The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 2/14/2017

Guests:
Adam Schiff, Tim Weiner
Transcript:

Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW

Date: February 14, 2017

Guest: Adam Schiff, Tim Weiner

 

CHRIS HAYES, “ALL IN” HOST:  THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now. 

 

Good evening, Rachel. 

 

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST:  Chris, you know that I`m your biggest fan in

general? 

 

HAYES:  My mom and/or wife or father might have something to say about that

but appreciate that. 

 

MADDOW:  I am your biggest fan not related to you and I think your show is

good every night but I think you`re great at this.  But I think your show

tonight was freaking spectacular, man, from the very beginning to those

last couple segments.  Really well done.

 

HAYES:  I tweeted it to one of those how to eat the elephant days in the

newsroom, one bite at a time. 

 

MADDOW:  You chose good bites, well done. 

 

HAYES:  Thank you.

 

MADDOW:  Thanks my friend. 

 

And thanks at home for joining us this hour. 

 

I will try to live up to Chris`s excellent example tonight.  I will do my

damnedest.  I want to start by telling you about a man who is the head of

the Ethics Committee in the Russian parliament.  He was a member of

Vladimir Putin`s political party.  As a member of parliament, he declared

publicly what his income was. 

 

He said his only income was his government salary.  He was making about

$72,000 a year.  He reported also that his wife contributed to the family

income.  She made an additional, about $5,000 a year or so, thereby

bringing their total family income to about $77,000 a year, give or take,

before taxes. 

 

But you know, you`d be amazed how far that goes.  It turns out that one

member of the Russian parliament, head of the ethics committee, Putin`s

party, he and his family owned their home in Russia.  They also owned a

second home in Russia.  They also owned a large apartment.  They also owned

another large apartment. 

 

They also on top of the that scrounged up spare cash enough to do a lot of

what appears to be long-term real estate investing.  He owned not one, not

two, not three, not four but six large plots of land and a jet ski, and a

snowmobile and a Land Cruiser and a Porsche Cayenne and a Mercedes and

another Mercedes and also another Mercedes, which means he must have been

miraculously efficient with that government salary. 

 

But then there was the really embarrassing part for him.  As the head of

the ethics committee, as a prominent member of Vladimir Putin`s party in

parliament, he was also involved with a lot of the really aggressive anti-

American stuff that Putin has done in Russian politics over the last few

years.  For example, you might remember he`s got a lot of press here, it

was one of the ways Putin decided to retaliate against American families

and Russian orphans as part of his response to U.S. sanctions a few years

back. 

 

Do you remember this story?  Putin and his party in parliament decided to

block American families from being allowed to adopt Russian kids.  They

interrupted individual kids` adoptions to punish America. 

 

This guy was involved in that.  He was one of the real anti-American hard-

liners in Putin`s party.  And that`s why the rest of his real estate

portfolio was particularly hard for him to explain when it became public

knowledge, because in addition to all that property and all those vehicles

that he was somehow able to afford on his $75,000 a year salary in Russia,

in addition to the four homes, the six large parcels of land, the three

Mercedes and all the rest of it, he also owned a fabulous waterfront ocean

view apartment in billionaire Mark Cuban`s building in Miami Beach.  Wow! 

 

And he owned a second Miami Beach waterfront condo as well.  Lovely ocean

views, look, really nice fitness room.  In addition to his two big Miami

waterfront condos, he also owned a really nice big house with a pool on a

large piece of land up the Florida coast, in Ormond Beach. 

 

Did I mention that his reported income was 75 grand or so before taxes? 

And he has kids. 

 

Somehow this friend of Vladimir Putin, the head of the ethics committee in

the Russian parliament, this prominent politician in Putin`s political

party somehow, he was able to put together a pretty nice real estate

portfolio and nice life-style for himself and his family, either by being a

miraculous saver and bargain hunter or by some other undisclosed means. 

 

Rather than face pressure to disclose what those means might be, that

lawmaker, the head of the ethics committee in the Russian parliament, he

actually decided to resign a couple years ago when pictures of his

properties and property records and documentation of all his vast holdings

got posted publicly on a Russian blog and he had no explanation for how he

was able to afford all that stuff. 

 

Over the last few years, that blog made quite a lot of news in Russia,

exposing the inexplicable fabulous wealth of Vladimir Putin`s cronies and

apparently corrupt politicians in Russia.  And they were good at it.  They

posted their original source materials so it couldn`t be debunked by the

Russian government.  They used public records, particularly from other

countries so the stuff couldn`t be disappeared offline by the Russian

government.  They made funny little memes and pictures to go along with

their scandals to make them stick more. 

 

This guy – see, they have the ethics committee chairman, his head?  They

photoshopped it on to a guy in sandals on a beach chair enjoying the Miami

sun. 

 

So, the ethics committee guy in the Russian parliament resigned over that

scandal once all of his international real estate holdings were made public

and he couldn`t explain how he got the money to do that.  Other Putin

cronies and politicians also got embarrassed and were also forced to resign

by the same tactic, the same exposure of their corruption. 

 

And the guy who ran that blog, who had these good instincts and

performative skills for how to make stories like this stick, he decided to

do something very brave after exposing all these Russian politicians.  He

decided he would not an anonymous source doing this stuff in Russian

politics.  He blogged under his own name, he stood by what he was doing. 

 

He became an activist.  He became a really effective opposition figure in

Russian politics.  Those protests that so freaked out Vladimir Putin

starting in 2011, the ones that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

complained about internationally which so drove Putin into a frothing rage

against Hillary Clinton, well, this guy, Alexei Navalny, he was a key

figure in those anti-Putin protest that made such a big impact and that

upset Putin so much.  

 

Alexei Navalny eventually ran for mayor of Moscow in 2013.  He did

surprisingly well, freaked out Putin even more.  This past year, Alexei

Navalny announced he would run for president of Russia against Vladimir

Putin next year when Putin`s term is up. 

 

And you can see where this is going, right? 

 

“The New York Times” Moscow bureau described him a couple of days ago as

the only opposition candidate with a broad, enthusiastic, popular following

in Russia.  Last one left. 

 

And at one level, that makes us all surprised to learn that he`s still

alive.  That Vladimir Putin allowed him to exist for this long.  But it

means you will not be surprised to learn why the “New York Times” Moscow

bureau was writing about him for an American audience just last week is

because last week, Putin figured out a way to disqualify Alexei Navalny

from being an opposition figure, from running against Putin for president. 

 

They found a remote regional court hundreds of miles from Moscow and they

got that court to convict Alexei Navalny in some obscure scheme involving

timber futures.  I should tell you – this is the most recent in a series

of things they have tried to convict him of or set him up for. 

 

At one point, they went after him for alleged elk coaching.  Elk poaching? 

They reportedly tried to convict him of stealing some street art.  There

was a fraud allegation from the government involving perfume. 

 

They`ve come up with weird stuff to arrest Alexei Navalny for.  But this

embezzlement conviction that they just finagled in this remote court last

week, that`s now the important one because arguably Russian law says if you

are convicted of a crime like that, if you are convicted and sentenced for

embezzlement, which he just was, that legally disqualifies you from running

for office. 

 

So, yes, timber futures.  OK.  That`s what we`ll get him for. 

 

And now, the most viable opposition politician in Russia, this 40-year-old

handsome, telegenic, clever, accomplished, well-known, corruption-exposing

provocateur just won`t be allowed to put his name on the ballot if he tries

to run against Putin next year.  He says he will appeal, he insists he will

figure out a way to still run for president. 

 

But you know what?  Under Vladimir Putin the state has its ways and because

of what appears to be this absolutely, totally ginned up embezzlement

conviction that they were able to pull off last week, they`ve already used

that as an excuse to shut down his means of raising money towards running

for president next year.  That`s already gone. 

 

Russia has a justice system.  Russia has a court system.  That doesn`t

necessarily mean that Russia has the rule of law.  In the same way Putin

has taken over almost all sources of news in his country, in the same way

that he`s taken over big business, it`s not possible to operate an

independent business of any significant scale in Putin`s Russia without

Putin being cut in and being involved. 

 

In the same way that he`s technically presided over a democracy for 17

straight years while opposition leaders consistently find themselves

arrested or dead and opposition parties find themselves outlawed or

otherwise structurally sidelined, so, too, the Russian just system.  On

paper, it looks great, right?  But in real life, everybody up to and

including punk bands and billionaires find themselves in inside literal

cages in Russian courtrooms at the pleasure of the president.  And his

political opponents get prosecuted and convicted when he wants them

prosecuted and convicted, and that`s how the justice system worked. 

 

The rule of law cannot just exist on paper, it`s only real, it only really

works when it operates with independence, with independence from the

political system, when the judicial system operates at its own discretion

governed by law and not directed or constrained by any political agenda. 

Not directed or constrained by any political agenda.  Not directed or

constrained.  Right?

 

In our system of government, we count on both the judiciary and the

legislative branch of government to be separate from the executive branch

of government.  Right?  We count on them to constrain the executive branch

and act as a check on the executive branch when the executive branch

overreaches. 

 

We not only to expect them to resist being used as political tools by the

president, we expect them to independently investigate the executive branch

when there are serious questions about the behavior of that branch of

government.  That`s how our rule of law works, right? 

 

Late last night, in the middle of the night, the national security advisor

to the president resigned, was fired?  Resigned?  Resigned?  Was fired?  We

don`t know.  But he`s out.  National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. 

 

Being national security advisor is a hard job.  There have been a bunch of

scandals surrounding the national security advisor position or the person

holding that position over the decades.  It`s thought of one of those jobs

that`s very hard to hold on to for a long time, a lot of turnover in that

job. 

 

Previous record for the shortest term ever as national security advisor,

though, was something like two and a half years.  That was the previous

shortest term ever.  Michael Flynn only lasted 24 days. 

 

And there are a number of things about the national security adviser sudden

departure last night which still make no sense. 

 

We`ve got Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the Intelligence Committee here

tonight to help us sort this out. 

 

We`ve got also Tim Weiner here tonight.  He`s the foremost modern historian

of the FBI and the CIA.  Tim Weiner will be here to help us sort this out. 

 

But there are just some baseline fundamental questions we don`t have an

answer for.  Or that we have answers for that make no sense.

 

First, there`s just the direct simple question of Mike Flynn and how he got

to be national security advisor.  How he lasted 24 days at that job.  I

mean, it`s now widely reported that General Flynn was under investigation

by counterintelligence community at the FBI and by counterintelligence

investigators at the CIA.  He`s also reportedly under investigation by the

U.S. army for having taken allegedly undisclosed payments from the Russian

government during the presidential campaign at the end of 2015.  Those

investigations didn`t just start now. 

 

How did he get named national security advisor?  The president is cleared

to receive all classified information, including information about the

investigations that are currently under way.  With what the president must

have known about the multiple investigations, including counterintelligence

investigations of Michael Flynn, why would you ask Michael Flynn to be your

national security advisor?  We don`t have an explanation of that one yet. 

 

Here`s another one.  The “New York Times” reports late this afternoon that

that general Flynn as part of these investigations was interviewed

personally by the FBI soon after the new administration came into office. 

That was at a time General Flynn insisted he hadn`t had conversations with

the Russian government about these sanctions that the U.S. imposed on

Russia, for them interfering in our presidential election.  No, he didn`t

talk to them. 

 

We now know despite those protests to the contrary that Michael Flynn

absolutely did have those conversations and the Justice Department knew he

had those conversations because they taped him.  They overheard him having

those conversations with the Russian government because they were

wiretapping Russian government officials. 

 

So, he did an interview with the FBI about their investigation into his

contacts with the Russian government.  He did an interview with them soon

after the administration started?  Did the national security advisor lie to

the FBI about the content of those conversations when they questioned him

about it?  If so that would, of course, be a felony and he would be

expecting to go to jail now. 

 

Has the FBI investigation of General Flynn proceeded along those lines? 

 

And that gets me to my next point.  Since, Jeff Sessions became attorney

general of the United States, has he interfered with the FBI investigation

of General Flynn or the investigation of the Trump campaign and its

contacts with Russia in any way?  Has Attorney General Jeff Sessions

changed the focus of those investigations or changed their direction at

all?  Has Attorney General Jeff Sessions been briefed on the FBI

investigation of General Flynn and his contacts with the Russian

government? 

 

Because that`s getting us to the really, really important point here,

right?  We now know that the Justice Department, including the acting

attorney general, Sally Yates, she went to the White House at the end of

January.  And they informed – she and another senior career justice

official informed the White House counsel that Michael Flynn had had

contacts with the Russian government that were not only undermining U.S.

government sanctions against Russia, these were also contacts that he lied

about and they told the White House that he`d done it. 

 

And they told him that because he`d been lying about it he could

conceivably be blackmailed by Russia which is a very bad thing, right?  For

somebody with that much access to the president and that much access to

classified information that Russia might be very interested to have.  I

mean, General Flynn is national security advisor. 

 

Remember, he was rewriting the president`s daily intelligence briefing so

the president wouldn`t get straight information from the intelligence

community, he`d just get what Michael Flynn told him.  That was a weird

arrangement.  Why was that set up?  No information to the president other

than one what Michael Flynn tells him? 

 

General Flynn was also not working with the fully staffed National Security

Council.  He never bothered to staff the place up.  He alone had incredible

control of the information flow to the president and incredible access to

the president. 

 

And if the Russians were in a position to be able to say to him, hey, do

what we want you to do, tell us what we want you to tell us or we will

expose you, if the Russians were in a position to say to him, hey, we know

you lied about this and we can prove it, you wouldn`t want us to expose

that about you, would you?  You better do what we want. 

 

If they were in a position to blackmail him that way because they knew him

he lied and they had him dead to rights and they could expose him on that,

that`s a serious security problem at the highest levels of the U.S.

government.  And we now know that the White House knew about that for weeks

and they took no action.  Why did they that I can no action?  Why did they

continue to let Michael Flynn have the access to the president and the

access to classified information he enjoyed up until the night he was

fired? 

 

“The New York Times” and “The Washington Post” have both reported citing

multiple sources that his contacts with the Russian government didn`t start

once he was national security advisor.  They didn`t start once Trump was

elected, when they were in the transition period.  Both papers report that

Mike Flynn was in contact with the Russian government during the campaign,

before the election, while Russia was interfering in the U.S. election in

multiple ways to tip the balance of the election to Donald Trump. 

 

Did Mike Flynn help them with that?  Did Mike Flynn or anybody else from

the Trump campaign collude with the Russian government and their efforts to

undermine the U.S. election?  It`s a very, very, very serious charge. 

Right now, it`s an absolutely unanswered one at this point. 

 

Will that charge be investigated?  If it turns out to be true, will it be

prosecuted? 

 

The head of the House Oversight Committee today was asked whether he might

open an investigation into Michael Flynn and his contacts with Russia. 

Jason Chaffetz answered, quote, “I think the situation has taken care of

itself.”  So, no then. 

 

The top Republican in the House and the top Republican in the Senate have

both insisted there` no reason for any sort of independent or special

investigation into these allegations because the intelligence committees

can handle it. 

 

Well, OK, this contact with the Russian government that Mike Flynn lied

about, that has led to him being fired from this administration, that

contact with the Russian government, that happened during the presidential

transition. 

 

The head of the House Intelligence Committee was a member of the Trump

presidential transition.  Congressman Nunes was asked yesterday about his

reaction to the Flynn allegations, he described them as, quote, “a lot of

nothing.”  Well, yeah, if he was going to be investigating them, he`d been

investigating the Trump transition, which he was part of. 

 

Well, if it`s the FBI investigation you`re hanging your hat on here, can we

talk about Director James Comey and his role in this year`s politics?  We

can talk about that at length some other time.  I`ll buy you a beer, you

buy snacks, we`ll talk about it, it`s a long conversation. 

 

But even putting that aside, putting him aside, the new attorney general,

the head of the Justice Department of which the FBI is a part, Attorney

General Jeff Sessions was just sworn into office after explicitly refusing

in his confirmation process to recuse himself from investigations involving

the Trump campaign and its ties to Russia.  The attorney general – the new

attorney general who has now sworn in insisted during the confirmation

process that he will not recuse himself.  He will stay involved in any

investigations of Russia and the Trump campaign. 

 

The attorney general was part of the Trump campaign.  He was the chairman

of Donald Trump`s national security advisory committee.  So, he`s going to

oversee this national security information into the Trump campaign?  And

its contact with Russia during the campaign? 

 

I mean, asking him to fairly and impartially oversee those investigations

would have him in effect investigating himself.  So, rule of law.  We`ve

just gone through something that`s a very big deal.  The national security

advisor is out.  No national security advisor has ever been forced out in

24 days.  No national security advisor has ever been forced out in

circumstances this scandalous and I`m including the ones who were convicted

or pled guilty to felonies. 

 

The White House`s behavior and the president`s behavior around this ouster

is bizarre and unexplained and in some cases, it`s inexplicable.  The

allegations here about national security risks and the undermining of the

U.S. government by a foreign power, these are as serious as anything that

has ever been alleged against any president not just in modern times but

ever.

 

And the question tonight is: where`s the rule of law?  What`s the remedy

for that, right?  Where are we thinking the investigation is going to come

from here?  Where are we thinking the prosecution is going to come from

here if the investigation warrants it? 

 

I mean, we have the rule of law in this country.  I believe it, I`ve read

all about it.  But who`s going to make it a reality with these kinds of

allegations against this administration?  That`s next.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

MADDOW:  Hi.  So, we`ve got the top Democrat on the House Intelligence

Committee, Adam Schiff.  He`s going to be joining us live in just a moment. 

I have actually pushed that back for a second just because I want to bring

you some breaking news that the “New York Times” just posted. 

 

This has just gone up since we`ve gone on the air.  I`ve just been marking

it up with my trusty highlighter.  We haven`t prepared graphics or

anything, but let me just tell you what they`ve just reported directly

relevant to what we need to talk to Congressman Schiff about and what we

are discussing. 

 

“Trump campaign aides had repeated contacts with Russian intelligence” is

the headline.  The operative word there being “campaign.”  This is during

the campaign.  This is during the election. 

 

I`ll read you the lead.  “Phone records and intercepted calls show that

members of Donald Trump`s 2016 presidential campaign and other Trump

associates had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials

in the year before the election.”  “The Times” is citing four current and

four American officials, four officials, current and former. 

 

American law enforcement and intelligence agencies intercepted the

communications around the same time that they were discovering evidence

that Russia was trying to disrupt the election by hacking into the

Democratic National Committee. 

 

The intelligence agencies then sought to learn whether the Trump campaign

was colluding with the Russians on the hacking or other efforts to

influence the election.  And this is very carefully couched.  “The

officials interviewed in recent weeks said that so far, they had seen no

evidence of such cooperation.”

 

But they are documenting repeated contacts at the same time that the

Russian intelligence agencies were influencing the election.  One of the

advisers picked up on the calls was Paul Manafort, who was Trump`s campaign

chairman for several months last year.  The call logs and intercepted

communications are part of a larger trove of information that the FBI is

sifting through as it investigates the link between Trump`s associates and

the Russian government, as well as the DNC hack. 

 

But again, the headline here “Trump campaign aides had repeated contacts

with Russian intelligence” reportedly at the time that Russia was trying to

influence our election.  This has just been posted by “The New York Times”. 

Byline on this is Michael Smith, Mark Mazzetti and Matt Apuzzo. 

 

We`ve got the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Adam

Schiff, joining us next and none too soon. 

 

Stay with us. 

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), SENATE MINORITY LEADER:  General Flynn`s

resignation is not the end of the story, it is merely the beginning.  There

needs to be an independent and transparent investigation.  The White House

counsel cannot lead this investigation and the new attorney general cannot

be – Jeff Sessions – cannot be the person to lead that investigation. 

 

I expect Jeff Sessions to recuse himself and, B, I expect what`s put in its

place to be independent, transparent and impartial. 

 

We`ll wait and see what they propose. 

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

MADDOW:  The Democratic Senate Leader Chuck Schumer today calling for an

independent investigation of Michael Flynn who has now resigned as national

security adviser, saying the White House counsel can`t lead the

investigation, the new attorney general cannot be the person to lead that

investigation.  There needs to be an independent investigation. 

 

Since last year, the FBI and CIA have both been reportedly investigating

General Flynn`s contacts with the Russian government.  The U.S. Army is

reportedly also investigating whether he illegally received money in the

form of speaking fees from the Russian government during his trip to Russia

in December, 2015, that`s the trip where General Flynn went to a gala

dinner and sat next to Vladimir Putin.  That was less than two months

before the Iowa caucuses.  That was December, 2015.

 

When the “Washington Post” interviewed Mike Flynn about that trip last year

and asked him what he talked to Putin about, General Flynn told “The Post”

that their questioning on that topic was boring.  That was his quote,

“boring.”  That`s how seriously he`s taking these worries. 

 

According to U.S. intelligence agencies, the Russian campaign to influence

the U.S. presidential election consisted of hacking, stealing data,

selective leaks.  Also, the direct propaganda side of it.  These prolific

efforts by the Russian government to inject false news stories into the

campaign to undercut damaging news that might hurt Donald Trump, to disrupt

social media interaction among Clinton supporters, to overwhelm

authoritative sources of news with nonsense and noise. 

 

And some of those tactics are one size fits all for the Russians, right? 

The Russians have experience using those tactics in other countries where

they`ve interfered like Sweden and Estonia and other countries. 

 

But to the extent they could be further enhanced by tailoring them to the

U.S. environment, did they get any U.S. help?  Did they get any U.S. advice

on the best ways to weaponize their tactics against our election, against

our system of government? 

 

I mean, it`s worth asking now, did Michael Flynn help them?  I mean, when

he was in contact with the Russian government during the campaign, before

the election, during the campaign, did General Flynn help them in their

efforts to interfere in our election?  Did anybody else in the Trump

campaign help them? 

 

I mean, as U.S. intelligence agencies and Congress are investigating

Russian interference in the election designed to benefit Donald Trump,

there is this record of General Flynn, leading Trump supporter, hobnobbing

with the Russian president during the campaign.  I mean, we know that his

communication with the Russian ambassador in December was only one in a

series of contacts between Flynn and that Russian official, contacts that

began before the election. 

 

I mean, the reporting here is that Russia actively meddled in our election

and that General Flynn was talking to the Russian government while that

operation was under way.  What was going on in those conversations? 

 

Further to that point, the “New York Times” just moments ago has reported,

citing four current and former American officials, the “New York Times” has

just reported that multi – wasn`t just Flynn, it was multiple Trump

campaign aides and associates who had contacts with Russian intelligence

officials in the year before the election, during the campaign, at a time

when Russian intelligence officials were interfering in our election to

help Donald Trump. 

 

What was the substance of those comments?  What was the substance of those

communications?  Did Michael Flynn and these other Trump campaign staffers,

did they know about Russian efforts to interfere in our election which,

according to the “New York Times,” were happening contemporaneously with

their contact with those Russian officials?  At the same time Russian

officials were talking to Trump campaign people, Russian officials were

trying to influence our election.  Did those Trump campaign people know the

Russians were doing it when they were talking to them? 

 

If they knew about it, did they try to stop them from doing it?  Did they

encourage them?  Did they help them?  We don`t know and I don`t know if or

how we`re ever going to find out?  I mean, is this just 100 percent a

journalistic enterprise now or will our government get to the bottom of it? 

Will our government even try to get to the bottom of it? 

 

Joining us now is Congressman Adam Schiff of California.  He`s the top

Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee. 

 

Congressman Schiff, thank you very much for being here.  It`s nice to have

you back. 

 

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA:  Thank you.  Good to be with you. 

 

MADDOW:  Let me ask your response to this new reporting from the “New York

Times.” I don`t know if you had a chance to review it.  The headline is

“Trump campaign aides had repeated contacts with Russian intelligence”. 

“The New York Times” citing multiple American sources saying that phone

records and intercepted calls show members of Trump`s presidential campaign

had repeated contacts with Russian intelligence officials during the

campaign and the year before the election.

 

I just wanted to get your response to that. 

 

SCHIFF:  Well, this is really, I think, the heart of the investigation and

that is was there some form of collusion between the Trump campaign and the

Kremlin?  The Kremlin was engaged in illegal activities in the United

States designed to influence the outcome of the election.  Obviously, their

intent was to help Donald Trump and hurt Secretary Clinton, and were Trump

campaign surrogates or aides or others affirmatively working with the

Russians towards that illegal object? 

 

That`s really one of the central and most important allegations to be

investigated.  And we have agreement on a bipartisan basis to do that

investigation, but there are a lot of big questions about whether we can

get that done, and one of them, frankly, is personified by one of the

photos you just showed and this is Director Comey, because we`re going to

need his cooperation if we`re going to do this investigation. 

 

We`re going to need to know what the FBI has looked at, who they have

talked to, what leads they have run down, what they haven`t run down, what

yet must be investigated.  And there`s a big question about whether we will

get that cooperation.  So, that I think is one of the most serious sets of

allegations. 

 

The other set involves that conversation in December between Flynn and the

Russian ambassador.  Was this done at the direction of the president?  With

the knowledge of the president?  With the knowledge of others in the

administration? 

 

It seems odd to imagine Flynn was acting as some kind of a rogue agent and

it`s, I think, entirely plausible that rather what he was doing was

conveying to the ambassador and perhaps to others, we ought to explore

anyone he had contact with the idea, “don`t react to the Obama sanctions,

we`ve got your back.”  That would be directly undermining the U.S. national

security interests and that is also another very serious issue we have to

investigate. 

 

MADDOW:  Congressman, it was reported today that you told Democrats in a

closed-door caucus meeting to expect more information to surface on this

subject and specifically about General Flynn in coming days.  Can you tell

us what you`re expecting and why you advised your fellow Democrats of that? 

 

SCHIFF:  You know, actually, I`m not sure where that came from, because I

did talk to the caucus but not about that.  I don`t have any understanding

that some other shoe is about to drop.  I`m sure we will, you know, during

the course of our investigation.  Again, a lot of information on these very

issues, but I don`t have any foreknowledge that something is about to

break. 

 

MADDOW:  When you mentioned that Director Comey at the FBI a key factor

here in figuring out whether or not our government is going to investigate

and if need be prosecute these matters, for me, it`s – I`m trying to look

at this from a big picture and I feel like what we know about this thus far

is because people inside the government and inside the intelligence

community have been willing to leak stuff to reporters.  Clearly, it seems

now clear from the facts in terms of the White House admission that when

the Justice Department went to the White House weeks ago and told them what

they knew about General Flynn that they were worried he was potentially

susceptible blackmail, and so, he was in a very scary position in terms of

national security operating in the White House, the level that he was at. 

 

We know the White House had no real reaction to that for weeks until

somebody leaked it to a reporter, it became public, they had a hard time

answering questions and now Flynn is gone.  Similarly with this “New York

Times” reporting, somebody has leaked to the “New York Times” that phone

records and intercepted calls shows that members of the Trump campaign were

talking to Russian intelligence officials.  That`s the only way we know it. 

 

I`m happy to have the information.  I don`t know if I should have

confidence that any of the investigations inside the government – the FBI,

any legislative investigation, any other form of investigation here – will

be above board and impartial and will get further to the truth here. 

 

SCHIFF:  Well, you know, I can tell you a couple things.  I`m going to be

pushing my hardest to make sure we have a credible and thorough

investigation.  And if I run into a roadblock in any direction, whether

that comes from the House leadership or comes from the FBI, I`m going to be

public about it, I`m not going to be part of an investigation unless it is

real and credible. 

 

But I`m going to push the get the work done.  I think it`s a fundamental

responsibility of the Congress to investigate and oversee this. 

 

The other point I want to underscore is the one you just mentioned, which

is the president learned weeks ago that his national security advisor, not

some low-level federal employee, his national security advisor, had lied

and that lie was conveyed to the American people and, you know what?  They

were OK with that.  For weeks they were OK with that and likely Flynn would

still be there today if “The Washington Post” hadn`t broken than story. 

 

Now, what does that say about this administration that they were willing to

allow the public to be misled even when they learned the truth? 

 

And the final point I want to make and you began your program with this

tonight, and I`m so glad you did focusing on Putin`s, you know, attempt to

discredit and eliminate his political rival or potential political rival,

what the stakes are here because, you know, people ask and Sean Spicer

wants to suggest what`s the big deal about Flynn talking to the Russian

ambassador?  Isn`t that sort of ordinary course of events? 

 

The big deal is this.  We`re in a global struggle with Russia right now. 

They are trying to propagate their authoritarian model around the world.