Jeff Bezos accuses National Enquirer Owner. TRANSCRIPT: 02/07/2019, All In w. Chris Hayes
Show: ALL IN with CHRIS HAYES
Date: February 7, 2019
Guest: Manuel Roig-Franzia, Stu Zakim, David Cay Johnston, Lee Gelernt, Ed
Markey, Diana Degette, Dan Kildee, Jamie Raskin
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: As an earlier American journalist, Walter
Cronkite used to say, and that`s the way it is. And that`s HARDBALL for
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REID: Good evening from New York. I`m Joy Reid in for Chris Hayes. We
have breaking news tonight regarding the tabloid newspaper aligned with
Donald Trump, the National Enquirer. Tonight, the CEO of Amazon and the
owner of the Washington Post Jeff Bezos has very publicly accused AMI,
parent company of the National Enquirer of extortion and blackmail.
The National Enquirer had already published intimate text messages between
Bezos and a woman who is not his wife. But now, Bezos says they threatened
to publish compromising photos of him if he did not stop an investigation
into how the tabloid got those private texts.
Bezos didn`t just tell us what happened, he posted the information himself.
E-mails he says are from AMI executives that described the photos that The
Inquirer was threatening to publish including what one executive calls a
quote below the belt selfie.
NBC News has not seen copies of the letters independently and we`ve reached
out to both AMI and Amazon. Bezos said that he began personally
investigating AMI a few weeks ago after it published his intimates text
messages. Since then he says “numerous people have contacted our
investigation team about their similar experiences with AMI and how they
needed to capitulate because for example, their livelihoods were at stake.”
Bezos adds, “in the AMI letters I`m making public, you will see the precise
details of their extortionate proposal. They will publish the personal
photos unless Gavin de Becker and I make the specific false public
statement to the press that we have no knowledge or basis for suggesting
that AMI`s coverage was politically motivated or influenced by political
Last year, the Department of Justice agreed to an immunity deal for AMI
which admitted to providing a catch and kill service for Donald Trump and
his presidential campaign. If someone raised a possibly damaging story
about Trump, AMI and its CEO David Pecker would buy the story and make sure
it was never published.
Bezos, the world`s richest person writes, “If in my position I can`t stand
up to this kind of extortion, how many people can?” Joining me now is
Washington Post Reporter Manuel Roig-Franzia who has been covering the
Bezos National Enquirer`s story. So Manuel, let me start with you on this
first. Can you cuss back through the sort of start of the – of the big
Bezos` investigation into the text messages that he says were obtained by
the National Enquirer.
MANUEL ROIG-FRANZIA, REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Sure. The National
Enquirer got a hold of some photographs and text messages involving Jeff
Bezos and a woman that he was romantically linked with named Lauren
Sanchez, a former television reporter in Los Angeles. And those were
published in the National Enquirer.
And when that happened, these very intimate text messages being published,
Jeff Bezos went to a private security consultant who he has worked with for
a long time named Gavin de Becker, you mentioned him at the top, and they
started an investigation to figure out where these text messages were
gathered, how they got to the National Enquirer, and how the whole thing
REID: And so the idea being that the National Enquirer took offense to the
fact that they were looking into these? I mean the National Enquirer
published the text messages. I guess the presumption here is that Bezos
believed that the Enquirer had obtained these photos how, by somehow
getting into his private accounts, into his cloud, what was sort of the
nature of that investigation?
ROIG-FRANZIA: Yes. Where things get very sticky is some of the public
statements that have been made by the Jeff Bezos security consultant Gavin
de Becker he has suggested that there`s a possible political motivation
behind the publication of those text messages.
And the reason for that is that the National Enquirer has had a history of
doing some things that are helpful to President Donald Trump and the theory
that potentially those text messages could have been published by the
National Enquirer as some way of getting back at Jeff Bezos for his
ownership of The Washington Post where it`s floated by his security
consultant and also not as floated privately but also discussed publicly.
And that has clearly bothered the National Enquirer in their responses to
us when we began our reporting. They vehemently denied that. And they
seem to continue to do that in their correspondence directly with Bezos.
REID: And is the implication there that the Enquirer wanted to intimidate
Jeff Bezos into somehow influencing the reporting at the Washington Post in
Donald Trump`s favor or that they just wanted him to stop looking into
their acquisition of his texts?
ROIG-FRANZIA: There are a lot of murky details when you start digging in
deeper into these theories that were being discussed. Behind the scenes
that we learned about when we were reporting this piece for – reporting
about all this for a piece that ran on the front page on Wednesday. One of
the theories was that foreign governments could have been involved. Other
theories maybe even involved Mossad or the British intelligence agencies
with the motivation of damaging Jeff Bezos because he is perceived as a
person who is in conflict with Donald Trump.
You know, if you look at Donald Trump`s Twitter feed, you see a lot of
negativity about Jeff Bezos and you have somebody who`s running a tabloid
who is seemingly very close to the president.
REID: Wait, hold on a second. Are you suggesting that one of the
potential theories as to how those text messages and potentially now photos
were obtained was a foreign government acting either in concert with Donald
Trump or on behalf of Donald Trump might have been the one to obtain those
text messages and hand them over to the National Enquirer?
ROIG-FRANZIA: Yes. In the investigation that was conducted by the Jeff
Bezos` security team, one of the theories that was discussed between Gavin
de Becker, the security and consultant who I met mentioned and Michael
Sanchez who is the brother of Lauren Sanchez who is romantically linked
with Jeff Bezos was that these text messages could have been acquired by
Mossad or by British intelligence, by MI6. That is their theory.
We`re not saying that that`s true and we`re not even saying that they are
certain that it happened that way but they discussed it and we have
reviewed electronic communication between these two parties, between
Michael Sanchez and Gavin de Becker in which that is discussed. And I
would add just one other really important thing. Gavin de Becker who is
the security consultant, he has told us that he has reached the conclusion
that Jeff Bezos, his phone was not hacked. And that`s why he thinks that a
government entity could possibly have been the one to acquire the text
REID: And in your reporting, are there direct connections and links
between David Pecker and the AMI company, the company that owns a National
Enquirer and foreign governments?
ROIG-FRANZIA: We haven`t uncovered that and we haven`t reported that.
What we`ve reported is that that theory has been explored by Jeff Bezos`
security consultant. And that one of the reasons why he`s looking at
potential political motivation is that Lauren Sanchez`s brother is a well-
known supporter of Donald Trump. He`s considered a conservative and he has
consulted during the course of this scandal with people who are or have
been close to Donald Trump.
People like Roger stone the famous political dirty trickster and Carter
Page who was mixed up in the investigation into Russian interference in the
2016 election when questions were being asked in Congress about some trips
that he took to Moscow.
REID: So just to be clear, the brother of the woman with whom Bezos was
allegedly having the affair, you`re saying is connected to Donald Trump or
at least a supporter of him?
ROIG-FRANZIA: He`s a supporter of Donald Trump. That has been evident in
his social media posts. And for that reason it`s possible that the Jeff
Bezos security team looked at that as a potential motivation for
involvement here. I should say that Michael Sanchez has also spoken to us
for our reporting on this story and he has suggested that in fact it is
Gavin de Becker the security consultant who might have been involved in
these leaks as some sort of an effort to disrupt the relationship between
Jeff Bezos and Lauren Sanchez and somehow perhaps save the marriage of Jeff
Bezos to Mackenzie.
REID: Wow. Wow. Well, OK, well, Manuel Roig-Franzia, thank you. Thank
you so much for coming on with us and helping us unfold all this breaking
news tonight. I really appreciate it. Thank you.
Now, I want to bring in Corporate Communications Strategist Stu Zakim, a
former spokesperson for AMI, parent company of the National Enquirer.
Great to have you here, Stu.
STU ZAKIM, CORPORATE COMMUNICATIONS STRATEGIST: Thanks for having me.
REID: Stu, thank you very much. So let`s go back to this because this is
a lot. This idea of the National Enquirer putting in writing – we were
going through these upstairs with the producers of this program e-mails in
which they are spelling out AMI, at least they appear to be spelling out or
the representative, if you don`t back off of your investigation here are
the detailed photos then describing them that we will publish about you.
Is that something that went on when you were involved with AMI?
ZAKIM: I wouldn`t necessarily been privy to that because I`m usually the
one called in to mop up those messes when it happens –
ZAKIM: – as a P.R. person but it doesn`t surprise me that`s how they
operate because there are bullies, you know. They – a tabloid by nature
is not your home-red paper.
ZAKIM: They`re salacious, it sell copies. Now they – this is what
they`ve been – whole reputation on. The other thing that we didn`t touch
on is that they do pay for tips. So – and that`s – and they`re very
public about that. So when – I`m not anywhere – no idea whatsoever at
how they got the photos or the – or the text messages, but photos to be
submitted and they could buy them. And that needs to be a pretty standard
procedure immense competing publications when hot photos are out there, and
that bidding more will just go through the roof.
REID: Right. And one of the things that Bezos – his representatives are
saying back to them is that if these are my private photos, he`s saying,
that I own them. They`re my copyrighted material and they`re saying back
no, this is a story in the public interest, therefore, we have the right to
use them. Was that the ethos as far as you know at the Enquirer, if we get
them, it doesn`t matter where we got them, we can use them?
ZAKIM: Yes. They would vet it through their – obviously their legal
counsel, but yes, if they get stuff, they felt they were entitled to use
REID: One of the things that`s the most disturbing about this back-and-
forth is this requirement of obedience, of ongoing obedience that if Jeff
Bezos were to – would have gone along with this and said fine well back
off this reporting, publicly indemnify the AMI and the National Enquirer
from any fault, right, and say that we`re not investigating you and we`re
going to submit openly and say that you are not at fault.
But if you were deviate from that story at any time in the future, the
Enquirer is saying we`ll just hold on to these photos and blackmail you
forever. This is – it sounds like – it almost sounds like the Mafia.
ZAKIM: Well, you know, they kind of operate as thugs. I mean, look at the
genre in which they live in. Tabloids once again as we said are really
aggressive publications from ever, not just the Enquirer but the history of
tabloids are sensational. That`s what people want to read and they`re
excited about that.
So I don`t think that had anything to play with – what I really can`t
believe though is threatening Jeff Bezos. I mean, the richest man in the
world who has power beyond belief. He`s going to be concerned that AMI is
going to embarrass him?
ZAKIM: I mean, the first story would have embarrassed him as much what`s
going to happen.
ZAKIM: At this point, lets –
REID: What do think he has to lose? He owns the Amazon –
ZAKIM: Exactly right. So you know, the hubris that they have in going
after him that way just blew me away.
REID: Yes. Let`s talk a little bit about Mr. Pecker because there is now
apparently this immunity deal, this deal that they`ve cut because everyone
is turning state`s evidence on Donald Trump at this point. If this is the
kind of thing they`re doing that gets out, you mean, what kind of things
were happening that we don`t even know about yet? Is this just standard
operating procedure? Are we going to find more that has to do with public
figures and politicians?
ZAKIM: I would say it`s pretty much standard operating procedure. And you
know, you mentioned Gavin de Becker as a security person, he`s very fluent
in this world. I mean, he`s very known in the Hollywood community and
those about these kinds of things that go on. So the fact that Bezos went
to him was very smart move, number one, because he gets someone who knows
this world better than anyone else. And the information that they`re
bringing forth, it`s a little amazing but it`s not that unusual.
REID: Are you surprised they put it in writing?
ZAKIM: Yes. I am.
REID: Yes. That they would be that explicit about it.
ZAKIM: Yes, exactly. I mean, because in this day, nothing is –
everything is public.
ZAKIM: There`s no private communication.
ZAKIM: And to have that out there with this kind of language is you know
kind of reinforces the negative image of what the Enquirer does.
REID: Yes, and we already know that Michael Cohen that one of the things
that he was doing were arranging some of this catch and kill type of deals.
That there were women out there who could come out who could embarrass
Donald Trump while he`s running for President. These deals are getting
made to pay them off.
You just talk a little bit about the culture at the National Enquirer
because it sounds like less of a journalistic operation and more of sort of
almost a political consultancy. That this is our friend if he`s running
for office, we`ll protect him by paying off women.
ZAKIM: Well, I wasn`t there during this whole Trump time so let me make
that clear. I worked there 12 years ago. When he and Trump – when Pecker
and Trump were friends not political partners, that`s they ended up being,
but he also handled AMI, all their publications which were 26, The Enquirer
being one of them so I wasn`t in bed with the Enquirer as much as the other
titles. Yet because of who they are, they command a lot of attention for
the P.R. person.
ZAKIM: Because you`re constantly you know, dodging bullets.
REID: Yes. And they – and every so often they get a hit like the Eduard
Story for instance, right. How are they getting this? Are they just
simply paying for dirt? Are they just a farm that saying just give us dirt
and we`re almost like a TMZ but of stories that are about either both
celebrities or –
ZAKIM: Everyday TMZ. TMZ probably models a lot of what The Enquirer did.
ZAKIM: They`re very public and we will pay for our sources.
REID: How political are they?
ZAKIM: Until now, you know, I don`t think they were political. They were
about selling magazines. David Pecker, even though he`s friends with
Trump, he`s a businessman and he has been very successful about his career
so that`s what drives him.
REID: Can I get – can you just say here for moment.
REID: I want to have you stay – we`re going to bring in David Cay
Johnston. He is – and we`re going to be joined by a couple of people.
Jill Wine-Banks MSNBC Legal Analyst, former Watergate prosecutor and
Pulitzer Prize Winning Journalist David Cay Johnston.
David, I want to go to you first on this. There`s a lot that`s
extraordinary here, obviously. But one of them is this relationship
between David Pecker and Donald Trump. The idea that they were paying for
stories to catch and kill for him. Talk a little bit about that
relationship because now he is – he is turning state`s evidence and if
this is the kind of stuff they`re doing to Jeff Bezos, one wonders what
else he`s talking about.
DAVID CAY JOHNSTON, JOURNALIST: Well, let`s praise Jeff Bezos because
stories about this kind of stuff have been around a long time and no one
has been willing view on the record. This is not unlike people who
wouldn`t step forward over you know, the #MeToo Movement, rapes, all sort
of child abuse by Catholic priests, all sorts of things.
And the business model here is exactly as your previous guest said what
matters. Pecker is a man motivated like Donald Trump, not by ideology but
by money. And they`ve been running this racket for a long time. And Jeff
Bezos recognized that the only winning – possible winning game for him was
to step out in the light and try to put a stop to this.
And I suspect if we get a full investigation we`re going to find out it`s
far worse and it`s gone back many more years than we realized.
REID: And are you surprised, David, to hear the idea of potential foreign
government involvement in obtaining the private materials, maybe getting
into the cloud of a private citizen and then handing that material over for
use as blackmail material to a supermarket tabloid?
JOHNSTON: Not in the least. And one of the things that I hope is going to
come out as a result of all sorts of things including the intelligence
intercepts we`ve just gotten on the murder of Jamal Khashoggi where the
Crown Prince some time ago was intercepted saying he put a bullet in it is
that we`re going to see how much background influence is being peddled here
to suppress things, to disrupt democracy, to promote interests and to make
money above all.
We have very weak international laws on criminality and money and it`s why
we have these massive illicit flows of cash that I`ve spoken about on –
with you many times, Joy.
REID: Yes. It sounds like the mob. I mean, more than anything else,
that`s what it sounds like. Jill Wine-Bank –
JOHNSTON: It`s a white collar mob.
REID: That`s what it sounds like. Jill Wine-Banks, if you are Robert
Mueller tonight absorbing this information about someone who is a
cooperating witness, what are you thinking tonight?
JILL WINE-BANKS, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: I`m thinking that if I`m Robert
Mueller, I actually already know all about this because the cooperating
witness has told me everything that might possibly come up. So I`m not
surprised by this if I`m Mueller.
It is surprising to the average reader, shocking even when you read what
Jeff Bezos has revealed about how AMI and the National Enquirer operated.
And I think we have to say thank you to him for maybe being the first
person who could afford to stand up to this kind of blackmail. And then we
have to look at is this just how National Enquirer operates.
But what could they have been thinking that they would have had enough
leverage over someone who they had already ruined his life by revealing the
text messages? What more leverage did they have over him? What more harm
could they do him? If they had come to him initially, maybe they would
have had some leverage to save his marriage and not have this happen.
But at the point that we are now where they`ve already revealed the affair,
there seems to me no reason why they could have thought they would get away
with it. And then you have to ask why would they have written this? Why
would they have a record that Jeff Bezos could then go ahead and publish?
It`s as astounding as Roger Stone putting in writing some of the things he
put in writing, the threats to witnesses for example. Why did he put that
in writing? What was he thinking?
REID: Yes. It`s incredible. We`ve been having a lot of debates about
billionaires but one thing that they don`t – that you do not have over a
billionaire is leverage. I mean, the man is the richest man in the world,
leverage, could you have on him?
To stay with you for a moment Jill Wine-Banks, Jeff Bezos in you know,
publishing this and putting this out there said that other people have come
to him and said that they couldn`t afford not to capitulate, and not just
capitulate but obey in perpetuity because what the – what he`s saying
here, what`s in these correspondences is if you ever deviate from the story
we agree to, we`ll still use the photographs in perpetuity. Does that then
say to you that Mueller – that an investigator should now go and interview
Jeff Bezos and find out perhaps who those other people are?
BANKS: I certainly would. It could be interesting to find out who those
people are. They may not want to cooperate. They paid. They don`t want
that information public. But maybe it`s time to put a stop to the kind of
journalism of this tabloid culture that we have. It`s lewd and unfortunate
that that`s part of what our Free Press protects. It shouldn`t be.
REID: Would it – would it – if somebody took money to be quiet and to
obey and to do what they were told by AMI, would sum if a creative it
became a criminal matter, would that mean that they could then exit that
agreement and do what Stormy Daniel did and simply ignore it?
BANKS: Probably so. And that is, in this case, it`s more – not that
someone was paid to do it but that they did not allow them to go forward
with the publication of something that they had, and that more
likely that they paid for the non-publication. This is an unusual one
where they`re saying you have to stop your investigation and you can`t go
ahead and say that we did this for political reasons.
And I`m still curious because we don`t know what the political motivation
for this whether it was to help Donald Trump who hates the Washington Post
that Jeff Bezos owns and feels that they say bad things about him. Maybe
they were curing favor with Donald Trump. Maybe he was involved, maybe he
Maybe it was just because Lauren Sanchez`s brother is a loyal Trump
supporter and he leaked the text messages. Maybe he`s the source of it and
that it`s just you know, not directly involving President Trump. We don`t
REID: Yes. Last questions to you Stu. Is there anything about this that
surprises you all just giving your – given your experience with AMI.
ZAKIM: Absolutely not. This is not tabloid reporting. It`s a soap opera
is what it really seems like. But no, nothing surprises me.
REID: Yes. It is – or an episode of The Sopranos. Jill Wine-Banks,
David Cay Johnston, Stu Zakim, thank you all very much. I really
appreciate it. Coming up, breaking news, yes, there`s more, from the
Special Counsel investigation and incredible new details about Paul
Manafort`s activity while he was supposed to be cooperating with Mueller.
And the president melts down as investigators ramped up and their target
today was Donald Trump`s tax returns. We`ll show you what happened at that
REID: Breaking news tonight from the Mueller investigation, a federal
court just released a partially redacted transcript from Paul Manafort`s
sealed hearing on Monday and it reveals that Manafort continued working for
at least one client in Ukraine into 2018. That would be after, after he
had been indicted by the Special Counsel.
I`m joined by Ken Dilanian NBC News Intelligence and National Security
Reporter and Harry Litman, former deputy assistant attorney general at the
Department of Justice and former U.S. attorney for the Western District of
Pennsylvania. Ken, lay this out for us please.
KEN DILANIAN, NBC NEWS INTELLIGENCE AND NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: We`re
talking about 143-page transcript of a hearing between the prosecution, the
defense and judge, all of whom had access to thousands of pages of evidence
that we haven`t seen, and it was partial a redacted. So it was sort of
like eavesdropping at a conversation in the middle and you miss every 10th
word, none the less, it`s significant revelation out of this.
And one of which you just mentioned was just that Paul Manafort was working
with a Ukrainian client not only after the 2016 election, after he was
indicted into 2018. But I think the most significant aspect is his
dealings with a man named Konstantin Kilimnik who has been identified by
the FBI as having times to Russian intelligence, he was kind of Manafort`s
right-hand man in Ukraine and his translator.
He, according to Mueller lied about significant contacts with Kilimnik and
particular in meeting back in August of 2016 that Mueller`s prosecutor
Andrew Weissmann says goes to the heart of what we`re investigating.
Unfortunately, we don`t know from this what that meeting was about. There
was also, Joy, a fascinating and tantalizing mention of sanctions,
Manafort`s lawyer – we didn`t see the actual e-mail.
But Manafort`s lawyer talked about the communication between Kilimnik and
an unnamed third party that seem to suggest that he was advocating lifting
sanctions on Russia and Manafort`s lawyer said well, that`s smooth because
no matter who won the election, no one was going to lift sanctions on
Well, Joy, you and I both know that that`s a very debatable statement. In
fact, NBC News report in 2017 that the Trump administration was moving
towards unilateral lifting sanctions in Russia until people at the State
Department balked and the Mueller investigation made that really
REID: Very quickly before I leave you, Ken. There`s this talk off a back
door that Manafort and Konstantin Kilimnik are discussing something about a
back door. Do we know what that means?
DILANIAN: No, in fact, the context is absolutely missing from that. So we
have no idea really what it refers to. It`s another tantalizing aspect of
this. And the bottom line here, Joy, is that Manafort is due to be
sentenced in Washington D.C. On March 13th, the judge will make a ruling.
It seems obvious that she`s going to rule with the prosecution that
Manafort did lie sufficient to lose his cooperation agreement and he`s
facing a decade or more in prison.
REID: Absolutely, and lied to the A-Team of prosecutors. Let`s talk just
a little bit about the lying. According to the prosecutor, “Mr. Manafort
went out of his way to not provide any evidence that could be useful with
respect to the man we just discussed with Ken Dilanian, Mr. Kilimnik. And
then there`s a second little tantalizing piece that there could have been a
motive to lie in hopes of getting – to increase his arguments for getting
a pardon. Does that sound like at least that kind of explains why you
would lie to a prosecutor of this magnitude?
HARRY LITMAN, FORMER DEPUTY ASSITANT ATTORNEY GENERAL: I guess, but the
brazenness and the affrontry (ph) – you`ve – you know, a prosecutor`s
never – I`ve never heard of anything like this, trying to get away with
it, but sure, that`s why he did it.
And remember and at the same time that we`ve been seeing Manafort in court,
and he looks like a completely broken – well, when he even comes – no –
his toupee is gone. He looks like he`s completely been finished by life.
At the same time, he is dealing behind the scenes with especially
Konstantin Kilimnik. Everything he lied about, or the biggest things, were
about that. That seems to have been the third rail that he would never
come clean about. And of course the prosecution knew it, and he`s now
looking at 10 extra years.
So, he was really willing to roll the dice, had to be big stuff in there.
And, of course, as you say angling for a pardon, that`s big news.
REID: And a pardon is not guaranteed. Let`s just remember that he can try
to do things as sort of a show of support, but it doesn`t sound like these
are things to help Donald Trump. Is it odd to you that it seems that the
lies had to do with maybe protecting this person that he`s still dealing
with, this Russian person named Mr. Kilimnik?
LITMAN: Yeah, I think so. And is he trying to curry favor or is he just
afraid of him? I mean, at this point he is really completely losing
everything he could have hoped to gain. He`s looking at life in prison.
It`s always been a mystery.
What is Manafort thinking? What is he doing? And you are exactly right,
hopes for a pardon, you know, good luck with that, because he doesn`t have
the most trustworthy patrons there. And who knows come a year or two from
now whether it`ll be politically feasible.
REID: Will there be political – whether Donald Trump can even pull it
off, because you don`t know what situation he`ll be in.
Ken Delanian and Harry Litman, this is just a night of what are they
thinking? I think that`s the theme of the show tonight. Thank you guys
And as this news broke, Donald Trump is staring down the barrel of real
oversight and accountability for the first time in his presidency, really
maybe the first time in his entire life. And by all appearances, it is
shaking him to the core.
The president seems especially unnerved by the news that the new chairman
of the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff, is expanding that
committee`s Russia investigation. Trump rage tweeting this morning, quote,
“so now Congressman Adam Schiff announces, after having found zero Russian
collusion, that he is going to be looking at every aspect of my life, most
financial and personal, even though there is no reason to be doing so,
never happened before! Unlimited presidential harassment. The Dems and
their committees are going nuts.”
Now, the House Weighs and Means Committee is chasing down the one secret
that Donald Trump has guarded most fiercely, defying decades of precedent,
since before he ran for office, namely his tax returns.
Ahead of a preliminary hearing today on the public value of presidential
tax returns, the top Republicans on the committee wrote a letter to the
Democratic chairman begging him not to pursue the
president`s tax data.
The Democrats, who now set the committee`s agenda, vow to use all their
powers to hold Donald Trump accountable.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI, (D) CALIFORNIA: I think overwhelmingly the public wants
to see the president`s tax returns. And so they want to know the truth,
they want to know the facts.
REP. LINDA SANCHEZ, (D) CALIFORNIA: From tax reform return to dealing with
foreign entities and individuals, the American people deserve to know
exactly whether their executive stands to personally benefit or be unduly
REP. BILL PASCRELL, (D) NEW JERSEY: When we have cause for concern over
tax violations, we have every reason to use the authority given to this
committee. The law is on our side.
REP. JIMMY PANETTA, (D) CALIFORNIA: Any taxpayer shall furnish the tax
returns to the
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It says the Treasury Secretary shall furnish the
requested information to the committee.
PANETTA: Exactly, so that`s not a should or a coulda or a woulda, it`s a
shall, it must if we ask for that, correct?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That`s correct.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: I am joined now by a member of the Weighs and Means Committee, who
was at that hearing today and who has been very patiently waiting through
all of our breaking news tonight, Democratic Congressman Dan Kildee of
Michigan. Thank you, sir, for being with us and being so patient.
REP. DAN KILDEE, (D) MICHIGAN: Thank you.
REID: No problem. Thank you, Joy.
REID: I want to first play for you the speaker, Nancy Pelosi, talking
about how careful Democrats plan to be vis-a-vis these tax returns
belonging to Donald Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PELOSI: You have to be very, very careful as you go forward. As I said,
we are in our first month and the committees have been appointed, they have
organized, they are prioritizing their work. And in terms of the tax
return, it`s not a question of just sending a letter, you have to do it in
a very careful way and the chairman of the committee will be doing that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: Interpret that for us, congressman. What does that mean? Because
as you heard – testified earlier today, the committee has a right to the
returns. What does that mean be careful about how you get them?
KILDEE: Well, the committee has a right to the returns. The law was
written because it expected that a moment may occur where there`s a public
interest in having a tax return gained by the committee in order to
evaluate it, or acquired by the committee for this kind of evaluation.
What we need to do, and what the speaker said, and what Chairman Neal is
absolutely doing is lay the record, lay the groundwork, make the
justification to use this rarely used authority in order to make sure that
we have a solid legal basis. So, today`s hearing was very much focused on
laying a legal foundation to explore what the law allows us to do, to
understand that completely, to make sure that we`re doing this in a
This is unchartered territory. It`s clear that the president does not want
some information that is included in his tax return to be revealed,
otherwise he would not have broken with 50 years of norms that Democrats
and Republicans have adhered to releasing tax returns. There`s a reason he
So he will fight this, and he probably fight it as far as he can, because
we expect that and for the
reasons that I already stated, this is unchartered territory. It`s very
important that we`re methodical
and we lay the foundation for the public purpose to acquire access to these
returns and that`s the process that we`re going through now.
REID: So, congressman, there are two kind of directions, and sort of veins
of inquiry that I can see being of interest to congress, to members of
congress, when it comes to Donald Trump`s tax returns. One of them is
debt, right. Donald Trump has been called the King of Debt. There`s a
Washington Post story famously titled kind of debt. It talks about the
fact that Trump borrowed to build his empire and then started spending
hundreds of millions dollars in cash.
And then there is also investment, where his money came from. His son
reportedly bragged to a golfing magazine that a substantial portion of our
income comes from money, or our investments come from Russia, sorry.
So, which of those two things is of greatest interest to you, where he was
getting his money, or is it more about his actual state of his financial
affairs and whether that made him vulnerable, for instance, to influence by
a foreign power?
KILDEE: Well, since we don`t know what`s in them, it`s hard to predict
what will be more important. But it`s clear any time that the president`s
personal interest, which he has not relinquished by the way – he continues
to maintain those personal, financial interests. Any time, those interests
may impact the public decision making that he`s involved in – like, for
example, the president was a prime driver in the tax reform bill that was
pushed through by Republicans and signed by the president. There are
legitimate questions as to whether or not the president benefited from the
policy that he himself pushed through.
The public has a right to know whether or not their elected officials are
benefiting from the decisions that they make using the public
responsibilities that the public has vested in them.
So whether it`s his personal entanglements, debt or the decisions that he`s
making on policy going forward, this is the reason disclosure is so
important, this is the reason that past candidates and presidents have
released their returns, so the public will know whether or not the
individual has entanglements that could impact their public decision
making, and that`s really the purpose behind this
entire are of inquiry for us.
REID: All right, well said. Thank you very much, Congressman Daniel
Kildee. Than you very much. Appreciate your time tonight.
KILDEE: Thanks, Joy.
REID: Meanwhile, in one of the most anticipated hearings from the new
Democratically controlled congress, acting Attorney General Matthew
Whitaker will testify before the House Judiciary Committee tomorrow, this
after he threatened to be a no-show earlier today.
After Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee voted to authorize
Chairman Jerry Nadler to subpoena Whitaker if he fails to show or fails to
Whitaker responded to that with a letter from the justice Department saying
he won`t testify unless he has written assurance that he won`t be
subpoenaed on or before February 8.
Just hours ago, Chairman Nadler responded, quote, “if you appear before the
committee tomorrow morning and if you are prepared to respond to questions
from our members, I assure you there will be no need for the committee to
issue a subpoena on or before February 8.
Then just minutes ago, Chairman Nadler tweeted, “confirmed. Acting
Attorney General Whitaker will appear tomorrow morning at 9:30 a.m.”
Joining me now, one of the members of the House Judiciary Committee,
Democratic Congressman Jamie Raskin of Maryland.
And Congressman, thanks so much for being here.
REP. JAMIE RASKIN, (D) MARYLAND: Delighted to be with you, Joy.
REID: What do you want to ask, Mr. Whitaker?
RASKIN: Well, there is so much we want to ask him about. Obviously, we
want to make sure that we`re protecting the independence of the Mueller
investigation, and that there`s no political interference taking place to
try to doctor the results or shield the results.
But, look, we oversee not just the Justice Department, but justice. And we
want to make sure that there`s some forward motion in terms of justice in
the country. The president now keeps threatening to declare an emergency,
the emergency being that he was unable to convince either the Mexican
government or the U.S. Congress to pay for his wall, which would end up
costing $35 billion or $40 billion. And so we`d be interested to know what
are the legal arguments for the president having powers that resemble, at
least in sound, more like something you`d find in a banana republic than in
American constitutional democracy. Where does he get the power to
circumvent the will of congress, which decides on appropriations and
decides on spending to go around congress when it has said no about
something and to pluck money from other places and reprogram it for the
building of a wall.
And so that`s one thing that we`re curious about.
I`m curious about the shutdown, which was absolutely devastating and
demoralizing for the
Department of Justice, for the FBI. How did he, as the manager of the
Department of Justice, experience that. What is he doing to prevent
another shutdown from taking place, and what were the costs financially?
What were the costs in terms of policy?
We got a lot of substantive questions from the guy about basically the
complete demobilization of civil rights enforcement at the Department of
Justice. What is the voting rights section doing? Why is the voting
rights section not enforcing people`s voting rights against all of these
scandalous efforts to
take people`s voting rights away, to throw them off the rolls, to obstruct
their ability to go and participate in elections.
So we`ve got a lot to ask him about.
REID: Are you concerned, at all, Mr. Whitaker in his acting role as
attorney general, is
interfering with the Mueller probe in any way?
RASKIN: Well, there were tell tale signs that the whole reason that he was
implanted there over at the Department of Justice, was to control the probe
and rein it in. Of course the president had been doing everything in his
power to get rid of people that he thought were engaged in honest,
objective law enforcement work and to put people in who would do his
political will there.
If you read FBI Director Comey`s book, “A Higher Loyalty,” he said that
when he talked to President Trump it was as if he was having an interview
with a mob boss, a mafia chieftain, because of the president`s
determination to extract complete 100 percent undivided loyalty from Comey
to the president in terms of doing his will over at DOJ.
So, certainly Whitaker was not put there because of his distinguished legal
pedigree, and, in fact, before he got put on there, he was working for a
very shady not-for-profit corporation that had a single donor who put up
more than a million dollars, and I think that Whitaker went from making
something like $70,000 a year to getting paid half a million or $600,000 a
year from some right-wing mystery donor.
So we`d be curious to know who actually was paying for this foundation
which had completely
ideological commitments, but didn`t appear to be doing anything. So it
looks as if maybe he had some kind of sweetheart contract with someone who
was getting him ready to go in there to be the acting attorney general.
REID: Well, in fact, it may suggest the question, one interesting question
might be to ask Mr. Whitaker if he, in fact, gave Donald Trump a loyalty
pledge. That would be interesting to know, so…
RASIN: I think it`s an excellent question. I think we know what the
answer is, whether he did it explicitly or just through all of his actions.
It`s pretty clear that that`s why he was placed over at DOJ.
But it would be very interesting to know where did all the money come from
that set him up in the so-called Fact Foundation (ph), a not for profit,
which got renamed several times as the money flowed in from this mysterious
REID: Lots to know, we will definitely will be paying attention to those
hearings. Congressman Jamie Raskin, thank you, sir. Appreciate your time.
And also on Capitol Hill, for the first time since taking power, House
Democrats grilled administration officials today over the separation of
migrant children from their parents, a crisis of this administration`s own
making in their quest to slash immigration.
The hearing came just weeks after we learned that thousands more children
might have been separated than previously reported. And one Health and
Human Services official made it clear this never should have happened.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. BRETT GUTHRIE, (R) KENTUCKY: Would you have advised DOJ or DHS to
implement the policy of zero tolerance if they had asked?
COMMANDER JONATHAN WHITE, U.S. PUBLIC HELATH SERVICE COMMISSIONED CORPS:
Neither I nor any career person in ORR would ever have supported such a
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: Here with me now, Congresswoman Diana Degette, Democrat of Colorado,
who chaired today`s hearings, and one of the witnesses who testified today,
Lee Gelernt, the deputy director of the ACLU Immigrant Rights Project.
Thank you very much.
And Congresswoman Degette, I`m going to start with you, because I thin the
question that most people I know want to know is because when the
administration says that it`s not sure it can ever reunite all of these
children with their families, a lot of people are wondering why.
When I was down in Tornillo, we were told by the gentleman who was running
that camp that everyone had an A number, that the children had a number and
the parents had a number, and that they
could put them back together. Why can`t they?
REP. DIANA DEGETTE, (D) COLORADO: Well, because first of all when they
took the children away after April, they didn`t take the numbers. They
might have numbers now, but they didn`t then. But now the new information
that`s come out from the inspector general is that they were taking
children away from their parents a long time, even before the April order.
And so they have no way to track how many children were taken, where they
were taken, and what`s happened to them.
We believe, though, the same as with the kids after the April order, we
believe that it can be
done with a lot of work. The court in San Diego ordered that to be done.
And it was done for many of
those kids, but now the inspector general is saying there are thousands
more kids potentially that may have been taken from their parents and that
we don`t know. And we need to get the answers of what happened to those
kids and how we can reunite them with the parents.
REID: Yeah, absolutely.
And Lee Gelernt, I think one of the – I mean, there are so many alarming
headlines in this regard over the last several months, but one of the most
alarming is this Newsweek story in which the
administration apparently is making an argument in court that it would be
too traumatic to reunite thousands of these kids with their parents, it
would be too traumatic too take them away from their care givers who are
not their parents. Your thought about that.
DEGETTTE: We had expert testimony at the hearing today. We had hearing –
we had testimony from pediatricians and psychologists and a researcher at
Harvard that says that probably the most traumatic thing you can do is
remove a child from their parent. It has lasting, life-long implications,
not just mental implications, but also physical effects.
And so, you know, and really the testimony came out, maybe in some cases
you wouldn`t want to march in there and take the kids from where they are,
but if there are thousands of kids, potentially out there, you don`t the
answer to that until you know who the kids are, who the parents are, and
who they have ended up with, and how you can get them back reunited.
REID: And Lee Gelernt – I know that you`ve been very much involved in
some of these cases, so in the situation where you are, is there a way that
groups outside of the government sphere can find these children, somehow
find their parents and put them back together?
LEE GELERNT, ACLU: We`ll try. But without the information from the
government, it`s going to be very, very difficult.
And, you know, one of the things that came out at the hearing today is that
the reason HHS is saying besides they don`t want to do all that work, that
they think it`s not good for the child, is not because they don`t think the
child should be with the parent. I mean, that was such and untenable
argument, so what they fell back on today at the hearing was we don`t want
ICE showing up at all these kids` homes.
But, of course, that`s not the way it would have to be done. They would
give us the information. We could call the parent, we would call the
child`s lawyer or the child`s social worker, and figure out what`s best for
this family, just as we`ve been doing for the last six months with other
parents. So, it`s a false choice that either you leave the kid stranded or
you send ICE in. It`s just absolutely ridiculous that they`re going to
leave these thousands of kids.
And they`re saying we`ll do it if there`s a court order. We`ll be back,
the ACLU will be back in court February 21st, asking for that court order.
REID: I mean, now they`re falling back on ICE and how scary ICE Is.
I want to stay with you on this for a moment, Lee, because you know I will
tell you what a lot of people are saying, you know, and are worried about,
that the intention was to keep the kids, the intention was to adopt them
out to other people that are not their families. Is there anything to
that? Should people be afraid that these children essentially have been
kidnapped in order to place them – you know, adoption?
GELERNT: Yeah, I don`t know. I mean, we`re obviously going to look into
that. I don`t know whether that was the intent or really just to deter
families from coming in the first place.
I don`t know that that was the intent, or the kids are being adopted. But
I do think we have to be
careful because if the parent is not around and they get into the state
court system, you never know what will happen.
I think the real reason was immigration enforcement. And of course
everyone knows it wasn`t going to deter people who are genuinely in fear.
And even if it did deter, it`s just something in the
United States we don`t do.
DEGETTE: And, Joy, let me add that HHS has said that they warned the
administration that this was a bad idea. And there – and the edict came
down, there was no plan for how they would be able to track the kids once
they were taken from their parents.
And so I agree with Lee, I think that we don`t know what the motivation was
but I think it was to try to somehow deter people from can coming in. But
that`s not American and we`re going to continue the investigation until we
get to the bottom of it.
REID: And we will definitely be looking forward to those hearings. It
will be nice to have Alex Azar, the secretary coming before you, as well.
We shall see.
Congresswoman Diana Degettte, Lee Gelernt, thank you all – than you both
very much. I really appreciate your time.
And meanwhile, Democrats drop a plan to re-imagine the national economy and
stave off the effects of climate change and income inequality.
Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey on the Green New Deal is next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ, (D) NEW YORK: Climate change and our
environmental challenges are one of the biggest, existential threats to our
way of life, not just as a nation but as a world. And in order for us to
combat that threat, we must be as ambitious and innovative in our solution
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: A massive transformation of our society is necessary if we want to
save our planet, that is the big message being offered by the architect of
the Green New Deal: Democratic Senator Ed Markey and Democratic
Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. The wide ranging framework,
introduced today, calls for drastic actions and a complete transition to
clean and renewable energy in just 10 years.
Republicans are already dismissing the resolution as a quote socialist
manifesto. The proponents say a moon shot is necessary to prevent the
looming environmental catastrophe.
Joining me now is Democratic Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts, the co-
architect of The Green New Deal.
All right, sir, so let`s just get into the policy of it. You – the Green
New Deal, as I understand it, the bullet points I`ve got in front of me,
100 percent clean, renewable energy by 2030, net zero global greenhouse gas
emissions by 2050, upgrade all existing buildings for energy efficiency,
overhaul transportation systems to reduce emissions, encrypt millions of
jobs with family sustaining wage. How do you do that, and how much does it
SEN. ED MARKEY, (D) MASSACHUSETTS: Well, and create millions of jobs in
the green economy, that`s what is going to happen. We`ve already created
350,000 wind and solar jobs, just in the last 10 years. There are only
50,000 coal miners. So, we`re just beginning.
This is going to be a mission to save all of creation by engaging in
massive job creation.
REID: But how…
MARKEY: And the reason we have to do it is that the United Nations
scientists last year said that it`s much worse than anyone ever thought.
And then, all of the key scientists inside of the Trump
administration federal agencies all said the same thing.
So the only person who forgot to mention climate change was Donald Trump in
his hour-and-twenty-minute State of the Union Address on Tuesday night.
The existential threat to the planet not a
So we need to mobilize all across the country. We need to put together a
plan that will put people to work deploying these new technologies and
inventing these new technologies, and I think the challenge is out there,
and I think the green generation is ready to politically fight for it.
REID: So, I still want to get you to sort of quantify for me how much it
cost, because that it sounds like you`re saying federal outlays to sort of
spur these jobs sort of the that the original New Deal was like with
So, how much spending are we talking about? Give me a ballpark figure.
MARKEY: Well, we don`t have any specific prescriptions in the legislation.
We layout the principles. But I will say this, that by the year 2100,
we`re going to have lost tens of trillions dollars to the damage which is
going to be created by climate change to our country. And a stitch in time
will save nine. If we invest now, we`ll be able to avoid the most
catastrophic consequences, otherwise the
price that will be paid is going to be in the tens of trillions in our
country and that will just be a footnote compared to the rest of the world.
So we will have to invest in green technologies, and the federal government
will have a role, but most of the role will be played by the private
sector, that`s where the 350,000 wind and solar jobs are. There are
electricians, there are roofers, it`s the greatest single blue collar job
creation revolution in two
generations in our country.
REID: Let me ask you about what the impediments are, one of the big ones
would be the big fossil fuel guys, people like the Koch Brothers, who are
very invested in growing their money and who have a lot of influence over
politicians, particularly in the other party.
How do you overcome the opposition of people like them?
MAREY: You`re right. Back in 2009 and `10 when Congressman Henry Waxman
and I and Nancy Pelosi were able to pass out of the House of
Representatives a piece of legislation that would have reduced greenhouse
gases by 80 percent by 2050, the Koch Brothers, the oil interests, they
fortune to discredit the whole science of climate change.
And they did a good job. They actually drove down the favorability by
about 20 points. The difference now is that the polling is back up in the
mid 70s, but now we have an army, we have the money. We`re ready to fight.
So bring it on, Koch brothers, because we have an activated sunrise
revolution that`s taking place across this country and we`ll either win on
the floor of the House and
Senate on the issues, or we`ll take this right into the election of 2020 at
the presidential level and at the House and Senate level all across our
REID: And very quickly, what is the timeline for getting a piece of
legislation to the floor and you think it will pass the House? And can it
pass the Senate?
MARKEY: Well, now, it goes to each one of the individual committees to
produce the legislation in each one of those areas that they will have
jurisdiction for and I know that`s going to
happen over in the House of Representatives, because Nancy Pelosi is a
leader to her core on this issue.
MARKEY: And then the pressure is going to be on in the Senate. Mitch
McConnell has blocked in, going back to the Waxman-Markey bill in 2009, any
real votes on the floor on these issues. We`re ready to have a political
showdown on climate change.
REID: All right, well, we shall see. We`ll be watching. Senator Ed
Markey, thank you so much for your time tonight. I really appreciate it.
And that is ALL IN this evening. Marathon Show. “THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW”
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