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FBI released Clinton email probe notes, TRANSCRIPT: 10/3/2018, The Rachel Maddow Show.

Guests: Mazie Hirono, Ben Schreckinger

Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW Date: October 3, 2018 Guest: Mazie Hirono, Ben Schreckinger

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST:  Good evening, Chris.  Well done, my friend.

Hello, Orlando.

Great job tonight, man.  It`s fascinating.

Thanks to you at home as well for joining us this hour.  Happy to have you here. 

On September 2nd, 2016, which was the start of Labor Day weekend, it`s right before the 2016 presidential election, the FBI decided that they would publicly release FBI agent`s notes from their interview with presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.  It was their notes from their interview with Clinton that pertained to the Clinton e-mail investigation that had become such a political hot potato during that election. 

They decided they were going to release those FBI agent`s notes from that interview, just weeks before the presidential election. 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The FBI took an unusual step today, releasing its notes from Hillary Clinton`s lengthy recent interview with agents about how she handled her e-mails while secretary of state.  The release is certain to fuel the controversy that`s hounded Clinton for a year and a half. 


MADDOW:  And it of course did fuel that controversy. 

This is the -- this is the sort of apex of the campaign, right?  Labor Day weekend.  The FBI deciding they`re going release their confidential interview notes from that investigation. 

Now, the FBI doesn`t usually do that.  They don`t usually release their interview notes from talking to people as part of an investigation.  So this was a strange thing to do at any time, let alone at the height of the political campaign.  But they did. 

And the FBI put out a statement at the time explaining why they were doing this very unusual thing.  They said it was, quote, in the interest of transparency and in response to numerous Freedom of Information Act requests. 

Hey, you know, there was a lot of interest.  People really wanted to know.  We, the FBI, we felt pressured to do this very unusual thing, because the public desires to see us do it.  And so, I guess we`ll do it, even though it`s kind of weird.  If you really want us to, we will. 

I mean, the FBI does have their typical by the book way of doing things.  But it`s also true that they sometimes do things that aren`t necessarily by the book.  And they do those things in response to public pressure and in response, in particular, to political pressure. 

At that point in the 2016 presidential campaign, Republicans and the conservative media were putting relentless pressure on the FBI and the Justice Department about that Clinton investigation.  Right?  The Republican convention had just wrapped up, with people standing there at the lectern, people like Chris Christie and Mike Flynn leading these chants, "lock her up, lock her up." 

That was about the Clinton e-mail investigation, right?  There was all this pressure to be more aggressive, to tell the public what they`re doing, to disclose documents from that investigation.  And the FBI responded to that pressure. 

In part, with the public statements made about the investigation from FBI Director James Comey.  But also with the FBI deciding that they would take this extremely unusual step of publicly exposing their internal, confidential notes and documents from the investigation. 

I mean, to be clear, the FBI doesn`t release stuff like this.  They don`t release their agent`s notes from investigatory interviews, except when they do, in the interest of transparency, because there was lots of political pressure for them to do it.  Then, apparently, they do it. 

That is worth remembering tonight, as we await word on the FBI interview notes, these same kind of documents, these 302 interview forms, that this time are related to the background investigation of would-be Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.  Republican senators have been telling reporters basically every five minutes for the last two and a half days that the FBI is definitely all done, their investigation is definitely completed, all those 302s, all those interview notes from the FBI agents talking to people, interviewing witnesses, those 302s, those interview notes are due to be handed over to the Senate any second now. 

And, you know, who knows if that really is true, in terms of the timing.  Lots of things reported about the supposed speed and supposed scope of the FBI background investigation into Brett Kavanaugh have turned out to not be true over the course of this past week of reporting. 

We really don`t know exactly who the FBI has talked to.  We really don`t know when they will be done.  We really don`t know what exactly they`re going to be handing over to the Senate. 

But Senate Republicans have been hyping the fact that it`s almost done, and they planted a flag today on the issue of secrecy, saying that whatever is handed over from the FBI from this background investigation, and whenever the Senate gets it, those materials will be handled with the strictest secrecy.  Not a single letter of a single word of a single sentence from those materials will be made available to the public. 

Why are they insisting on that kind of secrecy with the Kavanaugh background investigation?  Well, they insist that that`s the appropriate treatment we should all expect for FBI interview notes from an investigation.  The public never gets to see those. 

Yes, normally that would be the case.  If the FBI always exactly acted by the book, if the FBI wasn`t susceptible as an agency to public pressure and political haranguing.  Theoretically, that would be the case. 

FBI interview notes, these 302s, they don`t become public documents.  However, we know from recent history, there are exceptions when the FBI feels like it.  Ask the Hillary Clinton campaign and that nice political kick in the teeth that if FBI gave the Clinton campaign as a gift for Labor Day weekend right before the presidential election. 

There are two outstanding big problems for the Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court nomination.  One that`s got everybody on the edge of their seats tonight, because we don`t know when we`re going to find out about it, is this expanded FBI background check into the sexual assault allegations against Kavanaugh.  We really have no transparency as to what this expanded back ground investigation includes or what its ultimate work product will look like, or if we the public will ever be allowed to see it. 

From open source reporting, we do know of lots of people, in fact, dozens of people who have either said themselves that they want to speak to FBI agents as part of this background investigation, or people who have been described to the FBI as potentially corroborating witnesses for other people who have spoken to the FBI or who have made allegations about Kavanaugh`s past conduct.  In most cases, again, open source reporting, indicates that these people haven`t been spoken to by the FBI.  Even when they themselves have proactively contacted the FBI by going into an FBI field office or by calling FBI headquarters or even hiring lawyers to contact the FBI on their behalf, these folks, by and large, have not been able to get a call back or find somebody in the FBI to take down their information.  Again, that`s based on open source reporting from different sources. 

Among the people, who as of this evening haven`t spoken to the FBI as part of this background investigation is Dr. Christine Blasey Ford.  She did testify before the Senate last week.  Her lawyers have since repeatedly offered the FBI that she would give testimony to them.  She would be interviewed by them.  She offered supporting documentation for her allegations against Kavanaugh. 

But as far as we understand it, as of this evening, the FBI has shown no interest in hearing from her at all, even as they supposedly have been assigned to investigate these latest allegations against Brett Kavanaugh, hers, of course, is the most prominent of them all.  So, tonight, we are awaiting for the developments in terms of the FBI investigation and its extent and its conclusions and what we will know about those conclusions. 

I will just say, as your pal here on cable news, I would advise you to be a little bit wary of all the breathlessly reported marginal new developments that are being described about that investigation tonight and overnight and into tomorrow.  As I said, a lot of what has been reported from the last few days turned out to be contradicted by subsequent reporting. 

What`s going on with that FBI investigation?  We really don`t know.  It`s been very opaque.  All the reporting on it is all anonymously sourced and a lot of it is self-contradictory. 

As far as I can tell, and sort of the way I`m approaching it at this point is that we`ll know when we know.  And we should consider that nothing about this appears to be set in stone. 

But in addition to that FBI investigation hurdle for Kavanaugh and the Supreme Court nomination, there`s also another last hurdle for Kavanaugh, which is starting to emerge as maybe a real math problem for the prospects of him actually getting voted through the Senate, whenever it is they finally take the vote.  And that actually isn`t directly related to the sexual assault allegations against Kavanaugh.  It`s the issue of Kavanaugh`s behavior before the Senate during the confirmation process, and specifically when he was fielding that sexual assault allegation from Dr. Christine Blasey Ford. 

What is emerging on that front are two areas of concern about whether or not Judge Kavanaugh should be on the court.  His truthfulness under oath on his past drinking habits to his high school nickname, to his work in the George W. Bush administration on controversial nominations and controversial issues that he`s denied ever playing a role in, but the documents seem to indicate otherwise.  I mean, those concerns about his truthfulness under oath and whether he has misled senators during the confirmation process, those concerns started before sexual assault allegations were ever leveled against Judge Kavanaugh. 

But they got much worse after, because of how he handled himself under oath while denying that allegation.  And in addition to those questions about his honesty under oath, there is this related problem that he now has, which is starting to look like it may be the single most difficult hurdle for Judge Kavanaugh if he still sees himself as on the way to the Supreme Court. 


JUDGE BRETT KAVANAUGH, SUPREME COURT NOMINEE:  To be a good judge and a good umpire, it`s important to have the proper demeanor, really important, I think, to walk in the other`s shoes, whether it be the other litigants, the litigants in the case, the other judges, to understand them, to keep our emotions in check, to be calm amidst the storm. 

On the bench, to put it in the vernacular, don`t be a jerk.  I think that`s important.  To be a good umpire and a good judge, don`t be a jerk. 


MADDOW:  That was Judge Kavanaugh speaking in 2015 at the law school of Catholic University.  A longer transcript of that speech was just published by reporter David Corn at "Mother Jones" magazine.  That speech from 2015 was already a little famous, because that`s the speech where Judge Kavanaugh veered off script a little bit and said, what happened at Georgetown Prep stays at Georgetown Prep and that`s been a good thing for all of us.  That got a flurry of attention last week. 

But in that same speech, Kavanaugh goes on and on about how important it is for a judge to, quote, keep our emotions in check, to be calm, to have the proper demeanor.  All this stuff about how a judge must comport himself or herself if he or she actually wants to be part of the federal judiciary at every level. 


KAVANAUGH:  Let me run through what I think a judge as umpire means.  First, and probably most obviously, not being a political partisan.  You have to check those political allegiances at the door when you become a judge.  You have to shed them. 

It`s very important at the outset for a judge who wants to be an umpire to avoid any semblance of that partisanship of that political background of that background they might have had in a particular line of work.  That`s the first probably most fundamental thing for a judge who wants to be an umpire. 


MADDOW:  That is Brett Kavanaugh`s own standard for what the fundamentals are of a judicial temperament. 

And, of course, this is judge Kavanaugh`s own display of his would be judicial temperate before the United States Senate. 


KAVANAUGH:  The behavior of several of the Democratic members of this committee at my hearing a few weeks ago was an embarrassment.  But at least it was just a good old fashioned attempt at borking.  Those efforts didn`t work. 

When I did at least OK enough at the hearings that it looked like I might actually get confirmed, a new tactic was need.  Some of you were lying in wait and had it ready.  You have tried hard.  You`ve given it your all.  No one can question your effort. 

But your coordinated and well-funded effort to destroy my good name and destroy my family will not drive me out.  What goes around comes around.  This has destroyed my family and my good name.  A good name built up through decades of very hard work and public service at the highest levels of the American government.

This whole two-week effort has been a calculated and orchestrated political hit, fueled with apparent pent up anger about president Trump and the 2016 election, fear that has been unfairly stoked about my judicial record, revenge on behalf of the Clintons. 


MADDOW:  Whether or not that display from Brett Kavanaugh at his confirmation hearing is unnerving to you or not in terms of what you expect from a Supreme Court justice, number one, it very much violates Kavanaugh`s own explicit standards for how a judge should behave, for what constitutes judicial temperament.  And number two, the way that he behaved seems now to be bugging even some Republican senators. 

Here`s the new audio we just got in tonight.  This is reporter Liz Ruskin from Alaska Public Media talking to Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski about Kavanaugh`s demeanor before the Senate.  Again, this is tape that we obtained from Alaska Public Media, but I believe this is the first time this tape has been broadcast. 


LIZ RUSKIN, DC CORRESPONDENT:  Were you disturbed by the partisan statements that he made? 

SEN. LISA MURKOWSKI (R), ALASKA:  I was surprised by the very direct, partisan statements that were made, some of which were confrontational.  I was surprised to see that. 


MADDOW:  Lisa Murkowski speaking to Alaska Public Media.  By now, you may have also seen Arizona Republican Senator Jeff Flake`s remarks on the same topic. 


SEN. JEFF FLAKE (R), ARIZONA:  I was very troubled by the tone of the -- of the remarks.  The initial defense that Judge Kavanaugh gave was something like I told my wife, I hope that I would sound that indignant if I were -- if I felt that I was unjustly, you know, maligned.  But then it went on, and this interaction with the members was sharp and partisan and that concerns me. 

And I tell myself, you give a little leeway, because of what he`s been through.  But on the other hand, we can`t have this on the court.  We simply can`t. 


MADDOW:  So, Senator Jeff Flake and Senator Lisa Murkowski both now expressing concern about whether Brett Kavanaugh is displaying the kind of temperate and demeanor that should be expected of a would-be Supreme Court justice. 

Senator Susan Collins of Maine is another closely watched vote on the Kavanaugh nomination.  She has not weighed in personally on this particular aspect of Kavanaugh`s behavior thus far, but this is the editorial view of her hometown paper on this subject, in Maine.  You see the headline there. 

Quote: Brett Kavanaugh has shown he doesn`t belong on the Supreme Court.  The man who testified Thursday can`t control his temper.  He`s overtly partisan and he doesn`t always tell the truth. 

Quote: Regardless of what questions the investigation can answer, we already know this.  Based on what he demonstrated in his own testimony, Kavanaugh lacks the character and judgment to serve on the Supreme Court.  In his widely watched appearance, Kavanaugh revealed that he has an explosive temper and resorts to bullying when he feels threatened. 

He was understandably under stress and fighting a high stakes battle for his reputation, but his temperament was tested during the hearing and he failed the test.  We have never had a Supreme Court nominee who ripped off the nonpartisan mask the way Kavanaugh did Thursday and identified himself as an enemy of a political party that represents the policy preferences of millions of Americans. 

He blamed his predicament on bizarre conspiracy theories, claiming that his trouble stemmed from pent-up anger about President Trump, and opponents seeking revenge on behalf of the Clintons.  After his partisan rant, Kavanaugh will never be able to judge a case without the animus he expressed being considered a factor in his decision.  This is not the road we want to take. 

Again, that is coming from the hometown paper "The Portland Press Herald," which is read by necessity and presumably avidly by hometown Senator Susan Collins of Maine. 

Tonight, I should also tell you that just before we got in the air, "The New York Times" published this letter signed by over 650 U.S. law professors, quote, and counting. 

Quote: Judicial temperament is one of the most important qualities of a judge.  As the Congressional Research Service explains, a judge requires a personality that is even handed, unbiased, impartial, courteous yet firm, and dedicated to a process, not a result.  At the Senate hearings in September, Judge Brett Kavanaugh displayed a lack of judicial temperament that would be disqualifying for any court, and certainly for the elevation to the highest court of this land. 

Quote: We have differing views about the other qualifications of Judge Kavanaugh, but we are united as professors of law and scholars of judicial institutions in believing he did not display the impartiality and judicial temperament requisite to sit on the highest court.  Again, that published just tonight in "The New York Times."  Over 650 law professors signing on to it, including more than a dozen from Yale Law School of which Brett Kavanaugh is a graduate. 

So, tonight, we await definitive word on the FBI background investigation into the sexual assault allegations against Kavanaugh.  We await news of that FBI report, honestly, without any clarity as to what the FBI actually looked at in that investigation. 

At this point, if the shoe was on the other foot and the FBI was investigating a Democratic president`s Supreme Court nominee, and the head of the FBI was that nominee`s law school classmate like FBI Director Chris Wray is to Brett Kavanaugh, and the deputy attorney general overseeing the probe is an old coworker of the nominee, who showed up at his hearing to support his nomination as Rod Rosenstein did for Brett Kavanaugh, if the shoe was on the other foot, you could imagine how nuts Republicans would be going over the character of the FBI investigation at this point in the consideration of that nominee. 

But Democrats don`t pressure the FBI the way that Republicans do.  Matt Miller is a former Department of Justice spokesman, and has a very powerful op-ed just posted today at, lamenting this difference in the dynamic. 

Do we have that op-ed that we can show a picture?  Thank you. 

Lamenting that difference in the way Democrats and Republicans handle these matters. 

So, Democrats don`t pressure the FBI the way that Republicans do.  We`re all waiting for the FBI investigation.  Republicans would be crowing about it like you can`t believe.  Democrats appear to just be waiting for it. 

Who knows if we will ever see, for example, those 302s from the FBI investigation?  Who knows if the FBI at this point feels any political pressure in terms of what they`re doing or what they might report, other than the pressure they`re certainly feeling from the Republican-controlled Congress and the aggressively out of its lane Republican-controlled White House?

But tonight, we are waiting to hear about the outcome of that process.  And while we are waiting that word, which could come at any moment, one of the senators from the Judiciary Committee will join us next. 

Stay with us.


MADDOW:  Because Republicans control Congress, that means they also control all the committees in Congress.  And that has granular, everyday consequences, including the very small and usually unimportant fact that the official Twitter account for the Senate Judiciary Committee is controlled by Republican senators and their Republican staff. 

Well, yesterday, that official Twitter account posted this statement about previous FBI background investigations into Brett Kavanaugh before he became a Supreme Court nominee.  Quote: Nowhere in any of these six FBI reports was there ever a whiff of any issue at all related in any way to inappropriate sexual behavior or alcohol abuse. 

Never a whiff of any issue related in any way, inappropriate sexual behavior of alcohol abuse. 

Tonight, Democrats on that committee, on the Senate Judiciary Committee, are disputing that account.  They just sent off this little rocket, quote: Dear Chairman Grassley.  Yesterday, the Senate Judiciary Twitter account, which is controlled by the Republican majority staff, posted information about Judge Kavanaugh that is not accurate and that must be immediately correct e corrected. 

Each of us reviewed the confidential background investigation of judge Kavanaugh before the hearing.  While we are limited in what we can say about this background investigation in a public setting, we are compelled to state for the record that there is information in that Twitter post that is not accurate.  Quote: We urge you to ensure that these Twitter posts are promptly corrected. 

Again, this specific tweet they are saying contains inaccurate information is this, this is the text of that one.  Nowhere in any of these six FBI reports was there ever a whiff of any issue at all related in any way to inappropriate sexual behavior of alcohol abuse.  That letter to Chairman Grassley is signed by eight Democratic senators on the Judiciary Committee, including our next guest.

Joining us now is Democratic Senator Mazie Hirono from the great state of Hawaii. 

Senator Hirono, thank you very much for being here.  It`s nice to see you.

SEN. MAZIE HIRONO (D), HAWAII:  Good evening.  Aloha. 

MADDOW:  Can you tell us what this is about?  You are one of the senators that signed onto this letter, to Chairman Grassley, asserting that there is something in that statement about the previous FBI background investigations of Judge Kavanaugh which is inaccurate. 

HIRONO:  One thing that Twitter feed should never have even gotten out from the Republican staff, and that particular item wasn`t accurate, and that is all I can say about it. 

MADDOW:  So the confidentiality of these FBI reports is understood and respected by both sides at this point.  And I understand --

HIRONO:  Well, certainly, it wasn`t respected by the Republicans who let it out. 

MADDOW:  So, you`re saying that the tweet was inappropriate in this case, because it was a characterization of those FBI reports.


MADDOW:  And they`re not supposed to be publicly characterized. 

HIRONO:  That`s right. 

MADDOW:  Now that Democrats have responded and said, as long as you are going to improperly characterize it, which is improper, you better be accurate about it, are you prepared to go the next step and to say publicly what is inaccurate, if there was something about either alcohol abuse or inappropriate sexual behavior from those earlier FBI investigations? 

HIRONO:  That was what I was hoping that the new FBI investigation would enable us to review.  The interviews that they conducted, the inconsistencies between Judge Kavanaugh`s testimony and the interviews that the FBI, I hope, would conduct with various people who contradicted Judge Kavanaugh`s own characterization of himself.  So, that was what I was hoping. 

With that letter, I think it really was to the Republicans, don`t do this.  And by the way, we also said in this letter that for the new FBI investigation that we need to come to a bipartisan agreement as to what parts of that report we can make public.  That is how it`s supposed to happen. 

MADDOW:  What do you think is going to happen in terms of the timing of the new FBI report, what sort of work product is going to be handed over to the Senate, and whether there will be any public facing part of it? 

HIRONO:  I`ve said that I hope we can be as transparent as possible, and that`s why we requested that there be a bipartisan agreement as to what parts of the report we can make public.  At the same time, we`re already hearing from outside sources that the investigation was limited.  It was under the control of the White House, in spite of the fact that the president said that it should be open and they should interview Judge Kavanaugh, as well as Dr. Ford. 

But I don`t think those things happened, nor were various leads followed up.  We know of so many people, which I think you reported yourself, that a lot of people would like to have been interviewed by the FBI, but have not been contacted. 

MADDOW:  In terms of how this is all going to resolve, I feel very unsure in terms of the timing here.  We`ve had a lot of reporting that suggested very specific expectations in terms of when something was going to be handed over, when the Senate was going to have access to it, what exactly were the constraints that FBI agents doing this investigation were operating under.  It feels like there`s been all of this specific reporting, a lot of which contradicts very specific other reporting.

I feel like I have very little visibility into what is actually happening here.  The only thing I feel like I have clarity on is that there was an initial time constraint put on this investigation, which was Friday, that has to be done by Friday. 

I feel like at that point, that`s the only real bottom line that I feel like I can count on. 

Is there any other element here in terms of timing or scope or, again, what we may eventually see the Senate doing with this information, that you feel like you have a firm grasp of and you can tell our viewers with confidence? 

HIRONO:  As it turns out, not very much, because even with a short time frame, I was under the expectation, I certainly had the expectation, that the FBI would provide the kind of resources necessary to do a complete job, so that it`s not some kind of a farce investigation.

But I want to go back to, in addition to whatever may be gleaned from the - - what seems like a limited investigation by the FBI, that we do need to look at how Judge Kavanaugh testified in his initial hearing, and there were so many, in my view, inconsistencies and the pattern of not being supportive of reproductive rights and his very expansive views of executive powers and protections for the president.  There were enough concerns there that I was already against Judge Kavanaugh`s nomination before all of these other reports came out. 

At the same time, I`m really glad that you focused on his temperament.  The speech that he gave was reprinted as a law review article from which I quoted extensively on a floor speech that I gave on Monday on the floor of the Senate, because I believe that he did not -- of course, it`s not even a belief -- he did not follow his own advice in his law review article, which is that a judge should not be partisan, and he went on to talk about his demeanor and his temperament. 

Well, clearly, he was so partisan, because he accused the Democrats of some kind of a left wing conspiracy to do him in.  Fortunately, he did not include Dr. Ford in that conspiracy, but it was bizarre that he would hold these kind of conspiracy theory views. 

I expect a Supreme Court justice to think clearly.  A conspiracy theorist is not somebody who is thinking clearly.  Not to mention, his temperament. 

He wrote that a judge should be calm in the middle of a storm.  He exhibited little of that.  And I would say that any woman, if -- Dr. Ford, who also has been under a lot of pressure and death threats, having to move her family, she was under a lot of pressure, but she comported herself with dignity and in a very, very believable way.  And that certainly wasn`t the case with Judge Kavanaugh. 

MADDOW:  Senator Hirono, I just have to ask you about one piece of news that has broken while we`ve been talking live here on television.  Kasie Hunt is the lead reporter from NBC on this.  There`s a number of other reporters on the byline. 

But they`re reporting now on a very specific schedule during -- by which you and other senators are now going to be allowed access to the FBI`s new report.  Senators will be viewing the FBI supplemental background investigation, according to NBC News, on a schedule tomorrow morning starting at 8:00 a.m. 

Chairman Grassley will go first at 8:00 a.m.  Senator Feinstein will go second at 9:00 a.m.  Then Senate judiciary Republicans, all the rest of them will be allowed in at 10:00 a.m.  And then committee Democrats will be allowed to see the report at 11:00 a.m. 

That`s just been reported by NBC News.  Had you heard that before I just said it right here? 

HIRONO:  Yes. 


HIRONO:  There is definitely a schedule.  And one of the things that I hope that we can disclose would be the parameters of the FBI investigation as put out by the White House.  I don`t see why that should be something confidential. 

MADDOW:  OK.  We will find out more tomorrow, at least as best we can. 

Democratic Senator Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, it`s great to have you with us tonight, Senator.  Thank you. 

HIRONO:  Thank you. 

MADDOW:  Thank you.

All right.  Much more ahead tonight.  Stay with us. 


MADDOW:  I do not know how or why this made the news in 1983, when I was 10 years old.  But looking at it now, I have to tell you, I`m not mad about it. 


TOM BROKAW, NBC NEWS ANCHOR:  Who says you have to be a pretty face to be a delicacy?  Consider the catfish.  Not one of Mother Nature`s better moments.  Yet, to aficionados, a platter full of catfish finishes far ahead of anything Julia Child could whip up using all the fancy sauces in the south of France. 

As Kenley Jones reports tonight, catfish farmers are working hard to spread the joy. 

REPORTER:  Behold the catfish, denizen of countless muddy ponds ands river bottoms throughout the south.  Until now, one of the few areas of the country where the ugly creature has been considered fit to eat. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Once they eat it one time, they always want it the second time, because it tastes so good.  We love catfish here.  We eat it baked, we eat it fried, we eat it broiled, we eat it baked with cheese on it, we eat it just about any way that you can think of eating catfish. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Pull in the net. 

REPORTER:  As an added incentive for Yankees to try it, he says that if any of them stop by his place for a mess of catfish, he`ll let them pet the hush puppies. 

Kenley Jones, NBC News, Sunflower, Mississippi.


MADDOW:  He let them pet the hush puppies.  Why was that on TV? 

Since that "Nightly News" story from 35 years ago, there has not been much else by way of that kind of national catfish news.  But there is a story tonight that is catfish news of a totally different kind.

I`m fascinated by this story.  I cannot figure out the bottom line of the story, but I`m determined to get there.  That story is next. 

Stay with us. 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Makes me hungry when they come around like that.  They look so good flopping. 



MADDOW:  Megan Lancaster was supposedly an American lawyer who was living in England in 2015 and 2016.  She was interested in politics.  She represented several wealthy Republican-inclined political donors.  Some of whom she said had given money to support Carly Fiorina`s presidential campaign. 

She also said one of her clients was a British billionaire who was interested in donating a lot of money to American political causes through his American-born wife. 

In late 2015 and early 2016, so, right at the height of the Republican primary for president, this Megan Lancaster got in touch with members of a never Trump super PAC, a group of Republicans who were against Trump and who were working to stop him from getting the Republican nomination, to stop him from getting elected.  Megan Lancaster got in touch with those Republicans, she was very nice, she was very friendly, very helpful.  And she offered these never Trump people access to her rich donors and their money, to help fund their never Trump Republican super PAC and all their other efforts to stop Trump. 

That said, in the end, Megan Lancaster never wound up arranging any actual donations to the never Trump movement because Megan Lancaster, it turns out, was not real.  Fake persona. 

This is such a good story.  And now it is a great story with a big surprise ending. 

OK.  August 2016, so late during the presidential election.  Once Trump had the nomination and is running against Clinton, had this scoop about how anti-Trump activists in the Republican Party were being targeted by a catfishing campaign. 

Catfishing is kind of an annoying term.  But in this case, what it means is these anti-Trump Republicans got a bunch of very friendly and very inquisitive e-mails and phone calls from appealing fake personas like the lovely and talented and well-connected and totally fake Megan Lancaster. 

The point of the fake Megan Lancaster scam was to get those anti-Trump Republicans to tell the person who made up that fake persona all their secrets, to tell all about their anti-Trump activism, including all their plans for their anti-Trump super PAC. 

So, it`s already sort of a spy story, right?  There`s a fake persona, an effort to get information from political activists that would be helpful to their opponents in that campaign. 

But then it got more dramatic, because after the whole fake e-mail buddy scam, one of the anti-Trump Republicans who had been targeted in that scam, also discovered that her e-mail had been hacked. 

Her name is Cheri Jacobus.  She may be a recognizable face to you.  But after this catfishing campaign targeting her and other anti-Trump Republicans, after that campaign ran through late 2015 and through the primaries into early 2016, she ended up reporting that catfishing effort to authorities.  This fraud that seemed like an effort to get valuable political information from her and other people she knew under false pretenses.  She reported it to federal authorities that spring, in the spring of 2016. 

Federal prosecutors in New York actually responded by locking a guy up for doing that.  The guy who they believe did it was a convicted con man who was out on bail already, awaiting the start of a four and a half-year federal prison sentence.  Part of his bail conditions were that he wasn`t allowed to use a computer at all.  Federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York found out that they believed that this guy was not only using a computer, he was using a computer to carry out this catfishing fraud campaign against these Republican political activists. 

And they immediately revoked his bail and ordered him to start serving his prison sentence immediately. 

So, spy story gets dramatic, guy gets locked up.  And then it gets even weirder, because a few months after that, after the guy who catfished has already been in prison for months, a few months later, in August 2016, that is when somebody hacked the e-mail account and deleted thousands of her e- mails. 

There`s already a guy in prison in part because of his apparent effort to trick anti-Trump Republicans into giving up information about their efforts against Trump during the campaign.  While that guy is in prison, one of those anti-Trump activists gets hacked, as well?  I mean, unless the guy had unsupervised federal prison time with an Internet enabled computer, that timing implies that somebody else besides that imprisoned convicted con man might have been in on this concerted effort to hack and attack anti-Trump activists within the Republican Party. 

Not publicly at the time, Cheri Jacobus said she believed allies of Trump and his campaign were behind that hack.  Not publicly at the time, she reached out to the FBI, to the FBI cyber division, to ask them to please investigate this hacking of her inbox in the middle of a presidential campaign.  That was two years ago. 

And since then, we hadn`t heard much from this really interesting case, until now.  I said this has a surprise ending.  This is the surprise ending. 

Now, Ben Schreckinger at is first to report that this case, that this catfishing effort against these never Trump Republican activists and then the hacking of one of them thereafter, this case has now become part of the Robert Mueller investigation.  Why is that?  The FBI cyber division, prosecutors from the Southern District of New York, have apparently referred this case to the special counsel`s office. 

That`s according to Cheri Jacobus herself, who says that`s what the FBI told her.  Quote: Federal law enforcement officials have referred a 2-year- old e-mail hacking investigation to special counsel Robert Mueller according to the Republican operative who was the target of the hack.

Quote: Jacobus told "Politico" that FBI agents in the bureau`s cyber division informed her this month that they had, excuse me, in September, that they had forwarded their investigation to Mueller.  Quote: It is not clear what led the FBI to conclude that Mueller has jurisdiction over this matter.

Yes, not clear indeed.  I mean, Mueller`s mandate is to investigate Russia`s attack on the election to help Trump win and the related question of whether the Trump campaign was aware of and helped in that Russian attack.  And now, the FBI has apparently concluded that this investigation should expand too include the hack of a never Trump Republican activist during the campaign. 

What is it about this case, and what don`t we know about what the special counsel is working on that made the FBI look at this and say, hey, you know what, this one actually belongs to the special counsel, give it to him?  I`m desperate to know the answer to that question. 

Joining us now is Ben Schreckinger.  He`s the "Politico" reporter who broke the story.  He also broke the news about the catfishing scheme in the first place and the email hack back in 2016. 

Mr. Schreckinger, thanks very much for being here. 


MADDOW:  Let me ask you first, if I got any of that wrong.  It`s a little bit of a winding pass, but tell me if I missed any of it. 

SCHRECKINGER:  That was an excellent summary of what is a bizarre years- long saga.  There`s all sorts of other aspects to this story.  But you nailed the core of it right there. 

MADDOW:  Do you have any -- I mean, you`ve been reporting on this from the beginning.  Do you have an answer, or do you have any informed suspicion as to why this might have gone to be part of the special counsel`s office investigation? 

SCHRECKINGER:  I have a number of informed suspicions and theories, none of which I`m ready to air on national television.  The reality is, is that it`s very unclear what exactly triggered this referral.  We`ll keep looking into this, because it is really, at this point, a mystery. 

MADDOW:  You wrote back in 2016 that while you were reporting out that the catfishing part of this story, but before you published your piece, that is when Cheri Jacobus` e-mails got hacked.  I mean, one of the things that I noticed was interesting about and I mentioned was interesting about the timing is that when she got hacked, that appears to be when the guy who was catfishing her was in prison.  So, that would seem to rule him out.  That would seem to suggest there was more than one party involved in this effort to target her.

Is it fair to look at the timing that way? 

SCHRECKINGER:  I think it`s absolutely fair to look at that timing that way.  And this scheme involved multiple personas, phone calls from multiple personas.  So, unless Weszle (ph) is an expert at faking multiple voices, it suggests, as well, that he was not alone in doing this. 

MADDOW:  Is there anything in your reporting on this, both from 2016 and from 2018 now that suggests that there may have been Russian involvement in this attack on these never Trump activists?  Either Russian involvement directly or that people who were sort of in cahoots with the Russian attack in this country, might have been involved in this effort? 

SCHRECKINGER:  There is nothing direct that I know that suggests that.  The closest thing is some of the similarity in tactics, in terms of what Jacobus was hit with.  E-mail hacking, of course, is something we know the Russians engaged in during the campaign.  The social media trolling and harassment that she was subjected to, that`s been covered by a number of media outlets at this point. 

But all of that is quite circumstantial, and if there is a smoking gun direct link to Russia here, it has yet to emerge. 

MADDOW:  Ben Schreckinger, reporter at, who`s been on this story from the beginning, and who has absolutely got me sort of on the edge of my seat about this, I can`t wait to figure out what lies under this latest reporting on this case. 

Really appreciate you being here tonight.  Call us as soon as you figure it out, OK? 

SCHRECKINGER:  Yes, absolutely, will do. 

MADDOW:  Will do.  Thanks, Ben. 

All right.  We`ll be right back. 


MADDOW:  I mentioned right at the top of the show to be wary about new reporting about the FBI background investigation into Brett Kavanaugh, when it`s coming out, what its scope is.  I`m saying, like, listen, we don`t have any transparency into that at all.  Just be wary. 

Since then, since the top of the show, we`ve naturally had a whole bunch of that new reporting.  So, I mentioned just a moment ago, NBC News now reporting that senators will get that FBI investigation report on Kavanaugh tomorrow morning. 

As I just reported, we`re expecting that to begin at 8:00 a.m. tomorrow with a strict pecking order.  The chairman of the committee, Chuck Grassley, was reported going first at 8:00 a.m., he`ll have access to the report.  Then, Diane Feinstein, the top Democrat on the committee, she gets her turn at 9:00 a.m. 

And then all the rest of the Republicans on the committee get their turn with the report at 10:00 a.m.  And then all the Democrats get to go last at 11:00 a.m.  And then there after, everybody else in the Senate who is not in the committee can come in. 

So, that was the news tonight from one part of the process.  Then as soon as we reported that and verified it live here with Senator Mazie Hirono here on this show, who`s on the committee, Senator Mitch McConnell just got on the floor of the Senate and said, yes, that`s not true either.  He announced that the Senate is getting the FBI report tonight.  Maybe. 

You should also know while we`re watching this chaos in the Senate and on Capitol Hill, that there are stop Kavanaugh vigils across the country tonight, from Brooklyn, New York, to Clayton, Missouri, outside Senator Roy Blunt`s office, from West Virginia, home of red state Democrat Joe Manchin, to the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., people have been on the streets tonight, all over the country, trying to sway senators against this nomination.

But again, Senator McConnell just announced from the floor that the White House is getting the FBI background investigation on Kavanaugh to the Senate as of tonight.  So, big night tonight, big day tomorrow. 


MADDOW:  That does it for us tonight.  We will see you again tomorrow. 

Now it`s time for "THE LAST WORD" with Ali Velshi, who`s in for Lawrence tonight. 

Good evening, Ali.  Nice to see you.

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