The Rachel Maddow Show, transcript 3/24/2017
Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
Date: March 24, 2017
Guest: Chuck Schumer
CHRIS HAYES, “ALL IN” HOST: That does it for us. That is “ALL IN” for this
THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now.
Good evening, Rachel.
MADDOW: Good evening, Chris. Thank you, my friend.
And thank you at home for joining us at this hour. Happy Friday.
If you are one of the millions of Americans who called your member of
Congress or went to a demonstration, or wrote a postcard, or wrote a letter
to the editor, or made a sign or went to a vigil, or screamed your guts out
at a town hall to try to save the Affordable Care Act, for you, this is a
very happy Friday indeed. Twenty-four million Americans are not going to
lose their health insurance because the Republican plan to get rid of
Obamacare failed today in a quite ignominious way.
Tonight, we`ve got the senior most Democrat in Washington, the top Senate
Democrat, Chuck Schumer, here with us this evening to talk about what
really is just an epic collapse by the Republicans and the Trump
administration on what was supposed to be their easy layup, right? Their
big first priority, the thing they knew they definitely could do if they
couldn`t do anything else, they knew they could kill Obamacare and do it
Well, they`re not killing Obamacare. Their efforts to do so died at 3:31
p.m. Eastern today when the president called Robert Costa at the
“Washington Post” of all people and said, “Hello, Bob”, and told him with
no further preamble that he had pulled the kill Obamacare bill.
The Democrats are definitely taking a victory lap tonight. There have been
many, many jokes, perhaps too many jokes about “The Art of the Deal”. But
the big question after a big win is how you capitalize on it and what you
And this really was an epic political event. I mean, it made headlines not
just here, it made headlines around the world. Other governments commented
on this. Other country`s newspapers are leading with this.
But when you think about it in terms of what happens next, I think it`s
actually important not just to think about what happened today but consider
what else is going on for these guys right now as this central thing
collapsed for them. I mean, it`s not like things were going great for them
anyway and then they had this one thing go wrong. Things are really –
this has happened, the collapse of their central policy idea, their central
legislative idea, the one thing that all Republicans agreed they could do,
the collapse of that doesn`t just happen in the abstract. It would be bad
enough if it happened in the abstract. It would be bad enough if
everything was going awesome for them and that one central thing went bad,
but actually what happened is that one central thing has gone bad while
things are otherwise in freefall for them.
I mean, think about this week. This week started with the FBI confirmed in
an opening hearing of the House Intelligence Committee that there is an
open counterintelligence investigation under way into this White House.
It`s been open since last July. They`re investigating the Russian attack
on our elections last year and the possibility that the president`s
campaign knowingly colluded in that foreign attack.
The FBI director describing it as a counterintelligence investigation, one
that will become a criminal investigation if the evidence leads in that
direction. That`s how the week started and things have gone downhill since
You might remember this past weekend, the top Democrat on the House
Intelligence Committee said the only evidence he had seen of collusion
between the Trump campaign and the Russian attack on our election, he said
the only collusion evidence he`d seen could be described as circumstantial
evidence. That was his perception as of Sunday morning. Well, that
perception changed this week. As of the middle of this week, Adam Schiff
was no longer describing the evidence that way, saying instead that the
evidence is now more than circumstantial. More than circumstantial
evidence now, that there was collusion between the Trump campaign and
Russia in their attack on the United States.
Shortly thereafter, CNN reported the ongoing FBI investigation into the
Russian attack into potential Trump collusion with that attack, CNN reports
that that FBI investigation is increasingly focused on the evidence that
investigators have uncovered about collusion between the Trump campaign and
And so, it`s been a bad week even before today and this whole thing was
poised to only get worse for the administration. The first open hearing of
the House Intelligence Committee where the FBI announced the investigation,
that was this past Monday. The next open hearing of the same committee was
scheduled for Tuesday morning of next week.
Today, without warning and apparently without consulting anybody else on
his committee, the Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee,
himself a Trump campaign official and a Trump transition official, today he
abruptly canceled the next public meeting of the House Intelligence
Committee and their investigation into Trump and Russia. This is the
hearing – this Tuesday hearing he just canceled today. This is the one
where former CIA Director John Brennan is due to testify, former National
Intelligence Director James Clapper and, importantly, the former Acting
Attorney General Sally Yates. All three of them were confirmed and due to
testify in an open session on Tuesday morning talking about what they know.
Remember, Sally Yates is the one who reportedly brought to the White House
evidence that the national security adviser was in contact with the Russian
government and was lying about it. She has never discussed those reports
publicly. She has never said publicly what happened there.
And the timeline of how that went down is one of the biggest flashing red
lights in the investigation into the White House and its Russian government
ties, because the White House has settled on this narrative about Michael
Flynn that doesn`t make any sense. They say they fired him because of
those Russian government conversations once they realized he had lied about
them. That explanation makes no sense and needs a little probing because
as far as we know from open source reporting, Sally Yates actually brought
the White House the evidence that Michael Flynn was lying about that stuff
nearly three weeks before they acted on it.
Why did they wait for three weeks? What was going on in those three weeks?
Again, Sally Yates was due to speak publicly about this matter for the
first time ever on Tuesday morning. Republican chairman of that committee
acting alone cancelled that meeting. Cancelled that hearing or rescheduled
it for half past never. There`s no new date.
I mean, I know there is a lot going on but this is a remarkable thing,
right? Whatever Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence
Committee saw this week that made him conclude that there is now more than
circumstantial evidence that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia in its
attack on the United States, whatever he saw that made him say that, you
know what? As the ranking member on the intelligence committee, anything
he has access to, Devin Nunes, the chairman has access to as well.
So, whatever it is that made Adam Schiff start talking about this
investigation in a different way, Devin Nunes has access to this
information, too, then he cancels the next hearing and sets no new date for
it, and does so alone unilaterally without even telling anybody else on his
And now, look at what`s happening at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue.
Andrea Mitchell reporting today here on MSNBC that White House officials,
people currently serving in the White House, and people who were part of
the Trump transition are now reportedly purging their own electronic
devices, purging their phones because they are expecting to be subpoenaed.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANDREA MITCHELL, MSNBC HOST: Let me ask you very quickly something I`ve
learned from a single source, you`re a lawyer.
REP. DAN DONOVAN (R), NEW YORK: Yes.
MITCHELL: I`m told there are a lot of former transition team members in
and outside of the White House purging their private phones, afraid that
they`re going to get subpoenaed by these various investigators. What is
their legal risk of purging their phone of any transition comments?
DONOVAN: You know, I`m not sure. If you`ve been subpoenaed to preserve
those messages then you`d be violating the law so I`m not privy to –
MITCHELL: What if you`ve gotten a letter from the White House counsel or
someone else telling to preserve?
DONOVAN: That told you to preserve? Then there might be legal
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOWE: Andrea Mitchell reporting today on MSNBC with careful sourcing.
She`s citing one source saying that White House officials are now purging
their phones in anticipation they are going to be subpoenaed. They would,
of course, be in legal jeopardy if they are doing that after they have been
advised they need to preserve any communications. In fact, on March 1st,
the “Associated Press” reported that the White House counsel notified White
House staffers that they must preserve electronic communications pursuant
to any investigation.
So, if they`ve been told to preserve and they`re purging this stuff, all of
them who are doing that, all of you who are doing that, if you`re watching
me, you are potentially in legal jeopardy for doing that. That`s in the
And if you have any doubts about the scope of the investigation, whether
it`s the one in Congress or the one being carried out by the FBI or the
ones being carried out honestly by the fourth estate, as every
investigative reporter in the country starts pulling on this forest of
loose threads that is hanging off the White House denials and this story
you need look no further today than the tiny island nation of Cyprus.
Cyprus is a notorious banking hub for criminal Russian money laundering.
NBC News chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel was reporting from
Cyprus today on the financial trails of the Russian government and the
Russian oligarchs and the question of whether any of those trails lead to
the president or his campaign. The A.P. is now reporting that there is a
serious American financial crime investigation that has followed to Cyprus
the financial trail of Trump`s Russia-linked campaign chairman Paul
And I actually have a few things we can report on that front tonight which
have either been swamped in today`s news or otherwise not previously
reported. It`s fascinating stuff. It`s all bad news for the
A few points here. First, we can report tonight that the attorney general
of Cyprus says that that country`s government has now handed over to U.S.
investigators information about Paul Manafort`s financial transactions in
Cyprus. Again, Cyprus best known in the financial world as the largest
international hub for laundering dirty Russian money. That government is
cooperating with U.S. investigators and handed over documentation of Paul
Manafort`s financial transactions in that company. That`s one.
Two, we can also report tonight that New Jersey Senator Cory Booker, who
has taken a particular interest in the money laundering part of this
investigation and this conundrum, New Jersey Senator Cory Booker has
demanded an explanation from the newly confirmed Trump administration
commerce secretary, Wilbur Ross, about his role in the notoriously corrupt
Bank of Cyprus, where he`s a major shareholder and, until recently, was
vice chairman. Senator Booker gave Wilbur Ross, the commerce secretary,
until today to explain his connections through that bank or otherwise to
another major Bank of Cyprus shareholder who also happens to be the Russian
oligarch who did this otherwise inexplicable real estate transaction with
Donald Trump in Palm Beach a few years ago which netted President Trump
over $50 million in profit.
The deadline for Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to respond to the senator`s
inquiry about that was today. We can further report tonight that the
commerce secretary has given no response to that letter.
We can also report – and this is definitely new, this has not been
reported elsewhere and this is potentially a big deal – we can report
exclusively tonight that there is more turmoil beneath the surface when it
comes to another criminal investigation of another bank that has been
implicated in multibillion dollar Russian money laundering. A bank that
happens to be the single largest lender of any kind to Donald Trump
Of course, we haven`t seen much of his tax return but from the president`s
own financial disclosures, it appears that he owes more than $300 million
to a bank called Deutsche Bank. Deutsche Bank appears to be his single
largest lender. The Justice Department is currently prosecuting Deutsche
Bank over currency trading practices and their role in the mortgage crisis
and the financial collapse in this country, and also Russian money
We can now report that Senator Chris Van Hollen of Maryland is writing to
Attorney General Jeff Sessions, urging the attorney general that he needs
to recuse himself from m overseeing that at the Department of Justice. If
there`s going to be settlement negotiations with Deutsche Bank over the
issue of Russian money laundering, Senator Sessions should recuse. That
case is being made by Maryland Senator Chris Van Hollen.
He`s also demanding to know from the attorney general, demanding to know
from Jeff Sessions and the Justice Department, quote, “Were any
investigations of Deutsche Bank a factor when president Trump decided to
fire former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara after initially telling him he
could continue in his position during this administration?”
All of those cases against Deutsche Bank, all of those cases against the
major lender to Donald Trump, including the Russian money laundering one,
they are being run out of the U.S. attorney`s office for the southern
district of New York. Now that they fired Preet Bharara as the head of the
office, the lack of a U.S. attorney there means that technically, Attorney
General Jeff Sessions is in charge of all those investigations now.
Can he do that fairly?
This letter from Senator Van Hollen represents the first shot across the
bow from Democrats telling the attorney general, basically, don`t
interfere. Literally get yourself out of the way of these independent
criminal investigations which may conceivably touch not just the Russian
money laundering side of this, but conceivably the president`s finances as
well since he is so personally tied up in that bank to the tune of a
hundred million dollars. OK?
And into the middle of that omelet today, “The Wall Street Journal” cracked
this new egg today. This is absolutely bonkers. That`s a technical term,
Former CIA Director Jim Woolsey, he`s a neoconservative hawkish
intelligence guy. He emerged as a real hawk not just over things like the
Iraq war but over lots of different international conflicts. He served
under four different presidents including CIA director under President
Clinton. He was a senior adviser to the Trump campaign, both during the
campaign and into the transition.
There was – you might remember, a weird flurry of speculation and concern
when former CIA Director Jim Woolsey suddenly quit the Trump transition
effort effective immediately in the first week in January, nobody knew why.
Well, now, today, he has told the “Wall Street Journal” a truly bizarre
story about Mr. Loose End himself, former National Security Adviser Mike
Flynn. Jim Woolsey now tells the “Wall Street Journal” that one week after
he joined the Trump campaign on September 19th of last year, he was invited
to a meeting at a New York hotel called the Essex House.
When he got to Essex House, he was greeted for that meeting by Michael
Flynn, also by the foreign minister of Turkey and also by the son-in-law of
the Turkish dictator who also happens to be that country`s energy minister.
That`s how these things tend to go in countries like that, Ivanka.
Sorry. But Jim Woolsey, former CIA director, now says, now tells the “Wall
Street Journal” today that what that meeting was about, what was discussed
at that meeting in September was a plan to basically kidnap a guy. There
is an exiled Turkish cleric who has a green card to live in the United
States, he`s a legal permanent resident of the country, he lives in
Pennsylvania in the Poconos, the Turkish government is fixated on him and
blames him for the coup they had to deal with, blames him for all unrest
and bad things in that country. They have been desperate to have the
United States extradite him back to Turkey so they can draw and quarter him
– I mean, put him on trial for his alleged treason in Turkey.
What we now know because Michael Flynn retroactively registered as an agent
for a foreign power, we know while he was the senior adviser on national
security matters to the Trump campaign and during the Trump transition, we
now know that Michael Flynn was being paid hundreds of thousands of dollars
to work for the Turkish government at that time.
And according to former CIA Director Jim Woolsey who says he was in the
room for it, one of the things Michael Flynn was doing for that contract,
for that money, was convening this meeting in New York in September where
they talked about basically pulling off a kidnapping to get around these
pesky U.S. extradition laws and subvert the U.S. government and spirit this
guy off to Turkey in the dead of night.
Quote, from the “Wall Street Journal.” Quote, “Mr. Woolsey said the idea
was a covert step in the dead of night to whisk this guy away.”
You know, it was weird and abrupt and unexplained when Jim Woolsey quit the
Trump transition in January. He implies to “The Wall Street Journal” in
this story today that he is telling the story about Michael Flynn now
because he was very disturbed by this meeting at the time when he went to
it back in September.
But if he was disturbed by it on September 19, why did he stay on the Trump
campaign and then on the Trump transition until January? And what has
changed in his thinking about Michael Flynn and what might come to be known
about this period in American politics that has suddenly made him decide to
come forward now and declare himself to have not been part of that
kidnapping discussion at all.
We asked Director Woolsey to please come on this show tonight to discuss
with us what happened there exactly, whether it was Mike Flynn`s kidnapping
plan that was being discussed or the Turkish government`s kidnapping plan
and Mike Flynn was helping them work out the details or maybe even trying
to talk them out of it. I would love to also love to hear what led to
Director Woolsey`s change of heart that this is a matter that should now be
put out in the open after he sat on it for sixth months and said nothing
There is a counterintelligence investigation at the FBI. There are
congressional investigations that have already led to bombshell revelations
despite the White House, those investigations having White House friendly
leadership, there`s an obvious effort by the chairman of one of those
investigations to throw it off the rails, or at least stop that
investigation from doing anything that can be seen in public anymore.
There is, we now know, a far-reaching international financial investigation
that has resulted already in the transmittal of financial records by Trump
campaign senior officials. They have transmitted those records from known
Russian money laundering hubs to investigators in the United States. There
are other far-reaching criminal financial investigations that touch on both
Russian money laundering and the president`s leading lender and in those
cases those investigations are already in the hands of U.S. attorneys.
They are already that far along.
And the White House is pretending they`ve never heard of the president`s
former campaign chairman whose financial transactions have just been sent
to U.S. investigators from Cyprus. The president`s former campaign
chairman is volunteering to testify. No one has seen hide nor hair of
Michael Flynn. Nobody knows whether he will testify or where.
We`ve got direct evidence, actually, and weird evidence we`re going to get
to that the White House might be trying to blame the whole thing on Mike
Flynn. That might be convenient for the White House. I doubt Mike Flynn
would think it`s convenient for him. That creates a very interesting
dynamic about his potential role as a witness.
This is like “The Hunger Games” part of the Trump administration and we`re
less than 70 days in. Hasn`t even been ten weeks. We`ve already got
senior people being held out as sacrifices and other people clearly moving
to protect themselves.
If Andrea`s reporting is correct about White House officials purging their
White House devices because they`re expecting subpoenas, A, those people
may be in legal jeopardy but, B, let`s suffice to say this is not the best
of times for the administration. This is – this is not what a honeymoon
looks like. This is a dire period of scandal that you would put up against
any modern presidency at any time in any scandal.
And yet there has been this effort in Washington all along this week to
kind of carry on as if this is normal and this is a more to wall week.
Yes, we`re considering our Supreme Court nominee why not? We`re moving
forward on our campaign promise to take health insurance away from 24
million Americans. Why not? Our big health care plan that is approved of
by 17 percent of the American people and if you ask them who strongly
approves of the plan, the number drops to 6 percent.
Before the administration started, the day after Election Day, there was no
question the Republicans would be able to kill Obamacare. They`d be able
to repeal the Affordable Care Act, that was the low-hanging fruit, that was
the obvious thing they could do with only Republican votes. Yes, sure,
they only have a two-seat majority in the Senate but they`ve got a 44-seat
majority in the House.
Some other things might be hard for them but repealing Obamacare, no
problemo. That`s how it looked before these guys actually got in there.
But then these guys actually got in there.
And it turns out they are operating from a position that is not just
profoundly weak and unpopular, it`s a catastrophe. And they blew it and
completely belly flopped and humiliated themselves on their biggest
legislative priority, which they`ve been prepping for and bragging about
and promising for seven straight years. What is even more amazing than
that is that that is the least of their problems.
Senator Chuck Schumer, top Democrat in the Senate, is here to give us his
reaction to this, to tell us what to expect next from the Democrats.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: You know, a normal news day, it would be big news, it would be
really big news if a former CIA director told “The Wall Street Journal”
that he went to a meeting with the president`s national security adviser
where the topic of discussion was kidnapping a guy in the Poconos and then
illegally spiriting him out of the country to evade U.S. extradition laws.
On a normal news day, “The Wall Street Journal” could expect to dominate
the news cycle with a story that lurid, with the former CIA director`s out
of the blue bizarre accusation about the president`s fired national
security adviser. Normal day, that would be all we are talking about.
But you know what? Today is not a normal day. Today was the day we
learned that 24 million Americans will not get thrown off their health
care, because the fight to save the Affordable Care Act succeeded. The
Republicans conceded defeat this afternoon. Their bill never made it out
of the House where they`ve got a 40-seat majority. The Republicans in the
White House pulled the bill.
It is a huge win for the people who fought to save the ACA. It is an
absolutely crushing and embarrassing defeat for this new administration
that just cannot seem to pick itself off the ground.
Now what? If you are against what this president has been trying to do,
how do you make the most of this moment? How do you make sense of what
just happened and how to decide what to do next?
Joining us now for “The Interview” tonight is Senate Minority Leader Chuck
Schumer. He`s the senior senator from New York.
Senator, it`s nice to have you here. Thank you.
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MINORITY LEADER: Good evening, Rachel.
MADDOW: Is this a happy day for you? Is that how you describe it?
SCHUMER: No, it`s not happy but I, like many Americans, breathe a sigh of
relief because the Affordable Care Act did so many good things and
Trumpcare was going to do so many bad things so the fact that it`s at least
temporarily gone – let`s hope permanently. We don`t know with these folks
– is a very good thing.
But not a happy day. It`s a good day.
MADDOW: The president today said he blames Democrats.
SCHUMER: Yes, Nancy and me.
MADDOW: Nancy and you, which you`re always there for him for that purpose.
There were no Democratic votes that we know of in either chamber for the
Trumpcare bill, as you called it. And the Republicans, had they been able
to hold their own numbers together, should have been able to catch it
without any Democrats.
Did they even try to get Democrats on this?
SCHUMER: No, they never talk to us once. Look, on day one, the president
said, “I`m going to introduce repeal.” Now, we Democrats have been against
repeal from the get-go. They never talk to us once.
And this president, wherever he runs into trouble, he points fingers. He`s
got to learn to lead. Look and see what he did wrong and try to improve
himself. But that`s not his way. He points fingers of blame on something
that was absurd.
And, you know, look, if they are willing to say repeal is off the table,
we`ve said all along, we`ll sit down and try to, we think the ACA is a good
bill, we could make it better, we have some ideas of how the make it
better, maybe they do, too. But they`ve got to take repeal off the table
and I think now they`ve seen, learned the hard way, how bad repeal is.
But it`s a – two other things, one other thing, Rachel. This seems to be
indicative – it`s a metaphor for the administration how they behaved on
A, incompetence. Totally incompetent. I can`t believe they introduced
this bill and had so many of their own Congress members against it from the
get-go. You don`t do that on a major bill.
If I have a major proposal to introduce, I talk to my Bernie Sanders and
Elizabeth Warren. I talk to my Joe Manchin and Mark Warner and say, “What
do you think?”
Then, they try the old technique, “Well, we`ll threaten them, we`ll run
people against you.” That`s what President Trump said. And then he tried
his other technique, “We`ll walk it away and leave it on your shoulders.”
None of it worked. “The Art of the Deal” is out the window, or at least it
doesn`t work in Washington.
But their second problem is even worse. Trump campaigned as a populist
against the Democratic and Republican establishments. Everything he has
done has been hard right.
So, this bill – what was the number one motivation for this bill? To
reduce taxes on the wealthiest people by a huge amount. The average tax
break for the top 1 percent of there, .1 percent, would be over $200,000.
And that break would force people to pay more, senior citizens to have huge
increases, opioid treatment gone, Medicaid cut.
If they keep doing that, they`re going to fail because the country is not
hard right. Trump didn`t win as a hard right person but Pence and all the
others have pushed them a hard right direction. If you look at the budget
they introduced, even Republicans said it`s dead on arrival. If they do
tax reform and tax reform means tax cuts just for the rich or almost
predominantly for the rich, they`re going to fail again and again.
And the problem here, I think the president doesn`t act like a president.
A good president would say I made a mistake, everyone does, I`m going to do
better. Instead, he blames people who had nothing to do with it, us.
MADDOW: You are the minority leader, obviously. Democrats widely
outnumbered in the House. You`re down by two seats in the Senate.
Democrats do not hold the White House. Nevertheless, it feels like you are
operating from a position of strength on a day like this.
SCHUMER: If you – exactly. If you would have told me on January 3rd, the
day I was sworn in as minority leader that on issue after issue Democrats
would be on offense and united and Republicans would be on defense and
divided I`d say forget about it. That`s exactly what`s happened.
MADDOW: What do you – what do you learn? A, do you get stronger when you
win fights like this and what do you take away from this in terms of what`s
the next best fight, what`s the way to fight and how do you factor into
that, this incredible outside the Democratic Party pressure movement that
has sprung up around the country in all 50 states. That`s been such an
impressive thing to watch.
SCHUMER: It`s a great thing. I cut my eyeteeth in the Vietnam War protest
movement. You know, I just happened to bump into it, I was cut from a
basketball team, a guy knocks on my door and says, “How would you like to
join the young Democrats, we`re working in New Hampshire, against the
Vietnam War.” I was against the Vietnam War.
The energy was tremendous. The energy – I`ve never seen so much energy on
the streets as in the Vietnam War protests until now. We toppled the most
powerful man in the world.
So, this energy among the public is huge. On the ACA, a month ago, no one
had heard of Trumpcare. Now, 57 percent of Americans think it`s a terrible
idea and a very small number as you showed on your chart think it`s a good
MADDOW: Six percent strongly support it.
SCHUMER: We helped – we tried to help spread that, but let me tell you,
without a grassroots organization and without all these organizations that
usually are not mobilized and usually are pretty stayed, the AARP for
elderly, the AMA for doctors, out there. This wouldn`t have happened, and
this is going to happen again and again and again and again.
Why? Because the Trump administration is so far to the right that the
American people won`t swallow it.
MADDOW: Senator Chuck Schumer is the leader of the Democrats in the
Senator, I have a couple other things I want to ask you about, including
leading this filibuster on the Supreme Court. I also want to talk to you
about some of what`s going on with the Trump and Russia investigation. Can
you stick with us?
SCHUMER: I sure can.
MADDOW: All right. We`ll be back with Senator Schumer right after this.
Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCHUMER: You can bet if the shoe were on the other foot and a Democratic
president was under investigation by the FBI, the Republicans would be
howling at the moon about filling a Supreme Court seat in such
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Back with us now is Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. It has
been remarkable, Senator Schumer, from my perspective, to see this
incredible ornate and still unfolding scandal around the Trump/Russia stuff
and the FBI investigation and then to see some of the stuff that`s sort of
trying to be politics as usual, moving the health care bill, moving the
Supreme Court nominee.
Are you making the argument essentially that nothing should happen? That
the president shouldn`t do anything – particularly anything big as long as
this FBI investigation is under way.
SCHUMER: No, I think that`s not the case but with the Supreme Court
justice who has a lifetime appointment and has such profound influence on
all of our lives, yes. Plus the fact, that whose seat is this? Mitch
McConnell, he was held – I mean, sorry, Mitch McConnell did it but it`s
the seat that Merrick Garland was nominated for. Mitch McConnell held it
up for a year.
Well, if they can hold that seat up for a year just to elect a new
president under a president who had no investigations, they should delay it
for a while. I`m not saying forever. I`m not saying an amount of time but
let`s see where these investigations lead because to have a president under
investigation appoint a lifetime appointment, that`s wrong.
MADDOW: It seems to me like if you sort of worst case scenario that
situation, let`s say that Judge Gorsuch was confirmed subsequently
President Trump had the worst possible outcome of that investigation, he
was said to have colluded with Russia, he`s impeached or thrown out of
office because of having been an agent of a foreign power, for the length
of time that Judge Gorsuch is on the court for the rest of his natural
life, that affects everything he does as a justice.
SCHUMER: That`s exactly the point. If this were a five-year appointment
or two-year appointment, I would haven`t said that.
MADDOW: On the filibuster plan, how do you think that`s going to work? Do
you think you`ll be able to slow down or stop the nomination?
SCHUMER: Yes, Gorsuch didn`t – you know, despite the pundits who fell for
all this nice, erudite, humorous, homesy, folksy stuff, he did not impress
our colleagues. His refusal to answer questions, I mean, if you can`t
answer a question, is a Muslim ban – a simple legislation that no Muslim
can enter the United States, if you can`t answer whether that`s
unconstitutional or not, you`re hiding something.
I`ll give you a second point that has mattered to my colleagues. If he`s
so down the middle and neutral, why did the Federalist Society push so hard
for him? They`ve tried to move the courts to the right. Why is dark
money, $10 million of money, coming in? They`re not coming in to get a
neutral, down-the-middle justice.
And so, there`s a strong suspicion on my side that the reason he`s not
answering these questions is his views are so far over that if he did he
might not get approved.
MADDOW: Do you think that you will be – with this tactic, as I understand
unusual tactic – do you think you`ll be able to slow it down or stop it?
SCHUMER: Well, I think that a large –
MADDOW: Obviously, you want to. But can you?
SCHUMER: – a large number of my colleagues are very – you know, are
really concerned about the points I mentioned and it will be hard for him
to get 60 votes.
MADDOW: Let me ask you –
SCHUMER: Which, by the way, this idea among the hard-right pundits, oh,
this is terrible. Kagan got 60 votes, Sotomayor got 60 votes, Roberts got
60 votes and Alito on a filibuster motion got 60 votes. Everyone cast and
should and they get 60 votes.
MADDOW: On the –
SCHUMER: And by the way, so my other point which I will make to my
colleagues and have made, and if a judge can`t get 60 votes, a nominee, you
don`t change the rules, you change the judge. Change the nominee.
MADDOW: Let me ask you one last question about the Trump-Russia situation.
Obviously, we`re all wondering where these investigations are going to go.
There`s investigations at the FBI, we have been told this week that there
are investigations through the criminal division of the Treasury
Department, in terms of the financial side of this.
We also know there are congressional investigations, the intelligence
committee in the House and Senate. As the security agencies and
intelligence agencies brief those investigators on what`s going on with the
question of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, do you get the
same briefings that the intelligence committee gets on those things because
you`re the leader?
SCHUMER: I am now part of the so-called “Gang of Eight”.
SCHUMER: I get more classified information. So, I know more, but it means
I can say less.
MADDOW: I understand. You will not characterize that information.
Is it your expectation that both the Senate and the House will continue
with these investigations? There`s so much controversy in the House.
SCHUMER: Well, in the Senate, Mark Warner has done a very good job. I
think Richard Burr for a while was out of line when he called the
newspapers on behalf of the Trump administration, but in recent weeks, he`s
been OK. Nunes is way out of line and seems to be much more of an advocate
for the administration and this troubles me.
We have had a bipartisan tradition on the intelligence committees, more
than any other committees. You know, where you leave your politics at the
door, when you enter that briefing room where no penetration, we call it a
skiff. You know, no one can listen in, and I think Nunes is ruining that.
And I hope – I`ve said this, I hope Speaker Ryan may appoint somebody
else. He`s so jaundiced his impartiality, he`d have to do a lot to recover
given how he`s behaved. Schiff is a great guy and I have a lot of faith in
him. So, maybe Nunes has learned from this incident where he was just
lambasted, correctly, where he had to apologize to the committee. But if
he doesn`t, if we see one more little scintilla, this guy should be out.
MADDOW: And Ryan could make that decision alone. It`s his decision alone.
SCHUMER: Alone, correct, and, you know, I would urge him to think about
that really seriously.
MADDOW: New York senior senator, the leader of the Democrats in the
Senate, Senator Chuck Schumer – thank you on a Friday night. Good to have
you here, sir.
SCHUMER: Great to be here, Rachel.
MADDOW: Thank you.
SCHUMER: Thank you, thank you.
MADDOW: All right. It`s a big night, it`s been a big day, but it`s still
a big night ahead.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: Controversial statement coming, ready?
OK. The “National Enquirer” is not a great source of news. But it`s
important for understanding the news about our country right now to know
that our president thinks the “National Enquirer” is awesome.
Remember Ted Cruz`s dad hangs out with the assassin of JFK, right?
The president reads the “National Enquirer,” he is a booster of the
“National Enquirer”, he is friends with the publisher of the “National
Enquirer.” And so, even though it`s the freaking “National Enquirer,” it`s
also a little of a Rosetta stone now for decoding where this White House is
Believe it or not, I swear it`s true. And that is why it actually matters
that this is the new cover the “National Enquirer” right now. “World
exclusive: Trump catches Russia`s White House spy.” Turns out, according
to the “National Enquirer,” that the White House spy is – Mike Flynn,
former national security adviser to President Trump.
Read all about it, quote, “Trump catches Kremlin`s White House mole Michael
Flynn.” Quote, “Still unfolding details continue to worm their way into
the public eye about Trump`s own White House turncoat, now ousted national
security adviser and retired general, Michael Flynn. Flynn was booted from
Trump`s cabinet after intercepted phone calls exposed how he had colluded
with Russian officials.” Oh, he`s the colluder.
Quote, “An administration source who spoke to the Enquirer on the condition
of anonymity says Flynn was in essence the Russian spy in Trump`s midst.
Trump was lucky to root him out when he did.”
And then look at this. This is great. “The unfolding Russian spy drama
will overshadow the House of Representatives intelligence committee
investigating alleged ties between Trump`s campaign and Putin, sources
said.” Sources said.
That intelligence committee investigation into Trump and Russia, that is
definitely overshadowed, that`s totally boring now, not important any more.
Pay no attention. Not since Trump rooted out the Kremlin spy in the White
House, Mike Flynn, he sure found him out.
That is the “National Enquirer`s” line right now and, honestly, it`s
consistently been a window into where this White House is at, believe it or
not. The “National Enquirer” has been propping up this presidency since
the early days of the campaigning, on the supermarket wracks of America and
now they have decided that the investigation can be ended because Trump
caught the spy and it was Mike Flynn.
If you want to know what throwing somebody under the bus looks like, before
it`s news, it`s right here.
MADDOW: Hey, I want to give you a heads up about MSNBC tonight. I know
it`s Friday. And that sometimes means we don`t have live shows late into
the night. But there`s so much going on tonight and in this big day in the
news that nobody is going anywhere.
Lawrence O`Donnell is going to be here live after me tonight at 10:00 p.m.
Then, at 11:00 p.m. Eastern, Brian Williams is going to be here with a
special edition of “THE 11TH HOUR”. And you should definitely plan to
watch that because Brian is going to have “Washington Post” reporter Robert
Bob was the first reporter in the country to get the news the Republicans
pulled their bill and failed to repeal Obamacare today. And the reason he
got that news and got it first, got that national scoop on that is because
the president of the United States called Bob up, out of the blue, on his
cell phone and told him the news directly. That was weird.
But Bob Costa is here tonight with Brian at 11:00 to tell that story. We
are up all night, no sleeping.
More ahead. Stay with us.
MADDOW: This is the local Starbucks in Morristown, New Jersey. This is
the Morristown office of Republican Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen. He`s
been in office for over 20 years.
Morristown, New Jersey, is a pretty reliably red district – at least it
sits in one. But just about every week since mid-January, a group of
Congressman Frelinghuysen`s constituents have met up at that Starbucks and
then they marched as a group over to his office around the corner. They
have been getting him to vote to save the Affordable Care Act.
In early January, a few of his constituents started a Facebook group called
New Jersey 11th for Change. They wanted the congressman to hold a town
hall on the ACA. When they got no answer on the phone or by email, three
of his constituents showed up to his office to inquire about one. The
following week, the day the congressman first voted to move forward toward
repealing the ACA, about 30 more people showed up to his office. This
time, they brought baked goods for the staff.
The following week, the number rose from 30 to 130. The following week,
even more people showed up, and then the following week, and then the
following week until it was a thing. Fridays with Frelinghuysen. People
bring signs and yell, where is Rodney, where is Rodney?
They left signed petitions requesting he hold a town hall. They sent him
valentines on Valentine`s Day. They followed him to Philadelphia for the
retreat, his constituents from New Jersey followed him to another state.
They did not let up. He became the subject of negative newspaper
editorials in his district. There were mock die-ins outside his local
office even just this week.
And we have seen this sort of thing in districts across the country, but
New Jersey`s 11th congressional district is an interesting case here. I
mean, they started off as a very small, but motivated effort. They turned
into a pretty big, and ultimately kind of legitimate political movement.
That group New Jersey 11th for Change, they have registered to become a
super PAC now. All this in the matter of weeks.
The moment of truth came today when they would find out if the effort would
pay off, all those petitions, all that pressure, all those protests, would
it work? And it did. In those crucial hours before the House was
scheduled to vote on the Republican bill to kill Obamacare, Congressman
Rodney Frelinghuysen put out a statement saying he would no longer support
Quote, “Unfortunately, the legislation before the House today is currently
unacceptable. It would place significant new costs and barriers to care on
my constituents in New Jersey.”
So, today, New Jersey 11th for Change celebrated by doing what they do.
They came back to his office. This time, to say thanks.
They may have won this fight, but they do not appear to be shrinking away
anytime soon. We have been documenting on this show the organic protests
that popped up around the country in an effort to save the Affordable Care
Act and to resist other elements of the Trump and Republican agenda. It
has been fascinating to watch it unfold, right?
What everybody thought was an impossible battle to protect Obamacare when
Republicans could get rid of it on their own terms. And so, for a lot of
people who fought this fight, there`s a lot to celebrate today. But I`m
telling you, there is nothing in activism that helps you win something like
having won something and, boy, was this a big win for those folks to save
the Affordable Care Act against all odds. What are they going to win next?
That does it for us tonight. We will see you again on Monday. Have an
Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL”.
Good evening, Lawrence.
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