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Transcript: The Rachel Maddow Show, 8/15/22

Guests: Brandon van Grack


Interview with Brandon van Grack who investigated, prosecuted Trump allies Michael Flynn and Paul Manafort. Rep. Liz Cheney (D-WY) faces a Trump-backed election denier.


CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: That is "ALL IN" on this Monday night.

And THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now.

Good evening, Rachel.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Chris, do you have a connection to the FBI that we should all understand?

HAYES: Do I, personally?

MADDOW: Every time you go on vacation, the FBI does something nobody expected and blows everybody away. I have to call you and figure out where in the world you are.

HAYES: I found out -- I found out the search warrant in Mar-a-Lago from a text from you without -- I didn`t even get to the American news. I was like oh, yeah. I guess things are crazy.

Whoa. Babe, they searched Mar-a-Lago.

MADDOW: Rachel just rang the bat phone again, every time I leave the East.

Anyway, I`m putting on a leash on you, my friend. I can`t take the suspense any more. Welcome back, Chris.

HAYES: Good to be back.

MADDOW: And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. It s great to you have here.

Do you remember the name Brandon van Grack?

It`s very memorable name. So, you might remember the sound of it, if not the circumstance in which you first heard it. But if you are like me in all likelihood the first time you heard the name Brandon van Grack was the first time you heard the word espionage formally associated with the presidency of Donald Trump -- espionage as in the Espionage Act, as in not just spy movie stuff, as in U.S. law.

We were only about four months in to the Trump administration when "The New York Times" was first to report that the -- you know, then brand-new Trump administration had made a very unusual hiring decision that ultimately implicated the work of a veteran espionage prosecutor at the U.S. Department of Justice.

It was -- it was very early on it was May 2017. So you think about that for a second. I mean, Trump was inaugurated at the end of January. This was less than four months later. in May of that year, less than four months into his presidency, we learned in the New York Times that during the Trump transition, a person who they had been considering for the job of national security advisor not just somebody to be a national security adviser to the new president, but literally the national security adviser, a guy they had been considering for that job we learned in "The Times" had notified the Trump transition team that there was a big problem with him potentially being appointed national security adviser, a very serious problem.

This guy who was being considered as national security adviser, he told the Trump transition, hey, you know what, I feel like I ought to let you know, I`m under active federal investigation as a potentially unregistered agent of a foreign power. I mean, full stop right there, right? This is not like -- oh, I wanted to let you know I had a speeding ticket and I`m getting points on my license, this is not like -- you know, I`m in a dispute with my town over my property tax bill and they say I`m short 200 bucks, but I know I`m not -- I mean, this is I am under investigation for being a federal agent, excuse me for being a foreign agent. I`m under federal investigation for potentially being the agent of a foreign power.

If you`re under federal investigation as a possible foreign agent, you can`t work in like the cafeteria at the White House. You can`t get a job emptying trash cans in the Congress. You certainly can`t be national security advisor if the Justice Department is actively investigating you as a secret foreign agent. At least, you`d think.

But this guy who was under consideration for that job, he came to the Trump transition. He warned them about the fact that he was under active federal investigation for that and the Trump transition, the incoming Trump administration, they decided that they would hire him anyway, they would hire him despite that, and that is how we got Michael Flynn as national security adviser for approximately five minutes while he was under investigation as a potential foreign agent of the nation of Turkey and before he started lying to federal investigators about his communications with the Russian government.

When we all read in "The New York Times" in May 2017 that they had hired him anyway, even though they knew, even though they had been warned and we learned that the investigation into the matter was being led by a veteran espionage prosecutor named Brandon Van Grack.

I remember just my stomach flipping over the seriousness of this thing, right? It`s one thing to like feel like, oh, there`s some shenanigans, there`s some maybe not the best people. There`s some incompetence. There`s some cavalier-ness, some stuff to worry about here.


But -- I mean, when it`s the espionage prosecutor that has to be working on the case involving the new national security advisor, that`s bad, right? Your country has been put in a bad situation if a new president, a new administration is playing games like that. If that`s how it`s starting, you can be sure it is not going to end well and it`s likely not going to end for a long time. Things like that have long tails.

Even if the -- you know, veteran espionage prosecutor in question has the fantastic and memorable name of Brandon van Grack, him being in the news in the first four months of a new administration and it being about somebody who has the job of national security advisor, that`s bad. That`s a really bad start. That was how it started five and a half years ago.

And now, tonight, five and a half years after that stomach-churning reporting in "The New York Times", after all those years in the thick of the intriguing upset of that administration, Brendan van Grack has now left the Justice Department. I`m pleased to say, I`m honored to say he`s going to join us here live in just a moment here on set. He`s here tonight of course at a time when the Espionage Act is back in the news.

On Friday, we learned from the unsealing of a Justice Department search warrant that it is an inquiry under the Espionage Act that led the FBI to execute a search warrant at former President Trump`s property in South Florida last week. I mean, it`s an amazing thing files seized from former president are part of Espionage Act inquiry. I mean, go back in time and try to convince your grandparents and your great great-grandparents that this is the America that we inherited from them.

Files seized from former president part of Espionage Act inquiry, what it what it meant specifically when we learned that is that that search warrant that they unsealed cited a portion of the Espionage Act that concerns the handling of national security information that could harm the United States or help our enemies. To get even more specific, what it means is that you know to get that warrant to search Trump`s house in Florida, prosecutors had to prove to the satisfaction of a federal judge that there was probable cause to believe that at Trump`s home, they would find evidence that that part of the Espionage Act had been violated, that that crime had been committed.

Now, the first question that raised for many of us was -- I mean, the really first question was like is this real. Am I dead? Is this actually my life? Next question was, is that it? Is this the end of it?

Certain specificity to the question of whether that search warrant might itself have been the end of the matter, by which I mean were they using the search warrant to collect that material that Trump wasn`t supposed to have, but then basically once they had once they`ve retrieved the material from him is it basically case closed. "The New York Times" put it this way last week in print. They said, quote, it is not clear whether the search was carried out simply to ensure that the documents and other material were properly turned over to the archives or whether it was a possible precursor to a prosecution of Mr. Trump for mishandling classified materials or obstructing efforts to get it back.

In other words, did federal prosecutors get that search warrant because they believed that Trump wasn`t handing over all the sense of material that he had so they used the warrant basically to just go get the stuff back by force and now that`s it, that`s the end of it, that`s as far as they want it to go. Or did they go get the material using a search warrant as part of an investigation that is not over now that they`ve got the stuff that is pointing in the end toward possible criminal charges for whoever is responsible for this breach, which is does the search warrant just to get the stuff or was the search warrant to lead to a potential criminal case.

Well, in a filing tonight in federal court, the Justice Department explains that it`s the latter that it is not over now that they`ve gone and snatched back all the classified and top secret information that the former president inexplicably had stashed in his basement. Tonight, in a filing, explaining to the court why the Justice Department doesn`t want to release further information about their case at this time, the Justice Department says in this filing that the search warrant wasn`t the end of it, that it`s just part of an ongoing investigation. They used that term repeatedly.

Quote: Here, the government has a compelling overriding interest in preserving the integrity of an ongoing criminal investigation.

Quote: Disclosure at this juncture of the affidavit supporting probable cause would cause significant and irreparable damage to this ongoing criminal investigation.

Quote: If disclosed the affidavit would serve as a roadmap to the government`s ongoing investigation providing specific details about its direction and likely course in a manner that is highly likely to compromise future investigative steps.


That`s all in the Justice Department`s court filing tonight and what we learned from that court filing is that the Justice Department is expecting further investigative steps. They are contemplating further investigative steps in what they repeatedly describe as an ongoing criminal investigation, an ongoing criminal investigation, quote, that implicates national security.

So again one of the main questions about what is going on here is now answered by the Justice Department`s filing this evening. The point of that search warrant last week was not just to go and get the stuff and now they`ve got it, it can be safely put back under lock and key and case closed.

No, the search warrant we now know was to get that stuff but it is also part of an ongoing criminal investigation that could lead to criminal charges an ongoing criminal investigation involving the Espionage Act and the former president which is astonishing. And for him, of course, that`s bad. For him, it`s sort of hard to narrow it down though there`s a lot that`s bad right now. For example, just in today`s news, the former president`s lawyer -- the lawyer who took the lead for him on Trump`s efforts to try to stay in power even after he lost re-election, that lawyer Rudy Giuliani as you know he has already had his law license suspended in at least one state because of those efforts on behalf of Trump.

Today, state prosecutors in Georgia notified Mr. Giuliani that they no longer consider him to be a material witness in their criminal investigation of election interference efforts in the state of Georgia. Mr. Giuliani`s lawyers say they were notified today by Georgia state prosecutors that their client Rudy Giuliani is now officially a target of that investigation. No longer a material witness now, a target.

That effectively means prosecutors are warning Giuliani that he may get indicted in that case under Georgia state law and so he should get his ducks in a row.

Now, beyond that, Trump ally Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, he had argued recently in federal court that he should be allowed to defy a subpoena to testify to the grand jury in that case. Senator Graham says he has been notified that he`s not a target, he`s just a witness but he does not want to answer a subpoena to testify as a witness in that case because he told a court in Georgia, he`s just doing his job as a senator and he should be protected as such from having to answer questions about it.

His lawyers argued to the court that when Senator Graham called Georgia officials after the presidential election, he was doing his quote due diligence. He was just asking questions to inform his own vote as a senator on whether he was going to vote to certify the election results. They say because he was just doing his work as a senator when he made those calls, he should be immune from questioning about it. Well a federal judge in Georgia today rejected that claim and did so bluntly.

The judge ruled that, in fact, Senator Lindsey Graham does have to answer questions from the grand jury because he was not just fact-finding. He was not just asking questions and doing his due diligence to inform his vote as a senator. The judge`s ruling today said multiple witnesses claim that when Senator Lindsey Graham called Georgia officials after the election, he was, quote, seeking to influence their actions in the counting of the vote in that state. He was not just asking questions about state procedures, he was trying to get them to do things that would benefit President Trump as President Trump was trying to have the election results in that state overturned.

And trying to influence the work of Georgia state election officials is not a lawful work of a United States senator. And so, yeah, a federal judge told him that he`s got to testify about that. Senator Graham says he will appeal the judge`s ruling. So, we shall see how this shakes out. Again, he`s been notified that he is not a target of the investigation, he is just a witness but he`s still trying to fight the subpoena ordering him to testify.

Now in that Georgia case, the other people who`ve received target letters, the other people who`ve been told to expect that they may be indicted in that criminal case they`re all people besides Rudy Giuliani who are implicated in the fake electors plot, this plot to send in forge documents naming fake electors for Trump in states that didn`t have Trump electors because Biden won those states.

That fake electors thing is a criminal matter in Georgia. It`s also a matter under federal criminal investigation as well.

There`s one thing I think worth pointing out about that that I think has been lost by so many of these gonzo headlines in today`s news. Remember how we learned about the fake electors scheme, how we learned about how it came together and how we learned about it being under federal investigation. You might remember about the fake electors that it sort of started as something that looked like a bunch of disparate efforts in disparate states.

Some people pretending to be electors who weren`t really electors in Georgia, another group trying to do the same thing in Michigan, another group trying to do it but sort of differently in the state of Arizona it. It looked different in a whole bunch of different states when that happened and when that first came to public attention.

That matter, the fake electors thing appears to have become a federal criminal investigation rather than just an investigation in individual states when it became apparent that this thing wasn`t just spontaneously happening in multiple states. It was an organized thing. The Trump campaign and other people around President Trump organized that effort around the country.

These weren`t just disparate things that were happening in different states at the same time sort of by happenstance, by coincidence. It was an organized central top-down effort. That is the pattern that we saw happen with the fake electors thing. Today, that same pattern started to become apparent and another thing they did to try to overturn the election results, specifically the effort to grab voting machines, to seize supposedly secure voting equipment and tabulators in multiple states, even though that equipment is very highly regulated and is only supposed to have -- people are only supposed to have access to it under very tightly controlled circumstances.

Now, there have been criminal charges brought already in the state of Colorado for Trump folks seizing and corrupting voting equipment there. Same thing is under criminal investigation in multiple jurisdictions in Michigan as well. But now, today, "The Washington Post" reports that in in Colorado, in Michigan, in Nevada, in Georgia and a whole bunch of states, these folks messing with the voting equipment apparently weren`t just spontaneously acting on their own to illegally access all this equipment they weren`t supposed to be able to touch.

They didn`t just all have the same idea all at once independently coincidentally. "The Washington Post" reports today and something of a bombshell that just like with the fake electors, this one too appears to have been a centrally coordinated effort run by people close to Trump including at least one Trump campaign lawyer.

Again, with the fake electors thing, it was evidence of the Trump campaign`s involvement their national coordination of what otherwise looked like disparate efforts in a whole bunch of states that`s apparently what led to the now ongoing federal criminal investigation of the fake electors scheme.

As of today, "The Washington Post" reports that there was a similar central organized effort running these schemes to seize and corrupt secure voting machines in multiple states and that it was linked to the Trump campaign. So, you know, all of us have been trying to track all these things we`re all going to have to like add another column to the billboard-sized spreadsheets we`re all maintaining now trying to keep track of the various criminal investigations that surround the last president.

President Biden tomorrow is going to sign what he hopes and expects will be the signature legislative achievement of his first term as president. The nation`s first major legislation on climate and the biggest and most important legislation on prescription drug costs in decades, something the Democrats have been trying to do on prescription drug costs, they`ve been trying to do it for 30 years.

Biden finally got it done. The big Inflation Reduction Act, he is going to sign that tomorrow it is a huge deal in terms of policy a huge deal for the Democrats a huge deal for this president before the presidency, for the -- for the country. He`s got competing headlines because it turns out there are years and years and years of ramifications of electing somebody who from the very start was keeping espionage prosecutors busy here at home.

I mean, five and a half years down the line from those first blood-curdling headlines about what`s going what was going on with this president and national security, five and a half years after they hired him a national security adviser even though he they knew he was under federal investigation as a potential foreign agent, five and a half years down the line that Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn has been pardoned by Trump after he pled guilty to lying to investigators about his contacts with a different foreign hostile government and the defense department recently announced that they`re going to try to recoup tens of thousands of dollars the Russian government paid to Michael Flynn that he never declared.

I mean, five and a half years down the line from the stomach churning start of that plot in the spring of 2017, that veteran espionage prosecutor who led the Flynn investigation we first learned about in the spring of 2017, Brandon van Grack, he by now has left the Justice Department he`s left government service.


He started his Justice Department career as a trial attorney in the national security division. He prosecuted cases on cyber attacks and money laundering and theft of trade secrets and yes espionage a spy for China out of Michigan, a guy who was end-running the high-tech sanctions on Iran, a hacker from Kosovo who provided material support to ISIS. Specifically, he gave ISIS personal information on more than 1,300 U.S. government and military personnel. He gave ISIS that kill list effectively of U.S. government and military personnel, Brandon van Grack helped prosecute him.

After Robert Mueller, special counsel, appointed Mr. Van Grack as a prosecutor on his team to investigate the Trump campaign`s ties to Russia around the 2016 election, Van Grack spent nearly three years investigating and prosecuting Trump allies Michael Flynn and Paul Manafort. Interestingly, Mr. Van Grack ultimately resigned from the Flynn case after a William Barr appointee took over in the U.S. attorney`s office in D.C. and moved to withdraw the government`s case against Flynn even though Flynn by then had already pled guilty twice.

He resigned from the Flynn investigation but he stayed at the Justice Department. He continued to lead the Justice Department`s FARA unit. That`s the office that prosecutes unregistered foreign agents. In that role, he became the first official to oversee all foreign influence operations across the U.S. Justice Department.

Brandon van Grack has since left the Justice Department but boy there is nobody who I would rather talk to tonight about what`s going on in our country with these remarkable and unprecedented charges and investigations involving the former president.

Brandon van Grack joins us here live in studio, next.



MADDOW: Joining us now for his first U.S. television interview is veteran former espionage prosecutor and former member of Robert Mueller`s team. He worked on the prosecutions of Michael Flynn and Paul Manafort. His name is Brandon Van Grack.

Mr. Van Grack, it`s real pleasure to meet you. Thank you.


MADDOW: First of all, thank you for doing this. I know you don`t do this. So I`m very grateful that you`ve decided to be here.

I want to talk to you about a lot of things in your career but I want to start with the national discourse right now around this investigation involving the search warrant at the president`s home in south Florida.

The headlines that say this is an inquiry under the Espionage Act, continuing to blow everybody`s minds. I still find it to be almost impossible to look at those headlines and not see this is a movie and see this is real life. But as somebody that worked in the nitty-gritty around this part of the law, what should we understand about the seriousness here and do you feel like any of the national discourse around it is wrong or overblown?

VAN GRACK: So it`s a really important point because right now, there is a focus on what is the end game? Is there -- is someone going to be charged? And you don`t need to get to that point to appreciate the fact that there is serious national security implications from the conduct in the information just before us.

I mean, look, it`s just from the receipt of the search warrant. There are multiple series of documents that are classified, that are labeled top secret, that were in unsecured locations for 19 months. We know the fact that they were classified documents that were provided to the archives seven month before that.

You don`t need to take anymore leads beyond that to appreciate the fact that there`s real national security harm and potential damage caused by that. Right now, the intelligence community is sorting through that information and doing a damage assessment, trying to assess what sources and methods have been compromised. That`s separate from whether in fact you know anyone is charged and so, it`s important that we don`t get too far ahead of what`s in front of us.

One of the things that`s been sort of described by reporters and I`m not quite sure that I totally understand it I think I get it in sort of in my head but not in my gut is that the Justice Department`s reference to the potential statutes that are implicated here, I keep hearing it describe that it doesn`t necessarily, that the way they`re citing statutory law doesn`t necessarily matter if Trump believes that he declassified those documents. That the technical classification status of those documents wouldn`t necessarily impact whether or not the charges could be brought on those statutes.

Do you agree with that assessment looking at what we`ve seen in the search warrant? And can you explain it?

VAN GRACK: Yes. So, I think that might be technically true. But in reality, I think ultimately if in fact this material is declassified, I think it would have the material impact on whether charges are brought. So the charge referenced in the Espionage Act, it concerns mishandling and retention of classified information, 18 United States Code 793.

And the language in the statute says the retention of national defense information and that`s defined through years of case law. It doesn`t say classified information.

But for all intents and purposes, the Justice Department considers that to be classified information. There`s only one case in its history where information that was not classified information was charged and that was actually a plea agreement. So it wasn`t sort of tested.

And so for all intents and purposes, if the Department of Justice believes or has reason to believe that this information was declassified and we don`t know that, then it is very unlikely that that what`s called a retention case, that the retention charge would occur.


Now with respect to the other two charges that were mentioned in the search warrant, there was one concerning obstruction and another concerning the removal of ultimately presidential records, that also doesn`t have a connection to classified information. So it doesn`t technically matter.

But ultimately, the motive and intent behind the removal of the information or the obstruction does matter. And so, if people involved in the process did believe they were declassified, that matters. Now, that doesn`t mean and therefore it precludes a criminal prosecution on those two statutes. But the point is, it`s matter and it`s relevant and so I don`t think simply saying it`s immature material is the right way to view the charges.

MADDOW: If the person in question here, one of the people in question here is potentially in trouble because of the way these documents were handled is the former president, is there a way to divine his intent for the purposes of deciding whether charges are warranted without interviewing him.

VAN GRACK: So the reality is if he`s the target of an investigation, there isn`t going to be an interview. I mean, that just -- and we do know from the information that you discussed in the top of the hour, that there`s a discussion in the government`s uh recent filing in terms of the decision not to unseal the affidavit that there are witnesses who are cooperating the investigation they specifically say that`s a basis for not unsealing the affidavit.

So there are certainly people in the orbit that would have information that would be relevant to understanding intent and motive.

MADDOW: One of the things that arose today in the news was a claim by former president Trump that his passports went walkies during the search warrant, during the execution of the search warrant. He described them as being stolen by the FBI. There`s later reporting suggesting that these were perhaps that his passports were taken as part of the search execution of the search warrant and then returned to him.

What should we understand about that?

VAN GRACK: So a couple pieces, which is first, there`s a lot of noise that happens in these investigations and it`s really important that we`re not distracted by the cacophony and really focus on the important information. And that goes to my earlier point which is just based on what we know, there are significant national security implications behind what happened.

With respect to the passport, there`s -- if that is in fact true, if in fact there were multiple passports of the former president taken, there`s really not much to read into that. It is unlikely that the Department of Justice is signaling that the former president is a flight risk. It is unlikely that the Department of Justice is signaling that criminal charges are eminent.

More likely, again, if it is in fact true, it is simply responsive to the search warrant. The search warrant specifically said it can seize presidential records and so perhaps the FBI believed, I don`t know rightly or wrongly that these passports were presidential records. There`s also in the search warrant, it says information that`s co-mingled with the classified information, should be seized.

And so, for all, we know these password ports were co-mingled but talking about something that ultimately I don`t think is significant, if for any reason, the denial of these passports impaired the president`s ability to travel, I`m certain that a simple call from the president`s lawyers to the Department of Justice would resolve that. So, ultimately I think it`s a distraction and it`s important because there are some real serious issues here that we don`t get distracted by.

MADDOW: I think that`s -- it`s one of those things where it`s like you see, you know, the government has his passports and you immediately go to like, the issue of law and order where the guy gets arrested and his passports are seized because he`s seen as a flight risk, but there`s no -- nothing here to indicate that connection.

VAN GRACK: And there are instances where passports do get seized but that is when someone is about to be charged and or has been charged, and there`s no indication that we`ve reached that point in investigation.

MADDOW: I also wanted to ask you about the news reported in "The New York Times" this weekend that President Trump through an intermediary appears to have tried to reach out to the attorney general after this search warrant was executed obviously, and after the attorney general -- around the time the attorney general is making his decision to both speak publicly about it and to ask for the search warrant to be unsealed.

Just -- from the perspective of somebody who`s in the Justice Department at the kind of levels that you worked at, is that wrong? Is that weird? Is that appropriate? Is that normal? How do you -- how do you view that?

VAN GRACK: I guess I view it as irrelevant.


VAN GRACK: The reality is there are probably outreaches that occur to senior levels of the government, Department of Justice all the time. This is something where I cannot see and or think of a situation where an outreach like that will have any impact on the investigation.

And so, appropriate or not, again, it -- I don`t think it will have any impact on the investigation and again, really, I would consider it to be noise or a distraction when the fact is again, there are real national security issues at play and that really should be the focus.

MADDOW: Well, let me ask you about another thing which may just be a distraction but from the outside it seems at least fraught.


We`ve now seen three Trump White House lawyers, the White House counsel Pat Cipollone, his deputy Pat Philbin and now, today, we learned Eric Herschmann, all White House lawyers working for the president, all having received subpoenas from the Justice Department.

We don`t exactly know the topic. We don`t know which grand jury. There`s a lot of different investigations that self is remarkable. We`ve also seen a member of Congress had his phone seized as part of an investigation in which he supportively -- he reportedly has been told he`s a witness and not a target.

When you`re talking about White House lawyers and serving members of Congress and these sorts of people who aren`t typically caught up in the work of the Justice Department, how does that influence you your decisions as a prosecutor, as an investigator, knowing that people with a lot of political power and people working in sensitive political jobs are in your sights?

VAN GRACK: Well, I think one of the signals from the attorney general of the Justice Department, which is really important to stress, is that ultimately, those considerations really are not having impact and that`s in multiple investigations. In fact, I think there`s also reporting today indicating that the search warrant with respect to Mar-a-Lago was sitting with the attorney general for a period of time and that he was wrestling with it.

And I think what we can say, even though I think it`s common for there to be disagreement in some of the actions from the Department of Justice, that all of the actions we`re talking about are not influenced by political considerations and there really is no appearance of political influence in these decisions. And I think that is such a critical issue for the Department of Justice.

I mean, really, if you take a step back and appreciate when you talk about the Department of Justice, it is foundational to the legitimacy of the government to exercise its authority. I mean, it is it is a department that has the ability to deprive an individual of their liberty and so the legitimacy of that department is paramount. And I think the attorney general not only appreciates that but you can see through his words and deeds that that is a constant theme in how he acts.

MADDOW: Brandon Van Grack, veteran prosecutor from the U.S. Justice Department, member of special counsel Robert Mueller`s team, again this is your first U.S. TV interview. I hope it will not be your last even with me. I hope you`ll come back.

VAN GRACK: Absolutely.

MADDOW: Thank you. Thank you for your service.

All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.




REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): America cannot remain free if we abandon the truth. The lie that the 2020 presidential election was stolen is insidious. This is Donald Trump`s legacy, but it cannot be the future of our nation. History has shown us over and over again how these types of poisonous lies destroy free nations. We are stronger, more dedicated and more determined than those trying to destroy our republic. This is our great task and we will prevail.


MADDOW: That was Republican Congresswoman Liz Cheney`s closing message heading into her Republican primary election in Wyoming tomorrow. Congresswoman Cheney is facing a Trump-backed election-denying challenger named Harriet Hageman.

If you want a little sneak peek into why that election is going the way it`s expected to go you can just look at this, this is the latest poll from the University of Wyoming in the race. it shows that voters who support Hageman overwhelmingly think that Joe Biden secretly isn`t really the president. Of voters who support Harriet Hageman, the percentage of them who accept that Joe Biden really is the president legitimately is only 16 percent.

Meanwhile, if you look at Liz Cheney voters, voters who say they are likely to vote for Liz Cheney, they believe Joe Biden`s election was legitimate at a rate of 93 percent. Ninety-three percent versus 16 percent.

What makes those results even more stunning is that that same poll shows Cheney losing to Hageman by nearly 30 points. It looks like Republicans in Wyoming are set to oust Cheney because she accepts the reality that Trump didn`t win the election and because of the way she stood up against his efforts to try to stay in power anyway.

That said, you know, polls aren`t elections. Elections are elections. Anything is possible, we`ll see. For example, since that poll was taken, it`s been revealed that the person who Hageman supporters believe is still the rightful president, Donald Trump, it`s been revealed that he`s under investigation by the FBI and the Justice Department for among other things potential violations of the Espionage Act. So who knows? Maybe that will affect how they feel.

The results of that election are going to be a stunning development either way. Polls are close in that race at 9:00 p.m. Eastern Time tomorrow, 9:00 p.m. Eastern, 9:00 p.m. Eastern, that`s important because 9:00 p.m. Eastern tomorrow also happens to be the opening bell for the very first broadcast of a brand new show here on MSNBC called "ALEX WAGNER TONIGHT".

The host of that new show Alex Wagner joins us here now.

What`s happening?

ALEX WAGNER, MSNBC HOST, "ALEX WAGNER TONIGHT": I feel the electricity. I`m talking to you from another dimension. I`m talking to you from the future.

MADDOW: How do you feel?

WAGNER: Thrilled, excited, terrified, in awe, you know? Like I will say Rachel and I`m not saying this just because you`re in front of me, we`re doing live television. But I mean it really -- it is.

You`ve done an incredible thing with television and then the nine o`clock hour, and I feel very deeply honored to be shepherding through the rest of the week. And I hope that we are able to conduct ourselves with the integrity and the rigor and the -- just deep thought that you have established in this hour.


And it`s such a privilege to share the week with you. And that`s all I`ll say without making myself cry. But, anyway --

MADDOW: We will never speak -- A, thank you. B, we will never speak of this again.

WAGNER: Okay, all right.

MADDOW: You are working of course especially in these early days starting with the best staff in the business.




MADDOW: So do not break them, but -- I mean, it`s -- it`s -- taking over at this time, I feel like we are in this explosive moment in the news right now right where you know everybody we`re all under the microscope and everything it`s all sorts of scrutiny and we get all the sort of criticism that we`ve ever had but we also just have this incredible privilege and responsibility to cover this moment when America might stay a democracy and might not.

WAGNER: Yeah, I think it`s not an overstatement to say it`s an open question whether the experiment works, you know? Like we`ve taken for granted that this form of government, this kind of democracy will always exist because that`s all we`ve ever known as Americans. But it really feels like there is an existential threat and to be in the news as we are drinking from not just a fire hose but grappling with some of the craziest, most significant urgent issues of the time is -- you know, it`s overwhelming but it`s also terribly exciting. I feel almost guilty saying that, right?

But as a journalist, I mean, to have to navigate these choppy waters and to do it in this place with the team that we have is an extraordinary gift.

MADDOW: Well, and I`m psyched too that I know you were you`ve just come back from a reporting trip in Florida and you`re going to be doing a lot in the field. Talk to me a little bit about that idea of matching sort of the -- sort of national -- I mean, it`s kind of like a reading comprehension exercise to a certain extent being on in prime time, right? Like I have absorbed what`s going on in the news and here`s what I think is important about it.

But matching that with on-the-ground reporting and shoe leather kind of work that you do.

WAGNER: I hope to be able to do as much of it as time allows but I think it`s really important to get out of the studio for me. I learned so much in my time on Showtime with "The Circus", talking to people and understanding the issues in a very human way. I mean, we talk in the abstract about things like critical race theory or originalism.

And then when you see how that translates into actual school curricula like in Florida or whether it how it affects people`s daily lives, how they`ve internalized some strange arguments that are untethered to fact, or whether they`re big advocates for pushing for the truth and, you know, having a positive effect on American democracy, I think you learn those lessons. You understand the issues in a really powerful, visceral way when you`re talking to the people themselves, and to the people who are at the center of these issues, the plaintiffs and the lawsuits, the attorneys the last abortion doctors in Texas, whoever they are.

I just think it -- as a host -- it gives me I think a ton more perspective on the news and I hope that it gives the audience a better understanding of what`s happening in America so much feels like this side versus that side, and the more that we can -- I`m not saying make people feel better about each other -- but understand the sort of humanity involved in all of this.

MADDOW: Oh, yeah.

WAGNER: I think the -- you know, the better job we`re doing as journalists and perhaps maybe somewhere along the way the more we can stay tied together in one democracy.

MADDOW: Less heat, more light.

WAGNER: I mean, we try.

MADDOW: Alex Wagner, congratulations.

WAGNER: Rachel Maddow, thank you so much.

MADDOW: I`ll be here Mondays. I`m here to help. Let me know.

WAGNER: And you are invited, anytime Tuesday through Fridays, my sister.

MADDOW: Alex Wagner, the new host of "ALEX WAGNER TONIGHT" premieres tomorrow at 9:00 p.m. Eastern Time. Go with God.

We`ll be right back. Stay with us.



MADDOW: In April, following the historic nomination that he made, he got the first ever African American woman confirmed to the United States Supreme Court. In June, President Biden signed the biggest gun reform bill into law in decades, breaking a multi-decade gridlock on that issue. Two weeks ago, a counter-terrorism success, the U.S. finally got al Qaeda leader al Zawahiri after two decades plus of chasing him.

Just last Tuesday, President Biden signed the membership protocols to add Sweden and Finland to NATO, expanding the strengthening that alliance in the face of Russia`s war of aggression against Ukraine. That same day, he also signed the CHIPS Act into law. That`s a $280 billion piece of legislation that will kick start the production of semiconductor chips here in the United States. It`s a big deal in terms of competition with China, economically and on national security grounds. That was all on Tuesday.

Then on Wednesday, he signed another huge bill to provide health coverage for up to 3 1/2 million veterans exposed to toxic burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan. Also, gas prices dropped for 62 straight days.

Tomorrow, President Biden will add his biggest legislative achievement yet to that list, the Inflation Reduction Act which is something that Democrats have been trying for a generation. This is a bill that empowers the administration to negotiate drug prices using the Medicare program. This is the first time they`ll be able to do.

Democrats have been trying to get that into law for 30 years. Biden finally got it done. The bill also caps out of pocket medication costs for seniors who are on Medicare.


If you`re on Medicare, your drug costs, the out of pocket amount you pay per year will no longer exceed $2,000 a year no matter what your drugs cost. There is never been a cap like that before.

It also closes tax loopholes and establishes a 15 percent minimum tax for corporations that make over a billion dollars a year. Perhaps most significantly of all, the big is the biggest climate investment in the history of the country.

And somehow all of that is managed to pass in a 50/50 Senate that includes folks like these, Senators Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Biden, who get up and say no in the morning before they do anything else just because it makes them feel good.

Tomorrow, the president is expected to return home from South Carolina where he`s been on vacation. He`s going to sign the Inflation Reduction Act, this big new bill at the White House. He believes it will be the signature legislative achievement.

And in the coming weeks, President Biden and members of the cabinet are expected to hit the road to promote this thing. They`re planning 35 different trips planned to 23 different states.

And in a technical sense and political science terms, this is called being on a roll.

Watch this space.


MADDOW: Just a reminder that tomorrow is the premiere of "ALEX WAGNER TONIGHT". Alex`s show is every Tuesday through Friday, at 9:00 p.m. Eastern.

I`m not going anywhere. I will continue to see you every Monday, and another big night going forward. But tomorrow, really is the start of something new and exciting. "ALEX WAGNER TONIGHT" beginning tomorrow, 9:00 p.m. Eastern, right here on MSNBC.


Good evening, Lawrence.