RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Thank you for the excellent teeing up of that. Much appreciate it.
Thanks to you as well at home for joining us this hour. Happy to have you here.
I took a week`s vacation earlier this summer, long planned, took some days at the end of July. Susan and I planned to send some time at the beach. I was so looking forward to it.
And then, of course, just before my vacation days rolled around, naturally, I fell down. I rolled over on my ankle and snapped ligaments. So, this meant my beach vacation was now going to be a beach vacation on crutches. And there`s nothing more efficient and more fun and more relaxing than crutching around in the sand.
What this meant in practice was that I spent what was supposed to be my beach vacation not on the beach because I couldn`t get myself there. I instead spent most of my vacation on the couch, which meant that this was pretty much the view for my beach vacation. A fascinating new Pentagon white paper that I read on my time off. It`s called "Russian Strategic Intentions: A Strategic Multilayer Assessment".
Yes. Happy vacation, honey. This is how I know Susan loves me.
She`s like, no, hon, it`s OK, I`ll walk the dog. You just read your Pentagon white paper. That`s cool, right? Let me know how it ends.
"The Washington Post" and "Time" magazine have both within the past 24 hours published big new scoops about the Republican leader of the Senate, Mitch McConnell, and something that Russia is now doing in his home state. Tom Hamburger is the lead reporter of the "Washington Post`s" piece. He`s going to be joining us live in just a moment.
But there`s something from my vacation, from my cozy couch time with my crutches and the Pentagon`s latest strategic multiyear assessment on Russian strategic intentions, there is something from that vacation reading that I did that has been really, like, pinging like an alarm clock in my head about this new reporting.
In this new Pentagon report that I just read, one of the main ideas is that Russia is operating in a sort of gray zone in its efforts to try to get what it wants around the world, but also specifically, to get what it wants against us. A mix of military and intelligence and seemingly private operations that are organized by the Kremlin and that are designed to coerce us, and to weaken us as an adversary and a rival.
Quote: While the United States focused on executing the global war on terror, Russia actively pursued malign influence in all regions of the world to mitigate their inferior conventional capability. Russia has a growing and demonstrated capacity and willingness to exercise malign influence in Europe and abroad including in the United States.
Quote: Countering Russian gray zone efforts are not specific to just the U.S. Defense Department but must be part of a whole of U.S. government effort that leverages all elements of U.S. national power.
Russia`s gray zone tactics are most effective when the target of those tactics is deeply polarized or lacks the capacity to resist and respond effectively to Russian aggression. Conversely, countries that are resilient against attempts to divide their populace or to apply economic coercion or to wield proxy forces, those entities can better handle sub- conventional threats from Russia. Meaning threats from Russia, short of actual old-fashioned traditional warfare.
And again, this is a Pentagon report. It is unsettling, right, to have the Pentagon saying, you know, when we look around the world, we see Russia using all sorts of underhanded tactics to undermine foreign democracies and to compromise the leadership and values of other countries, to screw them up.
But don`t worry, there`s a cure. Don`t worry, America, the only entities, only countries that really will have any sort of significant problem fending that off from Russia are countries that are deeply polarized. Oh, oh, good, so we don`t have to worry about that.
Also, the kinds of countries that will have a real problem with this stuff from Russia are those who lack the capacity respond effectively to Russian aggression. Also, that as a leadership factor might sort of be a problem then if we don`t have the capacity to respond to Russian aggression.
I mean, the fact is nobody much expects President Trump, himself, to respond effectively to Russian aggression, right, or do anything to push back or contain Russia at all. One of the undisputed findings of what happened between the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 election was that Trump welcomed their help in trying to elect him. He welcomed their interference in our election that year because it would redound to him.
He`s still trying today to muddy the waters as to whether or not Russia really even did anything at all, let alone worrying about punishing them for it. So, nobody expects anything from the president, himself, in terms of the will to resist, let alone the will to respond, the will to harden us as a target, let alone retaliate against Russia for coming after us.
But it`s interesting. As worrying as it is and as unpleasant as it is for us as a country to be so irredeemably polarized in our culture and our politics right now, there actually hasn`t been a 100 percent partisan divide on this issue of Russia coming after us. There`s a partisan cast to how the two parties have responded, but even in this ramshackle and at times ridiculous U.S. Congress, you have had some Republican support. You have had some bipartisan-supported legislation to, for example, up our election security efforts heading into the next presidential election since the FBI says Russia`s definitely going to do the same thing to our 2020 elections that they did to 2016.
I mean, not every Republican admits that we need to shore up those defenses, but quite a few of them do. And so, there have been actual bipartisan efforts to draft and push good legislation that would change our laws, that would up our capacity as a country to try and stop that in 2020. There`s also been some significant bipartisan efforts on sanctions against Russia to retaliate against them for what they did in our election, sanctions on the individuals in the Russian government, sanctions on Kremlin-connected figures who carried out or supported 2016 attack. There has been some significant bipartisan support there.
And, I mean, you know, I don`t mean to damn with faint praise here, you ought to be able to expect that, right? Even back in 2016, when the attack was under way, President Obama was willing as president to brush back Putin, tell him to cut out what he was doing.
But President Obama and his administration thought the better way to shut Putin up and honestly to make the American public less susceptible to what Russia was doing, make the American public more resilient against the types of attacks Putin was launching, that actually targeted the American people, the Obama administration thought the best way to do that beyond President Obama doing what he did was that there should be a whole of government response, a bipartisan, bicameral, clap-back from the United States that would not just be from the president, it would be from not just the executive branch, not just U.S. intelligence, right, it would be the whole of government. It would be the whole executive branch, our law enforcement and intelligence capability and it would also be the whole House and the whole Senate, both parties unanimously warning Putin, back off. Get out of our elections or you will face serious consequences.
The Obama administration fully expected they could get that from the U.S. Congress when they gave Congress information about what at that point was an ongoing Russian attack on our election. I mean, why -- why wouldn`t they think they could get that kind of a patriotic reaction? This was an attack on our country from abroad, from a hostile foreign power. That is the sort of thing that if nothing else, that`s supposed to bring us together, right?
It didn`t happen, though, for one very specific reason. Famously, that request from president Obama for a bipartisan punch-back against Putin when he was attacking the 2016 campaign, that request was blocked by one man, one Republican, Kentucky Republican Senator Mitch McConnell, the leader of the Republicans in the Senate and still today.
McConnell said he wasn`t sure if he believed the Russians were really doing what they were doing, and besides, basically implied what`s the big deal. So thanks to Mitch McConnell, blocking what would have otherwise been a whole of government response against Russia during the campaign in the middle of their attack, that clap-back from the U.S. government didn`t happen.
Also, those bipartisan bills I just mentioned, the ones that are up right now, that would protect the 2020 election from the same kind of Russian attack we had in 2016, those bills do have bipartisan support. They do have bipartisan sponsors. But they, too, are being blocked by one man in Washington, one Republican, Senator Mitch McConnell, who will not let any of those bills come up for a vote though they have bipartisan support.
Also, frankly, those sanctions against Russia for what they did in the election, there was a lot of Republican support for sanctions against Russia in response to that attack. But once again, it`s been one man in Washington who has blocked some of those efforts, or, shall we say, reasons of his own.
When Russia attacked us, it wasn`t just Russian military intelligence. It was also their spy service. It was also Kremlin-connected oligarchs who seemed to have been kind of deputized by the Kremlin to run different parts of that complex operation. It was, for example, Kremlin-connected oligarchs who ran -- who were running seemingly private businesses who during the campaign took it upon themselves to stovepipe Russian-made propaganda to U.S. voters.
It was oligarchs running ostensibly private businesses who were creating fake American political groups and organizing provoking artificial online fights among American voters. They were even organizing real-world U.S. protests in American streets to try to wind up and screw with the American public as much as possible, all to help Trump`s campaign for the American presidency as much as they could while dividing and weakening the American polity as much as they could.
One Kremlin-connected oligarch in particular had a whole bunch of odd and strange contacts and connections with the highest reaches of Trump`s campaign. In a State Department cable from way back in 2006, which was leaked by WikiLeaks years ago, this oligarch, a guy named Oleg Deripaska described among the two or three oligarchs Putin turns to on a regular basis. U.S. diplomats described Derapaska`s favorable relationship with President Putin. They described him as a more or less permanent fixture, for example, on Putin`s trips abroad.
The same year as that U.S. diplomatic cable about Deripaska, in 2006, the "Associated Press" reports that that same oligarch, Oleg Deripaska, as close as he was to the Kremlin, he entered into a strange contract with an American, with the American man who would ultimately become Donald Trump`s campaign chairman, Paul Manafort.
According to a memo written by Manafort proposing this arrangement to Deripaska back in 2005-2006, Manafort proposed for the low, low price of $10 million a year, he would run a campaign to influence politics, business, and news coverage in the United States to benefit the Putin government.
Quote: We are now of the belief that this model can greatly benefit the Putin government if employed at the correct levels with the appropriate commitment to success.
And in Manafort`s view, the appropriate commitment was reportedly $10 million a year as specified in the contract. "The A.P." says they saw records of wire transfers of millions and millions of dollars to Paul Manafort in conjunction with that contract, starting that year, 2006, and ending, we don`t know when.
Over the years, Oleg Deripaska and Paul Manafort would have a lot of different political and business engagements together. Manafort, of course, now sits in federal prison. He may ultimately be looking at a long state prison sentence that picks up after his program sentence.
As such, we may never fully know the extent of what was going on in Manafort`s overseas career in those intervening years, including his interactions with Deripaska. We do know, though, by the time Manafort took over as Trump`s campaign chair for 2016, for some reason, he saw that gig on the Trump campaign as a good reason and good occasion to re-up his longstanding relationship with that Kremlin-connected oligarch, with Oleg Deripaska.
One of Deripaska`s close aides told "Time" magazine in an interview last year that when Manafort became Trump`s campaign chair, quote, he owed us a lot of money and he was offering ways to pay it back. We know from the Mueller investigation that for some reason, Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort offered this Russian-connected oligarch, Oleg Deripaska, he offered him private briefings on the Trump campaign during the election, up to and including the still unexplained plot line from Mueller`s investigation. In which Manafort is known to have shipped Deripaska a whole bunch of internal Trump campaign polling data, nonpublic, proprietary information on the campaign`s plans and strategy, particularly in key states in the Industrial Midwest that Trump would go on to unexpectedly flip on his way to an election night victory in 2016.
Why did Deripaska want that kind of granular information? Manafort is known to have passed that data on to Deripaska during the 2016 campaign through an intermediary who has, himself, now been charged by federal prosecutors. The intermediary that Manafort used to ship this stuff to Deripaska is believed by the FBI to himself be linked to Russian intelligence.
So when it comes to what Russia did, and how Russia messed with our election, Deripaska is this key figure who is still a bit of a mystery. He definitely plugs into the Manafort part of this scandal in a way that Mueller`s report essentially leaves as an open question.
This is from Mueller`s report. Quote: The special counsel`s office could not reliably determine Manafort`s purpose in sharing internal polling data during the campaign period. Manafort -- something, something redacted -- did not see a downside to sharing campaign information and told Rick Gates that his role in the campaign would be good for business and potentially a way to be made whole for the work he previously completed in Ukraine.
As to Deripaska, Manafort claimed that by sharing campaign information with him, Deripaska might see value in their relationship and resolve a disagreement, a reference to one or more outstanding lawsuits. Remember Deripaska`s friends saying Manafort owed them a ton of money.
So, Deripaska is this intriguing figure when it comes to Russia`s attack on our election. Deripaska is believed by the U.S. government to not just be highly connected to the Kremlin and to Putin`s office in particular, he`s believed by the U.S. government to have organized crime links as well. As such, he has long been barred from getting a visa to visit the United States.
But Deripaska is doing very well in Russia. He`s also the head of a huge Russian aluminum conglomerate. When it came time to sanction Deripaska for his role in Russia`s attack on our 2016 election, it made sense those sanctions wouldn`t just apply to him personally, they`d also apply to his business, right, to his firm. Seems like exactly the kind of way you might want to use sanctions if you really wanted them to have an impact on the country you were targeting and the people you most wanted to pinch.
But, again, if you were going to really go after them where it hurt, you`d want to trust that your own country`s leadership was going to stand behind it? You`d want the leader of the U.S. federal government to have -- I mean, forgive me, like, some stones on the issue, right? I mean, if you`re going to take that route.
I mean, this is a guy who`s very close to Putin and to the Kremlin, linked to supposedly to organized crime. In terms of his business interests, you know what, Russia has a terrible economy. Russia does not make that much stuff at all other than oil and gas. It`s totally dependent on oil and gas prices and its links with Western oil companies for its economic future.
But Deripaska does have this big aluminum company and that`s something. His big aluminum company is actually a substantial business interest for the whole country of Russia. Sanctioning that company would take a big bite out of the Russian economy. That -- sanctioning that company, I mean, that might actually hit them where it hurts.
Therefore, perhaps inevitably, with this leadership that we`ve got right now in our government, the Trump administration decided to go wobbly on the sanctions against Deripaska and his firm. They had second thoughts. They decided just a few months after they`d announced the sanctions in the first place that they were going to drop the sanctions on Deripaska`s firm.
And what was initially a really heartening bipartisan response to that was in Congress sort of revolted against that decision by the Trump administration. All the Democrats in the House and the Senate, 70 percent of the Republicans in the House, a whole bunch of Republicans in the Senate, they all got up on their hind legs and told the Trump administration, no, are you kidding? You can`t drop the sanctions on this guy. You just put them on.
Our election was actually attacked by Russia. These sanctions will hit them where it hurts. These sanctions are there for a reason. Why would you drop these sanctions?
Congress got mad. There was a huge response against what the Trump administration did. Again, a bipartisan response.
Well, thanks to this new reporting out today from "Time Magazine" and "The Washington Post," we now know what happen next. In January of this year, an executive from Deripaska`s firm, from his big aluminum company, sat down for dinner with an American entrepreneur. They met at a fancy restaurant in Zurich, Switzerland.
The American guy was somebody who`d had a little bit of experience dealing with the Russians and Russian oligarchs in particular. He had previously sold a U.S. steel business to Russian oligarchs. But in January, he was over in Switzerland meeting with a guy from Oleg Deripaska`s Russian aluminum company.
And the problem, of course, was at that moment that Russian aluminum company was under U.S. sanctions. Even though the Trump administration had decided to drop those sanctions, they were under U.S. sanctions at that time. It was, therefore, illegal for any American to do any business with them whatsoever.
As first reported in "Time Magazine" and "The Washington Post" today, we now know that the day after that dinner in Switzerland is when Mitch McConnell killed the bill in the Senate that would have maintained the sanctions on Oleg Deripaska and his firm. It was bipartisan support for keeping those sanctions in place. There was good reason to keep those sanctions in place given what Deripaska did, right?
The Trump administration said they wanted to drop those sanctions, there was a bipartisan revolt in Congress. Congress stood up and said, no, no, no, we`re got going to let you drop those sanctions, you have to keep them, until Mitch McConnell stepped in and he allowed for them to be dropped.
And now we know that within weeks, that businessman from that Switzerland dinner would announce that Oleg Deripaska`s Russian aluminum firm had suddenly dug into the couch cushions and found $200 million that they were now going to invest in a brand-new aluminum plant in Mitch McConnell`s state, Mitch McConnell`s home state of Kentucky. The biggest aluminum plant of its kind built in this country in nearly 40 years.
It never could have happened had the sanctions still been in place. Mitch McConnell is the one who made sure those sanctions were dropped and then Deripaska`s firm basically immediately wrote that $200 million check.
And so, no, I am not happy that I spent my vacation on crutches and on the couch instead of on the beach, but I am glad that by virtue of the fact that I was laid up, I had the chance to read that new Pentagon white paper on Russia`s strategy and how they operate in the gray zone because it is, I think, helpful to see this not just from the perspective of, oh, my God, what is Mitch McConnell doing, but oh, my God, what has Mitch McConnell done? What is Russia trying to do here that Mitch McConnell has just allowed to happen?
Here`s that quote again from the section of the Pentagon report that`s called "Moscow`s gray zone tool kit." Quote: Hybrid tactics are most effective when the target entity is deeply polarized or lacks the capacity to resist and respond effectively to Russian aggression. Conversely, countries that are resilient against attempts to divide their populace or apply economic coercion or yield proxy forces can better handle sub- conventional threats from Russia.
Countries that are resilient against attempts to apply economic coercion will survive these kinds of attacks from Russia better than countries that are not resilient in that way. Well, in what way can Russia with its crappy economy and its zero economic future, in what way can Russia ever economically coerce us? You can understand it in terms of, like, countries on their border, former Soviet Union, that sort of sphere of influence they want to exert, countries where they can use oil and gas to leverage the economies of those countries in ways that serve the Russian government, OK, right, got it.
But what can Russia do to us to economically coerce us? Well, skip to the end here. Skip to the recommendations of this new pentagon report.
Quote: Hybrid tactics are most effective when the target state has lost to the will or capacity to resist. The most prevalent indicators or signposts that an entity is vulnerable to Russian hybrid actions include political and social turmoil, weak security structures, and large Russian investments in its key capabilities.
The Pentagon is telling us, in this report from just a few weeks ago, that one of the signs that Russia is making progress in its efforts to undo your country is when you start to see, you know, not just weak security structures like, say, not taking any actions to harden your elections ahead of a planned Russian attack on your next presidential campaign, or, you know, increased political and social turmoil not like we know anything about that in this country, hello, day that ends in "Y."
But in addition to those things, they`re saying the other big thing to watch for here, the other big signpost that Russia is basically softening you up so they can leverage what they want out of you, is large Russian investments in key capabilities in your country. By which they mean specifically large economic Russian investments in your country. That they can leverage.
Quoting from "Time Magazine`s" new reporting on what Mitch McConnell did here. Quote: Critics of the deal -- the Rusal aluminum deal in Kentucky -- critics of the deal, both Democratic and Republican, say it gives Moscow political influence that could undermine national security. Pointing to Moscow`s use of economic leverage to sway European politics, they warn this Kentucky deal is a stalking horse for a new kind of Russian meddling in America.
Veteran diplomat Daniel Freed who shaped U.S. policy on Eastern Europe at the State Department from the 1980s until 2017 tells "Time," quote: That`s just what the Russians do. They insert themselves into a foreign economy and then start to influence its politics from the inside.
Heather Conley, who is a senior State Department official under George W. Bush, describes what Rusal is doing here as, quote, a strategy from within. Quote: You cannot go against them in a policy decision even though it`s in our national interest, when they have infiltrated you economically.
One Kremlin-connected oligarch, Dmitry Firtash, who`s currently fighting extradition to the United States, he told "Time" in an interview a couple years ago how this sort of strategy works from the perspective of Kremlin- connected oligarchs. He told them, quote, what is a factory in a one- factory town? It`s what all life revolves around. We don`t just pay wages, we pro provide the social safety net, so believe us.
Firtash explained when he and his factories put support behind a political cause or political candidate, quote, that influences people. That`s what ensures electoral support. So that`s why we make sure that we run the factories -- especially in one-factory towns.
The short story here about Mitch McConnell is that he, more than anybody else in Washington, has blocked U.S. efforts to constrain or respond to Russia`s recent attacks. That`s why they`re calling him Moscow Mitch now, right?
But in this particular instance, his state, an economically disadvantaged part of his state, got a $200 million investment from a Kremlin-connected oligarch immediately after McConnell personally stepped in to make sure sanctions on that oligarch were dropped, despite his role in what happened to our election in 2016 and despite bipartisan support even from his own party for their sanctions.
But don`t just look back at this. Look forward, right? I mean, the FBI says Russia`s going to do to our election in 2020 what they did to it in 2016. They`re saying it`s happening right now. No reason to expect 2020 is going to be any different.
If Oleg Deripaska is one of the two or three oligarchs who Putin looks to get his work done around the world, given what we know he did in 2016, should we expect Deripaska is going to be involved in Russia`s 2020 election operations as well? I mean, you have to say the odds of that are better now than they were before Mitch McConnell sold off this corner of his state in his vote.
I mean, after all, before McConnell did what he did, Oleg Deripaska might have felt a little worried about participating in any Russian attack on us in 2020, right? He might have worried about those crippling sanctions that the U.S. government put on him at least for a while after 2016. I mean, McConnell made sure those were gone, but maybe he`d worry if he did more in 2020, he would get those sanctions back or he`d be further sanctioned in his business activities. He might have had to worry about that before Mitch McConnell did what he did.
But now, Oleg Deripaska`s business activities, the health of his business empire, that`s part and parcel of the hard-scrabble economy in one of Kentucky`s neediest counties. I mean, this is a plant that`s over a billion dollars. It`s one of the biggest aluminum plants in the U.S. ever. It`s 40 percent owned by the company of this Kremlin-connected oligarch.
You`re not going to be able to sanction him no matter what he does to our 2020 election or whatever else he does at all. It would strangle Kentucky in the process. There would be hundred, if not thousands of American jobs riding on anything you did to that Russian guy`s company or, frankly, anything you did to bother him.
He now holds all of those American jobs in his hand. The U.S. government does anything to bother him, he can take them away at will. So, you can`t do anything to his company, not without him exerting that leverage over Kentucky in response.
And that damage has already been done. As the "Washington Post" reports, as Democrats have been clamoring to review that deal given the implications, Rusal is now threatening if they come under too much scrutiny by the U.S. government, they might yank the financing from the plant right now. They might just make sure that plant never even opens.
You`re going to put all the American jobs, hundreds if not thousands of American jobs at risk just so you can review Oleg`s deal? No, Oleg thinks that`s a terrible idea. He says you shouldn`t do that.
I mean, it gives this Kremlin-connected firm and this Kremlin Kremlin- connected oligarch that kind of leverage in our country already.
And in the wake of what Mitch McConnell did for them, this same company run by this Kremlin-connected oligarch who used Mitch McConnell to get his nose under the tent and to rescue himself from punishment for the U.S. election attack and to insulate himself from any threat of future sanctions against him for anything else he might do in the future, that same firm owned by that same Kremlin-connected oligarch in the wake of what they have done in Kentucky, this same guy who signed Paul Manafort up to a $10 million a year contract to help the Putin government around the world including in the United States, that same company where their leader inexplicably getting Trump campaign data during the campaign, that same company, Deripaska`s company, has now written to governors in eight other U.S. states offering that they`d like to build an aluminum plant in all those places, too, as soon as they`re done in Kentucky.
I mean, why not? Worked with Mitch McConnell. Worked with the Republican who controls the United States Senate. Why not do it all over this country?
Imagine what else they could get their leverage on.
Stay with us. More ahead.
MADDOW: Joining us now is Tom Hamburger. He`s a reporter for "The Washington Post". Along his colleague Rosalind Helderman, he wrote a major story for "The Post" today. It`s entitled "How a McConnell-backed effort to lift Russian sanctions boosted a Kentucky project."
Mr. Hamburger, thank you so much for being with us tonight. I really appreciate you making the time.
TOM HAMBURGER, REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Thanks. Good to be with you.
MADDOW: So, I can`t help but see your story in the political context in which it`s breaking. The story is breaking at a time when Senator McConnell is already really chafing at Democrats teasing him with this nickname, Moscow Mitch. They have been accusing him of essentially effectively helping the Russian government in a number of his actions.
Because of how pointed this reporting is and how many questions it raises about his actions, I have to ask about what his reaction has been and what he told you and his office told you in response to this reporting.
HAMBURGER: Rachel, you`re -- the phrase that you used a moment ago, "Mitch McConnell chafing" is an understatement. He is absolutely furious, livid, at the complaints -- the nickname that he`s earned, Moscow Mitch, and the suggestions that he is compliant with Vladimir Putin. He described him on the Senate floor before the recess, Putin is a thug and said his career is replete with his examples of his taking on Russia and taking on the Kremlin.
So, chafing, to say the least, at suggestions he does not have a strong record in combating Putin and the Kremlin, on the other hand, there are these examples which you cited a moment ago that Democrats and political foes in Kentucky are listening to cite ways in which it does seem that he voted or pursued legislation in a way that was helpful to the Kremlin. He resisted strongly and, by the way, insists that before the sanctions vote that we talked about in January, he had no knowledge that there was a potential Russian investment in his home state.
MADDOW: And that -- that denial is interesting. I mean, I think we have to -- there has to be further reporting, I guess, to sort of test the credibility of that claim. As far as I can tell, the company that is partnering with this Russian aluminum company to build the firm, they also say that they were not talking to Mitch McConnell about that. They`re saying they don`t think there was any link --
MADDOW: -- between the sanctions vote and the decision to build this. On the other hand, you line up the timeline here and, in fact, the former U.S. ambassador to Russia tells you for your piece that this at least appears to have been a blatantly transactional thing. McConnell arranged for these sanctions to be lifted, in effect, and then his state got a $200 million investment.
Is it -- is it rubbing people the wrong way? In Kentucky, are there concerns about this in his home state?
HAMBURGER: Well, Rachel, you can see in Kentucky as in Washington a sort of bipartisan -- strange bipartisan agreement around both sides of this question. We did quote in our story a state legislator, Katie Flood (ph), who was outspoken in opposition saying accepting this money from Rusal is - - chains (ph) Kentucky -- it means Kentucky is associated with Rusal and Oleg Deripaska for whom she had unkind words.
On the other hand, we have seen letters from prominent Democrats in the state who are endorsing this plant and are not pleased with any word, including the word you spoke about that occurred on Friday, that something could go awry in the Russian-based company`s financing for this plant.
I talked with a former attorney general in Kentucky, a Democrat, prominent Democrat, Greg Stumbo, who`s also a leader in the Kentucky statehouse, and he was around for -- decades ago when they brought in Toyota, which was a much smoother foreign investment in the state, and he`s worried about this one, but he also says, like so many in Kentucky that we talk to, Democrats and Republicans, I hope this works out. I hope this works.
And in part, it`s what -- what Kentucky politicians are having to do, Rachel, on the one hand is to consider the possibly pernicious effect of a Russian investment and on the other the impact in an impoverished area of having, as you described it, one of the largest new -- the largest new aluminum plant in 40 years. It will employ hundreds of people in an area that has felt economically bereft.
And that is -- really gets us to the nub of the sort of political decision people had to make. We asked Craig Bouchard, CEO of this company, about accepting Russian money, knowing he needed capital. On the other hand at the time he was having these discussions, the Mueller report was continuing to investigate. They were looking at Oleg Deripaska`s role. They were looking at Russian`s malign influence in the U.S. 2016 election.
And his response was, you can`t be picky. Meaning when it comes to revitalizing a distressed area of our home state of our country, if we get financing from a company that is offering to put people back to work who are on their heels, we welcome it, and it`s going to be what he called, and what the governor of Kentucky calls one of the greatest moves in the economic development of Kentucky in the entire history of the state.
MADDOW: It`s amazing to kind of spin the telescope around both directions. Look at it from the Kentucky perspective and look it from the Russian strategic perspective at the same time and see how with a smart move you can line them up.
It`s fascinating reporting. Tom Hamburger, reporter for "The Washington Post" -- a fascinating story. Please keep us apprised. I know you guys will stay on this story and I know it will further develop. Really appreciate you being here tonight.
HAMBURGER: Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. Big night around here. Senator Cory Booker is going be joining us live next. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Senator Cory Booker is here in just a moment. Before I bring him in, I`m going to bring you an update on some breaking news that we`ve been following out of Philadelphia. Hours ago, an armed standoff erupted in a residential neighborhood in Philadelphia. Police were attempting to deliver an arrest warrant for a narcotics-related offense in a residential neighborhood in North Philly. Shots were apparently fired from the house when police came to serve that warrant.
Since then, there has been a standoff, sort of just a terrifying saga in Philly. It started around 4:30 Eastern Time. It`s still not over.
But six police officers have been hit by gunfire in this standoff already. The six officers who were all shot have been transported to local hospitals. We`re told they`re all in stable condition. One officer suffered a graze wound to the head, but, again, that officer described in stable condition as are the others.
The major update we got just moments ago is that two additional officers who had been described as trapped inside the house with the gunman, those two officers have now been taken out of that house with the help of a SWAT team. Police say they took one suspect into custody after the shooting started but at this hour, police say this is ongoing and there`s still an armed suspect inside this house.
We`ll be keeping an eye on this as it continues to unfold in Philly. That`s the latest we`ve got right now. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Joining us now for the interview is Senator Cory Booker, candidate, of course, for the Democratic nomination for president. He`s the senator from the great state of New Jersey.
Sir, it`s great to have you here. Thanks for coming by. I`m really glad you`re able to come in.
SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It`s great to be here. Thank you for having me as always. Thank you.
MADDOW: I had a whole bunch of things that I wanted to, like, set up and talk to you about and had all this elaborate storytelling. Because you are here, I actually want to ask you about this breaking news that we are covering, this story in Philadelphia. It appears to be an ongoing standoff. This has been going on for hours and hours. More than five hours at this point.
Six police officers have been shot. It appears they all have non-life- threatening wounds.
But I just want to ask your reaction to this. You`ve been talking so much about gun violence and criminal justice.
BOOKER: Well, what`s interesting as a guy who actually ran a police department, to see my officers put themselves in the line of fire quite literally, have situations like this where you go into a house, you don`t know what`s going on inside. I`ve seen some of the most courageous officers when I was mayor run into buildings where they have no situational awareness, encounter weapons that have no business being on our streets in the hands of people who would never have been able to get them if we had the most common sense background checks.
So, often, the voices you hear calling for the kind of gun safety that I put in sort of my very bold plan are police officers wanting it to happen, because their lives are getting increasingly dangerous. And we`re seeing - - our prayers should go out to these officers who are recovering, and the standoff is still ongoing.
BOOKER: But, unfortunately, in our cities all across America, we see officers in situations of danger they should not be in and would not be in if we were a nation that had sensible gun safety laws.
MADDOW: I feel like in gun reform discussions past, like I`m old enough to remember the discussions around the first assault weapons ban. I`m also old enough to remember the discussion about cop-killing bullets, right, the hollow-point bullets, other sorts of, you know, bullets designed to pierce body armor. And it felt like such an important part of that discussion, sort of part of the way that argument in the political sphere educated the public about these weapons was when law enforcement spoke out and said, listen, whatever you think about the Second Amendment, practically what`s going on here, we`re being outgunned and we need some reasonable restrictions on what civilians have access to so that we can be the monopolist of force in our society. That`s part of our constitutional inheritance.
I don`t feel like I hear those voices from law enforcement right now in the gun reform debate.
BOOKER: Well, I`m hoping you`re going to increasingly see voices from all over our society, because the insanity of this all is just -- especially with the massive rise in white supremacist attacks now. But, again, as a guy who was a mayor in a city that had too many shootings, we were able to lower it, but still lowering, still too many, what I saw which give me chills when we had -- got tips to do gun raids and found these gun storehouses where, again, these are all illegal weapons that flow into communities like my city and many others.
And you just look at these stashes of weapons and you wonder how could we have a society where this is so easy for criminals intent on doing dangerous things can so easily get weapons that do not belong in -- they only belong in theaters of war, frankly. That puts officers at risk, the community members.
And the thing I see is that people having these weapons just shooting them indiscriminately, this is where you see in communities like mine and other cities, it`s bystanders, people showing you bullet holes in their windows. And it creates an environment so crippled by fear and trauma that on Fourth of July in communities like mine across this country, you have people who hear fireworks and parents will tell you their children dive for cover. They cower. They hide.
We created such a culture of fear that`s now penetrating all types of communities where we say the best we can do to our children now when they go to school in September is we can`t protect you, so we`re going to teach you how to duck for cover, shelter in place and the more. That is a society that has surrendered basic freedoms -- freedom from violence, freedom from gunfire, freedom to live without this kind of constant cortisol in the back of your brain being released that undermines our quality of life.
We are losing our wellbeing as a nation because so many of these guns now are on our streets, so easily gotten by people who intent to do massive amounts of harm.
MADDOW: Because there are so many out there already -- I mean, I`m thinking about it tonight in Philly. We don`t know what kind of arsenal this gunman has, but we know he`s been able to hold off a police department for five hours and shoot six cops along the way. I mean, who knows --
BOOKER: And you say that so casually.
MADDOW: I mean --
BOOKER: I don`t think people understand --
BOOKER: -- what that means.
BOOKER: And that there are people right now, we see this now, we see the horrible results like we saw in El Paso, but we also hear stories, since El Paso, of people intervening to stop people plotting these kind of attacks. This is why we`ve released -- I hope people will go to corybooker.com -- a far more comprehensive way to stop what has been -- the majority of our terrorist attacks since 9/11 have been white-wing extremist groups, a majority of them have been white supremacist groups.
We have a massive problem because of these guns on our streets that enable people who want to do sinister things and whether they`re people in inner- city communities that make so many of us -- I`ve had shootings on my block. As the only senator who lives in a low-income inner-city community where, unfortunately, these guns are often too often easily obtained by people who have no right to buy them in the first place. People like me who live in communities where we see shootings or live now in nation where we`re afraid to go to the mall, to a concert, to our house of worship.
So, there has to be an urgency to deal with this, and the fact that we`re saying (ph) things, I mean, God, we used to be a nation where people died, four girls in a church in Birmingham, pushed us to change laws.
BOOKER: As King said, you can`t legislate people to love me but I can legislate them to stop lynching me.
Women here in this city throwing themselves out the window at the shirtwaist factory fire, we changed laws. We used to have this common empathy that we can do what`s necessary to give us the freedom from these types of fears. But now, we see a moral impotency from too many leaders that are preventing common sense things from happening and creating a culture now where no other developed nation talks the way we do --
BOOKER: -- about the common place of what we`re seeing today, putting our law enforcement at risk, our children at risk, our families, our neighborhoods, our communities.
This must stop. And that`s why I`m demanding really everyone in this Democratic Party, don`t let the corporate gun lobby frame this debate. Let`s us now frame what really is common sense. And that`s why I hope people will find out more about my plan at corybooker.com.
MADDOW: I have more to ask you about that in just a moment if you can stay with us.
BOOKER: Please, yes.
MADDOW: Senator Cory Booker is our guest. We`ll be right back with him after this.
MADDOW: Back with us now is Cory Booker. He`s the Democratic senator from the state of New Jersey. He`s also a leading Democratic presidential candidate this year.
Sir, thank you for sticking with us.
BOOKER: Thank you for having me.
MADDOW: You still do have your day job in the Senate while you`re pursuing this presidential campaign. And from that perspective, I wanted to ask you -- we were just talking about leadership on guns and the national feeling about domestic terrorism, white nationalism, the threat of those sorts of organized hate movements, but also the weaponry that`s out there in the world.
Do you feel like there`s anything that`s going to pass through the Senate? I mean, I know that the house can pass not only background checks but more with the Democratic control. Can anything pass the Senate? Will anything?
BOOKER: So I`ll never limit the realm of possibilities, as a prisoner of hope. But let`s be clear, the same actors on the stage right now have denied time and time again what majority of their own constituents want, what the majorities of the Republican Party wants. There`s overwhelming agreement among gun owners to say you should not live in a country where someone who is guilty of spousal abuse can then go out and buy a weapon, who`s on the terrorist no-fly list can then go out and buy a weapon.
We have such a porous system right now, but, again, nothing has changed. Kids shot under desks. Kids -- people shot in a night club. Nothing has changed.
But my hope is, is that we see this rising outrage in this country that begins to move the needles. But I`m telling you, I think this 2020 election, and people underestimate it, this is going to be one of the issues. And I think it`s going to see a lot of people backed by the corporate gun lobby and the NRA booted out of office, will be held accountable.
We saw that in the 20 18 elections where you had openly people backed by Moms Demand Action going up against NRA-backed candidates, and in almost all the cases, losing. So, I think that this is a moment, a moral moment in our country.
BOOKER: And the moral bankruptcy of those people who are representing corporate gun lobbies and not common sense, their days are coming to the end. If I have my way, we`re going to bring a fight to the NRA over the next months and years like they`ve never seen before, with the will and the force -- not in the partisan nature -- but the will and the force of American people who want freedom again -- freedom from fear, freedom from this kind of level of carnage.
MADDOW: I mean, I don`t mean to get too tactical or ask you to be a pundit here, but if that`s your analysis about the politics of this heading into 2020, it sounds to me like the differences of opinion among the Democratic candidates about what exactly is possible, or what`s the right exact policy to aim at in gun reform, might be less important when it comes to the general election than just the idea that the American public knows that the Democratic Party, if you elect a Democratic president, a Democratic Congress, you are going to get meaningful gun reform. And if you keep the Republican Party in power, you`re not.
I mean, obviously, you candidates, the 20 of you who are all running right now sort of fighting amongst yourselves as to who has the best and most progressive policies. Are those fine points going to make the difference?
BOOKER: Well, I love what your question is because I try to remind them on the last debate stage -- hey, we have common cause here.
BOOKER: Differences don`t matter as much.
But for me, I just want to be very blunt. I`ve lived this nightmare. I have -- young kid, Shahid Smith, we should keep saying people`s names, watched him grow up, shot with an assault rifle, killed on the top of my block. I`ve seen shrines in my neighborhood to kids that are born, sat next to it a shooting victim trying in vain to stop him from bleeding to death.
The kind of fight I`m going to bring, because this is very personal to me, I`ve seen the death and carnage up close and personal. It goes on every day in America. I know our mass shootings rightfully capture a lot of attention.
But every day, 100 people are dying by gun violence. The majority of gun violence victims in America are black men.
This is something I`ve been witnessing for 20 years living in inner city. I will bring a fight to this fight like the NRA and the corporate elite has never seen with a personal passion to solve this crisis once and for all.
I know we are -- Democrats all agree, but we have to understand change does not just happen. It`s not inevitable. It must be fought for and must be focused on.
In the same way they`re one-issue supporters, NRA corporate gun lobby, we must make sure that this is a preeminent issue in the cause of our country, because if governments are formed for the common defense, we`ve lost more people in these last 50 years from gun violence than we lost in every war combined, from the Revolutionary War unto present. That is unacceptable. We must change it.
MADDOW: Senator Cory Booker, Democrat candidate for president in 2020 -- sir, it`s really good to have you in person.
BOOKER: Thank you.
MADDOW: Thanks. Come back soon.
BOOKER: So good to be here. Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. That`s going to do it for us tonight. We will see you again tomorrow.
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL".
Good evening, Lawrence.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END