Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW Date: October 24, 2018 Guest:
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
In May of 1972, a bomb exploded in a private home in Macon, Georgia. When police arrived on the scene of that explosion, they found the bomb had been contained in a package, and the package was addressed to be sent to a car dealer. Turned out, that was the car dealer who had recently repossessed the car of the man who lived in that home where the bomb went off in Macon, Georgia.
Unfortunately, that man did not live in that house alone. What prosecutors later pieced together is that this man, the man who lived in the house, assembled this bomb, put it in a package, addressed it to the car dealer who had repossessed his car. But then his wife came across the package and his wife opened it in their home. And that is when the bomb detonated and his wife was injured by the bomb.
The woman`s husband, the man who apparently made the bomb, was named Walter Moody. He was arrested in that case in 1972. He was ultimately convicted of possessing explosives, and on the basis of that conviction, he did three years in federal prison.
Mr. Moody then apparently became absolutely obsessed with what he believed to be the injustice of that conviction . After he did his three years in the federal penitentiary, he got out and concocted a whole elaborate scheme, wherein he thought he figured out a way that he would trick the authorities, he would trick police and prosecutors into reopening his case, because he was going to blame that bombing that injured his wife on a fictional, mysterious new suspect who he had invented.
Prosecutors say he was so obsessed with this plot and with getting cleared of this case, that he even started paying people off to serve as fake witnesses for this fake story he had invented to try to sell to authorities, to get his conviction overturned. He was obsessed. He worked on it for years.
It did not work. But he pressed at it at every level of the legal system. He pressed it all the way through the court system. And by June of 1989, the federal appeals court, where he lived, in his region of the country, they ultimately affirmed that old conviction from 1972, and said yes, this is not going to be overturned. There was a three-judge panel. He appealed to the full court in the 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, but they needed to reconsider it again.
And in August of that year, August 1989, 17 years after his initial conviction, the full court was like, no, dude, your conviction stands, this is it, end of story. End of the road. We realized you`re obsessed with this, but you were rightly convicted, it stands.
In response to that rejection from the courts, in August 1989, that guy decided he would start building bombs again. And on August 21st, 1989, he mailed a bomb that was packed with tear gas to the NAACP offices in Atlanta, Georgia. That bomb went off inside the offices of the NAACP. Didn`t kill anybody, but it did blow up and disburse tear gas throughout that office. It was terrifying. It was intended to be.
Along with that bomb that day in August 1989, Walter Moody also sent threatening letters to TV stations across the country and he sent a threatening letter to that federal appeals court that turned down his case. He said that was his declaration of war, and he would start bombing and sending poison gas all over the country, and the country should brace itself for his war.
Then he started making more bombs. Took him a couple months to get all the materials he needed and get all his ducks in a row. But in December of that same year, December of 1989, he started mailing out the new set of bombs that he had made. And this new set of bombs he made, they were not designed to disburse tear gas or scare people, these new ones were designed to kill people.
One of them went to another NAACP office. This time the office in Jacksonville, Florida. That package in Jacksonville, it was intercepted before it exploded. Police were able to grab that bomb. They were able to defuse it safely.
Another one of his bombs was sent at the same time to that federal courthouse, to the 11th Circuit Court of U.S. Appeals, the court that had turned down his case when he was trying to get his conviction overturned earlier that year. And, again, that bomb too, it was intercepted before it could be detonated. It was defused safely.
We have some remarkable footage from that time of what that bomb -- this is the bomb that was sent to that courthouse, what it looked like on the x-ray machine that they put it through at the courthouse that allowed them to catch it. Those are batteries and wires. That`s what allowed them to catch that bomb and set it aside and defuse it before anybody opened it.
We have also got this incredible footage. Look. This is the bomb disposal unit getting that actual device out of the courthouse in 1989, right? Using the technology they had at the time, after they realized they had it on a live bomb. They called in the bomb disposal unit to take care of it and that`s them doing it.
So like I said, he sent out four bombs that December in 1989. All of them designed to kill. That`s two of them, right? The one that gets intercepted at the NAACP office in Jacksonville, Florida, and the one intercepted at the federal courthouse at the 11th Circuit.
The other two bombs he set out in December of 1989, they were not caught and defused. They reached their targets, and they killed their targets. One of them arrived at the office of Robert E. Robinson, he`s an African- American civil rights attorney in Savannah, Georgia. He had done work for the local NAACP. He was killed instantly when that bomb exploded at his office in savannah.
The other target, the fourth bomb, went to the Alabama home of Judge Robert Vance, federal judge who sat on the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the court on which this bomber had declared war after they turned down his somewhat nutty effort to get his old conviction overturned. The bomb was wrapped in a brown paper package. It arrived at Judge Vance`s home a week before Christmas.
He got the package, I believe out of his mailbox, brought it into the home, put it on the table. He sat down at the kitchen table away from his wife. The judge was killed instantly, his wife seriously wounded.
And, of course, the question you can`t help but ask in a circumstance like this is why? What were the -- why did this guy do it? What are the intricacies of the motive here? And this was multiple bombs, right? There were threats and it was a progression, and the pattern here, right, multiple NAACP officers, some of the other messaging, certainly made it seem at the time like this was a racist murder campaign, right? This was an anti-civil rights murder campaign at least.
The initial news coverage of the murder of Judge Vance specifically focused on the fact that he had recently been part of a three-judge panel that heard a case involving the Ku Klux Klan and it went against the Klan, so maybe this is the Klan itself taking revenge on him for that, along with all these other attacks on civil rights targets. Maybe that was it.
The FBI seems to have not believed that was it. The FBI still has up a web page about this case. They say that they later decided once they got working into this case that all the racial elements of the story, may have been red herrings. That the motivation for Walter Moody terrorizing and killing people in his bombing campaign in 1989, was all about his obsession over his old court case, and the FBI came to conclude that he only hit civil rights targets to try to throw investigators off his trail. To make them think he was some other kind of person motivated by some other means.
But, you know, by the time Walter Moody was executed for his crimes, which only happened earlier this year in Alabama, he was 83 years old when Alabama executed him in April of this year. By the time of his execution, the press in the south that`s been following this case for so many decades, they essentially settled on the motive issue just not being clear.
Maybe race was a red herring like the FBI concluded. Maybe race was the prime motivator, like it looks like on the surface. Maybe it was a mixture. When Walter Moody`s effort to get his old conviction overturn was rejected, part of the reason it got rejected is that the case fell outside the statute of limitations.
There`s been indication that he was mad at civil rights law, he might have been made at civil rights lawyers because civil rights cases were getting prosecuted years and years after those crimes had taken place, because civil rights cases weren`t bound by the same kind of statutes of limitations that resulted, he believed, in him not getting his court case overturned, which is what he wanted from the courts. And so, maybe that was his grudge on civil rights, which is about race, but it`s not just being a racist murderer. Is that it?
Ultimately, who knows? And, ultimately, is that the most important thing about the story, right? I mean, it`s impossible not to focus on the motive and the intention when it comes to terrorism, when it comes to terrorist attacks and bombings and attempted murders.
But, honestly, what seems obvious initially about the intention and motivation of the criminal, of the terrorist in a case like this, it doesn`t always turn out that way in the end when you get all the facts, or at least it doesn`t turn out that simple. Sometimes these things are crafted to be deliberately misleading. That`s what the FBI concluded about Walter Moody.
That said, sometimes these things are what they seen and the target list tells you exactly what motivated the killer. Some of the times, these things end up neither here nor there. They follow some internal logic that must make sense to the would-be murderer or terrorist, right? Not just perfect sense, but imperative sense. But to all the rest of us, it doesn`t follow logic that we can recognize as sane.
In the case of Walter Moody, this killer, and his mad, terroristic bombing campaign in 1989, terrorized the country, certainly terrorized the southeast, killed two people, including a sitting federal judge. It turns out his motives and his intentions are sort of vaguely discernible if you squint at the right angle. But honestly what arises from that story, now that he`s dead and it`s over and we know everything we can know about it, is the fact that he was extreme and cruel and twisted and criminal enough to do it. That`s what arises as the only clear truth.
I mean, had they known more about the motive, would that have helped them solve the crime? Had they understood more clearly about what was just a red herring and what was just inflicting? I mean, what they did have in the case of Walter Moody and what ended that string of bombings and put him in prison and brought a close to that nightmare episode in our country in 1989, what they did have was his work product.
The thing that ended up being most important about that case and that man and what ended what he was doing to our country is that they had unexploded examples of his bombs. That`s how they caught him. His whole saga, remember, started way back in 1972, when that bomb blew up in his house and injured his wife, right? Because he was apparently mad about the repo guy from his car.
In the investigation into that initial bombing, authorities discovered that he was frequently experimenting with bomb making. 1972, that`s what they discovered about that case, when they looked into his bombs which injured his wife in 1972. Fast forward 17 years later to 1989, when he decides he`s going to declare a war on the courts and start terrorizing people all over the south, fast forward 17 years after the initial investigation into this guy setting off bombs in his own house in Georgia, 17 years later, two of his pipe bombs blew up at the judge`s house and killed their targets. But authorities were, this poor guy and this suit, right, they were able to contain and defuse his other two bombs, from December 1989, from the NAACP office in Jacksonville, and from the courthouse.
And when the FBI and the ATF and the police and the postal inspectors and all the rest of them were working to solve that case and catch that bomber, it was an ATF agent, an old school, old guy ATF agent who helped defuse one of these Walter Moody bombs in 1989. And he realized, you know what? This bomb rings a bell for me.
ATF officer recognized the way that bomb was built. One of those bombs that didn`t go off in 1989, that was intercepted and defused, one of the guys involved in defusing them recognized that bomb, recognized that technique. He remembered he had seen a bomb like that before. Back in that old case from Macon, Georgia, back in 1972, 17 years earlier.
He remembered the bomb. It was distinctive. He remembered the case it came from and ultimately, he remembered the guy`s name ultimately who had made it and who had gone to prison for it. And that`s how they got him.
They catch these guys. That`s how they do it. We`re good at this as a country.
Today, police and federal authorities are in the possession of five unexploded bombs that were sent to 88-year-old activist, philanthropist, investor George Soros. And former President Barack Obama, and former Attorney General Eric Holder. We know another was sent to the home of Billary -- excuse me, Bill and Hillary Clinton in New York, it was specifically addressed to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Another bomb addressed to former CIA Director John Brennan, care of CNN where he does not work, but the CNN offices in New York city were evacuated in dramatic fashion today after that bomb was discovered in a mail room at their offices.
Law enforcement sources were telling NBC News tonight that all of the five devices that they have got have the same characteristics. That`s according to three senior law enforcement officials who have spoken to NBC News.
According to these officials, the bombs were made from PVC pipe that each contain a timer, which looks to be some sort of a digital alarm clock, which presumably would have been used as a detonator. Again, according to these three law enforcement sources who have spoken to NBC News, the explosive powder inside the pipe bomb appears to have come from fireworks, pyrotechnic powder. And, quote, X-rays though there was likely shrapnel inside the PVC pipe as well.
Because of the list of targets to whom these devices were sent over the last two days, there`s been lots -- and I should also mention, there`s also late-breaking reports about a device maybe having been sent to Congresswoman Maxine Waters tonight. Again, that`s late breaking news. We don`t have the same information about that device that we do with these other five where we have law enforcement sources speaking to NBC about the character of those devices.
But because of the list of targets, which includes these people, including also Congresswoman Maxine Waters, there`s been lots of inference and speculation today, unavoidable, over the intent and motivation of the bomber, the person who is sending out these devices. I mean, obviously, all of these people and institutions have been targets for invective and condemnation by the president and his supporters and conservative media.
George Soros personally even today stars in an official new Republican Party ad as an evil, shady financier who the National Republican Party is trying to associate with Democratic congressional candidates. Even after the bomb arrived at George Soros` house yesterday, the National Republican Party put out that ad today.
So, it is -- it is hard to not jump to conclusions about who might have sent these bombs, and why they might have picked these targets. I understand the almost irresistible urge to do that. But I`m here to tell you, that we don`t need to do that, because we will know soon enough, because with five unexploded devices, and all of the forensic trails that lead from these devices, and from the packaging material that they were in, and everything else the federal investigators will be able to derive from the material they have from these apparently linked bombs, I`m telling you, we will know soon enough.
After Judge Robert Vance was killed in Alabama in 1989, his eldest son, Bob Vance, Jr., went on himself to become a judge in the great state of Alabama. His daughter-in-law, married to Judge Vance`s eldest son, went on to become a federal prosecutor in Alabama in her own right.
And, you know, there`s not that many Alabama cases that rise to the level of national news, right, but the killing of Judge Robert Vance in Alabama was one of those cases, killed him with that pipe bomb stuffed with shrapnel that went off in his kitchen in 1989. Another Alabama bombing case that made national news was part of the string of bombings carried out by the Atlanta Olympics bomber Eric Rudolph, who not only bombed the Atlanta Olympics, he also bombed an abortion clinic and another abortion clinic, and a lesbian bar over a span of months, between 1996 and 1998.
The bomb prosecutor in Atlanta who handled the Eric Rudolph bombing of the abortion clinic in Birmingham was the daughter-in-law of Judge Robert Vance, who himself was killed in that terroristic bombing nine years earlier. We actually contacted that former prosecutor today when these bombs started turning up in Democratic Party and media mailboxes up and down the eastern seaboard.
She told us today when we contact her, quote, bombs have signatures. She told us the FBI and the ATF have some really amazing bomb experts who will recognize the signature. She told us, these guys are very good once they get a peek.
Joining us now is that former U.S. attorney from Alabama who handled, among other cases, the Eric Rudolph bombing in her jurisdiction. She`s also the daughter-in-law of Judge Robert Vance who was killed with a pipe bomb in 1989.
Joyce Vance, thank you very much for being here tonight. Thank you for letting me tell some of your family history here.
JOYCE VANCE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY IN ALABAMA: Hi, Rachel.
MADDOW: You bring some particular expertise and experience to bear on this. When you told us today bombs have signatures and the ATF and FBI are very good when it has something to look at here, can you explain to our audience what you mean by that and why you have such confidence in that aspect of the investigation?
VANCE: Well, sure. Bombs are as individual as their makers. There are a lot of different ways that you can put an explosive device together. And so, individuals who are bomb makers tend to repeat. They might change a little bit, but they`ll use a lot of the same tools in the same way of putting a basic pipe bomb together.
So, I should say we have a full team in Birmingham that worked on the Rudolph case, and all of the prosecutors on that team, myself included, we relied heavily on the expertise of the agents who were so good at understanding bomb components and using that knowledge to help identify the bomber.
MADDOW: When it came to that Eric Rudolph case, was there any important lead in that case? Any important specific information that was derived specifically from the forensics of the bomb, sort of being able to have access to the materials he used to put together those bombs?
VANCE: Rudolph was a very different case. It didn`t involve a mail bomb. Rather Rudolph planted physically and personally planted a bomb outside of the all-women new women abortion clinic in Birmingham on the morning in January of 1998. And so, he was actually seen by an eyewitness who observed him leaving the scene. That helped with his identification.
But the agents who looked at the bomb, both physically, the components that were used to build the bomb, but also some decorative leaves on top of the bomb and some of the other housing for it, and they were able to track those components, identify Rudolph as the person who purchased them. It was a pretty immaculate process that they pursued for linking Rudolph to the bomb components.
MADDOW: Wow, being able to track him -- track the components, the location, the store where they were sold, the fact that he was the person who bought them.
Joyce, I have to -- part of the reason I wanted to talk about this story about Walter Moody tonight was because it seems instructive to me and helpful in terms of historical context here, in terms of everybody sort of jumping to try to explain this based on motive tonight. Looking at the list of targets, I should tell you the FBI has now confirmed two additional packages were both addressed to Congresswoman Maxine Waters that are similar in appearance to the other packages that we`ve learned about today.
So the list of people we`re talking about is the greatest list hits of people who the president has been targeting by name and with specific invective over the last year or so in terms of his political appearances and particularly his rallies. How does that factor in when it comes to pursuing this as a law enforcement matter?
I was struck by the fact that in the Walter Moody case, there seemed to be a lot of strong evidence about the motive, but in the end, it all felt very much like a gray area and it doesn`t seem like it was crucial to nailing down that case and getting him arrested.
VANCE: You know, that`s right. Motive is never an element of proof that prosecutors are responsible for in a federal case. Motive can help you understand what happened and who did it. But it`s not critical that you assess the motive.
So, agents and it`s still early hours in this investigation, the agents won`t be quick to rule any possibility out. They`ll acquire all of the information that they can, look at all of the possibilities.
On the one hand, I think it`s very difficult to ignore that people who received bombs today have been people in line for some strong invective from the president, many of them in the last week. By the same token, that -- as in the Moody case, is something that someone might use to try to divert law enforcement`s attention from their true purpose.
The FBI, ATF, the postal inspectors, they won`t be diverted. They will chase this one straight down to the truth.
MADDOW: Joyce Vance, former U.S. attorney in Alabama, really appreciate your time tonight, Joyce. Thanks for helping us with this and letting me tell that story. I really appreciate it.
VANCE: Sure. Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: All right. We`ve got some other actual breaking news from "The New York Times" to get to in just a moment. Do stay with us.
MADDOW: Sometimes there are certain things you want the people around you to go ahead and tell you, even if it`s embarrassing. Like if your zipper is down, right? Or if you have spinach in your front teeth.
Or if, for Pete`s sake, you are the president of the United States and you are haplessly ascending the stairs of Air Force One with, wait for it, what is that? What is -- wait a second, is that toilet paper? What is that, a napkin? What is that on the bottom of his shoes?
Cameras are clicking and rolling. Turns around and waves. I know you`re all looking at me. I mean, even if this went perfectly, the whole world would see this image of you on the stairs, but because you`re stumping up there with those four pieces of Charmin stuck on your foot, this image will be everlasting. This will be historic.
I was absolutely sure that was a fake when those images first came out, but that was totally real. The president of the United States, literally trailing a gigantic piece of toilet paper on his shoe onto Air Force One. After that happened this month in real life, to the president, part of what everybody wondered was why nobody told him, right?
I mean, maybe best case scenario, nobody around the president saw the paper stuck to his shoe until he had climbed to the stairs and maybe it fell off before he got on the plane. I don`t know. Maybe they all did see it but thought it would be hilarious and were all laughing at him behind his back. Maybe nobody saw it until it was already happening and he was halfway up the stairs and the cameras are already clicking, they were afraid if they ran after the president and took the paper off his foot. We don`t know.
But after seeing this new news story that just broke tonight in "The New York Times," the story that would be the dominant story in the country tonight if not for the most famous Democrats in the country and CNN all getting bombs in the mail today, now, because of this new story in "The New York Times" tonight, I`m willing to float a different theory about the president and the paper stuck to his shoe. But here`s the story that "The Times" just broke, this is the headline.
When Trump phones friends, the Chinese and the Russians listen and learn. Quote: When President Trump calls friends on one of his iPhones to gossip, gripe or solicit their latest take on how he`s doing, American intelligence reports indicate that Chinese spies are often listening, and putting to use invaluable insights into how best to work the president and affect administration policy. Quote, Mr. Trump`s aides have repeatedly warned him that his cell phone calls are not secure, but aides say the president has still refused to give up his iPhones.
White House officials say they can only hope he refrains from discussing classified information when he`s on those calls. So, the idea here, in this new "New York Times" report that`s just dropped tonight is that the president is sitting around, talking on his personal phone, and on any given day, for any conversation, spies for China are listening to those calls. They`re totally not secure calls, totally open to foreign countries listening to them and recording all of them, presumably since they`re recording them, they can also doctor those recordings and release them to the world as if the president said something he didn`t actually say or release what he actually said. Who knows what would be more scandalous?
But what U.S. intelligence has further turned out is that China is using what they`re hearing on these calls to come up with new ways to manipulate the U.S. president to China`s advantage. The American public has already known that the president has kept his personal phone, the beltway press has a bunch of references to White House staffers and friends wishing somebody would take away the president`s phone so he would stop tweeting things late at night to create political messes, blah, blah, blah, right? We`ve had the president and his phone as a story already.
But what`s in "The New York Times" tonight, this is new. Quote: American spy agencies, the official said, had learned that China and Russia was eavesdropping on the president`s cellphone calls from human sources inside foreign governments and intercepted communications between foreign officials. The Chinese have pieced together a list of people with whom Mr. Trump regularly speaks and hopes of using them to influence the president.
Among those on the list are Steven Schwarzman, the chief executive of the Blackstone Group, and Steve Wynn, the former Las Vegas casino magnate who stepped down from his company after serious sexual allegations earlier this year. Both men, who frequently speak with the president, have a history of major business ties in China. That`s very handy for the Chinese government, right?
Quote: The Chinese are now relying on Chinese businessmen and others with ties to Beijing to feed arguments to the Trump friends. Quote: The strategy is that these people will pass on what they`re hearing and that Beijing`s views will eventually be delivered to the president by trusted voices.
You know how the president still and now other Republicans too, they get crowds, Republican crowds to scream "lock her up, lock her up" at rallies and events about Hillary Clinton? What that is supposedly about is about her using a private e-mail server when she was secretary of state. Oh, the horror. Well, now we know that, as president, even though his staff have told him foreign spy agencies can listen in to all his calls if he uses his private phone, he`s still using his private phone.
So, the Chinese, according to American intelligence reports, the Chinese are not only listening in on his calls, they`re using what they`re obtaining from the fact that they`re listening in on his calls to manipulate him and to manipulate U.S. policy to their advantage. Now, there is one little silver lining that "The Times" is reporting, one little upside in this story. Here it is, quote, administration officials say they have confidence the president has not been spilling secrets, because he rarely digs into the details of the intelligence he is shown, and he`s not well-versed in the operational specifics of military or covert activities.
See, you can`t leak what you don`t know. He doesn`t pay attention to his briefings, he doesn`t read. So, the good news is he doesn`t know all that super secret stuff. Or he doesn`t understand it when we tell him. There`s no chance he could repeat it. Are you kidding?
I mean, when he`s telling everything he knows to the Chinese government, the best hope for American national security is that maybe he just doesn`t know that much.
If U.S. intelligence and the White House knows he has this problem with China and apparently Russia as well, listening into his private calls, the president`s staff knows he has this problem. Why is he still talking on his private phone, first of all? And why tonight are administration officials talking about this to "The New York Times"?
Quote: Mr. Trump`s use of his iPhone was detailed by several current and former officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity so they could discuss classified intelligence and sensitive security arrangements. The officials said they were doing so, meaning they were talking to "The Times" tonight not to undermine President Trump, but out of frustration with what they considered to be the president`s casual approach to electronic security.
So for the officials who were talking to "The Times" about this, the story tonight, this is their way of, like, tugging on the president`s sleeve, pssst, sir, I have to tell you, there`s a problem. Right? They`ve been telling him in private there`s a security issue. He does not care.
So, now, they`re telling him in big, bold letters in the newspaper, right? In this case, this is them telling him, hey, sir, you`ve got a little spinach in your teeth. And he`s like, oh, yes? Get me a poppy seed bagel, see if I can get some of that stuck in there too.
They`re telling him, sir, you got have four pieces of Charmin on your left shoe. And he`s like, cool, how about some more on the other foot too? See if we can get like six or eight pieces to stick.
I mean, they`ve been warning this is a security warning. I know this is embarrassing, sir, but you really can`t use your private phone. And he`s like, whatever.
I mean, when you are warned that adversaries of the United States are listening to your calls as president and using that surveillance to manipulate you for the advantage of those foreign countries, and the president doesn`t care and he keeps doing it any way, what do you do with that?
This is -- this is more than worrying, this is weird, right? I mean, how does this get fixed?
MADDOW: So we`re back now with this remarkable "New York Times" report that`s just out tonight about U.S. intelligence reports indicating that Chinese and Russian spies have been listening in regularly on the president`s personal cell phone calls, calls that he`s been making from his personal iPhone since he has been president.
The Chinese at least have been using what they`re hearing on those calls to set up influence operations targeted at the people who the president speaks to on a regular basis. So, his trusted friends who he speaks to regularly end up telling him things that serve the interest of the Chinese government. The president`s staff apparently decided to take this fact to "The New York Times" tonight, because they can`t get him to stop doing this otherwise. No matter how many times they`ve warned him about how dangerous it is, he apparently doesn`t care, or he doesn`t care enough.
There is one hint in "The New York Times" story about why the president might have kept doing this despite the security warnings. Quote: Officials said the president does have two official iPhones that have been altered by the National Security Agency to limit their abilities and vulnerabilities. As well as a third personal phone that is no different from hundreds of millions of iPhones in use around the world. President Trump keeps the personal phone, White House officials said, because unlike his other two phones, he can store his contacts in it.
Well, that seems way more important than, you know, the national security consequences of the president`s personal communication all being listened to in on speakerphone in the Chinese spy service every time he picks up that phone.
Joining us now is Jeremy Bash. He`s former chief of staff at the CIA and the Department of Defense.
Mr. Bash, it is nice to have you here tonight. Thank you for being here.
JEREMY BASH, FORMER CIA CHIEF OF STAFF: Hey, Rachel.
MADDOW: Did you see this coming?
BASH: I did not, but I think Rachel tonight, we`re seeing two aspects of the president`s behavior that are quite troubling. First, he`s talking on unsecured telecommunication devices, mobile phones. But second is, he`s also making himself incredibly vulnerable to Chinese and Russian influence operations. Both of these are going to be major concerns for the U.S. intelligence community.
MADDOW: In terms of these influence operations, "The Times" report tonight, goes into detail how the Chinese are trying to do this. They name some of the people, at least a couple of people who the president is regularly in contact with. They are people who have extensive business connections in China.
According to "The Times" reporting, what the Chinese spy service decided to do is to get Chinese business persons and other people related to the Chinese government to essentially run influence operations, targeting those friends of the president to convince them of things that are beneficial to the Chinese government. The president will then hear them -- hear those things from his trusted friends and take action based on that advice to benefit Chinese interests.
Does that seem byzantine to you, or is that the kind of influence operation that you would typically look for in a national security context at a very high level?
BASH: That`s pretty standard, Rachel. That doesn`t surprise me at all and certainly won`t come as any surprise to anybody who`s got experience in the national security community. The question is, what are the defenses against those kinds of operations?
And the first key defense is you have to make sure that your conversations are done with discretion. I don`t think it`s an understatement to say basically that the president is not exactly a model of discretion. He likes to talk, he likes to blab, he has no filter. He talks with his friends. He talks with his colleagues all the time.
You know, it`s not per se a problem if he`s having unclassified conversations, what`s going to be a problem if he goes into sensitive areas and reveals things that make him and his team more vulnerable to influence, to coercion and reveals information that could obviously benefit America`s adversaries.
MADDOW: One of the things that strikes me as a potential risk here is if Russia and China and who knows who else are able to freely listen in on the president`s calls whenever they want. Presumably that means they can also make recordings of the president. The release by a foreign intelligence agency or foreign government of a private conversation by the president, what it was undoctored or whether it was doctored to make it appear that he was saying something that he didn`t actually say, that seems to me like the kind of risk that the White House and that the national security sort of infrastructure in our country would have to be very concerned about, because if a hostile power decided to use that in a way designed to undermine the United States or our interest, it seems like a straightforward way to do it.
BASH: Yes, it`s going to be a problem. When the president is having conversations that can be recorded, it`s not limited by the way to mobile phones. I think he`s got to be careful on any unsecured land lines. And really in any phone conversation and any system, e-mail, text, there`s no such thing as a bullet proof system, and cyber security really isn`t about technology. It`s really about the discretion and mindfulness of people who have sensitive information and who have to understand that their information can be used against the United States.
And this issue that you pointed out about them doctoring videos or audios to something that`s attracted the attention of the intelligence oversight committee as they`ve been warning where people take videos and dub audio over them. This is a new world that we`re living in, and the new normal in the era of social media and other sophisticated telecommunications technologies.
MADDOW: Jeremy Bash, former chief of staff at the CIA and DOD, thank you very much for being here tonight, Jeremy. Much appreciated.
BASH: Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: I will say, one of the other remarkable things here, and I`m not much for like psychological profiles of people in this administration, but there is something important here about the fact that people who have been warning the president about the national security implications of what he`s doing with his phone and China listening in on everything he does on his phone, people who have been warning him feel like he doesn`t care about the warnings.
And so, they have gone to "The New York Times" with this information as a way to try to influence the president that way. That itself will end up being one of the important things about this at the end of the day.
All right. Lots more to get to tonight. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Big national races almost always come down to battleground states. That`s how presidential races go, right?
In the same way, statewide races often come down to big battleground counties. Right now in Georgia`s super close governor`s race, Gwinnett County, northeast of Atlanta, is turning out to be one of those key spots. Gwinnett is a big county, almost a million people live here, also happens to be the most diverse county, not just in Georgia but the whole southeast. Sixty percent of the people there are non-white.
Early voting started in Georgia last Monday. By the count of "The Atlanta Journal Constitution", almost 41,000 people in the county have cast their ballots in the first nine days of early voting. What does that number mean? Well, for context, you should know that that is quadruple the number of people who voted early in Gwinnett County by this point in the last midterm in 2014. Four times the number of people who voted in the last midterm.
But something else is happening in these really high numbers in Gwinnett County. Absentee ballots in that country have been being rejected. If you voted early in Georgia over the past nine days, if anything about your ballot did not exactly match state records, including if an election official didn`t think your signature on your ballot looked exactly the same as your signature on file, that election official could have rejected your ballot, they could have thrown out your ballot, and you might not find out your ballot has been throne out until after the election is over.
So multiple civil rights and voting rights groups challenged the state, sued the state for allowing those absentee ballots. It turns out the county with the highest rejection rate is Gwinnett County. A group called the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, they crunched the numbers when they wrote to Gwinnett County`s attorney last week. They said, quote, the absentee ballot rejection rate in Gwinnett County is more than three times the average rejection rate across all the counties in Georgia.
Gwinnett`s absentee ballot rejection rate is higher than all other Atlanta metro area counties. Last week, the ACLU in Georgia filed a suit against Gwinnett County and Secretary of State Brian Kemp, who`s the Republican candidate for governor in Georgia right now, filed suit against them over those rejections. We had one of those ACLU lawyers who brought the case, Dale Ho, on the show last week to explain the suit, explain the goal, to stop the state from throwing out those ballots as soon as possible, to actually notify any affected voters to give them time to remedy the mistake.
Well, the ACLU was in court yesterday for the first hearing in that case. And today in Georgia, they won. A federal judge in this case filed a ruling today ordering Brian Kemp, ordering the Georgia secretary of state to tell every election official they are no longer allowed to throw out absentee ballots just because they don`t think the signature on the ballot matches the signature on file. The judge says on those cases of signature mismatches, election officials have to count them as provisional ballots and crucially, they have to notify the voter in time for the voter to have a chance to fix the mistake.
That ACLU lawsuit covered it last week, and as of today they are winning. The state has until noon tomorrow to respond. Watch this space.
MADDOW: I mentioned earlier tonight that the FBI had identified five pipe bombs sent to philanthropist George Soros to Hillary Clinton, to former President Barack Obama, and former Attorney General Eric Holder and to former CIA Director John Brennan, which was sent to him care of CNN even though he doesn`t work there.
Law enforcement officials speaking to NBC say that those five suspicious packages, Clinton, Obama, Soros, Holder, Brennan, they all contained pipe bombs that were all substantially similar.
Well, as I also mentioned, we`ve now received confirmation from the FBI that there were two devices, two bombs additionally sent to Democratic Congresswoman Maxine Waters of California. She like the other targets is someone who has been frequently singled out for criticism by the president in recent months.
Well, the FBI now says, quote, we have now confirmed two additional packages both address said to Representative Maxine Waters are similar in appearance to the other packages.
So, you know, we`ve been conservative in our reporting on this today. That`s because you often expect early reports to be wrong in terrorism cases like this, especially when there are multiple targets and they`re all over the country. But it is now confirmed by the FBI that the list of people receiving similar bombs, similar packages includes Maxine Waters, too.
So, it`s Clinton, Obama, Soros, Eric Holder, John Brennan care of CNN and Maxine Waters.
And the important thing here from a law enforcement perspective is number one, nobody`s been hurt by these packages thus far, and number two, law enforcement has all the bombs, has all the unexploded devices. And that`s the best lead they could possibly have in figuring out who this is and getting them.
We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: One last thing that I want to mention before I go tonight that is slightly self-serving, I`m sorry. I have mentioned a couple of times this week that I`m putting out a podcast next week for the first time. Basically it`s just a mini-series, short mini series, seven episodes. I`m super into it. It drops on Thursday of next week.
And I have mentioned two things about that. One I`m super nervous about it because I`m excited tugboat because it`s really hard and I want it to be good. And I`m just stressed out.
I -- two, I`ve also mentioned that you can subscribe to it now so that you get it as soon as it comes out on Tuesday. It turns out it`s the number one podcast on iTunes now, which is awesome. So I want to say thank you to everybody who subscribed to it.
But also this does not helping me with the number one point, which is that I`m a little nervous about how this is going to go. This is not helping. Thank you. But jeez.
All right. We`ll see you again tomorrow.
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL". Although Ali Velshi is in for Lawrence tonight.
Good evening, Ali.
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