Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW Date: October 17, 2018 Guest: Eric Swalwell
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thank you, my friend.
And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
It is a busy night around here. We`ve got Congressman Eric Swalwell joining us live a little bit later on this hour.
We`re also going to be reporting this hour on the strange story of the arrest of a U.S. Treasury Department official. This is a relatively senior official at the law enforcement part of the U.S. Treasury Department, who has now been criminally charged with feeding information to reporters about suspicious bank transitions that relate to the Russia scandal, and the Mueller investigation.
If you have been following the Mueller investigation at all, one of the things you learned early on is that there really are no leaks whatsoever in Mueller and his team of prosecutors. It has therefore always been a sort of unusual and interesting thing that there have been seemingly quite accurate sources of information about financial information, about banking information that is information that was apparently being used by Mueller.
So, this arrest today indicates at least where that suspiciously correct financial information might have come from in terms of how it made its way into the press. This is a pretty bizarre story. More on this coming up later this hour.
I`ll tell you, it does seem like there may be more arrests coming in this case, or at least there may be more shoes to drop when it comes to explaining what happened here. But as I said, a relatively senior treasury department official was arrested today in that case.
We also got some break news tonight out of North Dakota. We had a pretty huge response a couple of nights ago to a story we covered here Monday night about voting in North Dakota for the elections.
Senator Heidi Heitkamp is in a Democratic U.S. senator from that state. She`s in a tough re-election race this year. When she first won her seat for North Dakota in 2012, she won it in a squeaker. The margin she won by was less than 1 percent of the vote. In terms of the number of votes, she won her seat by less than 3,000 votes total statewide.
And one of the things crucial to that victory for her in 2012, which again put a Democrat in the U.S. Senate from North Dakota, one of the things that was absolutely crucial was the strong support she got from Native American voters in that state. And the two majority Native American counties in North Dakota, Heidi Heitkamp got really strong support, something like 70 percent plus of the votes in those counties. In a race that close, that was absolutely enough to put her over the top.
Well, as soon as Heidi Heitkamp was sworn in, in 2013, as North Dakota senator, the Republican-led legislature in that state got to work, basically trying to take care of that little problem. They designed a new law for the state, which says you can`t vote if your ID doesn`t have a residential address on it, a street address. Well, conveniently enough, if you`re a Native American and you live in North Dakota on a rural reservation, you don`t have a residential address on your ID, and it`s not just because their IDs aren`t designed that way, it`s because in many rural reservation communities, there aren`t residential street addresses. They don`t exist, they`ve never had them.
So requiring something to vote that Native Americans in the state generally don`t have, that`s a nice, tightly focused way that Republicans in that state`s legislature have come up with to knock out the Native American vote in that state.
There`s been a whole bunch of legal wrangling over this effort by North Dakota Republicans over the years, but the bottom line is for the first time in the congressional elections next month, November 6th, this new law is going to be fully in effect. So people who have been voting happily with their tribal IDs and their P.O. box IDs for years, or decades or generations, nope, not this time. No residential address on your ID you can`t vote this time.
Now, through one lens, this is an intensely local issue, it`s derived from how a minority community in one state lives and votes and how they are being targeted by Republicans to kill off their voting rights. It`s local.
Through another lens, though, this is a big national story. I mean, in North Dakota, Native American voters have a strong propensity to vote Democrat. Knocking them out is a very tidy way of knocking out Democratic votes. And specifically this year, it`s a very tidy way to knock Heidi Heitkamp out of the United States Senate because she`s up for re-election. Knocking Heidi Heitkamp out of the Senate happens to be the Republican Party`s best path towards keeping the whole U.S. Senate in the hands of the Republican Party for the next two years.
And if the whole U.S. Senate stays in the hands of the Republican Party for the next two years, that obviously has nationwide implications for policy, for investigations and accountability with this president and this administration. It potentially has implications even if something like impeachment ever comes up. And, of course, it`s the whole ball game when it comes to the possibility of another Supreme Court justice, retiring or dying in office, God forbid.
It`s the whole ball game in terms of confirming Trump nominees, both to the administration and to the courts. So whether or not North Dakota Republicans succeed in this, you know, what looks like a local effort to block 10,000 North Dakota Native Americans from voting in three weeks, this isn`t local news anymore, this is American history now.
So we`ve been covering that story for a few days now. We`ve been covering in particular how the tribes in North Dakota are trying to fight back. They obviously have a limited time to do so. Well, tonight, we have breaking news for you coming up. We may be able to report tonight on a potential breakthrough in that fight.
The tribes may have come up with something that may work here. It might. We`ll break that news in just a moment.
Now, the reason, of course, we got on to that story in the first place is we`ve been following what really is a national story now this year about the right to vote in this year`s congressional elections. That right to vote coming under tremendous and varied pressure all over the country as Republican officials on down the line, Republican officials in state and county government, at the city level, the municipal level around the country, we`re seeing evidence of them basically trying to tilt the playing field, wherever they can, however they can, to make voting as hard as possible or as complicated as possible for Democratic leaning voters who might be inclined to vote in this upcoming congressional election.
And I can`t always tell what we`re going to do on this show that`s going to get a big response from viewers, from you guys. But my sense is that the reason we`re seeing such strong reactions to this reporting we`ve been doing is because I think -- again, this is just my impression, but I think as Americans, there is something sort of viscerally upsetting, almost -- I don`t know, it`s almost like we can`t put a finger on it, like you can`t put it to words, but there`s something emotional and innate in us as American citizens about seeing people, seeing our fellow Americans wanting to vote, trying to vote, going through all the trouble and hassle it may take them to vote, and somebody else scheming against them to try to trick them out of it or block them from doing it.
We react to that as Americans in a visceral, emotional way. At least that`s what I`m getting from everybody who I`m hearing from since we`ve been doing this reporting. When we see our fellow Americans having to fight like heck just to be allowed to vote, to participate in the governance of our country, which is the whole idea of our country, it hurts us as Americans, and that pain causes people to I guess reach out. That`s what we`ve been experiencing.
You know, though, the more time we spend covering stories like this, the more I can tell the efforts on the other side of this fight are getting a little emotional, too. The voter suppressive efforts are getting a little emotional, a little heated. Case in point, I want to show you something -- I will confess, there was a little bit of laughing out loud when I first saw this, but I`m trying to be empathetic. I`m trying to get beyond the laughing at this, which was my first instinct to see what might be the emotions at work behind something this nuts.
Here it is. It`s out of Texas. A group called True the Vote, which has been around for a few years now. They`re a Tea Party, conservative, basically anti-voting rights activist group. They`re the ones who send conservative poll watchers into minority precincts to loom over people while they`re voting, to basically implicitly threaten that there`s something dangerous about turning up to vote in a place like that.
Well, this is the fund-raising e-mail that True the Vote has just sent out about voting in Texas this year. Quote: Dear supporter, I`m writing to you today with an urgent appeal. As all of America is now seeing, the radical left will do anything to silence pro-liberty voices. They will lie, they will cheat, they will destroy.
Now with polls tightening, free and fair elections will soon be under assault like never before. We need your help. We are already receiving reports of radical actions designed to overwhelm and exploit electoral processes.
What are these radical actions? Ah, like in Texas, where state officials have notified us that counties are being buried under hundreds of thousands of voter registrations, all being strategically submitted en masse. I don`t think they mean in mass like at church, which is what they wrote there.
What they mean is holy guacamole you guys, tons of people are registering to vote. This is disgusting. We`ve got to do something about it. This is obviously a strategic effort to destroy the system.
This is people trying to vote. I mean, what this True the Vote conservative anti-voting rights hair on fair alert is about is they want to raise money. They`re also trying to get poll watchers, quote, having informed citizens watching in the polls. It will make a difference.
Now that they`ve seen these terribly large numbers of people registering to vote, they want to make sure this doesn`t threaten to turn into real people casting their votes. They`ll do everything they can, send money now, grandma.
And I mean, I will admit I find it funny and ironic. I don`t know. It`s funny, ha-ha. I don`t know if it is funny ha-ha.
It is -- we`re seeing them freaking out about voter registration. Freaking out about Americans wanting to vote, right? Factually, I will give them this, they are on to something. People are trying to vote and trying to register to vote in very large numbers.
The day before True the Vote sent that out earlier this week, and remember, they referenced Texas where the real problem is. The day before they sent out that alert, KETR in Texas, in fact, reported on a big spike in new voter registrations in counties in northeast Texas, up in Collin County, Texas, for example, which is here on the map.
County elections administrator there said in the last 30 days before the last congressional election, the last midterm election in 2014, that county got about 4,800 new voters registered. This year, in the same period, they got nearly 13,000 new voter registrations come in.
So that`s just one little county in northeast Texas. Everybody freak out. Look at all those people that want to vote.
We`re see thing dynamic happen in counties and states around the country, doubling and tripling of voter registration applications, and people turning out to vote early, right? Compared to the last time the American public had the chance to vote in an election like this one, which was four years ago in 2014.
Now, I think most American citizens would take that as a rah-rah pound the chest moment, right? This is great. Our fellow Americans, we care. We`re all in this together. We want to be part of the process of governing our country.
People are registering to vote and voting in large numbers, that`s great. Don`t we all agree that`s great? If that doesn`t make you happy and that makes you scared, you have maybe been reading too much of your direct mail that`s trying to part you from your hard-earned money.
Lots of people wanting to vote is a good thing, not a bad thing or a scary thing. And we all used to agree on that. Or at least we all used to pay lip service to it.
In the Texas capital city of Austin, we saw new reporting about a very large number of voter registrations coming in there. This is from "ProPublica", quote, Travis County, Texas, the home of Austin, Texas, has experienced a massive spike in voter registrations this cycle, which officials there attribute to the heightened interest in the state`s competitive Senate race between Ted Cruz and Beto O`Rourke.
Quote: The county received around 35,000 registrations on the final day to submit them this year. That`s 10,000 more than on the same day in 2016, which was a presidential year.
Quote: Texas is one of only 13 states not of online voter registration, so now, about a dozen Travis County employees are sifting through thousands of applications, verifying them and entering them into the state`s voter rolls by hand." of the 35,000 registrations received on the last day of registration, October 9th, 25,000 of those 35,000 have yet to be processed. And that`s with early voting starting in that state on Monday.
You think they`re going to get them all processed in time? Why do they have to process every voter registration application by hand? In a state that has tens of millions of people living in it? Why on earth make it so hard? Not only for people to register, but for those registrations to be processed, why make it so cumbersome? So that it honestly can`t get done before voting starts.
Well, the more people vote, the more people who get their votes counted, the worse Republicans tend to do in U.S. elections. So when you`ve got Republican control of the legislature and the state government, like Republicans have in Texas, they know it`s to their own advantage to keep the voting process, to keep the voter registration process slow and screwy, because that works for them just fine. More people trying to register and trying to vote? That`s scary to them.
Today in the great state of Georgia, it was day three of in-person early voting in the state`s third most populous county, in Cobb County, the line to vote today was more than three hours long all day long. According to the "Atlanta Journal Constitution," people were lined up this morning to vote at the early voting site in Cobb County, more than an hour before that voting site opened. It opened at 8:00 a.m., people were lined up at 7:00 a.m. And that was a rational decision honestly. I mean, who has more than three hours to wait in line to vote on a Wednesday?
Well, the Republican-led state government in Georgia is hoping to find out, and they`re hoping it`s not too many of you. Bottleneck the voting process as much as possible, put up as many hurdles as possible to people voting, make it a long process, make it uncomfortable, make it uncertain, make it vaguely threatening, weed out people who might not have tons of time or resources to devote to this civic responsibility.
This kind of stuff, it turns election season like we`re in now, into like a biblical test of your good citizenship. It`s like they`re setting up a biblical trial to test how much you love your country, and what you`ll do to show it.
Think Progress and the "Atlanta Journal Constitution" are also now reporting on not just the difficulties and the long lines in big populous counties like Cobb County, but in the small corners of Georgia, too. Jefferson County is in Eastern Georgia. It`s a small county. It`s got a population of just about 15,000 people. The population of Jefferson County is majority African-American.
There`s a county-run senior center in Jefferson County, in a town called Lewisville, Georgia. On the first day of early voting this week, on Monday, a bus pulled up to that senior center from a nonpartisan, nonprofit group that promotes voting among African-American citizens. They had kind of a impromptu, pro-voting, get out the vote rally, and honestly, they had kind of a moving, impromptu sing along, all these elderly African-Americans there at the senior center.
And after that, several dozen elderly African-American folks from the senior center decided they did want to vote at their local early voting site. This was the first day of early voting. Let`s go.
When the county voting heard that the bus was on its way over with all these older black folks, the county government called that senior center and said, don`t let them come. And they took them off the bus and they wouldn`t let them go. There`s no law in Georgia that prevents you take a bus to a voting site with other people that want to vote, as well. That`s not illegal.
But pretend it`s illegal and push people around and tell them you can`t do it, you might at least block them from voting that day, and how many won`t be able to get it together to vote some other day? If they get it together, they`ll probably all vote. How terrifying is that?
The NAACP Legal Defense Fund is now asking Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp to look into this situation in Jefferson County to remedy this kind of problem that`s happening even in far-flung problems of his state. Raise your hand if you think Brian Kemp is going to see this as a matter of significant concern. Brian Kemp is the secretary of state. He`s also the Republican candidate for governor in Georgia.
This incident with the bus load of elderly African-American voters being told to get off the bus, they couldn`t vote together, this happened again on Monday, day one of early voting in Georgia. Today, in that same town, the Democratic candidate for governor who`s running against Brian Kemp, Stacey Abrams, she showed up in that town to meet with those seniors and to encourage them to not let anybody get in their way when it comes to casting their vote. In terms of how that fight, that epic American fight is going in Georgia, we do have some new hard data for you on that.
You might remember last night, we had numbers for the first day of voting, first day of in-person early voting in Georgia. The last time we had a midterm election, so four years ago, in 2014, the first day of in-person early voting in Georgia saw a lot of people vote, just under 21,000 people turn out to vote early on that first day of voting. On the same day this year, the first day of early voting, saw more than 69,000 people turn out in Georgia. So, more than tripling the first day turnout for early in- person voting in Georgia between what happened in 2014 and what happened this year.
Well, just tonight, we got in the numbers for day two of early voting in Georgia, which was yesterday. And those numbers were even bigger. Look, it was 69,000 people that voted early yesterday in Georgia. Today, it went up to 76,000.
So, this is an emotional thing for us as Americans, right? The determination to vote, even as people try to make you not do it. But you can see where the emotion is coming from on the right, right, on the other side. If they`re worried about what might happen if too many people might get out there and vote.
And that brings us to this new news we`ve got out of North Dakota. That story is next. Stay with us.
MADDOW: So the way we left the story on Monday night, is that various Native American tribes in the great state of North Dakota were scrambling to figure out a way to have their tribal members still be allowed to vote in this upcoming election in that state. The Republican state legislature passed a new law that says you can no longer vote in that state if you don`t have a residential address, a street address on your ID native Americans on rural reservations in North Dakota mostly do not have that. At a rate double that of everybody else in the state, Native Americans don`t have street addresses on their IDs.
The reservations just aren`t set up that way. People just don`t have street addresses. They`ve never had them. Their IDs have always just had P.O. boxes on them. And up until now, that`s always been fine to vote.
It will not be fine to vote any more, as of next month`s election in North Dakota, per orders of the Republican-led state legislature. So, the tribes are scrambling, right? In order to comply with the new law, which seemed narrowly targeted to keep Native Americans as a group from voting next month`s elections, the tribes have been scrambling to not just issue new IDs to everyone in their tribe between now and the election, which is a pretty tall order in itself, the election is less than three weeks away.
The tribes are also now facing the prospect of needing to invent street addresses that don`t exist on the reservation for thousands of people, right? Inventing these street addresses, then assigning them to individual people, then using these brand new, newly invented meaningless street addresses as the basis for new IDs, then cutting those new IDs, then getting those new IDs to everybody in that tribe before voting November 6th, right? That`s the order. Logistically insane and likely impossible.
So, on Monday night, we spoke with O.J. Semans from one of the Native American voting rights groups in the region, a group called Four Directions, who said one of the things the tribes have been working on is a sort of make a way plan, a makeshift plan that may be could save the ability to vote for rural Native Americans in that state without trying to force this probably logistically impossible task of inventing new addresses for everybody, and making and distributing all those new IDs in advance of the voting day.
The proposal the tribes are working on was to have tribal officials in person, stationed at voting sites for Native American. Those tribal officials on the spot could issue a tribal voting letter. They put it on the leatherhead of the tribal government, rather than trying to get everybody a new address and new ID, just show up to vote and on the spot, that tribal government official will give you a tribal letter instead of a new ID that basically serves the same purpose, that has your name and your birth date and residential address as assigned in that moment. And then the state would have to accept these letters, these tribal letters, voting letters from the tribes, as your permission slip to vote in that state.
So, this is the proposal from the tribes. We talked about this on Monday night. Since then, we have been back and forth in my office, a whole bunch of times with the secretary of state`s office in North Dakota. We`ve been trying to get a firm answer about whether or not they will accept this as a solution, whether they`ll accept the votes of Native Americans if the tribes put this makeshift system in place where everybody gets a tribal voting letter at their polling place.
The secretary of state`s office will not give us a straight yes or no office. The deputy secretary of state has now literally told us that such a letter, a tribal voting letter, would, quote, probably be accepted. Probably. After we got the probably, we went back a couple more times to find out seriously, you`re just going to tell us yes or no? The answer is probably.
So, tonight, we got this statement from a Coalition of Major North Dakota tribal governments. This is the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians, the Spirit Lake Tribe, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, and the Three Affiliated Tribes, and forgive me if get the pronunciation wrong. It`s the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nation.
They say, we stand united against North Dakota`s suppressive voter ID law. Together, with tribal advocates, the Native American Rights Fund, Four Directions, Western Native Voice and Native Vote, we are fighting back.
We believe the requirement of a physical residential property with a street address was intended to disenfranchise Native American voters. To combat this, we intend to ensure our members that lack residential street addresses can obtain them. So they may exercise their right to vote.
Tribes are now able to issue tribal documents that contain the voter`s name, birth date and current residential street address in North Dakota. We intend to issue these documents at polling locations within the bounds of our reservations on Election Day. We encourage all tribal people to come out to vote on November 6th, even if you do not have a qualifying ID. We will not be silenced by the attempts to rob our people of our voice.
So I think this is exclusive to us tonight. We just got this statement from the tribes. What this means is that the Native American tribal governments in North Dakota, which very well could be the difference between a Republican held Senate or a Democratic held senate, and everything that that entails. It could absolutely be the difference in terms of what happens with that crucial Senate race in North Dakota that`s why Republicans made this change.
Tonight, in this statement, the Native American tribes of North Dakota are saying what the Republicans are trying to demand of them with these IDs, the tribes are not doing it. They intend to vote with documents that they will provide to their own people at polling location on the reservations on voting day. They will provide tribal voting letters, and as tribes, as sovereign nations, they will say that is the kind of ID you need to vote. They will do it right then and there.
Again, we`ve been trying all day and into this evening to get an answer from the Republican secretary of state`s office in North Dakota as to whether or not the state is actually going to count these votes. Whether or not they are going to let members of Native American tribes in North Dakota vote in this way. So far the answer they have given us and that they are sticking by, I kid you not, so far the answer is probably.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOSHUA LEVY, COUNSEL FOR FUSION GPS: 2016, our clients, Glenn Simpson and Fusion GPS, did their civic duty by providing credible information to the Justice Department that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election. Since that time, the U.S. intelligence community, under this administration, and the bipartisan Senate Select Committee, agreed and found that Russia not only interfered with our 2016 presidential election, but that Vladimir Putin led an effort to help elect Donald J. Trump president.
This committee has shown no interest in the fact that Russia interfered in the 2016 election. Rather than do its duty consistent with its traditional and constitutional role, the House Judiciary Committee has looked the other way at White House efforts to influence and interfere with the Justice Department`s investigation of this administration. Instead, it has pursued whistleblowers, and it has joined the White House`s cries to stop this special counsel`s investigation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was the lawyer for Glenn Simpson, the head of Fusion GPS, which is the firm that hired the ex-British spy Christopher Steele to put together an opposition research file on Donald Trump and his ties to Russia, and Russia`s efforts to attack the U.S. election in 2016 to help Trump win.
You actually can see Glenn Simpson himself, that`s the guy standing over the shoulder of his lawyer. Simpson was there in Congress this week because House Republicans are still trying to nail him somehow for having commissioned the research and the Trump Russia dossier. Simpson has testified before three different committees. Yesterday they tried to get him in front of a fourth committee, and he balked. He said basically no through his lawyer, you`re trying to shoot the messenger here and I`m not just going to stand there and get shot.
So it`s kind of a dramatic standoff, anyway. The lawyer saying what Republicans are doing to his client is demagoguery and abuse of power and he`s not going to help them cover this up. But then I just want to show you this next moment that happened, when up pops the Fox News Channel point person on this story.
This is Fox`s lead reporter on all of the Fox News stories they`ve been pushing for months now how terrible the FBI is, and how the real scandal is the dossier and how Christopher Steele himself, he`s the real Russia scandal. This is the Fox News reporter who has been pushing all that. Watch how this goes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CATHERINE HERRIDGE, FOX NEWS REPORTER: There`s a difference between saying the Russians interfered in the election and the validity of the dossier. I asked Mr. Simpson on the way in if anything in the dossier had been substantiated. Can you address that?
LEVY: Yes. Four individuals named in the dossier have either pleaded guilty to criminal charges or have been indicted and convicted of criminal charges. I`ll finish the answer to your question. OK?
HERRIDGE: Yes, go ahead.
LEVY: The central thesis to the first memo Mr. Steele wrote said that the Russians were helping President Trump win the presidency, and give him information to win the presidency. The U.S. intelligence community has since found that that was the case.
HERRIDGE: Wouldn`t you agree there`s a difference between the central thesis and the detailed allegations that are laid out in the dossier?
LEVY: I would in that the big picture should be the most important point. If you want to quibble with one detail here and there, you`re losing the big picture.
Catherine, the Russians tried to elect Donald Trump president. It`s been proven. And you`re quibbling about whether this little detail on page 127 was correct or not? It`s absurd. We`ve got to stop this.
The big picture is that a foreign, hostile power was trying to interfere in our democracy, in our presidential election.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The big picture here. That was yesterday in congress. Today, Twitter, Twitter the company, released a database of more than 10 million tweets that it says were part of Russian information operations targeting U.S. voters in the election. More than 3,000 bogus Twitter accounts run by the Kremlin`s Internet Research Agency, sending something like, I said 10, actually more like 9 million tweets, including 2 million GIFs and videos and other pieces of video content.
Now, here`s the thing. Twitter had released little dribs and drabs oh of this stuff in the past. Don`t let this all blend into one big, gooey cloud of a story. But the specifics here are important in terms of how we feel about this story as a country. Twitter waited until almost a year after the election, then they did release information from Russian accounts, 201 Russian accounts. That was Twitter`s first account of what Russia appeared to have done during the election to try to influence the election, 200 accounts, that`s all.
Then a little later on, OK, Twitter announced maybe it was more accounts than that, and it was more like 1.4 million tweets. OK, well, now, two years later, maybe it`s more like 9 million tweets from more than 3,000 Russian accounts that were all being operated out of the Internet Research Agency.
Hey, maybe this was a big and potent Russian directed operation after all on our company`s platform. It took a couple of years, but, yes, maybe a major crime was committed here. Did we play it down? Sorry.
Honestly, when Twitter came out at first in 2017, there was a lot of fanfare at this, right? And they said, oh, we found these 200 Russian accounts. It was a little weird at the time, right? Two hundred Twitter accounts.
I mean, I run a little cable TV show here. We`ve got three accounts. We`re not exactly a huge operation. So when Twitter said that`s all it was, we found these 200 accounts from Russia, it seemed like maybe this wasn`t that big an operation, Twitter certainly seems to be playing it down.
Well, now, two years on, they say actually, we mean thousands of accounts and millions of tweets all designed to manipulate the election for the Russian government. Now they tell us. The preliminary review of what they released today shows, quote, Russia`s efforts to disparage Hillary Clinton and initially erratic approach to Donald Trump that eventually settled on a concerted pro-Trump message during the campaign.
By Election Day, the Russian tweets were nearly uniformly pro-Trump, expressing sentiments like, I don`t want a criminal in office, I`d vote for Monica before I would vote for Killary. #Trump, #MakeAmericaGreatAgain, #TrumpforPresident.
Love, Russia. Nine million times.
Well, now, in the most ugly international scandal that Trump has gotten himself into in months, now in this Saudi Arabia disaster he has gotten himself embroiled in and implicated in, one as yet unanswered part of the big picture scandal here has just come roaring back. We`re going to have that story next, because just because the Republicans and conservative media are pretending none of this is a problem, that doesn`t mean this stuff is going to go away on its own.
We`ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LEVY: If you want to quibble with one detail here and there, you`re losing the big picture. Catherine, the Russians tried to elect Donald Trump president. It`s been proven.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: So you`ve been watching the exploding scandal about the Saudi government and the murder of a U.S.-based journalist. You`ve been watching the incredulity and the horror over the U.S. government and the U.S. president apparently trying to help the Saudi government cover it up, taking their side, helping them out in this.
Consider this, as well. "The New York Times" broke this remarkable story in May about Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates offering the Trump campaign what would have been illegal help in the 2016 election, offering to fund a social media manipulation effort to help elect Trump. "The Times" reported in May that there was a meeting before the election at which this offer was made, and the Trump campaign and Donald Trump, Jr., seemed psyched about the offer. They had no qualms whatsoever, despite the fact that this would have been blatantly illegal.
That was reported in May. Earlier this month, "The Times" reported that there was a second meeting on the same topic on the campaign, same proposal to be funded by the Saudis and the UAE, offered this time to Trump`s deputy campaign chairman. I mean, this thing with the Saudis and UAE and what they wanted to do in the election, this is a whole other element of the election scandal that we really don`t understand yet.
It`s not known if this is Saudi Arabia offering to pay for the Russian interference effort. We don`t know if it`s Saudi just offering its even similar intervention, we don`t know what it means at root. We know that Mueller is looking into it. And more importantly, we know that the emissary from the Saudi government who was offering Trump this illegal campaign help in 2016, that emissary is now a cooperating witness with the Mueller investigation.
This guy, George Nader, a somewhat mysterious figure. There aren`t many photos we can get of him. We have one photo with President Trump and another with the crown prince of Saudi Arabia. But we don`t really understand how his whole part of the story is ultimately going to fit into the Mueller investigation and into our understanding as Americans about what happened to us in our last presidential election.
But the other person we know Nader was involved with at this time was a guy named Elliott Broidy. Broidy also is now reportedly under federal investigation for deals where he was purportedly peddling influence over the Trump administration to benefit Saudi Arabia, among other countries. His business partner in all of that appears to have been George Nader.
So, we haven`t really learned yet about what the George Nader, Elliott Broidy part of the scandal is all about. We haven`t yet seen what presumably will be the indictments one day that will explain all this. But these two guys, and Broidy until recently was a deputy finance chairman of the National Republican Party, they are some of the most intriguing question marks that remain in the whole Russia and election scandal.
I think we can be sure, because one of them is a cooperating witness, that the question marks about them will not be there forever. Eventually, we will figure out whatever it was they were involved in. It definitely seems like it was trouble, but we just don`t know what it was yet.
Here`s something you should know, though. The apparent murder of "Washington Post" journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, the one that Trump is apparently helping the Saudis come up with their cover story, according to "The Washington Post," and their intrepid national security reporter David Ignatius, who always seems to report this stuff before everybody else has it, the Saudis, according to David Ignatius, have picked who their fall guy is going to be, their scapegoat, the person they`re going to blame this whole thing on so that their ruler gets to stay in power, so that the crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, gets excused.
Quoting Ignatius, one possible scapegoat according to several sources may be Major General Ahmed al-Assiri, the deputy chief of Saudi intelligence. The U.S. government learned last month that Assiri was planning to create a tiger team to conduct covert special operations, I`m told, though officials didn`t know the targets.
Well, that Saudi official, the general who American intelligence sources are now saying oh, that may be the rogue killer that Donald Trump predicted. Well, you should know that he, that same general, was the main contact for Elliott Broidy and George Nader in the Saudi government, for whatever Broidy and Nader were up to during the election, during the transition and thereafter. Nader wrote to Elliott Broidy about, quote, a terrific, magnificent meeting with the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed Bin Salman.
Quote, he was very positive overall, Nader wrote. The prince even asked them to discuss their contracts with General Ahmed, the same General Ahmed.
So, apparently, the guy who is going to be assigned to take the fall for the Jamal Khashoggi murder, he can maybe also take the fall for whatever election interference scheme the Saudis may have been pitching to the Trump campaign, the one that Robert Mueller is nailing down right now. Nice. Two birds with one stone, right? Nice.
Congressman Eric Swalwell from the intelligence committee will be our guest live, next.
MADDOW: Quote, if someone was killed in your home while you were in it and 15 days later, you`re still trying to come up with an explanation, forget it. We already know. #Khashoggi.
That was tweeted tonight by Congressman Eric Swalwell, who`s a member of the Intelligence Committee in the House. Congressman Swalwell joins us tonight live from his district in California.
Congressman, thanks very much for being here. It`s nice to see you.
REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D), CALIFORNIA: Of course. Good evening, Rachel.
MADDOW: So when you say we already know when it comes to Jamal Khashoggi and the Saudi government, what do you mean?
SWALWELL: Well, I kind of fall back on my work as a prosecutor where if it takes this long to come up with an explanation as to what happened -- well, we kind of already know that the Saudis are responsible and now they`re seeking to mitigate just, you know, who knew at the highest levels. And actually, this is very similar to many of the witnesses we had in our Trump-Russia investigation. A number of times, we`d ask a witness a question and they would take a timeout, consult with their lawyers for 5 to 10 minutes and come back and we figured, you know what, we already know the answer because it was a pretty simple one.
And that`s what`s disturbing here is that the United States is actually a part of the, you know, explanation process with the Saudis.
MADDOW: As a member of the intelligence committee I know you take your responsibility seriously in terms of confidential and classified information. So I`m not asking you to tell us any secrets, but one of the controversies here is that the Turkish government has been describing evidence that they have and reasons that they have to believe that the Saudi kill team, came in, killed Jamal Khashoggi.
They may have dismembered him. They may have disposed of his body. We`ve got a lot of subsequent reporting on connections between members of that supposed kill team and the leadership in Saudi Arabia.
Can you tell us whether any of that actual evidence has actually been shared with the U.S. intelligence community or with U.S. law enforcement, or are we just going on the word of the Turkish government here?
SWALWELL: That`s a great question, and I`ve spoken to our staff. But away from Washington, I can`t be briefed at the highest level yet. But what I can tell you, Rachel, is that the FBI has not been formally tasked to work with their liaison partners.
Now, they have what are called legal attaches over in Ankara and Istanbul. They have relationships in the region. And I`ve actually called for and wrote an op-ed asking for the FBI to be tasked to do this. So, if they can work with their counterparts over there and use their resources.
And why would we want our own FBI to do this? Well, it`s a U.S. resident working for a U.S. publication who was likely murdered by a U.S. ally. So, we have great reasons to want to know what happened.
MADDOW: And the person who would have to task the FBI to do this is the president, yes?
SWALWELL: Yes, that`s right. And it`s looking more and more, you know, I thought just a couple of days ago the president were parroting what the Saudis wanted him to say, as to what happened. But now it seems more like the Saudis are parroting what the president wants them to say, is he is, you know, really imploring on them to use this deny, deny, deny approach he always used and seems to get away with it.
MADDOW: As far as you can tell, the way you`re implying here is that President Trump and the Saudi government are working together essentially to cover up what happened here?
SWALWELL: Well, it fits the pattern of every time Donald Trump is presented with overwhelming evidence, he thinks he can just deny his way out of it, and now, we see that "Wall Street Journal" reporting tonight is that U.S. government and Saudi officials are working to minimize what role the crown prince and the king had in the killing. And I`m afraid, you know, that will dim the moral leadership we`ve always had in the world that keeps us safe here at home and keeps order across the globe.
MADDOW: Congressman Eric Swalwell, member of the House Intelligence Committee, really appreciate you joining us tonight, sir. Thanks for being here.
SWALWELL: My pleasure. Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Federal prosecutors arrested an employee of the Treasury Department today, senior advisor and part of the Treasury that`s called FinCEN. It`s the law enforcement part. Prosecutors charged her with leaking to the media a bunch of suspicious activity reports, which are generated by banks when they flag suspicious financial activity. Those go to Treasury, they keep them on file for law enforcement purposes.
In the case of this official who`s now been arrested, the documents that she reportedly took and shared with the media had to do with key figures in the Mueller investigation, people like Paul Manafort and Rick Gates. According to charging documents today, the suspect told prosecutors that she`s a whistle-blower who leaked these sensitive reports to reporters for, quote, recordkeeping.
We don`t yet know what that means, but it`s a strange prospect that somebody at the financial law enforcement part of the Treasury would feel like she had to make contact with the press to make duplicates of these confidential financial documents tied to the Mueller investigation in order to do her own recordkeeping to make sure those reports lived on outside the federal government. Her whistle-blower claim may be the most intriguing part of this arrest today, but we don`t yet know exactly what it means. We will stick a pin in that story.
That does it for us tonight. See you again tomorrow.
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL". Lawrence is back.
Good evening, Lawrence.
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