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Transcript: The Rachel Maddow Show, 5/12/21

Guests: Christopher Krebs


The number three Republican leader in Congress, Liz Cheney, today was voted out of that leadership job by her Republican colleagues in the House. President Biden tonight has just issued a new lengthy executive order on cybersecurity standards in the U.S. both in terms of the government and in terms of private industry. Christopher Krebs, former director of staff CISA, Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency is interviewed.


CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, thank you so much for making time tonight. Come back anytime.

That is ALL IN on this Wednesday night.

"THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts right now.

Good evening, Rachel.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thank you, my friend. Much appreciated.

And thanks to you at home for joining us here this hour. Really happy to have you here.

There is a lot going on in the news right now.

But, first of all, you need to know that Lawrence O`Donnell has an interview with President Biden coming up right after this show, an hour from now at 10:00 p.m. Eastern. His interview with the president is part of this blockbuster town hall that Lawrence has here tonight on MSNBC. That will include not only his exclusive interview with President Biden but he`s also got Dr. Anthony Fauci and the Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, and the Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra, and the sort of superstar 34-year-old scientist, Kizzmekia Corbett who was on the team at Moderna that developed their COVID vaccine.

That`s all coming up tonight on Lawrence`s special town hall that he`s got here on MSNBC at the top of this hour starting at 10:00 Eastern.

And, of course, that town hall and all of that news, that all comes on the day that the CDC has just given approval for kids age 12 and up to start getting vaccinated. We`re going to have more on that story a little later on this hour, including some of the practicalities, in terms of what that means for you and your family, if you`ve got kids aged 12 to 15 under your household.

But honestly, I`m under no -- I`m under no illusions. I recognize this hour that I`m here tonight is basically the run-up. It`s basically the on-ramp to Lawrence`s big night tonight. I have had a little bit of a heads-up in terms of the news that gets made in terms of his interview with President Biden, but I`m not going to step on it. You can watch the whole thing at the top of the hour, 10:00 p.m. Eastern here on MSNBC, right after me. Just stay with me.

And all the news today, particularly around COVID is all developing as some of the states are starting to get creative is not even a strong enough word in terms of the new incentives they`re laying out to try to get their residents vaccinated. You may have seen headlines tonight about this new announcement from Ohio`s Republican Governor Mike DeWine. He has announced tonight that Ohio is about to start holding weekly lotteries, weekly drawings.

When I first saw that headline, I thought a lottery to get a vaccine in Ohio? I thought the vaccines are actually something you don`t really need to scramble too hard to get anymore. We`ve sort of got them. You don`t even need appointments. It`s walk-in appointments.

No. The lotteries they`re holding go the other direction. It`s not a lottery to get vaccine. It`s a lottery if you`ve had a vaccine. They`re going to do two lottery drawings per week for five straight weeks. The first one is for adults. Ohio residents age 18 and over.

Here is Governor DeWine tonight announcing it. Quote: Two weeks from tonight on may 26th, we will announce a winner of a drawing for adults who have received at least their first dose of the vaccine. This announcement will occur each Wednesday for five weeks. And the winner each Wednesday will receive $1 million.

Oh, it`s that kind of a lottery. It`s not a lottery to get a vaccine. It`s a lottery if you`ve got a vaccine, you can get a million bucks. If you get vaccinated in Ohio, you will be entered in a drawing to win $1 million. And they`re giving away $1 million five weeks in a row. Seriously.

So that`s one of the drawings. That`s for people 18 and up. The other drawing is if you`re 17 years old or younger in the state of Ohio, you get entered into a different drawing.

Here again Governor DeWine, quote. On Wednesday, May 26th, we will announce the winner of a drawing of all those age 17 years or under who have been vaccinated. The winner will receive a full four-year scholarship to our state of Ohio universities. This will include tuition, room and board and books. We will do this every Wednesday for five straight Wednesdays, each time randomly selecting one student to receive the full four-year scholarship.

Governor Mike DeWine of Ohio saying in explanation, quote, those who are not vaccinated remain prey to the virus. We hope for a good summer, but we also have to get through the dark days of winter safely. To do that, we need a much higher percentage of Ohioans to be vaccinated.

Well, a million dollar giveaway to people who get the vaccine and free four-year college scholarships, that`s a very high profile way to try to incentive incentivize people to try to get vaccinated. We`ll see. We`ll see if it works.

So, like I said, there is a lot of news that`s happened over the course of the day and into tonight. Tonight we have also just had the news that they have restarted the biggest fuel pipeline in the country. The Colonial pipeline that runs from the Gulf Coast all the way up to the northeast corner of the country. This restart comes six days, six days after that pipeline was shut down during a cyber attack against the pipeline by a foreign hacking group that appears to be based in Russia or Eastern Europe.

Honestly, we`ve been covering this since it happened, but I feel like the pipeline shutdown, the consequences telephone pipeline shutdown including the panic buying and the fuel shortages, particularly in the Northeast, I feel as if it were the site of some kind of accident, or if there was some sort of natural disaster they`re crinked the supplies or crinked the fuel lines for a few days.

This wasn`t that. This was an attack, a deliberate planned sophisticated attack on the single largest fuel conduit in the United States. It was an attack that was successful in taking that fuel line offline for almost a week.

This is about an attack by a foreign entity. It`s the kind of criminal network to which the Russian government has deliberately given safe haven in recent years because Russia frankly likes this kind of crime when it messes stuff up in the West. Also because the Russian government likes to be able to call on criminal groups like this to do favors for the Kremlin when the Kremlin wants these kinds of skills, when they want to use hackers of various stripes to inflict pain on someone for their own purposes.

They want plausible deniability in terms of it not being Russian government actors. So they enlist these criminal gangs that they have let operate within their borders to do favors for them. And they turn a blind eye while they wreak this kind of havoc in the United States and around the West.

This sort of dystopian sci-fi nightmare about these kinds of attacks for years was that a hostile foreign power of some kind would take down the U.S. electrical grid. Bring us to our knees, shut down access to electricity in the United States. What happened here with this Colonial pipeline attack, it didn`t exactly rise to the level of that nightmare, but it`s the same kind of dream. It did shutter the conduit that supplies half the fuel on the East Coast. And they`ve apparently gotten away with it, and it was very successful.

And there is all these open questions that remain. I mean, did the attackers get access to the control systems for the pipeline? Did they have the ability to physically control the pipeline? Either to shut it off, to turn it back on, or to sabotage its operations. We don`t know.

Why was this such an effective attack, particularly on a piece of infrastructure that`s so crucial to the whole Eastern Seaboard of the United States? Does it matter if the company paid ransom? The White House all week long has been unwilling to answer questions about whether the company paid ransom, which led to a lot of speculation that the company had paid ransom.

A statement from the company today shed some sort of -- sort of shed doubts on that, but was don`t know. Does that matter that they paid the ransom in terms of best practices for dealing with this kind of attack, but also how long it`s taken to get the pipeline back up and running?

And now that they do have it up and running again, do we expect that the attackers have been thoroughly repulsed? Now that this pipeline is open again tonight, should we expect that it`s just a matter of time before this particular chain gets jerked again and we`re sort of at their mercy again?

This was not a natural disaster. This was not an accident of some kind. This was an attack on our country. And it`s purportedly done that says they don`t target government entities.

They have this hacker code of conduct. They say they won`t target hospitals and they won`t target nonprofits and they won`t target government entities.

Well, the U.S. government mobilized tons of resources to try to mitigate the impact of this attack, to try to limit the material consequences of the attack, but does the U.S. government also now treat this as an attack on our country? And if so, what`s the right response to this kind of an attack on our privately owned but critical infrastructure?

Hard questions for what remains a scary situation even as the pipeline gets started up again. We have just the guy here tonight to talk about that as again, the pipeline does finally seem to be restarting, and as President Biden tonight has just issued a new lengthy executive order on cybersecurity standards in the U.S. both in terms of the government and in terms of private industry. That`s a story that is still developing really quickly. We`re going get to a lot more of that tonight over the course of this hour.

But like I said, it`s a busy news day. Even all that is just scratching at the surface of the news tonight, there is so much going on.

For example, over the course of the last week, we have reported on the implications of a new court ruling from a federal judge in Washington, D.C. This is a judge who ruled that the Trump administration Attorney General William Barr had been in the judge`s word, quote, disingenuous. He had been disingenuous, he had effectively lied not just to the American people and to Congress, but also to the court, which is a bad thing to do if you`re anybody but particularly if you`re the attorney general of the United States.

In an angry ruling, or at least a ruling that appeared to be driven by some emotion, she very bluntly ordered the Justice Department to release a document that they`ve been trying to keep secret for years. This is the document that William Barr when he was attorney general, he used this document to create a purported justification for the Justice Department not bringing criminal charges against former President Donald Trump.

The Robert Mueller investigation into Russia interfering in our election in 2016, that investigation when they produced their report, they published copious details of more than ten instances for which there was significant evidence that former President Trump might have committed crimes, specifically he might have committed obstruction of justice. It was just a week and a half ago that this federal judge ruled that Attorney General William Barr, contrary to his public statements, contrary to his statements to the court, she ruled that Barr actually never substantively considered the evidence against Trump.

She ruled from her review of the record that William Barr just determined from the outset, regardless of the evidence, that Trump would not be charged. And in her ruling, she`s ordered the Justice Department to release documents about that really soon, by Monday. The Justice Department under new management, under Merrick Garland could appeal that. But if they don`t, she`s ordered them to release that document, that the Trump Justice Department tried to keep secret for all these years.

But she has already told us what her review of that document and of the Justice Department`s actions around that time indicate about the process that was followed in terms of deciding whether or not Trump would be criminally charged. What she`s told us already in her ruling is that the Justice Department didn`t substantively consider potential criminal charges against former President Trump, despite the evidence that was laid out against him.

But, of course, now they could. And on top of that very pregnant revelation about the former president and his potential criminal liability, the expected release of that document they wanted kept secret, which we think will come out on Monday of next week, on top of all that, late last night, we got this new news that a deal has been reached finally after all this time for President Trump`s White House counsel Don McGahn to testify for the first time about what he saw in the Trump White House and what former President Trump did while he was in office.

And this is a big deal. Because as I said, the Mueller investigation outlined in detail more than ten instances in which president Trump arguably committed felony obstruction of justice while he was in the White House. Most of those incidents were described basically through the eyes of Don McGahn. McGahn, as Trump`s White House counsel, gave multiple interviews over dozens of hours to Mueller`s prosecutors. And those prosecutors determined by the rules of the road that it wasn`t their call as to whether or not an indictment should be the end purpose of McGahn`s testimony, whether they should take McGahn`s testimony about Trump`s behavior and use to it seek a criminal indictment of Donald Trump.

They said they couldn`t make that decision. They couldn`t try to bring an indictment against Trump because there was a Justice Department policy against indicting any sitting president. But they also said explicitly that that same Justice Department policy, quote, also recognizes that a president does not have immunity after he leaves office.

Well, Donald Trump has left office. There is no Justice Department policy protecting him from being indicted now. The statute of limitations has not run on the conduct that was described in the Mueller report.

And the evidence against him in terms of these multiple serious allegations of obstruction of justice, that evidence was in the Mueller report obtained and preserved, laid out very orderly -- laid out in a very orderly way by Mueller`s investigators. A federal judge has just ruled within the past two weeks that Justice Department at the time, they never looked substantively at that evidence while Trump was president. They never made a substantive determination as to whether or not criminal charges against Trump were warranted. The Justice Department is now free to make that determination if they want to.

And just last night, a deal was finally reached to finally have testimony for the first time from the main witness against the former president for those obstruction of justice allegations.

It seems like a big deal. And the timing of it is Shakespearean, right? That is all coming together. That revived prospect of serious federal criminal liability for former President Trump, that is all coming to a point today as the Republican Party hits this new apex, as they summit this new peak today in terms of the bizarre hold that Trump has over their party and what sort of loyalty to him looks like among Republican Party officials and politicians.

As you know, this has been exhaustively covered. The number three Republican leader in Congress, Liz Cheney, today was voted out of that leadership job by her Republican colleagues in the House. It seems telling to me they were so brave, they wouldn`t even take a roll call vote. They just did it by a voice vote so nobody would have to be on the record in terms of what they did to throw her out of office.

Cheney herself is still a member of Congress in good standing, and she each day proves herself well and truly capable of keeping the record straight herself.


REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): We have had the conference meeting. I am absolutely committed as I said last night, as I said just now to my colleagues that we must go forward based on truth. We cannot both embrace the big lie and embrace the Constitution.

And going forward, the nation needs it. The nation needs a strong Republican Party. The nation needs a party that is based upon fundamental principles of conservatism. And I am committed and dedicated to ensuring that that`s how this party goes forward, and I plan to lead the fight to do that.

REPORTER: Congresswoman, how concerned are you that former President Trump might end up back in the Oval Office? And what you prepared to do to prevent it?

CHENEY: I will do everything I can to ensure that the former president never again gets anywhere near the Oval Office. We have seen the danger that he continues to provoke with his language. We have seen his lack of commitment and dedication to the Constitution, and I think it`s very important that we make sure whomever we elect is somebody who will be faithful to the Constitution.

REPORTER: Do you feel betrayed by today`s vote? Congresswoman, do you feel betrayed by today`s vote?

CHENEY: I do not. I think it`s an indication of where the Republican Party is, and I think that the party is in a place that we`ve got to bring it back from. And we`ve got to get become to a position where we are a party that can fight for conservative principles, that can fight for substance. We cannot be dragged backward by the very dangerous lies of a former president. Thank you.


MADDOW: We cannot be dragged backwards by the very dangerous lies of a former president. The party is a place we`ve got bring it back from.

She says I will do everything I can to ensure the former president never again gets anywhere near the Oval Office. We have seen the danger that he continues to provoke.

Congresswoman Liz Cheney putting herself forward today as the person who, in her words, will lead the Republican Party away from Trump, and specifically, his ongoing lies that the last election was somehow illegitimate. She is describing those lies as dangerous in an ongoing way, saying that they represent today, not just the rejection of democracy by the Republican Party (AUDIO GAP) who ought to still be in the White House, and he must be avenged.

So, Liz Cheney says that she is going to lead this effort for her party, and it will be interesting to see what that looks like. She no longer has a nominal leadership job in the Republican Party. She is still a member of Congress, but she has lost her leadership post in Congress.

You know, it should be noted, though, that the people who do have those nominal leadership jobs in the Republican Party, they don`t really seem to know how to handle this moment or what to say about what exactly is going on in their party.

Take a case in point tonight from Senator Mitch McConnell. Senator McConnell really unable to swim himself to shore tonight under persistent, simple, direct, calm questioning from Fox News host Bret Baier. It absolutely undoes the senator here. Watch.


BRET BAIER, FOX NEWS HOST: Liz Cheney ousted from her GOP leadership position in the House this morning in a move pushed by House leaders. Was that a good decision?

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): Look, it`s up to the House to make these kind of decisions. We`re moving ahead in the Senate, focusing on the current challenges we have with this new administration.

BAIER: Well, you know, when she survived a no-confidence vote in February, you spoke out on her behalf. You said Liz Cheney is a leader with a deep convictions and the courage to act on them. She is an important leader in our party and our nation, and when you were asked about her at a press conference in Kentucky, you seemed to go out of your way to kind of avoid expressing that support again, saying 100 percent my focus is stopping this new administration. So, why the change?

MCCONELL: Well, there is no change. I stand by what I said about Liz Cheney before. I`m a great admirer of hers. But as to who is supposed to be in the leadership in the House, that`s up to House Republicans.

BAIER: Congresswoman Cheney said on the floor last night: We face a threat America has never seen before, a former president who provoked a violent attack on the Capitol. She went on to say, in an effort to steal the election, he has resumed his aggressive effort to convince Americans that the election was stolen from him. He risks inciting further violence.

Is there anything that she said that you disagree with there?

MCCONNELL: I don`t know how many times I have to tell you, I`m focusing on dealing with the conditions we find ourselves in.

BAIER: And I hear you, Senator. And with all due respect, President Trump, the former president is not focusing on those things it doesn`t seem. He just put out a statement on Monday claiming that Michigan was stolen and might be overturned. And he continues to kind of hammer Republicans in different ways.

And a lot of Republicans seem to be basing their 2022 strategy on the former president. So I guess my question is, can you move on like you`re saying without dealing with the former president and what he puts out day to day about the election?

MCCONNELL: Your question is about what will the 2022 elections be about. If you look at American history, the `22 election is very likely to be a referendum on the performance of the new administration.

BAIER: Let me try one more time. Since April 24th, fundraising emails from Republicans have mentioned the former president 97 times, an average of more than five times a day. You`re saying the focus is not on the past, but you`re using the former president`s name a Republicans are to raise money for 2022.

MCCONNELL: Well, look, each individual candidate is going to use whatever appeal they think works to try to raise money.

BAIER: Yeah.

MCCONNELL: I`m not in the money-raising business.


MADDOW: So your party is purging people from your leadership jobs who don`t go along with the fantasy that the last election doesn`t count. It`s already led to violence. The people you`re purging from your own party are warning it`s going to lead to more violence. No comment on that? Really? Can try again?

This was expertly done by Mr. Baier at Fox News there, but really no answer at all from the Republican leader of the Senate. And it`s because, I mean, what should be his answer? What is the actual answer?

I mean, you can ask the leaders, but you can also just watch what they`re doing. In the House today, multiple Republican members of Congress trying to pitch the idea that the January 6th attack on the U.S. capitol to try to stop the certification of the election, it wasn`t that bad. It was actually kind of nice.

One Republican congressman from Georgia saying the attackers were basically behaving like tourists, and what`s the big deal. That was Andrew Clyde, Republican from Georgia.

Another Republican congressman from South Carolina, Congressman Ralph Norman, saying there is no reason to believe the people who attacked the Capitol were Trump supporters. Who took a poll of them?

Republican congressman from Arizona, Paul Gosar, a different one from Georgia, Jody Hice, both saying today Trump supporters were the real victims on January 6th, and they`re all being framed by law enforcement, even though they definitely did nothing wrong in the Capitol attack. Why are you even calling it an attack?

Trump`s former defense secretary, a junior level Pentagon employee who Trump inexplicably made defense secretary right at the end of his term, Christopher Miller, he testified today about the January 6 attack. He wrote in his written opening statement to the committee that he believed Trump`s lies about the election were what caused his supporters to go attack the Capitol on January 6.

That was in his written opening statement. But when it came time for him to actually say those words out loud in his testimony in Congress today, he is skipped that part. And then said oh, actually, he doesn`t believe that anymore.

I mean, to be clear, he believed it last night when he sent the committee his written testimony, but then this morning, Liz Cheney got booted from the party for not going along with the Trump election fraud fantasy. Very soon thereafter, Chris Miller was due to testify in congress, and he decided he actually no longer felt he could say those things about Trump and the election fraud lies, things he had literally written and submitted just last night.

As of today, he doesn`t think them anymore. At least he doesn`t think them enough to say them out loud. Not with people watching. Are you kidding? Look what happens to people who say that out loud.

In Virginia, the Republican Party just this week picked as their nominee for governor a guy who says the single most important issue for the country right now is the Trump election fraud conspiracy theory about Dominion voting machines. That`s the one about Venezuela and communists and Hugo Chavez.

Virginia Republicans did not pick the candidate who calls herself Trump in heels, which is what got I think all of the attention. Oh, there was a candidate rung as Trump in heels. They didn`t pick her.

You know who they picked instead? They picked this other guy who doesn`t call himself Trump in anything. He is just a Republican now, sort of billed as a more normal Republican candidate, but what that means today is that he`s absolutely all in with the world`s craziest bullpucky made up on QAnon message boards about voting machine fantasies, saying that`s the most important thing in the country.

Because that`s what it means to be a Republican running for office right now. Not a crazy Trumpy one, just a regular Republican.

In Arizona, we still have this ongoing clown show of the Republicans in the State Senate having given all the ballots over to a QAnon/ Dominion Voting Systems conspiracy theory, magic light box audit where Trump supporters and election fraud conspiracy theorists are recounting the actual ballots from Arizona`s presidential election.

This recount in Arizona was initially supposed to be done this week, but they`ve now decided they`re going stretch it out to, well, you know, July, maybe August. Maybe they can get it to go all the way through September. At least stretch it out through the summer, see how long they can keep it going. Why not, right?

As long as they can keep the headlines out there that there is a serious recount going on in Arizona, and the presidential election results are being examined with UV light, right? As long as they can keep that story alive, it keeps the story alive, right? It hypes up the possibility that there was something wrong in the election and that once it`s exposed, Trump might triumphantly return to office somehow, right?

It also creates this ambient pretext for anti-voting rights new laws in Arizona and around the country, in the midst of that insane nonsense recount in Arizona where the Trump conspiracy theorists have all the ballots.

Arizona`s Republican governor just last night signed a new bill that will purge over 130,000 Arizona voters off the vote by mail list. Not because there was anything wrong where the vote by mail process in Arizona, but as long as you create this noise, this smoke, this muddy water that says oh, it`s all being examined, it`s all being looked at again, and Trump keeps up this drumbeat, that the Republican Party gets in line with that there was something wrong. It all needs to be looked at again. Then, yeah, you can keep passing voting rights restrictions because people have the sense there might have been something wrong in the election that we need to protect against next time.

And it`s because this is what Trump wants them to do, right? This is what the election fraud fantasy about the 2020 election creates an imperative for among Republican politicians. A, they all need to parrot it. B, they all need to contribute to this idea that Trump was somehow wronged and must be avenged. And also, they should restrict voting rights.

So all of that mysterious fraud that they can`t quite put their finger on, but they`re pretty sure happened, that all gets taken care of by the fact that they`re going to roll back voting rights enough to make it really, really hard in lots of states, particularly for Democratic-leaning poor and minority voters to cast their ballots.

So no, Senator Mitch McConnell does not have any answers for Bret Baier at the Fox News Channel who was persistent with him tonight. He has no answers as to why Liz Cheney had to lose her job in the Republican leadership and whether this election fraud nonsense that she won`t toe the line on, no, he can`t answer whether that remains an ongoing danger, indeed, pose as threat of further violence in the future.

No, he doesn`t have an answer for that, because there is no answer. What are you going to do, admit the trouble you`re in?

All of this happening all at once. And honestly, ask yourself, if he did get indicted, the former president being criminally indicted is now a live possibility in two different states and potentially in terms of federal charges as well. If he did get indicted, and have to go on trial now for criminal charges, you think that would break the fever in the Republican Party? Think that might interrupt what they`re doing right now? I don`t either.

There is a lot going on. It is a big night here with Lawrence`s interview with President Biden coming up at the top of the hour. But we`ve got tons of news to get to between then as well. You`re going to want to meet our guest tonight for the interview.

Stay with us.


MADDOW: You can sort of think of him as a human Venn diagram, a life-sized decoder ring that can help us figure out two of the most important and most intense stories going on in the news right now.

Here`s the first one. East Coast of the country remains in an ongoing fuel crisis. Thousands of gas stations have no gas right now because of a successful cyberattack that resulted in the country`s largest fuel pipeline being taken offline for six straight days. The company that owns the pipeline finally announced late tonight that the pipeline is being turned back on, but they say service disruptions will continue for a few days as fuel starts to work its way slowly through the line again. It`s a 5500- mile-long pipeline.

The fuel shortages attributed to the shutdown of that pipeline, they will end. But the impact has been real, and it continues tonight. Gas stations throughout the Northeast have been running out of gas. Airlines have been forced to reroute flights to conserve fuel.

The ripple effects have the federal government trying to mitigate the damage from this crisis. One of the federal agencies involved here of course is the FBI, sorting this out as a criminal matter.

But the other part of the federal government helming the response is here is a lesser known agency called the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, which is a whole bunch of words. But if you think about it, that`s pretty perfect in terms of dealing with this pipeline crisis, right? Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, CISA. CISA, it`s what they call it.

That`s the agency that`s in charge of keeping the nation`s critical infrastructure safe and secure. So when a hacking group attacks the biggest pipeline in the country, shuts the whole thing down for six days, CISA is the part of the government you call, or at least that you`re supposed to call. They`re a key part of the government`s defense against this sort of stuff and the response when it happens.

This is a man who you probably remember by sight. His name is Christopher Krebs. Chris Krebs was the person in charge of CISA, that agency during the Trump administration.

And it`s possible you`re a cyber security nerd. It`s possible you`re a CISA groupie. It`s possible you would know him anywhere, even before what he went through around the election.

But if Mr. Krebs is familiar to you by sight, it is more likely that you remember him because of the way he lost his job as the head of CISA at the very end of the Trump administration.

Last fall, CISA`s main responsibility was to keep one particular piece of American critical infrastructure safe, our election infrastructure. It was their job to keep our elections safe and secure from malicious interference.

But when former President Trump started spreading lies and conspiracy theories about made-up fraud and interference in the elections, CISA had to decide what to do. They`re in charge of protecting the elections from malicious interference. When that malicious interference didn`t happen, but there were lies being spread about the fact that it did in order to undermine confidence in the election, they`re a part of the federal government, but they had to switch gears to start defending our elections from the sitting president, defending the integrity of the elections from the attack on the integrity of those elections being waged by the man in the Oval Office.

And so, CISA as a government agency started refuting in real-time Trump`s lies about the election so people wouldn`t lose faith in the security of the results. Under Chris Krebs` leadership, CISA issued this statement about a week after the election, after Biden was declared the rightful winner. It said, quote, the November 3rd election was the most secure in American history. There is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in my way compromised.

For issuing that statement and any others like it, for batting down Trump`s lies about the elections, Chris Krebs was fired by the President Trump last November. He was one of the first career casualties of Donald Trump`s ongoing promotion of the big lie about the last election.

And that`s why -- that`s why Chris Krebs is our news deciphering Venn diagram right now, right? His expertise at CISA, including critical infrastructure and its security and the reason he was fired from the Trump administration, standing up against the president propounding this big lie about the election sort of puts Chris Krebs in a key and unique position to help us understand not just what`s going on with this consequential cyber attack on our critical infrastructure, but also what`s going on in our politician right now. Chris Krebs being fired for refusing to perpetuate Donald Trump`s lies about the election was obviously a newsworthy thing at the time.

It seems like the chronicle of the death of a career foretold. Well, it even seems more relevant now that the Republican Party is in the middle of tearing itself apart over its inability to cope with the truth of what really happened in the 2020 election.

For all those reasons and more, Chris Krebs is here live next for the interview you`re going to want to see this interview.

Stay with us.



CHRISTOPHER KREBS, FORMER CISA DIRECTOR: With all the farcical claims alleging interference in the 2020 election, but the proof is in the ballots. The recounts are consistent with the initial count. And to me, that`s further evidence, that`s confirmation that the systems used in the 2020 election performed as expected, and the American people should have 100 percent confidence in their vote.


MADDOW: Statements of fact like that from Christopher Krebs got him fired from the Trump administration. Christopher Krebs led the agency, the federal agency in charge of securing our nation`s critical infrastructure, like, say, our federal elections or say a major fuel pipeline. That experience puts him at a fascinating intersection of the news that we are contending with as a country right now. Somebody quite well-positioned to understand a lot of what`s going on in the world much better than any of the rest of us do.

Joining us now for "The Interview" is Chris Krebs, the former director of CISA, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.

Mr. Krebs, it`s a pleasure to have you here tonight. Thank you so much for making time.

KREBS: Thanks for having me, Rachel. Great to be here.

MADDOW: Do you feel a little bit like you`re in an episode of "This is My Life" in terms of the different news story right now that are unfolding, both areas that you have quite unique expertise?

KREBS: Yeah. My Twitter mentions are getting pretty blown up these days between elections in Arizona and what`s going on with the pipeline, and now just this evening an executive order out of the administration. It is -- it`s a pretty surreal experience when you flip on the TV and hey, I know something about that, I think.

MADDOW: Well, let me ask you about that executive order. This is a lengthy executive order. I printed it out. It`s 18 pages from the Biden administration, executive order on improving the nation`s cyber security.

You`re an expert and long-time practitioner in the field. Do you feel that the Biden administration is on the right track here?

KREBS: Absolutely. I think the team led by the deputy national security adviser, Anne Neuberger, they pulled together a really ambitious plan. If they lock it in, if they nail it, it`s going to make a dramatic difference in the security of our U.S. government systems.

But the most interesting aspect of the executive order is if it`s done properly, if it`s implemented properly is there is such a thing as leverage on the defensive side where the software, the very software that the U.S. government buys, whether it`s from your desktops, laptops or whatever it is, it`s the same software that we buy at home. It`s the same stuff that companies buy.

And so by using the procurement power, the power of the purse of the federal government, we`re going see dramatic improvements in the security of the software that we all use. So it`s kind of a flex, and I`m really excited to see the team roll it out over the next 18 months or so.

MADDOW: I think a lot of people who are following the news about the Colonial Pipeline hack are disturbed that something that important seemed to be so vulnerable to this type of ransomware attack. It`s unnerving also that the group that the FBI is attributing the attack to literally put out a press release announcing their existence, describing the kind of crime they were going commit, and laying out their so-called code of conduct for the types of targets that they had in mind. It just feels like a very lawless place, and we feel like a very, very soft target for it.

KREBS: Yeah, I mean, first off, that statement indicates to me at least they`re feeling a little bit of heat. And whether that`s come from back home, they appear to be based out of Russia, or they didn`t think maybe that would catch the attention of the U.S. federal government here.

Any way you cut it, ransomware is a massive problem globally right now, but particularly in the United States. I actually tend to think it is the number one cybersecurity threat. It is a national security threat. It`s the thing that most of your viewers have experienced more so than an Iranian or Chinese or Russian hack.

These are criminals that hit us in our communities. They lock up our schools, our hospitals, our government agencies. And we need to put an end to it. There are a number of things I think the administration can do.

But it`s going to take a collective defense effort. It`s going to take industry, government, and international partnerships. And we need to hold Russia in particular accountable for allowing this to continue for as long as it has.

MADDOW: Chris Krebs, I have a bunch of other stuff to ask you. Would you mind sticking around for a second while we take a quick break? I feel like I have just begun to ask you questions.

KREBS: As long as we can talk about fishing at some point, yep.

MADDOW: Indeed. Indeed.

All right. Chris Krebs is our guest, former director of CISA.

We`ll be right back. Stay with us.


MADDOW: Christopher Krebs ran the main cybersecurity agency in the federal government during the Trump administration. He was fired from the job after the election for having the temerity to contradict President Trump`s lies about supposed fraud in that election. He joins us now as we continue the interview.

Mr. Krebs, I just have to ask if you -- given that experience, if you`re surprised this is still such a live issue, did you know that this would continue to grow and metastasize, start eating at the Republican Party at least the way it is now? Or did you think that this was something that we were going to have to get through but that then it would be over?

KREBS: Well, I don`t think I anticipated or expected to get to the degree that it did today with Representative Cheney losing her leadership spot. You know, that is really the only casualty of January 6 and the big lie.

But we did anticipate going back several years, the calling of the rigged election. The seeds for this world lead prior to the 2016 election and then it started to bubble up about this time last year as well when the president, the former president, was talking about mail-in ballots and how that would lead to a rigged election.

While we were focusing on the actual technical security of the voting machines, and the resilience of the system including supporting the rollout of more paper ballots across the country. We were also gravely concerned about the rise of disinformation, not just from foreign actors but as it turned out domestic actors, and disinformation is just one of the realities unfortunately of life right now, we`re taking a hard look at that over at the Aspen Institute, the commission I`m co-chairing.

But this is just the natural institution of the big lie and it appears to be taking the pretty deep root especially in the House of Representatives. And, you know, we`re going to have to come to grips with this one way or the other. This democracy that we all enjoy and love is at serious risk.

MADDOW: Do you feel like you know with the cure is for it? I felt like when you were leading that agency putting out public statements, it felt like you were pretty focused and had a pretty clear idea about what kinds of messages, what kinds of facts, what kinds of arguments you could make about the sanctity of the election that you felt would resonate with people. Did that give you any insights on how to break this fever in the Republican Party?

KREBS: So, here`s the challenge, Rachel, is that you are living in a different world, a different reality than I think some of the supporters and followers of the former president -- you at the fact of the asymmetric nature of his platform at the time. I mean, we at CISA may have been putting out factual information for the American voters to study and digest but ultimately we are talking about, I had 10,000 followers on Twitter, the agency had about 150, 000, that stacked up against someone with 89 million.

So, there was just an asymmetric threats there, frankly, that we couldn`t overcome. And ultimately, it comes down to what`s really developed was two different realities. The one we lived in that is based on truth and trust and the other that is based on whatever the former president says.

So, how did we get past this? Something that is never going to happen -- unfortunately, I think it all begins with the former president admitting that it was an election that he lost, he lost fair and square and Joe Biden is in fact a duly elected president of the United States of America.

MADDOW: Chris Krebs, former director of staff CISA, Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency -- I have a lot more to talk about with you over time. Maybe some of it will do trout fishing at some time, at some point. It`s nice to have you here tonight.

KREBS: There you go. Thank you so much.

MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right -- we`ll be right back. Stay with us.


MADDOW: Thank you for being here tonight. I`ve got to tell you, I`m going to scoot right now to make way for my colleague, Lawrence O`Donnell, because it is time for his exclusive interview with President Joe Biden. That starts right now.