Interview with California Congressman Adam Schiff, chairman of the Intelligence Committee. DOJ asks appeals court to block Texas abortion law.
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: That is "ALL IN" on this Monday night.
THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thank you, my friend. Much appreciated it.
And thanks for at home for joining us this hour. Happy to have you here this fine Monday evening. I have a little allergy, so my voice is a little weak tonight. Don`t worry. Everything`s fine.
I keep telling you, don`t worry about it. It`s the surest way to make people worry about you. It`s allergies, don`t worry.
All right. Espionage. Espionage is spying, right? I send my spies into your country to go steal your secrets or you are spend your spies into my country to steal my secrets. Every country in that game knows if they`re doing it, somebody else doing it to them, too.
And so, in the intelligence world, in spying, in espionage, you don`t just play offense, you play defense. And, you know, in bad shiny cover spy novels that only get read on airplanes which the most important thing about a spy is the only kind of gun he has, there isn`t a lot of defensive side of it. But in real intelligence work, even in better spy novels, defending yourself against other countries` spying efforts is basically half the game.
And that part of it is called counterintelligence. You figure out who is trying to spy on you, how they`re working, how they are trying to carry out their spying, what country they are working for, who they`re reporting to, right? You watch the spies that are operating against you. You watch their actions and communications, make sure you try to get to the bottom of what they are doing, you check to see if they got confederates and agents to help them do their job.
Counterintelligence. It`s our country`s defense against foreign spies that are working against us here at home. It`s also other countries` defense against our spies in their country.
Counterintelligence is one of those sort of overused but poorly understood phrases, but it really means something specific, and it is also very hard work. It`s basically twice as hard as spying, right? If you are spying, you are trying to steal secrets from a foreign government, a foreign military, some sort of target that keeps secrets.
But if you`re in counterintelligence, you are working against spies, right? You are trying to surveil and outsmart and outmaneuver other people who are trained spies, who are trained to lie and steal and act undercover and not get caught. It`s very hard. You`re working against the pros, right?
And they don`t give counterintelligence jobs to rookies, right? You have to be really good at it. It`s high-level work.
And in 1984, in the FBI field office in Los Angeles, California, they had a counterintelligence squad that was focused not just on spies operating here in this country, but specifically on spies from the Soviet Union. Russian spies -- spies for the USSR operating here in 1984, which, of course, was like the apex of the Cold War.
So this was, you know, spy versus spy at the highest level between two very aggressive, very capable, big powerful countries that were at absolute loggerheads. Real adversaries. And in October 1984, one of our guys, one of the FBI agents on that counterintelligence squad in Los Angeles, again in charge of monitoring foreign spies, Russian spies here, one of the FBI agents on that squad was arrested and accused of having been turned by the Russians himself.
It was the first time in the history of the FBI that an FBI agent had ever been arrested for spying. This is just absolutely unheard of. And that night in October 1984, it led the network news nationwide.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TOM BROKAW, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: Good evening. I`m Tom Brokaw with "NBC Nightly News."
The FBI today arrested one of its own as a double agent, a spy for the Soviet Union. The suspected spy is Richard Miller, an FBI agent for 20 years. He was working in counter espionage when he met a Soviet couple and according to the FBI, the Russian woman was major in the KGB. They say that Miller fell for her.
George Lewis reports it is a dark moment in the FBI`s history.
GEORGE LEWIS, NBC REPORTER: The government contends that Agent Miller met here in this West Hollywood apartment house with the Soviet couple and offered to sell government secrets. The price, $50,000 in gold and $7,000 in cash. Miller, a 1963 graduate of Brigham Young University, was not considered an especially good agent by some of his colleagues.
He had been reprimanded several times for sloppy work. At his house in a Los Angeles suburb, investigators found a number of stolen classified documents.
This is the first time in its history that the FBI has arrested one of its own on spying charges. As one agent put it, this is a real emotional time for us.
In Washington, FBI Director William Webster had this reaction.
WILLIAM WEBSTER, FBI DIRECTOR: First time that I know of any charges has been brought, but we brought it, we investigated it and have taken appropriate steps to limit the damage.
LEWIS: The damage may be that the Soviets have learned a few things about FBI techniques to combat spying. Miller appeared in court this morning and entered no plea. He is being held without bail. His wife and one of his eight children were present.
Miller split his time between his job in Los Angeles and his family in San Diego and was said to be having serious personal and financial problems.
Nikolai and Svetlana Ogorodnikov appeared in court this afternoon. Government sources say she is a major in the KGB and may have been having an affair with the FBI man. The charges according to the FBI are extremely serious.
RICHARD BRETZING, FBI AGENT IN CHARGE, LOS ANGELES: If convicted on these charges, these individuals could receive a maximum penalty of life in prison.
LEWIS: George Lewis, NBC News, Los Angeles.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: October 1984, the first time an FBI agent was ever arrested as an accused spy for another country. And he was an FBI counterintelligence agent, which means what he worked on at the FBI was supposedly ferreting out and monitoring Russian spies who were spying here trying to limit the damage they could do. Instead, according to prosecutors, he made everything much worse and started working for the Russians.
Now, prosecutors set up the trial that one of the things that Russia got from this guy, Richard Miller, was quite literally the FBI`s counterintelligence handbook. Basically, the guide book for FBI agents that spelled out all of the things the FBI was supposed to do to find Russian spies here and how -- and how to keep tabs on them. That`s the worst thing for Russia to get in this circumstance, right? Especially in 1984, when the Cold War was at its worst.
But they arrested this agent. They did put him on trial and it turns out at trial that even the trial itself got national play, made national news throughout the trial because there were tapes. There were actually quite creepy tapes of the FBI guy sleeping with the woman who turns out to have been a major in the KGB, him sleeping with her and all the associated ughiness.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: The government says Svetlana Ogorodnikova and her husband Nikolai set a trap for Miller, that she offered the FBI man sex, sympathy and money in exchange for secret files on counter-spy operations.
Miller testified it was the other way around. He testified he was suffering from what he called a James Bond fantasy, thinking of sex as part of the job. He admitted that was stupid, adding, James Bond, I`m not.
The government`s case against the Russians and Miller is based largely on surveillance pictures and wiretaps. FBI cameras caught Miller meeting with Ogorodnikova on several occasions. Recorders picked up their conversations.
RWM: You have taken my heart and you have just --
SO: I haven`t taken you heart.
RWM: Yes, yes you have. You know where it is? It`s there inside your (INAUDIBLE).
SO: Well I know this heart. It`s my job.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: You should have taken my heart. You know where it is? It`s right there, oh, my. But then she says, I know this heart. It`s my job.
The prosecution`s case was quite literally, it was her job. That she was a Russian KGB officer, her flipping an FBI counterintelligence agent into being an asset for the Russians and handing over the FBI`s how to catch spies manual was a job well-done on her part. It`s a hugely damaging, distressing case for U.S. intelligence, for the U.S. government, for the FBI because it was so unusual.
Because of the details of the case, it got a ton of attention. The Richard Miller case, they arrested him in 1984. They tried him in 1985. It was such an explosive case, such a high-profile case, such a damaging case, a case that had so much attention already that the U.S. attorney personally led the prosecution at that trial in Los Angeles.
And then the prosecution did not succeed. Mistrial. Hung jury.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TV ANCHOR: A mistrial has been declared in the case of Richard Miller, the only FBI agent ever charged with spying. But as Noah Nelson reports, federal prosecutors in Los Angeles plan to seek a retrial.
NOAH NELSON, REPORTER: After 14 days of deliberating, the jurors in the Miller case said they were hopelessly deadlocked. One juror held out for acquittal. Judge David Kennan (ph) declared a mistrial and the jurors were released. The deadlock does not end trouble for Miller. The government says it will retry the former FBI agent on the same charges of espionage.
Miller was accused of selling classified FBI documents to a Russian couple representing the soviet KGB. The FBI had videotapes of its meeting and love affair with Svetlana Ogorodnikova. She and her husband Nikolai later pleaded guilty to charges of espionage.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Again, so this is the first time an FBI agent ever accused, ever arrested for being an accused spy, let alone an accused Russian spy. He`s arrested in 1984, put on trial in 1985, mistrial, deadlocked jury. But as you heard in the NBC broadcast from 1958, with the mistrial, they decided to prosecute him again. They re-prosecuted him a year later in 1986.
And again, they had the U.S. attorney himself lead the case in the courtroom. That second trial of Miller, they did initially get a conviction, but it was overturned because of errors committed at the trial.
So, finally, in 1990, they figured they had one last shot at trying to convict this guy. This hugely important national security case, this landmark case in a foreign intelligence service penetrating the FBI in the worst possible way. They had one last chance to try to convict the guy.
They gave the case to a whipper snapper, a young prosecutor, all of 30 years old at the time. The young prosecutor who at the time had never lost a case.
Here`s how he tells it. Quote: In the long history of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, none of its agents ever been accused of betraying the country by spying for a hostile power. To be sure, the FBI had been implicated in egregious violations of civil rights under the rule of J. Edgar Hoover. But the idea that an FBI agent would be so corruptible to sell their country for money or sex, it that was unthinkable. That is until 1984 and an agent named Richard Miller, short, stout, and sloppily dressed, he appeared to survive on a diet of candy bars and soda.
He was routinely admonished by his superiors to comply with the borough`s standards for professional appearance. He was considered by his colleagues to be equally slovenly in his work taking. Three hour -- equally slovenly, excuse me, in his work, taking three-hour lunch breaks at the local 7- Eleven, selling Amway products out of the back of his car, carrying on multiple affairs during work hours.
His apparent unfitness notwithstanding, Miller had one of the most sensitive position in the office as part of the counterintelligence squad. Counterintelligence is a confusing topic for the public, but it`s how the U.S. government keeps an eye on foreign spies operating in our country, how it acts to counter the intelligence-gathering of our adversaries.
Given the particular importance of the FBI`s counterintelligence work, as well as its essential access to classified information, many agents in the Los Angeles field office were mystified that this Richard Miller had been assigned to the unit. Yet there was an instate shrewdness and self- deprecation to him and manipulative ability to allow him to ingratiate himself to others.
Miller`s poor work ethic, his financial problems, and his promiscuity made him a prime target for the Kremlin. The Russian government doesn`t waste time trying to interrupt those who are financially secure and of irreproachable character. Russian trade craft deliberately focused on those who already show signs of weakness, greed or other vulnerabilities.
Miller had been selected as a target by a young asset of the KGB named Svetlana Ogorodnikova, who along with her husband had immigrated to the United States from the Soviet Union. The couple was unhappy in their new country and they wanted to go back, but defectors were considered traitors by Soviet officials.
In order to return, they needed to earn their passage home. Miller was Svetlana`s ticket back. Svetlana was gregarious, flirtatious, attractive. Miller made an easy mark.
What began as officially sanctioned contacts documented and reported soon became illicit meetings in which Svetlana had sex with Miller first in his car, later at motels. She also gave him money and gifts. In return, he smuggled classified and national security information out of the FBI and provided to Svetlana for her KGB handler, a senior officer out of the San Francisco Russian consulate.
At some point, Miller`s colleagues at the FBI discovered that he had been meeting with Svetlana and not reporting it. Suspicious, they started tailing him. Shortly before Miller was to fly to Vienna to meet with a general in Russia`s military intelligence unit, GRU.
As a counterintelligence agent, Miller was trained to detect surveillance and recognize he was being followed by his fellow agents. Before he could be arrested, he went to his supervisor`s office at the borough and laid out a difficult defense to overcome. He had been secretly meeting with Svetlana as parts of his effort to infiltrate the KGB, what he described as a double agent scenario.
Miller was charged with providing classified and national defense secrets to the Soviets, including the FBI`s own manual on counterintelligence needs, methods and requirements.
The matter was of such significance to the Justice Department that the U.S. attorney himself tried the case. After a months-long, the jury deadlocked. Miller`s second trial was overturned by an appeals court that objected to the prosecution`s use of a failed polygraph test as evidence.
By the time the case was returned for a third trial, the U.S. attorney accepted a position on the federal bench. He needed to assign the case to someone else.
This would be the last trial for the U.S. government and Miller. Either the national security interests of the country would be vindicated or he would walk. I was assigned to try the case.
With testimony from two prior trials in the grand jury, thousands of exhibits, there was a mountain of evidence with which I had no familiarity. To prepare, I would need to spend months in the record and interviewing Miller`s former colleagues in the FBI. By then I had tried many cases but nothing lying this. It brought me in close contact with dozens of agents working long hours to prepare for trial.
I spent countless hours walking through the details of their investigative process, explaining how the effort to ensnare Miller fitted into a larger pattern of Russian trade craft. I came to understand, this is the good part, I came to understand how the Kremlin exploits the most basic human vulnerabilities, preying on those who feel unappreciated and resentful, who are fixated on money and success, who have a history of dishonesty and are prone to infidelity.
One aspect of Russian tradecraft involves luring a potential target by seeking incremental compromises that will eventually ensnare the victim. In Miller`s case, it began with clandestine meetings with Svetlana against the explicit warning of a supervisor, enough to get Miller disciplined if he was caught. Then, it escalated to sex with her, a firing offense. Then, it was small amounts of cash, a criminal matter. And finally, it was the dangle of $50,000 worth of gold for classified information, a potential capital crime.
She began by seeking the names of other Soviet defectors who are residing in Los Angeles so she could report them to her KGB handlers. Later, she saw something more significant, the guide outlining the FBI`s own counterintelligence strategy.
In October 1990, after a seven-week trial, Miller was finally found guilty on all six counts and sentenced to 20 years in prison. I was proud to have helped the Department of Justice and the FBI finally deliver justice in the case, but I was deeply concerned by what revealed.
Our government is filled with patriotic and honorable public servants, but there will always be a small number who are vulnerable to foreign entreaties and now I understood how determined the Russian government was to find them. Perhaps it was naive of me at the time, but I imagined, but I little imagined that people of moral turpitude could occupy the highest positions much our government and make themselves targets of Russian tradecraft.
When an unscrupulous businessman later ran for president and surrounded himself with fellow grifters, I recognized both the target-rich environment it provided for Russian intelligence and the unmistakable hallmarks of their compromise. And the most terrible realization was not far behind, that a president of the United States could be so easily manipulated to serve the interests of our adversaries.
The book is called "Midnight in Washington" and you may have guessed by now it is by Congressman Adam Schiff.
I got it in galley form, I didn`t give it up to get an actual book, because I have been devouring it since I first got it. The book is very good.
Adam Schiff, of course, is, you know, as a congressman, the head of the intelligence committee for his role in both impeachment trials, he became the man who Donald Trump seized behind his eyelids, when he closes his eyes and tries go to sleep at night. The former president is obsessed with Adam Schiff, but perhaps for good reason.
"Midnight in Washington" is very good. It`s extremely readable, which is not always the case can politician books as you know. For all the dish and surprising anecdotes in the book, what`s important is the way Adam Schiff lays out the facts of what we went through as a country during the Trump years in a way that I think helps us understand how we got to where we are today.
And don`t take my word for it. I found this to be illustrative and illuminating. This is Pulitzer Prize-winning Ron Chernow, what he says about Adam Schiff`s book. He says, quote: This book will stand as the touchstone of truth against any attempts to distort or rewrite this crucial piece of history. Congressman Adam Schiff has restored our faith and the nobility of public service and has shown what one dedicated patriot, courageous, intelligent, and fearless, can still accomplish even in a divided country. Coming from Ron Chernow, that is saying something.
One of the things that Adam Schiff clearly wants us not to forget what we learned over the last few years is how it came together, how much more shocked we would have been had we not learned it drip by drip, and we had learned it all at once.
But just if you just bottle it and you just take what we learned, it still can knock you back even now. It starts with Russia and the Trump campaign. Those hallmarks of compromise that Schiff recognized from his days prosecuting Richard Miller in that landmark FBI counter espionage case.
It`s from page 85 of Schiff`s book. He says, quote: First things first -- what exactly did the Trump campaign do in the 2016 election and what was its relationship with Russia and its agents? Because the facts of the president`s entreaties for Russian help and the campaign`s innumerable Russian contacts leached into the public consciousness over a two-year period and were the subject of relentless effort of obfuscation and cover- up, most Americans have only a dim sense of what actually took place.
He goes on to remind us, and it really is stunning even now to have it laid out all at once without all the noise. With just have the facts laid out. The Russian hacking of the Democratic committee to steal emails that could strategically leak to hurt Hillary Clinton he is campaign.
The Russians testing the waters, by divulging their plan to a Trump campaign adviser, then approaching Trump`s son who was open to their pitch. The Trump Tower meeting, WikiLeaks disseminating the stolen emails, Trump gleefully reading the contents of the stolen emails at campaign stop after campaign stop. The Russians attempting to hack Hillary Clinton`s private server hours after Trump urged them to on live TV. The huge social media campaign being carried out from Russia to benefit Trump.
Trump`s campaign chairman meeting regularly with a Russian intelligence offer who he provided key polling data from the Trump campaign. Trump`s national security advisor having secret conversations with the Russian government and lying to the FBI about them. Trump actively pursuing a big business deal, what would have been a biggest deal of his life, a Trump Tower in Moscow as he insisted he had no business dealings in Russia at all.
We didn`t know that when Trump became president. That`s a partial list. We would eventually learn that from intrepid journalism as well as from investigations like the one Adam Schiff carried out on the intelligence committee in Congress.
And getting all of this down now, it`s important for the historical record. But Adam Schiff has another point to make in lying out these facts. His argument in this book sort of at large is that before the January 6th attack on the Capitol of which he gives an absolutely harrowing account in the book, before Donald Trump`s impeachment, his first impeachment for trying to extort the Ukrainian government into going after Joe Biden, an impeachment that Congressman Schiff led and which he gives a blow by blow behind the scenes telling in this book, before all of that, it was during the Russia investigation that he saw the beginnings of what would become a full-fledged crisis of democracy in the aftermath of the 2020 election.
We often talk about the Republican Party being captured by Donald Trump, becoming this anti-democracy that we are grappling with as a country right now. But Schiff watched that transformation happened up close, in very human and very personal terms not just in terms of what he observed from Trump, but what he observed from his Republican colleagues turning into people he literally did not recognize.
Schiff says, quote, that story, the story of how good people were persuaded to abandon their beliefs and ideology, their dedication to something larger than themselves and their ambition, came to embrace an ugly Nativism that their party had long held at bay, that`s the one I wish to tell. By the time the Russian investigation was over, the Republican Party and its leadership in Congress would be broken.
The Ukraine misconduct that followed was the logical consequence not only of Trump`s belief that he escaped accountability for seeking foreign interference in the 2016 campaign and lying about, but also of his recognition that the Republicans in Congress would never confront him, never constrain him. They had been fully and successfully cowed. The dye had already been cast.
And as we would see following his first acquittal during the first impeachment trial, each further proof of GOP acquiescence in his immorality would lead to further abuses of his power.
This new book from Congressman Adam Schiff, "Midnight in Washington" is a stunning look at what the Trump years have done to us as human beings and Congressman Schiff`s argument about where we go from here is that it is only human agency, the willingness of individual people to be brave and speak truth to power and bear the consequences of it. That is the only thing that will get us out of what remains an existential danger to us as a democracy.
The book comes out tomorrow. Congressman Adam Schiff joins us here next.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: I found myself stiffened. In more than a decade of speaking with Robert Mueller, I never heard him grope for words. And as Jerry Nadler continued to ask him questions, Mueller seemed halting and uncertain. When Nadler asked, did any senior White House official refuse to be interviewed by you and your team? Mueller`s eyes darted left and right, visibly searching his memory. I don`t believe so, he said.
Now I was alarmed. Nadler`s question was almost rhetorical. I could see that Nadler was equally puzzled. He raised his eyebrows in disbelief and said slowly, the president? Mueller raised a hand in recognition of his error. Well, let me take that back, he said.
I winced at the sight of this and turned to my Democratic colleagues. It was heartbreaking to see Mueller, his person whom I so admired, having difficulty answering some of the basic questions. Even on bad day, Mueller had been capable of performing better than99 percent of the witnesses heard testify in my decades of public service. But this was not the Bob Mueller I knew.
Two years had brought a striking change. And I suddenly understood not only his own reluctance to testify, but the protective instincts of his dedicated staff. Had I known how much he had changed, I would not have pursued his testimony with such vigor. In fact, I would not have pursued it at all.
Joining us now is the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, the author of "Midnight in Washington: How We Almost Lost Democracy and Still Could", California Congressman Adam Schiff, chairman of the Intelligence Committee.
Mr. Chairman, thank you for being here. Congratulations on this book.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): No, thank you, and thank you for the beautiful description of it.
MADDOW: I was struck by sort of learning about how you learned in this. It seems like you were sort of -- you were built backwards in time to be ready to be the chairman of the Intelligence Committee at a time that there were questions about a president being compromised by Russia given your background and having been a prosecutor and involved in these things and having lived and -- lived in and visited the former Soviet Union. It does sort of feel like you`re either star crossed or district end for this, doesn`t it?
SCHIFF: Well, it did feel at times like certain parts of my life prepared me for what was to come in very unexpected ways. I never thought I would see another illustration of Russian tradecraft at work like I did in the Miller case. But the president in so many ways resembled a kind of target Miller was.
He was a philanderer. He had poor morals and a lack of ethics. He had the same greed except on a far greater scale than Miller. And, you know, unlike Miller where the Russians could, you know, dangle gold, Donald Trump was actively pursuing this very lucrative project in Moscow. The Russians didn`t need to dangle anything. He was pursuing it proactively himself.
And to realize that the president was, you know, as vulnerable a target as Richard Miller and was, you know, quite a shocking revelation. But certainly seeing that kind of trade craft in the past, recognizing how the Russians worked, how, you know, they do their psychological operations, how they study the psychology of their target and know how to manipulate people, it seemed quite familiar.
MADDOW: When you write in the book about what was going on in the 2016 campaign, you have a vivid anecdote about you and Senator Dianne Feinstein of California speaking on the phone. She`s saying, are you seeing what I`m seeing, in terms of what Russia was doing to help the Trump campaign and the way that Trump appeared to be towing the Kremlin line on even controversial things that otherwise didn`t matter to U.S. politics in a way that was understandable.
It did feel like -- and you did try to sound the alarm, now that alarm has been widely sounded, the Mueller investigation, I want to talk more about in a minute, the impeachment saga, the entire drama of the Trump -- of Trump`s one term in office is now laid bare before us, and it does seem like the Republican Party would be happy to put him back in the oval office despite everything that we learned about him. That to me is sort of soul sucking. You remain sort of optimistic that we can get past that and Republicans can change despite what you`re seeing from them right now about their willingness to buy this stuff.
SCHIFF: You know, I do remain optimistic. And just as -- and I keep coming back to something that Robert Caro once said in an interview, that power doesn`t corrupt as much as it reveals. It doesn`t always reveal for our best, but it reveals.
And for every story of it revealing in people a willingness to sacrifice everything they claim to believe in, their ideology, all of the endless capitulation to this immoral president we saw by so many Republicans in Congress and so many people in the Trump administration, for every story like that, I also got to meet people like Marie Yovanovitch. This courageous ambassador of ours being threatened out of her post in Ukraine, who has the courage to stand up to the most powerful man in the country, to step into this hearing room when the president was telling her not to, to stare down, you know, this phalanx of Trump acolytes vilifying her and who paved the way for others to show courage. The Alexander Vindmans and Fiona Hills and so many others in large ways and small, when I see those stories, which I love to write about, it vindicates the founders` belief that we possess sufficient virtue to be self-governing, that we don`t need a tyrant ruling over us.
So, I am optimistic. We will get through this. We are a resilient country. What we do now will determine how quickly we get through this.
MADDOW: Let me ask you about that short portion of the book that I just read moments ago about your sort of revelation about Robert Mueller. Mueller -- having led the Mueller investigation into what Russia did and whether the Trump campaign was deliberately colluding with Russian government`s actions on Trump`s behalf. And then you write with incredible clarity about how angered and disgusted and dismayed you were about how William Barr handled the receipt of that report and his misleading rollout of it to the public.
But you were shocked that Robert Mueller effectively wasn`t going to make a good witness, that he was not the person who you had expected to be testifying there, that he had changed since you had last seen him in public. Do you believe, looking back on it, that Mueller shouldn`t have led that inquiry, it should have been somebody else, or is your regret only that somebody else should have testified about the content of the report?
SCHIFF: My regret only is in forcing him to testify when I could understand the moment he did, why his staff had been so reluctant. He wasn`t able to bring the report really fully to life. He just wasn`t the same man that I knew from years earlier. And that`s my regret, is forcing him to testify that way. I think he led a brilliant investigation. I think he is a man of just incredible integrity.
The one thing that really strikes me, too, and you mentioned Bill Barr, is in very much the same way that Donald Trump imagined -- imagines everyone is like him, everyone lies like he does, everyone is corrupt like he is, I think that Bob Mueller, being this man of unquestioned integrity, also presumes of others that they share the same devotion to the truth and have the same rectitude, and I think he must have been astonished that Bill Barr would so betray his work, would lie to the American people about what was in his report repeatedly.
And so I think you have the illustration of a really good man in Bob Mueller who presumes the best in everyone else, and then you have the exact opposite in Donald Trump.
MADDOW: The book is called "Midnight in Washington: How We Almost Lost Democracy and Still Could", with remarkable anecdotes about Kevin McCarthy and why Congressman Schiff`s telling, he absolutely should be nowhere sneer the speakership of the United States House. Remarkable anecdotes about Lindsey Graham, remarkable anecdotes about Devin Nunes, about a lot of his Democratic colleagues.
Congressman Schiff, this is -- politicians don`t write great books, but this was a fascinating read. This is an exception to the politicians don`t write good books rule. This is a good one. Thank you for doing it.
SCHIFF: Thanks. I`m glad I could break the mold.
MADDOW: Indeed, in many way.
All right. We have lots more to get to tonight. Stay with us.
MADDOW: This is how the Republican Party is putting it together all over the country now. Again, the beltway press isn`t talking about it in this way, they say this is a story that`s sort of over. This is a story that is accelerating within the Republican Party.
They did it in Arizona. They`re doing it in Pennsylvania. They`re trying to do it in Georgia. They`re doing some version of it in Texas.
They`re also doing it in Wisconsin. And this is how the investigator appointed by the Republican state legislature in Wisconsin, the guy pointed to investigate that state`s election results, this is what he released this weekend.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL GABLEMAN, WISCONSIN SPECIAL COUNSEL: Based on what the office of special counsel has investigated so far, there is compelling evidence that Wisconsin`s elections laws were not properly followed by election officials at both the state and local levels. Millions of dollars in private funds may have been used in the public management of elections to achieve a preferred outcome at the expense of election integrity, that initial evidence shows violations of law or protocols or both may have occurred.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The election may have been totally rigged and stolen it looks like maybe. I don`t have any evidence to talk to you about it. I am just saying I started looking at it. Looks bad to me. What I`m seeing might be, woo!
That is the man Republicans in the Wisconsin state legislature have hired to investigate the results of the presidential election in 2020 in Wisconsin. He made this statement on his YouTube channel this weekend. And he says that he is definitely started to see signs of things that look like maybe evidence that the election was definitely rigged. He doesn`t actually say what any of that evidence is or what he found. He says it all looks bad.
You`ll recall this is the same so-called audit that kicked off in Wisconsin with this special counsel requesting sensitive election documents from clerks all over the state. His initial demand for documents came from a Gmail address that populated in everybody`s emails as John Delta. Who`s John Delta?
He went on to issue subpoena requesting every single documented related in any way to the election. He subpoenaed that from county clerks and from the mayors of large cities in Wisconsin, subpoenas riddled with glaring errors, including spelling errors and being addressed to the wrong people. He demanded that these officials in Wisconsin must meet with him in private for an interview, which is not a thing in terms of the way subpoenas work.
Nevertheless, he demanded private interviews by these sort of subpoenas and people are supposed to turn up on those interviews at an office that is like a shared working space where it`s him and a liposuction clinic. Hmm.
In a surprising turn of events, he -- within a few days he walked back those interviews and subpoenas only to say the following day that some of them were definitely back on, but the people who are the targets of these interview requests and subpoenas don`t know whether theirs are on or off.
He has admitted publicly he has no idea how elections work in Wisconsin but he looked enough to know that things don`t look good to him.
Today, Wisconsin`s actual state attorney general is pushing back hard on the Republican investigation led by this guy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOSH KAUL, WISCONSIN ATTORNEY GENERAL: This investigation is not being professionally or competently conducted. By former Justice Gableman`s own admission, the investigators are learning the basics of election administration as they go. What we are seeing is corrosive to our democracy. My request to Speaker Vos is simple. Shut this fake investigation down.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Wisconsin`s attorney general asking that state assembly to shut this fake investigation down.
But meanwhile, all over the state of Wisconsin people have to respond to these requests and demands and subpoenas for sensitive election documents. Or at least they are trying to figure out if they should when they arrive from random Gmail accounts with clip art fake letterhead and they are told to arrive at a shared work space that`s connected to a liposuction clinic. What do you do?
Especially if what you are being subpoenaed and requested to hand over is sensitive stuff, like election documents, election materials, election machines. There is immense security concerns there. It`s a silly situation in terms of the seriousness of this investigation that the Republicans are conducting in Wisconsin.
It`s a serious question it the individual officials who have to decide what they are going to do now that they are told legally they must comply with it.
Joining us now is Scott McDonell. He is the county clerk for Dane County, which is the second largest county in Wisconsin, includes the capital city, the great city of Madison.
Mr. McDonell, thank you so much for being here. It`s nice to see you.
SCOTT MCDONELL, DANE COUNTY CLERK: Yeah. Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: So we`ve spoke last month and this investigation had just started. We talked about the fact that you had received something that seemed like a sort of sketchy email telling you to preserve records from the 2020 election. I wanted to get an update from you about the progress of that request and whether you have had any further guidance, binding or otherwise, as to how you are supposed to deal with these requests and demands.
MCDONELL: No, we haven`t had any official communication from Mr. Gableman. There is no security protocol set up. I watched the YouTube videos just like you, Rachel. That`s how I get my information.
MADDOW: Is it clear to you that you are legally bound to hand anything over to him?
MCDONELL: Well, I mean, if you consider like an open records request, there are things that anyone could request into we would provide. You know, the initial request related to server logs and things that you really can`t give away. That`s the kind of thing that would allow someone to hack elections.
But, you know, there is other materials that you can request. I mean, we publish every single ballot here in Dane County to web. Anyone can click through them. You can`t see who they voted for, like who it`s connected to, but you can look at the ballots.
So, a lot of this material is already online and a lot of people that ask for this information that he is asking for, including the committee that he supposedly represents, has almost all of the information I think he wants. He just hasn`t bothered to look at it.
MADDOW: It is -- we have sort of a conundrum in the national media. This is true in Arizona as well. When you look at the actual way that these investigations or audits are being carried out, it is laughable in some ways and they are silly in some ways and they don`t make basic sense in some ways and that would generally lead you when you are sort of deciding what to talk about in the country, that that`s something that isn`t serious and shouldn`t be reported upon.
That said, these are actual election results that he is after. The election materials that he is subpoenaing or demanding or asking to have handed over to him, these are the real records, and it would seem to me that this is sort of in equal parts silly, but also dangerous in terms of what he`s asking you to do in terms of the security of these materials and how this is being represented to the people of Wisconsin in terms of whether there was really something wrong with the election.
That`s how I see it from a media perspective. I don`t know if that resonates with you at all as a pro who is right in the middle of this?
MCDONELL: Yeah, I think originally there was some concern that this was going to go the route of the Arizona audit where we were going to start going through every ballot and that. But it seems to have gone the route now of ginning up some of the other complaints and conspiracies about the election.
Now, some of the things he is talking about were already litigated in court, and lost. So, you know, when he talks about the Facebook money, yeah, that went to court, and there was -- there`s no state law that prevents communities from taking that money. You know, maybe there should be, but there isn`t. That`s what he`s talking about apparently.
Again, on another decision that was made by Republicans on the election commission years ago and was true of the election in 2016, filling in, you know, the address say, Madison, Wisconsin, outside of an envelope, that was a unanimous decision. Everyone supported it. It was true in 2016 when Trump won Wisconsin, but now apparently that is suspicious.
MADDOW: Scott McDonell, the county clerk for Dane County, second largest county in Wisconsin, I know this is an ongoing thing. I`m going to ask you right now if you`re come back and keep us apprised. We`re committed to covering these things even if other people aren`t because I do think is a part of how our elections are being undermined and we`re willing to tell the story until the bitter end.
MCDONELL: Yeah, I`m with you all the way, and I think it`s key that we speak out. At first we tried to ignore it and hope it went away. That`s not happening.
MADDOW: Exactly, exactly. Scott McDonell, thank you very much for your time. Thanks for your work, appreciate it.
All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: We`ve got some breaking news for you this hour.
As you know, on Friday, a conservative dominated federal appeals court let Texas put its abortion ban back in place. We reported that live on Friday night during our hour here on the air. The abortion ban had been blocked for a few days at the Justice Department`s request. The DOJ is suing Texas to overturn its abortion ban. A federal judge had agreed to temporarily stop the ban from being implemented while DOJ was pursuing that challenge, but then Friday night the very conservative Fifth Circuit U.S. court of appeals basically unblocked it, which put the ban back in place essentially once again ending access to legal safe abortion in Texas for a second time.
Now we`re waiting to see if that decision will be reversed again if the ban will go back on ice. Since we have been on the air this hour, the Justice Department has submitted its arguments against Texas`s abortion ban to the Fifth Circuit. And they don`t hold back. They call the Texas abortion ban an assault on the rights of Texas`s citizens. They call it an open threat to the supremacy of the federal constitution. They say the state of Texas does not even attempt to defend the ban`s constitutionality on this court.
Now the court has those arguments from DOJ, they`ve again gone in this hour. The Fifth Circuit will have to decide whether or not the law stays in effect or, once again, whether it gets stopped. But either way, women`s rights in Texas are getting turned off and on like a light switch while this fight heads towards United States Supreme Court. This time the fight for abortion rights will happen before an unequivocally and unshielded antiabortion rights majority on the Supreme Court. It will have the full power of the United States Justice Department arguing for those rights.
For now, the protections of roe versus wade remain effectively dead in the state of Texas, but we`re continuing to follow this every step of the way.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: All right, that is going to do it for us tonight. I`ll see you again tomorrow night.
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL".
Good evening, Lawrence.