Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW Date: October 8, 2018 Guest: Scott Clement, Karine Jean-Pierre, Ronen Bergman, Eric Swalwell, Karen Attiah
JOY REID, MSNBC HOST: And thanks to you at home for joining us. Appreciate it. Have a good night.
Rachel has the night off but she will be back tomorrow.
Meanwhile, we have a big night of news to work our way through. The political world is still sorting out the sight of a president of the United States introducing a new Supreme Court justice with a partisan speech thanking his fellow partisan combatants. We`re going the take a deep dive into the landscape that`s coming into the view for the election that is just 29 days from now.
Also, late this evening, we got a new jolt of news from the Mueller investigation into the Trump campaign. This time, the story involves a deputy from the Trump campaign and the inauguration. Rick Gates struck a plea deal with the special counsel back in February. He agreed to cooperate fully with Mueller`s prosecutors.
Tonight, "The New York Times" reports on an apparent attempt by Rick Gates to help the Trump presidential bid, potentially via a campaign of social media manipulation and intelligence gathering. We`re going to be joined by one of the reporters on that big story in just a moment.
But we begin tonight here. It is done. This weekend, after being confirmed by an historically narrow 50-48 in the United States Senate, Brett Kavanaugh was sworn in as the newest justice of the Supreme Court. He was sworn in immediately before anything else could happen.
And then this evening, he got a formal installation ceremony at the White House with Donald Trump and a bunch of his conservative friends. It was 89 days from Kavanaugh`s nomination to his confirmation on Saturday, 89 long, long days.
But Brett Kavanaugh`s nomination was not the longest nomination battle in recent history. If you set aside for a moment the Merrick Garland debacle, because of course his nomination was never actually taken up by the Senate, thanks to Mitch McConnell, then Kavanaugh clocks in as the second longest in the last 27 years. The longest is Clarence Thomas.
And on an October night in 1991, after the Senate had debated all day long and narrowly confirmed him, Clarence Thomas, the newly confirmed Supreme Court justice spoke, something he really doesn`t do that much anymore. He merged from his home in Alexandria, Virginia, and addressed the nation, accompanied by his wife, future Tea Party activist Virginia Thomas, and also by the nearly 90-year-old arch segregationist senator, Strom Thurmond.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Congratulations, Judge Thomas.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
CLARENCE THOMAS, SUPREME COURT JUSTICE: My wife and I came out just to say a few words. First of all, I`d like to say that I`m thankful, we`re thankful that the process is over, that it`s finally come to a conclusion after three and a half months. But this is more time for healing, not a time for anger or for animus or animosity.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: Not a time for anger or for animus or animosity. We have to put these things behind us.
And who can say exactly what effect Clarence Thomas` speech on his front lawn that night had, whether it helped at all to calm some of the turmoil around his nomination.
But tonight at the White House, where Justice Kavanaugh was sworn in for a second time, the president did not seem to want to let the fight over his nomination end. Kavanaugh tried to reset himself as the impartial justice unity and healing guy, despite his hyper partisan weepy fury during the confirmation battle. But the president apologized on behalf of the nation to Brett Kavanaugh and declared that he had been, quote, proven innocent, which of course isn`t true.
If one thing has become clear in the 48 hours since Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed by the Senate, it`s that Republicans do not want this to be the end of it. They think the battle over Brett Kavanaugh was great for them, and they don`t want anyone to forget about it any time soon.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: The behavior of first Democrats on the Senate judiciary committee and then the overreach of the protesters at the Capitol have actually energized the Republican base. I want to thank the other side for the tactics that have allowed us to kind of energize and get involved our own voters.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: All I can say is this is going to the streets at the ballot box. I`ve never campaigned against a colleague in my life. That`s about to change.
SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: I think it really has energized conservatives across the state of Texas. I think a lot of Texans, a lot of Americans watched what happened the last few weeks and were disgusted by the behavior of Senate Democrats.
REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I think the analysis that the Republican base is very much activated as a result of this.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think a lot of Democrats are going to vote Republican, because I have many friends that are Democrats. The main base of the Democrats have shifted so far left that we`ll end up being Venezuela. This country would end up being Venezuela. I think a lot of Democrats are going to be voting Republican on November 6th.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: Literally, everyone in the GOP is reading from the same talking points right now.
It`s been impossible to turn on a TV in the last couple of days without hearing that the Kavanaugh nomination couldn`t have gone better for the Republicans, that the Democrats and the women mob have given the Republicans a gift one month before the midterms. Is that actually true? Well, we`ll find out one month from tomorrow.
But here are a couple things to keep in mind. First of all, this particular Supreme Court nomination has left a lot of loose ends hanging. There are thousands, if not millions of documents related to Brett Kavanaugh`s time in the George W. Bush White House that the Senate and the public never got to see. More of those documents will be released, and even more will be FOIA-ed over time, and more evidence may emerge that Kavanaugh lied under oath about his activities during that time.
We`ve also learned that Chief Justice John Roberts has received more than a dozen judicial misconduct, passed along by a judge on the D.C. Court of Appeals where Kavanaugh was a judge until this weekend. We don`t know what if anything may become of those complaints now that Kavanaugh is the chief justice`s colleague.
And "The New Yorker`s" Ronan Farrow who broke the story of Kavanaugh accuser Deborah Ramirez hinted this weekend there might be more accusers yet to share their stories of sexual misconduct by Kavanaugh. We really do not have a road map for how to handle the prospect of a Supreme Court justice with so many outstanding complaints or potential complaints against him. How will such complaints be adjudicated if and when they come to light? So, that`s one thing to keep in mind as we go forward. We are in completely uncharted territory right now.
The other thing to think about is this. It`s not really clear that the Republicans have much data or historical precedent to back up their conviction that imposing Kavanaugh on an unwilling majority of Americans is going to give them a boost to victory next month. CNN is just out with this new poll tonight, taken Thursday through Sunday. So, the final days of the fight over Kavanaugh`s nomination, and through his confirmation vote this weekend.
The poll found that a majority of Americans are opposed to Kavanaugh`s confirmation, and that they opposed him by a ten-point margin, just in the last few days. This poll, like other recent polls, did also find an increase in Republican enthusiasm for Kavanaugh. But it`s worth remembering that increased Republican enthusiasm has not always been a silver bullet in the current climate.
After Alabama Republican Senate nominee Roy Moore was accused of sexual misconduct in the middle of his Senate race, polls show that Republicans stood by him as partisans rallied around a candidate they saw as under attack. But ultimately, that was not enough. The backlash to Roy Moore was so strong, Alabama elected its first Democratic senator in 25 years who incidentally just cast a vote against Brett Kavanaugh.
And in Indiana, where Senator Joe Donnelly is considered one of the Democrats` most endangered incumbents, in a state that went for Trump by 19 points in 2016, recent Fox News polling found that Donnelly`s vote against Kavanaugh would have a negligible impact on his chances. A third of voters in the poll said it would make them more likely to vote for him. A third said less likely, and a third said it would make no difference.
But the greatest cautionary tale for Republicans probably remains the fight over Clarence Thomas. That night in October, 1991, the freshly confirmed Clarence Thomas told the nation it was time to put the fight behind them. But a year later, an unprecedented number of women were elected to Congress, many of them inspired to run for office by the shabby treatment of Anita Hill and the elevation of Thomas to the high court despite her allegations. And this year, of course, there are more women running for Congress than ever in American history.
And a new "Washington Post" survey of 69 battleground districts in this year`s midterms finds that Democrats have a narrow edge in the race to control the House. Thanks to a nearly 20-point swing in those districts from preferring Republican candidates to preferring Democrats.
And joining me now is Scott Clement, polling director for "The Washington Post," the pollster who conducted that survey.
Mr. Clement, really appreciate your time tonight.
SCOTT CLEMENT, POLLING DIRECTOR, THE WASHINGTON POST: Certainly. Good to be here.
REID: So let`s talk about, first of all, how you chose the districts that wound up in this poll.
CLEMENT: Sure. So we started off with the districts that "The Cook Political Report" rates as toss-up or leaning Republican or leaning Democrat at the beginning of the fall campaign. So, in late August. And we also had some additional districts that "Post" political staff identified as potentially competitive. We drew a random sample of voters in those districts and ended up interviewing more than 2,600 likely voters.
REID: And so, according to the write-up of your poll, of the 69 districts, included in your survey, 63 are held by Republicans. Just six are held by Democrats. Trump carried 48 of the districts. Hillary Clinton carried the other 21.
Likely voters are split in the Trump won district, 48 for the Democrat, 47 for the Republican, and in the districts carried by Clinton, Democrats have a clear advantage, 53-43.
Can you just quantify us, how dramatic of a swing is that overall?
CLEMENT: Well, it`s substantial. I mean, it shows that likely voters at this stage in the campaign are looking at the congressional candidates in a different way than they were two years ago. And, you know, a big factor in that is Trump`s approval rating.
Most of these are Republican-held districts. So Trump`s approval rating is a few percentage points higher than it is nationwide. But it`s still underwater. So, you have a slight majority who disapprove of the president`s job performance.
And that means that it`s going to be a struggle for some of these candidates to outrun that. We saw this with Barack Obama in 2014. Very few Senate candidates could get too far above his job approval rating in the state. And that makes him a liability.
REID: And I`m looking just at the -- some of the states where these districts are located, in states like Arizona, California, lots in California, Colorado, Florida. Is the challenge Republicans going to face that some of these states like California or Republicans are already pretty endangered and states like Colorado that seem to be going more bluish- purple than reddish-purple. Is that a challenge or the president`s approval rating?
CLEMENT: Well, it`s a little bit of column A and a little bit of column B, particularly in the districts that Clinton won in 2016. Those are the districts where Republicans tend to be most endangered because they were already places where there was a lot of split ticket voting. Voters voting for Hillary Clinton for president and voting for the Republican candidate for Congress.
It`s -- the larger chunk of those districts where Trump won where handicappers like "Cook Political Report" think are competitive where the race is nearly even in our survey. And that means that a number of those candidates are going to be in danger.
REID: And were you able to quantify sort of what was driving this shift towards the Democrats? Is it national politics are these really issues of things like health care? We knew those kinds of issues were important to voters before this Kavanaugh nomination.
CLEMENT: Well, voters said a lot of issues were really important to them. Health care ranked highly. So did Supreme Court appointments. No surprise given the timing the poll was conducted.
But when we asked people to choose between those issues and also the importance of President Trump, Trump stood out as the single most important issue, really issue or item or reason for their congressional vote. And this was particularly true among Democrats. So, 40 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independent voters said Trump was the single most important issue in their vote. That compares to roughly 15 percent of Republicans who said the same.
REID: Interesting. So a check on the president being an important issue to these voters.
Scott clement, "Washington Post" polling director -- I always love talking polls. Thank you very much for being here tonight.
CLEMENT: Sure thing.
REID: Thank you.
And joining us now is Karine Jean-Pierre, a Democratic strategist and senior adviser with MoveOn.org.
KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, SENIOR ADVISER, MOVEON.ORG: Hi, Joy.
REID: Good evening.
All right. Let`s talk about it. So, we just had Scott Clement go through some of this data. Health care, important. Supreme Court, important. But Trump, most important.
Is that the way Democrats are going to be able to run into this -- it`s really a tailwind for them?
JEAN-PIERRE: Absolutely. There is no denying it. Donald Trump is on the ballot, for sure. I mean, his divisiveness, the racist kind of rhetoric that he`s been doing for the past two years, the way he`s attacked Dr. Ford and that he continues to attack women who have accused women that he knows of sexual assault.
It is going to be on the ballot. He will be on the ballot for sure. I do have to say since Mitch McConnell wants to thank us for exciting their base.
REID: The mob, the lady mob, yes.
JEAN-PIERRE: I have to thank Mitch McConnell for making us excited about the SCOTUS pick which we know it`s not usually a Dem based top of excitement around the SCOTUS pick. And we`d seen that the last couple of weeks because of the allegations against Brett Kavanaugh.
REID: And one of the challenges that Democrats typically have in midterm elections is that the based of the Democratic Party tends to be presidential year focused. That younger voters, voters of color, younger women just don`t really vote in midterms. Are you seeing any evidence on the ground that that might change this year and that the Kavanaugh nomination might be fueling additional voting among those groups?
JEAN-PIERRE: So, the way I like to talk than is yes, they were talking about a Kavanaugh bump, right, for the last week or so. And then the other side was really excited about it. But it`s not really the bump. It`s the outcome of the Kavanaugh hearing.
Now if Republicans had lost, I would say oh, no, they`re going to be energized in 29 days.
JEAN-PIERRE: And they`re probably going to come out. But they won and we lost. And the energy on our side is just there.
And it`s so funny because they were excited about a bump, right? But they were in the gutter. Of course, the only way they can go was up. We have been consistent -- Democrats have been consistent for a year with the energy, with the generic ballot. And it hasn`t gone down. It`s been consistent.
And so, that`s what`s important. What we have seen in the long-term. Virginia, we won because of health care. That was the number one things that people cared about. We took Alabama, as you guys were talking about, a seat that 25 years ago was the last time a Democrat held.
So, the energy is there. And in Virginia, women, suburban women crossed over.
JEAN-PIERRE: And the governor, the Democratic -- ended up being the governor won by higher margins than Hillary Clinton a year prior. So, the energy is there. We just have to get people out. That`s the big thing right now.
REID: That is the big thing, is getting people out and also making sure that people`s voter registrations are still valid.
JEAN-PIERRE: Exactly. I would argue Election Day is happening now.
JEAN-PIERRE: People are voting early. So we have to get folks out as soon as we can, if you can vote early in your state.
REID: What is the core message Democrats are putting out? Is it a check on Trump? Is it -- you know, what is the core message Democrats are using to get people out?
JEAN-PIERRE: So, the way I`ve gone out on the road, people have really understood that Republicans in Congress are not a check on this president, and they understand the people, we the people have to be that check. And so, they understand the importance of their vote this time around, and just the divisiveness of this president, the racism, the sexism, the misogyny. And there is a lot of anger for that.
And, of course they care about health care. They care about economy, education, all of those things are really important, and we are actually on the right side of history on all of those issues.
REID: People already managed to stay mad for eight entire years of Obama. All the Democrats have to do is manage to stay mad for 29 more days.
JEAN-PIERRE: They can do it.
Karine Pierre, thank you very much. Senior adviser to MoveOn.org. Thank you very much, my friend. Always great to see you.
All right. Up next, there are a new window open tonight, a new window open tonight in the Mueller investigation. One of the reporters who broke that story joins us next.
REID: When you`re in charge of a presidential campaign, everything you do seems to take on extra importance. Por ejemplo, this is a picture of Paul Manafort riding in an elevator at the Republican National Convention.
Check out the official caption on this picture from "Reuters". Paul Manafort, campaign manager for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump rides the elevator at the Republican national convention in Cleveland, Ohio. Stop the presses!
And that`s just one in a series of Paul Manafort doing mundane, routine things at the RNC that have been preserved for all eternity by the press corps.
Here is Paul Manafort opening a door. Here`s Paul Manafort sitting in a folding chair. Here`s a woman fixing Paul Manafort`s lapel. Here`s Paul Manafort talking on his cell phone. Here`s a woman fixing Paul Manafort lapel while he is talking on his cell phone.
Can you handle the history?
Now those photos might not always totally capture it, but Paul Manafort actually was super busy at the RNC in 2016. The whole reason Paul Manafort was on the Trump campaign in the first place was so that he could whip delegate votes a the convention. As the primary started winding down, there was major fear in the Trump campaign that their candidate would not have enough delegates to clinch the nomination, that no Republican candidate would outright win.
In that case, the RNC would be a brokered convention, a floor fight. It would be up to the candidates to whip votes on the convention floor and persuade individual delegates to swing the nomination in their favor. And that is why the Trump campaign hired Paul Manafort. He was supposed to be their delegate guru, the expert pulling the strings behind the scenes to make sure Donald Trump got the delegates he needed to clinch the nomination and face off against Hillary Clinton in the general election.
The idea was to get Paul Manafort to work his magic. That`s what the Trump campaign was doing in public in the summer of 2016 to secure the delegates needed to win the nomination. Well, tonight, more than two years later we have new details about what the campaign was apparently doing in private.
This is brand-new from "The New York Times." Trump campaign aide requested online manipulation plans from Israeli intelligence firm. Quote: A top Trump campaign official requested proposals in 2016 from an Israeli company to create fake online identities, to use social media manipulation and to gather intelligence to help defeat Republican primary race opponents and Hillary Clinton, according to interviews and copies of the proposals.
The campaign official Rick Gates sought one proposal to use bogus personas and target and sway 5,000 delegates to the 2016 Republican National Convention by attacking Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, Mr. Trump`s main opponent at the time.
And that was not the only service the Israeli intelligence firm reportedly was offering to the Trump campaign. Quote, another proposal describes opposition research and complimentary intelligence activities about Mrs. Clinton and people close to her. A third proposal sketched out a month`s long plan to help Mr. Trump by using social media to help expose or amplify division among rival campaigns and factions.
"The Times" tonight reports that those are the proposals that were sent to the Trump campaign by the Israeli firm offering their services. The paper says the correspondence was conducted in secret, with code names for Trump`s Republican rivals. Donald Trump was code name lion. Ted Cruz was bear.
In addition to "The Times" apparently containing these formally secret documents, the documents were also obtained by one special counsel Robert Mueller. Quote: Investigators working for Robert Mueller have obtained copies of the proposals and questioned side group employees, according to people familiar with those interviews. "The Times" identifies Manafort deputy Rick Gates as that person who sought the proposals from the Israeli intelligence firm.
Rick Gates, of course, pleaded guilty in February in the Mueller investigation, and he`s agreed to cooperate fully. So, what could the special counsel`s office make of this? And what happens now?
Joining us now s Ronen Bergman, one of "The New York Times" reporters who broke this story. He is a staff writer for "The New York Times" magazine based in Tel Aviv.
Mr. Bergman, thank you so much for joining us tonight.
RONEN BERGMAN, STAFF WRITER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Thank you, Joy. Thank you for inviting me.
REID: Thank you. We have a slight delay.
First, let`s talk about this company, Psy-Group. Who are they?
BERGMAN: Psy-Group was one of those Israeli intelligence companies, private intelligence companies. There are a few of them. You probably heard about another company called Black Cube that was involved in the Harvey Weinstein case and some others.
But what is common to all of them, they`re staffed with former operatives of the Israeli Mossad, Israeli military intelligence, people who has great expertise in the different realms of intelligence, surveillance, human, SIGINT, and manipulation of the social media, collecting of intelligence and deploying this intelligence to manipulate people. The veteran Israeli agents, they wanted to make some money and they formed these intelligence companies, one of them, Psy-Group, that specialized in the surveillance and manipulation of the social media, offered their services to countries and organization worldwide.
They are now in liquidation, but during the years of 2014, 2015, `16 and `17, they were very, very successful. And as you correctly said that, they offered their service. They were solicited to offer their services to the Trump campaign.
REID: And do we know how they were solicited? How they were connected to the Trump campaign in the first place?
BERGMAN: Yes. A person by the name of Sager connected an election expert by the name of George Birnbaum. He was close to Arthur Finkelstein, the master of the victory of Prime Minister Netanyahu back in 1996. He is close to former and current Israeli officials.
George Birnbaum was the one who met with Rick Gates of the Trump campaign and spoke with him about Psy-Group. Rick Gates in that meeting in the Mandarin Hotel in D.C. expressed concern by the Trump campaign highest authorities that delegates of the Republican parties are going to sway away from Trump and not vote for him, and asked or was pitched to a proposal, to ask for a proposal from Psy-Group to have their expertise into first identifying 5,000 delegates of the Republican Party, then deploy a fleet of bots of fictitious identities and fictitious -- bots over the Internet, approach the delegates, connect with them on special different reasons, not necessarily about the elections, and then feed them with pro-Trump and anti-Ted Cruz reasons why to vote for Trump and not for anyone else.
And this would be followed up sometimes by other means of connection, even phone calls. The legality of the proposal was also -- please.
REID: Go on. No, go on.
BERGMAN: The legality of the proposal was under question and Psy-Group even seek the help and the illegal review of a company of a legal firm in the U.S., one of the most prestigious one, and they have come up with legal review saying there are problems with the legality of this action and the company Psy-Group have to maintain that much of the activity should be performed by U.S. citizens. And if the proposal was executed, they wanted to hire many, many more operatives, some of them dual citizenship Israeli and American and open a special office to execute the whole campaign.
REID: It sounds like Cambridge Analytica, but the targets being Republican delegates at the convention. Fascinating report.
Ronan Bergman of "The New York Times," a reporter based in Tel Aviv -- thank you so much for your time tonight, and congratulations on the big scoop.
BERGMAN: Thank you so much, Joy.
REID: Thank you.
And this week, we`ve got not one, but two scoops from the Mueller investigation. The first was this story about the Israeli intelligence firm. The second scoop is just ahead. Stay with us. Much more to come.
REID: OK. File this one under mystery.
Last summer, "The Wall Street Journal" was out with this scoop about a Republican operative named Peter Smith. In the final stretch of the 2016 presidential campaign, Peter Smith was on a quest, hunting for what he believed to be e-mails stolen by Russian hackers from Hillary Clinton`s private e-mail server. "The Wall Street Journal" interviewed Mr. Smith for that story. Smith implied to "The Journal" that his secret endeavor was somehow tied to Michael Flynn who had been an adviser in the campaign.
And then about ten days after he talked to "The Wall Street Journal," Peter Smith died. He was found dead in a Minnesota hotel room in an apparent suicide.
Before we had much time to digest that bombshell, the very next day, "The Wall Street Journal" was back for round two. According to "The Journal", it was not just Mike Flynn who Peter Smith implied was connected to his search for Hillary Clinton`s e-mails. According to Smith, it was also a handful of other top tier campaign aides like Kellyanne Conway and Steve Bannon.
And from the beginning, this whole story about the Republican operative trying to get his hands on stolen e-mails has been kind of an outlier. It`s been this obscure avenue of reporting that feels like it could be explosive, but it`s kind of hard to nail down exactly what any of it means.
Well, today, "The Wall Street Journal" added a little bit more to the picture. Here`s the headline: GOP operative secretly raised at least $100,000 in search for Clinton e-mails.
Quote, Peter Smith sought and collected the funds from at least four wealthy donors as part of the plan to obtain Mrs. Clinton`s stolen e-mails from hackers just weeks before election day in 2016. His fundraising efforts were clandestine. Mr. Smith appears to have use an alias, not just for himself, but also for the money he was raising, making references to a Washington scholarship fund for Russian students, which "The Wall Street Journal" says they were unable to confirm even exists.
And if you`re wondering what all of this means, if you`re wondering what might connect all these dots, you`re in very good company. "The Journal" reports that Robert Mueller is also investigating Peter Smith`s quest for Clinton`s e-mails and his mysterious donations for the Russian scholarship programs "The Journal" has not yet found. Quote: Associates of Mr. Smith have been interviewed by Mueller`s investigators or summoned before a grand jury as recently as this summer. Robert Mueller has obtained documents from Mr. Smith`s estate, as well as his encrypted hard drives, and those hard drives are also in the hands of Congress. The Senate and House Intelligence Committee is investigating Russia`s attack on our election.
And a member of the House Intelligence Committee joins next. Stay with us.
REID: It was a surprise late last month when Devin Nunes, the Republican chair of the House Intelligence Committee, suddenly agreed to publicly release the transcripts of more than 50 interviews his committee conducted during the short Russia probe, something the Democrats on the committee had been clamoring for for months but Republicans had blocked. Those transcripts which will first need to undergo an intelligence review are expected to be released in the next few weeks. Exactly why Republicans on the committee had a change of heart is unclear.
When one of the panel`s Democrats asked Nunes if this decision was made in coordination with the White House or with Trump`s legal team, Nunes refused to answer. The release is also selective because Nunes is not releasing all of the witness interviews. The private testimony of former FBI Director James Comey, former CIA Director John Brennan, and former NSA Director Mike Rogers will remain secret, as will the transcripts of two sitting members of Congress, Florida Democrat Debbie Wasserman Schultz who was in charge of the Democratic National Committee at the time of the Russian hack, and California Republican Dana Rohrabacher.
Republicans said their transcripts were being withheld from public view as a, quote, professional courtesy extended to members of Congress. However, Wasserman Schultz`s office told us today they have zero issue with the congresswoman`s testimony being released.
As for Rohrabacher, different story. He has repeatedly cast doubt on whether Russia hacked the DNC at all. He has met with several key Russian figures in the probe and his staunch pro-Russia sympathies has led him to be derisively nicknamed Putin`s favorite congressman. Asked if he would agree to his interview being made public, Rohrabacher said, quote, I`ll think about it.
Well, now we may know the reason for his hesitancy. In an op-ed this weekend in "The Sacramento Bee," Devin Nunes`s hometown newspaper, Democratic member of the committee Eric Swalwell writes: Nunes buried evidence on Russian meddling to protect Trump. I know because I`m on the committee.
Quote, our investigation did reveal worrisome contacts between the Russians and candidate Trump, his family, his businesses and his campaign. Yet every time we sought to learn more, we were blocked.
As for Rohrabacher`s testimony, specifically, Swalwell wrote, I took part in that lengthy interview and I was disturbed by his contacts with Russia before and during the 2016 campaign. Democrats at our hearing moved to release Rohrabacher`s transcript. Nunes killed our effort. He is burying that transcript to protect his friend.
And joining us now as the author of that op-ed and member of the House Intelligence Committee, California Congressman Eric Swalwell.
Congressman, thank you so much for being here.
REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D), CALIFORNIA: Thanks for having me, Joy.
REID: OK. So, let`s first talk about Mr. Rohrabacher. What do you know about Mr. Rohrabacher`s involvement in Russian meddling in our election that we could find out from reading his transcript?
SWALWELL: Yes, that transcript should be released yesterday as the Republicans promised. And we saw just a number of concerning contacts that he had for decade was the Russians, but particularly as the Russians were interfering in our campaign. And he would run into Russians all over the world and didn`t seem to think there was anything unusual that Russians would be popping in and out of places where he has traveled.
And, you know, that is quite concern, but also, his contacts with people on the Trump campaign as the Russians were interfering. The Republicans said that from the very beginning, these transcripts should be made public. We have fought for that every single time. Ranking member Schiff has pressed for them to keep that promise. And even today after voting these out two weeks ago, the public still has not seen them.
REID: Is it something potentially criminal?
SWALWELL: Well, it shows that we should have been able to pursue more leads. You know, we had a take them at their word investigation that the Republicans led, which was they put people in the chair. Republicans would say did you collude? No, great. All right. Next witness.
And we would learn a lot from our questions. What the public will see is it was almost 10-1 as far as the amount of time we spent questioning witnesses and what little the Republicans asked. But every time we learned something, we would say well, why don`t we subpoena a phone record here? Why don`t we subpoena a bank record? Why don`t we find out in Michael Cohen went over to Prague and look at his travelogues? And every single request they shut down.
So, I think you saw a deep willingness on the Trump campaign to work with the Russians, and every, you know, piece of evidence that we needed to pursue that would tie all that together, they stopped.
REID: Are you accusing Chairman Devin Nunes of literally thwarting the efforts to investigate this and doing so on behalf of the White House?
SWALWELL: Yes, it was clear he was doing this on behalf of the White House. He did thwart every effort we took to get to the truth.
You know, look, this committee has always worked in a bipartisan way. It`s one of the worst things that has come out of this Russia attack is that we should have had unity as an antidote, and instead you saw the chairman work to protect the president when we really needed a leader while our democracy was on the ropes.
And I didn`t take doing this lightly. You know, I knew that it`s rather unprecedented to write an op-ed in somebody`s hometown.
SWALWELL: But our democracy is truly on the ropes, and he is the one guy that controls the subpoena power on that committee, and there is so much that the American people should see, and there is so much more we should learn if we had run the investigation the right way.
REID: And we`re learning from "The New York Times" and other reporting that there was even an operation. It was very similar to what Cambridge Analytica was doing to the general public. It was actually being done to Republican delegates, or at least there was a proposal to potentially do it, to Republican delegates. Is that something that the House Intelligence Committee would look into if Democrats get ahold of it?
SWALWELL: Yes. And some of the evidence that we saw, which was that whether it was the president who invited more hacking from the Russians at a public press conference, to his son who said in an e-mail "I love it" when offered dirt on Hillary Clinton, up and down the campaign. There was just this eagerness to work with the Russians. And now we`re starting to see in this new reporting that it wasn`t just the Russians. They were willing to do anything it took to win.
REID: And we know that at least according to the polling, a check on the president is something that a lot of voters are expressing that they want. If Democrats get the gavel on the House Intelligence Committee, what are the things that you guys are going to do? Are you going to try to get Donald Trump`s tax returns? Will where will this committee do?
SWALWELL: Yes, do the investigations that the Republicans weren`t willing to do. But I hope we can do it in a bipartisan way. I don`t want to write off Republicans who were fearful over the last two years. One Republican on the committee said that when the president tweets at you, he wins.
So I have seen that fear, but I don`t think we should just write them off. We should hope that they see that the president is toxic. He can`t save you, that it`s time for us to do the right thing for the country, and hopefully these investigations are bipartisan.
REID: Congressman --
SWALWELL: I still have hope for that.
REID: All right. Well, that`s good. Hope is good. Hope is good.
Congressman Eric Swalwell, thank you very much.
SWALWELL: My pleasure.
REID: Thank you for being here.
All right. And much more ahead tonight. Stay with us.
REID: About a year ago, the president`s son-in-law Jared Kushner made an unannounced trip to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. It was his third trip there, but this was a secret trip. So he decided to fly commercial.
He went there to meet with Saudi Arabia`s crown prince, known to most as MBS. Kushner and MBS, both in their 30s, bonded. They reportedly stayed up into the wee hours of the night, quote, swapping stories and planning strategy.
Days after that trip, MBS rolled out what he called an anti-corruption crackdown throughout Saudi Arabia, where he rounded up hundreds of Saudis and imprisoned them in Riyadh`s Ritz Carlton Hotel. Some were subjected to torture.
The intercept later reported that MBS bragged that Kushner had leaked information from the presidential daily brief that included names of Saudis who were disloyal to the crown prince. In response to that crackdown, Donald Trump said he had, quote, great confidence in the crown prince. They know exactly what they`re doing. That was from November of last year.
This April 2018, the State Department put out a report on human rights in Saudi Arabia. In executive summary from that report, they did not seem quite as confident as the president. Quote, according to media reports, members of the security forces coerced with relative impunity, at least some of the detainees to the point of requiring medical care.
A little further down. Quote: In September 2017, well-known Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi said he moved to the United States in self-exile and could face arrest upon returning home due to his writing. That journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, fled Saudi Arabia and moved to Virginia. He started writing a column for "The Washington Post."
About a week ago, he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, around 1:30 Tuesday afternoon to obtain documents he needed to get married, and he never came out. His fiancee waited for him outside until midnight and returned the next day when the consulate reopened.
Questions started to circulate what happened to him. To that Jared Kushner`s buddy the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, MBS, insisted that the journalist left the building not long after he entered, adding that Turkey can feel free to search the consulate for the Saudi journalist, because, quote, we have nothing to hide.
Since then, there are reports that Jamal Khashoggi was killed and dismembered in the consulate, that a 15-member team from Saudi Arabia flew into Turkey to carry it out.
Turkish President Erdogan is now demanding that the Saudis prove that the journalist left the consulate with footage. Now, if you`re keeping track, so far the U.K. and French foreign ministries have both released statements on the disappearance of the Saudi journalist.
The U.S. State Department which initially included them in their human rights report have not released any special statement. When asked, they said, quote: We are not in a position to confirm these reports but we are closely following the situation.
And today when Donald Trump was asked if he was concerned about the Saudi journalist he said: I`m concerned. I do not like hearing about it and hopefully that will sort itself out. Hopefully.
Joining us now is Karen Attiah, global opinions editor for "The Washington Post," and Mr. Khashoggi`s editor at "The Post".
Ms. Attiah, we really appreciate your time tonight.
KAREN ATTIAH, GLOBAL OPINIONS EDITOR, THE WASHINGTON POST: No problem. Thank you for having me and for covering this.
REID: For those who didn`t read your moving piece in "The Post" that you wrote about Mr. Khashoggi, tell us a little about him and how you came to be his editor?
ATTIAH: Yes. So, it was about a year ago, obviously, we`re reading more about the crack downs in Saudi Arabia. Jamal Khashoggi was very often quoted in media reports talking to officials, just giving insight into the kingdom. So, we saw that and figured why not just have him explain to our readers what was going on in the kingdom.
That particular op-ed, you know, in the previous six months or so, he had actually been banned from writing. He had been told not to tweet. So, in a lot of ways, that was his sort of coming out so to speak. And in that op-ed, that`s where he discussed fleeing the kingdom and leaving his job, leaving his family, and also just saying that Saudi Arabia never had been that unbearable.
And in that he said, you know, Saudi Arabia deserves better. So, that`s how he started. He started to do a lot more. We`ve done dozens of op-eds, and yes, he was critical of MBS. There were op-eds where, you know, he compared MBS to Putin. He just said the crack down on this -- and even for people who initially supported the reforms that Mohammed Bin Salman proposed were being locked up in jail. He felt he could not remain silent.
And as I`ve been saying, he didn`t want to be labeled as a dissident. He wasn`t trying to overthrow the regime. He was an advisor to the royal court for such a long time. He just really honestly wanted to advise the prince.
There were times I was looking back over messages and there were times where he just said, I just want to advise this prince. I don`t want to insult him. I don`t want to pick on him. If you`ll read it, I just hope he`ll do the right thing. And I really -- that`s where he was coming from.
REID: Yes. And to your knowledge, did Mr. Khashoggi have reason to fear being inside that embassy in Turkey?
ATTIAH: To my knowledge, according to specific reports specific to this case, he was warned by his fiancee, by friends. I heard he received personal assurances from the ambassador here in Washington. And -- but he decided that it was fine.
I think reporting said he said that the staff seemed friendly enough. But as far as whether or not he had any specific threats that he communicated to me -- I mean, I know he felt under pressure particularly with his family, his family being threatened or slapped with travel restrictions, his ex-wife divorcing him because of these pressures. He was under tremendous pressures and he often communicated how he felt sad that he couldn`t go home.
REID: Yes, I called it an embassy, I mean, a consulate.
But most importantly, Karen Attiah, global opinions editor for "The Washington Post", we`re so sorry this is happening. I can see your emotion coming through the screen. Thank you very much for being here.
ATTIAH: Thank you for having me.
REID: And feeling absolutely about him.
Thank you very much.
ATTIAH: Thank you.
REID: And up next, what happened when one red state Democrat went home for the weekend after voting no on Brett Kavanaugh. That story`s next.
REID: So if you decided to avoid your television tonight during Brett Kavanaugh`s swearing in, I totally feel you.
The president`s apology to Brett Kavanaugh on behalf of the nation, his lie that Kavanaugh was proven innocent and painting Kavanaugh as victim was the latest Republican slap at the #MeToo movement, in a steady stream of jolts during the Kavanaugh hearings, exposing Republican`s raw contempt for all things #MeToo.
Consider Democratic Senator Heidi Heitkamp`s Republican opponent Kevin Cramer who told "The New York Times" that he and other North Dakotans don`t buy into the idea, quote, that you`re just supposed to believe somebody because they said it happen, referring to Dr. Christine Blasey Ford. Calling the #metoo movement a, quote, movement towards victimization, and saying that the women in his family didn`t relate.
Comments that did not sit well with his Democratic opponent Heidi Heitkamp. She told "The New York Times", quote, I think it`s wonderful that his wife has never had an experience, and good for her and it`s wonderful his mom hasn`t. My mom did, and I think it affected my mom her whole life, and it didn`t make her less strong.
Heitkamp told "The Times" reporter, quote: And I want you to put this there, it did not make my mom less strong that she was a victim. She got stronger and she made us strong. And to suggest this movement doesn`t make women strong and stronger is really unfortunate.
Senator Heitkamp says her mom Doreen who passed away in April was sexually assaulted as a teenager. Not long after that emotional interview, the strength Heidi Heitkamp inherited from her mom Doreen was on full display, when she pulled herself together to sing with the band. You know the words.
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REID: Singing Bobby McGee and North Dakota Senator Heidi Heitkamp who actually took a political risk with her vote this week to stand up for sexual assault survivors and for her mom, and not a small thing.
That does it for us tonight. Rachel will be back here tomorrow.
And I will see you on Saturday morning on my show "A.M. JOY."
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL".
Good evening, Lawrence.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END