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tv   The Rachel Maddow Show  MSNBC  August 8, 2017 9:00pm-10:00pm PDT

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'68. then six years later he resigned. on this day in 1974. and when you look at it along with modern day's disasters like katrina which happened on president bush 43's watch and batched response to it, it is all part of the reason why our political team here at msnbc wrote, august can be a cruel month for american presidents. thank you for being with us. good night from nbc news headquarters here in new york. i was on vacation for the past week and a bit. joy reed and the whole staff did a great job holding down the fort while i was gone. i'm very, very grateful to have had the time off. i'm also happy to be back. today is august 8th. on this date, three years ago,
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in 2014, a man named michael flynn was starting his new life. as one of the highest profile firings of the obama administration. mike flynn, of course, is now famous for having served very, very briefly as trump's national security adviser and also for being in the bull's-eye of the ongoing trump-russia investigation ever since. being trump's national security adviser was not the first high-profile washington job that mike flynn had. he had been hired by the obama administration to run the defense intelligence agency. now, it didn't work out, it didn't go well. in the end, he was perceived to have been a failure at that job. and by this week, in the summer of 2014, three years ago, he was gone. this is actually his first day after being fired three years ago today. forced out well in advance of how long he had been expected to stay. in that brief period, though, when michael flynn was running
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the defense intelligence agency during the obama administration, that agency did make really big news. it was news that seemed very alarming at the time. it set off days and arguably weeks of something approaching panic in the press. and in national security circles. the reassuring news, looking back on it now, is that that super scary news from michael flynn's intelligence agency back in april 2013 when he was still running that agency, that scary news from him and his agency turned out to be wrong. it seemed scary at the time, but it was wrong. >> today in the midst of all this, we learned with many caveats what north korea may be capable of. a member of congress for the first time in an open hearing read an unclassified study by our own intelligence agency, they can say with moderate confidence, quote, the north currently has nuclear weapons capable of delivering by
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ballistic missiles. >> that was not news tape from today. that was from the spring of 2013. when the defense intelligence agency under mike flynn set everybody's hair on fire. a republican member of congress, doug lambborn, read allowed a conclusion from the defense intelligence agency, which was then headed by mike flynn. and that conclusion was that north korea had achieved basically the holy grail in terms of its ability to threaten the continental united states. the dia report back in 2013 said that the north koreans had completed the process of miniaturizing a nuclear weapon. so it could fit onto a ballistic missile. they could shoot it off anywhere in the world. that set off a flurry of not quite panic, but something approaching that, until people realized, wait a second, maybe that's not true. at the time, the director of national intelligence had to come out and say, yes, this may be what mike flynn and his
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defense intelligence agency have concluded. but according to the dni, quote, it is not the consensus of the nation's intelligence community. the director of national intelligence at the time had to put out a written statement explaining that mike flynn and dia, they were alone on this. and furthermore, they were wrong on this. they put out a written statement from the director of national intelligence office, saying, quote, north korea has not yet demonstrated the full range of capabilities necessary for a nuclear armed missile. so everybody freaked out and they were like, maybe not. things calmed down even further when the south koreans came out and they also threw cold water on what mike flynn and his agency had reported back in the spring of 2013. south koreans are probably in a position to know, right? given their acute interest in the matter. given their proximity to the problem at hand. south korean defense ministry came out at the time and said, yeah, no. quote, we have no doubt --
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excuse me, we have doubt that north korea has reached the stage of miniaturization. that story in 2013 started off as a worry about north korea story. it ended up being a worry about our defense intelligence agency story. and the defense intelligence agency, it was not just a mike flynn thing. they already had a difficult reputation on matters like this. you might remember that that was the agency that argued vociferously more than any other intelligence agency that iraq had nuclear weapons. before the u.s. invasion of iraq in 2003. of course, at the time, not only did iraq not have nuclear weapons, they didn't even have a nuclear program. but dia insisted they had. they were wrong about that ten years earlier, they were wrong about north korea miniaturizing nukes in 2013. and not long thereafter, the head of the dia, mike flynn,
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found himself out on ice ear. now it's august 2017. and the "washington post" has just published what looks like basically a carbon copy of that screwed-up story from mike flynn's agency four years ago. citing a, quote, new analysis completed last month by the defense intelligence agency. the post reports that dia's confidential assessment is that north korea has successfully produced a miniaturized a nuclear warhead that can fit inside its missiles. it seems like the exact same thing we've gone through since 2013, without mike flynn. again, like we had in 2013, again we've got some indications from sources elsewhere in the intelligence world that maybe this is just dia, maybe this is not everybody. one u.s. official telling cnn
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tonight, this is not the consensus view from the entire intelligence community. so if you're feeling like you've heard this story before today, and if you have experienced this freakout before and it turned out not to be true, you're remembering that right. there are lots of reasons to are skeptical here. we've heard this story before when it turned out not to be the case. but last time in 2013, the south korean defense ministry came out and said, no, no, we don't think this is true. this time we're not hearing any words of caution from credible foreign intelligence agencies like that. this time, to the contrary, the defense ministry in japan, just today, published a white paper saying actually this could be true. japan's defense ministry said today, quote, it is possible that north korea has achieved the miniaturization of nuclear weapons. so, i mean, we have heard this story before. it wasn't true the first time we heard it.
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but this time there isn't anybody shooting it down aggressively like there was in 2013. and this year, there is some soft, or at least potential corroboration from japan which like south korea would sort of be in a position to know. i mean, this also comes at a time when we're getting used to undisputed reports, proof that north korea is making significant progress on their offensive capability. they set off a series of missile tests in the last few months that have shown genuine advancement in terms of how far out in the world they can project force. in mid-may, they shot a missile basically straight up into the air that went about 1,200 miles. analysts concluded had the north koreans aimed that missile at more of an angle, it could have conceivably have flown more than 3,000 miles. that sounds like an s.a.t. level math problem, right? the propulsion and distance and angle, right? just sounds like a math problem. but when reuters reported this
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evening that north korean state media tonight is broadcasting musings from that government, that they might launch a strike at guam, well, that 3,000-mile math problem becomes a relevant thing. because guam is just over 2,000 miles from north korea. if north korea really can provably shoot missiles that far, that means that the answer to that math problem, if it's true, means that guam is within their reach. not some weapon they might develop in the future, or that we might have intelligence fights how soon they will develop it in the future, but with the weapon that they have demonstrated now. have they reached a point where they can shrink one of their nuclear warheads and fix it to one of their missiles? i don't know. none of us do. or if they have any capacity with any of their missiles to survive reentry from the upper atmosphere, the height that an icbm reaches with its flight. if they can build that kind of
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missile and shrink the nuclear warhead to fit it on a missile like that, we still don't know if they can do all those things at once. you can get granular about this. the threat that the united states is most afraid of in terms of north korea's ability to hit the mainland united states, would require them to do a whole bunch of things that we don't know if they could do. it would require them to shrink their nuclear warhead, to be able to successfully launch and then control that icbm so it can actually hit its target. that missile also has to be able to survive reentry into the atmosphere, with its warhead intact. and they need to be able to do all of those things all at once with the same piece of technology. and avoid us shooting it down. and obviously there is great interest in our country in knowing whether or not they can do that now. or how soon they might be able to do all of that, if that's what they're trying for. but we have had relatively recent experience of spending days and weeks and even months in this country freaking out
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over u.s. intelligence reports on that capacity, that turned out first to be contested and then not to be true. and the reason our intelligence about them is often such a mess is because even more than most des poddic countries, they're called the her mitt kingdom for a reason, right? not just because of their deliberate secrecy, but because they seem so nuts to us on a diplomatic level. presumably that is on purpose. they don't want to be seen as a normal, predictable, rational country and they normally don't behave like one. they don't engage in the kinds of threats that normal people issue to each other. they threaten to turn an island off the coast of south korea into a nuclear sea of fire. remember when that comedy came out, that movie "the interview" that made a joke out of the plot to kill kim jong-un? they said it was provocative
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insanity. that it caused rage among north korean people. they've said that the united states looks like a boiled pumpkin. they say john kerry has a hideous lantern jaw. all sorts of racist terms to talk about president obama. and they became famous for making threats like crazy people make threats. right? this was just this week. they should be -- this is about us -- they should be mindful that the dprk that action will be taken mercilessly by the national strength. packs of wolves are coming in to strangle a nation. that was this week. what does that even mean? when there are so many scary things about wolves. like wolves strangling people? like wolves are going to come in and bite your face or steal your baby or something. but wolves coming in and
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strangling you? they don't even have any hands. like say you're going to stab somebody and their sense of humor. it doesn't make -- wolf paws can scratch you but they can't grab like a piano -- it doesn't even -- they're not even literal. but that kind of nutty over-the-top laugh out loud mixed metaphor threatening, that is something they have been doing for years. we're sort of acclimated to it. you can make funny comedic movies about it, right? the world has kind of acclimated to that, too. what the world has not acclimated to is an american president doing his version of the same thing. >> north korea best not make any more threats to the united states. they will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen. he has been very threatening
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beyond a normal statement. and as i said, they will be met with fire, fury and, frankly, power, the likes of which this world has never seen before. thank you. >> no, thank you. as a world, we're not happy about it, but we're used to north korea threatening to turn things into a sea of fire. we're not used to ha from an american president, from any american president. so this as the new variable in what is already an insane relationship, this is genuinely new. as is the just wild incoherence of the administration beyond the president. in terms of how they're handling this ongoing big problem, this international threat. two and a half weeks ago, mike pompeio said that basically, yes, the united states wants regime change in north korea. then last week, trump's secretary of state rex tillerson said the united states definitely does not want regime
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change in north korea. that said, later in the week, rex tillerson said the u.s. would agree to talk with the north koreans provided that the north koreans agreed the end result of the talks would be them giving up their nuclear program. that was last week. now rex tillerson, same guy, has a whole different set of standards they would have to reach in order to get talks with the united states. he's changed his mind on that as well. now he said he would talk with the north koreans as long as they stop doing their missile tests. meanwhile, vice president mike pence is busy saying there never will be any talks with north korea. we won't talk with them on any terms. and then the president depending on the day says that kim jong-un is a smart cookie and he would be honored to meet with him. and the united states is prepared to rain down fury and fire and power like the world has never seen. also we'll strangle you with our wolf paws. no, that was the other guy. remember when trump said he was sending an armada to north korea
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when there were no ships sailing to north korea at all? north korea popping off official statements that threaten nuclear annihilation is something we've acclimated to as a country and the world. the president making the same kinds of threats, we don't know if he means it, we don't know if north korea will believe that he means it. we don't know if this was a planned statement by the administration that it's been gamed out and anticipated, part of a strategy, or just something he felt like saying. remember when mike flynn was national security adviser? he came out in the briefing room and said, iran, you're on notice. nobody had any idea what it meant. it was completely dislocated from everything else the administration was doing with regard to iran. turned out it meant nothing. two weeks later mike flynn was gone, poof. is that what's going on here with the totally unprecedented threats to north korea? or is this part of a plan? where would we look for planning evidence, if it is a plan? how about the "national
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enquirer"? that's often a surprisingly blunt place. it is a bizarre thing, but if you're looking for something to strike your tuning fork, there is this supermarket tabloid that shows you more often than not the way that trump would like to be seen. this is what the "national enquirer" looks like now. trump takes charge. success in just 36 days. president trump tell-all, how i'm cleaning up obama's mess. since the election, mixed in with all this "fox & friends" style stuff, they repeatedly keep going back to trump declaring war on dictators. there's kim jong-un. on the cover of the "national enquirer." what did the trump talk about with vladimir putin that only the national enquinger is reporting on? apparently he talked about his plan to overthrow the dictator
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of north korea. the ones under siege are the north koreans, with icbms aimed at america's west coast. our president refuses to blink. he's outfoxing the north korean dictator. how he will solve the missile crisis just like jfk. i mean, where do you look to figure out what the president just did as part of a plan? just an aberration, something feeling to say in the moment or part of the way he sees his presidency as going? we have no idea what's going on inside the president's head. and we don't know whether it's just inside his head alone or a plan of his administration. but we've really never had an american president playing i'm rubber, you're glue with the north koreans before. so there is a brand-new, totally unprecedented craziness and surrealism problem in the u.s.-north korean relationship. for the first time includes our own government. you can take that separate and
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apart from the truly unanswered contested questions as to whether or not north korea has got nuclear tipped icbms that could hit the coast of the united states. it's been such contested intelligence in the past. but you know what, even if that new intelligence reported today, even if it turns out not to be true in terms of whether or not they've already miniaturized nuclear weapons, we know for sure that they've got artillery and short range and medium range missiles that are well developed that could easily devastate south korea and japan. we know they've got major stocks of chemical and biological weapons. you remember the assassination of kim jong-un's half brother at the airport. they used vx, they could have just shot the guy or knifed him. no, they wanted to show they can do it with a nerve agent. they are a chemical and biological weapons known power. he can put nerve weapons, and
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could hit a city like tokyo. they would be hitting a population center of over 30 million people. it's akin to california. north korea first tested a nuclear weapon in 2006. we know they've got some nuclear capacity. there's intrigue and mystery to the extent of their nuclear capability. the number of their weapons, how advanced those weapons are, how they could be delivered. but separate and apart from that, the radical confusion and lying and internal contradiction and threats from our new government, from our new administration, that is really the new element here. that is the new variable here that we have no idea how it's going to affect us. regardless of the extent of their nuclear capability, newly called into question today, what our new administration is doing with this new maybe strategic, maybe off-the-handle attack on
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north korea, this rhetorical attack from the president of north korea, the only thing we know about it for sure is that they are playing with absolutely untheoretical fire by advancing the conflict in this way. only invisalign® clear aligners are made with smarttrack® material to precisely move your teeth to your best smile. see how invisalign® treatment can shape your smile up to 50% faster today at
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introducing xfinity mobile. a new kind of network designed to save you money. ready? here's the story. >> got to run? >> don't miss a thing. listen to msnbc on sirius xm 118. you're watching msnbc. guam is 14 hours ahead of america's east coast time. it's mid-morning there tomorrow, mid-morning wednesday. guamians are digesting the news by reuters that north korea said that it's considering a plan to hit guam. according to reuters reporting, there have been discussions in north korean state media that north korea may launch a strike
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against guam. guam, physically the closest way for north korea to hit u.s. territory. the speaker of the legislature in guam is calling the news very disconcerting. he told the a.p., quote, we're just praying that the united states and the defense system we have here is sufficient enough to protect us. how significant are there concerns? how significant should they be? joining us now is the president of the global security foundation, and the guy i call on anything scary and nuclear happens in the world. joe, thank you for being here tonight. >> my pleasure, rachel. >> so, when "washington post" reported today that according to a defense intelligence agency report, north korea has achieved miniaturization of its nuclear warheads, that they can put them on missiles, what was your reaction to that news? how do you perceive those reports? >> there's a little bit of deja vu. we saw this before. this is not uncommon coming from the dia.
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they tend to be more hawkish, a little more speculative of the intelligence agencies. i was a little surprised because the vice chairman of the joint chiefs just a few days ago was emphasizing the hurdles that north korea has to achieve before it can have a reliable intercontinental nuclear missile. i still think they're several years away. but they're on the road, they're on the track. so it's not all that surprising. whether they have it or will have it in a year or two years, this is a real threat. this is a very serious program. >> whether or not the north koreans have significant new capability that we didn't know about before, whether or not the cia report turns out to be true, it seems to me what's very new in understanding this dynamic between our two countries is the behavior of the administration, especially the rhetoric today, the threat from president trump. how do you think that plays out? what effect do you think that
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has as a variable in this? >> this is probably the worst way a president could handle a threat like this. you want to be strong, you want to be calm, you want to be resolute, you want to be in sync with your allies. you do not want to play nuclear chicken with north korea. the seriousness of this situation cannot be overestimated. not because north korea can hit us, in a bolt out of the blue attack, that could take out los angeles or seattle, no. what you're worried about is you have two insecure, inexperienced, impulsive leaders in control of a vast amount of destructive force, squaring off in the most heavily militarized area on earth. a conventional war could kill hundreds of thousands of south koreans in the first few hours. a full-out conflict could kill millions, could devastate south korea, removing the 11th largest economy on earth. the danger is not that either leader wouldn't necessarily
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intentionally start such a war, but that they could stumble into it, a miscalculation, a miscommunication, a misunderstanding, it could quickly escalate. look at what north korea just did. they just threatened guam. hours after the president of the united states said that if you threaten us again, you'll be met with fire and fury. they are blowing through this president's red lines like tissue paper. what is trump going to do now? >> when the north koreans make threats to the united states, it's become something that's treated lk comedically in this country because they're so over the top, and because whether or not things are badly translated, their rhetoric is so hyperbolic that we end up sort of getting used to it and treating it like it's a joke. president trump echoed that today by saying we're going to be unleashing fury and fire and power like the world has never seen. is there something to be said for him speaking their language? is there anything that we know about how they might hear that
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type of language that has never, ever been uttered by an american president in the modern era toward north koreans over anything? >> right. they see it as justification of their worst fears. that the whole point of the united states is to eliminate kim jong-un. they're very narcissistic in their own way. they think the whole world revolves around them. so when the president threatens them like that, they go, see? we told you so. what do they do? they accelerate their military programs. look, years of sanctions, of isolation, of threats, of ignoring them, hasn't worked at all. that has not stopped their program. it sped it up. the only thing that has worked is negotiations. we froze their plutonium program for eight years with an agreement. we froze their missile program for eight years with an agreement. but when we don't talk to them, they speed it up. when you threaten them, they just stiffen. they feel that they have to be tougher than you are. that's a chicken game that you can't win. and that's what the problem is.
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what if donald trump decides that he doesn't like the maneuvers that north korea has undertaken. we're about to have joint u.s. and south korean exercises at the end of august. what if the north koreans decide that is actually a pretext for a preemptive attack on them, so they mobilize. the u.s. then responds. somebody fires something, and bang, it's off to the races in the most catastrophic war we've seen. we've been at war over 16 years in the middle east and south africa. we don't know this war. we don't know what a korean war would look like. the president's right about that. a korean war would be unlike anyone has seen since the end of world war ii. >> joe, thank you for being here, my friend. i appreciate your help tonight. >> thank you, rachel. all right. much more ahead tonight. busy news night. including just as we were going to air, some breaking news in the investigation into russia's attack on our election that involves the trump campaign
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we just got breaking news this evening, courtesy of "bloomberg news." do we have the headline up there? trump campaign turns over thousands of documents in russia probe. bloomberg reporting tonight that former trump campaign chair paul manafort and donald trump jr. have started turning over documents to the senate judiciary committee after that committee requested they turn over the records for the
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campaign's getting information from the russian government, or affiliated stories. related to the june meeting last year at trump tower involving manafort, kushner and donald trump jr. and apparently a whole bunch of russians. they were handed over to senate intelligence in response to that request. but according to the new reporting from bloomberg, the big kahoona is neither of them, it's the trump campaign. the trump campaign turned over about 20,000 documents, according to a committee spokesman. we knew that the leaders of senate intelligence, republican senator chuck grassley and dieann feinstein, they requested the documents be handed over by that date last week. paul manofort turned over different documents to the committee. this reporting tonight from bloomberg, this is new. the first evidence that both the
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president's eldest son don jr. and paul manafort turned over documents related to that meeting. with all those russian sources that we heard about last summer. and this is the first word that the size of the document response from the trump campaign to the senate intelligence committee numbered in the tens of thousands of pages. that news just breaking in the last hour tonight from bloomberg. there is also news that broke in britain that "the guardian" story is one that i truly do not understand. i'm perplexed by it. we're going to get an explanation as to what it means next. stay with us.
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prevagen. the name to remember. this happened. this was reported while i was away on vacation. i will admit to being slightly out of it. deliberately. while on vacation. that's what vacation's all about. look at me not reading the news. even still, when i read this thing that came out on friday, it did not make any sense to me then. and since friday, it has been further reported out, now it really doesn't make any sense to me. and i would like it to make sense. we're going to try to figure it out. okay. on friday, i was on a fishing boat. reported that two unnamed staffers from the intelligence committee in the house turned up in england. they turned up in london. politico reported specifically that they turned up at the offices of the lawyer of christopher steele.
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christopher steele is the former mi-6 agent that put together the dossier on donald trump. the committee's investigating the russian attack on the election last year and whether the trump campaign was involved in that attack. the committees made it clear they would be interested in talking to christopher steele at some point in their inquiries. in some way. over the course of those inquiries. what was strange about this story when it first came out in politico on friday was the news that the two congressional staffers who turned up at christopher steele's lawyer's office, nobody knew why they were there. and nobody knew who sent them. they were two republican congressional staffers, the democrats on that committee said they had no idea what this was about. they had no idea that the staffers had made that trip or what they were doing on that trip. nor did any members of the senate intelligence committee, which is investigating these same matters, nor did robert
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mueller's office, the special counsel's office, robert mueller who is supposedly carefully deconflicting with the investigatory committee, so they're talking to witnesses, requesting documents and stuff, doesn't mess with his criminal investigation. he didn't know that these people were going to show up at steele's office either. so politico reported friday that the two staffers showed up at steele's office, democrats on that committee didn't know anything about it. they reported that the senate investigators not only didn't know about it, they were livid when they found out about it, that they were worried, quote, that the aggressive move to derail their cooperation with their own probe. that was this very provocative reporting from politico on friday. on sunday, the top democrat on the committee in the house, confirmed that not only did he not know about the republican staffers from his committee taking a trip to christopher steele's office, he didn't know about it. and he said none of the
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democrats on his committee knew about it either. he further reported that the top republican who is supposedly in charge of the russia investigation, he didn't know about it either. staffers for that committee, going over there as part of this investigation, the guy running the investigation doesn't know about it? so mueller's office didn't know about it. the senate committee didn't know about it. none of the democrats in the committee knew about it and the republican in the house committee that the staffers work for, they didn't know about it either. what the heck were those staffers doing at christopher's office in london then? "the guardian" reports that the two staffers from the house intelligence committee who went to london to turn up unannounced at christopher steele's office, they were sent there by a long-stand i long-standing congressman, nunez, part of the trump
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transition. supposedly stepped aside from leading the russian investigation in march, after his weird stunt where he tried to claim that the real russia scandal was the obama administration. the house ethics committee is investigating whether he revealed classified information in that stunt. he, therefore, supposedly is not involved in the russia investigation. so how is it that his longtime staffer is dispatching people at taxpayer expense to go door stop christopher steel's office in london in a way that conceivably might screw up all the other investigations into the dossier part of the trump-russia story? he's able to send those folks off without the knowledge of anybody else involved in those investigations, including robert mueller, including the senate investigators, and not just the democrats but the republican congressman who is supposed to be running that investigation in that committee. how did that happen? what were devon nunez's guys doing showing up in london at
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christopher steele's office? confirming that congressman nunez is behind this secret attempt to contact the dossier author. nice to have you here tonight. >> good to be here. >> so describing it as a secret attempt, i'm flummoxed by the fact that nobody involved in any of these investigations knew about it. why does congressman nunez have the ability to dispatch people in this way? >> he's still chairman of the house intelligence committee, even though he stepped aside from the russia investigation. he still has control over resources, the staff, director, has worked for him since 2003. so obviously a nunez man in place. and he has the ability to use the resources and dispatch staffers. but it is incredibly unusual for this to happen for a foreign trip without other members of the committee being informed. this is way out of the norm. >> do we have any idea what
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those staffers did, once they went to steele's offices? we understand from your reporting, and from politico's information that they turned up unannounced. they tried to speak with steele's lawyer. do we know what they were asking for, what they were trying to do? >> well, the official line, given to me by the committee, is that they were just seeking to open a line of communication to the lawyers. and that seems odd, they could just pick up a phone or do a google search and open a line of communication. what i was told was that they were there on other business. but it wasn't made clear to me what that other business was. so there's a lot of mystery about this trip. >> i have to say, one of the things that has further surprised me, after your reporting, is that even the democrats on this committee who have been quite outspoken, haven't been shy at all in terms
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of talking the way they want this investigation run, they haven't raised a huge stink about this. they haven't expressed a lot of anger. there's been more bewilderment expressed rather than anger. do you have any insight into that reaction or the way this is being received by everybody else involved in these investigations. >> my sense is that the ranking democrat on the committee, adam schiff, just wants to get past this. he believes he has a good working relationship with mike conaway. he wants that to continue. he doesn't want to be derailed in a big fight with nunez over control of the committee. he believes, yeah, between him and conaway they can keep this investigation on the rails and not be derailed by nunez, and by an internal fight. >> last question for you. do you have any sense of whether we ever will see christopher steele testifying, or turning
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over documents, or in other ways working with any of these investigations either in congress or in the special counsel's office? >> i think it's unlikely as things stand now that he would come over to testify. i think it's more likely he might be open to answering questions in london, and schiff and conaway going over to talk to him. >> it makes it all the more weird that there are random staffers the guys had nothing to do with turning up ahead of them. julian borger, great reporting on that. thank you for helping us understand it. >> thank you. much more here tonight. stay with us. whoooo.
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there are two stories we've been watching unfold tonight about which i would like to get perspective from a well sourced pentagon reporter. the first story is the in us that the defense intelligence agency concluded that north korea can now miniaturize its nuclear warheads and put them on missiles. the dia said that four years ago as well and it turned out not to be true then. what is the pentagon saying now about this new reporting that looks so much like that debunked report from 2013? that's one. the other thing i want to ask about are these wild reports that the trump administration is actively considering sending a for-profit private army into afghanistan to run that war as a
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for-profit mission instead of having the u.s. military run it. sounds like an article, but this is our life now. joining me is exactly the person i can ask about both of these matters. courtney is a military reporter. thank you for being here. >> thanks for having me. >> i'm guessing you'll be able to dispatch this one more quickly. is the trump administration, is the pentagon really seriously considering hiring eric prince of blackwater fame to run the afghanistan war as a private mission? >> so, you may recall that back in early july, "the new york times" first reported about steve bannon, one of president trump's close advisers, setting up a mission on a saturday at the -- sorry, setting up a meeting on a saturday between secretary of defense jim mattis and eric prince, the founder of blackwater and a high-level executive at dime core. the times reported that it was actually the white house was
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pushing this idea, and it seems like it was more steve bannon. but secretary mattis took the meeting. a couple of days later mattis came down to the press corps area and we asked him about it. he said, i meet with a lot of different people. defense officials who we spoke with afterwards said, yeah, he met with them but it wasn't a real consideration. eric prince seems to be shopping this idea around again. he's done media interviews today. he did this extensive interview with "usa today" where he talked in a lot of specificity about this po toengsly 5,000 contractors, many of them special operations force, and private air force that would be used to replace the u.s. military currently operating in afghanistan. they would do advising of the afghan military. and this all comes on the heels of this -- of all of us waiting for the south asia strategy which we expected to come out weeks, if not months ago.
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obviously the administration just can't agree on a way forward in afghanistan, and in the region. >> is there any reason to believe that the pentagon and secretary mattis in particular are taking a second look at this? that they're any less dismissive of this than before? >> i think anytime the white house puts an idea in front of secretary mattis or people in the pentagon, they're going to consider it. i'm not getting any indications that they're getting any real backing from people in the military or pentagon. the problem is, at this point, you know, we've had these ideas that have been thrown forward that we thought were going to be announced by now, of several thousand more u.s. troops going into afghanistan to supplement the mission. the commander of the war there spoke openly about it in february saying he needed several thousand more troops. what's particularly surprising about this is the idea that the commander would come out and say this is what i need. and that the administration come back with a completely different
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plan. seeing somewhat dismissive of the general, the man on the ground tlr for more than 18 months now. >> let me ask you about the news we've been following all night. not just this reported dia conclusion and assessment that north korea has miniaturized nuclear warhead. we've obviously heard that from dia in the past. but we've also seen this threat from the president, basically threatening force against north korea. does that appear to have been an off-the-cuff threat from the president or did that come as part of a strategy? >> i don't get the sense it was any part of a strategy at all. what it is, is this building rhetoric between the u.s. and north korea. which we saw, of course, kim jong-un respond to by threatening guam. he said the capability of hitting guam for some time now, and the u.s. has responded by building up a military presence there, more than what existed, putting forward b-1 bombers into and over the korean peninsula,
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regularly. this seems to be more rhetoric on both sides at this point. >> courtney, appreciate your time tonight. good to see you. >> thank you. we'll be right back. day 13. if only this were as easy as saving $600 when you switch to progressive. winds stirring. too treacherous for a selfie. [ camera shutter clicks ] sure, i've taken discounts to new heights with safe driver and paperless billing. but the prize at the top is worth every last breath. here we go. [ grunts ] got 'em.
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it is great to be back from vacation. i missed every single one of you every single day. kind of. but i swear i'll be back tomorrow. time for "the last word" with lawrence o'donnell. >> kinda. oh, rachel, it was so nice.
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then you just pulled it back a little bit. >> i want you to know that as a general matter, generally speaking, i missed everybody every day. but i want to be clear that i'll always be honest with you as well. >> so it was all there. >> one of those things that actually supports the integrity of the statement. >> i hope so. >> yeah. no, did it work? >> yeah. hardworking asterisk. >> perfect. rachel, so great to have you back. >> thank you, my dear. >> thank you. at a time that not could not be more serious for the united states white house, united states of america, and the world, a poll says that 24% think they can believe what they hear from a trump white house. a white house now in the nuclear standoff with north korea. today the president of the united states was filled with fire and fury. >> the crisis with north korea leaves an unsettling new level today. >> the president of the united