CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Yes. There`s not a -- and this is different actually than that 2016 where Donald Trump realized was that they hated -- they hated the Republican establishment.
ZERLINA MAXWELL, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Right.
HAYES: The Democratic base does not hate the Democratic Party.
MAXWELL: Especially not right now.
HAYES: Yes, the way they used to. The way Republicans do.
Zerlina Maxwell and Brian Beutler, many thanks.
That is ALL IN for evening.
"THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts right now. Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thanks, my friend.
HAYES: You bet.
MADDOW: And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
They finally did it. It took them two weeks, and nobody quite understands why it took them two week, but they have now done it. Republicans in Congress today finally moved to name Republican members of Congress who will be seated on the intelligence committee in the house.
Again, nobody knows why it took them this long, but it has been a consequential delay. When Democrats won the majority in the House in this fall`s elections, they won by a big enough majority that not only did the Democrats take, of course, the chairmanship and the numerical majority on every committee in the House, on the intelligence committee, it was actually a really big shift in terms of the numbers. Republicans not only lost the chairmanship of the intelligence committee, they lost four seats for Republican members.
Now, luckily for the Republicans, that loss of four seats on that incredibly crucial committee that`s right at the heart of the Russia investigation, them losing four seats on that committee didn`t entail very hard decision making for the Republican leadership. And that`s because they lost four seats but also four Republican members of Congress who had been on that committee either retired or lost their seats anyway. So, they were gone.
So it wasn`t like a really difficult game of musical chairs there. They lost four guys and they lost four guys. Guess which seat just got emptied?
Nevertheless, Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy and the Republican House leadership, they waited a full two weeks before naming new members to the Intelligence Committee today, even though they basically ended up carrying over their entire membership from the last Congress. There was one guy they swapped out, but that was it.
NBC News reports tonight that the delay may have had a material effect on Robert Mueller and the special counsel`s office investigation into Russian interference in the presidential election. Quote, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy formally named the nine Republican members of the House Intelligence Committee today, ending a weeks` long delay that may have cost special counsel Robert Mueller valuable time to act on potential leads the panel could offer.
Democrats now in the majority on the intelligence committee had vowed that one of their first acts would be to authorize the release of more than 50 witness interview transcripts to special counsel Mueller to aid in his investigation. Members have said they had reason to believe some witnesses lied to the committee, something that has already led Mueller to bring charges against Trump allies, including long-time Trump personal lawyer Michael Cohen and long-time Trump adviser Roger Stone.
Now, here is an interesting detail we did not have before today, before this report tonight from NBC News from Mike Memoli, and Ken Dilanian and Alex Moe. According to two sources familiar with the matter speaking to NBC News, quote, it is likely that Mueller and his team of investigators have had access to the committee`s transcripts already, meaning Mueller and his prosecutors have already been able to look through these witness transcripts to consider them effectively on an informal basis, to see if there is anything in these witness transcripts that might be important to the Mueller investigation or that might potentially be the basis of further criminal charges if any of those witnesses lied to Congress.
So, Mueller has apparently been able to look at them in an informal way. But according to Congressman Adam Schiff, who was the chairman of the committee, he tells NBC News tonight that even if Mueller`s team has been able to view the witness transcripts thus far, they have been limited in what they can do with that information. According to Schiff tonight, quote, they don`t -- meaning Mueller doesn`t -- they don`t have the use of those transcripts for perjury prosecutions until we authorize them for that use.
The intelligence committee has been unable to hold the required vote to release those transcripts to Mueller because of the delay because of the two-week-long delay and the Republicans naming any members to the committee, the Intelligence Committee hasn`t been able to hold that vote.
So, Democrats name their members two weeks ago. Republicans haven`t. They`ve just been sitting on it until finally today. And again, whether or not Mueller wants to bring any further charges on the basis of this testimony to Congress, whether Mueller and his prosecutors want to charge anybody other than Roger Stone and Michael Cohen of lying to Congress on the basis of what they said to the Intelligence Committee, it would appear that Mueller and his prosecutors can`t do that until they formally get official transcripts released to them from the committee.
And the official transcripts can`t go to Mueller until the committee votes to release those transcripts to him for that purpose. And the committee cannot take that vote until they are formally constituted as a committee, and they can`t formally cute themselves as a committee until they have all their members, and they only got all their members today. Having all their members as of today means they will finally be able to hold their first meeting as a committee, three business days from now.
In magical congressional calendar days, that means the earliest possible date at which these witness transcripts can be sent to Robert Mueller, just in case he wants to use them to bring more criminal charges, the earliest date Mueller can get those official transcripts is next Tuesday, February 5th, more than a full month after this Congress was sworn in and supposedly starting its work. The delay from the Republicans at least bought them another month.
So, we`ve been covering that like logistical detail in the handover of the new Congress. We`ve been covering that pretty intensively for the last week or so. It looks like that issue is finally going to be resolved. That timeline, you might imagine, has been causing some agita among witnesses. There are specific witnesses who have been accused by members of Congress of having lied in their closed door testimony to the intelligence committee. Once Mueller started charging people for lying to congress, you can imagine that those witnesses, the ones who know they lied, they`ve been a little nervous as to whether Mueller might act on their testimony as well.
Well, we will know in fairly short order now. We will likely know within a week if that agita is warranted, because Mueller is now about to get 50- plus official transcripts. If you ever are charged with a crime, first of all, I`m sorry. I`m sure you didn`t do it. I totally believe in you.
But if you are ever charged with a crime in this country, you will have a bunch of well-known black letter rights under U.S. criminal law and the rules of American criminal procedure. You will have the right to be represented by competent counsel, even if you can`t afford to pay for that counsel. You will have the right to a speedy trial. You`ll have a right to have a jury of your peers evaluate the case against you, against the presumption of your innocence, unless and until prosecutors prove their case against you beyond a reasonable doubt.
And those rights, those are like the Perry Mason ones, right? Those are like the ones from "Law & Order." Those are the ones we know from crime dramas and after school specials, even if we haven`t gone to law school.
But one of the less exciting things you also have a right to as a criminal defendant in this country is you have the right to see what the prosecution has against you, what they`ve got on you that led them to charge you and have you arrested in the first place. You get to see the evidence. In both civil cases and in criminal cases, that part of criminal procedure, or that part of trial procedure, that`s often where some of the juiciest fighting is. It almost never makes into it the TV shows about the law, but it`s where a lot of the fighting takes place. It`s where a lot of the time gets elapsed when these things tie up courtroom time.
But it`s also this part of the process that is also where you get the best and most interesting strategy, the most interesting strategic fights on the part of both the prosecution and the defense. And that is what we are seeing in some of the big news that broke today on the scandals swirling around this presidency and the legal cases that have derived from the Russian attack on our election and the special counsel`s investigation into that. Once you are charged, once you are a criminal defendant, before you ever get to trial, there is this process called discovery, and the discovery process is the process by which you the defendant are entitled to get from prosecutors the material that they`ve used to build their case against you, to get you charged with this crime in the first place.
The reason you have a right to see that stuff before your trial, it makes sense when you think in broad terms about what it really means to have a truly fair trial. If you weren`t allowed to see any of this evidence beforehand, if you weren`t allowed to see the material that they used to build their case against you, you really wouldn`t have a reasonable chance on the defense side at beating the prosecutor`s case, right? When the discovery process works the way it`s supposed to, you are supposed to be protected from being blindsided by evidence you didn`t know was coming at you.
So if they`re using witnesses to testify against you, you get to know about those witnesses and that witness testimony in advance. Just in case your side wants to try to show that those witnesses are unreliable, or they`re somehow unreasonably biased against you, or you can put up competing witnesses that might offer an equally or more compelling story about the same set of facts. If it is a case that is based on documents and records ahead of your trial, you will need to see, you will get to see what those documents and records are. So you can maybe challenge the veracity of those documents and records or put them in different context, or otherwise build up your case against what prosecutors are trying to use as evidence to prove.
Whatever prosecutors want to charge you with, you as a criminal defendant have the right to see the basis for their charges. I don`t have you a right to see the evidence they have stacked up. That`s the discovery process. And I know it`s not as cinematic as you have the right to remain silent. It doesn`t make it into all the movies.
But it is just as important, and it really is where some of the most interesting strategy comes out in legal fight, including as I mentioned, today`s news surrounding the scandals of this presidency and Russia interfering in our election. Because almost a year ago, in February of last year, the Justice Department announced charges against the Internet Research Agency in St. Petersburg, Russia, right? You remember this.
The Internet Research Agency running this online disinformation campaign on behalf of the Kremlin as part of the Russian effort to mess with the election and sway it against Hillary Clinton and toward Donald Trump. The defendants in that indictment were all Russian. It was all individual employees of the Internet Research Agency. It was the guy who owned and reportedly ran that organization, a guy named Yevgeny Prigozhin, who`s a billionaire Russian oligarch, close to Putin, close to the Kremlin.
Prosecutors also charged the corporate entity that Prigozhin and runs, which is called Concord Management. The Internet Research Agency was allegedly sort of a subsidiary within Concord Management.
Russia, of course, doesn`t extradite its citizens to the United States to face criminal trial here. So when that indictment was unsealed, there was no real expectation that anybody charged in that indictment would ever be arrested or set foot in a U.S. courtroom to face those charges. Same thing was true about the other indictment that was brought against Russian military intelligence officers from the GRU, right? Those indictments against all those Russians, they contained lots of information that we the public were able to see in those court filings, spelling out what Russia allegedly did and how they allegedly did it. It was fascinating in terms of us understanding this scandal and what happened to our country.
But there was almost no examination that any trial would ever derive from those indictments, that any subsequent legal proceeding at all would ever derive from those indictments. Yes, the indictments are brought. They`re speaking indictments. They tell us what happened. They spell out the allegations, but nobody`s ever actually going to have a trial because these are Russians who are indicted and Russia`s not going to let them come over here to face U.S. justice.
And the one tiny little surprise exception to that dynamic around those cases that Robert Mueller brought against all those Russians, the one exception to that dynamic pertains to Concord Management.
So, Yevgeny Prigozhin is the oligarch who ran the Internet Research Agency. Him and all these people who worked at the Internet Research Agency, they were all charged as part of the Internet Research Agency indictment. Them, and all those GRU officers, none of them ever even bothered to respond to the fact that they were indicted in federal court in the United States.
But when it came to Concord Management as one of these criminal defendants, they tried to pull off an odd little legal gambit. Concord Management, this corporate entity run by that Russian oligarch, this guy Prigozhin, they did decide to respond. They hired U.S. lawyers, and they did take up their part of the case as one of the defendants charged in this indictment.
And the reason I say this was an interesting legal gambit, is because this appears to have been effectively the Kremlin`s effort or a Kremlin adjacent effort to have them sort of -- have their cake and eat it too. I mean, none of their actual citizens, no actual Russian citizens, including this Russian oligarch would ever step foot in a U.S. courtroom. None of them would ever have any actual vulnerability to U.S. justice, but by having this corporate entity, Concord Management, this company actually turn up in U.S. federal court as a criminal defendant, it appears what they hoped they accomplish by that was that they would be able to sort of cash in on all the rights that a criminal defendant has in the U.S. justice system, particularly they decided to cash in on discovery.
By giving Concord Management`s U.S. attorneys and having -- by giving Concord Management U.S. attorneys to appear in court for them, by having that corporate entity appear in U.S. court as a defendant, they have since tried to use the discovery process in that trial to get everything they can from the U.S. Justice Department about the Russia investigation, about Robert Mueller, about the work of the special counsel`s office. They`ve been using the discovery process, the fact that they`re appearing in court as a defendant, they`ve been trying to get whatever evidence they can about what allowed Mueller to compile these charges, what evidence they were able to pile up against all these Russian entities.
So they`re thinking no actual Russians need to face legal jeopardy here, but by having a Russian corporation turned up, maybe we can use the discovery process for that corporation to get all this information about what Mueller knows and how he knows it. So, it`s a clever little gambit that they pulled, and it has already resulted in the big knock-down drag- out legal fight over a whole bunch of weeks and months now.
You might remember earlier this month, one of the requests for discovery materials from the lawyers for Concord Management led the federal judge in this case to dress down and humiliate the Concord Management lawyer in open court. She singled out the Concord Management lawyer at an open hearing by name.
She said to him standing there in court: I will tell you now that I found your recent filings to be unprofessional, inappropriate, and ineffective. The judge said you will prevail on your motion for the release of sensitive discovery if and only if the facts and the law are on your side. Meritless personal attacks on the special counsel, his attorneys, other members of the trial team will play no role in my decision on your motion, nor will inappropriate and what you clearly belief to be clever quotes from movies, cartoons and elsewhere which he had actually included in his filings.
Quote: Your strategy is ineffective. It is undermining your credibility in this courthouse. I will say it plain and simple. Knock it off.
That was the judge, the Trump-appointed judge dressing down the lawyer for Concord Management in court just a couple of weeks ago. And that`s part of this whole fight over discovery. They`re using the Concord Management case to try to get as much discovery they can about the Mueller investigation in making their case that they ought to have access to all of the sensitive material through discovery, they so offended the judge that she caused that humiliation to rain down on that lawyer in open court.
That is where we left this fight a couple of weeks ago. And now today, prosecutors say the whole thing has gone haywire in a way we had no idea of before. So this is a new filing from prosecutors. It`s prosecutors from the special counsel`s office and from the U.S. attorney`s office in D.C. and from the national security division of the Justice Department. They filed this today, telling the judge in this case why they object to these continuing requests from Concord Management to obtain discovery in this case, to use this case to get detailed sensitive information about the details of the Russia investigation.
And what these prosecutors allege today in this filing is that these guys for this Russian company, they should not be allowed to see anything more sensitive than they`ve already been able to get through discovery because even the so-called non-sensitive stuff they have obtained through the discovery process so far, what they say today is that that material that they`ve obtained in discovery thus far, it has all of the sudden turned up in Russia in altered form, doctored and then used for what appears to be a kind of disinformation campaign to try to publicly discredit the Mueller investigation, using U.S. journalists as part of the ploy. What?
This is from the filing. Quote, on October 22nd, 2018, so this past October, the newly created Twitter account Hacking Redstone published the following tweet, quote: We`ve got access to the special counsel Mueller`s probe database as we hacked Russian server with info from the Russian troll case Concord LLC versus Mueller. You can view all the files Mueller has about the internet research agency and Russian collusion. Enjoy the reading.
The tweet also included a link to a web page located on an online file sharing portal. The webpage contains file folders with names and folder structures that are unique to the names and structures of the materials produced by the government in discovery, including tracking numbers assigned by the special counsel`s office. So, what this means is that as a criminal defendant, obviously Concord Management is entitled to the same rights as any criminal defendant. They`re entitled to see what the government has against them in terms of evidence. What evidence the government has used to build its case against Concord Management.
When the special counsel`s office assembled some of that material to provide to the other side in the discovery process, when they assembled that material and sent to it the attorneys for Concord Management, somehow that material ended up online being shopped by an anonymous newly created Twitter handle as if this information had been stolen directly from the special counsel`s office by some hacker who was somehow able to break into their servers and show you all their secrets. According to this filing today, Robert Mueller, the special counsel, says nobody actually broke into their servers. Nobody has actually violated their own security in the special counsel`s office.
What ended up online in Russia was the material that was sent to these lawyers for Concord Management as part of the criminal case, as part of the discovery process. And in this case, there is a protective order from the court which says that any materials provided under discovery can only be used for the purpose of preparing a criminal defense in this case. You can`t take the stuff you get in discovery and just disseminate it anywhere.
You can`t just give it away. You can`t make it public. You`re only supposed to be able to use it inside the confines of this case.
Contrary to that order, what actually happened to that stuff they got through discovery is that apparently the stuff got sifted through. A bunch of those files got posted online. They got put in this online data portal, and then somebody anonymously claimed that they hacked that material out of Mueller`s office, and they were going to make it available to the U.S. public by shopping it to U.S. journalists. Saying it was the sum total of everything that Mueller has been able to assemble in terms of evidence on the issue of, quote, Russian collusion.
Now I`m not a lawyer. We`ll get some expert advice from somebody who is a very good lawyer who understands these things to make sure we`re grasping the real significance of what happened here and what`s going on in this court case, but A, this is a surprise. Like really? That`s what`s happening in this court case?
And there are a couple of things that jump out at me here. Actually, there are three things. The third thing is personal, and it is a small thing, and I will get to that in a second be. Threw are two substantive things here. One is why is Robert Mueller so mad about this? I mean, to me, this is sort of amazing as a plot point. I don`t know that I get it in terms of legal significance, but in terms of the human drama here, what is amazing is what the special counsel spells out about the nature of this material as it was posted online.
What they`re saying here in this filing is that this wasn`t just the material from the discovery process that got handed over to these lawyers, that got somehow hijacked or diverted off and was uploaded wholesale to a public place it shouldn`t be. They`re not saying that`s what happened here. What the special counsel is saying here is that their discovery materials were clearly obtained in Russia, and they were used in a way they shouldn`t have been.
But the stuff wasn`t just taken wholesale and made publicly available as a whole entity. It was sifted through. The stuff that was provided to these lawyers in discovery was gone through in such a way as to make it as boring and unimpressive as possible, as not damning as possible.
The prosecutors say whoever went through this discovery material took about a thousand files that really were from discovery from the pretrial process in this case, and according to this filing today, those one thousand plus matching files, they included images of political memes from Facebook and other social media accounts that were posted and reposted online by the Internet Research Agency. Prosecutors say in this filing that these were the types of memes and images that aren`t exactly an impressive stash of evidence. Prosecutors say that these memes and images are, quote, presumably still available elsewhere on the Internet.
And so, what was posted online here is the supposed -- the allegedly -- the crown jewels that had been hacked from Mueller were basically pointless images of political memes that don`t add up to an impressive stack of evidence. And the prosecutors say those thousand-plus files were mixed in with lots of other files that they call, quote, totally irrelevant.
And that`s part of why the special counsel`s office appears to be so miffed here, because what they`re alleging is that this pretrial discovery process was abused in order to try to create a public perception in this country about what Mueller had on Russia collusion and Russian interference in the election. This effort was to try to create a misimpression that Mueller had come up dry, that the Mueller investigation didn`t really turn up any interesting evidence.
Quote: The dissemination of the link to the web page via a Twitter message claiming to provide access the all the files Mueller had about IRA and Russian collusion and the fact that the web page contained numerous irrelevant files suggest that the person who created the web page used their knowledge of nonsensitive discovery to make it appear as though the irrelevant files contained on the web page were the sum total evidence of IRA and Russian collusion gathered by law enforcement in this matter, in an apparent effort to discredit the investigation.
So, the point of the filing is no, you cannot have access to super sensitive national security sensitive material in this case, and in particular you can`t send it to Russia, to your clients. And that`s because even when we gave you nonsensitive material, it turned up in Russia, and it turned up in Russia as part of an op to make it seem like the Russia investigation and the whole Mueller investigation is a dud, that Mueller turned up no evidence. In other words, your honor, the defendants here are abusing the U.S. court system and the rights afforded to U.S. criminal defendants to continue a Russian operation that`s designed to help Russia get away with what they did and undermine the effectiveness and the impact of this investigation in the United States that has thus far ferreted out their bad activity and has resulted in lots of indictments and dozens of felony charges.
So, why the special counsel`s office is so mad about this, this is fascinating, you`re trying to make it look like we got nothing? Oh, you`ll be surprised.
I mean, the other thing that`s going to be fascinating to watch here is what the judge does with this. I mean, the judge in this case has not been willing to suffer fools already. She has already been confrontational in the past when she feels like her courtroom is being misused for unprofessional purposes in this case. So we await the judge`s response to this as well.
It will be interesting to see whether the judge thinks anybody ought to get in trouble for someone in Russia obtaining all of these materials that were supposed to be held confidential by these American lawyers. Do these American lawyers get in trouble for that? Does their American law firm get in trouble for that? Is the defendant in this case otherwise sanctioned?
But as I mentioned, there is just one other little element here that`s -- I said it was personal. It`s not necessarily personal. It does pertain to this show, though.
There are a couple of American reporters, Josh Russell and Casey Michael -- Casey Michel, excuse me, who say that they were targeted by this Russian anonymous Twitter handle, supposedly offering all this material that had allegedly been stolen from Robert Mueller and the special counsel`s office. Casey and Josh have both been great today about making public what these overtures looked like from this Russian account, what they were offered by this Russian account, so we can have a better understanding of how this op worked, this op that allegedly was trying to undermine the Mueller investigation and make it look like they had nothing.
The reason I say there is a sort of personal element to this is there are some indications that I may have been the third target of this effort or at least this show may have been the third known target of this effort by this anonymous Russian Twitter handle. I will just tell you I`ve nothing exciting I can tell you about that. We are still trying to track that down when this indictment came out today and when Josh and Casey started talking publicly about how they had been targeted and how they had been shopped this stuff, that`s the first we heard we might have been targeted in this way as well.
So we`re trying to figure that out. We`re trying to track it down. Well will keep you posted if we learn anything further.
But, again, right now at this point we`re trying to figure out if we were somehow caught up in this mess, and if so, did it give us anything interesting we can show on TV. So it`s been a fascinating day in the news. Lots of surprises.
We`ve got Barbara McQuade joining us tonight. We`ve got a "Wall Street Journal" reporter joining us on something truly alarming that just happened in the intelligence committee. We`ve actually got some good news coming up tonight right at the end of the show.
There`s lots to come tonight. Stay with us.
MADDOW: U.S. prosecutors today allege that one of the cases brought by Robert Mueller, the special counsel, has become a vehicle for what appears to be a new Russian disinformation effort targeting Americans. Materials obtained through the discovery process in this case have turned up on a Russian server doctored in such a way as to try to discredit the Mueller investigation. Those documents were then shopped to various U.S. journalists.
Barbara McQuade is the former U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan. She joins us tonight.
Barb, thanks very much for being here.
BARBARA MCQUADE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Thanks for having me, Rachel.
MADDOW: First of all, you explained about what I understand about the discovery process and the responsibility of prosecutors to hand over to the defense the basis of -- basically the case they`re making in a criminal case like that. Did I get that basically right? Did I screw any of that right?
MCQUADE: No, you got it exactly right. The defendant is entitled to see the evidence in the case, but sometimes when there`s sensitive material, a court will issue what`s known as a protective order that puts some restriction on that discovery, either giving the government permission to hold some things back because the national security interests outweigh the interests in the defendant having that material, or putting some limitations on how they may use it and who they may share it with, which is what happened here and what Robert Mueller and his team allege has been violated.
MADDOW: What they`re alleging about how this material has -- stolen, obtained, disseminated, used, is pretty remarkable. They`re saying the material was sort of cherry picked. It was sifted through to provide an unflattering or undermining perception that the Mueller investigation didn`t really have any evidence against Russia, and then this was shopped to U.S. journalist as the product of the Mueller team being somehow hacked. The special counsel`s office having this material stolen, so it would seem linebacker it was the real dirt that Mueller really had.
You ever seen anything like this before? Does this resonate with other thing you`ve ever come across in the law?
MCQUADE: This is like nothing I`ve ever seen before. When I read this story, I thought to myself, these people are relentless. The Russian intelligence efforts here, it makes me wonder if having Concord appear, the company, the corporate entity on this indictment was not simply just an effort to get this information so that it could be used for further propaganda campaign.
The filing says that four million pages of discovery have been turned over to Concord, even though the individual corporate executives have not appeared here. And now they want to see this stuff too, which is the subject of this current motion.
So, no, I`ve never seen anything like this. I`ve seen allegations of violations of protective orders for sharing things with a client that should have been, but very subtle things. I think these lawyers have some explaining to do as to how these things have ended up on that server as part of this Twitter account.
MADDOW: Do you think that these -- the American lawyers who are representing Concord here, if in fact their case is being used by the Russian government or Russian intelligence to continue Russian intelligence operations and disinformation efforts targeting the U.S. public, if that`s what this case has become, including this discovery process being violated in the way the prosecutors allege today, are these U.S. lawyers who are part of that defense team potentially on the hook here?
MCQUADE: I think they could be, if they are wittingly involved, absolutely. Even if they are unwittingly involved, if they are knowingly violating this protective order, I think they could have some exposure.
This is a really egregious example of Russia once again using our democracy and our freedoms and our rights as a weapon against us. It is a defendant`s right as a part of our due process rights that the defendant gets the right to see these discovery materials so that he can adequately defend himself in the trial. We have to presume people are innocent, and they need to be able to defend themselves.
The Russians are taking that right and thrusting it right back at us to try to steal information and then use it as propaganda against us. It is a really egregious example of an abuse of our democracy.
MADDOW: Barbara McQuade, former U.S. attorney in Michigan. Barb, really appreciate you being here with us tonight. Thanks a lot.
MCQUADE: Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: All right. Lots more to get tonight. Do stay with us.
MADDOW: The Michigan state police earlier today tweeted out this video with the caption: It`s so cold in Cadillac, Michigan, even the light posts are shivering.
Look at that. That is not your TV. I cannot explain the physics for why the light post is in fact shivering in the cold.
It was a balmy negative 3 in Cadillac, Michigan today. I say balmy, because it hit minus 48 in northwest Minnesota this morning, and that is not taking into account the wind chill, minus 48.
We are dealing with scary cold, record cold in big swaths of the country right now. Now, imagine, imagine the impact if in these conditions, somebody hostile to the United States decided to knock out the power and the heat on purpose, and they wouldn`t turn it back on.
There is a national security story in here too, a new one, and that`s next.
MADDOW: When you put the head of the FBI and the CIA and the NSA and the Defense Intelligence Agency and the director of national intelligence all in a row, all at the same table, it will inevitably make news.
Yesterday, the biggest headline out of the big intelligence hearing in the Senate was probably this: U.S. intelligence chiefs contradict Trump on North Korea, ISIS, and Iran. They could have gone on as well. That`s a big deal.
But there was another big, big piece of news that came out of that meeting of the mind yesterday that is worth paying attention to, and that isn`t necessarily about a split between the White House and the intelligence chiefs. It`s just about our country in a very blunt way.
Before that hearing in the Senate yesterday, the director of national intelligence, Dan Coats, put out this report. It`s 42 pages long. It`s the U.S. intelligence community`s worldwide threat assessment, and I just want to direct your attention to the real doozy that starts on the bottom of page 5. Quote: China has the ability to launch cyber attacks that cause localized temporary disruptive effects on American critical infrastructure, such as disruption of a natural gas pipeline for days to weeks in the United States. Oh.
And it`s not just China. Go to page 6. Quote: Russia has the ability to execute cyber attacks in the United States that generate localized temporary disruptive effects on critical infrastructure, such as disrupting an electrical distribution network for at least a few hours.
So, China could shut off the natural gas pipelines. Russia can just shut off the electricity. They have that ability now.
There have been rumblings for a while that hostile foreign government hackers had burrowed their way into American critical infrastructure, and particularly, the power networks. "The Wall Street Journal" has done the best reporting on this front in the country, laying out exactly how that scenario could play out here, how foreign countries have been laying the groundwork to one day flip the off switch on an entire swath of the U.S. power grid if they want to.
But this new report from the intelligence chiefs rings a whole new kind of alarm bell. This is no longer just a thing that they might be planning for that could conceivably happen one day. This is the director of national intelligence, telling us all in unclassified form, in black and white, China and Russia can do this now, today, if they want to. In other words, we`re relying on their good graces that they`re not.
And it is like negative 50 degrees in the Dakotas right now. What would happen if Russia killed the power in Fargo today? Right? What would happen if all the natural gas lines that service Sioux Falls just poof on the coldest day in recent memories, and it wasn`t in our power whether or not to turn them back on.
I mean, what would you do if you lost heat indefinitely as the act of a foreign power on the same day the temperature in your front yard matched the temperature in Antarctica? I mean, what would you and your family do?
Joining us now is Rebecca Smith. She is an energy reporter for the "Wall Street Journal." She has been reporting on the vulnerable of our power grid to foreign hackers in painstaking detail.
Ms. Smith, thank you very much for being here. Much appreciated.
REBECCA SMITH, NATIONAL ENERGY REPORTER, WALL STREET JOURNAL: It`s a pleasure.
MADDOW: Let me ask you if you feel like this warning, this public notice from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence is congruent with the kind of reporting that you`ve been doing at the journal and the kind of thing you`ve been able to raise the alarm about from the journalistic side.
SMITH: I think it`s absolutely confirmatory, Rachel. And one of the things I found interesting about this year`s threat assessment is no longer is the federal government describing these things as a hypothetical. I mean, in the past, the government has said that the threat of U.S. retaliation would keep our foes in check.
This year, you know, they`ve dropped that. Now they`re saying the Russians and the Chinese are in our networks and they can shut things down if they wish to. That`s really a dramatic turn-about. And I think it shows that this is really a matter of utmost national security.
MADDOW: We have focused on the conflict that our country has with Russia and with the Russian attack on the election and all of the other strange dynamics between our country and Russia in the era of the Trump presidency, ever since the 2016 campaign. The idea of China as a foreign actor that might not only have this -- an interest in doing this, but have the capability to do it right now is something I think is going to be less familiar to a lot of Americans.
Are the Chinese and the Russians essentially on par in terms of their capability here?
SMITH: I don`t know about their capability. I mean, we really -- to some extent, the best information is going to be in classified circles. And in the past we`ve thought that the Chinese were primarily focused on exfiltrating information that they could commercialize, whereas the Russians were taking an approach that was more along the lines of traditional defense.
One of the other things that was interesting that Dan Coats said yesterday is that Moscow and Beijing are working together more closely now than they have in decades. So, regardless, of what each country`s capability, it appears that they might work together to do us harm.
MADDOW: When the director of national intelligence decides to do this in a non-classified document, decides to put this out in a public sense, that was one of the surprises this week, one of the things that was interesting to see from the intelligence community, this worldwide threat assessment was put out as a non-classified document, published online and we could all read it.
As far as we know, certainly there is classified material that goes along with this sort of thing, but I don`t think there is a classified annex or classified version of this report that lawmakers are getting that we are not. I wonder if that effectively is itself a form of defense. By trying to raise the public alarm about this, to try to heighten concern about this among the general American public and lawmakers, if this might be some sort of signal from the intelligence community that we ought to do more to either prepare for this or to try to head it off?
SMITH: I think this is the -- a very subtle signaling on the part of the intelligence agencies that they want there to be more attention. Now, it`s possible that there is some disagreement within the federal agencies about how much the government should divulge. I worked on a project with a story that was published earlier this month with my colleague Rob Barry and we tried and what wound of being painstaking detail to reconstruct a Russian cyber attack. And we showed how we started attacking small suppliers and venders and worked their way up the chain until they reached utilities.
Now, the government has never revealed the identities of the utilities that were hacked. They keep all that information private. But I think there may be -- we may be starting to see a crack in that, where there are some parts of the government that want more information to come out. I mean, there is a general feeling that government only reacts when there`s a crisis, and I think there are some people in high-level positions in government who want us to do more now before there is a crisis.
MADDOW: All right. Or at least trying to create a sense of crisis or worry about a potential crisis that can --
MADDOW: -- generate some political momentum here.
Rebecca Smith, "Wall Street Journal" energy reporter -- you do phenomenal work. Thank you for what you do at "The Journal". Keep going.
SMITH: Thank you so much.
MADDOW: Thank you. We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: You remember the day that George W. Bush pretended to pilot a fighter jet on to the deck of USS Abraham Lincoln? Wearing a flight suit, he then changed in irregular pant suit and stood under a banner declaring "mission accomplished" for the war in Iraq.
At that point, the war in Iraq was one month old. On that same exact say, May 1st, 2003, 1st Lieutenant Paul Rieckhoff and his platoon received their orders to ship off to Baghdad. Lieutenant Rieckhoff ended up in house to house fighting as an infantry platoon leader in Iraq.
When he returned home in 2004, he founded the first organization representing veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the first name for the group was Operation Truth, but it soon became Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, IAVA. IAVA is the if first and the largest organization for post-9/11 vets in this country.
When our country began those gigantically long wars in the first term of the Bush presidency, there was a lot of uncertainty as to how the unpopularity, particularly of the Iraq war, might affect our nation`s treatment of the Americans who were sent to fight in it. But over all these years now, IAVA has helped unsettle that uncertainty and made sure that vets themselves have the strongest possible voice in answering that question.
It has been 14-plus years of backbreaking work, fighting the huge early backlogs on disability claims on a V.A. that was not ready for all those young vets when those wars just didn`t end and they dragged on and on and on, despite the mission accomplished banners one month in.
IAVA is the reason we got a new post-9/11 G.I. bill. IAVA was absolutely instrumental in the repeal of "don`t ask, don`t tell". IAVA has done the harrowing work of trying to stop veterans` homelessness and suicide and waking the country up to the magnitude of those two crises.
Paul Rieckhoff founded IAVA at the start, right after he himself was back from Iraq. He`s been at the helm, founder and CEO all these years. Well, this week he announced he`s moving on after 14-plus years and all this work. He says he`ll stay on the board but is no longer going to lead this group that he founded, that absolutely changed U.S. history in terms of how our generation of veterans is treated in this country and how they speak for themselves and for each other.
So, congratulations to Lieutenant Rieckhoff and Godspeed to everybody at IAVA here on out. We need you guys more than ever.
MADDOW: If you are in part of the country that is having record low temperatures tonight, I hereby announce and inform you and instruct you that if you have anything delivered to your home while this cold persists, you must tip, even if you don`t usually tip, and if you do usually tip, and even if you are tipping tonight for the first time, you must triple the tip you think is a normal tip to give. Anybody who is out working in this cold tonight is doing the country a service. If they are doing that service for you, you must pay through the nose. Deal? Deal.
That does it for us tonight. See you again tomorrow.
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL".
Good evening, Lawrence.
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