JOY REID, MSNBC HOST: That is it for "ALL IN" this evening. Be sure to catch me tomorrow morning at 10:00 Eastern on my show "A.M. JOY", live from Washington, D.C.
THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now.
Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Joy. Thank you, my friend. Much appreciated. Looking forward to seeing your show tomorrow.
REID: Thank you. Appreciate it.
MADDOW: Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour as well.
I want to be the first to tell you right off the bat that Massachusetts senator and Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren is going to be here not tonight and also not Monday but on Tuesday of next week. We have just locked in an interview date for Senator Elizabeth Warren who`s going to be here live in studio with me on Tuesday night.
Now, as far as we can tell, the reason she`s going to be in New York early next week and, therefore, available to come to the studio is because she`s apparently planning a big speech in a dramatic setting on Monday evening. Elizabeth Warren`s campaign is planning a big speech by their candidate in Washington Square Park in Greenwich Village, in the heart of downtown New York City.
They have been promoting this for a while on Facebook and otherwise to their supporters. It hasn`t had any press pickup as far as I can tell, but it`s clear from their organizing effort that they expect this to be kind of a landmark event for the Warren campaign. It`s a kind of time and place and setting that could in fact result in a very, very big turnout, but we think that`s why she`s here. That will be Monday night in New York City, Elizabeth Warren. And then we will have her here on the show the day after on Tuesday. So, I wanted to make sure to remember to tell you that right at the top of the show.
What we`re going to start tonight`s news here in Kleiner Tiergarten Park. It is in Central Berlin. It`s right by the -- looks like Spree River. I think German say it Spree. I don`t know. It looks like Spree. It`s right by the river that runs right through that part of Berlin.
Actually, Kleiner Tiergarten Park is just directly down the road from the German parliament and the German chancellery, which is where Angela Merkel has her office. So, it`s a nice spot. Very centrally located.
And three weeks ago today on Friday, August 23rd, it was very nice day to be out in the park in Central Berlin. Temps in the low 80s that day. It was nice, sunny day. Lots of people out and about and enjoying the summer weather, I`m sure.
Just before noon that day, three weeks ago, two 17-year-olds who were out in Kleiner Tiergarten Park saw something really strange happen. They saw a guy ride up on an e-bike right up to the edge of the Spree River and there he threw his e-bike into the river. Then they say they thought they also saw him maybe throw some sort of a bag and maybe also a wig?
I mean, if that was you, 17 years old in a random park at noon on a summer Friday, I mean, when I was 17, I would think that was hilarious because I thought everything was hilarious. But, you know, no matter what age you are, you would also think that was suspicious, right? In any case, these two teenagers flagged down a cop, and within minutes the guy was detained.
Police eventually did pull an e-bike out of the river, which he had thrown in there. They recovered the bike. They reportedly recovered the wig. They reportedly recovered a Glock handgun with a silencer screwed onto it and a bag that among other things included reportedly a package of paprika which is theorized might have been planned to use to throw sniffer dogs off the scent had this suspect ultimately ended up being chased by police dogs.
He did not end up getting chased by police dogs because just regular police officers caught him right away.
When police later pieced together what had happened in the few minutes before those 17-year-olds saw this guy throwing all of this junk into the river, the story was almost unbelievably dramatic because what had apparently happened just before this guy was seen throwing things into the river and getting picked up by police, what had happened just immediately before that is that allegedly he had just killed a guy in the park in what was I guess you`d call it a bike-by shooting.
Here`s how "The Wall Street Journal" wrote it up. The suspect rode up to the victim using a bicycle which officials say had been placed near the scene before the shooting. He sped towards his victim and shot the man twice in the head with a Glock .26 handgun fitted with a silencer.
In "The New York Times`" account of this killing, after the two shots to the head, the killer biked away, biked away a few hundred yards south to the river bank. That`s when he threw all of this stuff in the river. Then according to "The Times", quote, police found the suspect in nearby shrubs. He was in the bushes.
What was he doing in the bushes? Well, he had changed his clothes and his appearance and seemed ready to travel by scooter. He had a large amount of money with him.
When they say he had changed his appearance while he was hiding in the bushes. Here`s how "The Guardian" newspaper in London flushes that out. Quote: The alleged assassin changed his outfit to blend in as a tourist wearing a pink shirt, sandals and a neck pouch containing a passport and a large amount of cash.
So, he goes and allegedly kills the guy, races to the river, throws -- takes his wig off, throws his wig into the river, gets off his bike and throws it into the river, throws the gun into the river, throws his bag into the river, rushes into the underbrush, changes his clothes and starts to get on a scooter that he stashed in the bushes to ride away. I mean, he`s dressed up in the pink getup looking totally different than he did before when they find him in the bushes.
And we know the bit about the bike and then changing over into the scooter is definitely legit in part because German police have since released these weird, very well lit modern art like photos of the actual bike that they pulled out of the river, that`s on the left, and the e-scooter that he had with him in the bushes when they caught him there changing into his pink shirt and tourist sandals after he had taken off his wig.
German police also released this photo of the suspect who they arrested, although they did not release his name. According to multiple reports, German police didn`t release his name because they have actually no idea what his name is. And at this point in the detective story, if you read detective stories, you know that the good plot then shifts to the victim, to try to figure out what the heck happened here with this crime, now that we`ve gotten this far with the alleged perpetrator.
Well, in terms of the victim, the man who was killed in the park that day, he was walking across the park just before noon on a sunny day, in a capital, in a Western European country, steps away from the seat of government, right? He`s walking through the park. His assassin approaches him from behind on an e-bike, shoots him from behind at least twice in the head, perhaps additionally in the shoulder. The guy in e-bike then rides off several hundred yards towards the river.
The man who was killed, the man who died in the park that day was reportedly a 40-year-old citizen of the nation of Georgia. Ethnically, he was Chechen. In the early 2000s, in the big second big separatists uprising of Chechens against Russia, he had reportedly been a mid-level commander who led Chechen forces in battle against Russian soldiers. He`s also a close associate of an anti-Russian Chechen leader who would go on to be president of the Chechnya for a time.
But even after Russia put down that uprising in the early 2000s, this young commander continued to be, I guess, an annoyance to Russia, at least somebody they might notice. After the uprising was put down, he fled to Georgia, nation of Georgia. He made himself useful to the government of Georgia. At one point, he`s report today have played a key role as a mediator, after other Chechen militants took hostages and killed a bunch of people in the mountains in Georgia, this guy was sent in as a trusted figure who the Chechens would talk to bring about an end to that standoff on behalf of the Georgian government.
He also reportedly helped the Georgian government in their counterintelligence efforts against Russia. So, it will perhaps not surprise you to hear that while he was living in Georgia, he faced repeated attempts on his life and he and his associates blamed on Russia.
In 2009, he was reportedly poisoned. In 2015, he was driving in Georgia`s capital city when he was ambushed and a whole volley of shots were fired into his car. He was reportedly hit and injured in that attack but he survived.
In the wake of that assassination attempt in 2015, he fled to Germany. Now because of his past, because of the repeated attempts on his life, he requested protection from the German government. In 2017, the director of a nonprofit group that had supported this guy`s relocation to Germany supported his asylum application in Germany, the non-profit chief wrote a letter to German immigration authorities on the man`s behalf expressing concern for his safety.
We know that because "The New York Times" obtained that letter. They quote it in part saying: He is so massively pursued by the Russian side that his life is in danger and he needs special protection. Quote: I urge you to grant him special protection and not to send him back to where Putin`s long arm can reach him. The idea being that you should keep him here in Germany, where Putin can`t reach him.
Despite those requests, the German government had not yet provided him any special protection. "The Wall Street Journal" interviews a former official in the Georgian government who had kept in touch with the man until recently. He tells `The Journal" now that the time of his death, the man was still trying to obtain state-appointed bodyguards through the German court system. But he nevertheless felt somewhat safe while he was waiting word. Quote: He felt even though he was not able to get the protection he asked for, he did feel relatively safe in Germany. The man continued, quote, apparently he was not.
Well, this week U.S. officials tell "The Wall Street Journal" that U.S. intelligence now believes that the government of Russia was behind this bicycle riding assassination in broad daylight in a park in Central Berlin three weeks ago today. Quote: U.S. officials said on Tuesday that Russia was behind the murder last month of a former Chechen rebel in Germany.
U.S. officials telling "The Journal", quote: The United States believes that Russia is responsible for this assassination. Quote: One official said the suspect had recently come out of a Russian prison after serving a murder sentence. Upon his release, he was given a bona fide Russian passport under the name Vadim Sokolov, which U.S. officials believed to be a cover.
Now that is, as I mentioned, one single source speaking to "The Wall Street Journal" about the suspect here, about him allegedly just coming out of Russian prison, about him being a convicted murderer, about him having this bona fide Russian passport issued under a fake name. That`s one source to "The Journal".
But that does jive with other open source reporting, investigative reporting that`s being done in conjunction, that`s being done in a collaborative effort by German and Russian news organizations, along with the investigative freelance outfit, Bellingcat, which has a very interesting track record on these sorts of things. Bellingcat played a key role in tracing the attempted assassins of Sergei Skripal and his daughter after they were almost killed in the U.K. Bellingcat played a key role in tracing that crime back to Russian military intelligence officers.
Well, what this open source investigative reporting effort between this German news outlet and Russian news outlet and Bellingcat has found in the Berlin case is that the passport of the alleged killer who`s in German custody, the passport that he was carrying, it is a real Russian passport but it pretty clearly has been issued in a fake name. The address listed for that passport holder, for example, is an address that physically doesn`t exist in St. Petersburg. There`s also no record of anyone by that name in databases of Russian passport holders. There`s no trace of that person online or any known databases anywhere on earth.
As one U.S. official explains to "The Wall Street Journal", quote, a fake identity with a real passport can only be provided by authorities in Russia.
Bellingcat and "Der Spiegel" and Russian news organization "The Insider" also report in their investigation that just like with the attempted murder of Sergei Skripal in the U.K., the passport of this alleged killer in Berlin who`s now in German custody is apparently numbered in such a way that appears to link it to Russian military intelligence. Russian military intelligence were apparently provided with sequentially numbered passports that make it so that you can trace specific passports back to them in the event something crazy like this happens.
And this is a crazy thing, right? This killing was three weeks ago today. German police picked this guy up within minutes of the killing thanks to the witnesses who saw him apparently allegedly both kill the guy and go into this crazy series of events and a series of actions in which he tried to change his appearance and get away.
German police still have him in custody. They`ve released this picture of him. They have not released a name for him. They don`t believe they have a real name for him. They`ve released a picture of his bike that he allegedly committed the murder while riding and the scooter that he was allegedly going to use as his getaway vehicle.
Russian consular officials have been visiting him since he has been in custody. That said, the Russian government denies this latest assassination has anything to do with them. But, you know, you would expect them to say that.
A source from German security agencies quoted in "Der Spiegel" puts a fine enough point on it. Quote: If it turns out that a state player like Russia is behind this killing in Berlin, then we have a second Skripal case on our hands, with everything that entails.
When Russia carried out that assassination in Britain, the Skripal assassination attempt in Salisbury, in the U.K., that`s only last year. Doesn`t that feel like a million years ago? It was a year and a half ago. It was March of 2018.
And in the investigations that have happened since then, the suspiciously fit, stern-faced, very well-organized supposed tourists that arrived in Salisbury just before the killing and left Salisbury right after, they turned out to be apparently Russian military intelligence officers. They reported they were carrying real Russian passports that were issued by Russian government, just not in real names.
Sergei Skripal, of course, was an ex-KGB officer who had become a Western intelligence asset. He and his daughter barely survived this attack with Novichok, which is a Russian nerve agent. The attack did end up killing a bystander and severely sickening several other people in that city, including a police officer.
In the international outcry that followed that attempted Russian assassination in Britain, over 100 Russian diplomats were expelled from western countries, including from the U.S. That you might remember is what produce the laugh until you cry moment when we learned that President Trump was apparently very upset and almost panicked when he learned that the U.S. was actually expelling more Russian diplomats than other countries were in response to the Skripal`s attempted assassination.
Trump administration -- the Trump administration apparently had sort of done the math wrong and they thought they were only expelling a sort of average number of Russian diplomats. They thought they were only doing what other countries were doing when they learned that they were accidentally kicking out a lot more Russian diplomats than other countries were, President Trump was apparently very upset at that. Oops.
In addition to kicking out diplomats, though, the other part of the U.S. response to the attempted Skripal association in Britain was a new round of tough U.S. sanctions against Russia. Well, the Trump administration announced them but then didn`t do it. They slow walked those sanctions for months. It was only after a round of critical reporting earlier this summer made clear that although the Trump administration had announced those sanctions as a response to the Skripal assassination attempt, they`ve never actually put them into practice. It was not until almost a year and a half after the Skripal attack that Trump administration was finally shamed into implementing those sanctions, begrudgingly and belatedly.
You know when they put those sanctions into effect? Last month, August of 2019, after announcing them the spring of last year. The Russian parliament passed a law in 2006 that nominally at least makes it legal for Vladimir Putin to order the murder of anybody anywhere on earth provided that he believes that person to be a threat to Russia or terrorists.
Within weeks of the Russian Douma passing that law, that`s when we saw the murder by polonium of Alexander Litvinenko, who was an ex-Russian spy who was killed by them dropping radioactive material into his tea in a London hotel. And, you know, with those assassinations and others in Britain, both attempted and completed and others in other parts of the world, maybe Putin and Russia have never really feared what the international consequences or American consequences might be of them tracking down people and murdering them.
But often this new guy in Berlin in broad daylight, in Germany`s capital city, literally just down the block from Angela Merkel`s office, making sure that the killer had a Russian passport on him that would immediately be traced back to the Russian security services when he was picked it up, I mean, this not only seems like they`re not afraid, this seems like they`re flaunting what they can do, right? What are you going to do it, right? I can do this in your house. You`re not going to do anything about it. Watch what else I`ll do?
And what is incredible for us as Americans, is that as that story about the Berlin assassination has unfolded, strange and scary story out of Berlin, we`ve also had this other story unfold right here about U.S. intelligence`s own guy, own source inside the Kremlin. Now, "The Washington Post" in 2017, Bob Woodward`s book "Fear" last year, other news results, had all reported in general terms the existence of an important U.S. intelligence source somewhere inside the Russian government that had given U.S. law enforcement an intelligence, key information about the Russian government that they really couldn`t have obtained any other way. Key information about the Russian attack on the 2016 election, including specific documentation showing that Putin himself had ordered the election attack, he had signed off on it, and that it was specifically intended to try to install Trump in the White House.
That is not Putin specific information you`re going to get out of signals intelligence. That was human intelligence agencies got from a human source inside the Russian government. So the fact that that source existed inside the Russian government, inside the Kremlin had been previously reported. But then apparently this week, some sort of trip wire was tripped and in very big succession, that blew up, right? We first got the CNN reporting that not only did that source exist, but he had been exfiltrated by the U.S. out of Russia in 2017, in part because of concerns that president Trump might burn him, might identify him to the Russians.
We got "The New York Times" reporting that the source had been providing valuable intelligence from inside the Kremlin for decades which, of course, means losing him inside the Kremlin would be a priceless loss for U.S. intelligence capabilities.
We then in very quick succession got NBC News reporting about where the guy was living in Virginia and under what name his house had been purchased. Well, by Monday night this week, after that flurry of reporting that man had reportedly fled that house along with his family.
By Tuesday, the Russian government had published what they said was his name. Russian news organizations immediately started denigrating him saying, oh, he definitely wasn`t important. He definitely wouldn`t have had access to any important information. At the same time though, perhaps belying that they were sort of interested in tracking him down, Russian authorities did take steps to alert Interpol as of yesterday that they want Interpol, international assistance in tracking this guy down.
And did I mention that U.S. intelligence says Russia was behind an assassination this week in Berlin, in the capital city of Germany, right next to Angela Merkel`s office? I mean, I don`t know why there was this flurry of reporting over the past four days that basically outed this unbelievably important U.S. intelligence source who until recently had been in pretty echelons inside the Russian government. I don`t know why that all happened this week.
We do know that the new attorney general, William Barr, and the Justice Ddepartment`s inspector general have been pursuing an investigation into the origins of the Russia investigation and the sources of intelligence that U.S. intelligence agencies and the FBI used, for among other things, making FISA warrants for the Russia investigation. We know they`ve been trying to track down all the ways that this Russia investigation started and who were the sources for the initial information that set the investigation off.
Now, is it possible that that`s pried loss of some of this stuff and put this priceless American source into the wind? We don`t know. We don`t know what the trip wire was that hit this week that basically resulted in this flurry of him being outed.
But he is now in the way. He has now gone out of that address in Virginia. Nobody knows where he is. If he is at risk from Russia coming for him, well, if you`re U.S. intelligence, if you`re trying to protect him, how do you do that? How would you do it in normal times? How do you do it now?
How much, for example, can you compartmentalize the information about where this guy is now? Now that he`s fled that house in Virginia? I mean, specifically I`m wondering, do you have to tell the White House where he is? What if they ask? Can you interrogate why they`re asking?
I mean, Russia just killed a guy, according to U.S. intelligence, three weeks ago in Central Berlin. That was the Russian government. Is it impossible that they would try to get this guy here, too? If it was impossible in the past, is it still impossible now?
I have just the person to ask. You are going to want to meet our next guest.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: Do you remember Henry Hill from "Goodfellas"? Right, the mobster who became an FBI informant famously, and terrifyingly and hauntingly portrayed by Ray Liotta? It still freaks me out.
Henry Hill was a real person. And in real life, just like in the movies, he turned on his mafia bosses and then he ended up in witness protection for his own safety, which makes sense given what he had just done, right? In Henry Hill`s case, as it generally does, it worked rather than being murdered by the mob for turning state`s evidence. Henry Hill ended up dying of natural causes in 2012.
The witness protection program is how you disappear after you`re known to have helped in the prosecution of a dangerous criminal or criminals. It`s run by the U.S. Marshal Service. It also has kind of a cousin in another program that is run by the CIA. It`s called the National Resettlement Operation Center.
A few years ago, the great FOIA site unredacted.com published the first organization chart of the CIA, showing it unredacted, under the National Clandestine Service, which reports up to the CIA director. At any given time, the secretive protection program includes, I don`t know, dozens, maybe 100 former spies for our country that need protection here. They get American citizenship. They are asked where they want to live.
It`s not fail proof. In one reported instance that told a dramatic story in "The New York Times" last year, quote: In one instance, a suspected hit man for Russian intel arrived in Florida and approached the home of one of the CIA`s most important informants, a Russian had who had been secretly resettled there. The suspected hit man also travelled to another city where one of the informant`s relatives lived, raising even concerns that the Kremlin had authorized revenge on American soil.
So, this is -- I mean, I know this is spy movie stuff. But real life, this is scary, dangerous and dark stuff, right? Attempting to protect people who have at great personal risk decided to help the U.S., people who have put their lives on the line to gather intelligence from places like Russia or anywhere else in the world in order to help the United States, in order to help the U.S. intelligence community.
Well, the news this week from Berlin that according to U.S. officials, it was the Russian government that tracked down and assassinated a former Chechen rebel, not in Chechnya, not in Russia, but in Germany, in the capital city of Germany, just steps away from the office of the German chancellor, that news, along with the outing of a man who is reported to be a former Russian spy now living in the U.S. under American protection after he provided key information to U.S. intelligence for decades, including the key central information that led to the Russian investigation in terms of Russia interfering with our election. Well, the confluence of those two stories, both of which have been unfolded over the last few days of course raise the prospect, raise the worry that Russia might go after this U.S. intelligence source that`s just been outed, maybe even here in the U.S.
A former CIA official, longtime veteran of CIA, who has worked on resettling defectors, who has been in charge of that, told "The Washington Post" this week, quote: Putin is very revengeful. Putin will go after these people.
Joining us now for the interview is Joseph Augustyn. He`s a 28-year veteran of the CIA`s clandestine service and a former director of the CIA`s Defector Operations Center.
Mr. Augustyn, I`m super intimidated to meet you. Thank you for being here.
JOSEPH AUGUSTYN, FORMER CIA OFFICIAL IN CHARGE OF RESETTLING DEFECTORS: Nice to meet you. Thank you. Thank you.
MADDOW: Let me ask you, as I`m telling my layman`s version of these spy stories if anything I`ve talked about over the last couple of seconds strikes you wrong, if that any that seems wrong to you.
AUGUSTYN: I think you`ve got it pretty much right.
AUGUSTYN: I`d like to start off by saying that, you know, on this specific case, I didn`t know much about this case until I got a news broke and the rest of the world heard about it. That said, you know, the Defector Operations Center at CIA brings in and resettles those people who get in trouble overseas, if you will, and we -- according to a little known law called Public Law 110 that goes back to 1949, United States government is allowed to bring in up to 100 people a year, which includes family members.
MADDOW: There`s a ceiling on it.
AUGUSTYN: There`s a ceiling, up to 100, which I can tell you we very rarely get to if ever, but up to 100 people who have provided key information to protect -- in defense of the United States and its security, OK?
So we -- in the Defector Operations Center where we have these people, and we have them for life, by the way. You mentioned the Marshal Service witness protection program, it`s a little bit different. In the witness protection program, people who stray from the program or do things that are not directed to do, they get kicked out of the program.
MADDOW: I was looking that up today because I was going to also do Sammy the Bull, right, he`s one of these --
MADDOW: And I was, actually, he ended up out of the witness protection program right away and back into a life of crime and back in prison.
MADDOW: You can`t do that in witness protection.
AUGUSTYN: You can`t do that. We take people in. And we`ve taken in, I can tell you this, and I`m allowed to tell you this, we have several hundred open cases in the United States of defectors now, we call them detectors, because they were in jeopardy or there was peril to the fact they might be exposed, or in fact be killed.
MADDOW: How good is the U.S. and the CIA in this case at protecting those people? What`s the track record like?
AUGUSTYN: Well, you know, it`s very interesting because under Putin -- by the way, we bring in not only Russians, right? We bring in the Chinese, Iranians, North Koreans and we`re responsible for their security for life, all right? And in terms of protecting them, we have a moral responsibility and I really mean this sincerely. You know, people who work for us in place for that long and take those kind of risks that they take, we want to assure that they are protected, that we take care of them and they live as good a life as they can for -- you know, for the rest of their lives.
MADDOW: If that`s -- that makes sense to me. The U.S. is making an implicit promise to people when they engage for them to spy for us and get information for us, that we will -- you have to do this dangerous thing but we will take care of you. We`ll keep you alive as part of the deal. You have to be able to legitimately and honestly promise that.
AUGUSTYN: Exactly. And, you know, while I`m no longer in the agency, I can tell you at that I and others were worried about Russian defectors, OK, because of Putin. You know, as I said, and you just quoted, you know, Putin is a very vengeful, revengeful individual. He`ll come and put people on target lists, and we worry about that.
You know, there`s a red line that most people think in the United States that Putin will not cross. I for one believe he straddles that line as we speak, which means that, you know, this particular individual who was outed if you will, and was exfiltrated in 2017, you know, I have no concern at this particular point in time that Putin will come and get him now.
What I worry about is a year from now, two years from now, five years from now, he has a wife and three kids. He was resettled in this country in true name, OK? That is not standard operating procedure in the Defector Operations Center. Now, it could be and I have to emphasize, we respect our defectors. We respect these people.
And I could see that this person arguing to keep his true name. It`s very difficult for defectors when they come to the United States. Let me explain it this way. I think it`s an important point.
Most of these people had important positions back home. Most of these people never told their spouse what they`re doing. They didn`t tell their kids what they were doing, and one day, somebody from the CIA, because these people get in trouble, this particular guy, for example, as you said, worked in place for us for ten years.
That`s a long time to be a reporting asset. The longer it goes, the more opportunities there are for him to screw up, for us to screw up, which we never do. Great for us to screw up, for him to come under suspicion. That`s a long time. OK?
So at this point -- at that point, we decided frankly after some media things, connecting him, suggesting that he had an important position within Putin`s inner circle, that it was time for him to leave.
MADDOW: Yes, it was time for him to disappear.
AUGUSTYN: So, he comes to the United States. He had an important position there. He`s now in the United States.
We tell -- now his kids know. Now, his wife knows. He`s here living a decent life.
And we also tell the kids, and we tell the family, we`re going to teach you English, right? So, I know you speak Russian but we`re going to teach you English. Then we`re going to assimilate you into American society.
And the job you had back in Russia, you`re not going to have the same kind of job in the United States. And then we`re going to say, and this is a very important point, which gets defectors all the time, and I don`t blame them, the defectors for feeling this way, and you have no more contact to anyone back home.
MADDOW: Including your family back home.
AUGUSTYN: Including your family.
MADDOW: Let me stop right here because I have another element of this that I want to ask you about in terms of the security of this guy moving forward.
I have to take a quick break. We`ll be right back.
Joseph Augustyn is a 28-year veteran of the CIA`s clandestine service, former director of the CIA`s Defector Operations Center. We`ll be right back right with him after this.
MADDOW: For 28 years, Joseph Augustyn was a member of the top secret CIA clandestine services. For three of those years, he ran the CIA`s Defector Operations Center. That is the part of the CIA that takes foreign assets who have helped U.S. intelligence and gets them secretly resettled here in the U.S. to protect them.
Foreign assets akin to the Russian spy who we just learned this week was exfiltrated from Russia in 2017, relocated to the U.S. and this week mysteriously had his cover blown by a ton of media attention, and he has now as of Monday night this week all but disappeared.
Mr. Augustyn, thank you for being with us.
AUGUSTYN: Thank you.
MADDOW: Let me ask you about -- let`s ask you about the sort of track record of the Defector Operations Center in terms of keeping people safe. When you look at what Russia has done recently, you look at the Skripal attempted assassination in Salisbury, you look at the Berlin case, that it`s at least being reported U.S. intelligence thinks was a Russian operation just three weeks ago in the heart of Berlin, do you feel like Russia is getting more willing to do this in places where they otherwise wouldn`t be expected? Or is this kind of the way they`ve always been?
AUGUSTYN: Well, you know, I think in some ways both true because this is the way they`ve always been. I mean, you know, poisoning your people from the Soviet Union and Russia goes back decades. The KGB actually had a department called poison department where they learned the different and created different poisons to assassinate people who disagreed with the regime.
Now, with Putin, however, you know, we have a former KGB officer, right, who knows this stuff and is -- and hates traitors more than anything in the world. And, you know, what we say about Putin is, you know, it`s -- to be laughed at is worse for him than being feared. This is what`s happened in this case. And that`s why you see a lot of media attention to the fact that this defector that we think -- that we say and we know frankly was an incredibly important spy within the inner circle, Putin now his propaganda machine is saying he was low level and he didn`t do anything and -- you know, that`s spy talk because he`s not going to admit that we just recruited within his own organization an incredibly important asset.
So, you know, I`m worried again that we have to be -- we have to keep our vigilance intact because this man has become vulnerable. Can we protect him? We can protect him and as I said, you know, right now, I don`t fear any -- I don`t fear any retribution right now, but a year from now, two years.
And what happens in a case like that is, you know, you get lazy. You get the security that you think you don`t need, and that`s when Putin -- that`s when Putin attacks.
MADDOW: That`s what we`ve seen with Litvinenko, that`s what we saw with Skripal, that`s what we saw presumably with this Chechen guy, it was years on from whatever their beef was with him.
MADDOW: They don`t -- long memories.
AUGUSTYN: And we have these families, you know, and we -- we don`t want defectors in the United States. If we recruit someone overseas, we would rather have them work in place, you know, provide the information that they can and when their exit ends, we end our relationship and they live happily ever after their own country. We don`t want defectors but we have a moral obligation to bring them in when they`re in trouble.
AUGUSTYN: You know? I mean, your viewers who watch "The Americans". Very important, this is "The Americans" in reverse.
AUGUSTYN: We have people here who weren`t spying on us, they were spying for us. Now they`re living in our midst.
MADDOW: Joseph Augustyn, 28-year veteran of the CIA, former director of the CIA`s defector resettlement operations, thank you so much. We really appreciate you being here.
AUGUSTYN: Thank you very much.
MADDOW: Thank you.
All right. More ahead. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Last couple of weeks have been field day -- a field day for reporters looking to dig into the intersection between the president`s day job and his wallet. David Fahrenthold of "The Washington Post" won a Pulitzer Prize for just this type of forensic reporting on the president`s finances. So, when the president recently suggested that the next G7 summit would be held at Doral, his property in Florida, and not just because Doral is awesome but because the U.S. government vetted like a dozen places already and it turns out Doral was definitely the best one and that`s why it`s going to be at Doral. When the president tried that out a couple of weeks ago, well, that was an empirical statement about the behavior of the U.S. government, at least an empirical claim by the government. That`s the kind of empirical claim that could be tested by reporters.
Well, viola, today, reporter David Fahrenthold of "The Washington Post" is testing that empirical assertion in terms of whether the U.S. government actually did vet a dozen sites for the G7 and decide that Doral was the best. He also said on Twitter that he`d like your help with that vetting if you have any tips for him.
Hours after he said that he said he has also already gotten some great tips on what the U.S. government did here since his first tweet.
While that controversy continues to not just trail the president, it sort of blossoms as the president leans into this idea that he ought to make money off the presidency, he got some very bad news on that front from the U.S. federal appeals court today and the lawyer who is running that case is our next guest.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: Donald Trump was sworn into office on a Friday. By the next Monday, by the first full working day in D.C. of the Trump era, he was already being sued by ethics watchdogs. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington also known as CREW, they filed suit in federal court in the Southern District of New York alleging that by continuing to profit from his hotels and his restaurants in New York and D.C. while he was in office as president, Trump was violating the emoluments clause of the Constitution.
Remember when Americans didn`t even have to know that the emoluments clause of the Constitution explicitly says the president can`t profit from business dealings with foreign countries? Remember those innocent days? When that was a totally irrelevant part of the Constitution because presidents wouldn`t even try such a thing?
Anywho, that case that was filed against the president on the first full work day of the Trump presidency, that was the first of several cases ultimately brought by a bunch of plaintiffs trying to enlist the court system to try to keep the president from using the Oval Office to line his pockets and to try to keep foreign governments from using Trump branded properties as a convenient way to bribe the leader of the free world.
That first emoluments case has appeared to be dead in the courts since a district court judge refused to let it go forward in 2017. But, hey, look, today, an appeals court brought it back to life, which means -- which mean -- well, don`t take it from me.
Our next guest tonight is Deepak Gupta, who is a lawyer representing the plaintiffs in this lawsuit against the president.
Mr. Gupta, it`s great to have you with us tonight. Thank you for making time.
DEEPAK GUPTA, LAWYER FOR PLAINTIFFS SUING TRUMP OVER EMOLUMENTS: Hi, Rachel. Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: So, I understand the basic charge here that the president`s not supposed to use his public position to get rich and the Constitution says in particular he can`t take money from other governments while he`s getting paid to be president.
MADDOW: Is there more specificity in terms of the way your case works that we need to understand in terms of how it`s going to move in the courts?
Yes. So, you mentioned that there were several cases brought. There were three cases brought, one by members of Congress, one by the District of Columbia and Maryland, and I also represent them. And this third case was one that there was a decision in today, and that`s the case in which we represent hotel and restaurant industry competitors of President Trump`s businesses.
We always thought this was a really straightforward theory here. These are people that are directly competing with Trump`s businesses in the market. Every dollar that goes from their businesses to Trump`s businesses that would have gone to them because of foreign delegation, for example, at the United Nations might have patronized their business, that`s an injury to them. So, a direct injury to them because the president is violating the Constitution.
And that`s exactly what the court today held, the Federal Court of Appeals in New York, which is the level right before the U.S. Supreme Court. And this is the first appellate decision in these emoluments cause cases to allow the litigation to go forward.
MADDOW: In terms of the president`s sort of brazenness on this issue while these court cases have been meandering through the court system with more or less success and as you say, yours is the first one to get a favorable appellate decision. It seems like the president at a public level has become much more blatant and brazen about the idea that he ought to profit from his public office and that foreign governments ought to pay him if they want to do business with the U.S. government, including, for example, for the privilege of coming to the G7 conference.
MADDOW: Are those kinds of proposals from the president directly implicated by this case that you have brought?
GUPTA: They are, yes. So, we`ve all been hearing news lately about these Air Force stopovers in Scotland. That is money that`s going from the federal treasury, from the U.S. military budget, to the president`s businesses. That is direct violation of the domestic emoluments clause of the Constitution, which says that the president is only supposed to get a salary for doing his job.
That`s all we`re going to pay him. The federal government doesn`t pay him anything more, and that`s a violation of the Constitution.
So, every time you have foreign delegations staying at his businesses where, for example, you mentioned the Doral, the summit that he wants to have at Doral if he`s effectively forcing foreign governments to go to his resort and spend money there, that would be a direct violation of the foreign emoluments clause.
And I think you`re right, Rachel, that we`ve seen him be a lot more brazen about this. You remember before he was -- before he took office, he had a press conference where he hired a lawyer and they tried to say, look, there`s not going to be a violation of the clause.
They were worried about this. They were concerned. And I think -- as we`ve had seen with a lot of things with President Trump, as the norms get shattered, he becomes more and more brazen about these norms.
And I think that`s why it is so essential to enforce these norms. I know it`s frustrating because the court system, the legal system, these things take time but it matters. It matters to be able to say, look, we held him to account. These constitutional norms didn`t just go by the wayside. They set precedent and we`re not going to law this to happen again.
MADDOW: Deepak Gupta, attorney for the plaintiffs suing the president over his alleged violation of the emoluments clause -- thank you so much for your time tonight. Congratulations on your success today. Keep us apprised.
GUPTA: Thanks so much for having me.
MADDOW: Thank you.
I should tell you that Lawrence O`Donnell is going to have more on this story tonight. He`s going to be talking to the head of CREW, which is the group bringing that lawsuit we were just talking about.
We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: That`s going to do it for us tonight.
There`s one story you should watch for developments in over the weekend. One of the things we`ve been talking about on this show is the potential that there might be a -- the opioids version of what was the multibillion dollar tobacco settlement back in the `90s, the company that makes OxyContin, Purdue Pharma. Purdue Pharma is trying to pursue that sort of settlement.
Bombshell story tonight in "The New York Times" which says the New York attorney general from -- subpoenas to one financial institution alone have turned up wire transfers of more than a billion dollars to entities controlled by the Sackler family that owns Purdue Pharma. There are allegations now that that family may have essentially raided Purdue Pharma to take all the money all of that company, to leave no money for victims, to leave less money for victims as they approach these settlement talks.
Those are red-hot allegations. We`ve been talking about that all week, and that is significantly advanced by this reporting in "The New York Times," and I expect that will lead to more reporting and consequences over the weekend.
So, watch for that.
And now, now it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL".
Good evening, Lawrence.
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