The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 3/15/2017

Guests:
Neal Katyal, Bill Pascrell
Transcript:

Show: The Rachel Maddow Show
Date: March 15, 2017
Guest: Neal Katyal, Bill Pascrell

CHRIS HAYES, “ALL IN” HOST: That is “ALL IN” for this evening.

THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now.

Good evening, Rachel.

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

HAYES: You bet.

MADDOW: And thanks to you at home for joining us.

There`s a lot going on in the news tonight. This is going to be a big
show, crowded.

First of all, the big headline, as you`ve been hearing is that, the second
attempt by the Trump administration to institute a Muslim ban was supposed
to go into effect at midnight Eastern tonight. A federal court has blocked
the ban from going into effect. We`re going to have more on that in just a
second, including a live discussion with the lawyer who won the case and
stopped the ban.

Beyond that breaking news, though, I have to say, this is just turning out
to be kind of a bad day for Trump priorities all around. Tonight we`ve
also got news from the Netherlands about the electoral fate of the man who
many people considered to be – forgive me – sort of an extra racist Dutch
version of Donald Trump. His name is Geert Wilders.

Here he is speaking at an event held on the sidelines of the Republican
National Convention this summer. Notice the pictures behind him? It was
sort of a soft porn Aryan anti-Islam fest that they called Twinks for
Trump.

Geert Wilders is an anti-Muslim radical. He`s a crusading anti-immigrant
far right nativist of a sort that hasn`t been seen in top tier Western
European politics in decades. But Geert Wilders was expected to win the
national elections in the Netherlands. He was expected tonight to become
the new Dutch prime minister.

He did not win. He will not be prime minister. We`re going to have more
on that election result coming up tonight as well. I should tell you a lot
of Trump partisans in this country are very upset with Geert Wilders` loss
in the Netherlands tonight. But that`s underway tonight.

Tonight is also starting to look basically like deflation day for the
biggest Republican policy priority effort of them all. The effort to kill
the Affordable Care Act, to repeal Obamacare, appears to be in political
freefall right now. It will face a vote in a House committee tomorrow. It
might pass that committee.

The fact that it`s uncertain is remarkable given that Republicans have
eight more seats on that committee than Democrats do and it still might not
pass that committee. If it does pass that committee and it does ultimately
pass the Republican-controlled House – which itself is not sure – even
then what would happen next is it would head to the Senate and Republicans
can only afford no votes on this bill from three Republican senators.

Vox.com has been doing a tally about Republican senators balking at the
bill. They can only lose three. Vox`s count right now is up to 12
Republican senators who are saying uh-uh to this bill.

The White House conceded this week that if the Republicans don`t kill
Obamacare with this bill, that`s probably it. There`s no plan “B.” And
today, frankly, it looked like the White House gave up on it.

Remember how once the bill was introduced, once we got the bill leaked and
then introduced, the president went out of his way to say that he would
work personally to get it passed, he was going to twist arms and he was
going to do a charm offensive, and that he was going to do everything
possible to get it passed? It`s telling on the day when the highest
profile Republican priority of all, this repealing Obamacare thing, it is
telling that on the day the bill is dying in Washington, the president
himself didn`t even stick around in Washington to lift a finger to try to
save it.

Instead, the president today went to Michigan and when he was in Michigan
he did not mention health care once. He instead complained to the Michigan
governor that he didn`t endorse Trump in the presidential election. So,
today has been – today I think has been a difficult day for the
administration and for Republicans in Washington.

I`m also going to ask you to sort of stick a pin in weird news that we got
today out of Russia – and I do not quite know what to make of it, but
there`s a vary specific part of it that it is worth sticking a pin in
because at some point we are going to figure out what this means and we`ve
got to notice these things when they pop in the news.

All right. Today, the Justice Department, you might have seen these
headlines, the Justice Department today brought criminal charges against
four Russian intelligence operatives for an alleged – for their alleged
role in a giant hack of yahoo.com a couple years ago, a hack that stole
information on hundreds of millions of people. The indictment says that
that hack of yahoo.com, it wasn`t just a commercial theft or some kind of
malicious prank, it was a Russian intelligence operation that was designed,
among other things, to target journalists and foreign officials. So, they
charged four Russians in conjunction with that hack of Yahoo today.

Now, two of the four people who they indicted were young hackers that were
reportedly working with the FSB, with the Russian spy service, one is in
Russia and hasn`t been picked up, one of them is in Canada and has actually
been arrested. So, those are the two outside hackers.

But the other two people named in the indictment were actually Russian
intelligence agencies, FSB agents. And this is interesting because we`re
told today this indictment about the Yahoo thing had nothing at all to do
with last year`s Russian intelligence operation and hacking attack against
our presidential election and the Hillary Clinton campaign, they say it had
nothing do with that.

But check this out. One of the two Russian agents, one of the two FSB
agents who was charged in this indictment today on the on the Yahoo thing
is the same person reportedly arrested in Moscow in December and charged
with treason for allegedly cooperating with U.S. intelligence and that was
an arrest that many observers believe actually was tied to the Russian
hacking and attack on our election, specifically to the unmasking of that
attack. Same guy. Same FSB guy.

Arrested in Moscow in December, named in this indictment today?

Right now, the same guy already under arrest for treason in Russia, that
same guy has turned up in an American indictment on a totally unrelated
hacking attack on the United States. Hmm? That is, as I say, stick a pin
in that because we don`t yet know what that means but essentially, we are
going to sort out this Russia stuff.

We are going to sort out this stuff about Russia and its attack on our
election. And we are going to figure out what these red flags mean. Right
now, that`s just a red flag to leave stuck on a pin in that story. A weird
development today. It comes amid all sorts of new consternation in
Washington over the ongoing investigations into that Russian attack and
into the Trump campaign`s connections with Russia.

The first public hearing on Trump and Russia is going to be on Monday in
Washington. The FBI director briefed two senators from the Judiciary
Committee today on Russia and its connections to the Trump campaign, but
neither one of the senators nor Director Comey would talk about it other
than that conversation. Director Comey is due to testify at that hearing
on Monday on Trump and Russia.

In the meantime – that`s going to be a House committee on Monday. In the
meantime, senators, including Republican senators, are threatening that
they`re going to hold up nominations for high-ranking administration
positions unless the FBI comes to the Senate and describes ongoing FBI
investigations into the Trump/Russia attacks.

So, the Russia investigation stuff is about to get public. Some of it is
already happening obviously behind the scenes. Some of it is being
disclosed secretly to individual lawmakers. We`re about to get public
disclosure of some kind of Monday. Senators are demanding even more public
disclosure beyond what we`re going to get from that hearing.

It`s getting a little hurly-burly on that issue and in general, it got a
little hurly-burly today in Washington. I should also mention – last
night, there was also the publication of the first federal tax returns from
Donald Trump, which it turns out raise all sorts of interesting questions.
We`ll have more on that ahead tonight.

But, again, where we started – the news that has just landed like an anvil
on the Trump administration and their hopes and dreams comes from a federal
court tonight in Hawaii, of all places.

I`ll just take personal privilege to point out what I believe is the best
Twitter reaction to this court ruling so far, hands down. This one, “In an
epic act of trolling, a Hawaii judge is responding to Trump`s Muslim ban by
showing him America`s birth certificate.”

A federal judge, indeed, has tonight used America`s birth certificate, has
used the Constitution to block President Trump`s revised Muslim ban just
hours before it was set to take effect. This is the administration`s
second try at banning both refugees and just everyday travelers and
visitors and immigrants from a grab bag of majority Muslim countries.

The first version of the Muslim ban, you`ll remember, it was signed one
week after the inauguration. That led to spontaneous, big, sustained,
rolling protests at American airports all across the country. That was
just one week into the Trump administration. Tens of thousands of people
were just outright caught in limbo by that order, either unable to make
their planned trips or detained for long hours when they arrived.

That first version of the Muslim ban was blocked in the federal courts
quickly. Blocked in a series of federal district courts and then
ultimately by the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last month. The
president`s first iteration of the Muslim ban didn`t even really get off
the ground other than that first few days of chaos and the massive protests
that followed.

Well, the White House, after that got blocked, after that got absolutely
shut down in the courts, they tried again. They tinkered with the old
order. They said this time, it wouldn`t run into a buzz saw in the courts.
Well, now, tonight, it`s run into a buzz saw in the courts.

They removed – for the second version, they removed any the language
specifically mentioning Muslims. They removed “Iraq” from the list of
countries. OK, why is that on the list of countries any way again?

They also gave noticed this time. They didn`t just do it with no notice.
This time, they had the president sign it last week, announcing it wouldn`t
go into effect until midnight tonight. But it`s not going into effect at
midnight tonight. This federal judge in Hawaii looked at those changes,
looked at that tinkering and said basically, “This is the same thing you
tried the last time.” And the judge has blocked the ruling nationwide.

Quoting from the ruling, quote, “A reasonable objective observer
enlightened by specific historical context, contemporaneous public
statements and specific sequence of events leading to the order`s issuance
would conclude that the executive order was issued with a purpose to
disfavor a particular religion.” Which you cannot do under the
Constitution.

The ruling also just rips apart the Trump administration`s claim that this
time it`s not really a Muslim ban. This from the ruling, quote, “The
government defends the executive order principally because of its
religiously neutral text.” Meaning the new version of the order doesn`t
say it`s a Muslim ban.

Quote, “The government does not stop there. By its reading, the executive
order could not have been religiously motivated because the six countries
represent only a small fraction of the world`s 50 Muslim majority nations.”
The court continues, “The illogic of the government`s contentions is
palpable. The notion one can demonstrate animus toward any group of people
only by targeting all of them at once is fundamentally flawed. It is a
discriminatory purpose that matters, no matter how inefficient the
execution.”

The ruling then uses the president`s own words against him saying, quote,
“A review of the historical background here makes plain why the government
wishes to focus on the executive order`s text rather than its context. The
record before this court is unique. It includes significant and unrebutted
evidence of religious animus driving the promulgation of the executive
order and its related predecessor.”

The ruling then quotes at length a whole bunch of anti-Muslim statements by
the president, explaining the need for this ban and then it holds him to
those statements. Quote, “These plainly worded statements made in the
months leading up to and contemporaneous with the signing of the executive
order and in many cases made by the executive himself, these statements
betray the executive order`s stated secular purpose.”

Quote, “When considered alongside the constitutional injuries and harms
discussed about and the questionable evidence supporting the government`s
national security motivations, the balance of equities and public interest
justify granting the plaintiff`s temporary restraining order.” And that
temporary restraining order is in effect right this second.

So, no Muslim ban at midnight and it`s in effect nationwide. And this was
only the first swing that the federal courts took at this version of the
Muslim ban. There are more federal cases about it, more federal cases
against it brought by more states that are all pending tonight. Stacked up
like planes ready to land after this one.

As far as actual policy enacted, this administration has achieved very
little in their first two months, the Muslim ban was a cornerstone of the
campaign, it was supposed to be the first major policy shift of the Trump
presidency, it was the flag they were going to plant on capitol hill, the
nationalist foundation upon which everything else was going to be built.

The answer from the courts, the answer from the courts, the answer from the
Constitution is nope, not today. Not here, not anywhere.

Joining us now is Neal Katyal. He`s the lead attorney for the state of
Hawaii`s challenge to travel ban.

Mr. Katyal, I really appreciate you making the time to be here. You joined
us the night when you filed this case, and I`m happy to have you here when
you had this ruling.

NEAL KATYAL, LEAD ATTY. FOR HAWAII`S CHALLENGE OF NEW TRAVEL BAN: Glad to
be back. Thank you.

MADDOW: What do you make of the scope of this ruling? One of the things
we didn`t know even if this decision was going to go your way, how broad
the court`s order would be? But as far as I can tell, this is a nationwide
stop on the ban.

KATYAL: Yes, I did. It`s absolutely. It`s a nationwide stop on the ban
because Judge Watson found this Muslim ban was truly a Muslim ban, that it
constituted an establishment of religion and betrayed really the ideals
that our founders had when they created this country.

MADDOW: This is a temporary restraining order. What does temporary mean
in this case?

KATYAL: Well, temporary means that that was argued up quickly, indeed, it
was just a week ago tonight that I think I was on your show when we
announced we were filing the complaint and indeed maybe it was the day
before that the executive order was issued.

So, temporary means there`s been a need for speed. The judge would like us
to come back and discuss the issues and so on with more time. But I take
it from what the president said tonight in the campaign speech – he said a
lot of stuff, but one of the things he sounded like he was saying was he
wanted to take this to the Court of Appeals and the United States Supreme
Court.

MADDOW: In terms of the overall sort of landscape of challenges against
this ban – and I know you can`t speak for other cases that aren`t your
own, but as an expert in this field, as an observer in these matters, we`ve
been keeping an eye on a number of other challenges brought by Washington
state. There`s a Maryland case, Massachusetts and California, other states
have expressed interest or joined cases also challenging this ban. And
everybody`s case is a little bit different.

What happens to all of those other cases that are also in process now, now
that this restraining order is in effect? Is it possible one of the
rulings on one of those other cases might go in the government`s favor and
that would overturn the restraining order that you got tonight?

KATYAL: It`s certainly possible that there might be a decision somewhere
else that disagrees, but that wouldn`t be – a district court, a trial
court decision wouldn`t be able to overturn this judge`s decision. It
would require the Court of Appeals out on the West Coast to reverse Judge
Watson`s decision today. Some judge sitting somewhere else wouldn`t be
able to do that.

And I do think that`s an important point, Rachel. I mean, this is now the
fourth time that the Trump administration has lost a Muslim ban argument, a
Muslim ban before the federal courts. And, you know, I used to represent
the federal government in their Supreme Court and litigation proceedings,
and I think we always thought, if you`re the president and you assert
national security as your reason for doing something, it`s really hard to
lose in federal court. It`s like failing a class at Yale or something.
You`ve got to try really hard. You`ve got to work at it.

But now that – you know, and indeed, there`s been a handful of presidents
that have lost cases on national security grounds over an entire history
and here, President Trump has lost it four times just in about 50 days. I
mean, that`s not a good omen for the future.

MADDOW: And he says, I should mentioned tonight in this campaign speech
tonight saying that he looks forward to appealing this case and going all
the way to the Supreme Court with it if he – if he can. We shall see.

Neal Katyal, lead attorney for the state of Hawaii, its successful
challenge to the travel ban tonight – congratulations on this win tonight
and thanks for helping us understand it, Neal.

All right. I should also mention that that is in the eight-plus-year
history of the show, the first time there has ever been a Yale joke on THE
RACHEL MADDOW SHOW. See? We made it this long.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: Last night on this show, we published the first federal tax return
information that has ever been released about President Trump. Now,
tonight, I`m able to explain a little bit more about how we got that
document.

First of all, this is one thing I was not able to show you last night but I
can show you tonight. This is the envelope. This is the envelope the tax
return arrived in.

You might remember when the “New York Times” obtained a few pages of state
tax returns from Trump from the 1990s, those pages were mailed to “The
Times” in a plain manila envelope that has Trump Tower listed as the return
address. Well, for the tax return that we got last night, the envelope
looks different. It was addressed to David Cay Johnston at his home
address in Rochester, New York. There was no return address on the
envelope at all. There was a stamp on the envelope, American flag stamp.

And there was a postmark. It was postmarked Westchester County, which is a
county just north of New York City.

Although this is the first federal tax return information ever released
about Donald Trump, and we`re very happy to have it and to have been able
to put it into the world – honestly, we still have no idea who sent it to
David Cay Johnston. We do know it`s authentic because the White House put
out a statement insulting us and calling us all sorts of names but also
verifying that this document we had obtained is authentic.

Weirdly, after the White House said the document was authentic, the
president himself then got on Twitter this morning and said that it was
fake. It was fake news. But, I mean, I don`t really know what to make of
that. I don`t think we`re supposed to read too much into things he says.
I don`t know.

Ultimately, in terms of the content of that tax return, there is nothing
particularly embarrassing or scandalous in the tax return itself. I mean,
one of the things we have seen today as tax experts and analysts has gone
through these two pages is that there are some questions raised about –
questions raised through this return about whether or not Donald Trump`s
tax policies as president would put millions of dollars into his own
pocket, right?

With just this little window into his taxes, that`s already enough to raise
interesting questions about whether or not he`s going to have a significant
personal financial stake in tax reform issues like the alternative minimum
tax and the various loopholes that people in businesses like real estate
use to avoid paying taxes – the way certain high end business people can
roll over losses from year to year and use those losses to avoid paying
taxes this year and into the future, even though their losses were incurred
in the past, right?

So, there`s – there`s questions as to whether or not there are Trump
family, Trump personal consequences to the kinds of things he said he`d
like to do to the tax code. I mean, the Republican plan to kill Obamacare
seems to be tanking in Washington. As that`s happening right now before
our eyes, President Trump is already moving on. He said tonight in an
interview that he`s eager to move on from Obamacare repeal and instead
start working on changing the tax code.

Well, what we have been able to obtain about his federal taxes, this first
federal tax document from him, it does give us a starting list of questions
to ask whether his proposed tax reforms will be designed to benefit
himself. Past those immediate policy questions, though, there really are
two main questions that this gives rise to.

Number one is, where did this come from? Who signed that – you know, who
licked the flap of the envelope, right? Who sent that envelope to David
Cay Johnston with this inside? Where did this come have? Number two.

And number two, is there more? Is there more where this came from? And
can we please have it? Is this – you know, more that would be released by
any means? Whether or not it has to come in an unmarked envelope to David
Cay Johnston`s house, is there more of this?

On the question of where these documents came from, how David got them, how
we were able to put them on TV last night, there`s been a lot of focus
today on the prospect that the president might have leaked this document
himself or might have OK`d the leaking of this document by somebody he
knows, you know, both because it`s a welcome distraction from what is
otherwise a pretty terrible news cycle for him, but also maybe because he
likes the financial picture that this particular tax return, this portion
of this particular tax return paints of him. Maybe he likes the way this
makes him look. So, maybe he leaked it to make himself look good.

The president said in an interview he did tonight on FOX News that the leak
of this tax return definitely didn`t come from the White House, but then he
immediately pivoted to say that there`s nothing embarrassing in this tax
return at all. And that is basically true.

If it is not an accident that this particular tax return happens to show
the president in a positive light – well, if all his other returns
similarly show financial information that he finds not embarrassing, that
he`s happy to have out there – well, the White House could very easily
prove that by releasing other tax returns from other years. If this wasn`t
cherry-picked, show us that. If this is typical of a Trump tax return,
then show us that. If it`s all good news, show us. I mean, that`s what
all the other presidents do, why not this one?

But if 2005 is the only year we`re going to get, I will tell you there are
a few things about that year in particular that make it stand out as
possibly an atypical year in his finances – an atypical year for his tax
preparation strategy.

First of all, you see at the top of this document that this is a joint
return. 2005 is the year Mr. Trump married his lovely wife Melania. This
was their first jointly filed tax return as a married couple. In 2005,
when they got married, the year for which this return was filed, Mrs. Trump
was not a U.S. citizen. She was a holder of a green card, she could work
her legally, but she was not a citizen. She didn`t get her citizenship
until the following year, in 2006.

And if you go to the U.S. Customs and Immigration Service page about how
you should prepare for your citizenship interview, U.S. Customs and
Immigration advises you that, quote, “Your tax returns are very important
proof that you are eligible for naturalization”, meaning proof that you`re
eligible for becoming a citizen. Quote, “On the day of your interview,
bring certified tax returns for the last five years or three years if you
are married to a U.S. citizen.”

So, when Melania Trump went for her citizenship interview in 2006, she
would have had to bring tax returns, including from this first year when
she was married to Donald Trump and that tax return would be used as a very
important piece of evidence as to whether or not she should get
citizenship. So, you better believe the 2005 tax return is going to be
sterling, right? That it`s going to display excellent citizenship and no
red flags whatsoever. OK. That`s one thing that is unusual about 2005.

Another thing that would be unusual about 2005? 2005 is the year a book
called “Trump Nation” was published by a “New York Times” reporter named
Timothy O`Brien. This book drove Donald Trump absolutely nuts because
although he cooperated on the production of the book, although I`m sure he
loved the cover photo, one of the book`s central claims is that Donald
Trump is not a billionaire.

Tim O`Brien claimed in this book, in “Trump Nation” which, again, was
published in 2005 he claimed Mr. Trump`s net worth was not in the billions.
It was probably somewhere closer to $250 million. He wasn`t even a half
billionaire.

And I say that this book and that claim in particular drove Donald Trump
nuts because we can tell. We can tell it drove him nuts because Donald
Trump filed a lawsuit against Tim O`Brien when this book was published. He
sued him. And what he sued him for was $2 billion. Sure, why not?

The lawsuit ended up being an embarrassment for Mr. Trump. I mean, he`s
claiming that this author – he`s suing, saying that this author had
dramatically understated his net worth. But that meant that the trial was
effectively about Donald Trump`s net worth, and about whether he could
prove he was a billionaire. And in the trial, he could not prove he was a
billionaire.

His depositions from that case are littered with embarrassing examples of
him overstating and weirdly fantastically stating his income and his net
worth. He publicly stated, for example, that he`d been paid a million
dollars for a single speech. Turns out he overstated that by more than a
half million dollars for that particular speech. He also claimed that his
net worth went up and down based on his feelings, which was a weird thing
to assert.

In the end, Mr. Trump`s lawsuit against this author, this $2 billion
lawsuit, the lawsuit was dismissed. Mr. Trump appealed, his appeal was
thrown out. He lost the appeal.

He lost. He couldn`t prove his billionaire status in court. He could not
prove that anything Timothy O`Brien claimed about his net worth was false.
But it was clearly something that drove him nuts.

Donald Trump is very sensitive about his net worth and that book, again,
came out in 2005 and what we`ve got is Donald Trump`s tax returns for 2005.
2005, a time when he might conceivably have been acutely motivated to try
to portray his finances as super heroically as possible. So, maybe this
was kind of an atypical filing for him.

And there`s one more reason why 2005 was both potentially a unique year and
also a year that desperately makes you want to see other years to compare
it to this, and that is that in 2005, Donald Trump reportedly entered that
year into a partnership with a development company called Bayrock.

Bayrock has become one of the more controversial points on Donald Trump`s
financial resume because of its reported ties to Russian organized crime.
This development deal Trump entered into with Bayrock in 2005 was to pursue
the creation of Trump Tower Moscow. And Trump Tower Moscow was something
that never came to pass.

But that development deal was entered into in 2005, the year of this tax
return. What came of that? I mean, in the world, we know what came of
that, right? Ties to lots of shady Russian guys. And also, no Trump Tower
Moscow.

But in the financial world, I want to know what came of that? What were
the financial entanglements if any that grew out of that Russian business
adventure that he embarked on in 2005? By 2007, from another deposition,
we know that Donald Trump was claiming, quote, “Russia is one of the
hottest places in the world for investment. We will be in Moscow at some
point.”

Why did he think so? Were there financial ties with Russia that would give
him such confidence about that pronouncement which he made very shortly
after he signed this tax return?

So, 2005 might be kind of a weird year for him. May have been an outlier
in Donald Trump`s financial history, in his tax history for any number of
reasons. The only way we will know that is if we get his other taxes to
compare it to. That`s why presidents and presidential candidates don`t
release a year of taxes or two pages of tax returns. They release whole
swathes of them, multiple years, so we can actually understand the
financial entanglements that might affect the president of the United
States while he or she wields immense power hopefully on our behalf and
without his personal finances or some divided loyalty influencing his
actions.

That`s why tax returns are a norm. That`s why we expect to get them.
That`s why it`s still so weird that we don`t have them from him and this is
the only thing anybody has been able to pry loose.

When the White House finally, finally, just before we went to air last
night, when they finally confirmed the authenticity of this document,
honestly, that was very good news for anyone concerned about the
presidency, concerned about in particular the national security
implications of us not knowing about our president`s financial ties. It`s
good news that they confirmed the authenticity of this document because,
number one, it means that somebody somewhere safely figured out how to get
a real Donald Trump tax return into the public domain and maybe it`s just
this one year, maybe it was because – maybe it was Trump himself and this
was his favorite year and that`s why he let it out, but maybe not, in which
case maybe more returns will follow.

Number two, this proves to the White House, this release of this document
last night on this show, proves to the White House that the president`s
taxes can be released without any picayune embarrassment to the president.
We now know he does have a lot of money. He does pay tax. No audit real
or imagined was screwed up by the disclosure of this information about the
White House confirming its authenticity.

If the White House can happily verify this tax information about the
president, why can`t they verify more of it? To prove this isn`t just an
outlier? So there`s a lot of weird things going on that year.

Honestly, a lot of people all over the country are worried about what may
be in Donald Trump`s tax returns. What kind of potential entanglements and
conflicts might conceivably be compromising him as president?

If, as the White House says, there`s nothing to worry about in that regard
– now, we know, they can just let it out. They can prove it. You won`t
be embarrassed.

You weren`t embarrassed by this last night. You can just let this all out.
You can let the other years out. You can let the supporting documentation
out and the other years out and if they say what you say they will say, we
will all stop worrying. Right.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

REP. STEVE KNIGHT (R), CALIFORNIA: I believe that President Trump should
release his tax returns.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

REP. DAVID YOUNG (R), IOWA: You`re running for president, you`re
president, you should release your tax returns. It`s a distraction.

REP. MATT GAETZ (R), FLORIDA: Let me say right here right now, absolutely,
Donald Trump should release his tax returns.

(CHEERS)

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

MADDOW: It keeps happening. Republican members of Congress get badgered
by their constituents into holding town halls so that these members of
Congress can hear what their constituents have to say, so their
constituents can ask them direct questions face to face.

And time after time, when these Republican members of Congress get asked a
direct question about it face to face by their constituents, they tell
their constituents, “OK, yeah, I, too, would like to see Donald Trump
release his taxes.” We have seen that with Congressman Steve Knight from
California. We have seen that from Congressman David Young from Iowa. We
have seen that with Congressman Matt Gaetz from Florida, and others.

Time and time again, we have seen this from Republican members of Congress.
But then when they come back to Washington and they have a chance to vote
on that, they vote no. It keeps happening. They say one thing to their
constituents. They come back to Washington and, ooh.

It happened again tonight. Tonight, for the third week in a row, Democrats
in the House introduced a resolution telling the president to release his
tax returns. They tried this on February 27th. They tried this on March
7th. They did it tonight.

The vote tonight was like it was all the other nights, party line.
Tonight, it was 223-183. Only one Republican congressman voted with the
Democrats, Walter Jones. All the rest of the Republicans who are telling
their constituents they think Trump ought to release his tax returns, when
they go back to Washington, they are not standing by those assertions.

Joining us now is Congressman Bill Pascrell. He`s a Democratic member of
the House Ways and Means Committee.

Congressman Pascrell, it`s nice to see you. Thank you for being here.

REP. BILL PASCRELL (D-NJ), HOUSE WAYS AND MEANS COMMITTEE: Hey, Rachel.
Thanks for your courage.

MADDOW: Well, we are sort of talking about courage here. Is this one of
those things where you`re going to keep having the Republicans vote on
this? You`re going to keep having the Republicans try to put their money
where their mouth is and eventually, you`ll expect a different result?

PASCRELL: They haven`t seen anything yet. We`re doing it not only on the
floor of the house, we`re going to do it continuously in the Ways and Means
Committee, which is one of three committees under a code that passed in
1924, the IRS code, this was added to it that there are three committees,
the Ways and Means, Financial Committee in the Senate, and the Joint
Committee on Taxation. And those committees have the authority and the
power, their chairman, to summon that tax return.

So, look, we want dignity and integrity of the three branches of
government. This is our way of standing up. So, you can`t say one thing
back home, Rachel, and come to Washington and then cower and then hide
under the desk. It doesn`t work.

MADDOW: In terms of the leverage that you`ve got, obviously, you said
there, you`ve got these votes that have happened on the House floor.
You`re talking about a vote in the ways and means committee which will
bring acute pressure on Republican members of that committee, particularly
if any of them have been talking about this through the other side of their
mouth to their home constituents.

You introduced a resolution of inquiry asking the treasury secretary to
provide the House with these years of President Trump`s tax returns. How
would Steve Mnuchin play a role in this? Has the Treasury Department
engaged with this issue at all? Do you expect them to?

PASCRELL: Well, we`ve asked last Friday, and under the law, under the
rules, Kevin Brady, who was the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee,
must have a hearing. And what I`m asking for, an inquiry.

We have several paths that we are going to look down because the American
people have a right. Remember they said the American people don`t care
about this? You cannot believe how many people are involved in this. It`s
the most talked-about thing to sign at the White House. Over one million
three hundred thousand people have signed on already.

We`re not going to stop. We have a right to know this. This is a
president that has over 550 investments all over the world. We need to
know who his partners are, where his money came from, how he`s going to
spend that money.

And if you`re not hiding anything, Mr. President, please, let us know what
the story is. We have a right to know if there`s any conflicts of
interest, and that goes for everybody in the executive branch of
government.

MADDOW: Congressman Bill Pascrell is a member of the House Ways and Means
Committee. He`s pushing as hard as anybody on this issue.

Congressman, thanks for being with us tonight. Keep us appraised, sir.

PASCRELL: Thank you, sir, ma`am.

MADDOW: That`s all right. I answer to both.

It`s actually convenient in really unexpected places, you`d be surprised.

We`ll be right back. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: So, we covered this story on Monday night here on this show. This
is not the update I expected to be giving you tonight.

Voters in the Netherlands have gone to the polls today in an election that
attracted international interest because of the man who is expected to win,
this very controversial figure, Geert Wilders. He`s a right wing
nationalist aggressively anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim candidate.

He`s been found guilty of inciting hatred against Muslims in his country.
He`s campaigned on a promise that he would shut down mosques, essentially
make it illegal to be a Muslim in the Netherlands. This was an election
being watched all over the world both for its own sake and what it might
portend for the rest of Europe.

Well, that election was today, turns out didn`t happen. Geert Wilders
appears to have lost. Exit poll results suggest the country`s current
prime minister won the Dutch elections tonight easily, easily beating Geert
Wilders.

Tonight, the country`s prime minister has essentially declared victory.
He`s called the election a rejection of, quote, “the wrong kind of
populism.”

That said, we don`t have a final count. There`s always the outside chance
that more Dutch voters went for Geert Wilders than led on for the country`s
exit pollsters. Maybe they didn`t want to admit that they backed an anti-
immigrant anti-Muslim candidate.

We`ve got those exit poll results. We have an all but declaration of
victory from the prime minister and we will get official results next week
on Tuesday, and then the country`s different political parties will get to
work forming their new government.

Watch this space.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: Tonight, thirst as a metaphor with Jimmy Fallon.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: I think the reason people got so excited about the news, when I
tweeted out in the 7:00 hour, we`ve got it and we`re going to put it on TV,
I think the reason people are so excited about it is because it`s really
weird that the president hasn`t released his financial information.

JIMMY FALLON, TV HOST/COMEDIAN: It`s odd.

MADDOW: It`s really odd. And there`s reasons to worry about it, like
we`ve had that from every president since Nixon. Why is this the one who
won`t release it, especially because of the increasing worries day by day,
further increasing worries about his contacts with foreign countries like
Russia. I think people are really concerned to see what`s in those tax
returns.

And so, when we found out we had one, it was like speaking to a group of
people dying of thirst in the desert. And we were like, behold, we have
found a drop, a drop! We have a drop.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: This is my way of letting you know that I will be on “The Tonight
Show” tonight with Jimmy Fallon on NBC. Comes on at 11:35 p.m. That`s
later tonight.

But we`ve got one last story tonight for you on this show. It is a spooky
one, and that`s straight ahead.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: General Mike Flynn was fired February 13th after only 24 days on
the job as national security adviser. The timing of that firing still
doesn`t make sense in terms of how the White House has explained it. The
administration said Flynn was fired because he lied to Mike Pence about the
content of his calls to the Russian ambassador during the transition.

But for some still unexplained reason, the White House waited for three
weeks to fire him after the Justice Department notified them about him
lying. That gap, that almost three-week gap remains unexplained.

There are also questions about Mike Flynn`s retroactive declaration last
week that he was acting as a foreign agent for the Turkish government
during the campaign and transition. And the multiple confirmed reports now
that the campaign was notified multiple times about Flynn working for the
Turkish government. So, there are also big unanswered questions about why
they named Mike Flynn national security adviser even though they knew he
was a foreign agent.

There`s also very uncomfortable questions about Vice President Pence who
was head of the transition when they were notified by Mike Flynn`s lawyers
more than once that Flynn was working as a foreign agent. Mike Pence now
says he had no idea about any of that, never heard of it, which really
makes no sense. It`s an utterly implausible assertion from the vice
president.

But there is one other big lingering unexplained question about Flynn,
where it`s starting to feel like we might actually get an answer. And
that`s the thing he got fired for. For all the drama around why he was
there in the first place and when they fired him and all the rest of it,
the reason he was fired was because of him misrepresenting the content of
his communications with the Russian ambassador. And the reason we know
that is because we were told there were surveillance of his contacts with
the Russian ambassador.

Surveilling a Russian official, any foreign official isn`t weird or even –
it`s not unusual. U.S. intelligence agencies do that all the time. But
it`s definitely strange for an American to be wiretapped by U.S. law
enforcement or intelligence agencies, unless there was some court-approved
reason for doing that. And that lurks behind all the other drama
surrounding Flynn. It may also, honestly, be the non-crazy thing lurking
behind the president`s repeated assertions that Barack Obama was tapping
his microwave or whatever.

Whatever you think about the president`s tweets on this subject and the
weird statements about it from the White House, there is a legitimate
question about what open investigations there are, whether Mike Flynn,
either as top adviser to the president or national security adviser in the
White House, there is an interesting question as to whether he was the
target of a criminal investigation or a counterintelligence investigation.
That`s a really big deal.

We might be about to get an answer on that. Today, the leaders of the
House Intelligence Committee, the Republican Chairman Devin Nunes and
Democratic ranking member, Adam Schiff, the two of them sent a letter to
the FBI, the NSA, and the CIA saying they want any answers those agencies
can provide on that subject.

Why was Mike Flynn on that wiretap? Why was anybody else associated with
the Clinton campaign or the Trump campaign on a wiretap if they were? Who
were those people on wiretaps?

Who was caught? Why were they kept? Why were those recordings, why were
those transcripts of those calls not minimized, not taken out? Because
that should have been only a foreign warrant?

We`ve got those questions now posed by the chairman and the ranking member
of the intelligence committee. They`ve told those agencies they want the
answers right away. They want the answers by the day after tomorrow,
Friday.

Intelligence Committee will also, of course, hear testimony from FBI
Director James Comey and NSA Director Mike Rogers at a public hearing on
Monday. No word on whether they will get these answers they`re looking
for, but at least somebody is asking in an official way and in a bipartisan
way, which we`re not used to seeing.

I still don`t understand the baseline truth that undergirds this whole
mystery, but we`re starting to get at least more clarity about the right
questions to ask. Maybe soon we`ll start to get answers.

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

Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL”.

Good evening, Lawrence.


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