Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL Date: October 27, 2017 Guest: Natasha Bertrand, Ron Klain, David Corn, Malcolm Nance, Tom Steyer, Mieke Eoyang
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Joy.
JOY-ANN REID, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel. And once again, we can`t go into our Friday night calmly with the plans that we had. It`s always getting blown up --
MADDOW: If you --
REID: -- by Trump himself.
MADDOW: If you would like to borrow my intact show --
REID: I think I`ll just --
MADDOW: -- which has not been touched because of all the breaking news tonight --
REID: I know.
MADDOW: -- you`re welcome to use it.
REID: Exactly. And the one that we had, we can just import to Monday so that when Lawrence is back, he can just use that. It`s going to be great.
MADDOW: We`re going to need to give all of our viewers little time machines that they can fit over their heads. They can go back to Friday noon when a whole lot of other stories seemed important before the stuff that broke the news.
REID: Yes. We`ll bedazzle the time machine so that they look cute on, but you know --
MADDOW: Very good.
REID: You know, do you think -- and I -- and we`ve been talking about this sort of interim. I`m sure that you`ve been having the same conversation with your team, that it did feel, for the last 48 hours, like something was happening because there was a level of hysteria about trying to push a narrative that was something other than Russiagate, right?
REID: Making a Russiagate 2.0 that Hillary Clinton is the villain and that she is colluding. It felt almost too on the nose to just be coincidental. I don`t know if you felt that.
MADDOW: Well, it was -- I mean, we have seen an -- a very aggressive dynamic at work, which is not like it`s been invisible before, but it was way more aggressive and got way further this week, which is on two fronts. One, to try to make Russia collusion about Hillary Clinton.
MADDOW: That whole counter narrative thing, and let`s get a Special Counsel on the uranium deal from the Obama administration, all that stuff. Try to turn it around. You know, the White House has been saying, literally, the shoe is on the other foot now. That`s the real Russia story.
We`ve also seen the congressional investigations this week blow up.
MADDOW: And the Republicans involved in those congressional investigations, in the case of the Judiciary Committee in the Senate, say, we`re out. They`re not going to work together basically anymore on that committee.
MADDOW: And the other committees, they basically declared as of this week that they`re wrapping up. Haven`t found anything. Just need to do some, you know, dotting the I`s and crossing the T`s. We`re done here.
REID: Yes. Yes.
MADDOW: That all happening at once, the White House press, the conservative media press, and the Republican congressional thing, all saying, it`s over. There`s nothing to see here. Russia`s done.
MADDOW: That all happening at once. You know, maybe it`s just a coincidence. Maybe it was just time for that to happen.
MADDOW: Or maybe that`s what happens when charges start to get filed.
REID: And that`s the thing, too, because they all sort of interrelate, right? On the one hand, you have Mueller`s investigation that does impact the Senate investigation, so they must be, at least at some point level, read into what`s going on in Mueller`s shop. We would hope.
But I don`t know if you find it disturbing, the level of -- this looks like it`s all designed to protect Donald Trump, not designed to get at the meat and potatoes of what Russia did to us.
I feel like so much of what we`re seeing are attempts to surround Donald Trump, to protect him on the congressional side, and even to protect him on -- by a news organization. By, ostensibly, a news organization.
I don`t know. Maybe I`m just a little bit paranoid in thinking that is a bit disturbing.
MADDOW: Well, the thing -- the part of it that I find -- that I do find -- I mean, I`m -- none of us are naive. We understand how partisan media and partisan impulses work.
But the part of it that I have been a little bit dismayed by is that it`s one thing for people who are partisans of the Trump administration or who are Republicans and see it as their job to defend the President to say, you know what, this collusion thing didn`t happen.
What Russia did was terrible. We as Americans are against that, but don`t try to drag Donald Trump into this.
You know, don`t try -- you`re saying that he was involved in this to try to undercut his election. He won his election fair and square, and what the Russian did -- Russians did was something separate.
I can understand Republicans making that case if that`s what they believe.
MADDOW: What has started to happen now is that the White House, in particular, is really trying to get away with saying that the Russians did nothing wrong.
REID: That`s right, exactly.
MADDOW: And they`re doing that at the same time that Rex Tillerson is dissolving the sanctions office in the State Department, that the White House is dragging its feet on bringing sanctions against Russia for what they did in the election.
And when -- if we`re going to protect ourselves from Russia continuing to do this, the Department of Homeland Security, DOD, and lots of other organizations ought to be well down the road in terms of protecting us, and they`re really not.
REID: Yes. Yes.
MADDOW: So that kind of surrender to what Russia has done, that`s a patriotism thing, not a partisanship thing. And that is the part that makes me sad.
REID: Yes, absolutely. Well, it is not Sunday, but you can get an amen on that, sister. Thank you very much.
MADDOW: Thank you, my friend.
REID: Thank you.
MADDOW: I will look forward to my bedazzled time machine when they get time to make them.
REID: It`s going to be fabulous, you`re going to love it.
MADDOW: I`m going to love it. Thank you, Joy.
REID: Thank you, Rachel. Appreciate it. All right. I am Joy Reid, in for Lawrence O`Donnell.
And tonight, we begin with that breaking news, CNN reporting that, according to two sources briefed on the matter, the first charges have been filed in the investigation led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
The charges are apparently still sealed under orders from a federal judge, so we don`t know who the charges are against, and we don`t even know what the charges are.
NBC News has not yet confirmed this report. And no other news organization confirmed it yet either, so we can only go by what CNN is saying at the moment. But according to their sources, a federal grand jury in D.C., today, approved the first charges in Mueller`s investigation.
And joining us now are Ron Klain, former Chief of Staff to Vice Presidents Joe Biden and Al Gore and a former senior aide to President Obama. He`s also a former chief counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee and was Chief of Staff to Attorney General Janet Reno.
Also, David Corn, Washington bureau chief for "Mother Jones" and an MSNBC political analyst.
And Natasha Bertrand, political correspondent at "Business Insider," and she`s been closely following Russia`s involvement in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
Thank you all.
So I`m going to go around. I`m going to start with you, Natasha, just to get sort of your top line on what we`re hearing now and, you know, what I was talking to Rachel about a little bit.
Does it feel like this might be rather than the beginning of a story, may be sort of the kind of crest of a story that began like 48 hours ago or so when we started to hear this alternate collusion theory?
NATASHA BERTRAND, POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, BUSINESS INSIDER: Absolutely. I mean, this kind of puts into context all of the distractions that we`ve been getting out of the, you know, Republicans over the last week.
And aided by the President this morning when he tweeted that now we know that there is no collusion between Donald Trump and Russia. It was all Hillary Clinton. The uranium story that mysteriously appeared after seven years in the Hill last week.
This was all very much foreshadowing something big to come. And, you know, the fact, that -- well, the report that Mueller have filed these charges is an indication that he is moving very quickly to perhaps get someone to flip in the investigation because prosecutors don`t normally do charges this early in the investigation.
BERTRAND: So this is definitely something that`s big.
REID: And it`s moving pretty quickly. And, Ron Klain, you know, the idea here is that this -- you know, if this investigation is sort of wrapping up, it does impact, in some way, the investigations that are going on in the House and in particular, in the Senate, where they seem to be more a bit more serious, at least on the Senate Intelligence side, about doing it.
What do you expect to be -- staffers to be talking about tonight on that Senate side, thinking about their own investigations?
RON KLAIN, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF TO FORMER VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: Yes. I think staffers and everyone is just saying who, who, who, who, who?
I mean, I think that this is going to be an amazingly suspenseful weekend as we wait and see who winds up being taken into custody on Monday or Tuesday of next week as a result of this indictment.
I think there`s some possibility that it is just low-level people, that Mueller is working his way up the food chain and trying to get people to flip.
But it`s also possible that we`re going to see the first indictment of one of the more headline names in this case, people against whom the evidence has piled up mightily, and it`s time for Mueller to finally move.
So I think it`s going to be 48 hours of huge speculation in Washington as we wait and see, really, who is going to wind up being this first person or persons indicted by Counsel Mueller.
REID: Yes. Well, let`s see some informed speculation with David Corn.
David, you got some great sources. You were among the first to report on that dossier that Republicans tried to hang around Hillary Clinton as if, you know, who paid for it was really the important thing.
Give us a little bit of a benefit of what you`re hearing or what people are speculating about. Who, who, who, as Ron Klain just said.
DAVID CORN, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, MOTHER JONES: Well, I think it would be a little bit unfair to start speculating on names. We do know it`s been reported that Special Counsel told Paul Manafort that he could expect to be indicted.
And we also -- it`s also important to know that the Special Counsel is really -- has given -- been given the purview to examine any issue that arises in the investigation.
And we do know that, in the course of investigating the Trump-Russia scandal, the Special Counsel had reason to look at lobbying activities by Paul Manafort, maybe some financial transactions, of course, what Rachel was talking about earlier, activities involving Michael Flynn that may not be related to Russia but may still be improper if not illegal.
So there`s just a lot to choose from for those who care to speculate. But I also would say that after this week of distraction about Hillary -- you know, going back and looking at Hillary Clinton`s uranium deal, which wasn`t her deal, going back and looking at how James Comey dealt with the Clinton e-mail server controversy, that, really, nothing cuts through distractions like indictments.
I mean, whatever is going on in the House Intelligence Committee, it looks a little bit like a circus. I reported last week that they barely have enough staff to do anything that they say they`re doing.
And who knows what`s happening in the Senate Intelligence Committee? The Senate Judiciary Committee has blown up.
Indictments will concentrate the mind.
REID: Yes, absolutely. Natasha, I think David makes a really important point here because I think that, for a lot of people who are watching this whole thing that we sometimes call the Russiagate or the Russia collusion story, the collusion is sort of the sexy thing that people talk about.
But what we`ve been -- you know, the actual components of this investigation have involved a lot more sort of straightforward potential criminal activity, things like Foreign Agent Registration Act violations, things like potential money laundering, the sort of potential things that this could be.
We shouldn`t necessarily be looking for this to be a conclusion or an indictment that has the word collusion somewhere in it.
BERTRAND: No, not necessarily. And, again, Mueller`s -- his mandate is very broad.
BERTRAND: So whatever he comes across over the course of his investigation that`s evenly remotely related to Russia or anything that might have had, you know, Russian funding, et cetera, Mueller will have to investigate.
And he could use that as leverage to get people like Paul Manafort or Michael Flynn to flip and to tell him what happened during the 2016 election because they really had a direct window into all of the questions that Mueller now wants the answers.
REID: Yes, absolutely. And, Ron Klain, Ben Wittes, who has become very famous for his tick-tick-tick tweets and ticks and booms and things -- Sean Hannity tried to steal them but didn`t do very well with it.
This is some of what he`s been saying tonight: so this is a very big boom if true, but the story is very skeletal, both in content and sources.
Then another note here, you know, just noting the sourcing on the CNN story, which is sources briefed on the matter. And he says, I can`t think of very many classes of people who would be briefed on the matter.
What classes of people might be briefed on something such as this?
KLAIN: Well, they could be people who are lawyers or friends or family members, potentially, of the people who are about to be taken into custody.
The indictment could be sealed because the person who`s been indicted has been offered a chance to turn themselves in, and could be people involved in the arrangements for turning themselves in, people potentially at a courthouse or whatnot. So it`s a pretty small group.
I share David`s view that`s it a little bit irresponsible to speculate about exactly who this would be.
But there`s no question that if, in fact, if CNN is right and if an indictment has been filed today, and if someone is going to either be arrested or turn themselves in on Monday or Tuesday, there would be a number of people who will be briefed on the logistics and the mechanics of doing that. And it`s possible one of those people told CNN.
REID: And let me just stay with you just for a moment, Ron Klain. If you could just talk a little bit about -- because that is an important point. And it also could be somebody that Mueller is attempting to utilize in his investigation to sort of go further up the food chain, right?
REID: So the process of this may not be sort of the spectacular scene that people think. You know, they think of sort of, you know, a T.V episode of "Law & Order," right?
KLAIN: No, probably not. But I do think -- you know, I do think that this is also not the culmination. This is definitely not the end of it.
I agree absolutely with your point a minute ago, Joy, that if people are waiting to -- for the final scene of this collusion drama, that`s not what we`re getting into stage in time.
We`re probably going to get either one of these individuals who is guilty of a series of other crimes, failing to file financial disclosures, taking foreign money from foreign sources without disclosing that, or someone who has some piece of information, some lower point on the totem pole that Mueller is going to work his way up to.
So I think we`ve got to get our expectations for this set in the right place for what`s going to happen early next week.
REID: Yes, absolutely. And, David, you know, the other point I was talking with Rachel about is this sort of notion that you had certain people on Capitol hill -- obviously, David Nunez is the most high profile of them -- that seems to have been escalating their attempts to sort of protect and quarantine the White House by engaging in these alternate universe versions of the Russia scandal.
REID: Do you think it is fair to sort of draw a line between what you`ve seen on Capitol Hill -- you`re there in Washington -- and the idea that something like this is coming and maybe sources were being briefed on it?
CORN: You know, it`s a good theory. I am not sure it`s true, but the timing certainly is highly coincidental because this past week, we saw indeed an intensification on the Republican side, with them bringing up these issues of how the dossier was funded.
Whether, you know, the uranium deal was somehow connected to Clinton pay to play. The answer is no. Bringing back the whole Jim Comey thing. I`m expecting to go back to unmasking. Remember, that was one of the counter errors.
And the thing that -- you know, to take a step back, because we can look at this in a very partisan way and say, look, it`s obvious they`re trying to deflect from the core of the issue here, which is what the Russians did and how Trump covered for that, whether he acted -- interacted with it directly.
The United States was attacked. The United States was attacked by a foreign adversary. Its political system was subverted, was undermined.
We can argue about what the impact was and whether it was successful and whether it influenced the election or not, and yet the Republicans who have always claimed to be patriotic more than anyone else, claim to support the intelligence community, are now dissing the intelligence community and, really, doing nothing to deal with what happened in the past or what might happen in the future.
And that, to me, is somewhat -- I have to say that`s somewhat surprising.
REID: Yes. And, you know -- and I think, Natasha -- this is important to me -- this is the thing that you`ve been working on this week. I mean, also before this big news or, you know, potential news broke tonight.
You had the news that Ms. Veselnitskaya, the attorney who met with Donald Trump, Jr. and Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner at Trump Tower, was directly connected or at least using talking points that have been shared with Kremlin sources.
We had your reporting on the connections between the data firm that was run by Paul Manafort -- I`m sorry, that was run by Steve Bannon and this potential sort of outreach to WikiLeaks.
So, I mean, I think, for a lot of people, it becomes very confusing, right? This sort of Russia scandal is so far reaching. Do you think that there was any news particularly this week that broke through as something that might actually help us get to the answer as to why?
BERTRAND: Well, I think that the most consequential news, if confirmed, is definitely the Mueller charges.
BERTRAND: That just signals a complete escalation of it all. But also the news that Cambridge Analytica reached out to Julian Assange during the campaign.
That is a really big indication that -- and it`s the first time that we`ve seen that an entity that was working directly with the Trump campaign was reaching out to Julian Assange and trying to get Hillary Clinton`s e-mails from an entity that the U.S. intelligence community has concluded as a foreign intelligence agent, essentially.
REID: Yes. Yes, absolutely.
CORN: And it`s important to point out that when they did that in July, there already was a pretty strong public record that the Russians were behind the stealing of the DNC e-mails and other materials.
So they literally we`re saying we`re going to get into bed with someone who`s probably working with the Russians in order to advance our political campaign. You can only imagine what would have happened if Obama or Clinton was -- had been caught doing that.
REID: Yes, absolutely. So let -- well, we can only imagine, Ron Klain, what Donald Trump is going to say or do or how he might react this weekend.
REID: I don`t know. Speculate for us. What do you think? What would you anticipate? I`m sure, more tweets.
KLAIN: More tweets. But I think this could be getting serious enough that we might turn on Fox and find the yule log and classical music playing.
I mean, I don`t know how they`re going to possibly deal with the fact that this -- the weeklong attack they`ve made on this uranium thing that the U.S. government did, that they`ve tried to turn into the Clintons being Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, all this craziness about who paid for the so- called Steele dossier and all these things.
They have been at full alert over there, you know, DEFCON 1, all week long on all this so-called Clinton scandals. And the fact that we are facing, potentially, the first indictments of people involved in this Russia scandal, maybe peripherally involved, maybe involved on other issues, that is going to be a real collapse in the narrative that they are very heavily invested in over there.
REID: Yes, absolutely. Ron Klain, David Corn, please stay with us. And if you`re just joining us -- and, Natasha, stay with us as well.
And if you`re just joining us, the big news tonight, of course, is that according to reporting from CNN, who cites sources familiar with the matter, the investigation led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller has filed its first charges.
But here are some other big, breaking developments tonight related to the Russia investigation. It has been a long time coming but we finally know who actually is behind the original funding of the anti-Trump research that eventually produced the infamous dossier on then candidate Donald Trump.
The Washington Free Beacon, a conservative website funded by major Republican donor, Paul Singer, has confirmed to the House Intelligence Committee that it initially retained the firm, Fusion GPS, to conduct opposition research on Trump and other Republican presidential candidates.
The publication says that it stopped funding the project in the spring of 2016, at which point Hillary Clinton`s campaign and the Democratic National Committee picked up the funding of the project.
Today, we also learned new details about the research firm that worked with the Trump campaign during the election. "The Wall Street Journal" has new reporting on Rebekah Mercer, the Trump mega donor who partly owns data firm, Cambridge Analytica.
According to the journal, Rebekah Mercer, in August of 2016, asked the chief executive of Cambridge Analytica, who was working for Donald Trump`s presidential campaign, whether the company could better organize the Hillary Clinton related e-mails being released by WikiLeaks, according to a person familiar with their e-mail exchange.
Here`s how Congressman Adam Schiff, the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, described Cambridge Analytica`s WikiLeaks connection today on "MORNING JOE."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), RANKING MEMBER, HOUSE PERMANENT SELECT COMMITTEE ON INTELLIGENCE: Here you have not only the head of the data analytics arm of the campaign reaching out to someone our CIA Director says is basically a foreign intelligence agency affiliated and working with the Russians, but you also have the operative, Peter Smith, in contact with Flynn apparently and also reaching out to likely Russians on the dark web to look for these e-mails.
There are an extraordinary number of connections between the campaign and those who are stealing the e-mails, those who are publishing the e-mails, and a picture begins to emerge.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: "The New York Times," meanwhile, is reporting that the Russian lawyer who held that Trump Tower meeting with principals from the Trump campaign, and family, during the election was directly linked to the Kremlin.
According to "The Times," Natalia Veselnitskaya, who brought information to that meeting that she thought was damaging to Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party, had discussed talking points about that information prior to the meeting with Russia`s top prosecutor.
"The Times" reports the coordination between the Trump Tower visitor and the Russian Prosecutor General undercuts Ms. Veselnitskaya`s account that she was a purely independent actor when she met with Don, Jr., Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort in June of 2016.
"The Times" also notes that this information contradicts the story we heard from the Trump team that this was a useless meeting about adoptions that didn`t go anywhere.
This morning before all these Russia developments broke, Donald Trump tweeted: it is now commonly agreed after many months of costly looking, that there was no collusion between Russia and Trump. Was collusion with H.C., exclamation point.
To which Congressman Schiff replied, Mr. President, the Special Counsel and the Congress have yet to come to -- have come to no conclusions yet. We will let you know when we do.
Joining us now is Ken Dilanian, an intelligence and national security reporter for NBC News, and Malcolm Nance, MSNBC counter terrorism and intelligence analyst. And Natasha Bertrand is also back with us.
And, Ken, I`ll go to you first on anything you`ve been able to learn. I know that we`re scrambling to try to confirm this news from CNN, but what do you think is the import of it?
KEN DILANIAN, NBC NEWS INTELLIGENCE AND NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: Well, we`re not there yet, Joy. We are -- we have not confirmed it to our satisfaction, and so I`m just going to withhold comment on it.
But in terms of the Veselnitskaya "New York Times" story, "The Times" story was really interesting.
It essentially confirmed what we had reported at NBC News after our interview with her on the telephone in September, which is that -- and she told us at the time that she was in contact with this prosecutor in Moscow, who`s very close to Vladimir Putin, about these talking points, about this information that she thought was very negative about Hillary Clinton.
Now, her story is that she actually got the Russian prosecutor interested in this case. But however that shakes out, the point is that she was in talks with people close to the Kremlin. She then brought that back to Trump Tower and handed what she thought was damaging information on Hillary Clinton.
Now, I have reviewed this information. It talks about political contributions from some hedge fund people called the Ziff brothers.
It`s actually not what we would consider significant dirt on the Clinton campaign, but the point that the Trump team was willing to take a meeting based on a promise of dirt from the Russian government, that`s what I think is most significant here, Joy.
REID: Yes, absolutely. And, Malcolm, you`ve talked about this being just a dangle, essentially, to sort of gauge how open the campaign would be to more contact with -- potentially with the Russian government, correct?
MALCOLM NANCE, MSNBC COUNTER TERRORISM AND INTELLIGENCE ANALYST: Yes, absolutely, it was a dangle. And you know, I have said this from the very beginning. There were probably multiple dirty tricks teams trying to get all this information related to Hillary Clinton, and Russia was watching each and every one of them and responding to them in various forms.
First, you have Veselnitskaya and her crew going directly to the top management of the Trump campaign, including his son, and trying to offer that information.
On the other hand, as we`ve learned, Flynn and Smith and Cambridge Analytica, all quite possibly, independently, were trying to gather this data in order to use the Hillary Clinton e-mails against her.
And at the same time, we know that Donald Trump at least became cognizant of the -- all of these efforts on July 27th when he said, Russia, if you`re listening, please release Hillary Clinton`s e-mails.
NANCE: So all of these, taken together, create a massive, could potentially be a very broad conspiracy.
REID: And, you know, Natasha, the -- WikiLeaks` Julian Assange has said that he did not respond positively to these overtures from Cambridge Analytica.
NANCE: Sure, he did.
REID: Is there any way of verifying that?
REID: Yes, there`s no way to tell.
BERTRAND: There`s no way to tell. We don`t know whether or not there was actually any active collaboration.
And now, we have "The Wall Street Journal" reporting that Rebekah Mercer was actually reaching out and asking the CEO of Cambridge to reach out to Julian Assange, as late as August, to ask if they could organize the e- mails that were being released by WikiLeaks.
So there was this constant stream of communication beginning in June and ending in August, maybe. At least continuing through August. We really just don`t know.
REID: Yes. And, Ken Dilanian, we also have news today. NBC News confirming that Carter Page, who, I believe, has already been interviewed on the Senate side, Senate Intelligence Committee, met behind closed doors, today, I believe, with Senate Intel Committee staff for more than five hours.
And the House Intelligence Committee announcing that Page would appear before that committee on November 2nd.
Any -- what can you tell us about that?
DILANIAN: I find it really interesting because, you know, Carter Page is a figure. He e-mails reporters. He e-mails me. He has, you know, consistently denied any collusion with Russia.
And it`s tempting to sort of write him off, but he did take that trip to Moscow while he was working for the Trump campaign and gave a favorable -- you know, a pro-Russian speech.
And it`s pretty clear that the Senate Intelligence Committee, after spending five hours with him, had some important questions for him. And there`s also been reports that in -- to some questions, he has asserted his Fifth Amendment rights not to answer.
So, you know, where he fits into all of this remains to be seen, but he may not be the -- you know, the figure to write off as some have thought for some time.
REID: Absolutely. And, Malcolm Nance, we also have from NBC reporting that Michael Cohen has been interviewed by investigators this week, that he was supposedly grilled by congressional investigators. And as the personal attorney to Donald Trump, significance of that?
NANCE: Well, as you know, Michael Cohen sent the e-mail in November of 2015, essentially saying that he was aware that Russia wanted to work on this project of Trump Tower in Moscow, you know, and the Ivanka spa, and that -- he -- they and he would try to get them elected President of the United States.
He felt very confident that there was going to be some form of support.
Bringing him in, bringing Carter Page in, I`m not sure whether these are just check the box interviews.
I think that these are supporting operations interviews, which, in some way, shape, or form, not only will get the truth, but will also support whatever comes down Manafort`s -- I`m sorry, the Mueller investigation`s pike and will support, quite possibly, future charges or other lines of investigation.
REID: Yes. And, Natasha, you know, the Trump former campaign team, including Donald Jr., has attempted to sort of portray all of these contacts and meetings as inconsequential, unnecessary. They didn`t even need them in order to win, you know.
Has there been any sort of -- you know, sort of independent verification that these data operations were successful? They`re saying that none of it was even really needed.
BERTRAND: Well, a number of analysts that I had spoken to have said that it is very unlikely that the Russians would have been able to target the ads that they -- the way they targeted them, target the people that they targeted during the campaign, without any help from Americans who would have had the kind of knowledge of the intricacies of American politics to really be able to figure out who was going to be most vulnerable to these fake news.
BERTRAND: Who was going to be most, you know, susceptible to changing their vote as a result of this barrage of disinformation and propaganda. And that, according to people that I have spoken to, was very much something that they thought that Americans would have had to have been involved in.
REID: Yes. And isn`t that Cambridge Analytica`s expertise, per Cambridge Analytica?
BERTRAND: Data mining and data analysis.
REID: Indeed. Malcolm Nance, Ken Dilanian, Natasha Bertrand, thank you very much. Appreciate it.
NANCE: Thank you, Joy.
REID: And coming up on a big news night, my interview with Tom Steyer, the real billionaire on a mission to get Donald Trump impeached.
REID: A federal jury has approved the first charges in Special Counsel Robert Mueller`s investigation into the Trump campaign and Russia, according to CNN tonight. NBC News is still working to try and verify that reporting.
The news may be of particular interest to one Democratic billionaire who attracted the raged tweets of the President today with this new T.V. ad.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TOM STEYER, FOUNDER, NEED TO IMPEACH: He has brought us to the brink of nuclear war, obstructed justice at the FBI, and in direct violation of the constitution. He has taken money from foreign governments and threatened to shut down news organizations that report the truth.
If that isn`t the case for impeaching and removing a dangerous president, then what has our government become?
People in Congress and his own administration know that this President is a clear and present danger, who is mentally unstable and armed with nuclear weapons, and they do nothing.
Join us and tell your member of Congress that they have a moral responsibility to stop doing what`s political and start doing what`s right.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: That was Tom Steyer who is the most prolific Democratic donor of the 2016 election.
He used to be known for giving to candidates who back environmental causes, but now, his cause is impeaching the 45th President, Donald Trump. And he`s spending $10 million to air that T.V. ad, along with starting an online petition urging Trump`s impeach.
And joining us now is Tom Steyer.
And, Tom, first of all, I have to get your reaction to the breaking news tonight. CNN reporting -- NBC not confirming it yet, but CNN reporting that the first indictment or indictments may have been handed down in the Mueller investigation. Your thoughts?
STEYER: Well, I think that this is a reflection of the kind of lawlessness that has pervaded this administration.
And I think that we`re going to find out, along with everybody else, exactly what those charges are, but I think the question will be not just what are the first -- what is the first charge, but where do they lead? Who`s connected?
And I think that, regardless of anything else, that has to put this administration into some kind of internal crisis because, the fact of the matter is, they don`t know where it will lead either.
REID: Yes. And you`re not the first Democrat to call for the impeachment of Donald Trump. Obviously, Maxine Waters has been very vocal about this.
There have been other Democrats in the House that have started to right up articles of impeachment that we know will never go anywhere as long as House Speaker Paul Ryan is in charge, but this is what the Democratic Whip in the House, Steny Hoyer -- this is his reaction to your effort.
In an interview with the "Washington Examiner," he said, I think the leader and I have made it very clear that impeachment is premature at this point in time. It`s not necessarily off the table at some point in the future, but it`s premature at this point in time.
If we start to see the Mueller investigation intensify, do you think that that helps make your case that Congress should act or could the case be made, let Mueller finish what he is doing?
STEYER: Well, I think that -- obviously, I believe that the case has already been made before Mr. Mueller has reported because, the fact of the matter is, this president has met the basis for impeachment through already obstructing justice and the Emoluments Clause.
From my standpoint, this is a question of the American people being at great danger in terms of their safety and health due to the activity of this administration so that there`s an actual urgency to impeachment.
But let`s say one more thing, Joy. We aren`t going directly to these elected officials. We`re asking the American people to join us and raise their voices because we believe that the voice and the will of the American people still is and always should be the greatest power in the country.
REID: And should Democratic voters make this an election issue, about whether or not they will support their member of Congress if their member of Congress will not support impeachment?
STEYER: I think that this is a question for American citizens to stand up and demand that their elected officials go on the record and do what`s right.
The fact of the matter is, I think if you went through Washington, .D.C., on either side of the aisle, they would agree that what we`re doing, what we`re saying is the truth. But right now, people are scared to say it for whatever reason.
And I really don`t want to speculate and I don`t claim to understand it, but what I do know is that the American people are in jeopardy as a result of the behavior and activity of this administration.
This president has met the boundaries for impeachment, and we need to tell the truth. And we`re asking Americans, if no one else will tell the truth, will the American people please join us, which they have been, and raise their voices to say we need to do this now.
REID: And, you know, there`s a way that you could put yourself in the position to be a part of an impeachment proceeding, or at least a trial, if Donald Trump were ever to be impeached. Are you interested in running for Senate, sir? Are you planning on running for senate?
STEYER: What I`ve said, Joy, and which is -- was true when I said it before and is still true is, I believe that we have gone down a very dark path as a country. And I will do anything, and I haven`t ruled out running for office, to get us back on a path towards a much more just America and a society where we`re more prosperous and healthier.
I will -- I have not ruled out anything because, the fact of the matter is, this impeachment campaign is what we came up with right now as the -- where we could have the most positive impact in directing Americans and our country back to a better vision of a healthier, more prosperous country. And that`s what we`re trying to do.
REID: And you did not charge in the ads that you are putting out that you`re paying for that Donald Trump has committed high crimes and misdemeanors. You called him mentally unstable. Upon what do you base that?
STEYER: Well, actually, the -- if you go back to the original writing of the constitution and the words "high crimes and misdemeanors" written by Alexander Hamilton, it`s a question, really, of violating your trust with the constitution and the American people.
And the one that traditionally has been used is when you`re obstructing justice, which Mr. Trump definitely did when he fired the head of the FBI for trying to investigate him with regards to his ties to Russia.
So from the standpoint of high crimes and misdemeanors, I think people should go back to the original text, understand what the framers of the constitution were describing, and understand that, historically, this president has more than met that, that line in the sand.
REID: Yes. And should Democrats run on, if you put us in charge of the House, we will impeach Donald Trump? Do you think that`s a winning message for Democrats?
STEYER: You know, I`m not doing this from a cynical, political standpoint, Joy. I believe that our country is at risk, and I believe we should be telling the truth about this. So I`m not really doing the calculation of looking at polls and trying to figure out what`s politically tactical right now.
I believe that Americans should stand up for what`s right. And I don`t know what that means politically, but I know that, in the long run, if we tell the truth and we try and do the right thing, that`s how we get good outcomes. And that`s what I believe we`re doing and that`s what we`re asking other Americans to do with us.
REID: All right. Tom Steyer, thank you very much. Appreciate your time.
And coming up, could tonight`s new report explain why Republicans now have their eyes on Special Counsel Robert Mueller`s budget? That`s next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think that our position hasn`t changed since day one. And I think we are seeing now that if there was any collusion with Russia, it was between the DNC and the Clintons and certainly not our campaign.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: That was the White House earlier today before tonight`s breaking news that the first charges in Robert Mueller`s Russia investigation have been filed, according to a CNN report. No word on what those charges are or who they`ve been filed against since a federal judge allegedly ordered that the charges remain sealed.
NBC News has not yet confirmed this reporting and has neither -- and neither has any other news organization, for that matter.
And tonight, we`re also learning that some Republicans who are hoping Robert Mueller will quickly wrap up his Russia investigation have reportedly got their eye on Robert Mueller`s budget.
According to POLITICO, lawmakers haven`t yet seen the Russia investigator`s first spending report, which must go through a Justice Department review before being made public, but they`re already setting up for a fight over how much the probe is costing taxpayers in the fight -- and the fact that there is no end in sight.
Joining us is Mieke Eoyang, former House Intelligence Committee staff member and vice president for the National Security Program at Third Way.
Ron Klain, David Corn, and Malcolm Nance are all back with us.
And, Mieke, I`ll start with you because the House Intelligence Committee led by one Devin Nunes has been the most sort of obvious in what appear to be tactics, we should say, to try to divert the investigation away from looking at Donald Trump and toward looking at other things, or toward maybe even trying to exonerate him.
Do you expect that that body or others on the House Republican side or Senate Republican side might try to go after Robert Mueller`s funding, even now with this new news?
MIEKE EOYANG, VICE PRESIDENT FOR THE NATIONAL SECURITY PROGRAM, THIRD WAY: That`s right, David Nunes has definitely been trying to distract people from the main focus of the investigation. It`s important to remember that the House Intelligence Committee is actually running two separate examinations.
Chairman Nunes was supposed to recuse himself from the Russia investigation and leave it to Conway and Congressman Schiff, who had done a reasonable job at being objective and working together.
And then Devin Nunes has gone running off into the middle of the night with these stories of unmasking that his counterpart in the Senate have called ridiculous. And then talking about this Ukraine uranium sale.
Devin Nunes is really trying to distract people from the issue, so I would expect he would really focus on the budget and then lose sight of how much exactly he has spent on this and spent on investigating things like Benghazi.
REID: Yes. And it`s going to be kind of difficult to make that case now, Ron Klain. I mean, this new news tonight really sort of just changed the game a bit.
But you have had in the last several days, at least this week, Fox News, a friend and allies of the President of the United States, floating headlines like Mueller facing new Republican pressure to resign in Russia probe.
A little bit of an excerpt from this Fox News article: Special Counsel Robert Mueller is facing a fresh round of calls from conservative critics for his resignation from the Russia collusion amid revelations that have called into question the FBI`s own actions and, potentially, Mueller`s independence.
It does feel like there has been a drumbeat to try to discredit Mueller, if not set him aside altogether. That, I would presume, becomes much harder now?
KLAIN: It becomes harder, but they`re not going to stop trying. I saw that noted legal ethics expert Sean Hannity, tonight, had tweeted that Bob Mueller must either recuse or resign. So they`re definitely going to press this hard.
Look, Joy, I`ve been saying for months, I think we`re headed to a constitutional crisis here. And the crisis is that, ultimately, Donald Trump will fire Bob Mueller to prevent him from indicting people who are close enough to the President.
And what we see here is that the House and to a lesser extent, the Senate, but the Senate somewhat, are just completely giving up their constitutional responsibilities to have oversight on the President. And now, they`re going the next step, which is trying to stop the person who is Bob Mueller.
And House Republicans and Donald Trump, I think, are going to provoke a constitutional crisis when they try to prevent Special Counsel from doing his job.
REID: A constitutional crisis, David Corn, but also potentially a political crisis.
I mean, one could envision a scenario where if there were indictments and Donald Trump were to, let`s say, pardon some folks, right, that then takes us into a completely different political territory that could drag us through the rest of the year.
I don`t think Republicans necessarily have an easy out from this Russia probe and all of its many tentacles.
CORN: Well, they don`t have an easy out because they haven`t come to terms with what happened. They haven`t come to terms with the fact that, as I said earlier, the United States was attacked. They haven`t taken responsibility for thoroughly investigating and making sure it doesn`t happen again.
I think the indictments are going to, you know, make it harder for them to, you know, put pressure on Robert Mueller. And we`ll get to see some results of what he is doing, maybe get an idea of where he is heading, if indeed these indictments come down.
But, ultimately, the President had a chance. He had a great chance to put this behind him when he took office to say, we`re going to get to the bottom of this. If it benefited me, you know, it was unintentional on my part, and we`re going to move ahead and have an investigation to make sure it never happens again.
But all he`s done with his Republican, you know, poodles is to make sure that we don`t find out the truth and that everything is -- gets covered up and hidden away. And that`s why this is not going to go away for them.
REID: And you know what, Malcolm, and not only that, but you had Donald Trump do some things that would -- that seemed counterintuitive if the idea is to put to bed the idea that he has any special sort of affinity for Russia.
The non-implementation of the sanctions, for instance, which was supposed to be implemented at the beginning of this month. The disbanding within the State Department of the agency that would implement those sanctions anyway. And the personal -- you know, personally intervening to sort of get this gag order lifted so they could further the uranium one conspiracy theory.
There does seem to be almost counterintuitive actions coming out of the White House, don`t you think?
NANCE: Well, I mean, we`ve had counterintuitive actions come out of the -- you know, Donald Trump from the day that he announced that he was going to run for president. None of that`s surprising.
What is surprising, and I think this is what, I think, the Republicans are most afraid of, is that if indictments come down the pike and Donald Trump tries to put the kibosh on this investigation, goes after Mueller.
You know, unfortunately for him, he can get rid of Mueller but all the documents that are left on the table, all of the investigation documents, they don`t go away. I think Mueller understands that, and what he is doing right now is he`s going to play bean ball.
He`s going to start throwing these indictments at people who are not cooperating, who might get a pardon, but he`s going to make it so difficult that anything Donald Trump does is just going to lead to more obstruction of justice charges.
REID: And you know, Mieke, that is, you know, the sort of conundrum for Republicans who may want this to all go away. At some point, this lands back in the lap of the House of Representatives if Robert Mueller were to find something.
And again, we have no idea what any of these indictments are even for. It could be money laundering and not anything to do with collusion with Russia. But if it starts to creep closer and closer and closer to some sort of presidential obstruction -- you know, we just had on Tom Steyer who`s got a lot of money.
He`s a real billionaire. There`s no one questioning whether he`s a billionaire. He`s got lots of money. He`s running ads on Fox News, calling for impeachment and saying that Donald Trump is a threat to the republic.
This drumbeat will not end and it eventually lands back in the House, no?
EOYANG: That`s right. And the House of Representatives, the Republicans there, have to remember that it was their constituents who are much stronger in being anti-Russia than Democrats were until we got to Donald Trump.
So the idea that the Republicans are going to then try and protect Donald Trump when what he did was collude with a hostile foreign power to try and interfere with the election -- I think that given what Russia wants to do to America and bringing it low, they have a hard time defending that and still maintaining that they are patriots.
REID: Yes, and absolutely. And, David Corn, I`ll come back to you for a moment because the most -- the attempt to sort of go and do a third rail or a third direction and sort of create a new Russiagate that is Hillary Clinton`s scandal, it doesn`t -- see, I don`t know where that goes, right?
CORN: Well --
REID: I don`t know how long you can roll with that.
CORN: It works for the Fox News audience. It gives Trump something to tweet about. And really, remember, what they want to do is they don`t want to win this argument. They want to muddy the waters.
They want to make people think that the Russian scandal is just partisan bickering, back and forth. Who knows? Uranium. Dossiers. That`s what they want to do.
Well, they don`t want to focus on the key thing that the U.S. was attacked. And they don`t want to focus on Donald Trump and his associates` interactions with Russia before the campaign while this was going on.
They just need to make it look messy and get 15 to 20 percent of the public to turn off to it. That`s the goal here.
Indictments, as I said earlier -- my favorite line tonight. Indictments, you know, cut through distraction.
REID: Yes, absolutely. And, Malcolm, you know, then, in that case, really, re-clarify for us again, from an intelligence point of view.
Because it is not the case that there was just sort of an equal spraying of, you know, assistance to the Democrats and the Republicans. That the Russians were indifferent, if not, according to the Republican side, more amenable to Hillary Clinton winning.
I mean, that is just -- from an intelligence standpoint, it`s quite clear who they favored and what they did, right?
NANCE: Well, that`s ludicrous. And as we -- you know, this was reported on by "The New York Times" earlier this year.
U.S. intelligence had information that was collected by either our collections operators or a sister intelligence agency that had direct and continuous communications with U.S. citizens, with no Russian intelligence officers.
That`s where this manifested from in the U.S. intelligence community. Not from the Steele dossier. Not from, you know, Carter Page`s trips to Russia. It came from a source that, right now, has transitioned from intelligence to evidence into the Mueller investigation.
And I think that`s probably terrifying Trump more than anything because he understands -- oh, well, I`m not sure if he does understand. But he certainly has been briefed in some of the collections capacities in the United States and what we can do when we really set our mind to it.
And that story has been out there for a year, that we know this information. It`s just the question of, does it come in as a dagger into his administration, or does it surround him like a wall of water and wash him -- you know, wash their excuses away?
REID: Yes. And, you know, Ron Klain, you know, if we know -- and we know that, obviously. We talk to you smart people here on television every day. But so does the Senate and so does the House.
Republicans in elected power know this too. It`s hard to imagine how they are not at least privately alarmed about it because, publicly, they aren`t doing a whole lot -- a heck of a lot about it.
KLAIN: That`s right, Joy. I mean, I think they, privately, are alarmed about it on two levels. I think, one, there are patriots on Capitol Hill in both parties.
And I do think David`s core point here that the America -- America was attacked, our democracy was undermined. A foreign hostile power tried to subvert American democracy. I think, in the dark of night, there are many Republicans who are troubled by that.
And they`re under political pressure not to say that, but at some point in time, just the evidence and the fact and the reality of that becomes clear.
But a second point is, the Republican agenda has gone off the rails this year. They`ve gotten literally nothing done on Capitol Hill, and they`re about to go oh for the entire calendar year here. And that`s because their president is busy mucked up in an investigation and tweeting hate at anyone he can.
NANCE: Well --
KLAIN: And that`s got to upset House and Senate leaders about trying to get some things done. And that`s their priority.
REID: Yes. I mean, and Mieke, there -- you know, Mieke, there could be an argument that, you know, it really sort of is much less important for this president to pass, you know, a few tax cuts for wealthy people than for us to answer the fundamental question of whether or not the election was interfered with by a foreign power.
It`s sort of hard to believe that that is not the priority among even Republicans, even partisan Republicans on Capitol Hill.
EOYANG: That`s right. And it`s not just this past election, but it`s elections to come.
We have to remember that Russia really objects to the fact that the United States is a country that is based on rule of law, that we hold our leaders accountable and make them stand for election, that we believe in a free press.
All of those things undermine Vladimir Putin and his regime, and so they want to try and make sure that Americans don`t believe in that.
We`ve got to figure out what they did so that we can protect ourselves going forward. And Republicans` disinterest in that question is really troubling.
REID: Yes. And, Malcolm, you know, have you seen evidence that the federal government, that the Trump administration, or that the Congress is doing anything to prevent this happening in future elections?
NANCE: No. No, there is nothing happening that will prevent this from happening in future elections.
Let me tell you something. If the Russians dedicated a year of two major intelligence agencies` cyber warfare assets to go in and root around throughout the DNC --
NANCE: -- you can be sure they`ve done that to the RNC. There is no one out there, right now, who is immune to this.
So if they decide that they`re going to put an end to the Trump administration by releasing all of his unsecured phone calls and texts that we`re not seeing, they could do that. They have that capacity.
They`re just -- you know, they`ve got NSA, but they`ve got rubbles behind it. And it all depends on whether Vladimir Putin decides that he`s going to do it. And we need to protect ourselves, but this administration has no interest in that.
REID: And, David Corn, do any of the Republicans on Capitol Hill that you talk to -- you`re there in D.C. -- do they have an interest in it?
CORN: You know, some have paid lip service to this from the beginning of the administration, but we see the Trump administration not even, you know, nominating much of the -- many people to the key positions in the Department of Homeland Security, which would be in charge of protecting the election system.
And you see no complaints coming from the Russian -- or from --
CORN: Certainly, the Russians, of course. They love that.
CORN: But you see no complaints coming from the Republicans either.
CORN: There seems to be an alliance here of some sort. But, no, I mean, you know, you have John McCain and Lindsey Graham and Marco Rubio and others at the beginning of the year saying, this is terrible, we got to make sure it never happens again.
You know, you don`t really hear them putting pressure on Trump or holding him accountable --
CORN: -- for doing very little because he`s still not even admitting there was a problem.
REID: Yes. And, Mieke, last --
REID: I`ll give you this final question. Do you think, in the end, Republicans can get away with cutting the budget of the man who may now already be issuing indictments in the case of the Russia probe, of cutting Mueller`s budget?
EOYANG: I don`t think so. I think they`re going to have a really hard time with that. There are a fair number of Republicans who do think that we need an objective investigation.
And I think that a lot of the Mueller attorneys would be willing to do this job for free. They`re doing this for love of country because it`s very important.
EOYANG: So I don`t know that they could cut the budget in a point where Mueller would stop as long as he has the authority to continue.
REID: Yes, absolutely. Mieke Eoyang, David Corn, Malcolm Nance, Ron Klain, thank you all very much. Really appreciate you guys joining me tonight. Appreciate it.
CORN: Sure thing.
NANCE: Thanks, Joy.
REID: Thank you. And tonight`s LAST WORD is next, and it`s related to the breaking news we`ve been covering. You will want to see this. Stay tuned.
REID: OK. Time for tonight`s LAST WORD. Here`s how the Women`s Convention in Detroit, which was organized by some of the participants of the huge historic inauguration protest against Donald Trump, handled the report that the first charges in the Mueller investigation have been filed.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We don`t know who yet, but on Monday, there`s going to be people walking out with some handcuffs.
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