A DOJ special counsel indicts Trump dossier source. House Democrats have scheduled a vote tomorrow on the bipartisan infrastructure bill and also a key procedural vote on the Build Back Better Act, the larger Biden budget bill that includes so many Democratic and Biden administration priorities.
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: The great Al Roker is the guest on my latest podcast, "Why is this Happening?"
Now, I am -- I`ve been watching Al for basically my entire life. It was a genuine pleasure to talk to him about lots of things, weather, climate, honestly find out how he became the famous weatherman that he is. The episode is out now, wherever you get your podcasts.
That`s "ALL IN" on this Thursday might night.
THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now.
Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: I`m going to for sure listen to that. That sounds fantastic.
HAYES: It`s really fun.
MADDOW: Excellent. Well, well-done, my friend. Thank you very much.
And thanks to you at home for joining us this fine Thursday evening. Thursday night, also known here at THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW as Friday eve. Yes, it`s great to have you here. There`s lots going on tonight.
You`ll recall exactly this time last night, this time on last night`s show, NBC News had just called the very closely fought New Jersey governor`s race. Virginia and New Jersey are the only two states that hold their governor`s races in a year like this, the odd numbered year right after a presidential election. They`re the only two states that do it. They do it every four years.
All the way back to the 1980s, every newly elected president, his first year in office has seen his party lose the governor`s race both in Virginia and in New Jersey. That`s just the way the pendulum swings.
President Biden this week actually became the first newly elected president of the United States since Ronald Reagan to not fall prey to that curse. To not have his party lose both those governorships. Biden`s Democratic Party did lose the Virginia governor`s race but they won in New Jersey, which we found out this time last night, when NBC News made the call.
Well, that said, tonight within the past hour, the Republican candidate in New Jersey, Jack Ciattarelli, has just posted a video on Twitter saying he is not conceding that race. He does not think this is over. He says he has a team of lawyers and he mentioned that the state`s Republican Party is still manning its election integrity hotline.
At the same time, he did tell his supporters tonight, I don`t want people falling victim to wild conspiracy theories or online rumors while consideration is paid to any and all credible reports, please don`t believe everything you read or see online. He said, quote, I promise you, whatever the outcome, the election result will be legal and fair.
It seems good, but he`s not conceding. He is more than 40,000 votes behind at this point and most of the votes still to be counted are from New Jersey`s heavily Democratic-leaning counties, so that 40,000-vote margin is likely to get larger, not bigger as the count goes on, but we shall see. So far, no concession, but not in an insane way.
That said, given things in the Republican Party right now, you and I both know it could get insane very fast. We will be watching that.
Today also was the disciplinary hearing at the Texas bar association for Trump lawyer Sidney Powell. You`ll remember her for taking a lead role alongside Rudy Giuliani in trying to use the courts to push the insane Trump claims that the presidential election was stolen from him a year ago now. Mr. Giuliani has already had his law license suspended in New York because of the many, many false claims he made to the courts in propounding those election fantasies. Well, now, Sidney Powell is facing the prospect of similar penalties, up to and potentially including her disbarment in Texas.
This hearing today was held behind closed doors. If the Texas Bar Association`s disciplinary committee finds grounds to move forward on disciplinary proceedings against her as a lawyer, that trial, effectively a trial for her law license could be publicly or privately as today`s hearing was. Again, we shall see.
Former President Trump himself this afternoon was confronted with this undoubtedly very unwelcome headline in "The Washington Post." quote, Manhattan D.A. convenes new grand jury in Trump organization case to weigh potential charges.
Former President Trump this summer had to endure multiple felony criminal charges being brought against his business, the Trump Organization, and personally against the chief financial officer of his business, a man named Allen Weisselberg. Those charges came about roughly five weeks after New York prosecutors had convened their first special grand jury to meet on that case and hear the evidence related to it with sort of unusual frequency.
They called it a special grand jury because that special grand jury they convened in May didn`t just meet weekly to look at that evidence, they met three days a week for six solid months looking at the evidence in that case.
It didn`t take long for them to hand down those first indictments. By July 1st, they handed down those first indictments after they convened in late May. But they were convened for a period of six months and now it is six months on from that. We learned today in "The Washington Post" they have convened a second grand jury. And that second special grand jury is already seated, it`s already in place, they`re already hearing evidence in New York including, according to "The Washington Post" hearing evidence today.
"The Post" reports that while the first grand jury in the Trump Organization case handed down those multi-part, multiple-defendant felony charges alleging millions of dollars in tax fraud, the second grand jury that has just been put in place now, according to "The Post" they`re looking at different allegations. They`re looking at other different types of fraud allegations related to the valuation of various Trump properties.
Now, that type of allegation about Trump`s business practices just last month led to yet another reported criminal investigation being opened into Trump`s business by yet another New York prosecutor`s office, by the D.A. in Westchester County. That was apparently reportedly based on allegations that Trump appeared his business lied about the value of a golf course in Westchester County in order to evade paying a fair share of property taxes on it.
But again, that`s a new criminal investigation of Trump and his business in Westchester County. What we`ve learned today from "The Washington Post" is that a second grand jury was convened in the existing Manhattan case against Trump and his business. In this Manhattan case, multiple felony charges have already been handed down against Trump` business and his CFO, knowing a second grand jury is convened and is already at work looking at the evidence, that just has to be very uncomfortable for everybody involved, right?
And again, just for context in terms of timing here, after they seated the first grand jury in Manhattan, it took them about five weeks before they handed down those felony charges we saw this summer. If this second grand jury does the same thing and operates on the same time frame, that would be five weeks from now, it would be merry Christmas.
Today, we learned the date on which those vaccine requirements are going to go into effect for federal contractors, for facilities like hospitals and nursing homes that get federal funding from Medicare or Medicaid and for private employers that have more than 100 employees. President Biden announced these vaccine or test requirements a couple of months ago. But now we know the date by which they will go into effect. It`s January 4th. After that date if you have -- if you`re employed at one of those kinds of places, you`ll need to either get vaccinated to keep working at your place of employment or you will have the choice to be tested for COVID every week instead.
Now, importantly, along with the date today, we also got the news if you choose to get vaccinated, the vaccine will be free and you get paid time off to go get the vaccine. That said, if you opt for not getting vaccinated and instead being regularly COVID tested, well, that`s on you. The government is not going to pay for the testing process the way they pay for the vaccine.
So lots of Republican governors have already started saying and started suing, saying their state won`t do it and the federal government can`t make them do it. The government plainly thinks that it has the authorities to do this but those cases will start working their way through the courts. But the administration announced today that the deadline for those requirements to go into effect is January 4th, and that`s a big deal.
I should tell you on tonight`s show we`re also going to be talking tonight with a former senior FBI official, senior counterintelligence official at the FBI, about a new indictment, new charges unsealed today by John Durham, by the special counsel who Bill Barr appointed under Trump, who was left at the Justice Department, left behind at the Justice Department after Barr resigned and after Trump left office. They left special counsel John Durham in place at the Justice Department in the wake of the Trump administration doing an open-ended investigation into everybody who took part in the Russia investigation.
The Trump administration and Bill Barr in particular viewed the Russia investigation as itself a scandal. They assigned John Durham to go investigate and try to find crimes among people who were involved in the investigation, and that`s what he has been doing ever since. Special counsel John Durham unsealed an indictment a few weeks ago against a lawyer who brought the FBI allegations about the Trump Organization having some sort of surreptitious contact with a Kremlin-connected bank during the 2016 election. It was an obscure allegation and never really caught that much public attention. It was a complex idea and never took off in the public mind.
For example, it was never furthered in the Mueller investigation.
Mueller didn`t mention it at all. Senate Intelligence Committee did look into it. They just concluded that they couldn`t figure out what those communications are themselves, they never sorted it out.
John Durham`s choice to bring an indictment against somebody who brought those allegations to the FBI has sort of boomeranged on him in terms of how those allegations are viewed. Once those charges, once that indictment was filed against somebody who had brought those allegations to the FBI, people connected to that case, people involved in turning up that evidence of those weird computer contacts in the first place, they apparently were spurred by that indictment to come forward, to revive those allegations, to defend those allegations, to make a public case that in fact it does sort of look like the Trump Organization and that Kremlin-connected Russian bank did have something going on surreptitiously that they tried to keep secret during the election.
The special counsel appears to be trying to make that allegation about those computer contacts between the Trump organization and Alfa Bank, he tried to appear to be making those allegations seem crazy and even criminal. But by charging somebody related to those allegations, somebody who brought those allegations to the FBI, what that indictment did is ended up dragging the initial allegation about Trump back into the news where it has now gotten more attention and more of a live issue than it had in years. Sort of a boomerang effect for them in that.
Now today in this new indictment it`s against a researcher that was interviewed by the FBI multiple times in 2017. He`s now been charged with making false statements during those 4-year-old FBI interviews. But again, the indictment in this case tells a story beyond just the charges. The indictment in this case is 39 pages and it`s written well beyond those specific charges. It, like the other indictment from John Durham, seems designed to try to further this project of making the Russia investigation itself seem like a scandal.
We`re going to get into it, we`ve got more on that coming in in just a few minutes with a former FBI senior counterintelligence official. But where I want to start tonight is with a story that I think isn`t getting nearly enough attention. I think this story is lightning in a bottle. It has broken this week, but not broken nearly widely enough.
In the last midterm elections, the elections we had in 2018, you`ll recall that was a really good election for Democrats, the so-called "blue wave" election right in the middle of president Trump`s term. Trump and all the Republicans got elected in 2016. 2018 the Democrats came back, swept to power in the U.S. House. There were hopes at the time something similar might happen in the Senate. Republicans had just a narrow majority heading into the 2018 midterms. They only had 51 seats.
Democrats saw a real opportunity, potentially retake the Senate for the Democrats in that 2018 blue wave election. One of the hardest fought and most closely watched Senate races in 2018 was Missouri. Incumbent moderate Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill faced a challenge from Josh Hawley. Everybody knew this was going to be a hard race for Claire McCaskill no matter what.
It`s Missouri. Trump won Missouri by nearly 20 points in 2016. Two years later he`s running to try to hold on to her seat as a Democratic senator there.
Something came up right at the end of that campaign. Reports surfaced that perhaps Josh Hawley had gotten some extra help in his campaign that might not have been okay. A complaint was filed with the federal election commission just a couple of weeks before election day that accused the NRA, the National Rifle Association, of having dumped a whole bunch of illegal money on Josh Hawley during the campaign, supporting his campaign with illegal campaign spending through an elaborate scheme designed to evade campaign finance law.
Now, this complaint about the NRA allegedly illegally funding Josh Hawley in that Senate race, it was filed by a nonpartisan watchdog called the Campaign Legal Center, but also by the gun violence prevention group run by former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords. As you know, she was shot in the head, nearly killed at a mass shooting at a campaign event in her Arizona district in 2011. She went on to fund a gun violence prevention fund called Giffords.
Their complaint to the FEC claimed that the NRA had illegally shoved nearly a million dollars toward Josh Hawley in the form of TV ads supporting him.
Now, on election night 2018, Claire McCaskill lost that race. Democrats did not take the Senate in 2018, even though they did take the House. And it was always going to be an uphill fight for Claire McCaskill.
Because it was Missouri, because the way Missouri has been trending, the common wisdom in Washington is that she was probably going to have lost that race anyway, no matter what she did. These late-breaking allegations that illegal money went to her opponent, they never really caught much traction. They never got all that much press or all that much attention.
In terms of what happened next, a couple of months after the election, investigations by "Mother Jones" magazine and news outlet focused on gun violence called the Trace found that the NRA appeared to have not just been illegally funneling money toward Josh Hawley`s campaign in 2018, his campaign against Claire McCaskill, but that open source reporting appeared to indicate that the NRA had been using the same scheme to shove illegal money toward two other Republican Senate candidates and also potentially millions of dollars in illegal spending toward Donald Trump`s 2016 presidential campaign. Under campaign finance law the NRA, any outside group, can`t give millions of dollars to a political campaign. They can spend as much money as they want airing their own ads, but they can`t coordinate their ad strategy, coordinate their spending with the campaign because that would be the same thing as giving illegal contributions to the campaign.
So this alleged scheme the way it worked is that the NRA hired a company to buy ads supporting its preferred candidates, whether Donald Trump or Josh Hawley or these other candidates who are allegedly the beneficiaries of these schemes. But what the investigation turned up was that the company the NRA hired to buy its ads was actually just a front group. It was the same media company that was doing all the ad-buying for Donald Trump and Josh Hawley. They were just doing it with a different name on paper. Not only was it the same company, literally the same guy signed off on all the ad buys for both the campaign and the NRA.
It`s hard to argue it`s not illegal coordination when there aren`t even two people coordinating with each other. It`s literally one guy, the same guy doing the ads for both of them. If you`re just one person, you are by definition coordinating with yourself because otherwise, see a doctor. Is the defy trying not to coordinate with himself? Does he think he has some sort of Chinese wall within?
It looked on paper like the nr amt and these campaigns weren`t coordinating. In fact the NRA was essentially just giving money, illegally huge amounts of money, to Trump`s and Hawley`s ad guy and saying have fun. If that was how it worked, that would be illegal.
A former chair of the FEC who reviewed the record said, quote, I don`t think I`ve ever seen a situation where illegal coordination seems so obvious. It`s so blatant, it doesn`t even seem sloppy. Everybody involved probably thinks there aren`t going to be any consequences. They probably didn`t think there were going to be any consequences because the federal elections commission, in charge of enforcing campaign finance law, they don`t do anything. They have been hopelessly deadlocked for over a decade.
The Republican commissioners on the FEC have for years just refused to agree to enforce anything. In so doing, they have successfully blocked the agency from doing its job, even in big, obvious cases.
But now, this is the really interesting part. Gabby Giffords organization, the Campaign Legal Center, the same groups that filed the complaint against this practice against Josh Hawley back in 2018, they appear to have found a way around that deadlocked nonfunctioning agency, the FEC, a way to hold the NRA to account for this alleged illegal campaign spending. Their complaints with the FEC about this alleged illegal funding scheme, those complaints sat there for so long and the FEC failed to act for so long that a federal court ruled that Giffords and the Campaign Legal Center could go ahead now, because the FEC had blown it for so long, they could go ahead and sue the NRA directly themselves. They earned that right.
A judge ordered the FEC to act. The FEC did not act. When the FEC did not act, the judge said, okay, you can sue them privately, so now they have. This brand new lawsuit names the NRA but also specifically Josh Hawley`s campaign as well as the campaign of another Republican they allege coordinated illegally with the NRA, a congressman named Matt Rosendale who lost his 2018 Senate race in Montana to Jon Tester, the Democratic senator from Montana.
Also mentioned in the suit, though named technically as defendants are the Senate campaigns of North Carolina`s Thom Tillis, Arkansas`s Tom Cotton, Wisconsin`s Ron Johnson and former Colorado Republican Senator Cory Gardner. The suit alleges, quote, the NRA has engaged in an ongoing scheme to evade campaign finance contributions by coordinating advertising with at least seven candidates for federal office. Through this scheme, two NRA affiliates made up to $35 million in illegal, excessive and unreported campaign contributions across the 2014, 2016 and 2018 elections, including up to $25 million to the Trump campaign in 2016.
Twenty-five million dollars in illegal donations to the Trump campaign in 2016? Plus all those Republican senators?
This feels like a big deal on a few different levels. For one, it`s a big deal these groups may have found a way to actually maybe enforce campaign finance law which has been the Wild West for years now because the federal agency that`s supposed to police this stuff is functionally dead.
But also, $35 million is a lot of money. That`s a lot of allegedly illegal money washing around in Republican campaigns. That`s enough money to potentially have had a major effect on the outcome of multiple elections.
I should tell you that the NRA told "the Washington Post" in a statement that the lawsuit is part of its adversaries` anti-freedom agenda. Okay. But this is another huge scandal for the NRA, which is already on the ropes, right? The New York attorney general is trying to dissolve them as an organization over their top leaders allegedly raiding the organization`s coffers for their own personal gain.
The NRA tried to declare bankruptcy in response, and a judge told them that they couldn`t because it was a bad faith effort to declare bankruptcy just to avoid accountability in that lawsuit. They`re also trying to claim bankruptcy while also bragging to their supporters that they have just as much money as ever and just as much influence as ever.
An NRA affiliate is the plaintiff in this major gun rights state arguing before the Supreme Court yesterday, a case which if the court sides with the NRA, way, way, way more Americans will be allowed to carry concealed firearms in public. I know there`s a lot going on right now, but this lawsuit hitting the NRA right now feels like a consequential freaking deal.
Joining us now is David Pucino. He`s senior staff attorney at the Giffords Law Center which brought this suit.
Mr. Pucino, I appreciate you making time tonight. Thanks very much.
DAVID PUCINO, SENIOR STAFF ATTORNEY, GIFFORDS LAW CENTER: Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: So, I`m not an expert in these matters, either in campaign finance law and I`m not a lawyer in terms of explaining these things. I just want to ask you if I got anything wrong in explaining how this is working.
PUCINO: No, that was exactly right. It`s a really complex scheme on paper but in part the NRA was using the same people who were working for campaigns to place their independent spending. So, the same person on Friday that would be making an ad by for the campaign would turn around and make an ad by for the NRA. As you pointed out, that`s impossible.
So it was a really blatant violation of the law. The fact that they used these shell companies to hide it makes it seem complicated or confusing but it was a transparent attempt to get around the law. If you dug in just a little bit as reporters did and we`ve done, it was very clear just on the papers that they were violating the law.
MADDOW: Because it was such a blatant violation, it does open up the prospect that they -- that they didn`t try hard enough not to get caught. That they were so confident that this stuff is never policed anymore, that you in fact can give $25 million illegal dollars to the Donald Trump campaign and it won`t matter because nobody else polices this, this is essentially unregulated spending now. Is that your suspicion? Or do you feel like they did take enough steps to try to cover their tracks that getting caught felt like a prospect that might deliver consequences to them?
PUCINO: I think they did the absolute bare minimum to disguise the scheme and I think it`s because there`s a sense of impunity that seems to rule at the NRA. They have this attitude that no one is going to stop them and they can break whatever rule they want to. We`ve seen that in schemes over the years. From the misuse of donor money that attorney General James has documented uncovered, just case after case, they think they can get away with it. For years they were right but I think that`s finally starting to change.
MADDOW: Is there any sense in these allegations, is there any documentary evidence that the campaigns knew what they were in on here? Obviously, we`ve got representative -- former Representative Matthew Rosendale and Josh Hawley as named defendants in this case. But Trump, Ron Johnson, Tom Cotton, Cory Gardner, Thom Tillis, they`re all mentioned as beneficiaries of this scheme.
Is there evidence that they knowingly accepted this money? That they knew it was illegal and they took it anyway?
PUCINO: There is some evidence to that effect and I think the most striking example comes from Matt Rosendale was running for Senate at the time. There was a recording made at a fund-raiser that Rosendale held in which he was asked if there`s going to be outside spending in his race.
And he said I had a conversation with Chris Cox, who was the head lobbyist at the NRA. He told me the NRA is coming in with a spending the next month. Lo and behold the next month the NRA comes in with what`s called an independent expenditure. So, you have the case where the candidate knew directly what was going to happen with independent expenditure, and not only admitted it but bragged that he had been coordinating with the NRA over it.
MADDOW: In terms of his -- if that`s borne out in court, what does that mean in terms of potential culpability for him or any of the other defendants who might have known that this was happening and knowingly benefited from this?
PUCINO: So the case that we`re bringing is the law that we have. We have the ability to bring civil enforcement. The main thing is a declaration by a court that this scheme was illegal and they have to stop doing it because they kept doing it. The NRA has continued to do it. If there`s not something done about it I think these campaigns will continue to use these same techniques.
The other available remedy is to give the money back essentially. You can`t take back those ads but you can require the campaigns and the political committees to provide this money to the Treasury. So potentially what we`re looking at is an outcome of an order pie the court for the NRA to pay $35 million to the U.S. Treasury to compensate for all of that wrong spending.
MADDOW: David Pucino, senior staff attorney at Giffords Law Center -- Mr. Pucino, I appreciate you helping us understand this tonight, thanks. Keep us apprised.
PUCINO: Thanks so much for having me.
MADDOW: All right. Much more ahead here tonight. Stay with us.
MADDOW: It was September of 2016. The FBI`s top counterintelligence official had been running an investigation into potential links between the Trump campaign and Russia for just a few weeks, but some truly explosive material reached his desk in September 2016. They were raw intelligence reports compiled by a former British intelligence officer named Christopher Steele who had a long history of working with the FBI. And these raw intelligence reports described an alleged plot being run out of the Kremlin to interfere in the U.S. election, a plot that involved several Trump campaign figures, allegations that the Russian government had compromising information about candidate Trump that they could use as leverage over him if they wanted to.
All of those reports would later be published months after the election as the so-called Steele dossier. In September 2016, these things were not publicly known at all. These raw intelligence reports were coming in from a trusted source and they landed at the FBI. That is how that top counterintelligence official, excuse me, this is how that top counterintelligence official, Peter Strzok, described those reports when he published a book about his experience last year.
He said: What was significant about the material was that it confirmed information, contours of events and players, that we knew to be accurate and consistent with our understanding of the way Putin and the Russians were operating. At the same time, many other pieces of Steele`s information, most of them in fact, were devilishly hard to either prove or refute.
But Peter Strzok, FBI`s top counterintelligence official, had to try. His team created a spread sheet of every statement in Christopher Steele`s reports to try to run each one down. They attempted to identify all the confidential sources and sub-sources in the reports to try to analyze the quality of their intelligence and where possible to interview those sources. Peter Strzok himself flew to Europe to meet in person with people who knew Christopher Steele and his work who all told them that they knew Steele to be diligent and truthful.
This is how Peter Strzok sums it up. He says, quote: In mid-2017, the end of the time I worked with the group verifying and pursuing the Steele material, my sense of it remained similar to how it had stood at the beginning. Some things we could corroborate, a lesser number we could show were inaccurate, and with the vast majority we just couldn`t say. We treated it all accordingly.
After Trump became president, Christopher Steele was in hiding for a while and then he stayed more or less off the radar for years. Peter Strzok and his colleagues at the FBI who pursued the counterintelligence investigation into president Trump and his campaign, they were all fired or hounded out of their jobs.
But then last month, Christopher Steele popped up again. He did an hour- long interview special with ABC News` George Stephanopoulos. In that interview Christopher Steele said he stood behind his work and said he believes nothing in those reports has been disproven.
We`ve all been wondering about the timing of that. Why did he come out to publicly defend his work? Well, now maybe this is it. Today, the special counsel that was appointed during the Trump administration, the prosecutor tasked by Trump`s attorney general, Bill Barr, with investigating the Russian investigation itself to try to prove the whole thing was a hoax like Trump said all along, to try to prove that it was criminal to investigate the Russia matter.
That special prosecutor, John Durham, has just issued his second indictment. The man he arrested and charged today was a primary source for Christopher Steele`s intelligence reports in 2016.
Now, Durham`s most recent indictment before this one was in my opinion a little weird, problematic. That one concerned a Democratic lawyer and cybersecurity expert who was in possession of research that purported to show a possible surreptitious communication channel between the Trump Organization and a Kremlin-linked bank. Special counsel John Durham charged this lawyer with making a false statement because when he brought this evidence to the FBI, he allegedly was inconsistent in his statements to them about whether he was bringing this information to the FBI on his own behalf or on behalf of his firm`s Democratic clients or another client that he was working for.
Everybody at the FBI knew this lawyer and knew exactly who his clients were and who his firm was working for. It was not like a secret that he had those associations with nefarious Democrats. But that indictment from John Durham does its best to turn that into a scandal, that someone with, gasp, ties to Democrats brought information about Trump and Russia to the FBI. The indictment in that case spins pages and pages and pages of unsupported allegations back with cherry-picked quotes to try to paint the alleged communication channel between the Trump Organization and that Russian bank as a big smear campaign that was known to be false but was nevertheless deliberately cooked up by the Clinton campaign to bamboozle the FBI and make Trump look bad. And that tracks with the Trump allegation that everything related was a hoax and deep state by the Democrats.
That was the last statement by John Durham last month. Today`s indictment against this primary source and researcher for Christopher Steele`s intelligence reports, this is about false statements the source allegedly made to those FBI agents working under Peter Strzok who were trying to track down the veracity of Steele`s reporting back in 2016 and 2017.
The guy who was charged today is named Igor Danchenko. He was charged with five counts of making false statements to the FBI about his own sources for certain things that made it into Steele`s reporting. And whether Mr. Danchenko did lie to the FBI in those interviews will now be a matter for the courts. But it is also worth noting that this new indictment, just like the last one, spends comparatively little time talking about these alleged false statements and a lot of time talking about people Igor Danchenko came in contact with or talked to who are, horror of horrors, are Democrats and people who may have even supported Hillary Clinton`s presidential campaign in 2016.
The unmistakable impression is that this indictment is designed to smear Christopher Steele`s intelligence reports as things that were made up and conducted by rascally Democrats, even though none of that has to do with the actual charges against Mr. Danchenko.
If the goal here is for this special prosecutor to try to discredit the whole Russia investigation by arresting various sources for that investigation, to discredit the Steele dossier because so many people have been led to think that was the reason for the investigation and to get payback to anybody involved in the Russia investigation no matter how far down the chain, what do the actual investigators think about that, the people who carried out the Trump Russia investigation itself?
Peter Strzok, the former FBI top counterintelligence official who ran that part of the investigation is going to join us live here next. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PETER STRZOK, FBI COUNTERINTELLIGENCE AGENT: Given the fact that the election was partisan (ph), that if in fact candidate Trump were elected, that whether he or possibly members of his campaign were actively working with the Russians, we needed to get to the bottom of that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: We needed to get to the bottom of that.
That was Peter Strzok, the lead investigator at the FBI who opened the FBI`s Crossfire Hurricane investigation into the Russian influence operation against the 2016 presidential election, specifically the alleged ties between Trump and his campaign and is that Russian operation. That work included chasing down the explosive allegations that were made against Trump and his campaign in a dossier of raw intelligence that was compiled by British ex-spy Christopher Steele and ultimately passed on to the FBI.
Well, today the special counsel that was tasked during the Trump years by former Attorney General Bill Barr with investigating the origins of the Russia investigation, that special counsel has indicted an analyst who worked on the Steele dossier. He is accused of lying to the FBI about his own sources for those explosive allegations.
Joining us now is Peter Strzok. He spent decades as an FBI counterintelligence officer and was at the center of the FBI`s dealings with the Steele dossier. He wrote a book called "Compromised: Counterintelligence and the Threat of Donald J. Trump."
Mr. Strzok, it`s a real pleasure to have you with us tonight. Thanks for making time.
STRZOK: Rachel, it`s great to be here.
MADDOW: So I feel like this is a story that`s a few levels removed from how most Americans have come to understand the totality of what happened with the Russian attack and Russia investigation. I wanted to get your sort of top line perspective on the importance of what Mr. Durham is doing and the importance of what he has done today with this indictment. What do you think people should understand about it?
STRZOK: Well, I think the primary thing people need to understand are that the people that he`s indicted to date and charged to date, whether that`s Michael Sussman, Kevin Clinesmith, an FBI attorney, and today, Igor Danchenko, were all involved in matters which very were almost peripheral to the core of what we`re looking at with regard to the Russia investigations.
So, let me be clear, lying to the FBI is an significant, significant crime. It`s a crime if the national security advisor does it. It`s a crime if as alleged Mr. Danchenko did that during his interviews with the FBI.
As you mentioned earlier, I have some concerns with the indictment of Michael Sussman. I`m concerned about whether or not that`s a good use of government resources to charge him. But at the end of the day, it is a crime to lie to the FBI.
But what isn`t true is the backdrop to all this. You know, next Saturday, John Durham will have been going on for two and a half years. Now compare that to Robert Mueller who lasted less than two years and in that time charged and convicted people like Trump`s national security advisor, his campaign manager, his deputy campaign manager, his personal attorney, his personal -- Roger Stone, personal fixer, and a large number of very significant people were key and critical to the Trump campaign and later to the administration.
When I look at these two players, I see folks that were not involved in any of those cases. You know, Robert Mueller didn`t rely on Steele`s information at all. The Alfa Bank information was looked at by the FBI and determined to be not -- didn`t appear to be anything, we weren`t quite sure what it was. And then finally with regard to Mr. Danchenko`s information, it was relevant to Carter Page, but Carter Page made up about eight pages of an almost 500-page Mueller report.
So my worry is that as Americans hear this news and don`t really know how the Russia investigation ended, they hear these concerns and think there must be a problem. That`s being picked up and amplified by people seizing on this to say see, everything that Mueller did, everything the FBI was nonsense, it was bogus, it was based on lies and that just couldn`t be further from the truth.
MADDOW: That analysis, that take on what`s going on here I feel is bolstered by the way these indictments have been presented to the public and presented to the courts. In the case of the Sussman indictment and the indictment today, the indictment as it must lays out narrowly the details of the alleged false statements, the alleged crimes for which these gentlemen have been charged.
But these are both what they call speaking indictments. In the case of Mr. Sussman`s indictment, a few weeks ago, and in the case of this indictment today, Mr. Durham in these indictments lays out basically uncharged, vague allegations that the Alfa Bank allegations about the Trump Organization, that all the allegations about Mr. Trump in the Steele dossier, these were deliberate fictions that were knowingly cooked up by bad actors who were all Democrats, who were making this stuff up, knowing that it was false and giving it to the FBI, knowing it was all made up just to basically implicate the FBI in a dirty trick against Trump. That`s the public portrayal, I believe, he`s trying to paint about the Russia investigation, at least these two elements of it, the Steele dossier and the Alfa Bank allegations.
Am I right to read these in these sort of speaking indictments? Is that also the way you see it? And do you feel like that overall allegation is fair for Mr. Durham?
STRZOK: I agree with you. I think I`m certainly concerned when I read these indictments, both Mr. Sussman`s and Mr. Danchenko`s. His indictment is 39 pages long. If you go through those 39 pages and pull out the facts that are relevant to the statements he`s allegedly made to the FBI, that`s a much smaller subset. That`s a smaller subset of the 39 pages.
Or whether intentionally or not, when you look at the balance of those pages, they have several dog whistles to these kind of pro-Trump conspiracy theories. Statements like the FBI`s investigation of the Trump campaign relied on certain things. Well, there was never an FBI investigation of the Trump campaign unless you listen to some kind of far extreme right commentators or folks in Congress who assert that there was, but that`s nonsense.
The indictment makes a point to note that the FBI was unable to corroborate Steele`s reporting. At the same time it neglects to mention that we weren`t able to disprove it either. As you look through there, these subtle one- sided portrayals of the facts that lay down a narrative that plays into the sort of prior assertions by President Trump, by the prior administration, by his enablers in Congress and the media that this is all somehow nonsense.
That can`t be -- that can`t be unintentional in my opinion and it is concerning. I think it`s seeking to lay out a false narrative about the entire effort of what the FBI and special counsel Mueller did.
MADDOW: Peter Strzok, former head of the FBI`s counterintelligence division, thank you for being here tonight. I know you have the choice whether to do interviews like this and I`m sure it must be difficult to stick your neck out on nights like this but your clarity and perspective is just invaluable, thank you so much.
STRZOK: Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Okay, don`t hate me. This is legit breaking news that I need to update you on, something that`s happen in the past few minutes. Do not hate me for telling you this. I`ll apologize tomorrow if this turns out to be a Lucy and the football thing.
But breaking news, we`re able to report that House Democrats tomorrow have finally got a plan to vote on those two bills that they have been so tied up in knots about for months. We can now report that House Democrats have scheduled a vote tomorrow on the bipartisan infrastructure bill and also a key procedural vote on the Build Back Better Act, the larger Biden budget bill that includes so many Democratic and Biden administration priorities. Both bills votes tomorrow.
Now, if you are shaking your head right now and saying nice try, Maddow, I`ve heard this before, I would totally understand. I feel about myself right now.
Now, I tell you this time, we do think it`s different. Until now, House progressives have successfully delayed several would-be votes on the infrastructure bill until they can hold a simultaneous vote on the much bigger agenda bill. It looks like they will get simultaneously votes on those two bills tomorrow.
Again, a vote on the infrastructure bill, a procedural vote on the Build Back Better bill but an important one. It looks like it`s pinch me, I don`t know.
Nothing happens until it happens. We`ve been watching this for months. And, you know, even if they schedule both votes, having a vote is one thing.
Having it pass would be another.
One thing that`s emerging tonight House moderates have now started signaling they may take issue with some of the provisions in the bigger Biden agenda bill.
Okay, how about we go back to the drawing board, start over, no rush.
Anyway, things are apparently different this time. They`ve got both those votes scheduled. You could be mad at me tomorrow if it turns out this doesn`t happen either, but right now we think it`s going to happen.
Watch this space.
MADDOW: It has been 101 days since the committee investigating the January 6th attack on the U.S. capitol held their first hearing. 101 days. We learned today from the vice chair of that investigation, Republican Liz Cheney, that between when they started and today, the investigation has included more than 150 interviews, 150 interviews in 101 days. I`m bad at math, but that`s more than one a day including weekends.
That enormous list will continue to grow tomorrow with a key interview with a former Trump official. Tomorrow, the January 6th investigation will interview Jeffrey Clark. He`s the Justice Department official who reportedly plotted with Trump in the aftermath of the election to try to use the Justice Department to get the results overturned to keep Trump in office. Trump reportedly tried to make Jeff Clark attorney general so they could carry out the scheme together.
Well, tomorrow, Jeff Clark will sit for a sworn deposition behind closed doors. The chairman of the investigation, Congressman Bennie Thompson just told reporters today he`s freshly signed 20 new subpoenas he says are being sent out, quote, soon, possibly as soon as tomorrow. Things are moving fast now and with quite a lot of volume in terms of the flow through. Watch this space.
That`s going to do it for us tonight. We`ll see you again tomorrow.
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL".
Good evening, Lawrence.