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tv   The Rachel Maddow Show  MSNBC  February 9, 2021 1:00am-2:00am PST

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now. good evening. >> thank you, my friend. much appreciated. thanks for joining us this hour. happy to have you hear we have a lot to get to. the leader of the congressional caucus is here tonight. help th people are going to get from the covid relief bill. the fight is on, frankly, among democrats right now, as to just how big they are going to go on that, in terms of trying to help people. congresswoman jayapal holds a lot of the cards in that fight as chair of the progressive caucus. we're going to hear from her in a second about her strategy and her thinking and why she and her colleagues are really insisting that the covid relief bill is, among other things, the right place and the right time and the right way to push a raise in the minimum wage. the minimum wage has not gone up in this country in 12 years. president biden says he's committed to raising the minimum wage, but he has also publicly raised doubts that it can be done as part of the covid relief
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bill that they're about to pass in congress. this, of course, is a super consequential issue for the economy as a whole, but more importantly, for millions and millions and millions of americans who would be affected by this. we're going to talk with congresswoman jayapal about that in just a moment. you may also have seen tonight this developing story about sort of a nightmare scenario cyber attack on a water treatment plant at a small community in florida, in the tampa bay area. it's a town in florida that's literally like 12 miles from the stadium where the super bowl was held this weekend. and in advance of this weekend, on friday, somebody hacked into a computer at this town's local water treatment facility and then used that computer they'd hacked into to try to poison the town's water supply. they actually did change the level of one chemical that's supposed to be at like 100 parts per million or less. they changed it in the computer system so it would instead be added to the water at more than
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11,000 parts per million, which could have been quite catastrophic, had it not been caught. it was caught. it was caught immediately. a plant employee basically watched the attack in real time while it happened, while somebody hacking from somewhere remotely accessed his computer and changed those settings about that chemical additive. the local sheriff briefed on it today. the national press is starting to pick it up. the fbi and secret service are now involved in investigating whodunit and how this happened. we've got one of the best cybersecurity reporters in the country here tonight to talk about that. she's been warning about a scenario exactly like this for years. nicole perloff literally has a book coming out tomorrow on these kinds of threats, and specifically, on the international market for these kinds of hacking capabilities. she will join us in just a moment, as well as that story, scary story, out of florida continues to develop. and of course, the trial of
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former president donald trump starts tomorrow in the united states senate, the only american president to have ever been impeached twice will now start his second impeachment trial. we now know that day one, tomorrow, is going to be four hours of debate about, basically, whether or not it's okay for the senate to even be holding this trial, given that president trump is no longer in office. if that's ringing a bell, it's because you'll remember, there was already a vote in the senate on this not long ago. 45 republican senators -- all but five of the republican senators voted on this resolution in such a way that said it wasn't constitutional for the senate to go ahead with this trial, specifically because trump is no longer in office. essentially, they're saying that on a technicality, trump just shouldn't face a senate trial for this impeachment. what, of course, was amazing about that at the time they took that vote is that the senate very well could have put donald
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trump on trial in the second senate impeachment trial while he was still in office. they could have done that, if they wanted to. it was republican senate leader mitch mcconnell who refused to do that. mcconnell refused to recall the senate so they could start the senate trial while trump was still president. they didn't start the trial until after trump was gone. and once trump was gone, mcconnell voted with all those other republicans to say, you know, this trial really should have started while he was still president, and now it's too late. it's like if your gym teacher made you keep running laps even after the bell went off and then sent you to the principal's office because you were late to the next class. you were the one who was making me run laps. go to the principal's office! what did i tell you? i mean, democrats would have happily aseeded to trump being put on trial while still president. it was mitch mcconnell who stopped them from doing that, and now it is mitch mcconnell saying, well, it's too late now, he can't be tried while he's
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president, nor could he be tried after he's president. but senator mcconnell wants everybody to know just how much he wants donald trump to be held accountable for what he did. anyway, there will be four hours of debate starting 1:00 tomorrow on the question of whether the senate is allowed under the constitution to hold this impeachment trial for donald trump, even though trump is now a former official. the last time they voted on this one, rand paul put this up before the senate. some of the 45 republicans who voted no on that question and said it was unconstitutional to try trump as a former president, some of those republicans said they were only voting that way because they wanted there to be a debate on this issue, and so, this will effectively call that question. the trial will start with that debate. we will see whether all of the republicans who voted that this trial shouldn't happen will still hold to that tomorrow. that vote will be tomorrow before the end of the day. then the next day, on wednesday,
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starting at noon, which is prescribed by the constitution, they will start presenting the case for and against the former president. now, in terms of president trump's -- well, the prosecutors, right? that's the house impeachment managers. there's nine democratic members of congress who are going to be essentially prosecuting the case on behalf of the house, which has already impeached him. the defense team on the president's side has been a little harder to follow. he originally had a team of lawyers from south carolina, then he fired all of them, then he hired a couple of new employers. now, apparently, the president has just gotten himself a new defense lawyer, a third defense lawyer, as of today. we know this because his name appeared on the documents that were related to the trial that were filed with the u.s. senate. this new attorney for the president is a personal injury attorney. so, maybe there's like a whiplash component or a slip-and-fall element to the president's defense that we're not anticipating yet. perhaps there was an unknown fender bender on january 6th
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that the president wants you to know he didn't do. i don't know. he's got a third defense lawyer who is, i kid you not, a personal injury lawyer. one other somewhat inexplicable, late development tonight among the president's legal team is that one of his now three lawyers, mr. doug schoen, last week had asked the senate if they would please change the schedule for the senate trial to accommodate his religious practice. he is jewish and he strictly observes the sabbath, which means he's not allowed to work after sundown on friday or all day saturday. and of course, it's kind of a big deal to change the senate schedule for an impeachment trial, since these things are actually laid out in the constitution, but senator schumer for the democrats, who's the first jewish majority leader in senate history, and senator mcconnell for the republicans, they agreed. they mutually agreed that they would accommodate mr. schoen's request, and therefore, even though it's a very unusual accommodation, they would recess president trump's impeachment
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trial at 5:00 p.m. eastern time on friday, so just ahead of sundown on friday, and they wouldn't reconvene until sunday afternoon. that is a very unusual schedule for an impeachment trial, but they agreed to it at the request of mr. schoen, the president's attorney. they announced it today formally, that they'd go ahead with this no trial on saturday schedule. they even released the written resolution that formalizes it and everything. but then tonight, after the resolution was released, after they had formally agreed to it, mr. schoen, the president's lawyer, decided that he didn't want that accommodation after all. he sent this letter, saying, never mind. he really appreciates it. thanks for the accommodation, but, mm, he doesn't need it anymore. it is now cool for them to hold the trial on saturday as well. he just won't participate. it's totally unclear why mr. schoen asked for that big change in the senate trial schedule if he didn't actually want them to do it.
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they said yes and then he said, no, i don't care, i don't want it. it's unclear as of now as to whether or not this means they're going to change the schedule back to the original plan. that will mean they'll have to change the written resolution laying out the trial rules and the schedule that they were going to vote on tomorrow. it's just a bizarre turn, and the timing of it is bizarre, but that is just one of the strange things that is unfolding in the news tonight. and on the eve of that trial starting tomorrow, the idea that you hear in conservative media and the idea that you hear amongst some elected republicans, that the events of january 6th are so far behind us and, you know, trump's gone and this whole thing ought to be just put out of our minds so we can move forward, that argument, that mind-set is very much undermined by the current news cycle, and not just current events, but new revelations in the news. for example, there was reporting by matthew rosenberg in "the new york times" this weekend that after trump's disgraced national
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security adviser, mike flynn, started advocating after the election publicly that trump should impose martial law, after flynn started advocating publicly that trump should order the u.s. military into the streets to, in his words, rerun the election in states that trump lost, after flynn started making that public case about what trump should do, according to "the new york times" this weekend, quote, trump raised the idea of putting mr. flynn in charge of the fbi and later suggested making him chief of staff, meaning white house chief of staff for the final weeks of his administration. so, here's the impeachment trial starting with president trump's new lawyers claiming that, you know, everything trump said leading up to january 6th was just hyperbole, just typical politics and rhetorical flourishes, and he didn't actually mean what he said literally, and he definitely didn't have any aim to overturn the election by force. like, that's what they're going to be arguing, right?
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but, yeah, there was that guy who was suggesting that trump should order the u.s. military to use force to undo the election for him, and the president's reaction to that was reportedly to try to put that guy in charge of the white house, to make him white house chief of staff, or maybe to make him head of the fbi. maybe he could do it from there. trump's reaction to flynn suggesting that he has the military takeover to undo the election was to try to put flynn operationally in charge of the white house. and if you -- you know, if you think that this is all in the past -- you know, oh, it's ancient history. it was all a month ago. today in arizona, absolutely remarkable story. republicans in the state senate in arizona today held a vote that would have allowed them to lock up the county elections board in a county that voted for biden instead of trump in november. this vote in the arizona state senate today would have declared the maricopa county elections
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board to be in contempt, which would have meant that the elections board could all be arrested at the discretion of the arizona republican state senate. we're going to have more on this later on in the show tonight, because this deserves a lot more attention than it is getting. but apparently, arizona's republican party is demanding that this county that voted for biden, maricopa county, needs to hand over its ballots, individual voters' ballots to the republicans in the state senate, and the county says, we can't do that without a judicial order to hand those ballots over to anyone. and the arizona senate republicans came within one vote today of threatening to lock up the members of that county elections board in order to get those ballots, because they, what, were going to use the ballots to prove the steal! you know, #stopthesteal! or whatever. i mean, they're still fighting that war. arizona republicans censured the republican governor of arizona
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for having the temerity to certify the election results in that state, and they are still tonight trying to overthrow the election results in arizona by trying to overthrow the election results in maricopa county, in part by threatening to imprison the election officials in maricopa county. trump refuses to let anybody describe him as a former president, and arizona republicans are still insisting that trump must have won their state and is rightfully, therefore, still the president. still. this is tonight. again, we'll have more on that later. that story actually took an even uglier turn tonight just before we got on the air. we're trying to turn around some tape toes what happened in the senate at the very end of this debate. you should hear it. now, i mentioned that it was only one vote in the arizona senate that stopped them from trying to lock up the elections board today. you might remember in the more immediate aftermath of the november election, it was only one vote on the state elections board in michigan, one republican member of that board
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who stood up and said that he had read the constitution, that he had read the rules, and actually, he wasn't going to go along with the republican plan in michigan to try to block certification of biden's win there. it was just one vote, one guy who stood in the way of that republican plot there to undo the election result in michigan. well, republicans in michigan have now removed that guy from the state elections board, so he won't be there anymore to stand up and do the legal thing. this weekend, michigan republicans chose a new vice chair for their state party. they chose somebody who actually personally participated in street protests outside the vote tallying site in michigan, and inning to be let in, because somehow, trump must have won and it was all being stolen. that's who will now be the number two person statewide in the republican party in michigan. that's happening now. these decisions are being made now. republicans are not moving on. a lot of republicans in washington are like, you know,
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democrats, we understand you are very -- you are all upset about this, but you just need to grow up, pull up your socks and move on. meanwhile, republicans in the state, in the states, they are not moving on. from what trump tried to pull off with the attack on the capitol on january 6th. they're keeping on with it. and all the people who were part of the whole stop the steal biden isn't really the president thing, they're all getting elevated in the state parties. and people who stood with the election results and said, actually, we shouldn't try to overturn the election by force, those are all the people who are getting censured and thrown out of the party. who's not moving on here? but the impeachment trial of president trump for his role in the january 6th attack, that starts tomorrow. in the great state of georgia tonight, the secretary of state's office has just announced that they're opening a formal investigation into president trump calling state officials and telling them to change the vote tally so it'd look like he won that state, instead of joe biden. the call in which the president
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told the secretary of state to recalculate the state results and, quote, find enough votes to make trump the winner. that call to the secretary of state is sort of lesser noticed part of the impeachment article against the president that was passed in the house that will be the basis for his trial starting tomorrow. but in georgia, they're not only investigating that call to the secretary of state as potentially a criminal matter now, they're also, apparently, going to investigate trump's other menacing calls to other state officials, including the state's governor and a lower-level employee in the secretary of state's office who the president personally called. all of these different attempts by the president personally to get georgia elections officials to overturn the rightful election results so that trump could stay in office. i mean, it would truly be something for republicans in the u.s. senate to blow off and excuse president trump's actions in this trial starting tomorrow, to say, it's no big deal, right? we're moving on. we don't think what he did is that much of a problem.
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it would be something for republicans in the u.s. senate to say that while at the same time, the president could soon be facing prison time in the state of georgia for those same actions, as violations of state law. under georgia law, it is a crime, a serious crime, to solicit a person to commit election fraud. doesn't matter if you're president of the united states when you did it. and if senate republicans don't care. it's a crime in the state of georgia. one for which you can be convicted and punished, especially if you have the great wisdom to do it on tape. republicans in the senate don't want to hear it. they don't want to hear any of it. they don't even want the trial to happen, but they're going to have to start casting their ayes and nays tomorrow, after the first four hours of debate. for his part, president biden has now been asked multiple times, both directly by norah o'donnell on cbs this weekend and indirectly through the white house press secretary, if he wants to weigh in on the former president's fate in this trial, whether he'd vote to convict trump if he were back in the
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senate right now. president biden has refused to be drawn into these conversations, saying only that this is now a matter for the senate and not for him to say. what he says and what the white house keeps reiterating is that what he is solely focused on right now is covid relief, is combating the pandemic and passing the covid relief bill, the american rescue plan. and i'll tell you, on that relief plan, the one part of it that remains an object of absolute fixation for the press is whether republicans will vote for it as well as democrats. and, certainly, for the purposes of score-keeping and, you know, partisan competition as a televised sport, that is an interesting question. i, myself, will be interested to see if any republicans vote for it. but on the other hand, who cares, right? it's called the american rescue plan for a reason. this is a thing the country really needs, something that new
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polling shows nine out of ten americans are in support of. nine out of ten americans support there being a new covid rescue plan. this is something we really need as a country. so, maybe republicans will vote for it. maybe not. what is perhaps of more consequence is what's going to be in this. what's going to be in the bill? you know, whether or not there are any republican votes for the bill, it, frankly, is up to the democrats right now to decide whether the things that president biden said he wants in the bill are actually going to be in it, because while republicans are free to vote for this bill, they don't need to in order for it to pass. and so, it really is up to the democrats to decide, will there be $1,400 stimulus checks to bring that amount of stimulus up to that $2,000 level that even president trump was demanding before he left office and that senators like jon ossoff and raphael warnock campaigned on relentlessly in georgia when they won their seats in the senate last month to give democrats control of the u.s. senate. will everyone who was eligible for previous covid relief payments still be eligible for
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these next ones? or will democrats cut a whole bunch of middle-class people off from those covid relief checks? in previous relief, agreed to by both democrats and republicans -- if you're keeping track of that sort of thing -- the income threshold for getting covid relief was $75,000. anybody who's making $75,000 a year or less got a covid relief check. if they drop that threshold a lot, if they drop that threshold down to $50,000, that would mean there are something like 40 million americans who got checks last time who won't get them again. and why would democrats want to do that? i mean, to be blunt about it, democrats are planning on campaigning against republicans who vote against this thing. they're planning on campaigning against republicans who vote against this thing by saying, hey, look, the republicans busted the budget to give tax breaks to the richest people in the country, but when it came time to give out covid relief, they voted to stiff you. that's what democrats want to use as a political argument to
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really pressure the republicans on this thing. but then, when the democrats in charge, the democrats are in charge and they can write the bill, they decide to cut 40 million americans off from relief? 40 million middle-class americans who got help while the republicans were in control? the democrats cut them off? why would you do that? i mean, that's a lot of things. great politics is not one of them. and in this case, the progressive caucus would argue that the quality of the politics here and the quality of the policy go hand in hand. pramila jayapal is chair of the progressive caucus. she and her colleagues have been arguing not only that the democrats shouldn't cut all those tens of millions of middle-class americans out of the covid relief bill, she and her caucus have really led the way to fight for the covid relief bill to also raise the minimum wage, a hike in the federal minimum wage for the first time in 12 years. that would give us -- that would
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give 27 million americans a permanent raise. joining us now is congresswoman pramila jayapal from the great state of washington. she's chair of the progressive caucus. congresswoman jayapal, it's great to see you. thanks so much for joining us tonight. >> it is great to be with you, rachel. >> let me ask you just first at a personal level, if you don't mind. i know that you've been contending with covid. i just wanted to ask how you are and how your family is? >> thank you so much for asking. i am almost 100%, and my husband is almost 100%, and i just, my heart goes out to people across this country, 450,000 who have died and people who are dealing with it, because the effects do go on, and we were two of the lucky ones, frankly, to even have as short of a recovery as we've had. so, we're doing well. thank you. >> good. i'm glad to hear it. we've had our own challenges in my own family, and i know that those long consequences are a real thing. well, let me ask you about this plan for relief for the american public on covid.
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i think i laid out some of, at least the way i understand the discussion. as far as i can tell, it's a point of interest, particularly to the press, as to whether or not a few or a lot or no republicans are going to join with democrats in passing this thing. but as a matter of content, it doesn't much matter. it's up to democrats who have the votes just in the democratic caucus to pass this thing to decide what's going to be in it. and you and your colleagues in the progressive caucus are really leading to make sure that the benefits are not cut down from what they were in terms of relief under president trump, and that important economic measures like the rise in the minimum wage are included. is that fair? >> that's totally fair. and you are right on when you said we shouldn't care whether republicans are going to vote for this or not, because the vast majority of the american people support this package, republicans and democrats. so, if we want to talk about unifying proposals, a big, bold stimulus package that raises the
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wage and gets checks out to people, puts money in people's pockets, deals with all of the issues that small businesses and families are facing, that is the unifying proposal. and republicans, if they don't want to go along with it, that's up to them. but we now control -- democrats now control the house, the senate, and the white house. and i grant you that it's a thin majority in both chambers, but the reality, rachel, is we've got to do what we promised. we've get to get these $2,000 checks -- $1,400 in addition to the $600 -- out to people. we should not be cutting thresholds to $50,000 and $100,000. that makes no political sense. you outlined that. but it also makes no policy sense, because we are looking at 2019 numbers to determine this eligiblity. everybody understands that tens of millions of people lost their jobs or had reduced income in 2020. so, if you look at an income
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threshold from 2019, it is not relevant to what we're trying to do. and this idea of targeting, i just call it restricting for no good reason, because if you really wanted to target, then you would need to look at the most recent data on income, which is not what we're using in this bill. so, let's just get these checks out to everybody. and we did score a victory after a lot of pushing that the progressive caucus did over the weekend. we were able to secure at least the initial victory of keeping these thresholds the same. but we just have to be really clear, there are a lot of people who are hurting across this country, and reducing thresholds and talking about some fake targeting is not going to get relief to people, on top of not being what we campaigned on. so, that's the first thing. and then the second thing on the minimum wage. i mean, i represent the city that was the first major city in the country to pass the minimum wage, $15 minimum wage. i was on the committee that
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helped draft that proposal when we passed it back in 2014, and that's seattle, of course. and so, this has been, you know, such a big priority for progressives for a decade, led by fast-food workers across this country. and just over the weekend, we were starting to hear all the reasons why we shouldn't put $15 into the bill, and frankly, we had to push back very, very hard. we were able to work with leadership, with the chairman of the education and labor committee. and yesterday there was no $15 bill in the education and labor mark-up, and today, rachel, there is. what does that mean? $330 billion in wages will flow to workers over the next ten years. 27 million workers will get a raise, and 1 million workers will be lifted out of poverty. this is a core, important issue and structural reform that will also persist past covid.
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so, it is one of the most important things we can do. and i've just got a smile from ear to ear, but i want to make sure that people understand, we've got to get it across the finish line. it's got to stay in the bill. the thresholds have to stay in the bill all the way through the house and then into the senate. and democrats have to fight. we have to fight with everything we've got for these progressive, bold ideas that are going to bring relief to people. >> congresswoman pramila jayapal, the chair of the congressional progressive caucus. i'm not sure a lot of people knew that the $15 minimum wage wasn't going to be in the bill until the work that was done by you and other progressives over the weekend to get us there. so thank you for helping us understand that and helping us make that news and let everybody know. as you say, this is the start of the process, but laying out the stakes as clearly as possible. it's great to see you. good wishes on a good recovery. >> great to see you, too, rachel, and to you and your family as well. i followed some of that.
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>> thank you so much. >> it was heartbreaking. and i so appreciate your bringing it to the forefront. >> thank you. that's really kind of you to say. all right. we've got much more to get to here tonight. stay with us. more to get to here tonight stay with us
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oldsmar is a city on the west side of florida. about 15,000 people live there. it's about a half hour down the road from tampa, the stadium where the super bowl played this weekend's about 12 miles away. but as we were heading into this
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weekend, the super bowl weekend, on friday afternoon, somebody tampered with the drinking water in the city of oldsmar, florida. before the water leaves the oldsmar treatment facility, they've got a town water treatment facility -- before it leaves there and flows into people's taps, certain chemicals and additives get added to the drinking water to make it safe for people to drink. and at 1:30 p.m. on this past friday, an employee at the oldsmar water treatment plant noticed that the cursor on his computer screen had started moving around on its own. the cursor pulled up the control for a chemical called sodium hydroxide. sodium hydroxide is better known by the common name lye. lye is used to help regulate the acidity of the water, added to potable water in small amounts to regulate the ph of the water. but in high doses, lye can be dangerous, profoundly so. it's the same chemical used in liquid drain cleaners. typically, oldsmar adds lye into its water in the amount of 100
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parts per million or less. but on friday morning, that water treatment employee watched that phantom cursor move the controls in the water treatment software to increase the amount of lye being added into oldsmar's water from less than 100 parts per million to over 11,000 parts per million. it was obvious to this employee right away that his computer was being hacked. he immediately took control of the machine, undid what the hacker had just done before the water could be significantly contaminated. today the county sheriff announced that the water treatment facility on friday was unlawfully hacked. he said the fbi and the u.s. secret service are now involved in an ongoing investigation. as of now, there are known suspects. it's unknown whether the hacker was located overseas or in the united states. city officials made it clear today that even if that water treatment employee hadn't been so attentive on friday and hadn't seen the hack happen in real time, it still would have
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taken at least a full day before that contaminated water hit people's taps. they say there are other safeguards in place that would have detected the strong change in the ph of the water, the contamination of the water, way before then, so they're saying that this kind of attack on the city's water supply would have been caught some other way, if it wasn't caught the way that it was. which i guess is comforting, in a sense. but until we know more about this hack, including how hard it was to pull off, it really does raise all sorts of questions about, you know, how secure all of those safeguards really were. if you could hack the computer that added the lye to the water, could you have hacked the alarms that are supposed to alert people that the ph is wrong in the water as it's getting to people's taps? an attack on our critical infrastructure, on our electricity, on our hospitals, on the water we drink, that is the nightmare scenario for cyber warfare leaving the conceptual
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realm that most of us don't get into the terrorism realm that a lot of us think about all the time. that nightmare has never been fully realized in this country, but in oldsmar, florida, on friday, we got one big step closer. nicole perloff is a cybersecurity reporter for "the new york times." she's really, really good. she has reported on critical infrastructure attacks all over the world. this is what she had to say tonight after hearing the news out of oldsmar. she says, quote, i always put water treatment plants first in my stories in my lineup of remotely hackable infrastructure. it's because this is the attack scenario that freaked me out the most. to date, these attacks have been near misses, yet we continue to see determined hackers poking and probing these systems. we're warned of cyber pearl harbor bombs, but water contamination is a silent, though no less deadly, threat. nicole perlroth has a brand-new book out called "this is how they tell me the world ends: the cyber weapons arms race."
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she joins us here next. stay with us. ms race. she joins us here next stay with us
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for about a decade, journalist nicole perlroth has been covering cybersecurity and digital espionage for "the new york times," covering everything from russia's hacking targeting federal agencies in u.s. elections and the ukrainian gas company at the center of the first trump impeachment to north korea's cyber attacks against banks and hospitals, to iran's attacks on oil companies and also on banks. she's also on the byline tonight on a story that feels unsettlingly much closer to home, hacking of the town water treatment plan in oldsmar, florida, population 15,000. that attempted poisoning on friday, nicole perlroth tonight calls that, quote, the scenario, a cyber attack on a water treatment facility that contaminates a town water that has long been feared by cybersecurity experts.
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well, tomorrow, coincidence, this barn-burning culmination of nicole perlroth's years of reporting on cybersecurity is about to hit book shelves. it reads like a novel. it is not. it's called "this is how they tell me the world ends: the cyber weapons arms race." in it, perlroth lays out how the u.s. has gone from leading the world in cyber hacking expertise to really being quite vulnerable to cyber attacks from lots of places. she says, quote, the analogy to pearl harbor is a deeply flawed one. america didn't see that attack coming. we've seen the cyber equivalent coming for a deckate. what we are experiencing instead is not one attack, but a plague, invisible to the naked eye, that ripples across our country at an extraordinary rate, reaching deeper into our infrastructure, our democracy, our elections, our freedom, our privacy and our psyche with no end in sight. american computers are attacked every 39 seconds. only when there are highly visible mishaps do we pause for reflection. but the lessons from even the most destructive attacks tend to
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be forgotten quickly. we've normalized them, even as the stakes grow higher, as the threats mutate into deadlier versions, as they hit us quicker than ever before. joining us now is nicole perlroth, cybersecurity reporter for "the new york times," author of the new book "this is how they tell me the world ends." nicole, congratulations on the book. thanks for being here tonight on the eve of publication. i really appreciate it. >> thanks so much for having me, rachel. >> so, i read everything that you write, and i find your beat fascinating. and i also am not the kind of person who easily wraps my head around these technical details, but you explain them in a way that i can understand. given that i have that trust in you as a reporter and explainer of these things, can you tell me sort of how many alarms this water treatment plant in florida story has set off for you, how serious you think this is? >> well, like i said, and you did a great job explaining it, like i said, this is the attack i've been worried about for a long time. whenever i talk about the
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hypothetical event of a cyber attack hitting critical infrastructure in the united states, the one that always freaked me out the most was a hack on a water treatment facility, because this is not something where an explosion would go off or a bomb. this is something where someone getting into these controls, like they did friday, could actually contaminate the drinking water for large swaths of the population. now, in this case, oldsmar's population is 15,000. but we should look at this attack very carefully. we should look at how they got in. we should try and understand what sort of mitigations would have been put in place if someone happened to not be sitting at their computer and watched their mouse cursor move around. it sounds like that contaminated water wouldn't have gotten into the drinking supply for another 24 to 36 hours, and there might have been sensors along the way. but i thought you made a great point, which is, if they could get into these items and they could access the controls, what was to stop them from maybe
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mucking up the controls, themselves, to make sure that those last-minute mitigations wouldn't work? and you know, as you read from my book, we just continue to see these sort of escalating cyber attacks. and the one that really brought this to mind was this attack in 2017 that russia pulled off on a saudi petrochemical plant, where what they did was they actually dismantled the safety locks at that plant, the very last mitigation in a long line of mitigations that is in place to prevent an explosion. and they were actually able to, essentially, neutralize those safety locks. so, we know that's possible. we don't know what would have happened here if someone wasn't sitting at their computer, but we continue to have these big near misses, and it seems like each one just gets closer and closer and closer. >> i feel like the thing that i have learned from your reporting, and particularly from the book, is that my initial instinct on this as a consumer of news is sort of wrong, or at
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least it's beside the point. my initial instinct is, yeah, how hard is it to do this? does that limit the number of suspects? how long is it going to take to figure out who did this? and therefore, what their intent was and how they can be brought to justice. i feel like from your reporting i have learned that, basically, everybody can do this, that if it can be done, there's lots of skilled actors around the world, and a lot of our lack of defenses as a country are because we came to believe that we were the only people who were working on this with any level of expertise, and so, we never built defenses into our own systems. now that everybody has the tools that we have -- and i mean everybody in a sort of hyperbolic sense, but lots of entities have that. thinking about the individual suspects list maybe isn't the right approach here. >> yeah, i mean, just like you said, anybody could have done this, you know. it could have been a bored teenager. it could have been a disgruntled employee. it could have been a nation state. you know, most of my reporting
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has focused on the nation state threat, but yes, this is not that difficult to pull off, and many of the people i talked to today called it a pretty simplistic attack. so, you know, one of the things people highlighted was that this was on a really small facility. you know, when you're talking about a giant critical infrastructure operator like a pg&e, they're going to have a lot of mitigations and security measures in place, but where we're vulnerable is with these smaller utilities, these small water treatment plants in these small towns and cities, the smaller dams that hackers could get inside their control system, dismantle the locks on these dams, and essentially, cause a kind of cyber-induced tsunami. we've seen some of these. you know, a couple years ago, i think it was 2013, we caught iranian hackers inside the bohman avenue dam. now, the bohman avenue dam is about 30 miles north of new york. it keeps back a little babbling
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brook, and it wouldn't have done that much damage if they had actually pulled it off. but i remember the day it happened, michael daniel, who was then the white house cybersecurity coordinator, got this 3:00 a.m. phone call, a sort of famed 3:00 a.m. phone call, from john brennan, freaked out because they thought it was the arthur j. bowman dam in oregon, which if the iranian hackers had gotten inside that dam and basically messed with the locks that hold its water back, they really could have caused the equivalent of a terrorist attack. so, we keep seeing sort of the capabilities keep getting better and better, and we keep seeing more and more adversaries probing at our critical infrastructure. there were more attacks on american critical infrastructure in the second half of last year than we've seen in the previous two years combined. so, the threat is getting more frequent. and you know, here's the bigger thought, though, is the united
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states still is the world's top cyber superpower. we have the best offensive capabilities when it comes to cyber attacks. there is a reason why you keep seeing me report on russian attacks and iranian attacks and chinese attacks. it's not because i'm ignoring what the nsa or cyber command does, it's just that their attacks are much more difficult to detect because they're just better and more sophisticatend more stealthy. the problem is, is that over the last ten years, the united states' lead in this area has been slipping. we are now the most targeted, if not maybe among the most targeted countries in the world by hackers, and we are also the most vulnerable because we're so digitized. you know, we've sort of made this decision as a society a long time ago that we wanted as much convenience and access as possible, you know. first it was uber. and then we developed the uber of this and the uber of that.
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we wanted to control our whole lives via remote control, and that's also true for our critical infrastructure. we wanted to make it possible for software engineers to be able to measure the temperature and the pressure and the chemical levels at our water treatment facilities from afar, but that same access makes us more vulnerable than most other nation states out there. so, we have a big problem here when it comes to defense. >> yeah. all these things that we think of as advances end up creating all new vulnerabilities in their wake. nicole perlroth, author of this new book that comes out tomorrow, "this is how they tell me the world ends." fantastic title. cyber weapons arms race. again, congratulations on this achievement, nicole. thanks for helping us understand tonight. >> thank you. and thank you for continuing to raise these issues, because they really are only getting scarier and worse as time goes on.
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so, i'm sure i'll be talking to you soon. >> i hear you. i hear you. all right. we'll be right back. stay with us. all right. we'll be right back. stay with us
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today in arizona, the republican-controlled state senate took a vote on whether they should have the elected leaders of arizona's largest county arrested. they took a vote on whether they should have all five maricopa county supervisors locked up because those supervisors, the five-member board, had the nerve to declare that biden won their county fair and square in the election. republicans in the state senate are so sure there must have been massive fraud that stole the election from donald trump in maricopa that they subpoenaed the board of supervisors and demanded that they hand over the county's voting machines and the county's ballots. state senate republicans said they'd look at those ballots themselves and find the fraud themselves. well, the board said, they can't do that. voters' ballots are secret, by law. in response, senate republicans' move to vote, hold the entire board of supervisors in
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contempt, which should have authorized the arrest of all of them. well, tonight, the supervisors can breathe a sigh of relief, though just barely. the contempt vote failed by a single one. one senate republican broke with his party. but here's something you should see. when it became clear the contempt vote was going to fail, one republican senator issued what sounded, frankly, like a threat. this is republican arizona senator kelly townsend. she's speaking on the senate floor remotely. i'll warn you that her virtual background is a little bit distracting, but just listen to what she says here. >> now it's going to have to go into the hands of the public. and right now, the last place this needs to be is in a place where the public is so lathered up over all of this. we need to do this in a way that's professional, legal, and proper, not that the public's not, but they shouldn't have to do this on our behalf. so, public, do what you've got to do. >> so, public, do what you've got to do. the public's going to have to take care of this on their own,
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because we didn't do it here. that lathered-up public. do what you've got to do. do what? what do you want the public to do here? i mean, what they're talking about here is arresting the maricopa county board of supervisors. she's saying the public is going to have to go do that? really? public, do what you've got to do? wherever the modern republican party is going, arizona appears to be getting there first. wow. watch this space. e getting ther. wow. watch this space
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thanks for being with us tonight. special coverage of president trump's senate impeachment trial begins tomorrow at 9:00 a.m. here on msnbc. that will run throughout the day. then i'll be right back here tomorrow night at the usual time. "way too early with kasie hunt" is up next. the second impeachment trial of donald trump gets under way on capitol hill today. at the scene of the crime, as several men charged in the capitol riot are now implicating the former president. three questions this morning -- will there be any surprises? will we hear from witnesses? and will the arguments from either side be enough to change any minds? it's definitely "way too early" for this. good morning! and welcome to "way too early,"


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