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tv   The Rachel Maddow Show  MSNBC  June 24, 2017 3:00am-4:01am PDT

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it means useful idiot. >> ben white, nina, thanks for stopping by. that is hardball for now. the rachel maddow show starts right now. the washington post today dropped this huge story. it's more of a small book really about the russian attack on our presidential election last year and how the obama administration came to recognize that that was happening, what they understood about it, and importantly, how they reacted to it once they realized what it was. in just a moment, we are going to be joined live by one of the reporters who broke that story. >> it's ten front page worthy scoops. among the scoops the washington post got for this report is that u.s. intelligence agencies
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somehow have access or had access to a source of intelligence that was very, very, very close to vladimir putin. that is intriguing just on the surface, just for the pure spy novel lurid thrill of it. we have somebody close to putinen or something close to putin. "the post" to its credit makes clear how extraordinary that is beyond just the wow factor. >> he rarely kmuks by phone or computer. he always runs sensitive state business from deep within the confines of the kremlin, but nevertheless, the u.s. somehow got access to intelligence, got access to information that
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apparently could only have come from very close to him. according to "the post" u.s. intelligence agencies sourcing when it came to attributing an author, when it came to attributing blame for the russian attack, their sourcing came from "deep inside the russian government." deep enough inside the russian government that what they had -- what they had intelligence about, what they had a report about was the direct personal individual involvement of vladimir putin in directing this campaign. i mean, putin is a guy who is so secretive, russians were not even allowed to know the names of his children until recently. or, in fact, that he definitely had them.
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>> i have no idea what an intelligence source is. it is remarkable that the washington post has been able to report that. the nature of the source of intelligence. the source of the intelligence is if the source is a human source. that's just palpable, right? how do you think putin reacted to reading this in the washington post today? the sensitivity of the united states having an intelligence source so close to putin, that is apparently what drove a lot of the extreme secrecy within the u.s. government about what the intelligence agencies knew concerning the russian attack. "the post" has some incredible details on that today, including them shutting off all of the monitors, like the tv screens -- shutting off all of the monitors around the situation room in the white house when senior officials were meeting to discuss these matters.
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>> it's some of what our agencies know. sort of gets this early why it's so important that that kind of information shouldn't ever fall into the hands of anyone who, say, is beholden to russia for some reason. that is one of the things the washington post unveiled today. such a sensitive thing. it's almost impossible to believe that we get to read about it in the paper. i should tell you, though, there are sources for this report. according to them they're "more than three dozen current and former u.s. officials in senior
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positions in government." presumably they've got this nailed down, right? three -- more than three dozen sources. it's a remarkable thing that they've been able to report out today, but with that many sources, presumably they have nailed it. in addition to that incredible scoop about the source of this intelligence being so close to putin there's a bunch of really other specific information that we never really knew before that tells us a lot more as citizens about what happened to us last year. they described, for example, the fbi and the state department noticing and getting alarmed about an unusual spike in requests from russia for temporary visas for officials with technical skills seeking permission to enter the united states for short-term assignments at russian facilities.
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people weren't, like, hey, weren't there three other guys name sergei applying for this visa? how do they know about the tech skills of all these russians that were trying to get into the country for short-term assignments right before the election? that's an incredible detail. "the post" also reports somewhat ominously that the russian attack on our election was not entirely remote controlled. i don't know if this relates to the part about russians with tech skills trying to get in on short-term visas, but "the post" reports today that the obama administration believed that some of the russian attack last year, at least some of the people who participated some way in that attack, were russians who were not in russia. they were russians who were physically located here in the united states when they were
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helping in the attack. that obviously previously unreported. i don't understand exactly what that means and how much of a handle the obama administration and inevitably the trump administration had on who those russians are or were. again, there's a ton in this story from the washington post. i'm very much looking forward to talking about that in just a moment. it's not just a collection of granular little scoops like these ones i've been talking about, though. there is an overarching framework to what the washington post has reported today. how does russia get away with this. not just what did he try to do, but how did they get away with it. especially now that we know the various parts of the government were able to conclude
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confidently not only that the attack was underway while it was underway, but they knew who was doing it. how did they get away with it? how have they continued to get away with it? i should tell you that nbc news has an exclusive story out just tonight about the trump administration and how they have done nothing. how they have taken little meaningful action since trump has been in office to shore up u.s. defenses to protect our elections infrastructure in particular. let alone, to retaliate in any way against russia for having done what they did in our election last year. depending on how you feel about the trump campaign and their own special relationship with russia on this issue, the news that they're doing nothing to try to prevent it from happening again in the future and they're doing nothing to respond to russia, having done it last year, that may or may not be surprising to you. why did the obama administration not do more than they did once they realized what was going on? this big report from the post that hints at the u.s.
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government having a lot of options if they really did want to go after russia, if they really did want to retaliate and hit russia in response for what they did. specifically there's some new and very provocative news in this washington post piece where they describe what sounds like rather epic american capacity for hitting russia using cyber tactics. i'm being a little vague about this because "the post" is a little vague about it. "the post" is newly reporting that before he left office, president obama approved a covert measure that "authorized planting cyber weapons inside russia's infrastructure. the digital equivalent of bombs that could be detonated if the united states found i was itself in an escalating exchange with moscow. oh. that work was started under a covert authorization signed by president obama before he left office.
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even before this program in ways to hit russia, even before this, the u.s. has previously been clear that whenever the russians can do to us in terms of cyber attacks or whatever the north koreans can do to us or the chinese or anybody else who devotes massive state resources to developing this capacity, the u.s. has been clear in the past that they believe that our nsa, our cyber command has more firepower in that regard than any other country on earth. >> the united states has the
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power to inflict devastating consequences if twhe chose to do so. why didn't they choose to do something when the obama administration recognized what russia was doing with our election? the way "the post" lays it out, they give two types of answers to that question. one of them is domestics to the u.s., and it is sort of exasper ating to think about a national security matter like this having domestic political constraints about it. that's the way it is.
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when he was saying that the elections are rigged, the whole thing is rigged, he wasn't saying the russians were rigging our election. he was saying that the u.s. deposit, right, the obama administration or maybe even the clinton campaign, the democrats were rigging the election to favor hillary clinton. because he was campaigning on that, the political consequence of that in terms of this national security issue is that the obama administration apparently felt contrained in how dramatically they could respond to this attack and how much they could even talk about exactly what they knew the russians were doing because with that stage having been set by trump, this is all rigged, they want to interfere in this election to help clinton, with that stage having been set in terms of our domestic politics, the obama administration believes whatever they said and whatever they did about the attack on our election would have been called proof. proof of what trump has been saying all along.
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they've made up this story. this is how they're going to rig the election and steal the election for clinton and going to blame it all on this russia thing. >> when you are serving the good of the -- you don't want to end up in a situation where a significant portion of the country thinks they have great reason to believe that we didn't just have an election. right? that it was all rigged. that it was stolen, and they should, you know, turn to some other means to install their leader, right? you don't want to mess with that. they felt constrained because of that worry. that was the domestic constraint. >> the other constraint they felt is something that is less
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sort of exasper ating about our politics and more straight ahead scary. according to "the post's" report one of the reasons that -- the other main reason the obama administration "ruled out any pre-election retaliation against moscow is because they feared what putin might do in response about the election. they feared that putin was prepared to go beyond fake news and e-mail dumps. "the fbi had detected suspected russian attempts to penetrate election systems in 21 states. at least one senior white house official assumed that moscow would try all 50. michael daniel, who was cyber security coordinator at the white house, tells "the washington post" "we turned to other scenarios that the russians might attempt." ""as brazen as the russian attacks on the election seemed, obama and his top advisors feared that things could get far worse.
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it soemd unlikely -- far more worrisome to the obama team was the prospect of a cyber assault on voting systems before and on election day. worrisome to the obama team was that prospect. part of the reason they didn't throw everything they had at the russians, which appears to be a considerable amount of stuff they could have thrown, part of the reason they didn't do anything to russia about this before the election was because of how it would play politically here in the united states. this question -- an important question of whether americans would have confidence that our election was not being rigged by the outgoing administration in order to install somebody who had been secretary of state in that administration as the next president. there was that domestic concern. the other part of their red sebs to do anything before the election was driven by the fact that they believed, apparently, that russia could blow up the election if they wanted to. that beyond the bots and the propaganda and the stealing the
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documents from the democratic party and releasing them in a way designed to cause damage, despite beyond all of that stuff, which we all know about now, apparently the obama administration believed that whatever russia did with the voter roles and all those probes of election systems and all the other poking around that they were told they did in counties and in dozens of states before the election, the obama administration apparently believed that maybe the russians were capable of melting the whole thing down on election day. the americans could vote or the votes couldn't be counted or the votes could be changed in a catastrophic way. learning that fear is part of what constrained the obama administration's reaction, honestly that's the way we learned as a country today that the obama administration apparently believed that russia could do that. that russia had that capacity. they could have absolutely blown up our election if it they had wanted to. if they had there capacity last year, presumably that means they still have it for whatever they
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want to use it. there's a lot that the washington post has just broken here. like i said, it's like they took ten page-one scoops and put them all in one big story. with that fascinating framing in terms of how the obama administration has responded. we'll speak with ellen nakashima in a moment. i do want to do something else. i want to share with you something that's a little bit of a scoop that we just got tonight. at the start of this week, you might remember the "new york times" ran a story about the cia director mike pompeio. not every cia director is involved directly in things like the president's daily brief. not every cia director is at the white house every single day.
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"the times" was able to report at the beginning of the week that that warning from sally yates, that wasn't something that the upper echelons of the department of justice concluded and worked on in isolation. what "the times" reported at the beginning of this week is that the cia -- the cia officers were also involved in forming that assessment about mike flynn in reviewing the evidence that led to that warning. cia officers had apparently reviewed the intercepted communications between mike flynn and the russians. they've seen those intercepts directly. even so, despite that direct involvement of his agency, despite the cia being in on what was so worrying about mike
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flynn, mike pompeio apparently never talked to the president about it himself. even beyond that, the director of the cia kept discussing sensitive intelligence matters with mike flynn in the room at the white house. even after all of these concerns had been raised about mike flynn, including by pompeio's own agency. there are a lot of questions that have yet to be answered about why the white house as a whole was still okay with keeping mike flynn in his role as national security advisor for 18 days after they got this dire warning about him and him being compromised by a foreign power. it's one thing, though, to ask those questions about the president and the white house that he is running. we will get to the bottom of that at some point. it's another thing to ask those questions about the guy who is head of the cia. right? the cia, after all, is the holder of very, very, very sensitive, very secret
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information, oh, by the way, we have an intelligence source right next to vladimir putin way inside the kremlin. the cia holds that information. if they're being cavalier about somebody who has been compromised by a foreign power still getting access to tons of top level intelligence, that's a different level of worry than if it's some, you know, novice group of branding people in the white house. the times reported that at the start of this week. right after that report on wednesday, democratic congressman elijah cummings, top democrat on the oversight committee, he wrote to white house chief of staff reince priebus demanding to know how the white house had handled the issue of mike flynn's security clearance. after they had been formally notified by the justice department that flynn was a security risk. we have posted cummings' letter at nadoblock.com. detailed, granular. times, dates, people, places. it's going to be one of the things that ends up being an
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important reference document if nothing else. if mike flynn and the white house handling him of national security advisor stays at the center of these inquiries into the washington attack. in addition, it's questions about flynn and why he was still able to listen in on the most sensitive intelligence our government has. in addition to that, in this letter elijah cummings and the democrats on the oversight committee, they also raised the question of the security clearance. not just for flynn, but also the one that had been issued to jared kushner, the president's son-in-law. although mike flynn and jared kushner are different breeds of cat, they do both have multiple high level contacts with russian officials that have yet to be explained, that they didn't publicly disclose until they were forced to by press reports, and importantly, the russian contacts that both of them had were apparently not included on their applications for their security clearances from this
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white house. congressman cummings, top democrat in the oversight committee, raises this question of whether or not jared kushner should also be keeping his security clearance. especially since he is a currently serving official now. given his meetings with russians, given what was apparently an effort to keep those meetings secret, given them not disclosing them on i a security clearance application. that's all interesting stuff, right? congressman cummings raises interesting points. as i say, we're going to post that letter on-line so you can read it for yourself. it's granular, detailed. he makes a very good case. you know, it's just a democrat, and the oversight committee in the house, like every committee, is controlled by the republicans. honestly, the republicans on the oversight committee do not want to investigate russia, and they do not want to talk about anybody in the trump administration having secret meetings with the russians or maybe not deserving their security clearances. they do not want to talk about any of that. a democrat on the committee
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writing a letter is -- even if it's a good letter raising good points, it's just a democrat on a committee writing a letter. that brings us to our teeny tiny little scoop tonight, which is this. >> on the right side there, it's signed by a couple of democrats. right side on the bottom is sheldon white house, senator from rhode island. dianne feinstein, senator from california. looky lew on the left. lindsey graham, senator from south carolina, republican. chairman of the subcommittee on crime and terrorism. and above him, chuck grassley, republican, senator from iowa, chair of the judiciary committee. what all four of them, including the chair and the ranking member and the chairs and the ranking member and the chair and the ranking member from the relevant subcommittees, they are all signing a bipartisan letter written to the acting director of the fbi and to the white house to marcia lee kelly,
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deputy assistant to the president and director of white house management and office of administration. dear ms. kelly, dear acting director machine cabe, "we are briegt to request information related to jared kushner's security clearance." they lay it out about kushner not disclosing his meetings with foreign officials, including russian officials, his application for top secret security clearance not including those meetings. question one, what is the status of mr. kushner's security clearance? what is the nature of his clearance? what level of information has he been cleared to receive? what are the dates on which major decisions concerning his security clearance were made? number two, did president trump or any other official intervene in mr. kushner's background investigation? any determination that he was eligible for a clearance or at any other point in his security clearance process? it goes on from there.
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they have cc'ed their letter to jared's lawyer. they want their answer by july 6th. again, bipartisan leadership of the judiciary committee, including republican chairman chuck grassley, demanding that the white house hand over information on kushner's security clearance, including the question of whether or not president trump or any other white house official intervened in the decision to grant it to him. to amaze his audience. great show. here you go. now he's added a new routine. making depositing a check seem so effortless. easy to use chase technology, for whatever you're trying to master. isaac, are you ready? yeah.
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susan collins. watch what she asks here, and then watch the response from the fbi. >> is there any evidence that the russians have implanted malware or back doors or other computer techniques to allow them the easier access next time to our election systems? >> i'm sorry, senator. i just can't comment on that because of our pending investigations. >> no comment on that. no, we can't just say no, we don't believe so? she's asking did the russians put malware or back doors or anything else in our computer systems, our election systems that allow them easier access next time? no comment. we are all delighted that whatever the russians were doing messing around in the voting systems in more than 20 states last year, at least they didn't blow things up on election day as far as we can tell. could they?
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could they have last year? were they putting malware in there so they could do it in the future if they want to? that was on wednesday. now, today there's this from the washington post. this opus which among many other things lays out the concern by the obama administration that if the -- if they had retaliated for the russian attack, russia might do something to our election that's far worse than what they've done already. they were worried about that because apparently they believe that the russians could have blown up our election if they wanted to. joining us now is ellen, she's national security reporter for the washington post, one of the reporters who wrote this blockbuster piece today. congratulations on this opus today. it's a real achievement. thanks for being here. >> thank you. >> so one key piece of your reporting, and this is a complex piece, is that the obama administration was very worried as to what the russians might do
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in response if there was a strong pushback, a strong american response to the attack before the election. is it clear that the obama administration had a clear understanding of the russians' capables? >> in fact, the white house did undertake a pretty in depth review of what the vulnerabilities is of the electoral system were last summer, and they had a top voting system expert in the country heading up that team. what they found was because there's something like 3,000 voting jurs disdictions in the country, each one having its own different type of election system or voting system, it would, in fact, actually be quite difficult for anyone to come in and hack a voting machine and change the results across the country. or even change the results in any large area. it would be because of the
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heterogenity of the systems, it would be quite difficult. with that, they turned to other scenarios that they thought might be more possible. such as mucking with the voter registration systems. as you heard this week, there were efforts to target at least 21 states. they were not successful in actually getting in and compromising many of these systems. in fact, one of my sources at the department of homeland security said there was hard evidence of only one state in which a voter registration system was compromised, and that was in illinois. be that as it may, the white house was very concerned that they could still do some -- they could still do damage by going in and let's say, deleting a voter' name, flipping two digits in its address so when he came to the polls, his voter registration didn't match up, and he might be turned away. that's the sort of thing that could cause confusion and
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ultimately could, you know, cause doubts about the integrity of the outcome. >> and presumably, if they could do that on a large scale, again, it's hard to do anything industrial scale in our election system because it is so heterogenious. if you could do it in some mechanized way, that could materially affect things, but, again, that's just a hype -- that was just a hypothetical worry for them. >> and take this as a test run, right? the russians were probing, and we know they're going to come back and try again. they could just keep improving their skills and their sophistication. >> can i ask you also about the very dramatic opening to this piece today at the washington post, the description about the intense secrecy around this information that the u.s. government had, the cia treating as intensely, intensely secret the information that they have last summer about what was going on with the attack and the authorship of it.
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basically, who could be blamed for it. was that secrecy driven, in part, it or driven entirely because of the source of the intelligence, how they knew? the way that you guys wrote the story today, it makes it seem like there may be very sensitive intelligence sources close to putin. whether or not they're u.s. intelligence sources, and the cia was willing to go to extreme lengths to keep those sources protected. >> this was very highly classified information. i also don't want to get into what we say in the story as to the sources because we don't want to -- we were asked to withhold some of the information to protect the sources and methods of that. >> yes, it was very sensitive and highly classified, and so it was restricted. initially, in fact, to just the president and three senior aides.
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>> the capacity to hurt russia through cyber technology means through cyber warfare means, i guess you're supposed to say. has the -- sense you published today, has there been pushback, anger? are the intelligence agencies upset with this much being known. the question about what people talk to reporters about now is a very -- >> we've had no pushback or heard nothing from any of the intelligence agencies about that. you know, we -- before we ran the story, we checked with the agencies. we included their no comments. i think we got no comments from the fbi, nsa, cia, the white house on that. >> national security reporter for the washington post, part of
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this reporting team. just an epic piece today on what happened last year and how our government dealt with it. thanks for being with us tonight. congratulations. >> thank you. >> we have more to come tonight. stay with us. and choose what's right for you. woah. flo and jamie here to see hqx. flo and jamie request entry. slovakia. triceratops. tapioca. racquetball. staccato. me llamo jamie. pumpernickel. pudding. employee: hey, guys! home quote explorer. it's home insurance made easy. password was "hey guys." it's home insurance made easy. gave us the power to turn this enemy into an ally? microsoft and its partners are using smart traps to capture mosquitoes and sequence their dna to fight disease. there are over 100 million pieces of dna in every sample. with the microsoft cloud, we can analyze the data
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today republican senator dean heller of nevada became the fifth republican in the senate to come out against the republican bill to kill obama care. that's important because dean heller is number five to say no, and if only three of them say
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no, the bill dies. now after heller on top of those five who are saying no, two more republican senators, senator susan collins of maine, and rob portman of ohio, they're also now saying they have grave concerns about the bill, although neither of them is coming out and saying they're a no. again, republicans can only lose up to two senators on this thing or it will fail. we're now looking at five to seven republican senators are either no or gravely concerned. as you might imagine, in that environment with the math that tight, the pressure is turning up, and that means people are turning up. in maine today protesters showed up at three of senator susan collins' home state offices urging her to say no to oppose the bill. on a rainy afternoon in ohio today senator rob portman's constituents laid down on the wet sidewalks and protested the bill that was outside four of his district offices in ohio. protesters also showed up at the
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airport in washington d.c. yesterday thinking that might be an interesting bottleneck spot to try to catch senators on their way home so they could tell them to vote no on the bill. in pennsylvania senator pat toomey says he supports the bill. his constituents held a series of 24 hour-long vigils throughout the united states. they stayed outside his offices through the night and into the morning. this afternoon constituents showed up at senator jeff flake's office in phoenix, arizona, in the scorching heat. they wanted the staff to get him on the phone so they could tell them which way he plans to vote. this is from outside one of senator tom cotton's offices that posted tom cotton, we're outside your office. talk to us about the bill that will take away 300,000 in our kansas's health care. >> he has been silent on whether he supports the bill or not. there's a lot of that. a lot of silence and reviewing
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and considering and having concerns going on among republican senators, but time for that is running out. republican leadership in the senate says they want a vote next week. do they have the votes? do they not? a lot of that will depend on what happens, i think, in their home state offices and on their phone lines over the next five days. watch this space. garfunkel (instrumental) [ snoring ]
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from, if you want to visit the united states, you might need a visa to do so. you have to explain to the u.s. government why you want to come here before you get permission to come here. the visa is ugly specific. you can apply as a religious worker. you can apply as a temporary agriculture worker. you can apply as a treaty trader. also, what's a treaty trader? whatever the case, you pick up the type of visa that you need. the u.s. consulate looks at your application and they decide whether or not to let you into the united states. last year before our presidential election the people in the u.s. government whose job it is to look over all those visa applications, they reportedly noticed something new. they noticed a big uptick in a certain kind of visa request from a certain country. this is from today's blockbuster story in "the washington post." officials at the state department and the fbi became alarmed by the unusual spike in requests from russia for temporary visas for officials with technical skills seeking permission to enter the u.s. for
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short-term assignments at russian facilities." that surge of requests for that super specific visa caught the attention of the who apparently put the kabosh of it. the state department delayed approving those visas until after the election. what's that all about? joining us now is ned price, a former spokesman and senior analyst at the cia. he was a spokesman and senior director of the national security council for president obama. ned, it's nice to see you. thank you for being here. >> good to see you too. >> one of the things that the washington post reports here is that there was this uptick in visas. they also report that the u.s. government believes that some of the people who participated in the attack were here on u.s. soil when they were doing that work. does that make sense to you in ermz it of what we understand about the attack, why russians would need to physically be here hoo for what we think of as an attack that happens, you know, in the cloud, in the internet? >> well, to my mind, it does,
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rachel, and this detail about an uptick in visas, it's a reminders in some ways spies are just like us. in order to travel overseas for work, they have to apply for visas. in this case they probably applied for diplomatic visas. they did so under the theory of traveling under official cover. what's called official cover. that is the most common usage of cover. that is to say cover legends that intelligence services around the world use. now, not always do intelligence officers travel under official cover. sometimes they go under what's called non-official cover. the russians are pretty adept at this. you may recall that in 2010 the fbi rounded up ten so-called russian illegals where, that is to say russians who had illegally assumed american identities and had been living here for decades collecting intelligence in an effort to send it back to moscow. in this case, though, it unds so like the individuals came here
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under official cover requesting diplomatic visas. of course, they're not going to say i'm a russian intelligence officer. they may say, for example, i'm with the ministry of defense or ministry of foreign affairs, but in doing so it made it much easier for the fbi to spot this uptick and to deny the visas, at least until the election was over. >> and this is reported as being something that was concerning to both the fbi and the state department in terms of the way these things normally work. are you surprised to hear or unsurprised to hear that the fbi would have noticed this uptick. the state department might have recognized there's some strange surge in those kind of am applications? is that the national security monitoring those of us outside the business should expect? >> i think it's certainly in our interest, and americans should expect that the appropriate authorities are closely monitoring russia entering this country, especially on diplomatic visas. the thing is the russian intelligence services are singular in terms of their sophistication and their hostility. if we see an uptick like that,
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especially before the election when we have a growing body of intelligence indicating to vladimir putin's plan to meddle in our election, that should accepted off red flags. growing intelligence indicating vladimir putin to meddle in our election, that should send off regular flegs. if it didn't, our national security community will be derelict. they flagged this trend and.stopped it before it could become a problem. >> ned price, thank you for being here on a friday night and helping us understand this. really appreciate it. >> thank you. >> i read as many spy novels as the next guy, but some of this stuff i had no idea this is the way it wokd. i feel like i got a lot smarter today just readinging this one thing in "the washington post." we'll be right back. remote moisture sensors use a reliable network
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to prepare is our closing story tonight, and that's next. . one drop in each eye, twice a day. common side effects include eye irritation, discomfort or blurred vision when applied to the eye, and unusual taste sensation. don't touch container tip to your eye or any surface. remove contacts before using xiidra and wait at least 15 minutes before reinserting. chat with your eye doctor about xiidra. p3 it's meat, cheese and nuts. i keep my protein interesting. oh yea, me too. i have cheese and uh these herbs. p3 snacks. the more interesting way to get your protein.
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gave us the power to turn this enemy into an ally? microsoft and its partners are using smart traps to capture mosquitoes and sequence their dna to fight disease. there are over 100 million pieces of dna in every sample. with the microsoft cloud, we can analyze the data faster than ever before. if we can detect new viruses before they spread, we may someday prevent outbreaks before they begin. (i wanted him to eat healthy., so i feed jake purina cat chow naturals indoor, a nutritious formula with no artificial flavors. made specifically for indoor cats.
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purina cat chow. nutrition to build better lives. good evening. justice louis powell, a courtly southerner surprised almost everyone today by announcing his retirement from the u.s. supreme court. his decision touched off a flurry of speculation on who the president will appoint as a replacement and how that will affect the direction of the court and, of course, the country. nbc correspondent carl stern reports tonight what makes the retirement of the 79-year-old justice so significant is the special role that he played on the court.
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>> since louis powell put on the robe 15 years ago, it was often his vote that made the difference. whether voting conservative as president nixon hoped when he appointed him, or liberal, powell has been the so-called swing vote. the court didn't change much when ronald reagan named sandra day o'connor and antonin scalia had roughly the same philosophy he replaced, warren berger. but powell's departure gives president reagan his first big chance to shift the court solidly to the right. >> louis powell unexpectedly announced his retirement in 1987 on the final day of the supreme court's term that year. and his retirement gave president reagan a chance to shift the supreme court solidly to the right. president reagan tried to do that. he nominated an ultra conservative named robert bourke, and famously that did not pan out. bourke didn't get the seat. the seat ultimately went to a more moderate justice named
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anthony kennedy. not only did anthony kennedy take over louis powell's seat, he also continued the tradition of that seat being the swing seat, the swing vote on the court. justice powell's announcement that he was retiring happened 30 years ago this upcoming monday, june 26th, 1987. and it just so happens that this coming monday is also the final day of this current supreme court term. and end of the term is sometimes when retiring justices like to make that announcement that they're going. so heading into monday, there's some shpilkes 30 years after justice powell's announcement, his replacement, justice kennedy, the current swing voter on the court. maybe if he's going to retire, that might conceivably be the day he'd announce it. that leave president trump of course with yet another pick for the supreme court and an opportunity to shift the court significantly to the right if he can confirm someone significantly more conservative than kennedy. justice kennedy is 80 years old, the top republican senator on the judiciary committee chuck
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grassley has been hinting he expects someone on the court to retire this summer. so monday. could be interesting. set your alarm. that does it for us tonight. have an excellent weekend. we'll see you again on monday. msnbc live is next. good morning. i'm dara brown at msnbc headquarters in new york. it's 7:00 a.m. in the east and 4:00 a.m. out west. here is what's happening. and then there were five. another republican senator says he is against the gop health care bill. doesn't have a chance of passing? >> the president today with a new push on the health care version, but democrats are using his words in fooid fighting the bill. we'll tell you who and how. president trump says there are no recordings of his talks against former fbi director james comey, but at least one democrat says it won't stop him from digging

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