Former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has been convicted on corruption charges and sentenced to nine-and-a-half years in prison. Lula, widely considered one of Brazil’s most popular political figures, is the front-runner in the 2018 elections. We look at how this development could impact his presidential bid, and we speak with Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Glenn Greenwald, co-founder of The Intercept.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: We begin today’s show in Brazil, where former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has been convicted on corruption charges Wednesday and sentenced to nine-and-a-half years in prison. He will remain free on appeal. Lula has been the front-runner in the 2018 elections and is widely considered one of Brazil’s most popular political figures. The former union leader co-founded Brazil’s Workers’ Party and served as president from 2003 to 2010. During that time, he helped lift tens of millions of Brazilians out of poverty. The sentencing of Lula comes a year after his successor, President Dilma Rousseff, also of the Workers’ Party, was impeached by the Brazilian Senate in a move she has denounced as a coup. Prosecutors allege a construction firm spent about $1.1 million refurbishing a beachside apartment for Lula and his wife in exchange for public contracts. He is also facing four other corruption trials.
AMY GOODMAN: But Lula says he has been the victim of a political witch hunt. Lula’s legal team has vowed to appeal the conviction. In a statement, they said, “For over three years, Lula has been subject to a politically motivated investigation. No credible evidence of guilt has been produced, and overwhelming proof of his innocence blatantly ignored,” they said.
Meanwhile, many of the lawmakers who orchestrated Rousseff’s ouster last year are also facing corruption scandals. Last month, federal prosecutors charged President Michel Temer with corruption, accusing the president of taking millions of dollars in bribes.
We go now to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where we’re joined by the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Glenn Greenwald for the hour. Glenn is the co-founder of The Intercept.
Well, Glenn, we’re going to talk about a lot of issues this hour, but let’s start in Brazil. Talk about the indictment of the former president, Lula.
GLENN GREENWALD: It’s hard to put into words what an—
AMY GOODMAN: The conviction.
GLENN GREENWALD: —extraordinary political earthquake this is for Brazil. Lula has been the singular dominant figure in Brazilian politics for more than 15 years. He is identified internationally as being the brand of the country. He was president for eight years, from 2002 until 2010, and oversaw extraordinary economic growth, left office with an 86 percent approval rating, and is currently leading, as you said in the introduction, in all public opinion polls for the 2018 election. He’s a polarizing figure now, to be certain. There’s a large segment of the population that despises him and that doesn’t want to see him return to power, but there’s a large segment of the population that wants to see him be president again. Certainly, he has more support than any of the other prospective 2018 candidates. And so, to take somebody who is this dominant on the Brazilian political landscape, not just in terms of its recent past, but also its short-term future, the person overwhelmingly likely to become the country’s next president through the ballot box, and convict him on charges of corruption, bribery and money laundering, and sentence him to a decade in prison, just a little under a decade in prison, you really can’t get much more consequential than this.
Independent of the merits of the case against Lula—and the extraordinary thing about this case is that there’s a lot of different corruption charges and claims against Lula, including being at the center of the Petrobras corruption. This has always—this was always regarded—has been regarded as an ancillary case, not very strong. It involves kind of obscure questions about who is actually the owner of this triplex apartment that received the benefits. Lula insists that he is not even the owner of the apartment, whereas the state insists that that was just a scam, that he really is the owner and these benefits went to him. But leaving aside the merits of the case, which will now be adjudicated on appeal, if you look at actually what has happened, it’s amazing, in Brazil. You have, first, the leader of the country who was elected president, Dilma Rousseff, impeached on charges that, even if you believe them, are extremely petty in the context of the corruption claims lodged against the people who removed her. So, you took out the elected president of PT, which severely harmed PT, and now you take the next PT candidate, who was president and who likely will be president again, and you convict him on charges and make him ineligible to run for office for the next 20 years. It certainly looks like, whether, again, these claims are meritorious or not, that there is a real attempt to preclude the public from having the leaders that it wants, which are the leaders of PT.
And at the same time that you have that going on, once Dilma was removed from office, you move from a center-left government, with PT, to a center-right government, with her successor, Michel Temer, who formed a coalition with the right-wing PSDB party, and now they’re talking about removing Temer and installing the next person in line, Rodrigo Maia, who is the head of the lower house, essentially the speaker of the house, who is a member of the right-wing Democrats party, which means you’ll go from a center-left party to a center-right party to a right-wing party without a single vote being cast. And so there’s a lot of concern and a lot of perception on the part of Brazilians that this is a further blow to democracy, that this is really just politically driven, that there are all kinds of corrupt figures on the right, including President Michel Temer and Senator Aécio Neves, who was the candidate the right ran against Dilma in 2014 and almost beat her, about whom there’s much more tangible and concrete evidence of criminality, and yet haven’t been convicted, haven’t even left office. Aécio is still in the Senate. He was ordered by a court to be removed, and now he’s been returned. And Temer remains running the country, even though the whole country heard him on audio approving bribes paid to witnesses to keep them silent.
So, I think it has to be underscored that there is reasonable debate about how strong the case is against Lula. But the way in which these cases are being prosecuted, the people who are paying prices and the people who are being protected, does give a strong appearance of it being politically motivated, whether that’s really the intention or not.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: And, Glenn, there have been reports that protesters—or people came out on the streets yesterday following the conviction, both in support of the conviction and opposed to it. So could you talk about that and the people who have been—who have approved, who think this is a good decision made by the judiciary to convict Lula?
GLENN GREENWALD: Sure. So this goes back to the protest movement against Dilma, which the Brazilian media, which is a corporate media very much opposed to Dilma and very much in favor of impeachment, depicted as this kind of uprising on the part of the people. And the reality was always much different. There is a huge segment of the population, primarily the wealthy, the oligarchs, the upper-middle class, that dislike PT because of its socialist policies. PT has become much less socialist over the years. They’ve actually gotten into bed with some oligarchs, the way the Democratic Party has in the U.S. But they’re still perceived as a socialist party. And compared to the right, they certainly oppose austerity more. They favor greater spending on social programs and the like. And so there is a segment of the country that hates PT on ideological grounds. And that is the segment of the population, that has been trying to defeat PT at the ballot box for 16 years now and has failed to do so, that were out on the streets demanding Dilma’s impeachment. The same people who wanted to beat her at the ballot box and failed then went to the streets to demand her impeachment, which is not surprising. And so, the people who are out on the streets now demanding that Lula be imprisoned or celebrating his imprisonment are the people who have just always hated PT and hated Lula strictly on ideological grounds. Then there are people, sort of the hardcore loyalists of Lula and Dilma and PT, who are out on the streets protesting his imprisonment.
This is really the big question that continues to lurk over Brazil, which, I should remind everybody, is the fifth-largest or fifth most populous country on the planet. It’s a country of 260 million people. So it really matters what happens here. The lurking question is: Are you going to move beyond the kind of hardcore political junkies on the right and the left, when it comes to street protests? We haven’t seen massive street protests demanding the removal of Michel Temer, and we haven’t yet seen people pouring out onto the streets in anger over Lula’s conviction—albeit it’s been less than 24 hours since it happened. We might see that.
And the reason is, is that Brazilians are just exhausted. This is not a country where there are isolated corruption cases against specific political figures. This is a country which, for decades, has had a political class that is systematically corrupt. It runs on corruption. And the only thing that has changed is that you now have an independent judiciary, a judiciary that’s a little bit more or a lot more aggressive about holding people in political office accountable. There’s more transparency. And so it’s being exposed. And what Brazilians have seen is that the entire political class in Brasília, virtually, is itself corrupt, that their political system is one based in corruption. And so, they really aren’t convinced that they should be out on the street demanding Temer’s removal, as much as the country hates Temer across the board, because they’re not convinced that whoever replaces him is going to be any better, just like Temer replacing Dilma actually made things worse. And I don’t know how much loyalty there is to Lula at this point among the broad population, given that people are really disenchanted with and exhausted by political scandal. And so, I don’t—if I had to bet, I would say there isn’t going to be a mass uprising protesting Lula. There will be some people out on the street who are hardcore PT followers, but I don’t think you’re going to have massive social instability over the fact that Lula got convicted, especially since they haven’t put him in prison. They said he could remain free pending appeal.
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to go to the ousted Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, who was recently here in Democracy Now!’s studios in New York. She was talking about Lula.
DILMA ROUSSEFF: [translated] I think that Lula will run for president, unless there is an effort to convict him on appeal, because, today, if Lula were the candidate, well, he’s still the only person who has a significant number of votes. He has a 38.5 percent support. The others in the latest polls all had around 10 percent, 9 percent, 5 or 6 percent. So there is that difference. There is a concern on the part of those who carried out the coup. They are very concerned about this situation. Now we have to see how things evolve. I think it’s very difficult to convict him twice. I don’t think there’s any basis for that, because the witnesses who were called, when I called him, they did not incriminate him. In addition, I think there could be other efforts to avoid the 2018 elections, because certainly those who carried out the coup and are pushing the coup program are not going to enjoy popular support. I can assure you of that.
AMY GOODMAN: To see the full-hour interview with the ousted President Dilma Rousseff, you can go to democracynow.org. Glenn, your response?
GLENN GREENWALD: So, I think maybe she overstates just a little bit the inevitability of Lula’s victory. As is true for polls in the United States a year or more out of an election, polling tends to be about name recognition, and then, ultimately, as the election proceeds and people pay more attention to the more obscure candidates, they’re able to get some traction. But she’s definitely right that if you had to bet your money on one person to win in 2018, it would be Lula. That’s certainly who I would put my money on, not just because he’s leading in the polls, but because there is no political talent even close to Lula in terms of his ability to just be persuasive and charismatic and to appeal to people’s gut in a way that very few other politicians that I’ve ever seen in my lifetime are capable of doing. So you certainly wouldn’t bet against him.
And, you know, you—I’ve been on your show many times talking about the impeachment process, and you know what a political upheaval and crisis it was for this country to remove Dilma, to remove a democratically elected president who is part of a party that won four consecutive national elections. It really tore the country apart. Imagine if the elites of this country endured all of that, went through all of that to get her out of office, only for a year and a half later PT to return to power in the person of Lula. So, yes, they are petrified that Lula is going to return to power. They do want to make certain that he is ineligible by making him ineligible through this criminal process.
But there is another aspect to it that I think is important to point out. It’s not so black and white, this morality play, because there are a lot of politicians in Brasília across the political spectrum—on the right, on the left and on the center—who are very vulnerable to corruption charges and to having criminal proceedings brought against them. And they are petrified, all of them. They have watched some of the country’s most powerful politicians and its oligarchs go to prison, including Eduardo Cunha, who was the most powerful and feared politician in Brazil over the last several years, who’s now sitting in a federal prison without any real hope of getting out anytime soon. It’s a serious threat.
And what we see now is them start to unify. Recently, Lula gave an interview in which he actually sort of defended Michel Temer and said, “Let’s not jump to conclusions about whether he’s really guilty. We need to see the evidence.” There’s starting to be a movement on the part of all these politicians who are vulnerable to corruption charges to unify against the Lava Jato investigators, against the corruption investigators.
And so, how much of a threat Lula really poses to the oligarchical class? He’s become very close allies with a lot of the leading plutocrats, a lot of the leading oil and construction executives. He’s made a lot of money by doing business with a lot of these extremely wealthy and powerful financial interests in Brazil. He’s not the Lula from 1986, where he was this firebrand, you know, hardcore socialist union leader. He’s been integrated into the power structure. And so, I do think that they want to make sure PT doesn’t come back to power, but I don’t think it’s accurate to depict it as them viewing Lula as some kind of towering enemy of the elite. I think that the elite has found a way to work with Lula and accommodate their interests with Lula. And so I don’t know how petrified they are of his return.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Glenn, very, quickly, before we go to break, I wanted to ask you about something else that occurred on the very same day that Lula was convicted—that is, yesterday, Wednesday—which is that the Brazilian Senate approved a government-sponsored series of labor reforms. So could you tell us about those reforms and how the approval by the Senate, as reports are suggesting, might boost the Temer government—Temer himself, of course, facing corruption charges, as you mentioned, and, in fact, Brazil’s first sitting head of state to be formally charged with a crime?
GLENN GREENWALD: Yeah, I’m really glad that you ask that, because there’s no way to discuss the situation in Brazil without understanding the agenda of international finance and domestic oligarchs, in particular, their desperation to impose extremely harsh austerity measures on an already suffering poor population.
Michel Temer, shortly after he was installed as president, came to New York and spoke to a gathering of hedge funds and foreign policy elites in New York and said that the real reason Dilma was impeached was not because of these budgetary tricks she was accused of using, but it was because she was unwilling to impose the level of austerity that international capital and the business interests in Brazil wanted. That’s why they put Temer into office, to, quote-unquote, “reform” pensions and labor laws, to make people work longer, to extend their retirement rate, to reduce their benefits. This is what the whole thing is about. And it’s amazing because every time it looks like Temer is going to stay, the real increases in strength, as does the Brazilian stock market. Every time it looks like he’s in trouble, the real decreases, and the Brazilian stock market weakens, because international finance wants Temer to stay, because he’s the only one willing to impose these harsh austerity measures, because he’s already so unpopular and so old that he’s not going to run again and can’t run again, so he doesn’t care. He’s willing to do their dirty work for them.
At the same time, yesterday, when Lula got convicted and it looked like or the court has declared him ineligible to run again in 2018, what happened to the real? It skyrocketed against the dollar. The Brazilian stock market boomed because international finance wants the right to take over and continue to maintain power in Brazil. So, everything is about the underlying attempt to take away the benefits from the nation’s poor that PT has legislated for them, to make people work longer hours, to make them have fewer benefits, to transfer wealth from the laborers in this country and the poor in this country back to the oligarchs. That’s why Dilma was removed. That’s why Michel Temer is in power. That’s why they want to make Lula ineligible. And so, that is absolutely what lurks at the center of all of this intrigue.
MY GOODMAN: I’m Amy Goodman, with Nermeen Shaikh. We’re speaking with Glenn Greenwald for the hour.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: The White House remains in crisis mode following revelations that Donald Trump’s own son openly embraced an apparent effort by the Russian government to peddle information incriminating Hillary Clinton in an attempt to help Trump win the presidency. Emails show Trump Jr. was told Russia wanted to share incriminating information about Clinton as, quote, “part of Russia and its government support for Mr. Trump.” Trump Jr. replied, quote, “if it’s what you say I love it especially later in the summer,” end-quote. A week after receiving the email last June, Trump Jr., along with Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort, met with someone described to them as a, quote, “Russian government attorney.” The meeting remained secret until Kushner mentioned it on a revised security clearance form.
AMY GOODMAN: In a new interview with Reuters, President Trump defended his oldest son. He said, quote, “I think many people would have held that meeting.” When asked if he knew about the meeting, Trump told Reuters, “No. That I didn’t know, until a couple of days ago, when I heard about this.”
Still with us, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Glenn Greenwald, co-founder of The Intercept. Well, Glenn, as you look at this, as an American, but from your vantage point in Rio de Janeiro, your response to this latest development and the whole issue of Russiagate?
GLENN GREENWALD: So here’s what I don’t understand about this. Certainly, it’s an interesting email. I’m glad that it surfaced. It does lend some credence to the possibility that the Trump administration colluded with the Russians criminally, meaning with their hacking of the DNC and Podesta emails, if in fact the Russians did that as the intelligence agencies claim, although they’ve produced no evidence for it. It is possible that the Trump administration or Trump officials colluded with the Russians to commit that crime. It’s possible they didn’t. We still haven’t seen any evidence that they have. Remember, this is not evidence suggesting that Trump officials actually colluded with the Russians to commit a crime—the hacking.
Now, what the Democrats are saying is that the Trump administration and their defenders in the media at Fox News and the like are, quote-unquote, “moving the goalposts” by saying, “Well, this only shows that Trump Jr. was willing to get information from the Russian government about Clinton, but it doesn’t show there was actual criminal collusion.” To me, it seems as though the people who are moving the goalposts are the Democrats. The claim all along, the reason why there’s talk of impeachment, the reason why there is a special prosecutor, the reason why people want to see Trump and his associates criminally prosecuted, is because of the claim that they committed crimes by colluding with the Russians with regard to the hacking. That’s what Harry Reid has always said. That’s what John Podesta has always said. That has always been the Democratic claim. This newest evidence doesn’t in any way suggest that. What it suggests instead is that Donald Trump Jr. was told that the Russian government had incriminating evidence about Hillary Clinton and wanted to give it to him. And he said, “Well, I’d love to get it. I’d love to have it.” Now, I guess there’s some sense that it’s wrong for a political campaign to take dirt on your adversary from a foreign government. I don’t think it’s illegal at all to do that, but there’s a claim that it’s somehow sort of immoral.
And here’s what I don’t understand. The Steele dossier that everybody got excited about, that claimed that the Russians had incriminating videos of Trump in a Moscow hotel and other dirt on Trump, that came from somebody who was getting first paid by Republicans and then by Democrats, going to Moscow and getting dirt about Donald Trump from Kremlin-affiliated agents in Moscow. In other words, he went to Russia, talked to people affiliated with the Russian government and said, “Give me dirt about Donald Trump,” and then, presumably, got it and put it in the memo. Similarly, there’s an amazing Politico article from January of this year that describes how allies of the Clinton campaign, including somebody being paid by the DNC, met with officials of the Ukrainian government, which was desperate to help Hillary Clinton win and Donald Trump lose, and get information incriminating about Trump from Ukrainian officials. In other words, Ukraine was meddling in our election by giving Democrats incriminating information about Trump.
Now, I, personally, although it’s dirty, think all of these events are sort of the way politics works. Of course if you’re in an important campaign and someone offers you incriminating information about your opponent, you’re going to want it no matter where it comes from, whether it’s Ukrainian officials, whether it’s anti-Trump people in Moscow or whether it’s pro-Trump people in Moscow. So, I want to hear the standard that we’re supposed to use to assess Trump Jr.’s actions. Is it that it’s wrong in all cases to get incriminating information about your opponent from a foreign government? In which case, why is it OK for the Democrats to do it with Ukrainian officials or for their investigator to go to Moscow and get dirt on Trump? Or is it some other standard that distinguishes what Trump Jr. did in this case versus what Democrats did with the Steele dossier and with Ukraine? And I just don’t see this distinction. And so, for me, at least—
AMY GOODMAN: Well, lawyers—some lawyers are saying—
GLENN GREENWALD: —it’s an interesting—
AMY GOODMAN: Some lawyers are saying it has to do with—
GLENN GREENWALD: Go ahead.
AMY GOODMAN: —breaking campaign finance laws or campaign laws that have to do with getting something of value, not necessarily financial, from a foreign entity, a state or nonstate actor.
GLENN GREENWALD: Right. And there’s, I think, a lot more lawyers and a lot more campaign finance lawyers who have said that just getting information about a candidate would not constitute something of value. But let’s assume that that’s true. Let’s take that theory as though it’s true. Why doesn’t it also apply then to the person working for Democrats who went to Moscow and got something of value, namely information about Trump, from Kremlin-connected people in Moscow, or Democrats, including someone working for the DNC, who got something of value from Ukrainian officials? Why isn’t that the same thing?
MARCY WHEELER: The email adds a bunch of remarkable new details to what we know, most importantly, that the Trump campaign knew that Russia was trying to get Donald Trump elected probably before even the intelligence community. We had known that the CIA had gotten a tip from a foreign partner sometime in June that even today NSA still doesn’t think was that great a piece of intelligence. But, meanwhile, we learned that on—you know, in early June, Don Jr. was getting this email saying, “There is an effort on the part of Russia to get your father elected. And as part of that, we’re going to sent this lawyer to you with dirt on Hillary Clinton.” And Don Jr., having read that email, said, “Great! Bring it on! Give me that information.”
AMY GOODMAN: So, that’s Marcy Wheeler. And, Glenn, she wrote, just as you’re describing, the same thing over the weekend, said, “How does this differ, for example, a Democrat going to get information from the British spy Christopher Steele, who then got information from people in Russia?” But she said it all changed with seeing the actual emails.
GLENN GREENWALD: Yeah, I mean, I agree with Marcy to a large extent, but not fully, because, you know, I think that—first of all, you know, yesterday, Democrats attacked Bernie Sanders, because Bernie Sanders, when asked about the Donald Trump Jr. email, came out and said, “There are obviously significant questions raised by this, but we shouldn’t rush to judgment. We should wait to see all the evidence.” And part of my discomfort with this whole thing all along—and as a lawyer, I know this really well—is that when you get bits and pieces of information leaked through the media without the full context of what’s taking place, it’s very difficult to assess what it actually is. There’s an independent prosecutor, Robert Mueller, who everyone regards as independent and trustworthy, who has subpoena power, who is investigating this.
So, to me, what this email says is it’s from a British promoter who’s trying to lure Donald Trump Jr. into a meeting with someone who is his friend, saying, “The Russians want your father to win, and they’re willing to give you information to help.” I think it’s clear the Russian government wanted Donald Trump to win. I don’t think that’s particularly surprising. Nor do I find it surprising that Donald Trump Jr., when told that the Russian government wants to give him information that can help his father shed a bad light on Hillary Clinton, he was willing to do that. Why do we consider that surprising, let alone criminal? Again, I do think it bolsters the Democrats’ view that the Russians—the theory that Russians wanted Trump to win and that the Trump campaign was willing to take help from the Russians. But that’s still—there’s still a lot more steps that need to be completed before we get to any kind of evidence of an actual crime being committed. And that’s why I don’t think that this revelation, interesting though it may be, is as significant or a smoking gun when it comes to the impeachment or the prosecution case.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, Glenn, even though the Trump campaign has always denied collusion with the Russians in the 2016 presidential election, in his interview with Reuters yesterday, Trump suggested that there had been interference in last year’s election, saying, quote, “Something happened, and we have to find out what it is, because we can’t allow a thing like that to happen in our election process. So something happened, and we have to find out what it is.” So, could you respond to that, Glenn, and tell us what you think it is that he’s alluding to?
GLENN GREENWALD: Well, I think there are two separate issues there that we shouldn’t conflate. One is the question of whether the Russians were behind the hacks. And when I say the Russians, I mean, was it just some group of Russians, Russian hackers or Russians acting in some rogue way, or was it actually—were they actually Kremlin officials ordered by Putin? We don’t know the answers to any of those questions, even though the intelligence agencies have said that it was Putin who ordered it. So that’s one question that I think, in that quote, Trump is talking about, which is, we have to get to the bottom of who actually hacked the DNC and John Podesta’s emails, and make the evidence public so that the public can see that these assertions that the intelligence community have been making actually have evidence behind them.
Then there’s a second question, which is independent, which is: If it’s true that the Russian government hacked John Podesta and the DNC’s emails and distributed what they got to WikiLeaks, did the Trump campaign participate in that crime, either by working with the Russians before the hack or working with them after the hack on how to get the information distributed in a way that would most hurt the Democrats? That, to me, is the core question that has been at the center of this controversy from the beginning. And we still don’t have evidence that the Trump administration participated in that part of the crime. Hopefully, we will learn, one way or the other, in a sober, rational, comprehensive way, not through bits and pieces being leaked by agenda-driven anonymous sources, but by an investigation laying forth the case in a way that we can all see the evidence.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Earlier this week, the parent company of The Intercept, First Look Media, announced it will provide support for the legal defense of Reality Leigh Winner. She’s the NSA contractor who pleaded not guilty in June to charges she leaked a top-secret document to The Intercept. Winner, who remains in jail, was charged for allegedly leaking a top-secret document showing how Russian military intelligence attempted to hack into several states’ voting infrastructure. She faces up to 10 years in prison, if convicted.
AMY GOODMAN: The Intercept‘s handling of the story faced widespread scrutiny. The Department of Justice claimed in an affidavit and search warrant that it caught the leaker in part by actions taken by The Intercept. Earlier this week, The Intercept‘s editor-in-chief, Betsy Reed, said the organization has done an internal review.
BETSY REED: An internal review of the reporting of the story has now been completed. The ongoing criminal case prevents us from going into detail, but I can state that, at several points in the editorial process, our practices fell short of the standards to which we hold ourselves for minimizing the risks of source exposure when handling anonymously provided materials. Like other journalistic outlets, we routinely verify such materials with any individuals or institutions implicated by them, and we seek their comment. This process carries some risks of source exposure that are impossible to mitigate when dealing with sensitive materials. Nonetheless, it is clear that we should have taken greater precautions to protect the identity of a source who was anonymous even to us. As the editor-in-chief, I take responsibility for this failure and for making sure that the internal newsroom issues that contributed to it are resolved. We are conducting a comprehensive analysis of our source protection protocols, and we’ll make revisions to ensure that any materials provided to us anonymously are handled in the most secure manner possible. It remains core to our mission to ensure that all our journalism is carried out in a manner that honors the risks that whistleblowers take.
AMY GOODMAN: That was Betsy Reed, editor-in-chief of The Intercept, speaking on the Intercepted podcast. Still with us, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Glenn Greenwald, co-founder of The Intercept. Talk about the latest. According to the Justice Department, Reality Winner goes to trial in the fall. Talk about what your organization is doing.
GLENN GREENWALD: So, this idea of prosecuting sources and whistleblowers, people who provide newsworthy information to journalists, which is what Reality Winner is accused of doing, the idea of prosecuting them as spies under the Espionage Act is something that really began to accelerate under the Obama administration. The Obama Justice Department prosecuted more sources under that law than all previous administrations combined—in fact, almost three times as much. And this is now the practice that the Trump Justice Department is continuing by prosecuting this person alleged to have provided clearly newsworthy information to The Intercept. And this is something that ought to disturb everybody who believes in a free press and who believes in just prosecutions.
So, in the past, we have always supported whistleblowers and sources. We raised over $100,000 for Chelsea Manning’s legal defense. We’ve obviously supported Edward Snowden and Thomas Drake and others. And we’re certainly going to do everything that we can in this case to support Reality Winner, even though we have no idea whether or not she actually is the source for this story. Obviously, we are constrained, because we are involved in the story, because we’re the ones who she—who the government accuses of having leaked to us. And so, it’s very difficult for us to say anything beyond what Betsy Reed said, which is, we certainly made mistakes on our handling of the story, but are really constrained to say more.
The one thing that I would just suggest, though, is that everything known publicly about this story, about what she did, about what we did, comes from the Trump Justice Department and from the FBI, the claims that they made in the context of a criminal case. And so, I would just urge everybody not to treat those claims as though they’re the unvarnished truth. Reality Winner has pleaded not guilty. There’s going to be a trial. There are things in the FBI’s affidavits that are unproven or untrue. And so, while we certainly made mistakes, as Betsy Reed said, I think it’s really important to apply skepticism to the claims of the Trump Justice Department, of all people.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, Glenn, can you comment on your recent piece on Rachel Maddow about a fake NSA document—you’ve said, the title—which raises several key questions? The article dealt with this episode on Maddow’s show last week.
RACHEL MADDOW: Heads up, everybody. This is what I mean by an inside-out scoop. Somebody, for some reason, appears to be shopping a fairly convincing fake NSA document that purports to directly implicate somebody from the Trump campaign in working with the Russians on their attack on the election. It is a forgery. Let me caveat that: It is either a forgery, or every single national security official we consulted about this story is wrong about it.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: So, Glenn Greenwald, that’s Rachel Maddow. Can you talk about what you discussed in your piece and what mistakes—how they believed this obviously forged document?
GLENN GREENWALD: Right. So, Rachel spent the first 21 minutes of her show rather breathlessly touting this extraordinarily fascinating story that she called an exclusive. And in that introduction that you just played and many times throughout the segment, she depicted this forged document that she received as being this masterfully crafted, highly sophisticated fake, because she strongly implied over and over that the person who forged this document came from the Trump administration in an attempt to trick her into running a story that ended up being fake. The reality is that we’ve spoken with the person who actually did the forgery. He sent that same document to BuzzFeed. BuzzFeed went online and said, “We got the same document as Maddow.” There was actually one small difference, but they said, “We got the same document as Maddow, and we instantly realized it was a joke.” It was an obvious fake that nobody would have ever taken seriously. So, to the extent that Rachel was making the point that media outlets should be careful when somebody anonymously sends them a document that’s top-secret, that they have to be careful to authenticate it because it might be fake, that’s a perfectly fine point to make, I guess. But I think that all news outlets already knew that, already know that they have to be careful with documents that they get sent to them in the mail when authenticating them. I don’t we needed 21 minutes of Rachel saying that.
I think the concern that we had about the story was that she strongly implied that whoever got this document and forged it got it before we actually published it online. She was saying that the metadata of the document shows that whoever created the forgery, based on the document that we published, got it prior to our publication of it, which would have meant that only someone in the Trump government or, presumably, The Intercept could have been the one to have forged it and sent it to her. And that was just a misreading of the metadata. The metadata actually shows that whoever sent it to her got it directly from our site once we published it. And, in fact, the person who forged it said he took it from our site, put it into a Photoshop program, and it took him all of 10 minutes to just erase our text and enter the text that he actually erased. And we published the document so everyone can see it. So, it’s a valid warning from Maddow to make sure that we authenticate documents, as journalists, that we get sent in the mail, but I don’t think it merited the strong innuendo that this is some highly sophisticated operation on the part of some high-level Trump official to trick the media into publishing false stories.
AMY GOODMAN: So, just to be clear, because it’s hard for people to follow all this, when you talk about metadata, you’re talking about the document you posted online from an anonymous source, which many are saying was Reality Winner, talking about voter information that was leaked, that that piece of paper that showed where it came from—and this is the whole controversy around The Intercept posting the original online—this forger took and then replaced the words on the document with some—something he wanted to see if he could get out there, that he did in, as you said, all of 10 minutes.
GLENN GREENWALD: Right. So, he took The Intercept document, once we published it, erased the actual text but kept the format, so it would look like a top-secret NSA document, and he entered some really cartoonish kind of text about how the NSA heard the Trump campaign manager talking to the Russians about how to hack John Podesta’s emails or how to distribute those emails to WikiLeaks—basically, what would be collusion—and also having the NSA purport to have heard the Trump campaign manager say that the videotape from the dossier, the Steele dossier, was actually authentic. I mean, it was just—it would be the biggest story ever, but it was so obviously fabricated.
And the confusion came because the date and time on the document that Rachel got was a few hours before we published. So that made her think whoever got this document got it before we published. And the confusion was that the date and time on the document is not the date and time that we published it, but the date and time that we uploaded it to the internet, which matched perfectly the date and time on the document that we published. So it was clear that the person who sent it to her didn’t get it before we published and didn’t have special access, but got it when we put it online. That was the primary point of that article.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Glenn, very quickly, before we conclude, Betsy Reed says, and you said, as well, that an internal review has been conducted at The Intercept to see how the identity of the alleged leaker was revealed. So, what did the internal review show about what mistakes The Intercept made?
GLENN GREENWALD: I mean, I wish more than anything we could take that internal review and put it online. The problem is, is that lawyers, our lawyers and others, have warned that if we disclose information about the internal processes of our reporting, there is a risk that the government could use some of that information, or try to use it, to bolster their prosecution of Reality Winner. And the last thing we want to do or should do is say anything or do anything that further jeopardizes this person, who, if the accusations against her are correct, was simply acting as a person of conscience trying to disclose to the public information that she felt was newsworthy and that was newsworthy. So we’re not going to do that.
AMY GOODMAN: Glenn Greenwald, we want to thank you so much for being with us, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, founder—co-founder of The Intercept.