tv The Rachel Maddow Show MSNBC July 1, 2017 4:00pm-5:01pm PDT
or have flu-like symptoms, or sores. don't start humira if you have an infection. join over 250,000 people who have chosen humira. ask about the #1 prescribed biologic by dermatologists. humira & go. keep your eyes open. tonight and into the holiday weekend, for what in this business we inartfully call a news dump. i know it sounds kind of gross. it is supposed to sound kind of gross. friday night, since time in memorial, i've been a great time to release to the public information that you do not really want the public to pay attention to. and that's for the obvious reason. on weekends, people are not as plugged in. so weekends in general have always been seen by politicians, public figures, corporations, as a very convenient repository for dumping embarrassing or
politically inconvenient news. that is true of weekends in general. holiday weekends, all the more so. so i do hope you get some time off for the holiday weekend. i hope you enjoy your weekend in general. but just keep in mind, this is one of those times to sort of just keep eyes open. all politicians, all public figurers to a certain except have to manage the art of diverting people's attention at times. changing the subject. creating deliberate distractions and, you know, some politicians are better at it than others but all good politicians have to be able to do it to a certain degree. our current president is very, very, very good at it. he doesn't just have that skill like a normal politician. he has a peculiar nuclear version of it. let me explain what i mean. a normal political way, a normal politicians way to change the subject, the way a normal politician does it is to stop talking about whatever that person finds inconvenient or
unfavorable or uncomfortable, stop talking about that thing, that they don't want to talk about and instead start talking about something else. and hope that you bring people along to this new topic that you are happier to talk about. a slightly advanced or more aggressive version of that for a normal politician is to try to not just start talking about a new thing, but to put a little spice on the new thing. try to create a new controversy that is unrelated to and far apart from the thing you don't want to talk about. one even further advanced, even more aggressive way to do that is to maybe pick a new fight with some convenient enemy, that has nothing to do with that thing you don't want to talk about. normal politicians have an array of choices when it comes to distracting and changing the subject. depends on the politician and the subject matter, but bottom line is basically you need to do something or say something that seems more interesting to people, that seems more interesting to the media than whatever it is you didn't want to talk about in the first
place. that is normal politician behavior and skillset. what our new president does is different. what our new president does is really a special twist on that tradition. there is a special ingredient that he is willing to cook with that nobody else is. and that is that he deliberately tries not just to distract, but to offend. he doesn't just merely distract people, he disgusted people. he breaks the bounds of decency and breaks the bounds of what people say are moral rules for public discourse and in ways that doesn't just start a new narrative, it stops all normal politics and normal media coverage of current events. his specialty, what marks him out is a different kind of cat. is that he is very willing, happy even, deliberately trying to go past the merely controversial. he goes past provocative. he goes right to language.
right to public discourse and behavior that instead of just being controversial or provocative, is considering abusive or even repulsive. and i'm not saying this just to fling a bunch of negative adjectives at the president over his behavior. if you've been watching the show for sometime, you know that i don't talk about him much at all. the reason i'm talking about this is because i think it is actually important in terms of understanding his variety of political power. and therefore our political time as a country right now. because the way he generates distraction, the way he changes the subject away from things he doesn't want to talk about, it is more than just a quantitative difference from what other politics does. what he does is different than normal politicians. because the way he does it, what he does, draws other people in to participate in his distraction, almost whether they want to or not. simply but also being public
figures or also being po politicians or just people who have observed his repugnant behavior, there is among all sorts of people a natural inclination, a decent inclination to get involved in what he is, so participate in his distraction process. to not just witness it but to feel called to respond by virtue of the fact that you have witnessed it. when somebody does something that is merely offensive, you decide if you are offended or not. when somebody does something that is worse than that, that is repugnant and abusive, there is something that is good and decent and understandable in all of us. that makes us not want to just have a feeling about it, it makes us want to express our opposition, to weigh in as being opposed to this vile thing, this vile behavior that we have seen from somebody in that kind of a position. with a normal politician's
normal political distraction, almost all of us will just observe it, right. we're either distracted by it or not. this guy's strategy really is different. it is to sort of tap on the glass of your moral compass. is this thing on? to try to make you felix plick ated by your silence, what you have witnessed, what he did. this guy's strategy really is to be so upsetting, so reprehensible, so disruptive and insulting to the norms of what we agree to as americans in public life, that he draws everybody into the response to what he's done. everybody feels like you can't just see it, you have to say something about it. in order to stand up for your own dignity. and that then provides another round of attention because then there is this interesting story to cover how all of these strange bed fellows, all of these usual competitors and never associate with as president, they are all weighing in on what he's done.
they are all weighing if on the president's behavior and the president's speech because they feel reasonly compelled to remark upon, to condemn whatever disgusting thing he has just done. what he has perfected is a nuclear version of a conventional political tactic. it is conventional politics to distract. it is not conventional politics to disgust. and the reason he does it, the reason he's mastered this as a tactic and he uses this tactic over and over gep in a way that we have never seen before from somebody at this level of american politics and the reason he can do it -- the reason it makes sense for him to do it is because the thing he harms by behaving this way, the thing he harms bier. >>ing at the boundaries of decency and then breaking those bounds with glee, what he hurts by doing that is something that doesn't belong to him. the thing he damages is
something he neither owns nor particularly values in the abstract at least. the thing he hurts is the presidency. and by extension, the standing of the united states of america. and if you are a person who doesn't really care about those things, someone who doesn't think those things are all that valuable, someone who certainly doesn't feel any responsibility for recognizing their value but upholding their value with your own behavior, then why not let those things take the hit. why not let those things observe the costs. the presidency, the standing of the united states among nations. if those costs are external to you, if those things aren't yours, then those costs when you hurt them are external. and the rewards of your behavior that hurts them is inturnal. the rewards all accrue to you. the ability to create infinite distraction at will and to lead
the media and much of the nation basically on a choke chain, at will because you are willing to go beyond provocative and controversial to the point of disgust. all the benefits of that accrue to him. the harm of it is to the country. and if you don't care, it is a win-win, right. this president is a different kind of political animal. because he doesn't mind getting negative press. he doesn't mind bad press. he also doesn't mind any harm that he does to the presidency by his behavior. but i think there has been a fundamental sort of misunderstanding that you saw in the frustration of his points last year. his points in the presidential primary last year and his opponent in the general election last year, they were so frustrated and angry by his ability to command media attention, they really felt
like, in the republican primary and in the general election, they really felt like they were never really able to even compete with him in terms of attention. in terms of screen time and in terms of face time with the american people. and they were right about that. because all of the other politicians who ran for president last year were kind of normal politicians. and they were playing therefore a different game than he was playing. everybody else was, for sure, trying to get media attention. but everybody else other than him was trying to get good media attention. they were trying to get positive media attention for themselves and their ideas. he was not that picky. you've heard that phrase. there is no such thing as bad press. it is mostly -- right, that is mostly an axy -- an axiom that people don't go along with and some people do. think about how this works as political science.
whether or not you are involved in the personalities and think about what this means as a country and how the political science and how the incentives stack up when theable to shock and offend and now that he's president to harm the presidency and harm the country in the process, is something that he takes as cost-free to him. we should expect him to do more of it. over the past two days the president has been roundly condemned by like 358 degrees of the 360-degree circle of american politics. he's been robustly and thoroughly and blistering denounced and renounced by a country and in particular by a political class that is genuinely mortified by how he is behaving as president. there is nothing to suggest that that bothers him in the least. i think the way this goes down in his white house political playbook is as a resoundingly
effective stunt. wow, look at how i turned the narrative around on this. and this is a tactic that works well for him. as a distraction this is a home run. and given the incentives at work here and the values of this person and the administration that we are dealing with now, i don't know what the cure is to this. i don't know what the defense is to this for us as a country. because you can't let it go, right. i mean maybe you could let it go and if it is a private person or a public figure but when it is the president of the united states, a singular position, you can't let it go. what the president said yesterday about two of our colleagues here at msnbc is absolutely worthy of shock and condemnation which it has rightfully earned and which i share. and honestly, which everybody shares. and if it goes beyond what it appears to be and reflects an underlying effort at extortion or coercion, that should be investigated as a potential criminal matter. and on top of that, we also as a
country have to decide exactly how much we're going to play requests from him. exactly how much we're going to talk about what he wants us to talk about. how much we're going to behave the way he wants us to behave. how much we're going to snap to attention and snap our attention to him when he commands it. all politicians learn to distract. this metastasized version of distraction that he plays, though, is deliberately and i think will realize in the end seriously harmful to the country and to the presidency specifically. that is the magic ingredient that he is willing to cook with that no other politician will. and again, no, i don't know what the cure is to that. and people are willing to do harm of that kind and there is no way to stop them from doing
it, i don't know what cure is to that. but i do know what he's been distracting from in the last couple of days. today the revised republican approach to repealing obamacare, that the president is apparently now proposing and endorsing even though he rejected it in the past, today that new approach was scored by the cbo as not throwing 22 million americans or 23 or 24 million americans off of health insurance, the new version scored today would be 32 million americans. 32 million americans to be clear who have health insurance now who would lose all health insurance under the new republican plan that the president endorsed today. 32 million people. for reference, that is the combined population of all of these states that you can see on this map. 32 million people. so that is one. the president's latest gross-out behavior has coincided with the republican health care bill turning into a political
catastrophe. now we're going to be checking in later on this hour with some of the very dramatic protest actions that hit today on that subject and tell you a little bit about what we expect to see over the next couple of days over the holiday weekend. the first day of the president's gross out distraction yesterday also coincided with the white house announcing that the president will meet with vladimir putin next week in person. what has the russian president done recently to deserve a one-on-one in person meeting with the president of the united states? i mean, other than launch an unprecedented attack on our election last year. i don't know. but that announcement, that trump and putin are going to meet in person, that was well timed yesterday in the midst of the absolute furor over the reaction. and it is well timed for most people not to have heard anything about it. here is another. you may have noticed last night when the wall street journal published the first detailed reporting about americans apparently trying to clud with the russians who were attacking our election last year.
this is a bombshell story and this is the first report, rather than just speculation that it might have happened and descriptions of the investigation into whether it happened and this is the first report of potential collusion by americans in the russian attack and it has raised serious questions as to whether or not, michael flynn, then a senior adviser to the trump campaign, whether he might have been involved in that effort to work with the russians, to contact the russian government and to obtain materials hacked by the russian government in order to use them here against hillary clinton. now, in that story, from the "wall street journal," which went live last night, you might have noticed that shane harris of the "wall street journal," he included a line in the story saying he asked the white house for comment on that story and they declined to give a comment. but asking for comment is a specific thing. it has logistical consequences.
you have to show somebody what you've got and ask them for comment. if you think about the logistics with that store being posted last night, that means that sometime before last night when the white house was asking for comment, they became aware of what the "wall street journal" was about to report. they knew that that story was coming out. they knew that that was in the pipeline. and so as they are preparing for that to drop, the first reporting about american collusion -- attempted collusion with the russians attacking our collection and what appears to be a very close tie to the president's campaign, through michael flynn in that collusion and as they find out that is about to happen, perhaps coincidentally the president launched this big new distraction and has everybody talking about him and his behavior for two days instead of talking about anything else. and i should telling, year talking with mcalyssa coff is
joining us tonight with interesting information about the republican operative at the center of that story and his history. that is important. because the key question is not how effective that operative was in that effort to col you'd with the russians and the question is whether there were links between him and the trump campaign. so investigator and has really good information on that and he is joining us live in just a few minutes. and let me give you one last thing here, if we are talking about focus mike rogers is the head of the national security agency. the agency is a very powerful agency that focuses on foreign surveillance. this is one of the agencies at the center of the russia collusion investigation. earlier this week cnn had a report that described mike rodgers, head of the nsa expressing, quote, frustration to lawmakers about his inability to convince president trump to
accept u.s. intelligence that russia meddled in the election. that is according to a congressional source familiar with the meeting. mike rodgers, head of the nsa also reportedly shared concerns with lawmakers about the, quote, lack of white house focus on the continued threat from russian cyber efforts, particularly relating to u.s. voting systems. that is according to another congressional source. so the nsa is frustrated that the president doesn't get that russia attacked us or doesn't care and cannot focus on trying to fight it at all. take a look at that coupled with "the washington post" reporting this weekend. just for contrast, washington post had a great rundown this weekend about european countries and all of the things they do to actively respond in the way that russia interferes with them. in sweden they launch aid school program to identify russian p p propaganda and there are cyber elves who work to dig fally
identify and combat people spreading russia propaganda and fake news and they call it elves versus trolls. this is one of the elves doing an adorable video. france and britain got facebook to disable tens of thousands of fake accounts that could persuade voters and ukraine and german have fact checking resources that are robust and well respected an there is all of the these availables for our review around the world and all of the other countries an how they dealt with trying to stop from russia meddling in their election and contrast that, a bunch of testimony about in the u.s. senate this week, contrast what they are doing with what is going on here. couldn't be starker. fascinating report in talking points memo today that the department of homeland security will not be conducting any sort of audit to look into whether voting machines were effected by the russian hacking attempts in
the past election. when they say there is no evidence that that happened, they haven't been looking for any evidence of that and they have no plan to look for any evidence of that. if as many as 21 states or other reports say 39 states were targeted by russian hackers and those were the election systems of the states, is it worth looking into what the impact was of those intrusions, whether they left any mal-ware behind and whether any voting machines were effected tlx is no evidence provided that that has happened. nobody has looked for that evidence. and while nobody was talking about that whatsoever, the house appropriations committee very quietly just voted to defund something called the election assistance commission. buried at bottom of page 69 of this bill that they passed, it zeros out the entire $4 million budget of the election assistance commission. the commission is the agency we've got as a country that
tries to make sure our states voting machines aren't hacked. that is the agency that is the mechanism that is supposed to shore up and defend the security of our voting systems. that agency is the way we would be responding to try to hard ebb the defenses of our election systems, if we were interested in doing that as a country. but apparently we're not interested in doing it as a country. there is no work being done on that since the trump administration took over. and not only are we not using the election administration commission to do that, we are instead chucking it. eliminating that agency altogether. very quietly. there is a lot going on. don't let anybody yank your chain. do not play requests. [ intense music playing ] it's here, but it's going by fast. the opportunity of the year is back:
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snt weeks between the election and moving into the white house, the president elect publicly received aspiring candidates for jobs in his new administration. and he really publicly received them. he paraded aspiring staffers before the cameras. you might remember mitt romney posing with his supper. that was in late november. and then we had chris christie on display. that same day, chris christie day, another chris showed up. chris coback, the top elections official and famous for being the author of the most anti-immigration laws around the country and known as a nationwide cuse aiders for making it laws to make it harder for people to vote. his appointment with the president during the transition was embarrassing though because although they do like to parade
the p-- people in public, it wa indiscrete the way they did it with chris coback. you see him here greeting the president and in his left hand he is holding some pains and through the magic of zoom you could get right up close there and can actually see his proposals for extreme vetting and reducing the intake of syrian refugees to zero. he is bringing these ideas in writing to the president. and at bottom of the page, under his sleeve, see by the four buttons there, you could see something he was proposing about his other big interest. voter rolls. in other words, who is allowed to vote. whatever happened in the meeting during the transition, he did not get a real job, like a paid job in the administration. but finally last month he did get something. he got put in charge of the president's new election integrity commission. trump of course spent the campaign and even after the
campaign complaining and fulminating and frankly making some stuff up about millions of people voting illegally when there is no evidence that happened. and he then ordered a commission to look into it. the presidential commission on election integrity with good old chris coback as the vice chair. in the capacity, he has gone to work. he signed and sent a letter to the top election officials in all 50 state this is week. here it is. he would like all of the secretaries of state across country to send him, quote, the full first and last names of all registrants, meaning registered voters and middle names or inishls and address and date of birth and political party, the last four digits of social security numbers and voter history and active or inactive status and canceled status information regarding any felony conviction and information regarding voter reg administration in any other state and information regarding military status and over seas
citizen information. also everything everybody had for lunch yesterday in your state plus their inner most thought and plus everybody's bra size. put that list up there again. send the trump administration -- hello, secretary of state in x state, send the trump administration all of this information on every single person registered to vote in your state. all of the millions of them. we want first and last and middle name and address and date of birth and party voting history, four digits of the social security number and convictions and military status and everything on everyone. with full names and dates of birth attached so it is all identifiable information handed over to the trump administration. handed over to chris cobach. now, the answer to that letter from him so far is no. he's been kind of an outcry from elections officials. it has been sort of a subtle secretary the state little thing to be hold today.
that the no response started with connecticut where the secretary the state said she would hand over data that was public and nothing more. that started a cascade of other states saying no. mississippi got its share of headlines when their secretary of state said that the voting commission and i quote, can -- can go jump in the gulf of mexico. mississippi not only said no, they could go jump in the gulf of mexico. that exact phrase was in the state's official response. even chris kobach as secretary of state in kansas, he doesn't intend to comply with his own request. he initially told reports in kansas city he would send all of the data and today he said he's not going to hand over the social security numbers, at least not yet. what do they want to do with all of this particular and personally identifying data on every single registered voter in the entire country? look at.
this this is from his letter. quote, any documents that are submitted to the commission will also be made available to the public. oh, good. so they're going to publish everything on everyone. 200 million people. no problem. here is everything. now chris kobach told reporters that he didn't mean that data but it would be hosted on a secure service run by the federal government and it wouldn't be disclosed to the public despite what he told the secretaries of state. okay. this universal file of every single american's voting reports that that he is making for the trump administration, he's now telling reporters even though he said other wise in writing, he's now telling reporters it is going to be super secure, don't worry. he's going to keep everything really secure. at least as secure as he kept that memo that he brought to the president. at least as secure as that. maybe even more secure. what are they up to here? what is this about?
i will tell you that back in february somebody saw this coming. or at least something like it. let me read to you from this. quote, we should prepare for the president to issue a sweeping executive order requiring a nationwide investigation of alleged voter fraud and the justification will be as unmoored from facts as the basis for the muslim majority countries selected for the president's travel ban and the results will be just as if not more person itious and and the presidential command to investigate the existence of a phenomenon that has been demonstrated not to exist could accomplish only a nationwide system of voter intimidation authorized at the highest levels of government. that is from february. person who laid down that warning now said that what she's predicting when she wrote about that back in february, it appears to be upon us. and that pressient expert joins us next. company says they'll only pay
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so the president has repeatedly falsely claimed that millions of people voted illegally in the last election and now the new voter fraud commission has sent a letter to the states demanding they hand over to the federal government reams of personal information on every single voter in each of those states. and now listen to this. this is from february. quote, we take the president at his word when he threatened to launch a major investigation into voter fraud. we will challenge any illegality in the presentation or the execution of the program but we
all best recognize the implick agtss of the president of the united states launching a nationwide voter intimidation program. now the author of that prediction and that alarm bell for the country joins us now. cheryl ifel is from the naacp legal defense fund. i appreciate you being here, especially on friday night. thank you so much. >> thank you, rachel. >> so you were very clear about the connection between the president demanding information, demanding an investigation into the threat of voter fraud and the possibility of the president then launching a voter intimidation effort. what is the correction between looking into it and thennin dim tati tate -- and then intimidating voters. >> as you talked about already, the president has insisted that he won the popular vote and as you recall he talked about 3 million illegal votes having been cast and gone out and made this absurd statement he began to repeat it and some of his
surrogates began to repeat it, notably steven miller on a sunday morning news program who insisted there was proof of this. and was just one of the people who took the president at his word, because i believed that the president would attempt to combine his need to believe that he had won the popular vote with something that has been really a very important issue on the right, which is to prove that widespread voter fraud occurs as a justification for voter suppression. that is what we see in all of the states where we are challenging voter i.d. laws. is that you have a governor and secretaries of state and other state officials who insist, despite the fact that there is no evidence that this is true, that there is widespread in person voter fraud happening and that is the reason that they enacted some of these very, very restrictive voter i.d. laws. asa know, however, just in the last year, two federal courts of appeals, neither one of them known for being particularly
liberal, have found that two states, north carolina and texas, deliberately created their voter i.d. laws for the purpose of discriminating against minority voters, not because there was a voter fraud problem in the state. and so i think the president has really married his personal issue around the popular vote in this election to one of the pillars of the right, which is proving that there is widespread voter fraud and using that premise to engage in voter suppression and to intimidate voters and i think that is what we're about to see begin. >> what do you think they want to do with this nationwide list? i mean they're talking about collecting tens of millions, a hundred million, 200 million voter data files here and consolidating them all in what they say at least they tell reporters will be a secure data base. what do you think they want to do with that master list and all of that data on every voter in the country? >> well, i think there are a lot
ofs of people -- a lot of people that are affiliated with people like chris kobach, and they want to use this data to be able to intimidate people on election day, they want to be able to use this data to convince state legislatures that there is a problem and that they need even more restrictive voter i.d. laws. they want to use this information to intimidate video voters and to suggest to voters that if they try and vote, that they may be prosecuted. i mean, we should remember the context in which this happens at this particular moment. the attorney general of the united states is jeff sessions. and jeff sessions is the man who prosecuted our clients in 1985 for voter fraud, unsuccessfully prosecuted them so he's been on top of this for a very long time as well. and even though the effort that jeff sessions engaged in in 1985 was unsuccessful, our clients were acquitted, many voters in the that county, in perry
county, alabama, elderly voters, were afraid to vote after that. they were afraid to vote after the attempted prosecution and so they stayed away from the polls. and so that is what you do. is that you bring these challenges and the challenges are enough to intimidate people, some people, from participating in the political process and so i think they want to data, i think they do want to make it public so that some of the affiliated organizations that believe in the myth of voter fraud can use this information themselves, and i think it is designed to unleash really unchecked voter intimidation around the country and to encourage voter suppression laws to proliferate even more than they have since the 2013 shelly decision in the supreme court. >> you literally just sent a chill down my spine with that. i have been thinking -- i have been thinking along those lines since first hearing they were asking this but hearing you lay it out like that, obviously you have a lot of experience with this as a litigator and as leader in your organization. but it is scary stuff.
cheryl, from the legal defense fund. thank you for helping us understand this tonight. appreciate you being here. >> thank you, rachel. >> will tell you, right now we know that 20, 25 states where the secretary of state has told the trump administration, we are not handing over data, we are not handing over the data on our voters, one of your projects over the holiday weekend is to figure out whether in your state your secretary of state is going along with this or saying no. it is fun a fun homework project. you could involve the kids. come on. stay with us. we'll be right back. [ crickets chirping ]
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friday night before a holiday weekend. what did i tell you. what did i tell you at top of the hour, huh? okay. last night the "wall street journal" broke a story that was very important. it was the first detailed reporting we've ever had, the first reporting we've had that describes what appears to have been an effort at american collusion with a russian attack on our election year. it named peter smith, he is 81 years old and died this year and who over labor day weekend last year tried to put together or did put together a group of experts, a group of technology experts, lawyers an at least one russian speaking investigators to try to obtain clinton e-mails that he believed might have been hacked by russian hackers. that story was broken by the "wall street journal" last night. shane harris was the sole by
line on that. the very provocative question in that report from the "wall street journal" was about his connection to the trump campaign. mr. smith in his communication with people he was trying to bring into this project and his communication with people about this effort he was making to contact russian hackers repeatedly referenced mike flynn as somebody he was working with and in communication with on this effort. now that is not been confirmed. it was said by smith, apparently. flynn is not commenting in reaction to these -- if reaction to the new reports. but just right now, the "wall street journal" has just posted this. and they say that in addition to saying tea was in contact with mike flynn in this effort, again to work with russian hackers to get information on hillary clinton, mr. smith also circulated a document that listed not just flynn, but also stephen bannon, kellyanne conway and sam clovis, who was a low
profile but important policy adviser to the trump campaign and now senior adviser at the agriculture department and in addition to flynn, they all mentioned by -- by peter smith as people he was in communication with, in contact with, related to this effort to contact the russian hackers. this is a second beat on the first story we've had about what collusion might have looked like if it happened. reporter michael isikoff is joining us to talk about the man at the center of last night's allegations and this new reporting tonight. peter smith, we have interesting information on his background that might tell us more about what we can expect if he was tried -- tide to the trump came. he joins us next. otezla is not an injection or a cream. it's a pill that treats plaque psoriasis differently. with otezla, 75% clearer skin
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you might not know this, but i use a teleprompter on this show and every once in a while it goes to cartoons. that's where it was right now. all right. whitewater, travelgate, chinagate, filegate, all of those stupid gates things, right? do you remember troopergate? it was a weird scandal near the beginning of bill clinton's presidency. now we all have to remember it at least for a second because now troopergate is important again for the scandal we're involved in in this presidency. so brief refresher. >> two troopers have stepped forward to renew allegations
mr. clinton had engaged in extramarital affairs for years while governor and that the affairs continued after he was elected president. in a story in the conservative magazine, american spectator, two troopers, formerly members of governor clinton's security detail, claim that the troopers themselves would help arrange, then stand guard over sexual liaisons involving mr. clinton. many at the governor's mansion itself. >> the president was never charged with any wrongdoing in relation to troopergate. years later in fact the guy who wrote the article about it apologized to clinton, called it part of an anti-clinton crusade. he repented and switched to the other side of the political aisle. but that article in the american spectator continued to do lasting damage for a very long time because the same article also introduced the american public to a person named paula jones. a few months after the article was published, paula jones filed
a lawsuit against president clinton accusing him of sexual harassment while he was governor. that lawsuit indirectly ended up leading to bill clinton lying about his affair with monica lewinsky, and that indirectly led to his subsequent impeachment. it was only later we would learn the identity of the man who planted the original troopergate story, who introduced the writer of that american spectator article to those state troopers, who he was paying. it was a wealthy chicago investment banker. he had facilitated his original connection with troopers. he was also a chief fund-raiser for newt gingrich who of course later went on to become speaker of the house. this banker donated over $100,000 to newt gingrich's political action committee between 1989 and 1995. beginning in 1992 he also started spends tens of thousands of dollars funding various attempts to dig up dirt and publicize negative stories about president clinton.
beyond troopergate, he also hired private detectives and financed efforts to unearth evidence that bill clinton had fathered an illegitimate african american child. that is an allegation that was dug up again in the hillary clinton presidential campaign this past year. this guy in chicago also tried to dig up dirt on clinton's trip to the soviet union that he had taken as a college student decades earlier. this chicago banker, close associate of newt gingrich, had also at one point been the chair of the college young republicans. he's a guy named peter smith. it's the same peter smith who has now landed smack dab in the middle of the russia investigation thanks to a piece last night in "the wall street journal." last night the journal published an explosive report which claimed that around labor day last year, peter smith mounted an independent campaign to obtain e-mails he believed were stolen from hillary clinton's private server, likely by russian hackers. he contacted russian hackers to try to get whatever they'd dug up on hillary clinton. he also said in an interview with "the wall street journal" that he believed those hackers
were close to the russian government. while he was putting together this effort to contact the russian hackers, to get some of what they got, mr. smith repeatedly implied and told people that he was working with mike flynn in that effort and that he was in frequent communication with mike flynn. mike flynn at that time was a senior adviser to the trump campaign. now, tonight "the wall street journal" has added to their story. just moments ago they have published this news, saying that peter smith didn't just tell people he was working with and in communication with mike flynn in his effort to contact the russian hackers and get their e-mails from hillary clinton. he also said in a document that he prepared to recruit people to help into his effort, he also, according to "the wall street journal," said that he was working, quote, in coordination to the extent permitted as an independent expenditure with not just mike flynn but also steve bannon, kellyanne conway, and sam clovis, who is a policy adviser to now president trump. joining us now is investigative
reporter michael isikoff. he's chief investigative correspondent at yahoo news. he wrote a book in 1999 called uncovering clinton that looks at some of peter smith's earlier activism. appreciate your time tonight. >> good to be with you. >> so peter smith turns up in this "wall street journal" story last night, also again tonight. what can you tell us about his background in the anti-bill clinton efforts in the early owe 9 ohs '90s? >> first of all it's just fascinating to find that somebody you wrote about 20 years ago pops back in the news in a totally different context. but, yeah, i mean you pretty much covered it in your intro there, rachel. he was one of these sort of shadowy, behind the scenes figures who was helping to finance some of the political oppo research to bill clinton. he gave a $5,000 stipend, i believe, to david brock when he was beginning his -- to help finance his research that led to the troopergate stories. there was another $25,000 that
he gave to a troopergate whistle-blower fund to help protect and defend the troopers from a lot of attacks that they were getting from the clinton camp. and then probably most interestingly and most significantly, he did play a role in sort of recruiting this set of lawyers who i call the elves in the book, who were very sharp, conservative lawyers who were writing the briefs and helping to set the legal strategy in the paula jones case. paula jones had some public lawyers, and you remember this was a big fight that went all the way up to the supreme court about whether the suit could even proceed. and in the briefs, you know, clinton had this big, you know, bob bennett, really powerful law firm behind it, and they were always amazed when they would see these very polished, very
scholarly briefs coming in from the paula jones side, saying these guys can't be writing it, the public lawyers, because they were not constitutional scholars. in fact, it was the elves, this coterie of lawyers, and they had been -- and peter smith had helps recruit them. >> mike, thank you for being with us tonight. i'm sorry that our time is short. may i ask you briefly one last question? do you know what he's been up to since the '90s? >> i had totally lost track of him until shane harris resurrected him in this fascinates series of stories.
>> your 1999 book, uncovering clinton, is now selling out right this second on amazon because he has resurfaces. michael isikoff, really appreciate you being here. thanks very much. >> okay. >> that does it for us tonight. we will see you again next week. we will see you on monday. that's right, july 3rd, uh-huh. it's time for "the last word." ari melber sitting in for lawrence tonight. good evening. >> just one question. what have you been up to since the '90s? >> you know what? i'm going to have to look into it. i have a feeling if anybody knows, michael isikoff does. >> we're going to have a little bit on that story as well. thank you and have a great weekend. >> thank you. appreciate it. >> i am ari melber in for lawrence o'donnell. we have more on that breaking news, "the wall street journal" adding details to that big report yesterday about a republican activist effort to, according to him, obtain hillary clinton's e-mails from hackers linked to russia. but first republican majority leader mitch mcconnell did promise republicans would continue to work on repealing obamacare. senator mcconnell in kentucky, and their own deadline to come up with a plan has come and gone. the republicans didn't get help from president trump today