Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW Date: October 22, 2018 Guest: Caitlin Dickerson, Adam Schiff
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
In 2016, so the last time we had elections, Congressman Lee Zeldin was up for reelection for the first time. Lee Zeldin, a Republican member of Congress from Long Island in New York. He had been elected to Congress for the first time in 2014. 2014 was an election year that was pretty good for Republicans, and that year in 2014, Lee Zeldin had turfed out a Democratic incumbent and taken that seat in Congress for the Republican Party.
So he`s up for reelection for the first time in 2016. But his district had been Democratic pretty recently. He was seen as vulnerable. The Republican Party ended up dumping resources into his race.
You know, 2016 was a presidential election year. It looked like it might go better for Democrats, right? Lee Zeldin in 2016 was definitely on the bubble as to whether or not he was going to be just a one-term congressman.
But at the apex of that crucial race for him in 2016, Congressman Lee Zeldin`s campaign did something that was a little hinky, especially in retrospect it seems really hinky. But even at the time people could tell there was something wrong.
At the height of that campaign in 2016, Lee Zeldin`s campaign sent out a mailer that apparently targeted specific voters in his district, and that mailer told voters that they had to mail in their absentee ballots a day after the deadline when those ballots were due. Oops.
If voters in Zeldin`s district had actually followed the instructions on that mailer from their own congressman, their vote wouldn`t have counted. He is telling them to send in their votes a day late. That`s terrible, right? Terrible.
Now, was that a mistake? The Zeldin campaign said of course that was just a mistake. But you wonder, right? I mean, we see stuff like this. We see things like this around the country in lots of different elections, right?
I mean, famously in the 2012 presidential election, you might remember Maricopa County had a scandal something like this. Maricopa County, Arizona, is the county where more people live in that state than any other county. Maricopa County in 2012 put out voter registration information from the county in English.
And the English language voter registration information listed the correct date for the election that year. The county also put out the same document in Spanish. So, Spanish language version of the same document. Only the Spanish language version gave a date for the election that was actually two days after the election would have been over.
So, that`s Maricopa county saying hey, English-speaking voters, turn up to vote on election day. Hey Spanish-speaking voters, turn up two days later. Nice. Subtle. Maybe it was just a mistake.
But this sort of thing seems to happen a lot. At least around this time of year, right, when it comes to getting close to a hotly contested election, sort of `tis the season for these kind over -- kinds of things.
This past week, a Republican state legislator in Kansas who is supporting Republican candidate Kris Kobach for governor this year, this Republican state legislature just got dinged, just got a whole bunch of unfavorable press statewide for a Facebook posting in which he said this, quote: Make sure you know when to vote. Republicans, vote November 6th. Democrats, vote November 8th. So Republicans vote on Election Day. Democrats vote two days after that, says Republican Kansas state lawmaker.
And maybe that`s a joke, right? Maybe it`s an honest mistake. Maybe it was a printing error, a typo. Who can tell, right?
These things seem to happen a lot. But maybe they`re all just innocent.
When it comes to Republican Congressman Lee Zeldin in New York, this time we can tell for sure that it wasn`t a mistake because in Lee Zeldin`s case, after sending out a mailer in his district in 2016 that told people to absentee vote after the deadline had passed, he did that in 2016. Now, in 2018, Lee Zeldin has just done the exact same thing again, which is actually sort of making it easy for the local paper in Long Island, which is called "Newsday," they get to keep writing the same story about Lee Zeldin every couple of years. It`s almost word for word exactly the same story.
Look, this is the "Newsday" article on Zeldin when he did this in 2016. It literally ran this same week, two years ago. You see the headline there. "Lee Zeldin mailer gives wrong deadline for absentee ballots."
Quote, a Lee Zeldin campaign mailer gives voters the wrong date to send in absentee ballots. Zeldin`s campaign`s spokeswoman says the mailing was a mistake. That`s 2016. Now, it is two years and four days later, and here, again, is the new reporting from that same paper from "Newsday." I swear they only had to change one word in the headline.
Now, instead of Lee Zeldin mailer gives wrong deadline, it`s "Lee Zeldin mailer uses wrong deadline for absentee ballots." Quote: For the second consecutive election, a Lee Zeldin mailer has the wrong deadline to return absentee ballots. And once again, quote, Zeldin`s campaign said the incorrect date was a mistake. Quote, Zeldin`s Democratic opponent Perry Gershon`s campaign said it targeted likely Democratic voters in the district, such as college students.
So, you know, in 2016 you try to pull this off. You target Democratic- leaning voters in your district and you try to trick them into voting late so their votes won`t be counted, and you get caught and you say it was a mistake. Oh, terribly sorry. We didn`t mean that at all. And then two years later, you pull the exact same trick.
It`s almost honorable in its stick-to-itiveness, right? But the one thing you can`t do is once again say, oops, it`s a mistake, the exact same mistake we made last time. But that is how Republican Congressman Lee Zeldin is trying to hold on his seat in New York state in Congress. `Tis the season for this kind of thing.
Honestly, though, if you live in that district, man, think about how it must feel to know that your member of congress, your representative in Washington is trying to get re-elected by tricking you into voting on the wrong day so your vote won`t count. Watch your wallet, man, in that district, right? This is how he wants to represent you, by conning you into maybe screwing up your vote so it won`t count. He he he. Cue evil mustache twirling cartoon villain.
He got away with it in 2016. He is now trying to get away with it in 2018. Presumably if he gets reelected this year, he`ll keep doing it every two years? Sorry, suckers.
But that`s what time it is right now in politics. `Tis the season for this sort of thing. Election day two weeks from tomorrow.
I`ve already started taking more vitamins. I`ve started feeling extra guilty about never going to the gym. I`m not actually going to the gym any more than I was, but I am feeling worse about it all the time, which is your way of knowing that I`m getting excited. This is my way of preparing.
Lots of people all over the country are quite obviously very excited for the election in two weeks, and some of that you can see at polling places. We`ll talk about that in just a second. But the level of excitement for the election is actually something that pollsters try to quantify every year as well there is a new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll that`s just out.
One of the things they asked in this poll is they asked Americans how strong is your interest in voting this year. Please tell us on a scale of one to 10, with 10 being the highest. How interested are you in voting in this year`s election?
And I know it seems like sort of an esoteric question, but this is one of the questions they`ve been asking in this poll for years and years and years, and they ask it exactly the same every year. So we can compare different year election results to the response to that question. It turns out to actually be a fairly predictive question, and you can see it in past elections.
This was just looking at elections where we didn`t have a presidential race on the ballot. So, just congressional elections going back the last few. This was 2018, the last time we had a congressional midterm election, it was 2014, before that was 2010, before that it was 2006.
In 2006, you might remember that ended up being a big Democratic year. Democrats took the House and the Senate that year. Ahead of that election in 2006, this was the response to that question and that poll. Democrats showing intense interest in voting that year in 2006, 69 percent of Democrats that year said their interest in voting that year, they`d rate a 9 or 10 on a scale of 1 to 10, and that far outpaced the number of Republicans who said the same thing.
The election results followed that very same pattern. That was 2006. Four years later in 2010, you might remember that was a big Republican year, and again, that polling question predicted it. Republican voters that year much more highly interested in the election than Democrats. And the election results followed that same pattern.
The following year, 2014, the next midterm election year, that was another good midterm year for the Republicans. And again that specific polling question predicted that specific electoral result in 2014. Ahead of the 2014 midterms, Republicans did very well. Republican voters told this poll that they were much more interested in voting that year than Democrats were, and it proved to be true on Election Day.
Well, now here are the results for 2018. Tighter than it was in those previous years, right? This is a closer spread, but Democrats are more psyched to vote in this year`s elections than Republicans are, and Democrats are more psyched to vote in this year`s elections than they have been in forever.
I mean, Democrats had a huge year in 2006. They took both houses of Congress, this big rebuke to George W. Bush for the Iraq war and all the rest of it. Democrats even that year were not as excited to vote that year as they are this year, but it`s tight. Republicans are excited too.
And what that means is that Democrats think their chances are pretty good in terms of taking the House maybe, right? But that portends a hard-fought election night in two weeks. When both sides are excited, that means it`s going to be probably a big turnout.
It also means both sides have a lot of room to run. It also tells you why early vote numbers appear to be breaking records all over the country already. We`re going to have more on that coming up later on this hour.
But the combination of very high Democratic enthusiasm for this year`s election, and lots of people turning out already to vote, that is more nervous making for Republicans than it is for Democrats. When more people vote, Democrats tend to do better. Lower turnout elections tend to favor Republicans.
So you can see some signs of Republican nervousness, and some of the ways that it`s manifesting this year are frankly, in terms of Republican dirty tricks. "Seattle Times" is reporting now on Republican activists sending out a whole slew of fake ads and fake mailers in Washington state. These are conservatives who appear to be mostly funded by a controversial Trump donor in the state of Washington. They created a fake progressive PAC.
They call themselves Conscience of the Progressives. They`re not actually progressives. It`s conservatives who made this PAC. But under this progressive name, they`ve been sending out mailers to Democratic voters in key districts all over Washington state, telling those Democratic voters that their local Democratic candidate isn`t really progressive enough, isn`t really liberal enough.
And so, real Democrats shouldn`t vote for that Democratic candidate. Real Democrats, real progressives should instead write in another name. And each district`s mailer has picked another fairly well-known local Democrat who has run for some other office recently in the last few years as opposed to the write-in candidate that real progressives should pick instead of voting for actual Democrat who`s on the ballot.
So, it`s clever, right? This is apparently a fairly expensive campaign. These are professional looking flyers and ads.
They`re the product of actual local research where they had to pick seemingly plausible alternative candidates to try to undermine the Democrat who is actually on the ballot. "Seattle Times" though has started to pick apart the scheme, and they`re now seemingly finding evidence of it all over the state. This Republican dirty tricks campaign all over Washington state to try to split the Democratic vote and depress the Democratic vote. Apparently, this one is an effort to try to flip the state legislature in Washington, or at least to stop Democrats from taking more Republican seats in that legislature.
I mean, hard-fought elections, close elections, theoretically should bring out the best in everybody, right, in terms of the campaign`s ability to just hustle and be efficient and make the most of their resources. The competition for undecided voters, the race to knock on every door, the race to get people to the polls -- you know, the effort to win the argument based on the issues, right?
And I`m sure there are close races around the country this year where that is in fact what is happening and democracy is working the way it ought to. But what we are also seeing in these close hard-fought elections is that they`re bringing out the worst in terms of trickery and disinformation and voter suppression efforts. And people like Congressman Lee Zeldin trying to con their own constituents out of either voting or at least of having their vote counted.
The remedy to that, of course, is always the same thing. You know, know your rights. Vote. Don`t let anybody stop you from voting. Help other people in your community to know their rights and to help them vote too.
That`s always been the remedy for this sort of thing. That`s what you do in the face of trickery, when somebody is trying con you out of your vote. That`s the same thing you do in the face of thuggery as well that tries to intimidate you or threaten you from turning out at all.
In the 2012 election presidential year, of course, I remember vividly covering these threatening anonymous billboards that went up in low income predominantly black neighborhoods in the crucial swing state of Ohio. We first covered this when these threatening billboards went up in black neighborhoods around Cleveland. Then it turns out there were dozens of them all over Ohio, cities like Cleveland and Columbus. They were all seemingly targeting low-income black neighborhoods.
Quote: Voter fraud is a felony, up to 3 1/2 years and a $10,000 fine. You see the big gavel there, right? You can also see it`s anonymous. Paid for by a private family foundation.
In 2012, we started reporting on those billboards in Ohio. We later learned that threatening billboards like that were also going up in black neighborhoods and low-income neighborhoods in Wisconsin. Again, seemingly targeting low income minority neighborhoods. In particular in Wisconsin, they seemed to be up all over Milwaukee.
Eventually there was enough of an outcry over these things, over these anonymous threatening billboards in minority communities that made it seem like you might get arrested if you turned up to vote, there was enough of a public outcry over these things what the company that controlled the billboards themselves pulled them down. In Cleveland, the city council put up billboards in their place that said it is not a crime to vote. It is, of course, illegal to threaten or intimidate anybody out of voting.
The company that operated those billboards in 2012 said those threatening billboards in particular violated their company`s own policy against anonymous political advertising. But, you know, had there not been news coverage of that, had there not been a public outcry over that, those threatening billboards would have stayed up through the election in 2012.
This year in 2018, we`re seeing the exact same kind of blunt threats over voting, making it seem like you might be in legal jeopardy if you turn out to vote. This year we`re not necessarily seeing it on billboards, we`re seeing it online. This year it`s not some anonymous donor making the threats, this year the threat is from the president of the United States who this weekend posted this on Twitter, quote, all levels of government and law enforcement are watching carefully for voter fraud, including during -- all caps -- early voting. Cheat at your own peril. Violators will be subject to maximum penalties, both civil and criminal.
Really? The president is promising maximum penalties in case of prosecutions for any crimes like that? Is the president allowed to get involved in criminal cases likes that?
I mean, there is a history of this kind of intimidation and threatening behavior and threatening messaging around voting in our recent past. We saw that in 2012, right, in Wisconsin and Ohio, those threatening billboards. There is also of course a rich history of this in our distant past, plus or minus the available technology.
In 1922, somebody flew biplanes over Oklahoma City and dropped leaflets out of planes over black neighborhoods right around election time. Those leaflets carried a message that was essentially the 1922 version of the president`s tweet. The leaflet said, quote, do not attempt to vote unless you are legally registered.
Those cards dropped over black neighborhoods in Oklahoma in 1922. They also had a little illustration next to the text, a guy in a hood with the initials "KKK" written on the hood. "the Washington Post" a few years ago dug up the coverage from "The Topeka State Journal" at the time of that leaflet drop, the way "The Topeka State Journal" covered it that year in 1922 was with this headline, quote, scared away from the polls.
Oklahoma City, August 1st, quote, following the dropping of cards from airplanes over the Negro districts, Negro voting has been light up to noon in today`s primary.
It`s not like we don`t have a rich history of this, right? A rich and effective history of this as a country, targeting specific voters and specific communities, that if they dared turned out to vote, they`re going to maybe get themselves in trouble. Maybe the law will come down on them.
It`s very threatening. It`s very dangerous. You could find yourself in prison.
We have a long history of this, but this is the time of year when we see it, right? `Tis the season.
We`re also now seeing a late-breaking swerve from the Republican Party and from the White House in particular on policy issues that are supposed to cause a whole different kind of fear, a whole different kind of fear that they also believe could help them with the election in two weeks, and that story is next.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: In 2004, the George W. Bush White House was worried about the reelection prospects for President Bush, and one of the things that the president and his party decided they would do in early 2004 is they decided they would basically carve some red meat off of some particularly vulnerable Americans to serve it up as a meal to their base, just in time for that year`s elections, to try to goose the turnout for hardest hard- liners in their base.
And so, in early 2004, as President George W. Bush basically reversed himself on his previous stances on the issues of -- on the issue of gay civil rights, and in early 2004, he suddenly proposed a federal constitutional amendment. He proposed changing the U.S. Constitution to ban gay marriage. The Republican Party then put anti-gay constitutional amendments on state ballots in swing states all across the country to try to drive up turnout by freaked out anti-gay conservatives so as to benefit Republican candidates in that year`s elections, up to and including President Bush.
It`s old-fashioned politics, right? When your candidate and your party can`t necessarily inspire enough love and enough excitement to bring out your voters to vote for them, the other way to go is to try to get your voters out by giving them something else, someone else to fear and/or hate. You pick a good bogeyman, and then you stoke enough fear of that bogeyman and maybe you don`t need to give anybody anything to vote for, you just give people a way to vote I`m scared.
That was the George W. Bush White House calculation and the Republican Party calculation in 2004 with those anti-gay ballot insurance and that anti-gay proposal to change the U.S. Constitution. And in fact, George W. Bush did get re-elected in 2004.
In the last 24 hours, the current Republican White House has leaked news to "The New York Times" about an unpublished draft memo that they say is under consideration by the Trump administration, a new policy that would eliminate all federal recognition of transgender Americans. Quote: The new definition would essentially eradicate federal recognition of the estimated 1.4 million Americans who identify as a gender other than the one they were assigned at birth.
So, forget all the campaign rhetoric and all the skin-deep political analysis during the campaign that said Trump would actually be fine on gay issues. He would be fine on trans issues. It turns out, he`s not worked up on these issues like some Republicans are.
Now that we`re two weeks out from the election and Democrats are looking enthusiastic and Republicans are worried about their prospects -- well, now it`s time to rip some red meat off the LBGT population to see what that might do to goose Republican turnout. Simultaneously, we`re also seeing the White House float the prospect more aggressively now that they will start once again taking kids away from their parents at the border -- a new iteration of the family separation policy.
Now here on earth 1, the family separation policy was a total freaking moral disaster for the country, and what appeared to be a political disaster for the Trump administration. Well, the White House has apparently since concluded that the politics of taking kids away from their parents, it really only looked politically bad on the surface. They apparently are calculating now that reviving that policy, bringing it back might actually help them with their base.
That is, if immigrants and immigration itself can be made scary enough ahead of the election so that the Republican base starts baying for blood and essentially baying for kidnapping again on this issue. Conservative media and the president are working double time on that fear factor element right now.
The reason I say that their calculation behind this is transparent is because they`re not being shy about the fact they might restart the kidnapping policy again specifically to help them in this year`s elections. This is from today`s "New York Times." Quote: The architects of the family separation approach in the Trump administration have been hard at work. Quote: Their goal is to announce a plan before the November elections.
Why do you want to announce it before the November elections? I mean, policy-wise, there is nothing about the November elections that has anything to do with the substance of immigration policy or the numbers of border crossings or asylum -- people seeking asylum or refugees or anything else.
The only reason a November election would be a deadline for announcing a revivification of the family separation policy, is because they wanted to announce it before the election because they think going back to the policy of taking kids away from their parents and the resulting howls of protest that will come from around the country and around the world, they think Republican base voters will love that, and it will inspire them to turn out to vote for Republicans. `Tis the season. And, you know, `tis the season with not just votes in the balance, but lives in the balance.
Joining us is Caitlin Dickerson, national immigration reporter for "The New York Times."
Ms. Dickerson, thank you very much for being here. It`s nice to have you here tonight.
CAITLIN DICKERSON, NATIONAL IMMIGRATION REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: So, you and your colleagues at "The Times" are reporting on these discussions that are happening within the Trump administration. Obviously, I was very struck by your reporting that they want this done before the November elections.
Is there any policy reason why the November election would be a benchmark for them to roll out something new?
DICKERSON: No. There is nothing significant in terms of border crossings. In fact, actually, when the weather gets bad, the crossings tend to go down. But we are seeing right now, large numbers of families crossing the border, and that is saying to the White House this family separation policy, it was short-lived, it was widely decried here by the American public, but it really did nothing to deter Central American families.
And so, that I think has really upset people who came up with this policy to begin with, and that`s why they`ve really doubled down on their mission, and that`s why we wrote this story.
MADDOW: The other way to look at that same set of facts is to say they have the family separation policy. They took more than 2,000 children away from their parents. It received not only national coverage, but worldwide condemnation and that policy did not result in families making the decision to not come to the border. It didn`t slow border crossings, therefore it was an ineffective policy, which would be an argument to not going back to it if that was the reason for the policy.
DICKERSON: It could be. But we hear the president saying openly that he thinks that if parents believe that family separation is going to happen, they won`t come. He still thinks that`s true. And so, that`s why. As you said, this is another policy that is up for consideration.
I think what we keep hearing coming out of these meetings officials are having on a weekly basis, they`re sort of desperate to come up with something before the midterms is that the idea is that this policy should be splashy. It should be intimidating. It should sound aggressive because it`s intended to intimidate people out of coming, to make them -- make that calculation change for them such that they believe it actually might be worse for them to come here than to stay.
But as you point out, you know, circumstances in Central America, which is where most people are coming from, they haven`t changed at all. And so, that`s why we still see the same numbers of people coming.
MADDOW: And to the extent they want this to be splashy and they want to it seem intimidating and harsh and even brutal, and they want that known before the November election, obviously, it`s not because they`re expecting votes or the lack thereof from Central American immigrants. That`s because they think their base will respond to it?
DICKERSON: Absolutely. And that`s what polls are showing. I mean, conservative voters are saying that immigration is an incredibly important issue for the majority of conservatives in a lot of polls. It`s looked like the most important issue compared to lukewarm reaction from Democrats in some polls.
And you can see why it`s a fairly straight forward calculation that makes sense, to come up with something that`s very splashy, that says, you know, we`re cracking down on the border. We`re making good on the promises that the president made in 2016, so that it curries favor and votes.
MADDOW: Can I also ask you, in terms of this working group that you`re describing inside the Trump administration, you say they`re meeting weekly on this and considering these factors both in terms of policy and in terms of politics here. A lot of Trump administration officials, particularly those that didn`t necessarily come from Trump world, but came from more normal Republican politics or from the sort of policy side of things have tried to personally distance themselves from this policy of taking kids away from their parents.
I`m thinking particularly of Health Secretary Alex Azar and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, both of whom seem to have key roles in this policy, but they`ve publicly tried to define themselves as being either, I mean, reluctant enactors of this policy or a sideline issue for them, something they`re not working on them. Are they the officials who are working on this? Who are the key people?
DICKERSON: Certainly, Secretary Nielsen is involved, and likely anybody at the high echelons of these agencies. You know, President Trump, as we wrote in our story, he has been on the phone several times a week with Secretary Nielsen, checking in on the progress of this working group. So, she is overseeing their work, absolutely.
I think what we`re seeing now is that the moderates are coming forward and saying, you know, let`s look at the logistical and the legal challenges that could come up here. So, for example, when we talk about a new form of family separation, the idea is to give parents the choice. Do you want to give your children up and let them be separated or do you want to keep them with you and stay in detention?
Well, very quickly the moderates are pointing out the detention facilities are going to fill up. There is going to be no more space. And that means every family that comes in afterwards has to be released. So, it`s the logistical pitfall of these ideas and the legal pitfalls.
You know, these ideas may not hold up in court, but I think the moderates from what we`re hearing are pushing really hard to try to put the brakes on some of these ideas and keep them from being implemented.
MADDOW: Anybody who thinks that they can -- that their legacy will be defined by whether or not they try to moderate or make more legally resilient a policy of taking children away from their parents indefinitely doesn`t understand how legacy works. Doesn`t understand how accountability works. We can see these machinations at work, though.
But thanks to your reporting on this incredible process. Caitlin, thank you very much for being here. Much appreciated. Thanks.
DICKERSON: Yes. Thanks,
MADDOW: All right. Caitlin Dickerson is a national immigration reporter for "The Times."
We`ve got much more ahead here tonight. Do stay with us.
MADDOW: Spot check, two weeks out. And in Miami, Florida last night, they brought tents. About a dozen people slept on the sidewalk next to a community park to make sure they got the top spots in line before the sun came up.
In Houston, there was nowhere to camp, so they waited patiently in a single file line that snake around the parking lot. Bystanders say about 2,000 people stood in this line today. Down the street, this Texas location was so busy they ran out of spots even for people to park their cars.
This was the line at Texas State University today. To get to the end, you had to snake through the hallways and then into the cafeteria and then down a flight of stairs. Today was the first day of early voting on that campus today in Texas, as well as the rest of Texas, and in Florida and a handful of other states across the country.
In Harris County, Texas, they set a record today. These folks here in Harris County waited upwards of 40 minutes to vote today. Harris County is the part of Texas that includes Houston. In the 2016 presidential election, Harris County broke for Hillary Clinton by 13 points.
The last time Harris County set a record for first day early voting in a midterm election was in the 2010 elections. That record-setting year, 26,000 people turned out to vote that first day. Today in Harris County, 57,000 people cast their ballots in person on the first day of early voting, 57,000. They more than doubled the previous record.
If you are a Democrat or you`re hoping for Democrats to do well in the elections this year, or if it just makes your day to see lots of people voting, these kinds of visuals will be good news. From a Democratic Party perspective, they know they need to supercharge turnout and enthusiasm in key battleground states and in key battleground parts and Democratic leaning parts of those states if they want a shot at flipping enough seats to take back control of Congress.
Besides those anecdotal reports that you saw from early voting, we also got some new hard data today, too. NBC News and "Wall Street Journal" have put out this new poll. They asked likely voters whether they intend to vote for any given Democrat or any given Republican for Congress on November 6th. Pollsters call it the generic ballot which tends to be predictive.
Voters said in this new poll that they prefer Democrats to Republicans in the upcoming congressional election by a margin of nine points. Plus nine is a good healthy margin for Democrats heading into this year`s elections.
Now, when you ask women that same question, whether they prefer Democrats over Republicans to take seats in Congress, look at the gender gap. Women prefer Democrats by a margin of 25 points. And that level of support has not budged. Democrats have had that 25-point lead among women since the last time this poll was taken last month.
So, Democrats need strong support from women if they want to flip seats on November 6th. Now we know from the latest polling that the gender gap, women`s preference for Democrats, a 25-point preference, that isn`t just strong, it`s basically made of granite, which is a big deal for Democratic hopes.
More ahead. We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev presided over a period of tremendous change for his country and the world. Gorbachev taught the world new Russian words like perestroika, which meant the loosening of rigid communist politics and economics. He brought in glasnost for openness, for greater transparency in government and increased freedom of speech. Gorbachev ended up winning the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts.
He then actually used some of the cash prize from the Nobel Peace Prize to launch a new independent newspaper in Russia, a paper called "Novaya Gazeta". "Novaya Gazeta" still exists, and today, they remain one of the few truly independent press outlets in Russia reporting to the extent they can on government corruption in the face of what must be daily physical daily fear.
In Putin`s Russia, the staff of "Novaya Gazeta" have seen five of their colleagues killed in what we call the line of duty. Today, the newspaper is out with a chilling new story about the oligarch that everybody calls Putin`s chef, Yevgeny Prigozhin. In February, you might remember, Prigozhin was indicted by Robert Mueller in this country, for being the architect behind the Internet Research Agency, the Russian troll farm that spread disinformation online in their effort to mess with our election in 2016 to benefit Donald Trump.
Well, now, today, "Novaya Gazeta" has this new report on the same guy, Prigozhin and it is just ghoulish. "The Associated Press" writes it up today, saying that "Novaya Gazeta" was able to speak with a security aide, a former staffer to Prigozhin. He is the main source for this new story in "Novaya Gazeta". They talked to him for their story. He told the paper that he, quote, orchestrated attacks on Prigozhin`s opponents as well as the killing of an opposition blogger in northwest Russia, all on the mogul`s behalf.
The same security aide who spoke with "Novaya Gazeta" for their story, he then disappeared earlier this month, shortly after meeting the "Novaya Gazeta" reporter and telling him that he was being followed. The reporter said he received a call from the guy`s phone later that day. When he went to the man`s house, he found two cell phones on the ground and what looked like the man`s shoe. The guy has since gone missing.
Now, "Novaya Gazeta" says it couldn`t get a comment from Prigozhin himself. The paper published the story despite several grisly warnings not to. So, the paper says after they talked to Prigozhin`s former aide, this guy who`s now gone missing, that told the paper he was basically a hit man for Prigozhin, after the paper talked to him but before they published their story, the reporter working on the story from "Novaya Gazeta" got sent a funeral wreath at his home. That`s subtle.
And then this gets a little grisly, so you may want to look away if you are squeamish, but a basket containing a severed goat`s head was then left at the offices of "Novaya Gazeta", along with a warning to the reporter working on the story and the paper`s chief editor. This is apparently what you get when you report unfavorably in Russia on the alleged mastermind of the Russian attack on our democracy in 2016.
That attack, of course, continues. On Friday, federal prosecutors charged the chief bookkeeper of the Internet Research Agency, this troll firm led by Prigozhin with interfering in the election that we Americans are having right now. And today, because this is our world now, right after that indictment was unsealed, the National Security Adviser John Bolton went to Moscow to start work on scrapping a landmark nuclear treaty that was signed by the U.S. and the Soviet Union back when Mikhail Gorbachev was in charge.
Bolton also brought a message with him to Russia on the subject of Russia`s ongoing efforts to interfere in our democracy, right? The Justice Department unsealed this indictment against this accountant to Prigozhin, talking about the ongoing efforts by the Russians to interfere in our elections even now. They unsealed that on Friday, right before Bolton went to Moscow, so he could really take to it them when he went to Moscow. He could confront them with that information and that unsealed indictment.
Here is how National Security Adviser John Bolton got tough with the Russians on the subject today. Speaking to a Russian radio station, John Bolton said, quote: The point I made to Russian colleagues today`s is I didn`t think whatever they had done in terms of meddling in the 2016 election, I didn`t think they had any effect on it.
I`m not sure I want to hazard a guess as to exactly what John Bolton meant by that, but it`s possible that our next guest will. Top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee joins us next.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: Joining us now live here in the studio is Congressman Adam Schiff. He is the top Democrat on the Intelligence Committee.
Congressman, thank you for being here.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), RANKING MEMBER, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Pleasure.
MADDOW: So in July of this year before President Trump had his Putin summit, three or four days before that summit, the Justice Department unsealed this massive indictment against a dozen Russian military intelligence officers charging them in detail with having attacked our election in 2016. Common wisdom at the time said with this indictment unsealed immediately before the president takes that trip, he can confront Putin with that. He can demand the extradition of those officers, he can make this a real issue. Ha. None of that happened.
Now three days before John Bolton went to Moscow today, we saw the unsealing of another indictment against another Russian charging that that same criminal effort was -- is still under way now and has been under way for years and is directed by oligarchs close to Russian government. I think the common wisdom again was that John Bolton would have to bring it up, would have to confront the Russians about this. He couldn`t not. Again, the common wisdom is wrong.
I feel like I`m watching a dramatic situation here teed up by the Justice Department, and blown off by the White House. How do you see it?
SCHIFF: I see much the same way. It`s really breathtaking when the ink was barely dry on the latest indictment of a Russian working for an oligarch as you say close to Putin, we have this spectacle of the national security advisor of the United States basically telling his counterparts, you know, that interference you did in the last election, I don`t really think it did very much.
Basically communicating to Putin, Putin has to walk away from this thinking this weak U.S. president will never confront me. He doesn`t have the guts to confront me. This national security advisor certainly doesn`t.
I have essentially carte blanche in the midterms. As long as what I do helps the president`s party, he will not only not call me out, he may be grateful for it. That`s basically the message that John Bolton delivered, and it is so damaging to the national interest, it`s breathtaking.
MADDOW: When this indictment, this latest indictment was unsealed the first thing I noticed about it was that it had been held for a while, that the documents that we were looking at the affidavit from the FBI agent that was essentially the narrative summary of the criminal information for that case, that was from a while ago. This was from few days ago. It was all unsealed from that time essentially of the Justice Department`s choosing.
It happens on the same day that we get a joint statement from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the FBI, the Justice Department and Department of Homeland Security talking about the seriousness of Russian efforts and other international efforts to influence our election.
I feel like we`re having a bit of a replay of October 2016 when Homeland Security and FBI, or Homeland Security and intelligence agencies among others are sort of signaling that there`s a problem here that Americans need to be paying attention. There`s something wrong. And once again in this case, we see the Trump administration now saying, don`t pay attention to that.
SCHIFF: It`s really worse than 2016 because in 2016, you had the administration officials release that statement in October saying, you know, the Russians are meddling in our election, and you had a president who privately -- President Obama -- had told Putin essentially we know what you`re doing, you better knock it off. Now, they didn`t, but that was the message he delivered.
This time, we have agency heads making the same warning essentially, saying the Russians are still messing around with us. We have an indictment that follows that up. And instead, the message from our president and his national security advisor is we don`t believe our intelligence agencies and we don`t really take seriously what you did in our last election. And what`s more, we`re not really going to confront you over what you might do in the next election.
So, we have a president and his staff that are working at counter-purposes to our intelligence agencies and certainly at counter interest to our Justice Department and the American public interest. And that is just -- just staggering.
MADDOW: Is there -- with that kind of leadership, with that being the stance of the president and his national security advisor, do you think that that essentially functions as a directive to the intelligence agencies and to law enforcement at the federal level in terms of actually fighting these efforts?
I mean, we were all fairly shocked early on in the Trump administration when National Security Agency director, the director of the National Security Agency said he had not been directed as head of the NSA to try to fight in the ongoing efforts by the Kremlin to influence our politics. We now know from this latest indictment that in fact this effort run by Prigozhin and through the Internet Research Agency and the elements of this Russian government directed interference campaign, they didn`t slow down after 2016. They kept right up and in fact kept scaling up their efforts and spending even more money to try to influence American voters and American politics in 2017 and into 2018.
With this sort of leadership, are you worried that the intelligence agencies aren`t doing what they can to keep us safe?
SCHIFF: Well, they`re certainly not going to win points with this president for warning of the Russian threat, and doing things about the Russian threat. But nonetheless, they`re professionals. They`re doing their job.
The Justice Department did its job. It indicted this Russian woman for meddling in the most ugly, divisive messages that the Russians could imagine. But they`re not going to win any plaudits from this president from doing it.
The only real deterrent I think that we have of the Russians, because we`re getting this green light essentially from our present national security advisor, the only real deterrent we have is the Russians had everything they could want in Donald Trump. They have the perfect U.S. president, one who is picking on NATO and belittling our allies and giving them cover. Why mess with that? Why cross a red line that would force the Congress to override the president when they have everything they want with Donald Trump?
So, that may be the only deterrent we be in terms of election meddling, and we have to hope that`s going to be powerful enough.
MADDOW: Congressman Adam Schiff, top Democrat on the Intelligence Committee in the House -- thank you, sir. It`s good to have you here.
SCHIFF: Thank you, Rachel. Thanks.
MADDOW: All right. We`ve got a very exciting announcement actually coming up next. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Before we go tonight, I have a small personal note, something I want you to know. I`m about to launch a new thing. We`re about -- there`s a new thing.
I did a podcast, and it is not like a current events podcast. This is a podcast about a story from history. It`s sort of been lost to history, but I think it matters an awful lot, particularly right now.
It`s not an ongoing thing. It`s not going to last forever. It`s seven episodes long, so it`s like a podcast mini series. There`s only going to be one series. It`s called "Bag Man," two words, "Bag Man".
It comes out next week. Next Tuesday is the first one. I`m going to leave it a little bit mysterious just for now. But you can go ahead right now and subscribe to it wherever you get your podcasts. I think you`ll like it.
If you don`t subscribe to podcast yet, if you are new to the whole podcast thing, welcome. You can find everything you need to join us absolutely free at MSNBC.com/bagman. Honestly, I`ve been killing myself over this thing, but it`s been really fun and I think you`re going to love it. Anyway, advertisement over.
See you again tomorrow.
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