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Top intelligence chief to step down. TRANSCRIPT: 7/29/19, The Rachel Maddow Show.

Guests: Dina Titus

EZRA KLEIN, VOX EDITOR-AT-LARGE:  I think the fundamental question is, how do you guarantee universality?  The second question, how do you make sure the pricing in the American health care system goes down, which you can do either, using Medicare rates or extending them?

And then I think you have to look at what do people actual want.  I don`t agree with Abdul that you can totally take the politics out of politics. 

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST:  So, I`m up against another show.  So, Abdul, I`m going to tell the people who listen to the hour-long podcast you and I did on "Why This is Happening" in which you make a case in the other direction, instead of giving you the time now because I`m now 15 seconds over. 

Abdul El-Sayed, Ezra Klein, thank you both with being with me.

That is ALL IN for this evening.

"THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts now with Joy Reid, in for Rachel. 

Good evening, Joy.

JOY REID, MSNBC HOST:  Good evening, Chris.  And I`m going to listen to the podcast. 

HAYES:  It`s good. 

REID:  OK, I`m going to listen to it.  Thank you, man.  I appreciate it. 

Thank you as well at home for joining us this hour.  Rachel has the night off. 

OK.  Remember summers?  They used to be so light and fun and relaxing.  And for the news business, super slow.  Well, not anymore.  Now, summer is just another season in the reality show we`re all trapped in together. 

For example, the U.S. House of Representatives began its six-week summer recess at the end of last week, but just today, three more House Democrats made public pronouncements that they are now in favor of an impeachment inquiry regarding Donald Trump. 

Now, if you add them to those who announced their support this weekend in the wake of Robert Mueller`s testimony last week, a number of lawmakers and the number of lawmakers calling for an impeachment inquiry is now over 110 and quickly approaching half of the Democratic caucus in the House.  We`re going to speak live with one of those three members of Congress who announced their support for an impeachment inquiry today.  Very shortly. 

But starting tomorrow, all eyes in the political universe will not be on Washington but on Detroit, where 20 Democratic presidential candidates will be participating in the second primary debate over the next two nights, and particularly because they will be meeting in Detroit, not just a major American city, but a majority black city, the Democratic candidates will doubtlessly pressed to respond to the latest racist attack from the president they hope to defeat. 

Donald Trump`s weekend tirade which continued into today against Congressman Elijah Cummings and his majority black Baltimore district, calling it a disgusting rat and rodent-infested mess, is now as routine and predictable as it is outrageous and ugly. 

Trump singling out a lawmaker of color, attacking a majority black urban area, after being tweaked by something he saw on Fox News, and projecting his own qualities onto others, calling Congressman Cummings racist and a bully. 

It`s also clear by now that this is how Donald Trump intends to run for a second term.  Whether you think this is intentional political strategy or just can`t control himself, the racism, the xenophobia, the stoking of people`s worst impulses, this is the Trump 2020 campaign.  Not the economy or jobs or some normal political thing.  It`s just this. 

Which means that even if we wish we could just ignore Trump`s provocations on a day like this, we cannot.  And so, we`re going to talk more this hour about his vitriol, and we`ll be joined live by the Reverend Al Sharpton who came to the defense of Cummings and his city and earned his own attacks from the president for that today.  And also by Michael Steele, the former lieutenant governor of Maryland and former head of the Republican National Committee.  The two of them came together to defend Baltimore. 

But on a day like today when so much oxygen is being eaten up, understandably so, by what the president says, it`s important to also pay attention to what the president is doing. 

One of the things we learned from the Mueller report is that "lock her up" was not just something Donald Trump said at political rallies to get the base all pumped up.  Once he became president, Donald Trump really did try to get the U.S. Justice Department to go after his political enemies, calling the attorney general at home to tell him to, quote, direct the department of justice to investigate and prosecute Hillary Clinton.  Meeting privately with the attorney general and telling him that, quote, the Department of Justice was not investigating individuals and events that the president thought the department should be investigating, like Hillary Clinton`s emails.  Pulling the attorney general aside in the Oval Office right after former national security adviser Michael Flynn had pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI, again telling the A.G. that he needed to open an investigation of Hillary Clinton.  The president told the attorney general, quote, you`d be a hero. 

Trump wanted his Justice Department to investigate and prosecute Hillary Clinton, and he told them to do it repeatedly, and he repeatedly expressed frustration and anger that it was not happening under Attorney General Jeff Sessions.  The president told NBC`s Chuck Todd last month that giving sessions that job was the worst mistake of his presidency. 

But he eventually fixed that mistake.  He fired Jeff Sessions and got a new attorney general.  Nominated and confirmed.  And his new attorney general got right to work absolving the president of obstruction of justice immediately upon receiving the special counsel`s report, keeping that report under wraps for weeks while he publicly painted it as an exoneration of the president. 

William Barr has been hard at work launching the kinds of investigations that Donald Trump has waited for so long for, the kind that are premised on the idea that maybe the investigators of Russia`s interference in our election and Americans accepting that interference, the people who investigated those things, well, maybe they are the real criminals. 

Another thing we know from the Mueller report and also from great reporting and from career government officials trying to raise the alarm is that it`s not only the Justice Department that`s been under this kind of pressure from the president.  Donald Trump has also been trying very hard ever since taking office to bend the intelligence agencies to his will in the same way.  And if Trump`s repeated efforts to take over the Justice Department manifested themselves in the constant browbeating of Jeff Sessions, then his efforts to take over the intelligence community manifested in the awkward pauses of national director of intelligence, Dan Coats. 


SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CT):  Have you talked about this issue with Admiral Rogers? 

DAN COATS, DNI:  That is -- that is something that I -- I would like to withhold that question at this particular point in time. 


REID:  Truly one of the greatest sound bites of the Trump era, courtesy of DNI Dan Coats.  That was Coats back in 2017 being asked in the Senate about Trump putting pressure on him and pressure on the head of the National Security Agency, Mike Rogers, about the Russia investigation.  Senator Richard Blumenthal asked coats in an open hearing, so when both of you got pressure about the president on the Russia matter, did you guys ever talk to each other about that?  Have you talked about this issue with Admiral Rogers? 

At which point, Dan Coats paused for nine seconds, which as you can see, is an eternity in congressional hearing time.  Dan Coats actually scored a second Hall of Fame nominee for sound bites in our -- of our insane era in American politics and it came during a conversation he wad with NBC`s Andrea Mitchell at a security conference last year, where Coats criticized aspects of Trump`s meeting with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki. 


ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS:  I want to say, we have some breaking news, the White House has announced on Twitter that Vladimir Putin is coming to the White House in the fall. 

COATS:  Say that again? 


MITCHELL:  You -- Vladimir Putin coming to --

COATS:  Did I hear you? 

MITCHELL:  Yes.  Yes. 




COATS:  That`s going to be special. 



REID:  Honestly, a lot of people thought coats would be out as director of national intention intelligence the next morning after that performance.  But he survived, and for the record, Vladimir Putin never did visit. 

Coats stayed on long enough to deliver to Congress earlier this year a report from the intelligence community that contradicted Donald Trump at nearly every turn.  Coats said North Korea was not giving up its nuclear stockpile, that Iran was not taking steps to build a nuclear weapon, and that the Islamic state was not defeated. 

Trump responded by calling the intelligence community, quote, passive and naive saying, quote, perhaps intelligence should go back to school.  After meeting personally with Coats and the CIA director, Trump claimed that, in fact, they totally agreed with him, they had been misquoted, misquoted in the official report that they, themselves, submitted to Congress.  But the Trump tweet comes for everyone eventually and this weekend it was Dan Coats` turn. 

The president tweeting that Coats is stepping down and now, Donald Trump will have the opportunity to install someone more to his liking at the top of the country`s intelligence apparatus, just as he did at the Justice Department.  Donald Trump is learning from his hiring mistakes just as Jeff Sessions, Dan Coats, apparently did not do enough protecting of Donald Trump, nor enough going after Trump`s enemies. 

I mean, look at the bang-up job the new attorney general is doing.  He`s investigating the intelligence community, itself, looking for evidence at they were all totally wrong about Russia trying to help Trump in 2016.  Now, that is loyalty. 

But when Trump announced in May that he was granting the attorney general authority to selectively make public any classified information that he wants to, Dan Coats pushed back, warning about the consequences.  Coats said the intelligence community would continue providing, quote, apolitical intelligence to the president. 

Well, we can`t have that.  So, now, Coats is out and the president is ready to finally have someone at the top of the intelligence community who thinks the investigation into Trump is a sham. 


REP. JOHN RATCLIFFE (R-TX):  Americans need to know this, as they listen to the Democrats and socialists on the other side of the aisle, as they do dramatic readings from this report, that volume 2 of this report was not authorized under the law to be written.  It was written to a legal standard that does not exist at the Justice Department, and it was written in violation of every DOJ principle about extra prosecutorial commentary. 

I agree with the chairman this morning when he said Donald Trump is not above the law.  He`s not, but he damn sure shouldn`t be below the law which is where volume 2 of this report puts him. 


REID:  Wow.  That is Republican Congressman John Ratcliffe of Texas. 

Donald Trump`s pick to be the nation`s top intelligence official telling Robert Mueller that while Democrats might want to talk about what`s in his report, Congressman Ratcliffe is of the opinion that the report should never have been written in the first place. 

But, hey, you know where there were crimes?  President Obama`s administration.  That`s what Ratcliffe told Fox News yesterday.  That`s what the new pick for national intelligence chief says ought to be gone after, the last Democratic administration.  And especially the people involved in the Russia administration. 

So on a day like today, we do have to watch what the president says because the things he`s saying, the attacks he`s launching, and the targets he`s choosing, it`s so repellent that it has an actual tangible effect on our politics and our social fabric.  So, we are going to talk more this hour about that. 

But on a day like today, we also need to watch very carefully what the president is doing. 

Joining us now is Ned Price.  He worked at the CIA for more than ten years and thought he would spend his whole career at the CIA, until Donald Trump was elected.  In February 20617, Ned Price quit his job at the CIA in defiance of the president`s posture toward the intelligence community. 

And he wrote, quote, I didn`t think I`d ever leave the CIA, but because of Trump, I quit.

Thanks so much for being here. 


REID:  Great to see you, too. 

When everyone is a mad man, the least mad person seems sane, right?  Is that sort of the way that you would look at Dan Coats, that he might not have been heroic, but at least he seemed like somewhat credible? 

PRICE:  Yes, I think you`re on to something.  I think we have a tendency during this administration that`s perfectly understandable to deify decent but flawed public servants.  And I think that`s how we should characterize Dan Coats.  He was a decent, a decent man but he was certainly flawed.  I think he could have done more to stands up to the mane women of the intelligence community when their work was being politicized.  I think he could have done more to stand up to declassifications of things like the Nunes memo. 

REID:  Right. 

PRICE:  These efforts that had no other ends except to protect Donald Trump.  I think he could have done more and said so publicly.  When Donald Trump asked in the Oval Office to intervene with Comey and to intervene with Mueller, to put this Russia investigation to bed, I think he should have sounded the alarm at the time.  But I think we do have to judge Dan Coats by what he did do, and that is when push came to shove, he did speak truth to power before the American people. 

We know that the intelligence community continues to assess with high confidence that Russia was behind the attack on our election because Dan Coats said so.  We know that Iran was abiding by the terms of the Iran deal because Dan Coats said so publicly in congressional testimony.  We know that the intelligence community has concluded that North Korea almost certainly won`t denuclearize because Dan Coats was very clear about that in public testimony and in his written work and much to the ire of President Trump, as you noted. 

REID:  Well, you know, there is -- that is true, and, I mean, he did tell us a lot, but he was also operating in a world in which Donald Trump made sure that the deputy director of the FBI lost his pension.  I mean, the punitive nature of the rule of Donald Trump is a real thing.  So, does it surprise you that more people have not, you know, either publicly in testimony, et cetera, come out and said what they know? 

PRICE:  Well, it`s a balancing act, right?  I think we saw Dan Coats do this every single day.  There were a couple occasions where he spoke up.  He did so after President Trump`s summit in Helsinki with Vladimir Putin where President Trump embraced Putin`s assessment rather than the conclusions of our intelligence community that Russia was behind this attack. 

Dan Coats, to his credit, issued a statement, but you always have to balance when you have someone decent in that post, like Dan Coats, someone who wants to do the right thing day in, day out, knowing what will come after him will be so much worse, then I think now we`ve seen that nightmare come to life with the nomination of John Ratcliffe who may well succeed Dan Coats. 

REID:  And John Ratcliffe, he seems to be in a sense a William Barr in the sense that he`s willing to take Donald Trump`s view of everything including the intelligence regarding whether Russia attacked this country`s election to help Donald Trump.  He seems to not believe that.  He seems, I don`t know, potentially maybe he`d be open to investigating the Obama administration, which you were a part of. 

How much danger are we in if Donald Trump puts a Donald Trump in charge of the national intelligence services? 

PRICE:  Well, look, it`s no secret that this presidency has been a continuous assault on the men and women of the intelligence community.  It started even before Donald Trump took office when he was a candidate, in the final throes of the campaign, of course.  He casually dismissed the then-high confidence findings of the intelligence assessment regarding Russia`s aggression.  When he was president-elect, he tweeted, comparing our intelligence professionals to Nazis, on his first full day in office. 

He went out to the CIA headquarters, stood before the most solemn site in all of Langley, memorial wall, at the time commemorated the 117 men and women of the CIA who had given their lives in service to the country and bragged about the size of the crowd at his inauguration the day before.  All the while he`s politicized intelligence, he has suppressed intelligence, he has taken part in the politicized declassifications. 

But I have to say that if Ratcliffe is confirmed by the Senate, that would by far be the most dangerous assault we have seen to date on the men and women of the intelligence community and their work.  And I say that because as you said, he would be the Bill Barr of the intelligence community.  He would be a Bill Barr but who would keep all the secrets, who would know where the bodies are buried.  We pointed to the president`s bestowal to Bill Barr of declassification authority --

REID:  Yes. 

PRICE:  -- when it came to the Russia investigation. 

I think the key point there is the president had to take a proactive step.  He had to bestow this upon the attorney general.  If Ratcliffe is in that position, if he sits atop the nation`s 17 intelligence agencies, that won`t be necessary to bestow that authority on him.  It will be inherent to his job to declassify and to classify, to keep what the president wants secret and declassify what the president wants out there for his own personal and political ends. 

REID:  We`re out f o time, but could he apprise Donald Trump of what the contents of the counterintelligence investigation are still going on about Donald Trump are? 

PRICE:  He`s not supposed to, but he would certainly be privy to that.  And I think as we`ve heard from Adam Schiff and others on the House Intelligence Committee, they continue to demand the full access, as is required by statute, to the counterintelligence findings that Mueller and his team collected over time and they`ve yet do get those full findings. 

I think if John Ratcliffe is nominated and if he is, in fact, confirmed to this post, the intelligence committee can probably kiss their chances of seeing those findings good-bye. 

REID:  It`s pretty scary.  And more Bill Barr, not a good thing. 

Ned price, former CIA intelligence officer and NSC spokesperson -- thank you very much for being here. 

PRICE:  Thank you. 

REID:  Appreciate it. 

All right.  We have a lot more to get to on this busy Monday night.  We`re going talk to Reverend Al Sharpton, the latest target of Donald Trump`s vitriol, and also with one of the latest Democratic members of Congress to call for an impeachment inquiry. 

Stay with us. 



DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  In a few moments, I will sign the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund.  This law makes permanent the financial support for families who lost precious loved ones as a result of September 11th attacks.  It also provides pensions for those who are suffering from cancer and other illnesses stemming from the toxic debris they were exposed to in the aftermath of the attacks.  Many of those affected were firefighters, police officers, and other first responders.

And I was down there also, but I`m not considering myself a first responder, but I was down there.  I spent a lot of time down there with you. 


REID:  I`m not considering myself a first responder, but I was down there. 

That was Donald Trump at a signing ceremony for the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund.  And thank you, Mr. President, for letting us know you know you`re not a first responder and know you played no role in the heroic response to 9/11. 

This is not the first time that Donald Trump has tried to twist the worst terrorist attack inside the United States to make it about himself.  On the very afternoon of 9/11, just a few hours after the planes crashed into the Twin Towers, Trump called into a local TV station and bragged that he now had the tallest building in downtown Manhattan, since the World Trade Center had collapsed.  Not only was that a really monstrous reaction to the collapse, which killed nearly 3,000 people, the tallest tower brag wasn`t even true. 

Trump would even use the attacks as a way to rake in federal money, accepting $150,000 in post-9/11 funding for a building that hadn`t actually been damaged in the attacks.  More than a decade later, he used 9/11 as a campaign tool, telling the pernicious lie that thousands of New Jersey Muslims had celebrated as the towers fell.  He even claimed that his Muslim ban would have stopped 9/11. 

Now, in a normal world, today`s event would have been a somber occasion, as well as a decidedly nonpartisan one.  The legislation that Trump signed into law today passed both chambers of Congress with near unanimous support, even with Rand Paul of Kentucky trying to stop it because he thought caring for America`s first responders is too expensive, unlike tax cuts.  And comedian Jon Stewart had to step in and shame Mitch McConnell into putting it on the floor. 

And yet, the lead co-sponsor of the bill, Democratic Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney of New York, said that she never received an invite to today`s ceremony.  Trump even made a joke about the structure he was standing on may be falling down and people getting hurt, at a 9/11 signing.  Today was just one more way of him making the presidency smaller and smaller. 

Earlier this month, he told four congresswomen of color, all citizens of this country, to go back to where they came from.  And this weekend, he targeted Congressman Elijah Cummings, calling his Baltimore district, which to be clear, has lots of different areas, affluent, not affluent, and like many cities, and, yes, world counties, too, some struggling, a disgusting rat- and rodent-infested mess, leaving one of the most well-liked members of Congress in either party a bully and a racist. 

Now, of course, these attacks are full of irony, and not just the irony that Trump should be patient zero for his wife`s "Be Best" campaign, Donald Trump and his father once owned a housing complex just outside of Baltimore.  And according to a 2017 book by "Washington Post" reporters Michael Kranish and Marc Fisher, Trump`s father was served with an arrest warrant in 1976 for housing people in poor conditions. 

Just a year earlier, the Trump family business had settled a housing discrimination lawsuit in New York City for having rejected black renters.  And these days, according to numerous reports, Trump`s son-in-law and presidential adviser, Jared Kushner, owns lots of Baltimore-area apartments, some of which are infested with mice and not exactly great places for economically struggling people to live. 

Although, to be fair, for other news reports, Mar-a-Lago and the Trump Tower grill in New York City have been found to have infestation problems, too, so the Trump family might just be equal opportunity bad landlords.  After getting slammed for attacking Congressman Cummings, Trump started lashing out against Nancy Pelosi`s district and finally landing on a new yet old target.  Reverend Al Sharpton who has known Trump and been sparring with him since Trump`s heyday in New York City in the 1980s. 

This morning, he blasted Reverend Sharpton as a con man who hates whites and cops.  But Trump apparently doesn`t know Reverend Sharpton very well, or at least not well enough to understand that he would not back down.  Instead, Sharpton responded, quote: Trump says I`m a troublemaker and con man.  I do make trouble for bigots.  If he really thought I was a con man, he would want me in his cabinet. 

Joining me now is Reverend Al Sharpton, host of "POLITICS NATION" here on MSNBC and president of the National Action Network.  And Michael Steele, former lieutenant governor of Maryland and former chairman of the Republican National Committee.  Earlier today, they came together for a news conference to condemn the president`s comments on Congressman Cummings and the city of Baltimore. 

Thank you, both, for being here.  I`m going to come to you first here at the table, Michael Steele, because, first of all, this pairing, right, the most unlikely pairing shows that in normal politics, you and I are friends. 


REID:  We don`t agree on anything I`m sure politically. 

STEELE:  Right. 

REID:  But there was a time when you could be the chief pugilist against President Obama and still be friends with lots of Democrats which you are. 


REID:  Donald Trump has brought this new thing in where he goes after not any congressman, but the nicest congressman but also Baltimore.  And you used to be lieutenant governor of Maryland. 

What are your thoughts? 

STEELE:  This was a zero-sum calculation by the president in that for anybody else other than him, there was -- there was no benefit to this.  We just go down this rabbit hole and just get lost in it which is the way he likes us to play.  So, there`s no -- for the communities that are affected by what he says, you sit in stunned silence, which is why it was so important for people to stand up and speak and say something in that moment. 

The deafening silence from members of my own party who you all know, and I hate doing the what-aboutism with Obama and all that, but you know if Barack Obama had said something about Appalachia or some poor neighborhood in Mississippi, where it was all white and said it was infested with rats and no one would want to live there, these Republicans would lose their damn mind. 

REID:  Remember when he said people were coddling their guns and clinging to their guns.  They went crazy. 

STEELE:  They went crazy.

So, it was important to say something, and it was gratuitous for the rev and I to be together, we already planned to be together some 30 days before.  We had planned to do this conversation on Baltimore and housing.  I`ve written a couple of pieces that have been up online talking about the crisis that has still not been addressed that will impact what`s left of the middle class, but particularly hurt African-American and Hispanic homeowners should we go down that road again because the banks still constrict access to affordable housing by their lending practices, red-line communities.  So we wanted to have that conversation. 

And then the president drops this tweet and it, again, raises the bar of the conversation to the point where you realize that these policies are inherently racist in and of themselves. 

REID:  Yes. 

STEELE:  And the president contributed to that conversation. 

REID:  And kept it going.  You know, and Reverend Sharpton, it`s interesting because you`ve known Donald Trump for a really long time.  And you made the point earlier today, you and I`ve talked about this, you know, he`s called you when he won the White House.  He`s known you that long. 

The fact that he went back to going and attacking you and trying to basically use you as a wedge to further, you know, gin up just anger among white voters, is that who he`s always been or is this a new Donald Trump we`re seeing right now? 

AL SHARPTON, MSNBC HOST, "POLITICSNATION":  I think that he`s always been one that would play any card that he felt was to his advantage.  Clearly, we fought over the Central Park Five case where I marched on him.  Clearly, we disagree on many issues.  But you would think that he as president would be more concerned with governing. 

I marched on George Bush, but George Bush invited me to his last speech as president at a school in Philadelphia and praised me for being there saying, we can at least try to pull the country together on education.  This is his last speech.  As you know, Joy, President Obama had Newt Gingrich and I tour. 

So this kind of low-level immature ranting that he does is something beneath the presidency.  When you look at the fact, not only did he say I hate whites, he said Congressman Elijah Cummings who has a significant amount of whites in his district was a racist.  Donald Trump must think he is a race because to disagree with him makes you against a whole race of people. 

No, we`re against his policies, and I think that the critical thing is that when you have the former chair of the Republican Party, Michael Steele, who he and I disagree like President Bush and I did, say that we`ll come together, go to Baltimore, deal with the threat of many blacks and Latinos being redlined, not being able to get what they should without banks, and we come together in a bipartisan way and he turns this whole thing around tweeting and attacking me for standing up for Elijah Cummings who we all know is not a racist and we all know has a district, as you said accurately, that has affluent and well-educated constituents, and like any other district may have some rural areas that are struggling. 

When he, his father, owned property there in Baltimore where it is reported that his son-in-law does now, it is about building and having solutions to problems not just name calling.  I have for years been open to dealing with people I disagree with, and even that I felt may have had some kind of racial antagonism, including Donald Trump.  Donald Trump has come two or three times to National Action Network`s convention.  Donald Trump called me and asked me to meet with him after he was elected. 

If you thought somebody hated whites and cops, why would you go to their conventions?  Why would you call them as president?  Omarosa Manigault wrote in her book he continuously said to get out and meet with me. 

He doesn`t believe that, but he believes he can play the race car and prey on people in a demagogic way to try to in some kind of way energize them and to ignite them in a racial divide that would lead to his re-election.  I think it`s bad for the country, and I do not think it will work politically. 

REID:  Yes.  And the point about his son owning property, himself -- wonder who owns those buildings because I wonder if we looked into it if people are mistreating the folks in those buildings, maybe we want to talk to those folks. 

Reverend Al Sharpton, Michael Steele, thank you both for being here and what you did today.  Appreciate you. 

And coming up next, here tonight, some good news for Democrats.  Hey, good news, in your bid to keep control of the House next year. 

Stay with us. 


REID:  We are less than 24 hours from the next Democratic presidential debate, where the first slate of candidates will face off in Detroit.  I can already feel the tension from here. 

While we wait for tip off tomorrow night, I have something for you to keep an eye on.  Today, Republican Congressman Rob Bishop of Utah announced he`ll not be running for re-election next November.  He`s the fourth house Republican in two weeks to announce they are vacating their seats, including Congresswoman Martha Roby from Alabama.  Congresswoman Roby is one of 13, just 13 Republican women in the House. 

She`s the second Republican woman to announce that she`s giving up her seat ahead of 2020, which means House Republicans are losing, get this, 15 percent of their entire female caucus next year.  Oops. 

While House Republicans seem to be scavenging for help-wanted signs to post outside their offices, House Democrats are fighting like Arya Stark facing the night king to try to keep the House blue in 2020 and they`re doing it with a firewall of cash.  This is from "The Associated Press" today, quote: Each of the 62 freshmen House Democrats has raised more than money than their top opponent.  The same is true for all 31 Democrats from districts Donald Trump had won in 2016 and for all for all 39 Democrats who switched Republican-held seats last November.

All eyes are on tomorrow`s debate and the Democratic blitz to take back the White House from Donald Trump, but there are a ton of interesting races down-ticket to keep an eye on as we inch closer to 2020.  Start taking notes. 

More ahead tonight.  Stay with us. 


REID:  When we last left the United States Congress on Friday, the House Judiciary Committee was going to court to pry loose the secret grand jury material from Robert Mueller`s report.  At the time, Chairman Jerry Nadler also offered a coming attractions preview for this week, starting with a lawsuit to try and enforce a subpoena against former White House counsel Don McGahn and to get him to testify. 

Now, you`ll remember that McGahn refused back in May to testify before Congress.  McGahn claimed he has absolute immunity from congressional subpoenas which House Democrats say is poppycock.  They are threatening jail time and fines for McGahn if he does not comply, and they said on Friday, they would be going to court early this week to push the issue.  Well, Monday`s all but over and still, there`s no sign of that McGahn lawsuit.  So tick, tick, tick. 

Meanwhile, it is worth remembering the other big thing that Chairman Nadler rolled out on Friday, the idea that a de facto impeachment inquiry is effectively already under way.  House Democrats told the court they need the grand jury material as part of considering what Congress should do about potential articles of impeachment. 

The message from a growing number of Democrats, go for it.  Despite the naysaying of punditry after Robert Mueller`s testimony failed to dazzle the media, on Sunday, alone, a surge of congressional Democrats announcing they would support an impeachment inquiry brought the total to 107.  Support for an impeachment inquiry is approaching a milestone that Speaker Pelosi is reportedly watching closely. 

As of Sunday night, it was just 11 votes shy of being a majority of all House Democrats.  And the run continued today.  Missouri Congressman Emanuel Cleaver of Missouri said he is for an impeachment inquiry, so did Congressman Jose Serrano of New York, and so did a lawmaker who singled out this exchange from Robert Mueller`s testimony as the reason she got off the fence. 


REP. VAL DEMINGS (D-FL):  OK.  Could you say, director Mueller, that the president was credible? 

ROBERT MUELLER, FORMER SPECIAL COUNSEL:  I can`t answer that question. 

DEMINGS:  Director Mueller, isn`t it fair to say that the president`s written answers were not only inadequate and incomplete because he didn`t answer many of your questions, but where he did his answers show that he wasn`t always being truthful? 

MUELLER:  There -- I would say, generally. 


REID:  That exchange with Robert Mueller saying Trump`s answers generally weren`t always truthful got Democratic Congresswoman Dina Titus to announce she`s also in. 


REP. DINA TITUS (D-NV):  I`m calling for an impeachment inquiry because of the mounting evidence that Donald Trump has repeatedly broken the law to protect his own interests.  To be clear, misleading the public and the press is not an impeachable offense, but lying to law enforcement officials who are investigating attack on our democracy and ordering the staff to do the same are serious crimes. 


REID:  And joining us now is Congresswoman Dina Titus from the great state of Nevada. 

And, Congresswoman Titus, thanks very much for joining us. 

So, you are now off the fence and you say it was Robert Mueller`s testimony that moved you in that direction.  Was it solely on the question of lying, potentially, to the FBI, or were there other aspects of what you heard from Robert Mueller that moved you to where you are now? 

TITUS:  Well, that was certainly one of the factors, but it`s been accumulation of things that really led me to this point, the fact that they have not answered our questions.  They have not provided information.  They won`t come and testify, hiding behind executive privilege, all of that in addition to the Mueller testimony. 

And also, I`m trying to conduct a study on the emoluments violation with the hotel and they just stonewalled us as well.  And the people who are calling me here in my district in Las Vegas since the Mueller television investigation have just increased in number and intensity in favor of this moving forward with this impeachment inquiry. 

REID:  And you got to a question I wanted to ask you.  So before Robert Mueller testified, did you hear a lot from your constituents about impeachment?  Did it increase after Mueller spoke? 

TITUS:  Well, I`ve heard kind of a consistent drumbeat, but it certainly increased after the investigation.  I think one of the reason that people are paying attention here in Nevada is that we are the first in the West with the caucus, so a lot of the presidential candidates have been coming, they`re paying closer attention to the issue here.  And that has gotten them more and more stirred up. 

REID:  And there`s been this sort of meme, the reason not to impeach, what people are saying to their representatives that they just want to hear about -- they don`t want this done.  That`s kind of been the perception that Democrats believe that the public doesn`t want it.  You`re saying that`s not true. 

TITUS:  I don`t think it`s true in my district and I think as people get more information as we do an inquiry, it will be less and less the case.  They want us to get things done.  We`ve always said we need to legislate as well as investigate. 

The frustration should really be with the Senate because we have passed some major legislation out of the House in terms of election protection, gun violence, Medicare, protecting our health care issues, and so, I think they need to focus on the Senate.  That`s where the frustration should be. 

REID:  Yes.  And as far as the impeachment inquiry as it stands now, do you believe, as you said you want to look more into the emoluments clause violations, et cetera. 

TITUS:  Yes. 

REID:  That with an impeachment inquiry, or what`s been called an impeachment investigation, do you believe Congress will have more power to get testimony and documents?  Is it your understanding that this is the same as an impeachment inquiry that gives Congress more power in terms of issuing demands for testimony and documents? 

TITUS:  I believe it will.  It will have more gravitas if it`s an official impeachment inquiry.  It will be more focused.  There will be more pressure on the executive to comply and we will have more information in a consolidated way. 

I think it will give us more authority to get some of that information that they just don`t want to give us.  Makes you wonder what they`re trying to hide. 

REID:  And do you worry that as this moves forward with Donald Trump, you know, I`m sure he will not be pleased with this happening and may try to impede the investigations even further, are you concerned that he`s got one William Barr in place to potentially wreak havoc even though as you said, an impeachment inquiry supposed to give Congress more power? 

TITUS:  Well, certainly, he`s got some of his henchmen surrounding him in key positions, but we do still have the courts and I want to put some faith in the Supreme Court.  And that executive privilege that he likes to claim is not an absolute privilege in the Constitution.  It`s interpreted over time.  It doesn`t apply for criminal investigations. 

And I think some of his activities, whether it`s paying off the women that`s a campaign violation, or the emoluments clause violations are illegal and worth pursuing on the criminal level. 

REID:  All right.  Well, Congresswoman Dina Titus of Nevada, thank you so much.  We really appreciate you joining me tonight. 

TITUS:  Thank you for having me. 

REID:  Thank you. 

And one quick programming note: House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler will be Lawrence O`Donnell`s guest tonight on "THE LAST WORD".  That`s coming up at the top of the hour.  You don`t want to miss that. 

We`ll be right back.


REID:  More than a thousand protesters were arrested in Moscow this weekend in one of the biggest crackdowns in the Russian capital in years.  Disturbing videos like this one captured the violent scenes as security forces in riot gear beat people and violently dragged them away from city hall. 

Tens of thousands of people had turned up to protest the exclusion of 30 opposition candidates from the ballot, from Moscow`s city council.  Officials say those candidates were ineligible because they didn`t collect enough valid signatures to run.  But the candidates say they were blocked for political reasons. 

And so, protesters marched, shouting, "Russia without Putin" and "Let them in".  Authorities tried to shut down the rallies saying they are unauthorized.  But these very brave people showed up, anyway. 

Then on Sunday, this story took a very unsettling turn.  Alexei Navalny, the Russian opposition leader who was sent to jail for organizing these protests was rushed to the hospital with what his spokesperson called an allergic reaction.  His personal doctor suggested Navalny had no allergies and may have been poisoned. 

Earlier today, Navalny was released from the hospital and returned to jail.  He later released a statement raising several questions about the situation.  He says a Russian news agency shared a detailed report of his condition that he did not receive. 

He also says that while he doesn`t think local police poisoned him, he believed the Russian authorities are, quote, stupid enough to try.  As for the whereabouts of Vladimir Putin during Saturday`s crackdown, he was out of town more than 400 miles away in a mini submarine, checking out a soviet sub that sank during World War II. 

Joining us now, Michael McFaul, former U.S. ambassador to Russia. 

Ambassador McFaul, thank you very much for being here. 


REID:  Let`s start with the Navalny part.  But actually, let`s start with the protesters first.  Because it seems to be very brave for ordinary people to go out and protest this government and to demand fair elections. 

How much risk, in your view, were these folks putting themselves in? 

MCFAUL:  A lot of risk.  I mean, 1,300, excuse me, were arrested and many were beaten.  If the videos that were on social media sites over the weekend were really atrocious, what happened to them, and because it was unauthorized, you know, they had the right to crack down on them from their point of view.  I think this may be the largest unauthorized demonstration in Moscow maybe since the collapse of the Soviet Union, and I just think it shows how frustrated at least Moscovites are not being able to vote for candidates in free and fair elections. 

REID:  Yes.  And Mr. Navalny seems incredibly brave to take on Vladimir Putin who, you know, there are many poisonings that seemed to be linked to the Kremlin that`s happened before.  He`s now back in jail.  How much of a threat is he realistically to Vladimir Putin`s rule for life, which that`s what appears he has? 

MCFAUL:  You know, my own view analytically is I don`t think it`s much of a threat.  Putin controls this place.  It`s a police state.  He can take people off the polls, he can falsify elections. 

And yet the fact they are so fearful of these people running in a local election for the city council of Moscow that has almost zero power, why are they so afraid of these people running?  Surely, they would win, right?  Vladimir Putin is super popular, as we hear.  Everybody loves him in Russia. 

The fact that they`re so paranoid suggests that maybe things are not as stable in Russia as Mr. Putin would like us to think that they are. 

REID:  And how helpful is it to the Kremlin, to Vladimir Putin, for the United States to not be in a position to stand up for those demonstrators but to essentially be in the bag for Vladimir Putin?  To have our president in that position, I should say. 

MCFAUL:  It`s not a good situation.  I applaud, by the way, the U.S. embassy in Moscow, the embassy I used to run did put out a statement and that was very appreciative.  But the fact that the president himself never, never, never criticizes Putin, I think, undermines a statement that lower level officials, including State Department officials, might say. 

REID:  And, you know, given the fact that Donald Trump now has utter control of the intelligence agencies through the DNI being, you know, essentially sort of his other William Barr, if he gets confirmed, how much danger in your view does that put the United States in in terms of our national security? 

MCFAUL:  Well, I don`t like that one bit, of course, because intelligence cannot be politicized.  Past times in our history when that`s happened, it`s led to very bad consequences for American national security. 

And moreover, you see a pattern here.  You see a pattern where the administration, the Trump administration on Russia and on lots of other policies, by the way.  I actually think they do some pretty good things.  It`s just that the president is always against them, and over time, as he moves out, people like Secretary Mattis, H.R. McMaster, people with more conventional national security views, and puts in place people that feel beholding to the president, that I don`t think is good for American policy.  It`s not good for our national security. 

REID:  Yes, to say the least.  Michael McFaul, former U.S. ambassador to Russia, thank you so much for your time.

MCFAUL:  Sure.  Thanks for having me.

REID:  Thank you. 

More new ahead.  Stay with us.


REID:  When you talk about military brats, it`s hard to get a shinier crowd than the United States Joint Chiefs of Staff.  The chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff holds the highest military job in the land.  In April, the president nominated someone for our nation`s second highest military job.  He picked Air Force General John E. Hyten to be the new joint chief of staff, right before the chairman.

The nomination of General Hyten`s not gone smoothly in the U.S. Senate.  A couple of weeks ago, a military news site called Defense One reported on an allegation of sexual assault against General Hyten by a fellow service member.  The Air Force investigated the allegation from late 2017 and cleared General Hyten. 

The Pentagon said this month that the general had cooperated with the inquiry.  They said, quote: There was insufficient evidence to supporting any finding of misconduct on the part of General Hyten. 

Last week, the Senate Armed Services Committee heard closed door testimony from General Hyten and his accuser, who went public afternoon.  Her name is Army Colonel Kathryn Spletstoser.  She says she felt a moral responsibility to come forward after General Hyten got the big nomination.

Tomorrow, General Hyten will take questions in public at a Senate Armed Services hearing.  With everything else going on in the news, this one has played out in relative quiet so far.  The hearing starts tomorrow at 10:00 a.m., and we will keep you posted. 

And that does it for us tonight. 


Good evening, Lawrence.  You`ve got a huge interview which I cannot wait to see. 

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