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Transcript: The Rachel Maddow Show, 5/24/21

Guests: Timothy Snyder


The Belarusian government forced a plane to land to arrest a dissident. A judge unsealed Paul Manafort`s transcripts and they show details of his lies to prosecutors. The recount of the presidential election results in Arizona restarted today with no end in sight.


CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: That is ALL IN for this Monday evening.

"THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts right now.

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

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

South of the equator, northeast of New Zealand, sort of east-northeast from Australia, there is an American territory. It`s the only inhabited American territory that is in the southern hemisphere. There`s about 45,000, 50,000 people who live there. It`s called American Samoa.

But American Samoa, that U.S. territory, is not to be confused with the nation of Samoa, which is an independent country in that same group of islands. Where the American territory of American Samoa has 45,000 or 50,000 people, the nation of Samoa is much larger, about 200,000 people live there. And I know that is still small for a country, but it`s a country.

Samoa gained its independence from New Zealand in 1962. It was admitted to the United Nations in 1976. And then this weekend, they had something really nutty and potentially existentially challenging happen to them.

For most of the time they have been an independent country, for nearly 40 years of the 60 years they have been a country, Samoa has been run by the same ruling party. In fact, the same guy, the same individual man, the prime minister from that party, has been in power as prime minister for the last 22 years. But he lost the last election this year.

In April, Samoa had an election. It was really, really close. Really hard fought. In the end, the prime minister`s party, which again, his party has been in power for almost 40 years. He`s been prime minister for almost 22 years. His party ended up with one less seat in parliament than the opposition did.

And in a parliamentary system, that means it`s the opposition party since they have a majority, they get to form the new government. And that party`s leader gets to be the new prime minister.

And that transition, that really big transition in Samoa was supposed to happen today. Parliament was supposed to gather to swear in its new members. With the new party in the majority, they would then swear in the leader of that party as the new prime minister. Samoa would have a different party in charge for the first time in 40 years, a different prime minister in charge for the first time in 22 years. That big, important transfer of power was supposed to happen today in Samoa. It did not. Maybe.

Depending on who you ask. This weekend, there was a shock announcement in Samoa that actually parliament would be dissolved. They would not convene today to swear in anyone, let alone the new prime minister.

The equivalent of this in our system, we have a president, not a prime minister so it`s not exactly parallel. But you could imagine what this would be like in our system. It`s the weekend before Biden is due to be inaugurated, and Trump announced the inauguration is canceled.

Actually, more accurately, maybe the analogy would be that Vice President Mike Pence announced the electoral college votes would not be counted on January 6th, that Congress would not be in session, would not convene to formalize the election results, so there would be no formal election results so the inauguration is now in question, the equivalent of that happening, right?

And that, of course, was the fantasy, that was the Trump fantasy behind the January 6th attack on our election. What all those Republican senators like Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley, big majority of the Republicans in the House, that`s what they tried to do around the American presidential election. Don`t count the results. Don`t make it official. See what happens when inauguration day comes around.

In Samoa this weekend, this whole same idea behind the whole Trump fantasy around January 6th, it came to fruition. They actually went ahead with it. The -- what`s supposed to be the outgoing political party, the outgoing prime minister, went ahead and said no. Parliament is not going to convene. Parliament will not meet anymore. That means the new prime minister can`t be sworn in and can`t take power.

That was the announcement on Saturday. An indefinite suspension of parliament with no reasons given. That was Saturday. Yesterday, Sunday, the Supreme Court stepped in.

The Samoan Supreme Court ruled unequivocally this decision to dissolve parliament, to suspend parliament was illegal, was an unlawful act, parliament must be convened as planned so the new members of parliament can be sworn in, the new prime minister can be sworn in and assume power. That was the clear ruling from the Supreme Court of that country. That ruling was yesterday.

And then this is what happened today. You see the guy in the red robe and the white wig here, you have probably already guessed, he`s a judge. He in fact is the chief judge of the Supreme Court in that country. And he arrived at the parliament today with the ready to be sworn in prime minister elect.

It was the ruling of his court, the Supreme Court, that said parliament must convene today to swear in the new leader. He grabs the door handle, and it`s locked. Pulls on the door, the door is locked. He`s there representing the judiciary. He`s the highest ranking judicial official in the country, the highest ranking judge on the Supreme Court, and he is locked out of parliament, and the rightful newly elected prime minister of Samoa is also locked out of parliament.

Now, they made the most of it. After the door was locked and he turned around, they went out to a tent that they had set up on the lawn outside parliament and held there a swearing-in ceremony for all the new members of parliament from her party.

Also swearing in for her, the prime minister elect. Her name is Fiame Naomi Mata`afa. I`m sorry if my pronunciation isn`t perfect there. Fiame Naomi Mata`afa. She`s the first female prime minister of Samoa, sworn in in a tent outside parliament because she was locked out of the parliament building.

The old guy, the one in power for 22 years, he says, well, that swearing-in wasn`t official. It doesn`t count. After all, it was in a tent. It wasn`t in parliament. And therefore, he says that he is still the leader of the country. Her prime ministership is not in effect, it`s not official. He`s refusing to go, refusing to let her take power. He`s also refusing to recognize the ruling of the country`s Supreme Court telling him otherwise.

And so tonight, when I say did the transfer of power take place? I don`t know. Who`s the prime minister of Samoa right now? The duly-elected new prime minister, the woman, I think, in reality, but officially, the old guy won`t go, which in technical terms is a coup. Him keeping the parliament doors locked and refusing to relinquish power so the newly duly-elected prime minister cannot replace him, that`s a coup.

And at this point, it`s a bloodless coup, thank God. But this is how democracies get their throats cut and bleed out. Dude`s been there for 22 years. And over the course of his 22 years, he`s made all these gradual legal changes that have made it harder and harder for people to be allowed to dissent from his rule. He`s made it harder and harder for opposition parties to run and compete against him.

And that kind of stuff was enough, those kind of legal shifts were enough to keep him in power for all that time. But now that he has lost an election and it`s time to go, he won`t accept that. He won`t accept that the election had a real result and that the consequence of that election result is he is no longer in power. I mean, this is how it happens.

This is from "The New York Times" today. Quote, the former prime minister has made it clear he will not vacate his position without a fight. Despite the party holding 26 of the 51 available seats in parliament, the former prime minister and his party have rejected multiple calls to concede. Patricia O`Brien, an expert at autocracy at the Australian National University tells "The Times", quote, they did not want to relinquish power. Before, it was a veneer of democracy, she says, but now this is real democracy in action where power has to be relinquished and where the voice of the people is not to the former leader` liking. He`s not doing what he should be doing. And that`s conceding.

I don`t know what`s going to happen next in the island nation of Samoa. I know that as Americans, we have a specific kind of myopia about democracy, small "D" democracy. We`re far-sighting about stuff like this. It`s easier to see dynamics like this at work when they`re far away. They get blurrier and harder to understand when they`re closer to home.

And so, speaking of not conceding, one of the things we have got eyes on tonight, we`re going to be covering later this hour, is the worsening weirdness, the sheer ridiculousness of the Republican-led recount of the presidential election results in Arizona. Which remains a story that is actively laugh-out loud funny. I will admit it, it is absurd that Trump supporters have just seized 2 million ballots and the voting machines and they`re now going to declare they have found their own results of the presidential election, which they like better. And guess what their results will be, right? It`s absolutely absurd.

But they`re not going to only do it in Arizona. They`re going to do it in Georgia. Wisconsin Republicans, too. There are Republican controlled counties all over the country that are starting to do it as well, all to declare that Joe Biden isn`t really the president, and last election, 2020 election, shouldn`t really count because Trump didn`t really lose his re- election bid.

I mean, it is actively nuts. Especially the closer you look at the cast of characters involved and what their crazy theories are about why the election shouldn`t count. The closer you get to it, the stupider it is, and the sillier and less consequential it seems.

But you know, widen the aperture a little bit, step back from that a second, look at the new Ipsos poll that came out today, that finds a robust majority of Republican voters nationwide, 53 percent of Republican voters in America, believe right now, Donald Trump is currently the lawful president of the United States. And Joe Biden is therefore an illegal usurper occupying the White House even though he lost the 2020 election to Trump.

A majority of Republicans already believe that. Where does this go as they now start to uncount the election from 2020 and invent theories and explanations and wild tales about what happened to the voting machines and what happened to the ballots that mean the 2020 election shouldn`t be counted? I mean, the way it worked in Samoa is that they didn`t storm the Capitol. They just locked out the incoming prime minister elect. They just locked the door. So their equivalent of an inauguration couldn`t happen.

The court intervened, they ignored the court. Now it`s a coup. If you do not obey court rulings and do not respect election results, you just hold on by force, that`s a coup. And it`s a question of how long everybody holds their temper right now in Samoa and tries to talk it out. How long before some further force beyond just a locked door is brought to bear here. I hope that does not happen.

But you know, we have already shown here at force is not going to be a big threshold issue for us. Force is not going to be a problem for the side that`s refusing to concede in our election. Again, though, sometimes it`s harder for us to see this stuff up close than when it`s far away.

In another direction, but also far away, Belarus, the guy in charge there has been in power for 26 years. Belarus used to be part of the Soviet Union. It`s only had a president since 1994. This same man has been in that job, has been president there since they established the office of president 26 years ago. He`s the only president and independent Belarus has ever known.

Alexander Lukashenko is sort of joined at the hip with Russian President Vladimir Putin. They have talked about joining their two countries together. Hasn`t happened yet, but it could any moment.

Lukashenko is frequently called Europe`s last dictator. I honestly don`t like to say that because it feels like a jinx to me. Depending on how things are going, sure, he is a dictator there now for sure, but why do we think he`s going to be the last? Don`t jinx it.

Authoritarianism is kind of having a moments. Dictatorships feel like they`re having a way back. Why do we think he`ll be the last one in Europe?

That said, the people of Belarus seem like they`re kind of done with him. In August, as we were gearing up for our own presidential election last year, Lukashenko was facing his, the version of elections that he allows. And he had done what all good dictators do. He had, for example, thrown into prison the most promising opposition candidate who was running against him.

What he didn`t expect, I think, is that candidate`s wife, a teacher who had never been involved in politics before, she took up the banner and ran for president in her husband`s place while her husband was in prison. And citizens of Belarus went to the polls in august, and it kind of seems like she might have won. And so how does a dictator respond to that? Elections aren`t supposed to be real. They`re supposed to be just for show.

Lukashenko not only declared victory for himself, he declared it was a landslide overwhelming victory which everybody knew wasn`t true, and people turned out in the streets by at least the hundreds of thousands, if not the millions, protesting. Biggest protests ever in Belarus, protesting against the infinite dictatorship they were stuck in, protesting against the false democracy they were told to play act in where there was no objectively observable result, so if he says he won, okay, I guess he won.

Millions of people protested. Tens of thousands of people were arrested. Some died in custody. Hundreds of people made credible allegations of torture by police in custody. Videos like this of forced confessions by people showing the signs of being beaten. The woman holding up the photo here, this is the woman who ran against Lukashenko in august. What she`s holding is a photo of someone who was beaten very badly after being arrested for taking part in those protests.

I should tell you the candidate, she`s in exile now. She`s been forced out of Belarus. She has to live in Lithuania. All the opposition leaders, all the protest organizers have been arrested or chased out of the country since the election that it looks like she won against Lukashenko. But put up that previous picture again. Look what she`s holding up there.

You see obviously the very -- the photo of the very injured man. That`s hard to see, but do you see how the photo is watermarked? It has words and a pattern. I thought those were tattoos. But it`s not. It`s a media outlet watermark. The word is NEXTA. NEXTA is an opposition media outlet in Belarus that has only been able to survive because its leadership has also fled the country.

Its editor, who is also in exile in Lithuania, he`s all of 26 years old. He was officially designated by Lukashenko as a terrorist in November. Designated a terrorist for running a media outlet that had the temerity to report on the protests against that country`s dictator. Media outlet that published photos like that one of how people were abused by the police after they were arrested.

Well, this weekend, the dictator in Belarus, Lukashenko, sent up a fighter jet, sent up a MiG fighter jet to intercept a commercial passenger plane that had taken off from Greece and was flying to Lithuania. Those are two E.U. countries. It was over Belarus` air space. The fighter jet forced the plane to land inside Belarus.

And the 26-year-old they took off that plane was that young man who is the editor of NEXTA. That media outlet, the young man who Lukashenko had designated a terrorist for the crime of him running a media outlet that covered the protests. They arrested that young man on the tarmac, took him into custody in Belarus.

He turned up in a forced confession video today, obviously under duress and bruised, confessing in weird technical language he`s never used before to all of the things Lukashenko has charged him with. Absolutely terrifying to see it.

And you know, in an autocracy and a dictatorship, I know we`re sort of trained to expect almost anything, but we never expect something this dramatic, something affecting this many countries, something this violative of how the world is supposed to run. I mean, there`s plenty of bad leaders in poorly run countries around the world. Very few where random passenger planes minding their own business are threatened to be shot down by military force just for being there, when they`re not even taking off or landing there. They`re just flying over it.

In response to what Lukashenko did, the European Union has blocked any Belarusian planes from entering E.U. air space or landing at E.U. airports. They`re calling on all European airlines to stay out of Belarus` air space indefinitely, which, yeah, right, apparently since Belarus will use its military to hijack passenger aircraft passing through full of civilians.

Again, this was a Ryanair jet that was forced down. The CEO of that company called what happened a, quote, state-sponsored hijacking. Ryanair is an airline that is based in Ireland. The Irish foreign minister today called it aviation piracy. Piracy. State-sponsored terrorism, state-sponsored hijacking.

What do we do about that? Who fixes that? I mean, it`s consequential stuff for the whole world. Whether or not you identify with the opposition in Belarus and want them to get rid of their dictator, whether you have even heard of Belarus, what does this mean in terms of the world and how we move about it?

Between Russian military equipment being used to shoot down a civilian airliner over Ukraine in 2014, and now Russian allied military equipment being used to force down a passenger plane over Belarus, passenger aviation is having to do some weird stuff now to avoid former Soviet air space, just logistically ridiculous, right?

Commercial passenger airplanes have to stay away from Ukraine because some Russian missile might shoot you down there, and they also now have to state away from Belarus because some Russian made fighter jet might force you down. I mean, Belarus and Ukraine are big countries. Air travel routes over that part of Europe and Asia is going to have to be as round about and weird as the shipping routes had to be to avoid the Horn of Africa to stay clear of Somali pirates.

And I know this is all far away stuff, but I think sometimes, though, it does make it easier for us as Americans to see these dynamics at work.

Timothy Snyder is a Yale history professor who is the author of "On Tyranny", which I talked about a lot on the show. It`s a sort of short, pocket sized, practical bible for resisting rising authoritarianism. And he had this to say about it today, which I found really helpful.

He said, quote, no matter how important you are, it`s unlikely that a dictator has scrambled a fighter plane to force down a passenger flight so he can arrest you. This just happens to the young Belarusian journalist Roman Protasevich. Protasevich is important because he told the truth about his own -- his own country. Last August, the Belarusian dictator, Alexander Lukashenko, sought to stage yet another fake electoral victory. His usual tactic of disqualifying and arresting opponents was not working. The wife of one of his opponents ran against him and almost certainly won.

After Lukashenko announced a victory anyway, Belarusians protested peacefully in very large numbers for months. Protasevich worked for NEXTA, a Telegram channel that provides Belarusians with the facts about what was happening in their own country. Does history happen if no one is there to report it? Foreign journalists were banned from Belarus. So, NEXTA, along with few others were one of few sources for people abroad who wanted to learn about the democratic movement.

Democracy is about rule by the people, and it depends on our awareness and confidence that people around the world care about it. Democracy rises and falls as an international phenomenon. I`ll say that again. Democracy rises and falls as an international phenomenon. A huge Democratic movement in Belarus and a place that seemed consigned to dictatorship is an inspiration for others around the world.

That people like to vote and have their votes counted is dangerous truth for most of the world`s governments. For Putin`s regime in neighboring Russia in particular, the spectacle of a neighboring country that wanted clean elections seemed like a terrible threat. The protests will eventually slow by pure violence from the Belarusian regime supported by Russia.

Tens of thousands have been detained in Belarus, many of them tortured in custody. Even against the background, reporters have been a special target. The hijacking of a plane now to arrest one reporter comes amidst arrests and imprisonments of many others. In every case, the supposed offense is truthful reporting.

Protasevich could now face the death penalty in Belarus. The state terrorism organized to silence one person reminds us just how important reporters are. Without the words, they provide us, without the words and the images they provide us. We have no chance of getting to the truth about oligarchy, war, elections, any issue that really matters.

No technology can replace them. There are far too few of them, and each one is precious. We should support them everywhere, abroad and at home. Reporters are the heroes of our time, in Eastern Europe and everywhere else, watching the risks they take and the price they pray, we should be ashamed to have any association with anyone who would say reporters are enemies of the people.

Sometimes it is easier to see these things from far away than it is to see them right here in front of us.

Joining us now is Timothy Snyder, professor of history at Yale University. He`s the best-selling author of "On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from 20th Century".

Professor Snyder, it`s a real pleasure to have you here tonight. Thank you so much.


MADDOW: You talk about democracy being a global phenomenon that rises and falls in a global way, and the necessity of people seeing democratic movements at work, both as an inspiration and as essentially shoring up our courage to do it ourselves. Given that, in the face of this flagrant, flagrant sort of offense in Belarus, what`s the right way for people who support democracy to stand up for Roman Protasevich and for democracy here?

SNYDER: Well, I think you have already made the basic point really beautifully, which is that if we want to have democracy, we have to have facts. And if we want to have facts, we have to have the people who produce facts. This is a problem all around the world.

And as you say, it`s a problem we might see more sharply in our own case if we first notice it abroad. Of course, it seems really extreme to have a dictator scramble a jet in order to arrest and abduct and now punish one journalist. But we have had a president who referred to journalists as enemies of the people. We`re not Belarus, that we have far, far, far too few journalists paid good salaries to cover local news. That`s one of our biggest problems as a country.

So, I think we need to -- one thing we can do morally is we can recognize these people. We call them dissidents when they`re abroad, but we don`t respect them at home. We can recognize these people for the courageous and heroic and necessary work they do.

When it comes to Belarus, I think we have to recognize that Belarus is in a neighborhood. This thing which just happened is, of course, an outrage, and the Belarusian state and Belarusian economy will be punished for it, but there`s no way this could have happened without Russia. There`s no way this could have happened without at the very least Russian permission.

And in a way, just by talking about Belarus and just by punishing Belarus, we`re missing that larger international question, because of course, what we said at the beginning, that democracy rises internationally, it also falls internationally. And Russia has that very much in mind. Of course, Russia is just as concerned if not more so about courageous journalists who report about democracy, who report on protests about democracy, who leave a legible record for people in their own country and around the world.

MADDOW: Talking with the staff of the show today about this story and about this topic, we talked a lot about press freedom and sort of small "D" democracy and some of the dots I was trying to connect here. But one of the other things that people were raising to me which has really stuck with me is that it does feel scary and unsettling to see the degree to which authoritarians, particularly those aligned with or in the model of Vladimir Putin, or Putin himself, their willingness to use force against their own people or against people they perceive as enemies anywhere in the world. This willingness to dissidents, to go after people in Britain, in Germany, even in the United States.

The fact this was a plane that was flying between Greece and Lithuania, two E.U. countries, that was never the -- a plane full of civilians that had nothing to do with Belarus. It does feels like there`s a sort of emboldening thing that is happening with authoritarians, particularly along the Putin model that is a real test for the west in terms of how much they can get away with outside their own borders.

SNYDER: Yeah, absolutely. On the one hand, these men are in a very fragile position. Lukashenko, even Putin, they`re not popular anymore. Lukashenko`s case, he lost an election to someone he never thought he could lose an election to. In Putin`s case, he`s facing a parliamentary election in September had which at least by the standards he expects, he`s also going to lose. So on one side, they`re fragile. But it`s their very fragility that emboldens them abroad.

It`s a very fragility which demands that there`s some kind of spectacular, as they see it, a success abroad. It was interesting to watch Russian propaganda today admire Lukashenko for the boldness of what he did, right? While all the rest of the world is condemning it, the Russians are saying this is a wonderful thing. We wish we had done it.

So it`s a combination where they`re weak, and therefore, they have to act abroad as though they`re strong. They`re losing at home, but around the world, democracy in general is weakening. And so, if you`re in a democracy, you can`t take it for granted. You have to realize that you`re in a fight, and that the values you`re asserting have nothing to do with the way the world has to be.

You have to build them out into the world. In a dramatic case like this, there`s a real opportunity to do something dramatic, which I`m afraid we`re about to miss.

MADDOW: Timothy Snyder, the author of "On Tyranny", professor of history at Yale University, professor Snyder, thank you for your time this evening. I was really happy to be able to talk to you about this tonight.

SNYDER: Thank you very much.

MADDOW: Just within the last hour, I will tell you President Biden has put out a statement on what happened with the Belarus -- with the Belarusian opposition journalist being arrested after that plane was forced down. President Biden calls it a direct affront to international norms and the United States condemns it in the strongest possible terms, calling it an outrageous incident. He said he`s asked his team for develop appropriate options to hold accountable those responsible in close coordination with the E.U. and other allies and partners.

He says: I applaud the courage and determination of Belarusian fighting for basic rights, including journalists like Roman Protasevich and opposition leaders. The United States will continue to stand with the people of Belarus.

Statement from President Biden tonight.

We`ll keep you posted. We got a lot more to get to tonight. Stay with us.


MADDOW: Whatever else happens in our lives, it will always be true we collectively lived through an unprecedented moment in American history in which the immediate past president of the United States had to pardon his campaign manager, had to pardon his longest standing political adviser, had to pardon his national security adviser, had to pardon his foreign policy adviser, had to pardon the deputy chair of his inaugural and his deputy chairman went to prison and his personal lawyer went to prison and his other personal lawyer is under federal investigation and he himself personally is named by prosecutors as an unindicted coconspirator in multiple federal felonies. And he himself is currently as we speak under active criminal investigation in two states.

This is our life. Congratulations. This is what we have done.

But even amidst that cavalcade of indicted and/or imprisoned or pardons conspirators of the former president, who wants to be president again, his campaign chairman specifically still manages to stand out, and is still making news today.

You`ll recall his name is Paul Manafort. He was convicted of multiple felonies including tax fraud and bank fraud. Much of it connected to millions of dollars in secret payments he got from his former employer, a pro-Putin authoritarian leader who used to rule in Ukraine.

Manafort served a small portion of his federal prison sentence before President Trump pardoned him right on his way out of office. But there has remained a sort of enduring mystery around Manafort`s short-lived cooperation agreement with Robert Mueller and why it collapsed. Prosecutors allege Manafort lied to them about a whole bunch of things and in lying to them, that voided his deal. It voided the Cooperation agreement that he had made with them.

The judge looked at all the evidence of that and agreed with prosecutors, but much of the court record of that episode has remained unredacted. Until now.

When they sought to void Manafort`s plea deal and have them effectively locked up and had the key thrown away because he shouldn`t get any credit for cooperating given he wasn`t really cooperating since he was continuing to lie to them, in the process of trying to get that done, Mueller`s lead prosecutor, Andrew Weissmann, told the judge that Paul Manafort had, quote, a series of lies about redacted -- Manafort had told a series of lies about redacted, redacted, redacted.

Speaking about those lies, Weissmann told the court, quote, the issue of blank, blank, blank is in the core of what it is that the special counsel is supposed to be investigating. Of course, the core of what the special counsel`s office was investigating were connections between the Trump campaign and Russia, while Russia was interfering in our election to try to help Trump win. That`s what we had.

Now the court has released less redacted versions of that transcript, that document around Manafort`s case. So, now, we know today in black and white what Trump`s campaign chair lied to prosecutors about, on pain of considerable prison time for doing so. Here`s Andrew Weissmann speaking to the judge. Quote, the issue of internal campaign polling data being sent to blank who the defendant conceded is extremely close to the senior leader in Russia, is in the core of what the special counsel is supposed to be investigating.

Another new document. Newly unredacted. Manafort lied to the government about his sharing of internal Trump campaign data with Kilimnik. That would be Konstantin Kilimnik, a long time business associate of Manafort who they say is a Russian intelligence agent.

Just last month, the U.S. government asserted Manafort did share those documents with Kilimnik, and he shared them with Russian intelligence. We have long known the broad outlines of this part of the story but we now know from these newly unredacted filings that number one, Manafort lied to prosecutors about the nature of the data he was sharing.

He insisted it was no big deal. It wasn`t internal valuable material. It was all just stuff you could get publicly anyway. That was a lie.

Also, he lied about whether he was giving it to someone who he knew would pass it on to the Russian government. Here`s the judge, quote, the event we`re discussing involved sharing internal confidential polling data covered by a nondisclosure agreement. Not only outside the campaign, but he`s sharing it with a foreign national with the intent it would be passed on to other foreign nationals, in this case, Russians.

Why would Donald Trump`s Kremlin linked campaign chair be sharing protected valuable internal campaign polling data with a Russian intelligence officer while Russia was carrying out an attack on our election to try to get Trump elected? That was what fully half the Mueller investigation was about. What Russia did to our election to try to elect Trump and how the Trump campaign was involved in it and perhaps assisted it. What we thought happened happened.

Trump`s campaign chair, Paul Manafort, sharing this kind of data with a Russian intelligence officer is the proverbial smoking gun in terms of how the Trump campaign was involved in it. Giving Russia material they could use to target their interference on Trump`s behalf, which they then did.

Andrew Weissmann, the prosecutor who led the case against Paul Manafort, joins us next.


MADDOW: Didn`t expect we would still be getting these, but I now have a feeling we`ll be getting these for a long time. Newly unredacted court filings and transcripts started to be released on Friday, have continued to be released over the course of today reveal that Trump`s 2016 campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, lied to prosecutors repeatedly about handing over sensitive internal Trump campaign polling data to a Russian intelligence officer, a man named Konstantin Kilimnik.

The documents unredacted today show Kilimnik bragging on at least eight separate occasions about him having access to internal nonpublic Trump polling data, and one court transcript we`re seeing today for the first time, a prosecutor on the special counsel`s office, Andrew Weissmann, describes what Trump`s campaign was providing to this Russian intelligence officer in August 2020, at that crucial turning point in the campaign while Russia was working to try to get Trump elected.

Weissmann told the court, quote, they`re in a meeting where they specifically talked about battleground states, the voters they wanted to appeal to there, and they`re talking about trends. The word trend is all over the data.

Joining us now is Andrew Weissmann, a former senior member of Robert Mueller`s team. He`s the author of "Where Law Ends: Inside the Mueller Investigation."

Mr. Weissmann, it`s great to see you. Thank you for joining us tonight.


MADDOW: I know that there are parts -- you have to be careful, your ethical obligations to the justice department as a former prosecutor are real and present and I know you take these very seriously, and I don`t want to ask you to talk about anything you are precluded from talking about by the ethical constraints that you are under.

With that said, at the time, you were detailing Manafort`s lies to the court in 2019, and we can see so much more of that now with the new unredactions, we have learned since then that he was passing on polling data to the Russian intelligence services. You told the court at the time that the polling data was about battleground states and the word trend was all over the data.

How should we understand the point that you were making to the court there? What should we take away from that given public information we have had since then?

WEISSMANN: Well (AUDIO GAP) there was a group of people that focused on Paul Manafort was that if there was going to be coordination with Russia by members of the Trump campaign, the thought was that Paul Manafort`s team seemed the likely person, not that there wouldn`t be other efforts and attempts which were documented, whether it was Roger Stone or in the Trump Tower meeting. But Paul Manafort, giving his connection to Ukraine, as you noted, and the Russia regime, seemed like the likely target.

And the Kilimnik meeting starting on August 2nd and going until past the election, and the actual inauguration, where we saw not only what it was that the Trump campaign was giving, but there was also a discussion of what it was that Russia wanted in return. Which was an effort to take over half of Ukraine, which was discussed before the election and after the election.

So, there was quite a lot of data there, as you noted. One of the things we learned from -- recently, is we did not know what Kilimnik did with the data. Obviously, we had strong suspicions he would have passed it on to Russian intelligence officers. But that`s now been confirmed by this administration. And you know, one has suspicions about where that came from. But that`s now been set in stone by the current DNI as to what Kilimnik did with this.

MADDOW: Can you talk about the suspicions a little bit? I mean, it is interesting that you and the special counsel`s office were able to figure out Manafort had given this stuff to Kilimnik. As you said, you did not determine, did not say anything about what Kilimnik did with it, but we do have this declarative statement now from the DNI, from the Biden administration intelligence community saying yeah, and then what Kilimnik did is he gave it to Russian intelligence, which of course, was running the operation to try to elect Trump.

Why do you think the Biden administration was able to declare that, to be able to publicly confirm that now?

WEISSMANN: This is just what I would say, you know, my informed speculation, but I don`t have any inside basis for this, but I assume that that came from a foreign government that knew the information at the time of our investigation but did not want to come forward given that Trump was the president. And they waited until he was out of office to share that with American intelligence. They said, I don`t know, that`s what happened, but that would be an explanation for why it is that American intelligence was able to learn this so quickly.

And, Rachel, one thing I would point out given the first segment on Belarus. I think the story and the story you told about Belarus are actually quite connected. Because we like to think that we`re quite different than Belarus, but this is really a story about, you know, corruption and our electoral system, about facts being undermined by the president`s use of the pardon power, and the inability to get to the bottom of exactly what happened due to obstructive conduct by various people. There really is an unfortunate parallel between your first segment and this one.

MADDOW: Yeah, and unfortunately, it doesn`t even have to be an analogy. And so, in this case, we`re talking about some of the same players involved in the same kind of corruption, just in different parts of the world.

Andrew Weissmann, former senior member of the Special Counsel Robert Mueller`s team, former FBI counsel -- Andrew, it`s great to have you here. Thank you.

WEISSMANN: Thanks so much, Rachel.

MADDOW: All right. We`ve got more ahead tonight. Stay with us.


MADDOW: For a full week, the cuckoo for cocoa puffs made up audits of the presidential election results in Arizona has been put on hold. They were so far behind schedule. They`ve been stretching this thing out so long, that they had to vacate the space they were using to do the audit to make way for high school graduations. They were off for a week but now they`ve moved back in. The Arizona recount thing is back on as of today. The whole clown car started back up this afternoon.

Now, as you know, as we`ve been covering, the audit is being run by a firm owned by a Trump Trump-supporting QAnon supporter, a firm called Cyber Ninjas to run this recount despite them having zero experience performing any kind of electoral audit anywhere before. Today, we learned this firm has even less experience than we previously understood.

Last week, in an attempt to sort of bolster his credentials as his firm continues to make a mess of this so-called audit in Arizona, the CEO of Cyber Ninjas bragged publicly about what an authoritative firm he runs. He says Cyber Ninjas, has, quote, worked for some of the largest names in the financial services space. Really?

Cyber Ninja`s CEO has, in fact, claimed that his company has done projects for such big named financial institutions as Citibank and JP Morgan Chase.

Well, "The Associated Press" reached out to those big financial institutions to find out what their experience was like working with cyber ninjas. Perhaps they could back up what Cyber Ninjas were saying that big financial institutions have trusted the Cyber Ninjas with all their sensitive information so the people of Arizona should trust Cyber Ninjas with their ballots and voting machines. Yeah.

It turns out not so much. From "The Associated Press", quote, two of the companies, Cyber Ninjas lists as former clients, Citibank and JPMorgan Chase, said through spokespeople that they have no record of hiring Cyber Ninjas. Shocker.

The recount of the presidential election results, the so-called audit has been one disaster on top of another since the day it started. But the whole operation restarted today with no end in sight.

Watch this space.


MADDOW: People took to the streets in Minneapolis this weekend marching with family members of George Floyd, whose death at the hands of Minneapolis police officers was one year ago tomorrow.

One of the officers in that arrest, Derek Chauvin, has, of course, been convicted of Mr. Floyd`s murder. Three other officers are still due to face trial. But tomorrow, Mr. Floyd`s family is going to meet in Washington with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, with several senators, and then they`re going to head to the White House to have a meeting with President Biden himself.

Now, this all comes as the police reform bill that`s named after George Floyd, the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, it has passed the House, but it`s been stuck in the Senate for months now. We, of course, will be watching tomorrow on this anniversary to see if the anniversary itself but also these events tomorrow, including this meeting with the president tomorrow by Mr. Floyd`s family, we`ll be watching to see whether that ups the pressure on the political forces that have been holding up that bill.

Watch this space.

That`s going to do it for us tonight. We`ll see you again tomorrow night.


Good evening, Lawrence.