LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel.
Four years ago, according to polls, military voters voted for Donald Trump 60 percent to Hillary Clinton`s 34 percent. With this reporting that we have this weekend about the possibility that Russia is putting a bounty on American troops in Afghanistan, one wonders what it might take to shake those numbers of military voters` support for Donald Trump.
This -- this might be the story that, depending on where it goes from here, does affect that vote.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, "TRMS": And the vote, come November, also for me raises immediate questions about the relationship between the president and the military right now for the duration of this term. I mean, if the military -- I mean, down to the level of, you know, platoon leaders. Like if the -- if active duty troops serving in combat environments come to believe that the president knows about forced protection efforts that should have been put in place and diplomatic efforts and national security actions that should have been taken to respond to threats to U.S. soldiers and he didn`t do anything about it, that`s the -- that`s a kind of divide between the president and the active duty military, that I can`t even predict in terms of where that goes.
It`s such a dire, terrible story about the president. It`s almost unlike anything else we have learned about him over the last few years.
O`DONNELL: Well, yeah. And there is no good version of it. There`s no -- there`s no good version. The version where, you know, the Trump White House wants to say, oh, the president didn`t know about it.
Even if that is true, that is not a good version of this story. There is a lot that`s bad in this version of the story, too.
MADDOW: Yeah. And that has implications as Susan Rice just said in the interview we just had with her. That has real implications for people who are serving at defense secretary, director of national intelligence, national security adviser, any of those people who, if Trump isn`t lying, if they didn`t actually brief him on it, then those people should resign or at least should explain themselves.
If he did know about it and he`s lying about it to back fill in some sort of fake explanation for how he didn`t respond, they should have called him on that for not responding. I mean, it`s just -- it`s absolutely untenable to imagine being a responsible national security professional in this environment, whether or not the president is lying and to have this go on business as usual.
This just can`t -- this can`t stand if the president is basically siding with another country and killing U.S. troops. That just can`t go on another minute.
O`DONNELL: We are just at the beginning of this story.
MADDOW: Yeah. Thanks, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Well, later in this hour, we will be joined by Cecile Richards on a day when women`s reproductive rights are once again hanging by a one vote thread. And the United States Supreme Court in a 5-4 ruling announced today, the court upheld Roe versus Wade, and struck down a restrictive Louisiana abortion law. The court said this really wasn`t about Roe versus Wade, but it always is.
And also at the end of this hour, we will be joined by White House reporter Yamiche Alcindor on the disarray in the Trump campaign as Joe Biden continues to maintain a significant lead consistent, steady lead over Donald Trump.
And once again the Trump presidency is confronting the question that became the undoing of the Nixon presidency, the question that forced Richard Nixon to resign the presidency in 1974 during impeachment proceedings. What did the president know and when did he know it?
This time that question, as Rachel and I were just discussing, involves Russia, which means it involved Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump, which means it takes us into the darkest space in the Trump presidency, the Trump/Putin relationship, or should we call it the Trump/Putin alliance.
What did the president know and when did he know it?
The Trump presidency finds itself in scandalous situations almost every day that involve a version of that question, what did the president know and when did he know it? For example, and in Trump world, this is a minor example and in my other presidency, this would be the most grotesque scandal of that presidency.
Trump White House staff right now trying to convince you that the president did not know that the Trump supporter in a video that the president retweeted yesterday repeatedly screams "white power" with his white fist up in the air. Donald Trump retweeted the video because he loves that video. It was his favorite kind of Trump supporter, yelling at people protesting against Donald Trump.
The Trump supporter is a white man about Donald Trump`s age with a white mustache in a white golf cart screaming "white power" in Florida. That might be exactly what Donald Trump is doing this time next year if Joe Biden wins the presidency.
It took three full hours of outrage on Twitter yesterday for the Trump White House to delete the Donald Trump retweet of a video of a man screaming white power, three hours. And the White House staff`s excuse for the president`s retweet was that he didn`t know what the Trump supporter he was glorifying on Twitter was actually saying. He didn`t know that the guy screamed "white power" in the video because, quote -- this is the White House staff words -- he did not hear that particular phrase.
Now, when I watched that video and if you watch that video, it`s the only thing you are going to hear. It is the only thing that I heard, "white power". That`s the only thing I heard.
Now, I`m not going to play that video now because it is obscene. And I don`t want to give the man in that video a forum for spreading his poison. But what that video provides, along with the White House staff`s reaction to it is proof beyond a reasonable doubt that the people who work for Donald Trump and Donald Trump will try to get you to believe the most utterly absurd lies about what did the president know and when did he know it?
And tonight, the most important application of that question is what did the president know about Vladimir Putin offering a bounty for the killing of American soldiers in Afghanistan, and when did he know it?
The outlines of the story as first reported by "The New York Times" have now been confirmed by NBC News. "The New York Times" phrased it this way and each word of this matters: American intelligence officials have concluded that a Russian military intelligence unit secretly offered bounties to Taliban-linked militants for killing coalition forces in Afghanistan, including targeting American troops amid the peace talks to end the long-running war there, according to officials briefed on the matter.
"The Times" reported, quote, the intelligence finding was briefed to President Trump. That`s the crucial line there -- the intelligence finding was briefed to President Trump, an awkward phrasing that leaves possibilities.
"The Washington Post" followed "The New York Times" report with this. Russian bounties offered to Taliban-linked militants to kill coalition forces in Afghanistan are believed to have resulted in the deaths of several U.S. service members, according to intelligence gleaned from U.S. military interrogations of captured militants in recent months.
The reporting on this story this weekend left the Trump White House with a public relations dilemma, how do they explain why Donald Trump has done nothing about this? How do they explain, while Donald Trump is continuing to push to have Vladimir Putin re-invited to meetings of world leaders, that they have banned Putin from attending because of Russia`s annexation of Crimea.
And Donald Trump is doing that. He`s working for Vladimir Putin at exactly the time that the intelligence reports tell us that Vladimir Putin is paying to try to kill American soldiers. Donald Trump still, still at that time, is trying to get Vladimir Putin invited back to the party at the G-7.
The Trump solution to their public relations problem, because that`s all it is for them, it`s not a problem about American soldiers and danger. It`s a public relations problem for Donald Trump, the solution for the Trump team was to claim that Donald Trump simply knew nothing about it and yesterday Donald Trump claimed that intelligence briefers, quote, did not report it to me or the vice president.
So you have to ask yourself, is there any reason, any reason at all to believe Donald Trump? The same person who is claiming that he didn`t know the video he retweeted had a Trump supporter saying "white power" twice.
Obviously, there is no reason to believe Donald Trump`s denial that he knew about intelligence indicating Russia is paying to kill American soldiers. "The New York Times" reporting says Donald Trump denies that he was briefed on it.
Donald Trump has decided that claiming to be a president who is totally ignorant of evidence that Vladimir Putin is trying to kill American soldiers looks better than being a president who does nothing about Vladimir Putin trying to kill American soldiers after being briefed on it.
So was the president briefed on what Russia is doing in Afghanistan? Probably. But we don`t know that for sure. We also don`t know for sure that the intelligence findings are correct.
Maybe this is a version of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Maybe the intelligence findings about what Russia is up to in Afghanistan are not correct. Maybe they`re not totally correct.
But there is no way for Donald Trump to defang this story. Even if the intelligence findings are not correct and even if Donald Trump was never briefed on the intelligence findings, there is still a deep, dark scandal at the bottom of this story, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi pointed to exactly that today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: The question is whether the president was briefed. If he was not briefed, why would he not be briefed? Were they afraid to approach him on the subject of Russia? And were they concerned if they did tell him that he would tell Putin?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: That is a question that could never have been asked by a speaker of the House about any previous president. Were they concerned that if they did tell him that he would tell Putin? Were they worried that Donald Trump would tell Putin and thereby reveal American intelligence sources and methods as he did in his first Oval Office meeting with the Russian ambassador and the Russian foreign officer in 2017?
With Donald Trump, we`ve all known since he became a presidential candidate that there was a lot to worry about in a Trump presidency. And now, American soldiers in Afghanistan and their families have much, much more to worry about tonight.
Leading off our discussion tonight, Ben Rhodes, former deputy national security adviser to President Obama. He is an MSNBC political analyst.
Ned Price is with us. He`s a former CIA analyst and former senior director and spokesperson for the National Security Council in the Obama administration. He is an MSNBC national security contributor.
And at this hour, during the last few minutes, we have had breaking news reporting on this from "The New York Times". I`m just going to read directly from "The New York Times" lead on this.
American officials provided a written briefing in late February to President Trump laying out their conclusion that a Russian military intelligence unit offered and paid bounties to Taliban-linked militants to kill U.S. and coalition troops in Afghanistan. Two officials familiar with the matter said the investigation into these suspected Russian covert operation to incentivize such killing has focused in part on an April 2019 car bombing that killed three marines as one such potential attack, according to multiple officials familiar with the matter.
Ben Rhodes, I want to start with you.
Working backwards from "The New York Times" breaking news tonight because they have been working over the weekend on that question of what did the president know, when did he know it, and the White House saying, well, no one ever said this to him. Now, the intelligence community is letting it be known through "The New York Times" that there was a written briefing that went to the president that contained this information. That, of course, lives beside the known fact that Donald Trump does not read.
What is your assessment of where this story is now?
BEN RHODES, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, Lawrence, you know, I got the PDB for over seven years. I was one of the senior aides to President Obama who received both the written briefing to the presidential daily briefing and the in-person that President Obama used to get.
And first of all, the idea that he wouldn`t have been briefed this material would be completely astonishing to me because, essentially, you would get in the course of several months hundreds of pieces of intelligence. And something like this would be an absolute bombshell.
And it goes to the heart of the responsibility of the commander in chief, which is the safety and security of American troops, who are serving on his orders in Afghanistan in harm`s way. And, so, either Donald Trump did not read his briefing and nobody around him who also would have gotten this briefing made him aware of the fact that Russia was paying to kill American forces in Afghanistan, or he was made aware of it and did nothing. Frankly, either of those scenarios, in my opinion, are equally horrifying because it goes to the central question of does he even care about the safety, security and lives of our troops in Afghanistan.
And secondly, why is he so differential to Vladimir Putin that he has done absolutely nothing about this, even since it was publically reported he`s done nothing about this.
So I think there is a lot of threads to unravel here and it goes to the heart, I think, of the fundamental corruption of our national security under this president in not caring about our troops and caring more about Vladimir Putin.
O`DONNELL: Ben, to stay with this, this is one of those stories that brings all the elements of Donald Trump together in one place. I mean, you`re shocked that Donald Trump would not know this information. But you have also been on this program in the past knowing that Donald Trump does not read the daily brief.
He absolutely doesn`t read it. That`s a known fact. It`s not disputed by the White House. He does not read. He will not read.
You have warned us repeatedly of what that could mean, that there can be things in this brief that should be read that can also inhibit people who are briefing the president and they might not say certain things to him for a variety of reasons. But you have made the non-reading of this brief a dereliction of duty in itself, and now we have a very, very vivid example of what is at stake in the president actually using his time to read this.
So the Trumpian defense of, I don`t read those things and I don`t know about it, the Trump White House we know is going to counter this with, he doesn`t read that stuff and they`re going to try to still insist that he didn`t know about it because he doesn`t read this stuff.
RHODES: Well, you know, first of all, Lawrence, if he had read his briefings, you know, that he was getting in January about the coronavirus, tens of thousands of lives would have been saved if we moved faster to prepare this country for that. In this instance, it is the lives of our troops that are at stake.
If his defense is, I didn`t read this, why is he the president of the United States if he`s not even meeting his highest obligation to the safety of our troops to read that briefing? Why are the people around him, if they`re not going into his office and saying, sir, you need to read this, why are they not doing that? Is it because they think he wouldn`t care about our troops? Is it because they think he doesn`t want to hear that Russia is doing something like this because of whatever his complicated relationship is with Vladimir Putin?
Because I can tell you, Lawrence, what any normal president would do as soon as they learn about this is number one, pick up the phone to Vladimir Putin and say, we know what you`re up to and if you don`t cut it out, there will be X and Y and Z consequences. And there`s a range of things that the United States can do to impose consequences on Russia for this.
Number two, we are in these peace talks with the Taliban. Get on board to the Taliban to say they`re damn if you don`t cut this out with Russia, this whole deal is off. There are things that he could have done, never mind increased force protection for our forces that would help save the lives of our troops. And if his best defense that he can muster is a public relations defense that suggests -- well, I don`t read things as president, so I didn`t know about this. If that`s the best defense he can muster, then he has no business being commander in chief of the United States military.
O`DONNELL: Ned Price, what about Nancy Pelosi`s point, which is so powerful as you stare at it, where she asks the question, what if they didn`t tell him because they were afraid of what he would do with the information that, like Ben says, he would pick up the phone and call Vladimir Putin, but the call wouldn`t go the way you want him to.
He would call Vladimir Putin and tell him, hey, we -- they`re telling me that you`re doing the following things, you know, and he would give him all sorts of information about how they obtained that information and then Vladimir Putin would say, you know, we`re not doing that and Donald Trump would of course say, I believe you as he believes Vladimir Putin about everything.
I mean, the Pelosi scenario of them being afraid of them being afraid what Donald Trump would do with that information with Vladimir Putin is one of the more chilling versions of this.
NED PRICE, FORMER CIA ANALYST: Lawrence, there are only a few scenarios that could have played out in this case. None of them are good. All of them are in fact profoundly dangerous.
It is possible he wasn`t briefed. But as someone who has written PDBs, as someone who as a CIA analyst, has briefed the PDB, as a PDB briefer, as someone who has read PDBs from the White House, I find that absolutely inconceivable.
The intelligence community would not be derelict in its duty, even if those advisers around President Trump are derelict in theirs.
The second is more plausible and that`s that he was briefed and he`s absolutely lying. I don`t think anyone would be surprised by that.
But the third scenario is the scenario that Speaker Pelosi I think rightly brings up, and that his team purposefully kept this from the president. And they could have done that in a couple ways. One is a little more nuanced and subtle, in that they could have included this in his PDB briefing, knowing of course he doesn`t read it, so it would be unlikely to elicit anger or reaction, or they could have made the very conscious and chilling decision not to brief him because they knew he would pick up the phone or he would react in a way that would harm America`s interest.
And, unfortunately, there is evidence to suggest he`s done this before. In June of 2019, "The New York Times" reported that his team did not brief President Trump on implants that the United States reportedly had placed in Russia`s power system in case it came to a confrontation in Russia. His team apparently kept that from him according to "The New York Times", thinking that he might undermine American national interest as he has done time and again with Vladimir Putin.
O`DONNELL: For more reporting on this breaking news story, we`re joined now by phone by "New York Times" national security reporter Charlie Savage. He is an MSNBC analyst, and he is one of the four reporters who issued tonight`s report.
Charlie, tonight`s report tells us that there is -- there was a written brief to the president that contained this information and, as I look lower in your story, I find that there is a specific date specified by one source saying that they believe the president got the information in the February 27th brief. What more can you tell us about what you`re developing in this reporting tonight?
CHARLIE SAVAGE, NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES (via telephone): Well, that`s all right. So, we have previously reported that Trump was briefed. The White House said we were wrong. And "New York Times" is full of lies, we said we had one source saying it was some time in this presidential daily brief, which the compendium of written intelligence that is prepared for the president to read every day.
So what we have today now or tonight is confirmation from two sources that it was in the written briefing to President Trump in late February. One says late February. The other source says February 27th specifically. And secondarily that it was disseminated more broadly within the intelligence community in a publication called `The Wire" that the CIA puts out for people with security clearances to read about the areas in their specialty on May 4.
And, so, this is significant because it undercuts the White House`s narrative the last sort of 36 hours that the president -- not only was President Trump never briefed but this information was, you know, that he dismissed the information as contested and unverified and not serious and credible enough to bring to his attention. Those things which are put in the presidential daily brief up by definition have met that in the intelligence community mind and in the further dissemination in the wire publication in May underscores that.
So that`s the main new news this evening, and we`ll see how Congress reacts to that. It will be interesting to learn whether the Republicans who are invited to be briefed today by the White House were told that or not and we`ll get their reactions as this comes out.
O`DONNELL: One reaction comes from -- in your reporting in tonight`s story from John Ratcliffe, the director of national intelligence. And among other things, he is reminding people that leaking to you is a crime. They clearly don`t want to see you gathering any more information about this case.
And John Ratcliffe`s statement says that the unauthorized disclosures, quote: Now jeopardize our ability to ever find out the full story with respect to these allegations.
Charlie Savage, can you see -- I can`t see right now any way right now your reporting makes it more difficult for the intelligence community to find out exactly what`s going on in the intelligence community.
SAVAGE: It is a remarkable statement from the newly installed director of national intelligence, especially because we see here that this was a more confirmation backing our early reporting that this is not something new that they`re still trying to figure out. This is something they were looking at seriously months and months ago and reached their assessment that it was true months and months ago.
We had previously reported when we broke this story last Friday that there was an interagency meeting at the white convened to try to figure out what to do with the problem in late March. And now we see that it was already developed enough to go into the president`s daily brief in February. And so the notion that -- and, you know, the issue that had some people upset was even though they had figured this out and were already developing options about what to do with it, the White House was not authorizing any response for months and months and months, not even a diplomatic "knock it off" to Moscow.
And, so, the notion that only now because this is coming out is something Democrats in Congress are finding out about and asking questions and so forth. Members of the military who have deployed over there or who have friends over there are saying what about this, now are saying, well, if you leak this information to the news media, it`s going to prevent us from figuring out what happened. The leaks to the news media that have brought this to the public`s attention to the attention of Congress.
O`DONNELL: Charlie, the White House press secretary today said, and I`m quoting, there was not a consensus among the intelligence community and, in fact, there were dissenting opinions within the intelligence community and it would not be elevated to the president until it was verified.
Your reporting tonight shows that it was elevated to the president, possibly specifically on February 27th. It was elevated to the president in writing.
But what about that question of consensus? Does your reporting show there was an intelligence community consensus on these reports?
SAVAGE: I think it is an over simplification to describe as either having a consensus or not. There is a lot of different agencies and analysts who are looking at this from their own perspective. Some like the NSA want to see a lot of signal intelligence but surveillance. Others like the CIA or the Defense Intelligence Agency are more confident with human intelligence. That`s interrogations of detainees and confidential informants and they have different levels of assessing their own confidence in that, what different questions they want to ask.
It`s normal in the world of intelligence for there to be caveats, for there to be some disagreements about different aspects of it, or you might say one interrogation and they don`t have confidence about that. But the overall constellation of intelligence arrives into a picture that there is broad agreement that something is going on here, and that appears to be the case in this situation.
O`DONNELL: Charlie Savage, national security reporter for "The New York Times" -- thank you very much, Charlie, for getting on the phone with us for this breaking news. We really appreciate it.
SAVAGE: Thank you. Have a good night.
O`DONNELL: Thank you.
I want to get a quick last word from Ben Rhodes and Ned Price from what we just learned from Charlie about this before we go to a break.
Ben, your reaction to this latest reporting tonight?
RHODES: Well, first of all, what was described is exactly the flow of intelligence that I was familiar with as a consumer. And, look, it is absolutely crazy and dishonest for them to suggest that only fully consensus pieces of information go to the president. It was very routine if it was a matter of this pressing urgency to bring this type of report to President Obama, certainly.
What`s clear to me is that the intelligence community didn`t like that the Trump administration is just lying about him not getting this intelligence. Again, if you look at those dates, Lawrence, what is so chilling, and this is what I will end on here, is that since, subsequent to this February briefing of information that Russia was killing U.S. troops in Afghanistan, Donald Trump invited Putin to the United States, announced a withdrawal of troops from Germany, U.S. troops, as a gift to Vladimir Putin. He has continued to do things in Russian interest and done nothing -- not one thing to help our troops in harm`s way. All he cares about is his own political interest in this situation.
O`DONNELL: Ned Price, give me a 30-second last word comment.
PRICE: Lawrence, none of us who know this business are surprised this was briefed to the president, the PDB. What struck me about Charlie`s reporting that it was included in "The Wire". "The Wire" is a CIA product, the worldwide intelligence review, that has an extremely large dissemination, thousands upon thousands of people throughout the executive branch, the military, even Congress.
If this was included in "The Wire", it means there was at least a good degree of corroboration. What we`re hearing from the White House about it being too profoundly sensitive is utter hogwash. If it was included in "The Wire", that is certainly not the case. It is in many ways a game changer about what we know about the nature of this profoundly chilling intelligence.
O`DONNELL: I, for one, am hearing about the wire for the first time, and that`s why we need Ned Price and Ben Rhodes at moments like this. Thank you both very much for starting off our discussion tonight. We really appreciate it. Thank you both. And we`ll be right back with the latest on the coronavirus, including the real surge going on in Texas right now.
O`DONNELL: Well, now we know what Mike Pence looks like wearing a mask. Here he is yesterday in Dallas where he chose to wear a mask while a choir of over 100 singers was doing the single most dangerous things they could possibly do. Group singing is one of the most dangerous activities you can possibly engage in now. Singing like that sends many more potentially infectious coronavirus droplets into the air than almost anything else you can do with your voice. So this is another event where Donald Trump and Mike Pence has endangered people for a campaign photo op.
The day after Mike Pence was in town Dallas, Texas today reported today - well, the State of Texas reported a new state record for coronavirus hospitalizations with 5,913. Today Dallas County reported its highest number of new cases of coronavirus with 572 a day after Mike Pence`s visit. Joining our discussions now Texas`s Democratic Congressman, Colin Allred who represents part of Dallas. Also with us is, Dr. Vin Gupta Global Health Policy Expert and Affiliate Assistant Professor at the University of Washington at Medical Center. He`s also an MSNBC Medical Contributor. Congressman Allred, your reaction to Mike Pence coming to Texas yesterday, finally wearing a mask but doing it in a room where you have this huge choir doing exactly what they shouldn`t be doing.
REP. COLIN ALLRED (D-TX): Yes. Well, thank you, Lawrence, for having me on. You know anybody from this administration who is willing to help us with this crisis that we`re going through in Dallas and in Texas is the welcome to come. I just wish they would do it in a way that was safe and that didn`t endanger North Texas and didn`t put our front line health care workers who are trying so hard and they`re making so many sacrifices at risk. You know, this gathering indoors with folks singing as he said that with only about a half of people in the crowd who are wearing masks they are extremely dangerous and the kind of setting we have been encouraging folks not to engage in and it wasn`t helpful.
O`DONNELL: And, Congressman, do you believe that Texas has to go in reverse on some of the ways it has re-opened?
ALLRED: Well, it`s clear that we have re-opened too soon, and that`s not my opinion. That`s the opinion of the public health experts both here in Texas and the advice given across the country for what you need to see before you re-open. And so now we are seeing the predictable outcome of those decisions with record cases, record hospitalizations and, yes, we are to have to take steps to protect our people. And I am glad that the Governor has closed the bars and some other settings that were leading to some of these spikes. But we are going to have to take probably more drastic steps because we have widespread community spread of this virus right now. It is uncontrolled in North Texas and across our state.
O`DONNELL: Dr. Gupta, I hope I did not misstate the case when I described the dangers of a choir singing, groups together like that in that enclosed space. What was your reaction to what you saw there?
DR. VIN GUPTA, PULMONOLOGIST: The Vice President and the White House more broadly just they`re just not taking this seriously. And enough is enough. I mean how many times do we need to have this mixed messaging while people are dying, while ICU`s and the Congressman`s Home State are filling up. People can`t get test. And here we are, the Vice President proceeding over the worst type of event, people singing where we know the droplets - if you are infected with COVID-19 will get expect to rated at a higher rate - in a larger rate. He`s presiding over that, giving a tentative approval. It`s irresponsible.
McCain (inaudible) he`s saying it`s an ember. You know what these surges are embers of the phase 1. This is a wild fire. Lawrence, I get asked all the time from family members of patients, friends, family, what do we do here? Since we`re not hearing it from our elected leaders, our coronavirus task force unfortunate doesn`t get air time, this is what we should do. Indoor dining is just not safe. I hate to say it for somebody that loves go out and have a meal indoors. We have seen studies just published this week, 19 times the rate of transmission in an indoor setting when you`re within six feet of somebody else versus outdoors.
So indoors versus outdoors the Jury is already - the Jury is back in. The verdict is already released. We have to walk back indoor dining. We also just need to mandate masks. I feel for the Congressman, why Governor do see what Governor Abbott his home saying Texas, whether just not mandating masks at this point in the presence of evolving data is public malpractice. There is great data now that didn`t even exist two weeks ago would that suggests this eliminates transmission. There are things that can be done. I wish we had the right leadership.
O`DONNELL: Allred before you go, I need to ask you about this breaking news story tonight here on the House of Foreign Affairs Committee. And "The New York Times" is reporting tonight that, yes, indeed, there was a written daily brief to the president probably on February 27th telling the president exactly what the intelligence sources believe was happening in Afghanistan with Russia putting a bounty on the - on the killing of American troops in Afghanistan. What is your reaction to the latest round of reporting on this?
ALLRED: Well, Lawrence, I was in Afghanistan visiting our troops over Thanksgiving, just a few months ago now. And I can tell you that, you know, these are young people who are putting their lives on the line to help rebuild a country and doing their very best to serve our country, and they deserve to have leadership throughout, especially in the White House, that is going to do everything, everything it can to protect them and to bring them home safely.
And I don`t know why anybody in the White House thought it was an excuse to say the president didn`t know about this. That, to me, if that had been true, certainly is not something that you want to hear. The president doesn`t know about credible intelligence that the Russians are offering bounties for the killing of American troops. But now some confirmation that he did know about it and took no action is just completely beyond the pale and unacceptable particularly when you see some of the other steps he has taken like encouraging the readmission of Russia to the G-7. I just - I can`t explain it. It doesn`t make any practical sense and it certainly is not serving our young men and women in uniform who are serving us so all.
O`DONNELL: Congressman Allred, Dr. Vin Gupta, thank you both very much for joining us tonight. I really appreciate it. Thank you. And when we come back, Cecile Richards will join us with her take on a surprising support Supreme Court decision today upholding women`s reproductive rights.
O`DONNELL: Today the Supreme Court ruled on its first abortion case since Donald Trump`s two appointed justices joined the court. Women`s reproductive rights survived to this Supreme Court challenge because of a decisive surprise vote cast by Chief Justice John Roberts striking down a Louisiana law that would have put what the court found were undue burdens on doctors who perform abortions in Louisiana.
The majority on the court found that only one of the five doctors in the entire State of Louisiana who actually provide abortion services would have been able to comply with the Louisiana Law. Joining us now is Cecile Richards, Co-Founder of Women`s Political Group Supermajority and the Former President of Planned Parenthood. Cecile, thank you very much for joining us tonight. It was a 5 to 4 survival day in the Supreme Court today. What was your reaction to the decision?
CECILE RICHARDS, CO-FOUNDER, SUPERMAJORITY: I think that`s a good way of describing it, Lawrence. It was a survival decision and a surprise. But of course this case should have never gone to the Supreme Court. This is a case that was decided four years ago in Texas. The exact same law was ruled unconstitutional. And, so, I appreciate that Justice Roberts, you know, we won him on process, not on substance. He voted against us in that decision but stood with us on precedence today.
I think the importance thing, Lawrence, is the other two Judges, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh. Donald Trump promised he would appoint judges that would overturn Roe v. Wade. Today they took their first vote to do that. We hold women`s rights by a thin thread on this court and this will be an important issue in the November elections.
O`DONNELL: Senator Susan Collins is threading a needle here, as lawyers will do in these situations. She of course voted for both of those confirmations and especially Justice Cavanaugh believing, she said publically, that they would uphold, especially Cavanaugh, would uphold Roe v. Wade as settled law. Senator Collins issued a statement today saying as Justice Gorsuch noted Roe v. Wade is not at issue here and while Justice Cavanaugh called for additional fact finding in this case, he gave no indication in his dissenting opinion that he supports overturning roe. Do you think Senator Collins is being overly optimistic in her reading of these opinions?
RICHARDS: Well, she can certainly sleep a lot easier tonight than the rest of the women in this country. What she said makes absolutely no sense. These two justices voted against women today. They voted against abortion rights. And when you look at Brett Kavanaugh in particular, since obviously that was a very high stakes vote that she took in opposition to what women wanted in this country, not only did Brett Kavanaugh vote against women, he`s been on the wrong side of the dreamers decision.
He`s been on the wrong side of LGBTQ Rights. These are really important confirmations. And I think women in Maine are angry. They`re not going to forget. We`re seeing now of course a historic gender gap in the race. I think it`s gets between upwards of 18 points, and this is going to be an important issue for Susan Collins in her very, very tough re-election bid. Women are not going to forget.
O`DONNELL: Cecile Richards, thank you very much for joining us again tonight. We really appreciate it.
RICHARDS: Good to see you, Lawrence. Thank you.
O`DONNELL: Thank you, Cecile, thank you. And when we come back, we have more breaking news on this story of Donald Trump being briefed on the Russian Bounty being offered to kill American soldiers in Afghanistan. There is more breaking news after this break.
O`DONNELL: We have more breaking news on our top story of the night, this time from the associated press. The associated press is reporting that the White House was briefed and knew about the Russian plan to kill American soldiers a year sooner than has previously been reported. The AP is reporting top officials in the White House were aware in early 2019 of classified intelligence indicating Russia was secretly offering bounties to the Taliban for the deaths of Americans a full year earlier than has been previously reported according to officials with direct knowledge of the intelligence.
The assessment was included in at least one of President Donald Trump`s written daily intelligence briefings at the time according to the officials. Then National Security Adviser, John Bolton also told colleagues he briefed Trump on the intelligence assessment in March 2019. Bolton declined to comment Monday when asked by the A.P. if he had briefed Trump about the matter in 2019.
Joining our discussion now is Yamiche Alcindor. She is a White House Correspondent for the PBS News Hour and an MSNBC Political Analyst. Also with us, Ron Klain, Former Chief of Staff to Vice President Joe Biden and a Senior Aide to President Obama. Ron Klain is advising the Biden 2020 campaign.
Yamiche, now we have a report indicating John Bolton himself verbally told Donald Trump, so we now have reporting that he was briefed every way he could possibly be briefed. He was briefed in writing more than once going back more than a year, and he was briefed by John Bolton. That`s a direct contradiction to what the story that the White House has been advancing so far.
YAMICHE ALCINDOR, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, PBS NEWS HOUR: That`s right. So these reports by both "The New York Times" and the associated press are really in direct contradiction to what the White House has been saying. Today the White House Press Secretary said multiple times that the president had not been aware of this intelligence. She also said that this intelligence was not something that was all the way formalized, in other words, that it might be rocky.
But what we know from this reporting tonight, if it is true, is that not only was this intelligence pretty solid, but there were also plans written up to try to figure out how the United States could respond to Russia`s aggressions. So what you see here is reporting that just shows that President Trump - it seems to say at least that President Trump knew what was going on and that now the White House is trying to deny it.
O`DONNELL: Ron Klain, if tonight`s reporting is accurate, now we know one story that was removed from John Bolton`s book because it involved classified information because apparently this information remains classified, and John Bolton can`t even, under those rules, answer the question did you brief Donald Trump about this?
RON KLAIN, EBOLA TASK FORCE, OBAMA PRESIDENCY: Yes, I mean, again, I think there an AP story is new. It raises a lot of questions. You know, the fundamental question, though, is why isn`t the White House moving faster to deal with this? Why isn`t it getting to the bottom of what happened and why aren`t they dealing in a more rigorous way as Russia?
You know, I was struck when the president announced that he wasn`t going to go to New Jersey last weekend. It wasn`t to get to the bottom of this Russia problem. It wasn`t even to deal with 125,000 people dying from COVID. It was to protect confederate statues on display in the nation`s capital. And so, you know, we have now multiple reports, differing dates, differing ways of doing it, reports of the president knew that the Russians had a Bounty on U.S. soldiers, and we`ve still yet to hear the president say he`s going to do something about that.
O`DONNELL: And, Yamiche, we have reporting from "The Washington Post" identifying a specific incident in Afghanistan in which marines were killed. Those marines have families. They know when that happened. The families know when that happened. The families will be at some point in this news cycle, reading this information. This story has more and more rounds of investigation to go and conceivably more demands from families who have suffered losses in Afghanistan.
ALCINDOR: That`s right. I mean when you think about these military families who send their loved ones to serve as part of our nation`s history, as part of our nation`s honor overseas, to think that now a foreign nation was not just fighting against them but specifically targeting them, these families are going to want to know what the United States is going to do in response to that if it`s proven that they were targeted by Russia and these bounties were paid to kill American soldiers.
I remember covering Arlington Cemetery in Washington, D.C., and these families are a lot of times invisible. We don`t see the funerals in the same way that we used to. We don`t see the faces of these families every day. But there are so many families out there that have lost loved ones that now are sitting at home wondering whether the person that they loved was killed in fact by - in this plot by Russia.
O`DONNELL: And, Ron, John Bolton this weekend in an interview said about Donald Trump he can disown everything if nobody ever told him about it. And this is where the Trump White House tried to leave this story today. No one ever told him about it. And now we have reporting saying John Bolton himself told Donald Trump about it.
KLAIN: Yes. You know, he is the Commander in Chief. The buck is supposed to stop there. And I don`t care if this was in writing or if this was told to him orally or if people didn`t tell him because they thought he`d like it to Putin, or whatever the excuse the White House has, it doesn`t matter. The President is the Commander in Chief. It`s his duty to protect our Troops. He failed that duty. If any of these stories are true, if any of them are true, and he has to be accountable for that.
O`DONNELL: Yamiche, the White House doesn`t do briefings every day. This is one of those situations where they don`t want to answer questions. Do you expect to have an opportunity at the White House to ask questions about this?
ALCINDOR: I think at some point. I mean there was a White House briefing today where the White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany and tried her best to answer, I think, the questions, but reporters were really pressing her on the seriousness of this. And she started to - she sort of downplayed this and said, well, we`re not quite sure if this is actually accurate when obviously as this conversation shows, people are very, very worried about this. And you have these families who are going to be demanding to know what happened to their loved ones if they were part of this. So I think the White House is going to have to continue to answer these questions. So I think anytime the president is in front of a camera, he`s going to be questioned about this.
O`DONNELL: Yamiche Alcindor and Ron Klain, thank you both for joining our discussion tonight. Really appreciate it. Thank you. That is tonight`s LAST WORD. "THE 11TH HOUR" with Brian Williams starts now.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END