of a Russian influence operation in the United States. She was in court today to try to convince a federal judge to release her on bond while she waits to be tried. It turns out, though, that the judge had something very specific she wanted to take up with Butina`s lawyer, Robert Driscoll, at the start of the hearing. We`ve got the transcript.
The judge started, quote, I want to say at the outset that my chambers received contact from the defense counsel this morning that they had videos that they wanted to the court to see prior to the hearing this morning. And Mr. Driscoll, I can tell you that that is not how I proceed. I don`t want to be getting material. There was a deadline in this case that, in fact, was very generous and in the future, I will not be having a deadline of the night before a hearing for submissions, but there was a deadline in this case.
I had a full calendar this morning. I do not like and will not accept in the future submissions hours before a hearing where there is a pending motion. I have a meeting. I had to leave early after a very full calendar this morning to look at those videotapes. I can tell you, having viewed them that I am not sure what on earth their relevance is to Ms. Butina`s risk of flight, but I have reviewed them.
For the record, the first -- one of the videotapes is a video of Ms. Butina and her boyfriend lip syncing, I believe, in what appears to be a recording studio to the theme song from "Beauty and the Beast." Is that correct, Mr. Driscoll? Is my description correct?
Butina`s lawyer Robert Driscoll says, quote, your description is correct, your honor.
Is that correct? Did you really make me leave my very important judge meeting this morning to make me watch a video of your client lip syncing to "Beauty and the Beast?" Yes, your honor.
This is the video that Butina`s lawyer apparently felt was so urgent for the judge to watch. Butina`s lawyer also showed it to ABC News, which is why we have it. He says this video show that Maria Butina has a very serious relationship with that older American man and she is not, as prosecutors contend, simply using him for his political contacts to benefit the Russian government.
Therefore, because she`s so in love, she is not a flight risk if she`s let out of jail. She wouldn`t want to be apart from him.
This is how the judge responded today, quote: Well, the court does not find she`s videos to be at all relevant on Ms. Butina`s risk of flight (AUDIO GAP) primary concern with regard to her bond status. I`ve reviewed the tapes for the record.
The judge then denied Maria Butina`s motion. She ordered that Ms. Butina must remain locked up until her trial because despite her love of Disney tunes, which is conclusively proven by her lawyer who made the judge watched that tape, the judge told her and her lawyer today that she is, indeed, still considered to be a flight risk.
Both a little scared. Neither one prepared.
We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: We`ve had a burst of inexplicable activity in the last 72 hours or so in the Stormy Daniels case. At least it`s inexplicable to me. Stormy Daniels and her lawyer Michael Avenatti have sued Donald Trump and his lawyer Michael Cohen over a nondisclosure agreement she signed just before the election for which she was paid $130,000 to keep quiet about an affair she claims to have had with Donald Trump. She has been suing to scrap that deal, suing so she will no longer be bound by it.
Well, late on Friday night, Michael Cohen told the court he would agree to tear up the agreement. All Stormy Daniels has to do is pay back the 130 grand.
Then the following day, on Saturday, President Trump`s lawyer in this case also agreed to tear up the agreement. Why? And what does that mean? Why did all that just happen and why did it happen in quick secession like that?
Is this over and how does it relate to Michael Cohen saying that payment was actually a campaign finance felony that he was directed to commit by President Trump?
Well, so far, Stormy Daniels` lawyer Michael Avenatti is rejecting the offer, tearing into Trump on Twitter over the -- him saying now he`ll let the NDA go away. I don`t know. It sort of seems like maybe Michael Cohen and Donald Trump are working together again, or at least their lawyers are on this case, and they are maybe saying, OK, Stormy Daniels, you win, you get what you want.
It seems coordinated. It at least happened in quick secession. We are not really sure what the implications of this are.
If Stormy Daniels is, in fact, winning here, her lawyer actually seems not happy about it. Why is that? Well, the good news is you`re about to find out straight from the horse`s mouth, because Michael Avenatti is coming up live on "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL".
And now, it is time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL". I`m on the edge of my seat.
Good evening, Lawrence.
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