CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now.
Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thanks, my friend. Much appreciated.
And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
We start tonight, actually, with some breaking news out of a federal court case in Florida. You will remember that between the 2016 presidential election and the subsequent inauguration of Donald Trump, in January of 2017, the news organization "BuzzFeed" published this document which soon came to be known as the Steele dossier, the Christopher Steele dossier.
This is a document that at the time some reporters had seen or at least they`d seen parts of it. Parts of this document or perhaps all of it had been handed over to the FBI and over to the State Department. This document had also been briefed, at least in part, to the incoming president. Remember that dramatic scene in James Comey`s book where he talks about going in one-on-one and briefing President-elect Donald Trump on the content and the nature and most importantly the existence of this dossier, which was starting to circulate.
So, it was a round in various circumstances but "BuzzFeed" was the first to make it available to the general public when they published it online in January 2017. And to put it mildly, their publication of that dossier exploded like a freaking fireball, right? I mean, it had, you will recall, this awkward and still difficult to talk about front page allegation that President-elect Donald Trump had engaged in some very specific extramarital, extracurricular behavior in a Moscow hotel room that had been videotaped and was being used to leverage or blackmail him. That allegation about that supposedly videotaped behavior by the president and Russia holding it over him, that obviously got the most attention because of the nature of that allegation, and that specific allegation has never really gone anywhere in the interim coming of years.
But as reporter Matthew Rosenberg notes at "The New York Times" tonight, a lot of the other stuff in the dossier, certainly the headline stuff in the dossier, did ultimately pan out. Quote, parts of the dossier have proved prescient. Its main assertion that the Russian government was working to get Mr. Trump elected was hardly an established fact when it was first laid out by Christopher Steele in his first memo in June 2016. But that has since been backed up by the United States` own intelligence agencies and by Robert Mueller`s investigation.
The dossier`s talk of Russian efforts to cultivate some people in Mr. Trump`s orbit was similarly unknown when first detailed in one of Christopher Steele`s reports, but it has proved broadly accurate as well. When "BuzzFeed" published the Steele dossier so everybody could read it, though, there was one Russian guy who was mentioned on the final page of the dossier who went beyond just complaining about the document being published or denying that the claims about him in the dossier were true. It was this one guy who was not known in the United States at all but who was mentioned in the dossier and described as sort of having bank shot roll in this whole scheme. He went so far as to actually file an American lawsuit, a defamation case in federal court in Florida against "BuzzFeed", basically trying to destroy them as an entity as punishment for "BuzzFeed" publishing this dossier, which he said contained allegations about him that were not true.
So, this Russian guy files that defamation lawsuit against "BuzzFeed" in February of 2017, right after "BuzzFeed" publishes the dossier. Ultimately, "BuzzFeed" prevailed in that case. A judge dismissed the defamation case from this Russian guy just this past December. The court found that "BuzzFeed`s" decision to publish the dossier was lawful, it was not defamatory, threw the case out.
Well, last week on this show, you might remember me giving you sort of a heads up that there might be some potentially interesting new information, some potentially interesting new fallout from that lawsuit after its dismissal, because even though the case has been dismissed and it is done in court, there has been some additional legal wrangling about whether the materials produced in that case would be kept secret indefinitely or whether the materials produced over the course of the fight over that case, whether they would now be made public.
Well, bingo. That`s what we got tonight. Tonight, that slot machine finally paid out its jackpot, because tonight, the court unsealed this report which was created by the guy whose name you see on screen there. He`s not a famous person, but he`s the former chief of staff of the FBI`s cyber division.
He`s the former director for cyber incident response at the National Security Council at the White House. He`s now the head of a cyber security company that has hired in the course of this lawsuit to investigate whether the Steele dossier was true. Not all of it, but specifically the part of it that was the basis of this lawsuit.
As I mentioned, it`s on the last page of the Steele dossier, as published by "BuzzFeed", where this Russian guy and his tech firm are described as having an important technical role in the Russian attack on our election in 2016. You sort of have to read through the redactions of various kind to get there, but what the Steele dossier said about this guy was over the period from March 2016 to September 2016, his company and its affiliates had been using botnets and porn traffic to transmit viruses, plant bugs, steal data and conduct altering operations against the Democratic Party`s leadership. Entities linked to blank were involved and he and other -- he and another hacking expert both recruited under duress by the FSB were significant players in this operation.
So, the guy whose companies were described that way in that part of the Steele dossier, he`s the one who filed this defamation lawsuit against "BuzzFeed" right after "BuzzFeed" published the dossier. And this guy, this other guy was the chief of staff of the FBI`s cyber division, top cyber incident response guy at the National Security Council, he was hired by "BuzzFeed" as part of them fighting this lawsuit, to produce a report -- look at the data and produce an expert report basically to determine whether those allegations in the dossier about that guy and the botnets and the porn traffic and how exactly they used that stuff to get at these Democratic documents, they hired that expert guy to determine whether or not those allegations in the dossier were true, right, because that`s a key point of fighting a defamation case.
You can`t sue someone for saying bad things about you if the bad things they`re saying about you are true. So, I mean, the lesson here for all of us is don`t sue somebody for defamation unless you`re absolutely sure that the thing they`re saying about you is a lie because the discovery process in a defamation lawsuit will ultimately turn up the truth. About whether those terrible allegations against you that you didn`t want anybody to hear, that you`re so mad about them, you`re suing about them. Eventually in this defamation case, it will come out whether or not the bad things about you are in fact true, because if they`re true, somebody can legally say it about you, no matter how bad it makes you look.
I know these things and I can riff on them off the top of my head because I basically got that all printed out on a rubber stamp in my office, which I use as a response to everybody who contacts me to complain about something that I say about them on this show. I`m terribly sorry, but it`s true. Stamp. Give me the next one.
We now know because this expert report has been unsealed tonight after that lawsuit ran its course in Florida. We now know that at least according to this guy from the National Security Council and the top cyber guy at the FBI. We now know that what it says in the Christopher Steele dossier about those Russian botnets and the porn traffic and viruses and bugs and how those were used to steal data in the Russian operation against the Democratic Party, according to this expert report, that stuff in the dossier broadly is true.
Quote: Technical evidence suggests that Russian cyber espionage groups used XBT infrastructure to support malicious spear phishing campaigns against the Democratic leadership which resulted in the theft of e-mails from a senior member of the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign. Technical evidence suggests that the Russian cyber espionage group that`s linked to the DNC hack has used an XBT-owned IP address. XBT owned infrastructure was used to support the malicious spear phishing attack of Democratic Party leadership in 2016, which resulted in the theft and subsequent publication of sensitive information related to the Clinton campaign.
So, you know, this is the spear phishing attack on John Podesta. This is Fancy Bear and Cozy Bear, the two different Russian intelligence groups that were conducting the attack and how they did it. I mean, what this technical report that we`ve now had unsealed out of that lawsuit, what it suggests is that at least in the part of the dossier, Christopher Steele was right.
As "The New York Times" sums it up tonight, quote, a report by a former FBI cyber expert unsealed in a federal court in Miami finds evidence that suggests Russian agents used by the guy who sued "BuzzFeed", Mr. Gubarev, to start their hacking operation during the 2016 presidential campaign. Quote: The report`s suggestions of a link between Mr. Gubarev and Russian hacking is likely to spur new demands for renewed investigations.
It has long been fascinating to me that Republicans and the Trump White House have focused on Christopher Steele and the Steele dossier as if it is embarrassing or bad somehow that that document and his work might in any way have been a predicate for the larger Russia investigation and ultimately the special counsel. I mean, honestly, bits and pieces of the dossier keep getting proven true all the time. Nothing in it has been conclusively disproven at all.
And -- I mean, flip through it again some time. I mean, you know, I don`t understand why Republicans in the White House keep drawing people`s attention back to the dossier. Really, you want people to read the dossier? What it says about the Trump campaign and Trump himself is not good, and bits and pieces of it keep being proven true.
Now, we think but we are not sure that there may yet be more unsealed documents that derive from this case in Florida, but this piece of it unsealed tonight verifying the only real technical stuff in the dossier about the Russian attack on our election and the Russian attack on the Democrats, that is new as of tonight. So very interesting news.
"New York Times" was first to break it, but that report is available to everybody because it`s been posted publicly by the court. And, you know, I should mention when it comes to efforts by congressional Republicans and the Trump White House to try to fend off the Russia investigation, one of the things that`s also been happening over the past few days is that the top Republican member of the Judiciary Committee in the House, remember, Republicans are in the minority there now, so the chairman in the Judiciary Committee is Democrat Jerry Nadler. The top Republican is Republican congressman from Georgia.
He personally, that top Republican from that committee, has unilaterally been releasing un-redacted transcripts or almost totally un-redacted transcripts from a whole bunch of different witnesses who have come before that committee for its part of the Russia investigation. And the transcripts he`s been releasing are from witnesses who the Republicans and the Trump White House and the conservative media have been trying to vilify as terrible bad guys somehow in the Russia investigation. Today, for example, these Republicans released the 300-page-long transcript of the testimony of the former top counterintelligence agent in the FBI, Peter Strzok.
This was the Strzok testimony they released today. Two days ago, they released the testimony, almost as long, from a top FBI lawyer named Lisa Page. A couple of days before that, they released the testimony of one of the top experts in the Justice Department on Russian organized crime, Bruce Ohr.
And again, they picked those three -- they picked Peter Strzok, Lisa Page and Bruce Ohr -- because all of those public servants are people who the Republicans and the White House and conservative media have vilified, right? Have tried to turn into terrible, terrible bad guys because of their roles in the Russia investigation.
And, you know, knock yourself out. You can try to turn anybody into a bad guy that you want. Especially when you`ve got access to privileged information that isn`t public, that gives you an easy way to vilify people, right? You take little dribs and drabs, specific allegations, phrases from here and there, and if people don`t have access to the full record, they`ve only got access to what you`re telling them about, it`s easy to spin things and characterize things in as negative a way as possible, and they`ve been doing that for months now when it comes to these law enforcement and counterintelligence officials.
But now this congressman from Georgia, Doug Collins, has decided that unilaterally what he`s going to do to stick it to the Democrats is he`s going to release the whole transcripts from these witnesses, to point, according to the Democrats, of rejecting suggested or requested redactions from the Justice Department when the Justice Department has asked for stuff to be held back because it`s law enforcement or national security sensitive. Collins just says no and he`s been rejecting those redactions, just releasing the whole thing.
And I know why he`s doing it, but I`m not sure he`s thought it through. I mean, taking an individual line or a phrase, right, and posting it on Twitter and giving it to conservative media as if he`s turned up these damning admissions. We`ve seen Congressman Collins do that with bits and pieces of these transcripts that he`s released, but we`ve all got the whole transcripts now to read.
And the whole transcripts definitely don`t help their case when it came to trying to -- comes to trying to make people like Peter Strzok and Lisa Page and Bruce Ohr look like bad guys. So, like, from the Lisa Page transcript, for example, there is this.
Question, are you aware of any FBI officials leaking information about this investigation before the election? Lisa Page: not to my knowledge.
Question, did you make any disclosures about this investigation to the press or the public before election day? Lisa Page: No, ma`am. Question: why not? Lisa Page: It`s both impermissible and it would be patently unfair. Thank you.
Question: How do you think a disclosure to the press or the public would have impacted Donald Trump`s electoral prospects? Lisa Page: that`s not mine to speculate on, ma`am.
Quote: Well, on the basis of the information, would it have been damaging? Would have been major? Lisa Page: I would -- yes, I would suspect so.
Question: If someone at the FBI was trying to stop Donald Trump from being elected president, yourself or Peter Strzok or any of the others, do you think they could have publicly disclosed that Trump`s campaign was under investigation for potentially colluding with Russian government actors? Lisa Page: That`s what you would think. Question: So you`re saying yes? Lisa Page: Yes, ma`am.
Question: but to your knowledge, nobody the FBI did disclose this fact publicly correct? Lisa Page: No, ma`am. Question: Would you consider this strong evidence that there was not a deep state conspiracy at the FBI to stop Donald Trump from being elected? Lisa Page: Yes, ma`am. That and the fact that this is an extraordinarily conservative organization, the notion that there is an FBI deep state conspiracy about anything is laughable.
Question, just to be clear, so you were not personally trying to stop Donald Trump from being president? Answer: Oh, no.
Again, Republicans are releasing this transcript from Lisa Page because they think that`s going to make her look terrible. Let`s show the whole terrible truth about -- I mean, on the one hand, this is fascinating, and on the other hand, this does not make her look bad.
I mean, here she is, for example, explaining the urgency within the FBI of the Russia investigation ha w. That they were secretly conducting during the president campaign and how that urgency was inflicted by widespread expectations about whether or not Trump actually had any prospect of winning the election.
She says, quote, by which I mean if he is not elected to the extent that the Russians were colluding with members of his team, we`re still going to investigate that, even without him being president because any time the Russians do anything with a U.S. person, we care and it is very serious to us. But if he becomes president, that totally changes the game because now he is the president of the United States. He`s immediately going to start receiving classified briefings. He`s going to be exposed to the most sensitive secrets imaginable. If there was somebody on his team who wittingly or unwittingly is working with the Russians, that is super serious.
Thank you, Lisa Page. No, seriously, thank you, Lisa Page. I mean, I am - - I -- the circumstances under which it was released are contested, but I am glad to have this access to this information from your transcript. I don`t know why Republicans think it makes you look bad.
Also, in the Peter Strzok transcript released today, it`s long and there is a ton in it, but there is, for example, again, something the Republicans think makes him look terrible, which I don`t think most people are going to see it that way. For example, a sort of hilarious back and forth that I can`t put fully on television because there is a lot of swearing, but a Republican congressman is trying to get Peter Strzok to spell out why he expressed in a text message that it would be, forgive me, F-ing terrifying for Trump to actually be elected president. And Republicans are questioning him about that and they clearly think they`ve got him nailed on something super bad about him expressing that it would be terrifying for Trump to be elected president.
How terrible it is that Strzok is expressing that while he`s part of the investigation into whether or not the Russians had successfully infiltrated Trump`s campaign in order to install Trump in the White House because they had basically flipped people close to him. Why would you think that would be bad? They have this whole back and forth about it, and at the end of it, you can actually just see in Strzok`s own words, rather than Republicans` characterizations of it, why he would have been so F-ing terrified about the prospect of Trump`s election.
Here we go. Quote, what did you mean by F-ing terrifying? Peter Strzok, I`m sorry? Question, what did you mean by F-ing terrifying? Peter Strzok: the prospect that candidate Trump might be elected president.
Question, in November when you said it would be F-ing terrifying, you were investigating whether or not he had colluded, coordinated or otherwise conspired with a foreign actor to interfere in the election. Peter Strzok: the allegations that have been made public -- he`s being careful not to step on open investigations -- but the allegations made public are allegations that members of Trump campaign may have been doing that.
Question, then why in the world would you be talking about impeachment if you did not think that he, Trump specifically, had done anything wrong? Peter Strzok: Because without getting into details here that are either classified or in the context of an ongoing investigation, my concern, based on the credible allegation that members of his campaign were actively colluding with the government of Russia struck me as on extraordinary threat to America and represented -- interruption with a question. Well, you had already -- he then finishes, represented the most unbelievably severe and reprehensible behavior that any sort of American could have engaged in.
Oh. So even if it wasn`t at that point in the investigation, the prospect that Trump himself was colluding, it was the people in his campaign, the prospect that he would get elected while people within his campaign were colluding with the Russian government in order to get the Russian government to help install Trump in the Oval Office, that would be the most unbelievably severe and reprehensible sort of behavior that any American could engage in so, therefore, of course it would be F-ing terrifying that that person might become president of the United States. Further questions?
No wonder Peter Strzok had to be demonized and run out of the place, right? But now, thanks to the Republicans who think they`ve really nailed him here, we`ve got 300 pages of him in his own words. I don`t think it`s playing the way you guys want it to.
That`s a lot of things are happening all at once right now. Obviously, we`re getting continuing revelations, both from Congress, including from some unexpected corners in Congress. We`re getting unexpected revelations from court cases, which we weren`t watching closely, we didn`t expect to get new news developments.
Today, the president`s longtime political adviser Roger Stone got a trial date for early November. Tomorrow, we`ll get a status update on Rick Gates, the president`s deputy campaign chair. He has been a cooperating witness for over a year now. His sentencing in federal court has been delayed four times already. We will find out tomorrow whether they`re going to delay his sentencing yet again or whether prosecutors in the special counsel`s office are ready to tell us how cooperative Rick Gates has been, what they`ve got from him and therefore what they think he ought to get in terms of a sentence. That deadline is tomorrow.
Yesterday, of course, it was the president`s campaign chairman who was sentenced to several years in federal prison. Within minutes of that sentence being handed down, the same man was handed a multi-count felony indictment out of New York state, which among other things has profound questions or a profound impact on the overall question of whether or not President Trump might be able to use his pardon powers to get him, witnesses and defendants basically out of the line of fire when it comes to the Russia investigation writ large.
It`s interesting, though, today in the wake of that development with Manafort getting charged in New York state, today a whole bunch of New York stuff sort of exploded. First thing today, this morning there was a landmark ruling in a New York state appeals court, which said that a sitting president is not immune from lawsuits filed against him in state court. This is a landmark ruling because this is considered to be unsettled law.
Back in the Clinton administration, the Supreme Court established that a president can be sued in federal court. That was the Paula Jones case. But that Supreme Court ruling in 1997 left the question about state court cases open. Well, today, this New York state appeals court said we think a president can be sued in state court. And so, therefore, this particular state court lawsuit against president Trump that is before us today, it can go forward.
The immediate material consequence of that ruling in New York today is that the lawsuit they were considering when they made this ruling, a lawsuit against the president by a woman named Summer Zervos, that lawsuit will proceed. This is a woman who says the president sexually and aggressively groped her and crucially says he then defamed her when she made that allegation publicly and he publicly claimed that she was a liar.
Her case proceeding now in state court will ultimately lead to discovery in that case. And discovery can be a very big deal. I mean, remember from where we just got all this stuff in the Christopher Steele case? Defamation cases really are one way to get courts to prove one way or nut whether nasty-sounding allegations are actually true. Somebody says you defamed them, they bring you to court for it, right.
Ultimately, the court`s going to be called on, the court process is going to be used, among other things, to determine whether or not the supposedly defamatory allegation was true. So the court will effectively be used in this case if it goes forward to prove whether or not Trump sexually and aggressively groped that woman. So that case at least for now will go forward, although the president`s side certainly will appeal.
As a secondary consequence of that landmark ruling today about state lawsuits being okay against a sitting president, we also got this late in the day, the New York state attorney general going forward with a case against President Trump`s foundation, his so-called charity. Now, that may sound surprising to you because you might remember that in December the president`s charity was shut down after the New York attorney general filed a lawsuit that alleged persistently illegal conduct at that foundation. Well, apparently it being shut down doesn`t mean it`s out of trouble legally.
Within hours of that Summer Zervos appeals court ruling today, Attorney General Tish James in New York was back in court saying that shutting down that foundation down is not enough and that New York state is going after him for it. Quoting from the filings today, quote, Mr. Trump used the foundation`s assets for his own benefit and benefit of entities in which he had a financial interest. Mr. Trump used foundation funds to among other things pay for portraits of himself, make political donations, pay for advertisements for Trump Hotels, settle lawsuits involving his business, the Trump Organization and used it to improperly intervene in the 2016 election.
In using the foundation`s charitable assets, Mr. Trump`s conduct was willful and intentional. Mr. Trump was aware that directors of charities may not use charitable assets for a director`s benefit, and the foundation is absolutely prohibited from using its assets to intervene in public elections, but he nevertheless used money donated to the foundation to benefit his campaign. This arrangement not only violated New York state law, it also ran afoul of federal campaign finance law, turning a charity fund-raiser into a campaign fund-raiser and campaign rallies into opportunities for the candidate to dole out money that the public donated to charity. As a result of this willful and intentional conduct, the court should require Mr. Trump to pay restitution of $2.8 million plus a penalty in the amount of two-point -- excuse me, a penalty in the amount of up to $5.6 million.
So how was your day today? I mean, today the New York attorney general told the president of the United States that he needs to pay $8.4 million to make good on the wrongdoing of his charitable foundation, which he was already forced to shut down by previous action by the New York attorney general.
When it rains, it pours. I mean, all of this stuff is happening all at once. Honestly, it`s not even half of it. More to come.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: Last night, the Republican controlled Senate voted 54-46 to pull the plug on U.S. military support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen. Seven Republican senators voted with the Democrats on that. So, it passed.
That measure is also expected to pass over overwhelmingly in the House. Because it passed the House and the Senate, that resolution will tee up what could be President Trump`s first ever attempt to veto something. He hasn`t tried to do that yet.
Even if it`s first on the resolution, it won`t be the only one. Hard on the heels of the vote yesterday, today, the Republican controlled Senate voted to void the president`s declaration of an emergency so we can build his southern border wall. This time even more Republicans broke ranks and sided against the president, 12 Republicans crossed the aisle to vote with the Democrats this time.
And it was an interesting thing to watch this take shape. On this vote on the wall on the emergency declaration, the president kept insisting Republican senators would stick with him and saying that publicly over and over again. Even as he kept claiming that, the number of Republican defectors on this issue went from initially two and then three and then four, all the way up to the 12 Republican senators who sided against him today.
This is a historic thing, though. This is the first time that the U.S. Congress has ever blocked a presidential emergency declaration. Even ahead of whatever happens with this veto, they have never done something like this before.
Joining us now is Congressman Joaquin Castro of the great state of Texas. He`s a member of the House Intelligence Committee. He also authored the bill in the House to overturn the president`s declaration of an emergency.
Congressman, thank you so much for being here tonight. It`s a real pleasure to have you here.
REP. JOAQUIN CASTRO (D), TEXAS: Thank you for having me, Rachel.
MADDOW: You have to feel validated by the bipartisan nature of the support for your resolution in both the House now and in the Senate.
CASTRO: Yes, that`s right. We got 245 votes in the House and 59 votes in the Senate. So it was a strong bipartisan condemnation of President Trump attempting to go around Congress to fund his border wall. You know, I was predicting we`d get 54 votes in the Senate. We got 59.
MADDOW: In terms of the expected veto, obviously, you need a whole bunch more senators to flip against the president in order to get it up to a veto override. Obviously, it would be a heavy lift to get that threshold in the House, as well. To me, just as an observer that doesn`t seem like a realistic possibility. I imagine you and your colleagues will try for it nonetheless.
CASTRO: Yes, that`s right. You know, when we started this, I said if he tried to use the emergency declaration, to build his border wall and fund his wall, then we would fight him in the courts. We would fight him in Congress and that the American people would fight him.
And so you`re right, overriding any veto is going to be very tough but we`re not going to give up. We`ll continue to fight and do everything that we can to terminate this emergency resolution.
MADDOW: Well, is there a connection, actually, between what just happened with these again votes against the president, those votes to block the president in both houses and pretty big votes in both houses to do that? Is there a connection between that and the legal strategy if this does get into court, will these votes in the House and Senate be material to the way the courts look at this and decide whether the president acted within his constitutional powers here?
CASTRO: Yes, I think you`re absolutely right. They are related. It will be very significant for the courts and perhaps the Supreme Court if it reviews this to see that both chambers of Congress, one re pub can chamber in the Senate and one Democratic in the house of representatives both voted the terminate President Trump`s emergency declaration, because we don`t believe it`s legal and because there is no emergency on our southern border.
MADDOW: To the extent that the Congress, excuse me, that the courts will be considering the sort of plain language understanding of what an emergency is, a majority, bipartisan, bicameral majority of Congress looking at that matter and saying, no, Mr. President, we don`t see the emergency, you have to imagine that moves the courts somewhat but we will see.
CASTRO: No, that was very significant. Thank you, I just want to say as a final thought, Rachel, a thank you to all the Americans who reached out to their members of Congress and their senators and put pressure on these folks to do the right thing. I think that`s why we saw overwhelming numbers in both the House and the Senate.
MADDOW: Congressman Joaquin Castro of the great state of Texas who authored this bill overturning the president`s declaration, of an emergency -- really appreciate you being here tonight, sir. Thanks a lot.
CASTRO: Thank you.
MADDOW: I should always remember, you have to -- if you start stepping on the person, you have to re-invite them back into the conversation or you both end up -- I`ll work on it. I`ll be right back.
MADDOW: Here is one ad, this is subtle. Consider your man card reissued. The fine print reads, if it`s good enough for the professional, it`s good enough for you. Who`s the professional?
One 2012 product catalog shows the silhouette of a soldier holding his helmet. It says, when you need to perform under pressure, if you buy this product, you, too, can do what this soldier does under pressure.
Here`s anther one. Forces of opposition bow down. You are singlehandedly outnumbered, and at this point, just in case it`s not clear we`re selling military capacity here, there`s this quote, it`s tested and proven reliable in the most brutal conditions on earth. It`s the uncompromising choice when you demand a rifle as mission adoptable as you are. It is, quote, the ultimate military combat weapons system -- the ultimate combat weapon system.
In 2014, the families of the first graders and the educators who were killed in the Sandy Hook shooting, they filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Remington, the manufacturer of the rifle that was used in that massacre and they used the company`s marketing as evidence that this was a product that was not being marketed for a lawful use. The argument in court was that this gun maker was specifically marketing the AR-15 rifle to civilians so that those civilians could use it for military style combat in civilian life, which is not a thing you`re legally allowed to do.
During the trial, the lawyer for the families explained it the different way. He said, imagine if a car company marketed a vehicle as being perfect for running people over.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you imagine Ford Motor Company advertising a car to go run over people? Who would hesitate for a second to hold Ford accountable for that?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Who would hesitate to hold Ford accountable for that and who would question that Ford should be held accountable for that, and that American law would allow it?
There is a very specific reason it`s been impossible to hold gun manufacturers accountable following America`s epidemic of mass shooting. It`s because the gun industry alone, among all American industry, the gun industry alone has special immunity. I mean, if you make a pillow that`s prone to burst into flames when exposed to heat, or if you manufacture a flotation device that sinks, not only are you liable to consumer protection regulations that will likely remove your product from the marketplace, or prevent you at least from advertising it.
Not only that, if your product injures or kills somebody because of those failures, you`ll get nailed for it, right? It`s not the case with guns. Guns alone are protected from those types of lawsuits.
In 2005, Congress passed a bill that was later signed into law by President George W. Bush. It`s called the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act. You say the Benetton array there of the diverse group supporting that. That was right before the Democrats swept the House and Senate.
But the lawyers for the families of the Sandy Hook victims may with this lawsuit they initially filed in 2014, they may have become the first people in the country to find a way around that gun maker`s immunity law and it starts with the marketing strategy used by gun makers.
Today, huge, hugely, hugely important ruling in Connecticut. The Supreme Court in Connecticut today ruled that marketing military style guns to civilians as a way of killing enemies, that could be a violation of state fair trade laws. There is a 4-3 decision overturned a lower court ruling that thrown out that lawsuit and, boy, does this open a world of possibilities?
I mean, this ruling paves the way for families to subpoena internal documents on how the gun companies marketed their AR-15s, this rifle that has become the weapon of choice for mass shooters. These are documents, internal documents and communications how they try to sell them and documents the manufacturers fought tooth and nail to keep out of the public eye. Because they fought so hard, it is expected that these documents may provide a brutal glimpse how the industry operates and how it has strategized how to sell its products.
A similar discovery process in court is what pulled back the mask on the tobacco industry and what that industry knew about what it was selling to the American people and how. Discovery in the tobacco cases what forced that industry into a quarter trillion dollar settlement that became the beginning of the end of that industry.
Here for me, though, is maybe the part of this that`s going to be most important to watch. In their ruling today, these judges in the Connecticut Supreme Court said it will fall to a jury to decide the promotional schemes alleged in the case rise to the level of illegal trade practices and whether fault for the tragedy can be laid at their feet. Which means this will no longer be knocking around among judges. This will be a jury, a Connecticut jury that will finally get to decide this case as it specifically relates to what happened at Sandy Hook, and they will get to look how this gun manufacturer marketed this rifle as the ultimate combat weapon system for civilians, in the context of knowing that that rifle took the lives of 20 first graders and six adults, right?
Twenty-six people killed at Sandy Hook, killing all 26 of them took 264 seconds because of the capabilities of that ultimate combat weapon system, for civilians. Two hundred sixty-four seconds.
Gun lobbyists may have immunity thanks to Congress and thanks to President George W. Bush and you may be allowed to market this type of weapon. But, you know, you can`t market a car on the basis how good it would be for running people down in a crowd and maybe this jury in Connecticut will find you can`t market weapons like this to civilians for combat use in civilian life because in civilian life, there is no such thing as legal combat use.
MADDOW: Today, there was a Supreme Court ruling in the state of Connecticut that I think may end up being very, very important for the entire country. It will pave the way for a gun manufacturer called Remington to potentially be held liable for the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. One of the mothers of the victims said about this ruling today, quote: Nobody has blanket immunity. There are consequences. We want our day in court to see what they do to see why they do this this way and what needs to change.
Joining us now here in studio is Joshua Koskoff, who is a lawyer for the Sandy Hook families, and my friend David Wheeler whose son Ben was killed during the shooting.
I want to thank you both for being here. Big win today.
DAVID WHEELER, FATHER OF SANDY HOOK VICTIM: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: David, let me ask you about your reaction. It was a close ruling. It`s 4-3 but you prevailed. How did it -- what was your reaction?
WHEELER: It was overwhelming, of course, in a lot of ways. But when I think back to in the months and weeks when we learned about how this industry works and when we first saw those advertisements that you showed earlier tonight, absolutely shocking and overwhelming in that respect, as well. None of us had any idea that this kind of thing was prevalent and I just don`t understand as I look at it what kind of society allows manhood to be defined that way and that`s what this is about for me, it`s about corporate responsibility.
MADDOW: Josh, one of the reasons I wanted you to be here is because I talked to you here when you filed this because I was intrigued by this as a legal strategy. You at the time were also an interesting character in this because you have not been a gun rights advocate. This is not the space in which you are practicing law.
You came from outside this advocacy world to say hey, I think I see a way forward here. Is this going the way you expected it to?
JOSH KOSKOFF, LAWYER REPRESENTING SANDY HOOK FAMILIES: Oh, exactly. Not 100 percent but it`s going the way, remember, I remember speaking with you and talking about a path that we thought we had found through the block immunity, the gun immunity. That part is going exactly as we thought, and that perspective I think we were able to bring was that of an outsider.
And I had the same experience that David had when you learned about the gun and we saw the marketing. It just leads you to say to yourself, this cannot be legal.
KOSKOFF: This cannot just be above reproach, or above investigation, and that belief and having David come to me and the other clients was more than enough motivation to try to find that path around this thing.
MADDOW: David, I was struck by one of Josh`s arguments in court is that this gun maker didn`t know the man who killed your son and who committed that massacre but that gun manufacturer had been courting him for decades, has essentially been driving their products in the marketplace toward people who should have been recognized as likely to misuse these products. Do you think that`s a fair characterization at all?
WHEELER: I think that`s accurate and it`s important for us to be able to take a look at how those decisions were made. It`s really important for us to be able to see how that manufacturing and marketing and advertising process is related to what happened to us. It`s crucial and this decision allows us to do that. It`s really important.
MADDOW: In terms of Newtown and Sandy Hook and families bonded together because of what you`ve been through.
MADDOW: I remember talking to you very early on after it happened and there was no clear sense of what was going to feel like the right way forward. Obviously, there`s no right way to do this.
How does it feel overall in the context with everything you`re coping with, to be working on fights like this? I mean, this is a confrontational thing and it upsets people and it gets people mad and calls to question -- how does it feel?
WHEELER: Well, I can only speak to that personally and I think it`s important work and I think it has to be done, and I certainly respect and allow anyone else the validity of the way they respond to something like this.
WHEELER: But this is what I have to do. This is how I have to move through the world. This is how I have to look at myself in the mirror in the morning. If I don`t do this, it has to be done.
MADDOW: Josh, what happens next in the case?
KOSKOFF: We`re ready. We`re ready to peel back the curtain and find out if I get the stuff they had been hiding.
MADDOW: To get the internal documents from manufacturers.
KOSKOFF: You know, one thing is clear, Rachel, is that they have done everything they can so far to prevent us from seeing their documents and their e-mails and their marketing strategy. So, it just kind of begs the question what are they afraid of.
And so I think we owe it to certainly the families and I think the public ought to see these things and make up their minds whether this is something acceptable for the community or not.
MADDOW: Joshua Koskoff, lawyer for the Sandy Hook families, David Wheeler, it`s great to see you, my friend. Thanks. Thanks. Come back. Keep us apprised.
We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Here is a deep cut. Do you remember the one absolutely inexplicable moment late in the 2016 campaign when Trump held a rally in Jackson, Mississippi? Right, that`s weird late in the campaign because Mississippi is not a place Republicans have to campaign in the general election. What`s he doing in Mississippi?
Then while, he`s in Mississippi, out of nowhere in Mississippi, he invites up on stage a British guy in a pink tie who starts talking in his British accent about fighting Brussels bureaucrats and how terrible Angela Merkel is and everybody is like, who is this guy and why is this happening in Mississippi?
Then, when Trump got elected, that guy, Trump`s favorite British person was like the first person to show up at Trump Tower after election to congratulate Trump on his win. That was also weird.
Today, it all came due and that`s our last story tonight. That`s next.
MADDOW: British parliament voted to delay their country leaving the E.U. That exit is otherwise slated to happen catastrophically in two weeks. So, they voted to delay it, but it`s not their decision to make. All 27 members of the E.U. have to agree unanimously to let the Brits have an extension. Only one country peeling off blows the whole thing up.
I know this is hard to imagine but the man we know to be President Trump`s favorite British person of all, his friend, the right wing, super anti- immigrant Brexit advocated Nigel Farage is now reportedly actively lobbying other countries in Europe to get one of them to block the delay. Farage is trying to find one European country, maybe the new right wing government in Italy, anybody will do, to stop the U.K. from getting this delay it`s elected leaders are asking for so that Britain is forced to crash out in two weeks with no plan.
One British paper summed it up, quote, having campaigned for most of his life for British sovereignty, Nigel Farage is now asking the E.U. to go against the British government. And Farage may be blowing smoke here, but that feeling today that I`m pending disaster may temporarily postponed in our closest overseas ally, that may be short lived if President Trump`s best British friend gets his way.
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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