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Trump says he would 'certainly' invite Putin. TRANSCRIPT: 8/26/19, The Rachel Maddow Show.

Guests: Chris Murphy, Ellen Weintraub

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST:  Like that`s it.  That`s the message.  It`s much more than it`s policy, like, those are the three things.  Like, look, I can beat Trump, and you know me, and I`m a decent guy, all this nightmare might end.  Short and sweet. 

Waleed Shahid and Karine Jean-Pierre, thanks for sharing your time. 

That is ALL IN for this evening. 

"THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts right now. 

Good evening, Rachel. 

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST:  Good evening, Chris.  Thanks, my friend.  Much appreciated. 

And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.  Nice to have you with us.

It has been a very newsy Monday.  I did not expect it.  It sort of feels like, ah, a week before Labor Day.  I should stop expecting these things. 

If you`re a giant public-facing U.S. corporation, one way to know if you have been very bad or people think you have been very bad, is if a judge, say, in Oklahoma rules from the bench against you holding you liable for some of the worst things that have happened to Americans in the past 20 years, and that judge orders you as a company to pay more than $572 million for what you have done, the judge orders you to pay more than half a billion dollars, one way to know that you have been a very bad company or at least people perceive you to have been very bad is if in reaction to that news, your stock price as a company actually goes up 5 percent because, whew, that`s a relief. 

Everybody thought you were so bad it was possible you were going to be paying billions of dollars, like $10 billion, $15 billion, $17 billion.  Everybody thought that was going to be what the judge made you pay today.  Not just hundreds of millions of dollars, which is, in fact, the verdict that Johnson & Johnson faced today.  They will have to pay $572 million unless they`re able to turn this thing around on appeal.  And I swear their stock price went up in response because people thought it was going to be so much worse than even that. 

This ruling today in Oklahoma holding Johnson & Johnson accountable for its role in fueling the American opioid epidemic that has claimed more than 400,000 American lives, this is a ruling that will be appealed by the company, but their shareholders were delighted today.  The state of Oklahoma had asked for more than $17 billion from Johnson & Johnson to cover the full cost of the injury to the state of Oklahoma and its citizens that has been caused by the opioid epidemic that has been in part fueled by Johnson & Johnson, which the state in their case called a kingpin of the opioid drug trade. 

This was a landmark decision today.  This is the first trial verdict to hold a pharmaceutical company culpable for the opioid catastrophe in this country.  I know you`ve heard about companies being required to pay a lot of money.  Those have all been settlements. 

There`s a whole bunch of different settlements that have been paid by the various opioid manufacturers and distributors in these countries as they have not let these things come to the end of the case.  They`ve not let those things come to a verdict.  But in this case, it`s a judge`s ruling and if this $572 million order stands up to appeal, this could be the first very big step toward pharmaceutical companies really finally being put on their back foot, really finally being put on the defensive over what they have done to the country with the purposeful overprescribing of these drugs. 

But, again, it remains to be seen what`s going to happen on appeal.  Remains to be seen if this might have just been a one-off trial verdict, but it`s the first trial verdict holding a pharmaceutical company to account for what they did and that was a very big deal today in Oklahoma. 

We also at the end of the afternoon today got some surprise political news, when we learned that the agency that`s in charge of enforcing election law, enforcing campaign finance law, the FEC, Federal Election Commission, they`ve long been a fairly toothless government agency.  The Trump administration, for example, has been content with there being vacancies on the board of commissioners that oversees the FEC. 

Today, though, it went to a different level.  Today, we learned the FEC is about to lose one of its existing commissioners.  When that happens, the FEC will no longer have enough commissioners to have a quorum, which means heading into the 2020 presidential season, the federal agency that`s in charge of making sure there`s no monkey business in our elections, that there`s no monkey business, no shenanigans in terms of money around our elections, they have just had their last tooth pulled. 

And there has been a lot of alarm expressed in response to this news this afternoon in terms of what this means for the FEC, what this means for the 2020 election.  One of the remaining commissioners on the FEC, the chair of the FEC, has actually been sounding a little bit of a cautionary note today about the implications of what this means for our elections, what this means for the 2020 presidential campaign, in particular. 

That commissioner, Ellen Weintraub, is going to be joining us a little bit later on.  She`s always got something to say, whenever you interview her on anything, she`s always a really good person to talk to.  She`s very frank, she`s very blunt. 

On this, she`s sort of telling people, you know, this is worth paying attention to but not worth freaking out about.  Very much looking forward to talking to her about that. 

Just briefly, I also want to tell you we got additional news late in the day today about a story we covered a bunch of times on this show in the past couple weeks, which is that mysterious deadly explosion in northwestern Russia, at first week in August.  It had some sort of nuclear component to it, but we haven`t been able to say much more than that.  This was 2 1/2 weeks ago, August 8th.  The Russian government appears to still mostly be in blackout and denial mode about what happened there. 

But we did get a little bit of interesting and specific new information today and we got it from the Russian meteorological agency.  This was basically the part of the Russian government that`s in charge of weather forecasting.  So, I`m not exactly sure why we are hearing this from them, but today, that`s the agency that announced that they have some very specific readings in terms of the fallout, literally, from this disaster. 

Today, the Russian meteorological agency announced that at the city nearest where that nuclear blast happened on August 8th, they have since detected four specific radioactive particles in that city.  And whether or not these specific elements mean anything to you, just as a layperson watching the news, the fact that the Russian government is announcing what these isotopes are, A, is progress because it`s something specific, but B, to people who know how to interpret the sort of things, people who understand the nuclear science of this, this actually tells a much more fulsome story. 

Apparently what has been found in the 15 days after the explosion in this nearby city was strontium-91, barium-139, barium-140, strontium 91 and lanthanum-140. 

Now, "Bloomberg" news today talks to a Norwegian nuclear expert who says that list of isotopes being found in the city 20 miles away from the blast indicates somewhat conclusively that what exploded at that site weeks ago was definitely a nuclear reactor. 

Quote: The presence of decay products like barium and strontium is coming from a nuclear chain reaction, he said, and not an isotope source in a propellant engine, which is one of the things the Russian government initially tried to describe this blast as being from. 

These isotopes being found in the nearby city according to this expert interviewed by "Bloomberg News" today is, quote, is proof that it was a nuclear reactor that exploded.

A nuclear reactor.  I mean, that`s important because the Russian government, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, himself, they`ve been very vague as to what actually exploded and just exactly what type of nuclear device or what sort of nuclear material was involved, whether or not any radiation was released. 

Well, this gives us some more information about what it was.  This would indicate that it`s a nuclear reactor and, yes, there was radiation released and something more specific even than that. 

One interpretation conveyed by "New York Times" reporter Andrew Kramer today in his report on the findings is that he says this list of isotopes that they found is basically an announcement that offers, quote, hints, that other still undisclosed heavier elements could have been released closer to the blast site.  The presence of these isotopes miles from the site of the accident suggests that heavier, more dangerous contaminants such as plutonium, cesium-137, or radioactive iodine likely fell into the sea near the blast site. 

Greenpeace also issued a statement saying the presence of these isotopes suggests that cesium 137 was also released in the blast.  You`ll recall one of the doctors who treated some of the injured from this explosion was found to have cesium 137 in his own muscle tissue, after he treated those injured people from the blast site without wearing any protective gear because none of the doctors were warned that their patients were going to be highly radioactive. 

One Russian news source saying that doctor was told he was likely contaminated with cesium 137 not because of his working on the radioactive patients from the nuclear blast, apparently, Russian officials told him that he had that cesium 137 in his muscle tissue because he had recently gone on vacation in Thailand, so Russian government officials told him he probably, quote, ate some Fukushima crabs while he was on vacation. 

See, the crabs from Fukushima where there was the nuclear accident years ago, they probably ended up in his vacation dinners in Thailand.  That`s definitely why that doctor has now got cesium in his muscles. 

If there is cesium 137 and radioactive iodine and plutonium all over the blast site and including in the sea, right, Russia is going to have a hard time blaming that on Thailand or on crabs for all that much longer. 

Don`t worry, though, the same Russian nuclear agency Rosatom that had five scientists killed in the mysterious blast, the same Russian nuclear agency has also now made a big new announcement that we all can see happening, which is that they just set sail into the Arctic with this nimble little vessel.  It`s longer than a football field.  It is loaded up with nuclear fuel.  Russia`s very, very proud of it. 

Just this weekend, this was the world`s first floating nuclear power plant which Russia set sail into the Arctic aiming right toward Alaska.  Literally, it is a floating nuclear power plant.  What could possibly go wrong? 

It just left Russia this weekend.  It`s heading up through the arctic toward a remote part of Russia that is just across the Bering strait from Alaska.  So, that`s fine. 

Greenpeace is calling this vessel the nuclear Titanic.  Russia said in response to Greenpeace that they`re a bunch of scare-mongers. 

The Russian news agency, which again lost five of its nuclear engineers in the explosion of a nuclear reactor maybe 18 days ago, who knows, they won`t say, maybe the plutonium is all in the sea now.  I mean, that same agency, that exact same agency is insisting publicly that everybody should actually be very excited about them putting the world`s first floating nuclear reactor up into the Arctic Sea for a 3,000-plus-mile-long journey toward Alaska. 

Rosatom announcing that their floating nuclear plant is able to, quote, safely withstand a full spectrum of negative scenarios including manmade and natural disasters.  Both kinds. 

It will be fine.  It`s indestructible.  Did we mention that it`s the world`s first nuclear power plant that floats?  Right.

Just in case you thought the world was missing a little Russian nuclear risk-taking, just in case you thought what the Arctic needed was the world`s first stab at putting a whole nuclear power plant on top of a ship and floating it into the ice, well, your news dreams have come true, that`s all just happened. 

But when it comes to energy stuff and climate stuff, because we are still the world`s biggest economy, there is still no important decision-maker than the United States of America when it comes to these things, and at this point with our current leadership, most of what the rest of the world is doing on this subject when it comes to us is they`re laughing at us and occasionally taunting us. 


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Wind, wind, windmills.  If it doesn`t blow, you can forget about television for that night. 

IDA AUKEN, DANISH PARLIAMENT MEMBER:  Mr. President, I want to present you to the greatest deal you have ever seen.  It is so great that I thought I might actually get your attention by standing here next to this bird- killing, cancer-causing, blackout-generating, wind-energy-producing beast here. 

My name is Ida Auken, a member of the Danish parliament and now that you`re here let`s talk about the deal. 


AUKEN:  It`s about cheap energy and saving the climate.  Here`s an example.  The North Sea region, that`s the sea on top of Europe, can produce twice as much electricity as all the coal fired power plants of Europe combined.  And, look, it`s smaller than Nebraska.  Imagine the possibilities in all of your great United States of America. 

TRUMP:  Reer, reer.  Darling, I want to watch television, sorry the wind isn`t blowing. 

AUKEN:  Oh, yes, the blackouts, don`t worry about your TV dinners and movie nights.  In Denmark, where most our electricity comes from wind, we have an average 15 minutes blackouts every year, whereas, in the U.S., with all your coal fired power plants, you dark on average two hours every year. 

TRUMP:  Our country is in serious trouble. 

AUKEN:  So, Mr. President, we all know you can do this.  Just grab your pen, sign a deal and let`s save the climate. 


MADDOW:  That`s the sea on top of Europe. 

That was released in the last few days by a member of the Danish parliament.  In normal circumstances, that might get Americans` backs up in defense of our president, right?  However much we have internal disagreement, dissension in terms of our own feelings about our own leaders, usually you`d expect a broad swath of Americans to feel bad about some politician from some other country making fun of our president in this way. 

In this case, it`s a little harder for us to get there because our president really did just cancel a trip o that country, to Denmark, because he complained that country`s leadership did not want to talk to him about him buying Greenland.  I really don`t want to talk about Donald Trump suggesting that he could do that, you know, that he wants to buy Greenland.  I just -- I`m just going.

But separate and apart from the insanity of that entire concept, I mean, he really did just cancel a trip to Denmark because they said he said they weren`t going to talk to him about the U.S. buying Greenland.  And he said that right after he publicly insisted that he wasn`t going to Denmark to talk to them about buying Greenland. 

And again, whether or not you care about the incredibly insane idea that the U.S. would buy Greenland, how is it that a U.S. president says, no, don`t want that, then says, oh, yes, I want that and I`m canceling my international trip because I didn`t get it?  Right, no matter the subject or the stupidity or insanity of the original subject, that`s sort of an 180-degree turn from an American president is honestly nuts.  Him saying, no, I don`t want that.  Yes, I want that.  I`m canceling my trip because I didn`t get that.  I thought you said you didn`t want that. 

My earlier statement isn`t operative.  I don`t acknowledge I made my earlier statement.  What are we talking about?  It`s Greenland? 

I mean, I know we`ve gotten used to this kind of thing but it is nuts.  It was also nuts this weekend at the G7 when President Trump was asked if he attended the meeting at the G7 that was about climate.  The president responded by saying that that meeting had not yet happened yet.  That it was going to be next.  The next thing, like the next thing in the future. 

In fact, the meeting had already happened.  And he just hadn`t been there. 

Then the White House press secretary put out a formal statement explaining that the reason the president hadn`t gone to the climate session was not because it was still in the future, as far as he was concerned, but, instead, because at the time of the climate meeting, he was busy.  He was having bilateral meetings with the leaders of India and Germany. 

Well, here`s a picture of the climate meeting that he didn`t go to.  There`s the leader of Germany in the purple there.  That`s the leader of India in the black.  The Indian and German leaders were there. 

President Trump didn`t skip the climate meeting so he could meet with the two of them.  They were at that meeting.  Had he been meeting with them, he`d have to do it there because that`s where they were.  He`s the only one who wasn`t there.  His empty chair is there instead. 

It was also nuts when the president was asked by a reporter that the G7, Mr. President, any second thoughts on escalating the trade war with China?  And he answered, yes, sure, why not?  The reporter followed up, second thoughts, yes?  The president said, might as well, might as well."  The reporter tried again, you have second thoughts about escalating the war with China?  The president`s response, I have second thoughts about everything.

At which point somebody distant distantly in the room started laughing out loud because they couldn`t control themselves. 

I mean, if this were anybody involved in the United States government, in any official capacity who spoke this way publicly at an international gathering like this, right, their colleagues or their superiors or at least security would, like, lift them up by the armpit and rush them out the door, right, until they could be revived or given medical treatment.  In this case, it`s the president and everybody goes, OK, I guess their new line is the American president has second thoughts about everything.  When the president doesn`t show up for meetings, we`ll just make stuff up about that meeting having not happened, or him having been somewhere where he wasn`t. 

After the president told reporters explicitly he was having second thoughts about his new tariffs on China, the administration had to figure out what they were going to do with that one, right?  I have second thoughts about everything.

They quickly mounted this sort of cleanup effort -- 3:02 p.m., Larry Kudlow went on CNN to explain that maybe the president had just given that answer to reporters because he didn`t really know what the question was.  Maybe that`s a good explanation? 


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR:  So the president said that he`s having second thoughts about escalating the trade war.  Why? 

LARRY KUDLOW, TRUMP TOP ECONOMIC ADVISOR:  Well, look, if I can reinterpret that, I mean, he spoke to us, he didn`t exactly hear the question. 


MADDOW:  I could reinterpret that.  He didn`t -- that was 3:02 p.m.  By 3:04 p.m., it was the treasury secretary on FOX News also trying to, plain away whatever it was the president just said about his second thoughts and how he didn`t mean that at all, whatever it was he said, he didn`t mean it, or he didn`t hear the question, if he did hear a question, his answer shouldn`t be reinterpreted without me here to tell you what he might have meant. 

By the following morning, the president was back in form.  Apparently, making this up completely out of whole cloth. 


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  China called last night, their top trade people, and said let`s get back to the tables. 


MADDOW:  China called last night?  You received a phone call from China, from the Chinese government.  This is big news.  Are you sure? 


REPORTER:  Mr. President, I asked you, could you tell us a little more about the call you referred to, when will the next round of negotiations with China start?

TRUMP:  Well, we`ve gotten two calls and very, very good calls.  Very productive calls. 


MADDOW:  There were no calls, actually.  There were no calls, at least according to China. 

Chinese government said they`re unaware of whatever these mystery calls are that the president is claiming to have received from the Chinese government on Sunday night. 

They`re like, I don`t know who called you or who they said they were, but wasn`t us.  Did you really think it was us?  Who told you we got calls? 

Did you think you took the call?  Do you remember putting the phone to your face and talking into it?  Was there anybody there? 

I mean, in the space of 30 second there, he goes from it being a call that we got last night to two calls and very good calls.  China says it was no calls and China would know since that`s who supposedly called. 

The White House has been unable to produce any evidence to contradict what China says about its own behavior.  The much more likely explanation here is that the president of the United States really does just frequently say stuff that -- doesn`t mean anything, about what has actually happened in the world.  And that he either believes stuff has happened when it hasn`t happened or he just makes it up and doesn`t care that it didn`t happen and assumes no one will check. 

And I think if we`re going to be honest about this, it`s not a psychological profile at this point.  It`s now the way the U.S. government is running.  It`s not just him. 

I mean, this has been going on long enough now that he`s got the White House staff making stuff up as well. 

Quote: U.S. officials called several members of the traveling White House press on Saturday afternoon.  Speaking anonymously, the officials claimed it was only on U.S. insistence that there would be a summit session on economics and trade at all.

So, U.S. government officials during the G7 summit this weekend on Saturday afternoon called up reporters and said, this, you know, this G7 is so stupid, they weren`t going to be talking about trade or economics at all until we, the U.S. government, insisted. 

This claim by anonymous White House officials was, quote, undermined by the existence of earlier drafts of the G7 agenda, which all had such a session included. 

So, the president just makes stuff up.  The White House staff just makes stuff up, too.  Sometimes to cover up for lies the president has told to try to make them seem true.  But sometimes they just tell lies of their own accord. 

"The Washington Post`s" overview piece about the G7 this weekend describes these last few days as a, quote, lens into the president`s unorthodox mind.  That is a very generous way to put it.  They describe his, quote, flummoxing moves that have rattled the markets and his own staff. 

Some of the things the president publicly lied about this weekend appear to be just completely unforced errors.  Not just lies but lying non sequiturs.  I mean, here`s one the White House tried to clean up just because it was so weird and also because the first lady has staff that answer to her and so sometimes stuff about her has to get cleaned up. 

Look at the headline here.  White House clarifies that Melania Trump has not met Kim Jong-un.  What?  Yes.  Trump just volunteered to reporters apropos of nothing this weekend the first lady has gotten to know Kim Jong- un, I think she would agree with me he`s a man with a country that has tremendous potential.

Quote: As Trump mentioned his wife, a camera cut to Melania in the audience and cocked her head and looked somewhat quizzically at the president.

Several hours later, as the president and the first lady flew back to Washington, the White House secretary issued a statement that came with a tiny souvenir bucket and mop for those whose job it is to send stuff out like this all the time now.  That`s not true about the bucket and mop.  The statement is real. 

This is the statement: While the first lady has not met Kim Jong-un, the president feels like she`s gotten to know him.

Imagine if that is your job to send out stuff like that.  The president feels like she`s gotten to know him.  Therefore, true. 

I mean, like, imagine if your job is to clean up, to send out stuff like that, to clean up statements like this, not just for, I don`t know, what, like your crazy uncle who by, you know, some probate accident ended up running your otherwise totally normal family business and you have to bide your time because nobody can get rid of him for a while and so when he says crazy tough stuff, we just have to pretend like he`s not really here.  I mean, I guess I could imagine it being that nuts but this is for the most powerful government and largest economy in the world and the guy with who is running that government. 

While the first lady hasn`t met him, the president feels like she`s gotten to know him.  The president did, however, become his most lucid self when he hit upon the idea when it becomes America`s turn next year to host the G7, that should definitely happen at one of his private clubs, for sure.  Not kidding. 


TRUMP:  With Doral, we have a series of magnificent buildings.  We call them bungalows.  They each hold from 50 to 70 very luxurious rooms with magnificent views.  We have incredible conference rooms, incredible restaurants.  It`s like such a natural. 

And we have many hundreds of acres so that in terms of parking, in terms of all of the things that you need, the ballrooms are among the biggest in Florida, and the best. 


MADDOW:  The biggest ballrooms.  The best ballrooms in Florida.  The best ballrooms in Florida. 

Also, did I mention our parking facilities were very nearby the airport, our bungalows have very luxurious views. 

I mean, needless to say, if the president did do this and decided that his privately owned for-profit business would be the host of the next G7, that would, in effect, be forcing other countries` governments to pay him and his family in order to attend the G7.  And that, among other things, would be fantastically unconstitutional. 

But nevertheless, I kid you not, today, the official White House Twitter feed repackaged those lucid and even excited comments by the president at his otherwise shockingly incoherent international appearance over these last few days.  They clipped and captioned those comments as an official announcement. 

Look, it`s the White House Twitter feed.  Not -- this is not real Donald Trump, right?  The White House Twitter feed. 

Quote: President Donald Trump shares the location of the next G7 summit hosted by the United States.

So the White House, the White House staff, is officially announcing that this wasn`t just, like, the president slipping a little more and landing, in his mind, on a real estate brochure where he`s frankly more comfortable.  According to the White House, that really was the president of the United States announcing that his family`s private club is going to host the G7 and all those other countries who want to send delegations because it`s the G7 will have to pay him and his family in order to attend next year. 

One country per bungalow.  You can just pay Don Jr. at the door or Ivanka.  You know, let`s make this easy.  Leave the check with any of my children.  Also try the veal. 

I mean, this would be -- this would be a very funny movie if this were about something fake.  It would be great if this was fake, but this is us now, and apparently, this is something from which nobody, like, wakes up and we move on.  This is just what we have to do on a day-to-day basis and figure out how to deal with it moving forward. 

More ahead.  Stay with us. 


MADDOW:  President Trump has once again called for Russia and Russian President Vladimir Putin, specifically, to be invited back into the G8.  Used to be the G8 until Putin got kicked out for invading and annexing Crimea, that`s how it became the G7 once again. 

The rest of the countries in the G7 are not interested in this idea.  They are not having it.  But since President Trump is also apparently seriously trying to host the next G7 at his own private resort in Doral, Florida, now the expectation is that whether or not the other g7 countries are interested in inviting Putin and Russia back, maybe Trump will just invite Putin, himself.  And why not?  Another paying customer. 

Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut sits on the Foreign Relations Committee.  He`s tweeting this about this whole idea.  Quote: Discussing bringing Russia back into the G8 isn`t a preposterous idea.  What`s preposterous is just giving it away as a bargaining chip with nothing in return but this is what we get with stream of consciousness as foreign policy.

I wanted to show you that tweet because I feel like it`s actually a glass half-full thing.  He thinks some of this is conscious. 

Joining us is Senator Chris Murphy. 

Senator Murphy, thank you so much for being here tonight, sir.  I appreciate it. 

SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D-CT):  Good to be here with you. 

MADDOW:  I mean, stream of consciousness is a nice idea for two reasons.  One, it`s a stream which involves -- 

MURPHY:  Right.

MADDOW:  -- which implies that it`s some sort of, like, steady flow in one direction.  And consciousness implies that it`s at least the product of an active sentient process.  I don`t know that I agree with either of those things after watching the president these last few days. 

MUPHY:  Yes, this is absolutely extraordinary.  I mean, the number of things coming out of the G7 that are nuclear-grade bananas are in the dozens, and yet we`ve just become used to this and so, we move on. 

The fact of the matter is, is that the United States today is treated as a nuisance country, right?  You just have to get through meetings like this and try to go back to cooperating around us when you can.  But, you know, we don`t get together in these meetings.  We haven`t done decades of joint communiques because it`s fun, we do it because it`s part of how we hold the post-World War II order together. 

It is by showing that nations that are often disagreeing with each other on political matters, security matters, and economic matters, can, once or twice a year, come to some joint statement of understanding on a number of important topics to the globe.  That`s how we keep a lid on conflict around the world.  That`s how we make sure that we don`t revert back to the post- 1945 world in which great powers were regularly marching armies against each other. 

And so, things fall apart when all of a sudden you can`t get the G7, the G8, whatever it is, to be able to find minimalist common ground.  And that`s the big worry moving forward. 

MADDOW:  I also wonder, though, part -- I don`t spend a lot of time talking about the president`s behavior or his statements.  I feel it`s unavoidable after the G7, if only because the president did just seem so incoherent and random and he was, like, he was, like, refrigerator poetry, you know, like it was just words unrelated to what he seemed to be trying to communicate.  Some of the things that he said that weren`t true were things that didn`t even provide him any advantage.

Talking about his wife meeting Kim Jong-un, which is a thing that didn`t happen, talking about the climate meeting being in the future, when, in fact, is something that had just ended.  He either has to have known that or ought to have known that. 

I mean, the president`s personal incoherence, is that something that we grow out of as a country in terms of the way that other world powers perceive us once this president is no longer in office, or is that sort of bizarre behavior by the president something that trails us around in the future even after he`s gone? 

MURPHY:  So, it does, and there`s reputational value that we are losing today that you can`t get back.  We also exist today in a multipolar world.  It`s not only a choice between aligning yourself with the United States and the Soviet Union.  Today, you have lots of suitors for your affections. 

If you are an economic or political free agent in the world.  The Russians are on the march.  The Chinese are on the march.  The Europeans are doing their own trade and security arrangements now without us. 

And so as the United States recedes from the playing field, others are filling that vacuum and we are going to have trouble rejoining even if we elect a Democrat who wants to put us back into the center of the American stage.  And so, there is absolutely permanent damage that is done to us as the world just decides to make arrangements without us. 

And I`ve, frankly, seen that in the last two years.  The first year when people would come and visit me from around the world, they were freaking out about what they were going to do with Trump.  But in years two and three, when world leaders come to my office, they just explain to me all of the other plans they have made that don`t involve the United States and that`s the hard part to get back. 

MADDOW:  I was interested -- one last question for you, sir -- in your point that you made about stream of consciousness foreign policy, but also about this idea that an invitation to Putin and Russia to rejoin the G7, to make it the G8 once again, is not on its face a preposterous idea but it`s not something that should be traded away for nothing. 

If the president did want to just invite Vladimir Putin to the G7 next year in Florida, whether or not it`s at his private for-profit resort, as the host of the G7, could he just do that? 

MURPHY:  No.  I don`t think he can do that.  He could certainly invite Putin to sit on the sidelines as Zarif did.  I`m not sure Putin would accept that invitation. 

But if he were to try to finagle a way to bring Russia back into the G7 without preconditions, it`s a death blow to Ukraine.  Ukraine has been teetering on the balance for years now and to signal to the Russians that the state of play there now with the Russian occupation of the east and Crimea is acceptable and for the United States to give up one of our few points of leverage in getting them to withdraw from those parts of Ukraine would be absolutely disastrous. 

Again, it is -- we kicked them out of the G8 in order to have leverage to try to get them to change their behavior.  And so, it stands to reason that we should be willing to talk to Russia about coming back in as long as they take steps to guarantee the long-term political sovereignty of the country of Ukraine. 

MADDOW:  And not just getting it for free for nothing.  Yes.  Art of the deal. 

Senator Chris Murphy, thank you for making time to talk to us tonight, sir.  It`s good to have you here. 

MURPHY:  Thanks. 

MADDOW:  Thanks. 

All right.  More ahead.  Stay with us. 


MADDOW:  Even in our moderate to severely topsy-turvy world, this kind of story has been really weird over the last couple of months and I guess actually over the last couple of years.  It`s always been a little bit unsettling even if you`re not directly involved. 

We`ve seen stories like this.  Baltimore hit by a ransomware attack in May.  Locked up the city government`s computer servers and cost many, many, many millions of dollars to fix. 

Riviera Beach, Florida, population 35,000.  Riviera Beach in June just voted to pay the hackers who had attacked them so the hackers would unlock their computer systems. 

This month, nearly two dozen different cities in Texas, a lot of them small little towns, were all hit by a coordinated ransomware attack.  Hackers lock up and render unusable the whole computer infrastructure of the town and then they issue their demand.  You want to see your town functional again, you want any of your data, any of your computers accessible, anything you use to keep records, do your daily work and operate this town, if you want that stuff freed up again and unlocked, pay us. 

Ransomware attacks have been happening for a couple of years now targeting big cities, itty bitty towns, state agencies even hospitals.  But with the 2020 election just ahead, we got news today that I know ought to be comforting, and yet, "Reuters" reporting tonight the Department of Homeland Security is launching a new program to protect voter registration databases in the states. 

Quote: Intelligence officials are concerned that foreign hackers in 2020 not only will target databases, voter registration, but attempt to manipulate, disrupt, or destroy the data.  The Cybersecurity Infrastructure Security Agency, or CISA, a division of the homeland security department, fears the databases could be targeted by ransomware.  One official telling "Reuters," quote: we assess these systems as high risk.

"Reuters" says the new plan is going to get going in roughly a month.  Clearly, there`s plenty of work to do in terms of getting ready for the 2020 elections so that election can happen without various voter registration databases getting hijacked and held for ransom all over the country. 

But while "Reuters" was breaking that news today, we also learned about another part of our national system for election defense just falling apart, or at least taking a big step backwards, and that story is next. 


MADDOW:  When every seat is taken, the Federal Election Commission has six members split along party lines, three Republicans and three Democrats.  That hasn`t happened for a while.  One Democratic commissioner left in April 2017, then a Republican commissioner left in early 2018.  Neither of them was replaced.  That left the FEC with four members which is the bare minimum you need for a quorum. 

This federal board that oversees U.S. election law, the FEC, has limped along with these four members ever since.  They deadlock on most major issues.  They`re known for not getting very much done even on the best days. 

But at least they could take action in theory because they did have four members, they did have a quorum.  Well, now as of today, they won`t even have that.  Republican FEC commissioner Matthew Peterson announced today that he, too, is stepping down from his job as commissioner of the FEC.  That will be in effect as of this weekend.  That will mean the FEC will be down to three members which is not a quorum, heading right into the 2020 election. 

But I`m sure there will be nothing to worry about in terms of election law and campaign finance irregularities. 

There is an explicit set of special rules for what the FEC can do when they don`t have a quorum.  Very specific instructions for that scenario.  Here it goes. 

Quote: If less than four members of the commission are present at any time during a commission meeting, the chairman shall declare a temporary recess until a quorum is again present.  At which time the meeting may resume.

So at which time the meeting may -- that means they can meet, they can count heads.  One, two, three -- and then they go into recess.  I mean, if we were talking about preschool, I would be all in for that, but we are talking about the federal agency that is the watchdog for the rules for this next gigantic election in which even just on the Democratic presidential side, 20-plus people are now actively competing with all the millions of dollars sloshing around that in the end. 

Joining us now is Ellen Weintraub, one of the three remaining FEC members, Democrat.  She`s the current chair of the commission. 

Commissioner Weintraub, it is great to have you here.  Thank you so much. 


MADDOW:  So when I first started doing this show approximately 60 years ago, I think, rounding up to the nearest 60, I used to do a segment called "talk me down" where I would describe something that appeared in the news that seemed absolutely terrifying and then I would ask somebody to join me who could tell me why it`s not as bad as it seems.  I sort of want to revive that concept for talking to you about this, because this to me seems very alarming and I`m hoping you can tell me it isn`t as bad as it looks. 

WEINTRAUB:  Well, it`s not great.  It`s definitely not great, Rachel. 

But I want to assure the American people that the agency is not closing its doors.  We have a dedicated staff who will continue to show up for work everyday and we will make sure that we fulfill our mission of disclosure, of following the money and making sure that the American people can follow the money and find out who is supporting which candidates and how they`re spending their money.  And that can happen without a quorum. 

However, it is definitely not good for us not to have a quorum, because we can continue to do investigations that have already been authorized, but we can`t authorize any new investigations.  We can`t issue any rules.  We can`t issue any advisory opinions. 

There are core functions that require four members of the commission to fulfill, and really need to have a quorum.  In fact, we need to have a full complement of commissioners.  We`ve been limping along with four members for a while now, and it`s complicated because you have to have everybody in the room in order to have a meeting.  And if one person is ill or has to leave town for whatever reason, they can phone in, but it`s hard to maintain a quorum when you`ve only got the bare four. 

And there really is no excuse for the fact that the positions that have been vacant, as you pointed out, for over two years in one case and a year and a half in another case have not been filled. 

However -- trying to talk you down again -- Congress and the president can act and can act quickly if they are motivated.  In fact, Commissioner Peterson is a great example of that.  He was nominated and then confirmed 12 days later. 

So, it is possible for the president to nominate people to fill the empty slots and for the Senate to confirm them in fairly short order if they decide to do so.  The last time we ran out of a quorum in 2008, it took six months before they decided to fill the empty seats and bring us back to full strength.  I am sincerely hoping that we are not going to run into that situation again. 

MADDOW:  If the president did decide that he wanted to fill these seats so the FEC could be at full strength, could do things like open investigations, issue rules, issue advisory expectations, things that you said they can`t do without a quorum, the president would be responsible for appointing both Republican and Democrat members to the open seats, right? 



WEINTRAUB:  Usually what happens is the seats of the opposition party to the president are filled on the recommendation of the leaders of that party in the Senate, often with the leaders in the House. 

MADDOW:  Ellen Weintraub, Democratic member of the Federal Election Commission, chair of the commission -- please keep us apprised.  This may - - I understand if this does evolve, it may evolve quickly.  We`d love to have you back if you can keep us up to date on this. 

WEINTRAUB:  Anytime, Rachel. 

MADDOW:  All right.  Thanks a lot.  Take care.

We`ll be right back.  Stay with us. 


MADDOW:  I owe you a poof.  I`m so sorry. 

Congressman Seth Moulton, Iraq War combat veteran, Massachusetts congressman, dropped out of the presidential race on Friday and I forgot to poof him.  Congressman Moulton will instead just run for reelection in the House, which might be a serious undertaking for him next year.  It looks like he`s going to be facing a number of primary challengers in his district.

But, regardless, Seth Moulton becomes the fourth Democrat to leave the presidential race.  Eric Swalwell first, then John Hickenlooper, then Jay Inslee, and now -- three, two, one, poof. 

Congressman Seth Moulton, thank you, sir. 

Congressman Moulton did not make either of the first two Democratic debates.  He also was not on track to make the third debate, which is coming up in the just a couple of weeks. 

It`s going to be interesting to watch over this next couple of days, though.  The cut off date to meet the criteria to qualify for the third debate is the day after tomorrow.  As of right now, 10 Democratic candidates have met the criteria to get in that debate.  If it stays at 10, they`re going to have all ten candidates go together on one night. 

If an 11th candidate qualifies, though, they`re going to split them up into two nights again, so that would be six on one night and five on the other.  Now, a few other candidates are maybe on the cusp of qualifying, including California billionaire Tom Steyer who only needs to hit 2 percent in one qualifying poll and then he would be in. 

But again, up against the clock, these guys only have two days to punch the ticket before the qualifying deadline expires on Wednesday. 

Watch this space. 


MADDOW:  One story to keep an eye on tomorrow morning.  By 4:00 p.m. tomorrow Eastern Time, there is a court ordered deadline that ultimately could tell us whether President Trump`s taxes are going to be handed over to Congress or not. 

This is the case where the Democrats have subpoenaed Deutsche Bank and Capital One to get records related to President Trump and his business.  Those banks so far had been unwilling to tell the court whether the information they have about President Trump includes their tax returns.  And if so, whether they would be handing those over to Congress, too. 

But even though those banks have been resistant, they have to say one way or the other, they have to tell the court one way or the other by tomorrow at 4:00 p.m. Eastern.  And we expect those to be public filings.  So that could end up being a big deal.  Keep an eye out for that. 

That does it for us tonight.  We will see you again tomorrow. 


Good evening, Lawrence. 

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