The Rachel Maddow Show, transcript 3/7/2017

Neal Katyal, Adam Schiff


Date: March 7, 2017

Guest: Neal Katyal, Adam Schiff

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST:  Good evening, Chris.  Thank you, my friend. 




MADDOW:  Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour as well.  Happy



Big, big, big busy news day today, one of those days when it pays to not

zone out.  Sort of pays to pay attention.  Well, one of the things we`ll

talk about in tonight`s show is, of course, the rollout today of the

Republican plan to get rid of the Affordable Care Act. 


Fairly disastrous rollout, I would say today.  We knew Democrats would hate

it but who knew Republicans could craft a plan that would give so many

different kinds of Republicans so many different reasons to hate it. 


You know, if you are worried about losing your health insurance, if you are

worried about 20 million of your fellow Americans losing their health

insurance, today was very scary in terms of what Republicans said they want

to do.  But today is heartening in terms of how it looks that they`ll be

able to pull off what they have stated to be their intention.  So, big bad

rollout for the Republicans today in terms of their getting rid of

Obamacare plans.  We will get to that tonight.


We`ve also got some absolutely flabbergasting news that makes no sense

whatsoever in terms of what this administration is doing about immigrants. 

This appears to be just a giant screw-up on the administration`s part that

nobody can explain.  We`ve got that story ahead tonight.


Plus, we`ve some good news tonight about the news itself.  Journalist doing

their jobs and that magic working the ways it is supposed to in spite all

of challenges to the free press right now.


So, like I said, busy, busy news night.  There is a lot to get to tonight. 

I`m super glad that you are here.


But we are going to start at this embassy.  The embassy, this is a big one. 

It is fully staffed.  It has a lot of different directorates.  There is,

for example, a whole division of cultural affairs.  They`ve got multiple

military attaches.  They`ve got a navy attache, an air force attache,

they`ve got a drug enforcement attache, they`ve got a law enforcement

attache.  They`ve got the people who run consular affairs which is like,

you know, folks getting visas and stuff.


There`s even, in this embassy, there`s even an attache specifically for

fish.  The fisheries attache is named Mr. Oleg Vladimirovich Rykov.  So, if

you are a Russian fish with a problem that needs fixing by your government,

Oleg is your man in D.C., the fish minister.


But if your issue is economic in nature, you should know that this embassy,

which is the Russian embassy in D.C., the economic section of the Russian

embassy recently got a new guy put in charge of the economic section and

the new guy at the economic section was brought in under some clouds of

suspicion concerning the old guy. 


The old guy who got shipped out last summer, his name is Mikhail Kalugin. 

Kalugin?  Forgive me.  My Russian pronunciation is as good as my fashion

sense.  I`m sure I`m butchering it, but it looks like Kalugin. 


Now, it`s important to – the reason I`m stressing that, it`s important to

know how his name is spelled, because if you don`t spell his name right,

that creates a little bit of a Google problem around this story.  Because

when this guy, when this guy, the head of the economic section at the

Russian embassy in Washington, D.C., when he turned up in that sketchy,

uncorroborated dossier of alleged Russian dirt on Donald Trump, his name

was misspelled in the dossier.  They flopped a couple of the vowels around,

so he was spelled Kulagin instead of Kalugin. 


And so, if like me, you set Google news alerts on names that popped up in

that dossier, that created a problem for following the story, because the

name was misspelled in the dossier.  Other than that misspelling, though,

which screwed up my research for days, other than the misspelling, the

reference in the dossier actually made sense.  He was described in the

dossier as a high-ranking Russian diplomat in Washington.  And the

reference to him was a really important one.


So, this is from page 22 of the sketchy dossier.  It says this, quote,

“Senior Russian diplomat withdrawn from Russian embassy on account of

potential exposure in U.S. presidential election operations.”  And then on

the following page it elaborates, quote, “As a prophylactic measure, a

leading Russian diplomat, Mikhail Kulagin,” he mean Kalugin, Mikhail, the

head of the economic section of the embassy, quote, “was withdrawn from

Washington on short notice because Moscow feared his heavy involvement in

the U.S. election operation, including the so-called veterans pensions ruse

reported previously.  His heavy involvement in the U.S. election operation

would be exposed in the media.”


So, this senior Russian diplomat working at the Russian embassy, he gets

taken out of the embassy.  He gets withdrawn from the embassy in

Washington.  He gets recalled to Moscow, allegedly on account of him being

exposable, him being exposed for his role in the Russian operation against

our presidential election. 


OK.  Now, that reference to the pension ruse reported previously, that`s

the reference memes by which the Russian government paid for this

operation, right?  They did actually have to pay for it, right?  It`s about

the way they got cash to pay hackers and other operatives to do the grunt

labor of this Russian election attack.  I mean, what we know about Russian

attack on our election, Russian efforts to try to elect Donald Trump

president, it did not seem to be a super labor intensive process.  It

wasn`t like an industrial process but you do need people to do the work. 

You need, for example, people building and running the online bots and

repeaters, right, that were giving ginned up fake viral status to negative

news about Hillary Clinton and positive news about Donald Trump, right? 


So, I mean, you do actually have to involve some people and you probably do

have to pay some folks.  So, the allegation here from the dossier was that

this guy working in a senior position at the Russian embassy, he was

basically the pay master for this operation, and the allegation from the

dossier is that he was withdrawn from the embassy, withdrawn from the

Russian embassy in Washington, sent back to Moscow on short notice because

the Russians were worried that he was going to be exposed, right, that he

was arrested. 


It seems like their idea if this proves out was that if there was ever

going to be a real investigation into what Russia did here, this guy and

this high-ranking position at the embassy with this important role, sort of

a centralized role in the scheme, he was just kind of too big a breadcrumb,

right, to leave out for investigators.  So, they had to get him to

Washington, get them out of Washington.


So, that part of the dossier was dated September 14th last year.  You have

heard me say it, you have heard everybody say it.  This is an

uncorroborated dossier.  It is a sheaf of unproven allegations and some of

those allegations are too lurid to make even veiled jokes about them on

basic cable.


But you know what?  Not all of it is just lurid stuff of a personal nature. 

This guy from the embassy, Mikhail Kalugin, he really did get called home

from the Russian embassy in D.C. in August.  And now, he really is back in



McClatchy had good reporters on this beat in recent weeks.  They found this

embassy guy in Moscow.  They got him to do an angry short e-mail interview

with them.  He denied everything.  He called it all fake news. 


But, look, two people with knowledge of a multi-agency U.S. investigation

into the Kremlin`s meddling in the presidential election have told us that

indeed Mikhail Kalugin was under scrutiny when he departed. 


So, you know, honestly, none of us really know sort of holistically what to

think about this dossier.  But here`s one concrete checkable part of it. 

This guy really did work as a senior diplomat in the Russian embassy in

D.C. and he did get summoned back to Moscow while nobody expected him to,

reportedly while investigators were examining this potential role in this

scheme by the Russian government to mess up our election.  That`s in the

dossier.  That seems to have happened in real life, at least the checkable

ports of it have. 


He had served in the embassy apparently for six years but then, yank.  Of

course, he denies having any role in this scheme, the Russians deny there

was such a (AUDIO GAP) and it`s possible he was yanked this past summer

just as a part of a normal rotation, it was time for him to go.  It`s also

possible the Russians felt like they needed to get him out. 


And think about their reasoning behind that, right, because he was a senior

diplomat at their embassy.  They didn`t have to worry about criminal

liability for him, right?  He would have diplomatic immunity, a senior

diplomat serving in the embassy.  No matter what the U.S. might have ever

wanted to charge him with, he`d have immunity. 


I mean, if he was theoretically the paymaster for foreign agents hacking

into the Democratic Party and otherwise undermining America`s presidential

election and that was found to be a crime in this country, he couldn`t be

convicted of that because of his diplomatic immunity.  They wouldn`t have

to worry about him being liable if he was involved in this. 


Now that he`s back in Moscow, well, there`s two implications of that,

right?  Two consequences of that.  Now that he`s back in Moscow and he`s no

longer in D.C., if there were criminal charges brought against him,

conveniently, Russia does not have an extradition treaty, right?  So

they`ve got immunity for him as a diplomatic official in the United States. 

Back home in Russia, they don`t have to extradite anybody to the United



So, in terms of his personal liability, protecting him in no sense is he in

any sort of danger, right?  In no sense is he looking at any sort of person

liability in this matter, even if he did what he is alleged to have done. 

But there`s another implication to bringing him back to Moscow, right? 

There`s one clear advantage for the Russians and bringing him back to



If this guy had a key role in running this operation against our

presidential election – well, as long as he`s in Moscow, he`s outside the

grasp of U.S. investigators, right?  It`s not just that you can`t extradite

him, you can`t, you know, subpoena him.  You can`t ask him to come to

Congress.  He`s out of the way.  He`s in Moscow.  He`s out of reach. 


And that may be the most important thing for us as U.S. citizens here,

right?  We`re all trying to figure out what just happened to our country. 

You know, what`s going on with this incredible national security scandal

that looms over our new presidency.  How are we going to get to the bottom

of this thing, right? 


What`s most important to all of us is that if this guy did have a key role

in that scheme, while he is in Moscow, he is out of reach of U.S.

investigators.  And who are the U.S. investigators, right? 


In terms of the investigation and what happened here, something really

important happened today that is not heartening at all. 


We all know the basic history of this dossier, right?  Reportedly, it had

circulated around Washington.  It had circulated among some journalists

late last year.  I never saw it before it was published.  I had heard

rumors about some of the things in it, but I`m not one of the people who

saw it and I don`t know many people who say they did before BuzzFeed

published it.


But it was apparently out there.  In early January, it was reported by CNN

that the FBI briefed Donald Trump and briefed President Obama on a list of

allegations against Donald Trump and his campaign concerning Russia.  That

initially report from CNN didn`t exactly say what these allegations were,

but within 24 hours, BuzzFeed News published the dossier.  There was a huge

uproar at the time.  Everybody including BuzzFeed admitted the dossier was

all uncorroborated information.


But you know what?  It didn`t end there.  And that ends up being important

for what happened today, because quietly over the next few weeks after this

thing was published by BuzzFeed, to such an uproar, there have been

multiple reports that some of the information in this dossier is bearing

out under further investigation.  This thing didn`t get just published and

go away.  U.S. investigators have been looking into this, and bits and

pieces of what`s reported in this dossier are turning out to be true and

reported and checkable. 


I mean, there is this mysterious recall to Moscow of the economic section

chief for the Russian embassy in D.C. and McClatchy reporting when he left,

yes, he was under investigation for his potential role in this Russian

operation against our election.  OK.


There was also a report from CNN recently and from the “New Yorker” last

week that we highlighted just the other night on the show.  Look, headline,

“U.S. investigators corroborate some aspects of the Russia dossier.” 

Quote, “Intercepts do confirm that some conversations described in the

dossier took place between the same individuals on the same days and from

the same locations as detailed in the dossier.”  Quote, “Corroboration

based on intercepted communications has given U.S. intelligence and law

enforcement greater confidence in the credibility of some aspects of the



And here`s intelligence official speaking to “The New Yorker.”  Quote,

“They are continuing to chase down stuff from the dossier and at its core a

lot of it is bearing out.”  OK.  Well, if parts of this dossier are bearing

out, if investigators are finding that specific allegations, specific

conversations describe specific anecdotes, at least some of them check out

when they double check this work. 


Well, it`s maybe worth focusing again on what the point of this is, on what

the bottom line is of this dossier particularly given what happened today

in London, because forget all of the salacious personal stuff.  Forget all

the stuff that made the White House so mad when it was published, right? 

The bottom line of this dossier, the bottom allegation, the point of it is

that the Trump campaign didn`t just benefit from Russia interfering, the

point of this is they colluded, they helped, they were in on it, right?


The money quote from this dossier is, “The operation had been conducted

with the full knowledge of Trump and senior members of his campaign team.” 

That`s basically what this whole dossier alleges, that the Trump folks were

in on it.  There were multiple people close to Trump, involved in the Trump

campaign, who were in contact with the Russian government about the Russian

government`s attacks on Hillary Clinton while those attacks were happening,

while Russia was waging these attacks. 


And overall, yes, we still have to describe this as a sheaf of

uncorroborated allegations, but little pieces supporting that bottom line

thesis really do keep falling in line, right?  I mean, think about what

we`ve learned in the last few weeks.  Michael Flynn resigning, right? 


Buried in the revelations about National Security Adviser Michael Flynn

resigning, right, him having contact with the Russian government that he

didn`t own up to and lying about what the content was of his

communications, buried in those revelations was not just that he talked to

the Russian government during the transition but he also had multiple

contacts with the Russian government during the campaign. 


What was he talking about during the campaign when the Russians were

hacking our election? 


Explicitly referenced in the dossier is a meeting by Trump campaign foreign

policy adviser Carter Page.  A meeting between him and a very senior

Russian official in July 2016.  Not only has the Trump campaign admitted

that meeting happened, today, a Trump campaign official confirmed to that not only did that meeting happen in Moscow, but the Trump

campaign explicitly authorized Carter Page to go to Moscow and take the

meeting at the time.  That`s just confirmed by the Trump campaign today.


Wednesday night last week, the “New York Times” reported that the British

and the Dutch, American allies, including the British and Dutch, have given

information to the U.S. investigators about not just intercepted

communications but in-person meetings during the presidential campaign

between people close to Vladimir Putin, including Russian government

officials and people close to Trump.  They were holding in-person meetings

in European cities and European intelligence agencies reported on those

meetings to the U.S.  They reported on the meetings between Trump folks and

Putin folks during the campaign. 


And that news, fairly explosive news, from the “New York Times,” that was

last Wednesday night.  It was overshadowed in the news cycle because a

couple hours after the “New York Times” posted the article, “The Washington

Post” broke the news that Attorney General Jeff Sessions himself had taken

at least two meetings with Russian government officials that he had not

disclosed even though he was asked about it under oath during his

confirmation hearings.


And so, yes, it`s understandable the earlier allegations got overshadowed

but, you know, the Sessions thing?  How`s that resolving?  That led to, you

know, a whole big drama that continues today about Sessions recusing

himself as attorney general, recusing himself from overseeing any of the

investigations into the Trump campaign and its contacts with Russia. 


But once again, we`re sort of in this situation with this story in

particular and the Trump administration in general, where it`s sort of best

to treat it like a silent movie a little bit.  Ignore the personal stuff. 

Ignore all the kinetic fighting about this stuff in Washington, right?  Get

back to the main point here.  Get back to the big point here.  Get back to

the, like, challenging the fate of the republic stuff here, right?


The main allegation, the thing everybody is most worried about, which is

the bottom allegation of this unproven dossier is that Russia didn`t just

attack our election, they did so with the knowledge of and support of the

Trump campaign, that the Trump folks were in on it.  That they knew what

Russia was doing while they were doing it and they continued meeting with

Russians in knowledge of that activity during the time of the attack. 


So, yes, the Jeff Sessions drama and the recusal questions are interesting

and will continue to be newsworthy, but look at the meeting that gave rise

to the recusal, right?  That meeting with Jeff Sessions and the Russian guy

happened September 8th.  What did they talk about?  I mean, these were the

headlines that week, right?  This was the “Washington Post” the start of

that week “U.S. investigating potential covert Russian plan to disrupt

November elections.” 


This was the biggest story in the country that week and that`s when Jeff

Sessions took his meeting with a Russian government official.  Hmm, did

they talk about the biggest story in the country that week which was about

the Russian government and the Trump campaign as they took that meeting as

a representative of the Russian government and the Trump campaign? 


Remember the bottom line here.  The allegation here, the bottom line

allegation here, the worst-case scenario is collusion that the Trump folks

were in on it, that they were in communication with the Russians about this

while the Russians were doing it.  And, yes, Sessions is recused.  You`ve

still gotten a open question as to whether there will be an independent



Today was the confirmation hearing of the man nominated to be deputy

attorney general.  Sessions has recused himself from the Trump-Russia

investigations.  It will be the deputy attorney general if he`s confirmed,

who will be overseeing what we`re told are several ongoing Justice

Department investigations into links between the Trump campaign and the



The nominee, Rod Rosenstein, would not commit to handing those duties off

to an independent special prosecutor, even though if he decides to do this

himself, that puts him in a weird position, right?  I mean, if he decides

he`s going to personally oversee these investigations, it won`t just be him

investigating the Trump campaign that just appointed him to this high

position, it will be him overseeing an investigation into his own boss,

Jeff Sessions, since Sessions personally is implicated.  Sessions himself

is implicated in this story and the time line of his Russian contacts need

explaining as part of any looking into this, right?


So the independence of the FBI investigations, the Justice Department

investigations, right, if you`re worried about FBI investigations and the

other DOJ investigations here, if you`re worried that those may not cut the

mustard in terms of aggression and independence, what are the other

investigations?  There`s intelligence committees in Congress, right, that

are also leading investigations.  One of them in the House headed by a

Trump campaign transition official who just announced that they will hold

their first public hearing on this issue on March 20th. 


The other investigation in the Senate is headed by a member of the National

Security Advisory Committee to the Trump campaign. 


But that brings us to the shooting star that went off in this story today. 

NBC News reported last week on the day Sessions recused himself on

Thursday, NBC reported on the basis of two sources that that Senate

Intelligence Committee headed by Richard Burr, who was part of the Trump

campaign, NBC reported that that committee was talking to the author of the

dossier.  The author of the dossier, the former MI6 officer, who prepared

the sheaf of information first for private clients and then reportedly

brought it to him himself in the summer of last year when he was so

disturbed by what he found, what he concluded about collusion between the

Trump folks and the Russians. 


Again, what he found was evidence, what he says he found was evidence not

just of Russia attacking the U.S. presidential election, but one party in

that election, the Trump campaign helping, going along with it, colluding,

being part of it.  And that is way worse allegations than just the Russians

attacking our election, right?  Or the Trump campaign having inexplicable

contacts with Russians they keep forgetting. 


The allegation of collusion is very, very, very serious, right?  I mean,

it`s sort of as serious as it gets.  It`s a whole different ball game than

there`s something mysterious here, follow the money, right? 


And again, the allegations in this dossier, we have to continue to describe

them as uncorroborated, but towards the basic thesis of this dossier that

the Trump campaign was in on it, little pieces of that, little checkable

pieces of that have been falling into place everyday now, and clearly, the

author of this dossier thought that he was on to something, thought that he

had seen in action, and he was proving that that collusion was under way

and he was so disturbed by it that he took it to the FBI. 


And NBC reported on Thursday that the Senate Intelligence Committee wants

to call him personally to testify about this, until today that was all

academic – interesting but academic – because, of course, the author of

this dossier famously went into hiding as soon as BuzzFeed published this

document in January.


But you know what happened today in London?  He`s alive.  Look.  There he

is.  He`s back.  He`s no longer in hiding. 


Christopher Steele, the author of the dossier, made himself nobody publicly

today.  He says he`s going back to work at his intelligence firm and he

doesn`t want to answer any questions.  OK, well, number one, it answers

some questions.  Number one, this means he`s alive.  Number two, he`s well

and capable of speaking.  Number three, he made sure to appear by video, so

presumably people who recognize him can recognize him and back up the fact

that really is him, he has surfaced. 


Does this mean we`ll finally get to access to what he knows, that we`re

finally going to get to hear what backs this up?  Is the Senate

Intelligence Committee going to call him and have him testify like NBC News

reported late last week? 


Well, we called the Senate intelligence committee tonight and they told us

no, probably not.  Press secretary to the top Democrat on the Senate

Intelligence Committee tonight told us, quote, “It is not at all likely, at

least not at this moment.”


Christopher Steele is back.  He`s alive.  He`s out there.  You guys

investigating this want to talk to him? 


So far, it is us as American citizens, it is us in the press who are

connecting the dots on this story, who are figuring this out.  Do we have

any reason to believe that any government official investigation into this

scandal is doing the same?  Honestly, it`s a DOJ controlled by a Trump

campaign official, or its two intelligence committees each controlled by a

Trump campaign official. 


Support your free press.  It`s really starting to feel like we are going to

have to do this ourselves. 




MADDOW:  Hey, we`ve got some breaking news regarding the new version of the

Muslim ban.  As you know, the ban was initially announced a week into the

new administration, then almost immediately, it was torn apart in court. 

It was ultimately rescinded by the administration.  But they issued a new

Muslim ban yesterday that`s due to go into affect next week. 


Well, now, tonight, as I say breaking news, we are learning that the state

of Hawaii will be the first to sue the federal government to block the

updated ban.  We`ve just got in this court documents that say the state of

Hawaii will file a motion tomorrow, asking a federal judge to block the

implementation of a new ban, at least until a court can rule on this

challenge from Hawaii. 


I should tell you, a little peek behind the curtain here on the way we got

a heads up about this, is that within the last hour, the lead attorney for

this legal challenge, the lead attorney for Hawaii`s challenge tweeted

this, quote, “Here we go.  Proud to stand with the state of Hawaii

challenging President Trump`s new executive order.  The Trump

administration and the state of Hawaii have jointly asked the court for

oral argument on March 15.”  March 15 would be a week from tomorrow next



That lawyer who gave us that heads up by Twitter is Neal Katyal.  He joins

us now by phone.  I should also mentioned, he was formerly acting solicitor

general under President Obama. 


Mr. Katyal, thank you very much for joining us.  Really appreciate you

joining us by phone tonight. 



Thanks, Rachel.  Glad to be here. 


MADDOW:  One of the things we have been wondering having seen the

vociferous legal challenges to the initial version of the ban was whether

we were going to have to wait for this new ban to go into effect next week

before we saw those new round of challenges to it or whether you can

challenge it in advance.  You essentially feel like that`s a settled matter

and you can challenge it before it even goes into effect? 


KATYAL:  Well, I think the challenge will be, you know, when it does go

into effect, I do think that`s an important point, Rachel, because last

time around when the president issued his first executive order, he used

that same mechanism, Twitter, and he said, quote, “If the ban were

announced with one-week notice the bad would rush into our country during

that week.  A lot of bad dudes out there.”  That`s a quote from the

president of the United States, and, of course, this time not only did he

take a week but he took 10 days.


So, I really think it just underscores the lack of a national security

justification here.  This isn`t about protecting us from bad guys rushing

into the country.  This is about politics. 


MADDOW:  Neal, one of the things we have seen since the initial

introduction of the ban is that there have been two really interesting

leaked documents from the Department of Homeland Security and in both

cases, the Department of Homeland Security officially did not intend for

them to be – to see the light of day, but the department confirmed their

authenticity in both times.  One of them was leaked to “The Associated

Press”.  It was essentially a Department of Homeland Security report saying

you can`t predict terrorism based on somebody`s nation of origin, based on

the country somebody was born in. 


The other was leaked to us.  And it was an argument that essentially the

extreme vetting idea that the Trump administration has used for the basis

of this ban doesn`t make sense in terms of trying to stop terrorism in this

country because the types of increased vetting that they`re talking about

statistically wouldn`t be seen as stopping any of the radicalized people

who have turned to terrorism once they`re already in our country. 


KATYAL:  Exactly.  And, you know, it`s not just those documents which are

so devastating to any security rationale that the administration has put

forth, it`s even the president`s executive order itself.  I mean, what`s

the evidence he needs it?  He cites evidence starting in 1979 and 1984. 

You know, Congress has had 40 years to deal with this problem and they`ve

never seen fit to do something like this like enact a Muslim ban or

anything like that.  And so, you know, what the president has done here is

really dramatically out of step with the traditions and laws of this



MADDOW:  One last question for you, Neal.  In terms of the jurisdiction

here, obviously, you are bringing this case on behalf of the state of

Hawaii.  If this goes from the district court up through the circuit court,

ultimately heading toward the Supreme Court, if that ends up being the

path, would it be going through that same Ninth Circuit Court that issued

that devastating pushback against the first iteration of this ban? 


KATYAL:  It will.  And one of the most frustrating things about this is

every time the president loses one of these cases, he and his

administration lambaste them as being, you know, so-called judges or

liberal or activist judges.  It`s important to remember that that Ninth

Circuit Court of Appeals decision, one of the three judges of that

unanimous decision was Richard Clifton who is a George W. Bush appointee. 


And I do think, you know, what the state of Hawaii is doing here is

standing up for bedrock American values.  This isn`t about politics.  This

is an effort from the state`s perspective.  This really is just about what

the laws fundamentally require. 


MADDOW:  Neal Katyal, the lead attorney for the state of Hawaii, that is

the first state out of the gate now challenging the new iteration of the

president`s Muslim ban.  Mr. Katyal, thank you very much for your time

tonight.  Keep us apprised. 


Again, this breaking news, this lawsuit just filed.  We will post what

we`ve got in terms of the court documents on this at



We`ll be right back. 




MADDOW:  Over the last few days, there has been a full scale Washington

freak-out over the president making an allegation on Twitter that former

President Barack Obama ordered wiretaps of the Trump campaign. 


Whether or not you have been following every exclamation point in that

story, what we`ve got again in this story is a weird new thing in our

politics, like a weird story, it`s outrageous, it`s very over-the-top,

based on claims from the new president, and you can make of those claims

what you will, but once again, what ends up being important here is not the

wild claims of the president, right?  Not this distracting story that the

White House has injected into the national bloodstream.  It`s not these

wild tweets by the president. 


What instead ends up being really newsworthy and really interesting is what

that wild story has shaken loose in terms of factual claims, confirmations,

and otherwise from this administration.  Don`t pay attention to what

they`re saying – especially if you don`t believe them – pay attention to

what they`re doing.  Pay attention to what this White House has done in the

immediate aftermath and there is something really important that the White

House has apparently done in the immediate aftermath of this ridiculous



Do you know who this guy is on the left there?  Obviously, the guy on the

right, Samuel Alito, guy in the left, Don McGahn.  Don McGahn is the White

House counsel.  His job is to advise the president in all legal matters

relating for the presidency and the administration. 


In the hours after the president sent that Saturday morning tweet that got

everybody so upset, Don McGahn was, according to the White House, already

on the case.  A senior White House official telling the “New York Times”

that day that Don McGahn was, quote, “working to secure access to what Mr.

McGahn believed to be an order issued by the Foreign Intelligence

Surveillance Court authorizing some form of surveillance related to Mr.

Trump and his associates.”


OK, stop right there.  Regardless of what anybody is claiming, you can`t do

that.  Warrants from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, FISA

warrants, those are some of the most sensitive top-secret business that

we`ve got as a country.  Whether such a warrant exists or not, a White

House official can`t ask the Department of Justice, can`t ask the court to

hand over that administration.  You`ve got something there about the

president, I want to see it. 


That`s not the way that works, that is not done.  Not under any

circumstances, and especially when the information being sought involves

the president and his key advisers.  That should not happen. 


And that explains why after some, quote, “heavy criticism”, a different

administration official was sent out there to walk it back.  Quote, “The

official said the counsel`s office was actually looking at whether there

was any legal possibility of gleaning information without impeding or

interfering with an investigation.”  Oh, no, we wouldn`t want to do that. 

We weren`t trying to get them to hand over that information even though we

already admitted to that on the record, we were just seeing if it was at

all legally possible to potentially glean information about it. 


You know, can`t do that, either.  And the reason this is particularly

troubling the not about the initial iteration of this story, right?  The

initial claims that gave rise to this tizzy in Washington over what the

current president is saying about the last president and how ridiculous it

is.  What`s important here is that the White House admitted they`ve got

their White House counsel trying to chase down this warrant.  And this

comes on the heels of the White House admitting something very similar with

the White House chief of staff. 


Last month, we got reports that White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus

had violated longstanding, very important norms by asking FBI officials to

make public statements about their investigations into contacts between the

Trump campaign and their intelligence.  The White House chief of staff

leaning on the FBI about their investigation into the Trump campaign in



Now, the FBI refused those entreaties from the White House because that is

not how those are supposed to work, but now, they`re doing it again, with

FISA warrants? 


The protocols designed to keep the Justice Department independent from the

White House political pressure the Justice Department can do its work,

those protocols exist for a reason, and whatever other nonsense noise is

going around this story, what the White House is telling us is that they

are through multiple people in the top levels of the White House, the White

House chief of staff, the White House chief counsel, they are trying to

undo those norms and reconnect law enforcement and investigations in this

country to White House partisan political pressure. 


Those norms have never been more important than they are now and they have

never been more threatened.  More on that ahead.  Stay with us.




MADDOW:  The House Intelligence Committee today announced their first

public hearing into the Russian attack on our presidential election.  Those

receiving invitations to testify include the FBI Director James Comey, the

NSA Director Mike Rogers, former CIA Director John Brennan, former Director

of National Intelligence, former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates.  So

far, not the author of the dossier of alleged Russian dirt against Donald

Trump, although that guy did pop back into view today in London after

spending weeks in hiding after his dossier was first published.  I wonder

if ultimately we`ll be talking to him, too. 


Joining us now is Congressman Adam Schiff, ranking member of the House

Intelligence Committee. 


Congressman Schiff, thank you very much for being here.  Appreciate your





MADDOW:  So, we`ve got this first announcement about a first hearing.  Is

there bipartisan cooperation in terms of the witness list, in terms of the

initial scope and direction of your information or is this all Chairman

Nunes at this point? 


SCHIFF:  No, there`s bipartisan agreement on the scope of the investigation

and we hammered out a very lengthy and detailed plan that we both signed

off on.  That part is very bipartisan.  I fully support the open hearing

and, frankly, I hope we have as many open hearings as possible and we can

bring the public in this process.  Obviously, much of this will have to be

done in closed session.


But I fully support the witness list for this full hearing, first hearing. 

And what`s more, we ought to be able to get to the bottom of this charge

made by President Trump in the course of a single hearing, that would

probably the easiest issue to resolve.  Is this a scandal, as he has said,

of mammoth proportion where the former president illegally wiretapped him

or is this a scandal of a different kind where our current president has

made a reckless and baseless allegation of criminality against his

predecessor?  We should get that answer on March 20th and I intend to ask

Director Comey very clearly and if the public reports are accurate that he

wanted the Department of Justice to speak out, the director will have his

own opportunity on March 20th to tell us whether there`s any merit or this

is a complete fabrication by the president of the United States. 


MADDOW:  On that point about the wiretapping allegation, what I found most

shocking about those allegations from the president about President Obama

was not that the current president made a wild allegation that may have not

been based in fact or may have been based on something he saw on a

conspiratorial media site or something.  That didn`t surprise me as much as

the word from the White House that after President Trump made these

allegations, the White House counsel Don McGahn sought information about

any FISA warrant that might have authorized wiretapping of Trump associates

or Trump staffers during the campaign. 


It would seem to me, just my layman`s reading of this, that that`s not the

sort of thing the White House counsel`s office should be able to obtain or

even get information about.  Is that a separate independent national

security process? 


SCHIFF:  It is and you`re exactly right.  There`s may be circumstances

where it`s appropriate for White House counsel to seek information about a

counterterrorism or counterintelligence investigation that has led to a

FISA wiretap, but not in the circumstances where he`s asking if there`s a

wiretap of his boss or associates of his boss.  That could be completely



And if he did that, he`s not a particularly good White House counsel and

this president probably needs the best White House counsel and probably a

whole team of good lawyers.  But I can`t see any circumstance where it

would be appropriate for the president`s lawyer effectively to go to the

Justice Department and say what have you got on my boss? 


MADDOW:  Congressman, one last quick question for you.  One of the things

we`ve been talking about this evening is the interesting reappearance in

London of the former MI6 officer who wrote that uncorroborated, very

salacious dossier of alleged Russian dirt on President Trump that made a

big splash right before the inauguration in January.  He had gone into

hiding after that dossier was initially published.  He`s now back in



There`s been mixed reporting on whether U.S. investigations in the contacts

between the Trump campaign and Russians would like to speak to him. 


Do you know if the House Intelligence Committee, of which you`re the

ranking Democrat, will seek testimony from him, whether we should expect to

hear from him at all as American citizens in terms of what he found and

what he published? 


SCHIFF:  Well, I`ll certainly be requesting his testimony and if there`s an

issue about whether he is willing to come before the committee, I can say I

am more than willing to go to him and I know there are other members of the

committee would join me in that.  So, if it`s an issue of his not wanting

to appear or to come here and face questions from the whole committee, we

more than welcome his cooperation in any manner that he is comfortable. 


We certainly want to get to the bottom of the details of that dossier and

report what has been substantiated, what hasn`t, and find out just how he

based those conclusions and to whatever degree he is willing to share with

us any sources of his information. 


MADDOW:  Congressman Adam Schiff, ranking Democrat on the House

Intelligence Committee making some news here on that subject with us

tonight  – thank you for your time tonight, sir.  It`s good to have you



SCHIFF:  Thank you.


MADDOW:  Thank you. 


All right.  More to come tonight.  Stay with us.  




MADDOW:  Clemson, South Carolina, now, don`t be shy now.  Don`t be shy. 




SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA:  Here`s what I`m going to try to

do – I`m going to try to help our president, Donald Trump, be as

successful as possible because, number one, I agree with him mostly, and I

would like to get this country moving again, so – 




For those – so I want to repeal or replace Obamacare. 






MADDOW:  Rowdy town hall hosted by Senator Lindsey Graham this weekend at



Senator Graham has been on the side of killing the Affordable Care Act, but

his constituents yelled their hearts out to him about that, he added a few

asterisks to his statement. 




GRAHAM:  Let me tell my Republican leaders who may be listen, don`t give

Lindsey Graham take it or leave it options because I`ll leave it.  I want

to be part of this.  I want you to know what we`re doing.  I don`t want to

replace Obamacare with a process that`s just exactly like we pass at the

beginning with. 




MADDOW:  Senator Graham telling his angry constituents that he will stand

up to his fellow Republicans on health care a little bit.  They better not,

for example, try to pass it by rushing it through fast, take it or leave

it.  That`s what he told his constituents this weekend.  Senate Republicans

are preparing to jam through repealing Obamacare right away before the

Easter recess next month.


But Lindsey Graham came out and said no to that, publicly urging his

Republican colleagues to slow down.  Quote, “I`m not worried about the

recess.  I`m worried about doing it right.  I don`t feel a need for speed.”


Pressuring your local lawmaker never feels like it works at the moment, but

there`s a reason people do it.  There`s a reason people work hard to try to

get at it.  In blue state Colorado, for example, voters have been

pressuring Republican Senator Cory Gardner to meet with them.  Missing

Senator Gardner.  They have been pressuring him as hard as they can to save

the Affordable Care Act.


They have kept steady pressure on him in Colorado for weeks.  We`ve been

watching it on Twitter and Facebook, watching local news coverage of the

pressure on Gory Gardner at home.  We`ve been watching it ever since the



Well, yesterday, Senator Cory Gardner came out with three other Republican

senators and said he was against the newly rolled out plan to scrap

Obamacare.  It`s not like he`s a champion of the Affordable Care Act or

something, but he is now publicly against the plan his own party rolled out

for scrapping it.


And if they really are going to kill Obamacare, Republicans can only afford

to lose two senators from their plan to do that.  If all Democrats stay

solid on this, Republicans can only lose two.  Well, on that letter alone,

that`s Cory Gardner and three others, plus Lindsey Graham saying, whoa,

whoa, whoa.  If those Republican senators` objections hold, then the

Republican plan to kill Obamacare is dead already. 


And the beltway story is that the Republicans can`t repeal Obamacare

because it`s not conservative enough, and so, conservative members of

Congress are rising up against it.  And yes, that is happening. 


But you know what?  They can afford to shed some right-wing House

Republican votes.  What they haven`t shed in large numbers are senators,

particularly Democrat senators are pretty unified on this front and

Republicans appear to be splitting. 


And you know what?  The pressure back home on them to hold the line on

health reform, the pressure back home on them is sustained and loud and

unyielding and it is not mostly from the right.  Pressure works.  And so

far, that pressure is why 20 million Americans still have health insurance

tonight – Americans who might otherwise have lost it by now already. 




MADDOW:  I`m going hand-off here to Lawrence O`Donnell.  I want to mention

one thing as we go, something that happened on this show tonight that we

made some news. 


Congressman Adam Schiff is the top Democrat on the House Intelligence

Committee.  I don`t want to leave without noting here, that he just told us

that he`s determined that the House Intelligence Committee that`s

investigating the Trump campaign and its ties to Russia, he`s determined

that they should talk to the British former MI6 officer who compiled that

dossier of alleged Russian dirt on Donald Trump. 


The author of that dossier has been in hiding since January.  Today, he

surfaced in London.  And apparently, at least the ranking Democrat on the

House Intelligence Committee, which is leading that investigation into

Trump and Russia, he says he will go to London.  He will do whatever it

takes to make sure they get his testimony.  Oh, really? 


That does it for us tonight.  We`ll see you again tomorrow. 




Good evening, Lawrence. 







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