The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 4/25/17

Guests:
Elijah Cummings
Transcript:

Guest: Elijah Cummings

 

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST:  That is “ALL IN” for this evening.  Make sure to

tune in tomorrow.  We`ll have the great Seth Meyers on the show.  You don`t

want to miss that.

 

THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now. 

 

Good evening, Rachel.

 

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST:  How did you get Seth Meyers? 

 

HAYES:  We`re kind of homies.  Just kind of hanging out. 

 

MADDOW:  OK.  That`s fine. 

 

HAYES:  I actually don`t know.  Our amazing booking producers got Seth

Meyers. 

 

MADDOW:  Doesn`t bother me at all.  I`m totally fine with it.  In fact, I`m

just generously happy for you as my friend. 

 

HAYES:  Yes, well, come watch.  All right?

 

MADDOW:  Thank you, Chris.  Well done.  Congratulations on that. 

 

Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.  Sorry about my little

tantrum.  I get a little jealous.  I do. 

 

All right.  The last czar of Russia came to power 1894.  He was forced to

abdicate the throne about two decades later, the Bolshevik Revolution,

which was, of course, hundred years ago this year, one of our big global

anniversaries this year, 1917, the Russian Revolution.  We`re now a century

on from that. 

 

But as it happened, in 1917, the czar and his family were scared off the

throne that year.  But then the revolutionaries didn`t kill them right

away.  They kept them alive for a while.  They kept them first in one of

the Russian royal palaces just south of St. Petersburg.

 

Eventually, they moved the czar and his family to another royal residence

in Yekaterinburg, which is now the fourth largest city in Russia.  In the

summer of 1918, the Russian revolutionaries, fighters that were holding the

czar and his family in this residence, near Yekaterinburg, they were

worried that the counterrevolutionaries, that the loyalists of the czar`s

family were closing in on Yekaterinburg. 

 

They were worried actually that the czar and his family might somehow be

rescued by those counterrevolutionary forces.  They were worried that the

revolution would be over, the monarchy would be restored.  And so, the

people who were holding the czar and his family – they kind of freaked

out. 

 

They held a secret meeting.  They apparently took a vote.  They decided to

impose what amounted to an extrajudicial death sentence on the czar, but

also on his entire family.  On the night of July 16th, 1918, they put the

czar and his wife and their kids and even their servants, put them all in

the basement of the house where they`d been holding them in Yekaterinburg,

and they shot all of them.  They killed the whole royal family and the

servants who worked for them. 

 

Of course, the Soviet Union is what ultimately rose from the 1917

revolution, but the czar and the Russian monarchy still had its fans, even

in Soviet days.  And it was a constant source of worrying and even distress

for the Soviet Union, for the Communist Party during Soviet days that the

site was a constant source of worry for the communist party that that site

in that Russian city had become a place of reverence.  It wasn`t formally a

memorial of any kind but it became a pilgrimage site where people would

come to remember what happened, to lament what happened. 

 

And as the Soviet Union and communist party got annoyed by and worried

about that, local officials in and around Yekaterinburg, they came under

pressure to do something about it.  And, finally, in 1977, he was reluctant

to do it, he had many second thoughts, and in his heart of hearts, he

really didn`t want to do it, but in 1977, a local leader in Yekaterinburg,

a local leader named Boris Yeltsin did what the party in Moscow told him to

do.  He bulldozed the house.  He bulldozed that house in Yekaterinburg

where the czar and his wife and his kids and their servants were machine-

gunned in the basement.  They just ripped the whole thing down, destroyed

it as a site. 

 

Now, Boris Yeltsin, of course, would later go on to become the first post-

Soviet leader of the new Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union. 

And he had long said that he regretted that decision back in Yekaterinburg. 

That it weighed on him over the years.  He regretted it. 

 

And once he became president of Russia, he rectified that decision.  I

mean, you can`t un-bulldoze anything.  You can`t rebuild what has been

destroyed.  You can`t re-create history.  But in 1998, Boris Yeltsin, then

as president of Russia, gave Czar Nicholas II and his family a funeral,

gave them a proper religious funeral. 

 

And then within a couple years, they started construction on a fairly grand

church on the site where the family had been murdered, where Yeltsin had

previously ordered the house to be destroyed.  This started the work on

that church in 2000.  It was completed by 2003.  Even today, if you Google

pictures of Yekaterinburg, just generically do a Google search, what pops

up are pictures of that church. 

 

It`s very grand.  It`s covered in gold domes, giant orthodox crosses.  And

because it`s Russia, it has a fittingly dramatic Russian name.  It`s called

the Cathedral on the Blood. 

 

So, Yekaterinburg is an interesting place.  Their biggest tourist

attraction is the Cathedral on the Blood.  They got super dramatic history. 

It`s the fourth largest city in Russia after Moscow and St. Petersburg and

Novosibirsk.  Yekaterinburg is technically in Siberia, although they don`t

like you to say that.  They don`t want to sound that remote.  They don`t

want to say they`re out there in the boonies.  Don`t say Siberia. 

 

But for Americans right now, Yekaterinburg has turned out to be of interest

because Yekaterinburg is also home to the man who claims to be the

representative of the Republic of California to Russia. 

 

Now, there is no Republic of California.  There`s a state of California. 

It`s part of a larger country you might have heard of called the United

States. 

 

But Russia apparently has a little gleam in its eye that if they play their

cards right, maybe some day the United States of America might be slightly

less united and specifically, it might look more like this.  Russia has a

little gleam in its eye about the idea that the United States might somehow

hive itself off from a state that represents the sixth largest economy in

the world. 

 

Vladimir Putin is the founding patron of the generic sounding group called

the National Charity Foundation in Russia.  Putin`s National Charity

Foundation funds the Anti-Globalist Movement of Russia.  And some of the

things the Anti-Globalist Movement of Russia does flash like red beacon

danger, danger from an American perspective.  For example, the anti-

globalist movement in Russia named Bashar al Assad to be one of their

honorary members.  OK.  They also named Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, remember him,

from Iran, they named him to be an honorary member. 

 

So, those are the kinds of things the anti-globalist movement of Russia

does that don`t sit well with an American audience.  But they also do stuff

that`s designed to seem more benign or maybe even quirky and intriguing. 

That same group, the Anti-Globalist Movement of Russia recently last year

funded something called the Dialogue of Nations.  It was a conference

hosted in Moscow last year. 

 

And at that conference, they put down all the supporting Assad, supporting

Ahmadinejad stuff to instead host this quirky good natured assemblage of

mini-nationalist groups, mini independence movements from around the world. 

 

And one of the groups they hosted at their dialogue of nations group was –

Yes California.  Yes California.  You heard about this after the election. 

They got a little flurry of attention after our presidential election here

in November.  California`s legislature was getting a lot of attention for

how that state might take an aggressive, strategic approach to try to

outflank the new Trump administration on policy stuff, particularly on

immigration. 

 

But beyond that, there were also these almost human interest politics story

about California seceding.  This new tech-savvy slick, kind of appealing,

vaguely liberal-sounding Yes California Movement.  That was calling for

California to not just resist the U.S. government under Trump but for

California to become its own country. 

 

And, in fact, Yes California submitted language to the California secretary

of state so they could start collecting signatures to get California

secession on the ballot for the midterms for November 2018.  They made Yes

California t-shirts.  They started getting more and more media attention,

more and more social media attention, more and more sign-ups on their

website. 

 

But then, you know what?  It got weird.  Our election was November.  In

December, this happened.  They opened up an embassy for the Republic of

California.  See what it says right there under the word California?  They

opened up an embassy for the Republic of California in Moscow. 

 

Now, they interchangeably called it an embassy or people`s embassy or a

culture center.  But they took themselves very seriously about it.  They

put out this statement. 

 

Quote, “Together with our partners at the Anti-Globalization Movement of

Russia, our first culture center was opened at the following address.”  And

they give you that address.  If you look it up on Google Earth it`s not a

scenic place but it is a real place, really in Moscow. 

 

They also went on to give some odd assurances that you think they wouldn`t

have to reassure people about.  Like this, quote, “Contrary to some

reports, the California Culture Center and people`s embassy in Moscow does

not serve any diplomatic function at this time.  Our office makes clear

that Russians planning to California must first obtain a visa through the

American embassy in Moscow or one of their consulates.”  They also want to

make clear they`re not insisting that California should join the Russian

Federation like Crimea did. 

 

Oh, is that what Crimea did?  They joined.  That`s what happened when they

got invaded by Russia. 

 

From their perch in Moscow, the folks at Yes California said they

explicitly, quote, “support and encourage Californians to stand up and take

direct action to be bold and to unapologetically demand the liberation of

the people of California from its captors.”  Its captors being America. 

 

But again, they want to make clear because apparently they think it`s

important to give this kind of assurance.  They want to be clear that they

are not asking for California to become part of the Russian Federation, and

they are not asking for Russian military help – at least not yet. 

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

LOUIS MARINELI, YESCALIFORNIA.ORG:  So we`re not requesting any kind of

military assistance from Russia. 

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

MADDOW:  To separate California from America.  That`s not what we`re doing

now. 

 

So, is this like weird turn of events, right?  There`s all this coverage in

the United States, how there`s this odd secession movement in California in

response to Donald Trump getting elected when California voted against him

so strongly. 

 

But then that leader of the Yes California movement says he himself voted

for Trump.  And he does keep turning up in Russia.  So, Putin`s charity –

Putin`s charity group funds this anti-globalization movement that funds

this conference at which the Yes California guy shows up.

 

Soon after the election, that also leads to the founding of a physical

California embassy in Moscow where they go out of their way to make clear

they`re not requesting Russian military intervention to break California

off from the United States. 

 

But then it becomes clear that the Yes California guy was not just visiting

Russia when he went to the initial Dialogue of Nations Conference.  Nor was

he just visiting when he appeared at the opening of the embassy. 

 

Now, it turns that he actually lives in Russia.  He lives full time and

works full time in Yekaterinburg, in Russia. 

 

And now, the story has come full circle.  At least I hope this is full

circle and it`s not going to turn into a spiral.  Because now, the founder

of the Yes Secession California Movement has announced that he`s not coming

back to the United States.  He says, quote, “I have found in Russia a new

happiness.”  He says, quote, “I had long planned to return to Occupied

California to struggle for her independence from the United States but

alas,” now he says, quote, “he does not plan to – he does not plan to

return to California in the foreseeable future.”

 

He says even though he still believes that California will some day achieve

its independence from the United States, his group Yes California is

withdrawing its ballot language now from the secretary of state`s office

and so basically, that Yes California movement, the California secession

movement under him is now just this kid living in Yekaterinburg, Russia. 

Happily, as a Russian now.  But nevertheless saying he plans to continue to

serve as the representative of the Republic of California to Russia from

his perch in Yekaterinburg.  On the blood. 

 

So, consequences of this for us now, number one, sorry to disappoint. 

California secession will likely not be on the ballot in November 2018. 

But this is also a good little display of how Russia funds stuff.  How they

do stuff in the world.  I mean, Russia is playing all over the world trying

to get its way through all sorts of different means. 

 

And sometimes, they just flat out openly give tons of money.  Like for

example, what they did with Marine Le Pen who is now in the running to be

the very, very, very, very, very far right wing president of France,

promising to take France both out of Europe and NATO which would make Putin

very happy.  Russian banks have been happy to fund Marine Le Pen`s French

presidential campaign to the tune of millions of euros. 

 

And Vladimir Putin and Marine Le Pen have been happy to be seen together. 

That`s quite out in the open.  That`s one way they do it. 

 

Sometimes, it`s not as out in the open.  Sometimes it`s more like the wacky

Yes California thing, where you got Putin as the patron of a charity

funding an organization, funding a conference, and then mysteriously

something that looks like it`s otherwise a quirky Facebook page or a side

bar human interest story in American politics ends up operating out of real

free real estate in Moscow running a fake embassy. 

 

At another level, another way that Putin gets his way and spreads his

influence and uses his money is through the oligarch system which basically

allows Putin to create proxies all over Russia and increasingly all over

the world.  If you are a Russian in Putin`s favor, or he wants to co-opt

you for his purposes, the typical pattern there would be for him to direct

resources your way, to make state assets available for you.  That`s why,

for example, we have like a Russian fertilizer oligarch and a Russian

aluminum oligarch.  These guys didn`t work their way up in the fertilizer

and aluminum industries or inherit these from their dads, right?  This is

post-Soviet resource allocation from previously state-run enterprises. 

 

These guys were allowed to, were provided with the means to take over big

chunks of formally state-run industries from the former Soviet era, as

directed by and approved by Putin himself.  So, for example, there`s a

group called the Siberian Energy Group.  The Siberian Energy Group has

obtained mineral rights and oil exploration licenses in a specific part of

Siberia in Russia.  You don`t get that kind of thing without a very

specific kind of permission in Russia. 

 

And that permission has direct and indirect consequences.  It sets up, for

example, the head of the Siberian Energy Group in terms of providing him

with personal power and personal wealth.  It also indirectly establishes

yet another mysteriously wealthy Putin-connected businessman who sometimes

seems to be tied to things that Putin wants to happen in the world. 

 

This is sort of the traces that the oligarchs leave all over the world,

right?  The Siberian energy group, I highlight that group because they play

a starring role in a scoop today at politico.com.  Politico has done a deep

dive into the finances of the Siberian Energy Group and concluded, quote,

“The Siberian energy group`s dealings were characteristic of the equity

trades offshore financing schemes and consulting agreements that Putin`s

allies have used to protect and hide assets.”

 

Politico is reporting on this particular trail of Putin money and Putin

influence because it now appears to relate to the man you see on your

screen here.  It now appears to relate to the Trump White House,

specifically to the former national security adviser Michael Flynn. 

 

You remember that after Mike Flynn got fired as national security adviser,

allegedly for not disclosing and then lying about the content of his

communications with the Russian government, a few weeks after he got fired,

he retroactively registered as a foreign agent who had been working on

behalf of the government of Turkey. 

 

What politico.com reports today is that while it is clear that Mike Flynn

took money to act as a foreign agent, it`s not clear that the origin of

those funds is definitely Turkey.  The head of that Siberian energy group

is not a Turkish guy.  He is, as “Politico” puts it, a Soviet-born former

executive in Russian energy and mining companies – one who has ties to

Vladimir Putin. 

 

He`s not Turkish.  He`s not a Turkish citizen.  He doesn`t live in Turkey. 

He`s not of Turkish ethnicity.  He`s not Turkish. 

 

He has nevertheless founded a couple of very Turkish sounding organizations

that operate in Washington, D.C. – the Turkish Heritage Organization and

the Turkish Institute for Progress.  Both of them set up by nobody Turkish. 

Both of them set up by a Russian energy and mining executive who has ties

to Putin.  Through those organizations, “Politico” reports today that he

has coordinated what appear to be Turkish lobbying efforts in D.C.  He

appears to have coordinated those efforts with the guy who paid Flynn, with

the guy whose shell company paid Trump National Security Adviser Mike Flynn

over $600,000. 

 

So, in addition to – we`re talking about the guy who paid Flynn.  In

addition to his partnerships with the not at all Turkish guy who is close

to Putin, who is running these Turkish lobbying efforts, the guy who paid

Flynn himself also it turns out has his own business ties to Russia and to

Putin, including pretty significant sized aviation deals run through a

Russian state-run bank.  A Russian state-run bank that`s been implicated in

Russian intelligence operations in the past, and he has been involved in

deals through that bank that have been proven to be signed off on by Putin

himself personally, according to court documents reviewed by Isaac Arnsdorf

at “Politico”. 

 

“Politico” reports that the multiple Putin connections to Flynn`s foreign

agent lobbying contract, quote, “raise questions about the agenda of the

people who hired Flynn” and, quote, “the source of the funds used to pay

him.” 

 

So, this is a remarkable thing, right?  As we come up on this benchmark

round number of 100 days, at which we are supposed to assess how the

president and his new administration is going, I mean, there remains,

alongside everything else that`s going on and everything else that`s worth

talking about, in terms of how they`re doing – there remains this very

weird, very unprecedented thing about them firing the national security

adviser after only 24 days on the job. 

 

It`s still unexplained, and it is still – it is absolutely unprecedented

that a national security adviser would be fired that soon into an

administration, that he`d be fired for lying about his contacts with a

foreign government, particularly after that foreign government had been

publicly accused by the U.S. intelligence community of attacking our

presidential election. 

 

It is as yet unexplained and totally unprecedented that the national

security adviser would then retroactively register as having been on the

payroll of a foreign government during the time he was advising the

president and sitting in on the president`s daily brief and getting

supposedly vetted to be national security adviser.  I mean, the

unprecedented and strange and still unexplained nature of all of that goes

to another level.  If it now turns out that the money Mike Flynn was taking

from foreign sources while Russia was attacking our country is, in fact,

money that conceivably could have come from Russia, not from any other

government. 

 

So, that`s all weird and unprecedented and as yet totally unexplained. 

People talk about getting to the bottom of the Trump/Russia connection. 

This is a big part of it.  It`s been weird from the very beginning. 

 

Today, though, the weird went pro, thanks to an unexpected formal inquiry,

right?  Most of what we know about what happened with the Russian attack on

our election and the links of people associated with the Trump campaign to

the Russian government, that part of it in particular, most of what we know

about that has been learned through investigate of journalism. 

 

The government investigation into what happened, they are ongoing, but for

lots of different reasons, they don`t particularly inspire confidence right

now.  We`ve heard hide nor hair of the House Intelligence Committee

investigation since the Republican chairman of that committee recused

himself from the investigation and himself became under investigation by

the House Ethics Committee for his strange behavior toward the White House

while he was supposedly running this investigation.  That`s in the House. 

 

On the Senate side, this week, we have learned that they have assigned

precisely zero full-time staffers to work on their investigation.  They`ve

issued zero subpoenas.  They`ve made zero requests for documents and they

have conducted no major interviews with anyone linked to Trump.  Oh, that`s

what you`ve done with your more than three months working on this already. 

 

As for the Department of Justice and the FBI investigations, we learned

last week that the chief of the National Security Division at Justice, a

widely respected career official who has been overseeing those matters –

she is now stepping down.  We do not know who will replace her but it will

be a choice of the Trump administration, whoever it is. 

 

Tonight, the Senate confirmed a new deputy attorney general for the Justice

Department as a whole.  He will now oversee the investigations at even a

higher level, at the highest level because the attorney general himself is

recused from this matter thanks to his own undisclosed ties to the Russian

government.  Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein was confirmed by the

Senate tonight. 

 

As a Trump administration appointee, he will now be the highest level of

oversight over the Trump-Russia investigations including those at the FBI,

and it will be his call and his call alone as to whether or not there

should instead be a special counsel conducting some of this investigation

instead of keeping it in-house under his purview.  So, when those are the

three levels of investigation going on inside the government, you can see

why people who care very much about this story start to feel a little

wobbly, right, about whether we`ll ever get to the bottom of it. 

 

But now, a whole different group, the House Oversight Committee, they

jumped in.  They have requested that they`d like to see the documents that

Mike Flynn filed to up his security clearance when he came on board as

national security adviser.  What they found is absolutely fascinating.  It

may explain why Mike Flynn is asking for immunity already in exchange for

his testimony on Trump and Russia. 

 

But the most amazing thing that they found was a total shock, totally

unexpected and something that I cannot believe will be allowed to stand. 

But that came directly from the White House, and that`s next.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

REP. JASON CHAFFETZ (R-UT), OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE CHAIR:  I see no

information or no data to support the notion that General Flynn complied

with the law.  And that is he was supposed to seek permission and receive

permission from both the secretary of state and the secretary of the army

prior to traveling to Russia to not only accept that payment but to engage

in that activity.  I see no evidence that he actually did that. 

 

REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D-MD), OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE RANKING MEMBER:  He was

supposed to get permission and supposed to report it, and he didn`t. 

Period. 

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

MADDOW:  That was bipartisan.  What?  That never happens. 

 

But, look, Republican Congressman Jason Chaffetz and Democratic Congressman

Elijah Cummings joining forces to say that former national security

adviser, fired National Security Adviser Mike Flynn did not follow the law

when it came to his travel to Russia.  Let alone his payment from Russian

entities. 

 

And that, of course, raises interesting questions about Flynn himself and

whether he`s criminally liable for that.  What the consequences for him

will be of that as a retired army officer.  Whether he`ll have to pay back

the money the Russians paid him, et cetera. 

 

But that request about Mike Flynn from Congressman Chaffetz and Congressman

Cummings, it also turned up something really unexpected and really

interesting.  Not specifically about Mike Flynn but more about the White

House. 

 

Mike Flynn had been fired from his previous job at the Defense Intelligence

Agency in 2014.  When you change agencies in government, your security

clearance gets downgraded and then reassessed by the new agency that has

hired you.  They knock you down a peg and then they reassess you at the new

place you get hired. 

 

But that doesn`t last forever.  You don`t get to have your security

clearance follow you around forever if you`ve been out of a position that

requires you to keep it.  So, you can re-up your security clearance. 

Extend it for a couple of years after you get turfed out of whatever job

you had it for.  But then once you`re more than two years out like Mike

Flynn was, then you actually need to reapply for it altogether. 

 

There are a lot of really interesting, very specific unanswered questions

about Mike Flynn.  Mike Flynn, by the time he was hired at national

security adviser, he would have had to reapply for his security clearance. 

And that would have been after his trip to Russia where he got paid tens of

thousands of dollars by a state-run entity and sat with Vladimir Putin.  It

would also have been after he signed up to do work on behalf of a foreign

government that appears to have been Turkey but given who the contract was

with, new reporting casts doubts about whether the source of that funding

might actually have also been Russia. 

 

And unless the Trump White House and Trump transition were letting him in

on classified information he was not legally allowed to see, the Flynn

vetting and Flynn security clearance documentation from his time coming on

board at the new Trump administration, it should show whether or not he hid

those things or whether he disclosed all of those things. 

 

And that`s why Congressman Jason Chaffetz and Congressman Elijah Cummings

asked the White House for all such documentation about Michael Flynn.  They

asked for that last month.  Did he disclose those things?  Show us the

paperwork. 

 

And the most amazing thing that happened in this story today is that we got

to see the White House`s reply to their letter.  And it turns out the White

House is providing no documentation about Mike Flynn. 

 

Not about his time advising the campaign.  Not about his security clearance

application.  Not about his vetting to be national security adviser.  Not

about his time as national security adviser.  Nothing.  Zero pieces of

paper. 

 

This White House fired their national security adviser under a cloud of

international intrigue 3 1/2 weeks into the new administration.  They now

say they do not have a single piece of paper to document anything about

him.  Seriously?

 

Congressman Elijah Cummings joins us next.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

CUMMINGS:  We received no internal documents relating to what General Flynn

reported to the White House when they vetted him to become national

security adviser.  And we received no documents relating to his termination

as national security adviser for concealing his discussion with the Russian

ambassador. 

 

In short, the White House has refused to provide this committee with a

single piece of paper in response to our bipartisan request, and that`s

simply unacceptable. 

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

MADDOW:  Top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, Elijah Cummings,

being very direct today about the fact the White House has not given his

committee any documents, not a single sheet of paper related to the fired

National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.  “The White House,” he says, “has

refused to provide this committee with a single piece of paper.” 

 

Joining us now is Congressman Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the ranking

Democrat on the Oversight Committee. 

 

Sir, it`s really nice to have you here tonight.  Thanks for your time. 

 

CUMMINGS:  It`s good to be with you. 

 

MADDOW:  So, I pronounce myself, maybe I`m naive, but I feel surprised that

the White House produced zero documents in response to this broad request

that you and Chairman Chaffetz made about Michael Flynn and his time in the

Trump administration. 

 

Did you expect to receive something or did you think that you`d get

nothing? 

 

CUMMINGS:  I thought we would get some documents, but this White House has

made a decision that they will produce absolutely nothing.  And, Rachel, I

have not seen this before.  And it sets a very dangerous precedent. 

 

President Trump when he was running said no one is above the law.  Well,

he`s not above the law either, and there is a separation of powers.  I

listened to Mr. Spicer today talk about claiming they don`t have documents. 

I was very upset just listening to that because they do have documents. 

 

As a matter of fact, they have told us they have documents but they found

every excuse under the sun not to produce the documents.  And so, what

we`re doing is we are staying focused.  This is not some witch hunt.  This

is about a fight for our democracy.  And I want to be clear on that.

 

So, we`re not going to be distracted.  We`re going to go after the

documents. 

 

MADDOW:  In terms of the timing here, I was looking back at General Flynn`s

career.  Obviously, he had a very distinguished career in the military, is

considered to be one of the most brilliant intelligence officers to ever

serve the kind of rank he did.  But he left the Pentagon in 2014. 

 

When I do the math on that, it looks like he would have had to reapply for

security clearance full stop by the time that he was being vetted for the

national security position in the administration.  I would also expect that

the White House had to do some sort of vetting process in order to appoint

him national security adviser, even though that didn`t have to go through

Senate confirmation. 

 

Is that the documentation that you were expecting to get?  Him filling out

forms, him applying for those things and them doing their due diligence? 

 

CUMMINGS:  That`s exactly right.  In other words, when you`re talking about

the national security adviser, you`re talking about the highest ranking –

one of the highest ranking security people in our nation.  And that person,

Rachel, is privy to all kinds of secret information.

 

If you`ll recall, a lot of the attacks on Hillary Clinton was they were

upset she may have put classified information in a place where people might

be able to hack it.  Here, we have a situation where this gentleman would

be the number one guy handling this information, advising the president.  

So, the vetting process, Rachel, has to be very strict and it has to be

very complete.  And, clearly, we`re trying to figure out exactly what

happened. 

 

In other words, when they – when he asked for security clearance, that

application would tell us whether he reported getting money from the

Russians, his contacts with the Russians, and, again, the Republicans, that

is President Trump`s administration, will not give up one shred of paper. 

Not anything. 

 

MADDOW:  Briefly, sir, is it your expectation that maybe the vetting wasn`t

done?  Obviously, there`s a process on the security clearance but in terms

of being vetted to be national security adviser, that`s the responsibility

in this case of the president, the head of the transition was the vice

president.  Is it – 

 

CUMMINGS:  Yes.

 

MADDOW:  – is there some sort of accountability?  Is there an oversight

role for Congress as to whether or not they appropriately vetted this

person who they cleared to be, as you say, the number one guy, the top

person on national security in the new administration? 

 

CUMMINGS:  That`s part of the problem.  We are trying to get the documents

so that we can see exactly what the process is. 

 

But when you have Spicer standing up today saying they have no documents,

when – I mean, if it were me or you, there would be volumes probably of

documents.  Interviews that they may have done with other people and

looking at your background.  And they`re claiming they have none.  But on

the other hand, they say, oh, we`re not going to give you the documents we

have. 

 

You know, this hocus-pocus fake news, false news, I don`t have time for

that.  What I`m trying to do is make sure that we pursue this investigation

and go where the evidence leads.  And so, hopefully – I give Jason

Chaffetz credit.  We submitted a bipartisan request to the White House. 

They basically refused. 

 

And now, we have – our next step is to hopefully sit down with the White

House and explain to them that they don`t determine what we investigate as

a Congress.  We do.  And that when they get a request from the Congress,

they have to give up what we have asked for.  And if not, then I`m going

to, of course, try to work with Chairman Chaffetz to issue subpoenas so we

can get that information. 

 

MADDOW:  Congressman Elijah Cummings from Maryland, top Democrat on the

House Oversight Committee – sir, appreciate your time tonight.  Thank you

very much. 

 

CUMMINGS:  Thank you.

 

MADDOW:  If that is what it comes to, if we end up having the Oversight

Committee subpoenaing the White House to get their documentation about Mike

Flynn – well, that`s when everybody gets popcorn. 

 

We`ll be right back.  Stay with us.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

MADDOW:  A federal court tonight has just turned back an executive order

from the president.  It`s a district judge, federal judge in California,

who has put a temporary injunction on an order from the president that

would take away funding from cities that refuse to cooperate with his

immigration crackdown.  The president signed this executive order, the so-

called “Sanctuary Cities Executive Order” back on January 25th, the first

week of his presidency.  It was one of the first big high-profile executive

orders that he signed. 

 

But it will now be on hold by order of the federal courts.  And that comes

at a particularly bad time for them on an issue like this.  Hold on. 

That`s next.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

MADDOW:  Used to be that executive orders by a president lived halfway

between Satan and Obamacare.  On the Republican slide rule of evil. 

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES;  Signing executive orders is

not the way our country was supposed to be run. 

 

Nobody ever heard of an executive order.  Then, all of a sudden, Obama,

because he couldn`t get anybody to agree with him, he started signing them

like they`re butter. 

 

We have a president that signs executive orders because he can`t get

anything done. 

 

He signs on immigration and on other things.

 

I don`t want to use too many executive orders, folks. 

 

The executive orders are an outrage.  We have a president that can`t lead. 

He said the hell with it.  I`m not going to do this anymore.  I want to

rest and I want to do other things, including going out playing golf.  This

guy played hundreds of rounds of golf. 

 

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

 

MADDOW:  Hundreds of rounds of golf.  Can you believe this guy?  And so

many executive orders.

 

Democrats today have been gleefully passing around clips of candidate Trump

deriding the playing of golf and the signing of executive orders.  Now –

now that he`s president, now, executive orders are what President Trump

brags about weekdays in between his golf games on weekends. 

 

The White House posted President Trump`s 100 days of historic

accomplishments.  Right at the top of the White House list, look, President

Trump will have signed over 30 executive orders during his first 100 days. 

Mazel tov. 

 

So many executive orders from the president who described executive orders

as an outrage fit for presidents who cannot lead because they want to play

golf too much.  And not so busy signing so many weakling executive orders.

 

And hours after the White House posted that list of accomplishments

bragging about how many executive orders this president has done and how

much he`s gotten done by executive order, hours after that today, the

president got a resounding no from a federal judge turning back one of his

executive orders on immigration. 

 

And the judge tonight that ruled on this immigration executive order, the

judge did not just say no to the order.  The judge struck the order down in

part because of a White House`s own description of the executive order in

which they essentially conceded – no, they argued that the executive order

in question was meaningless. 

 

The president`s legal team, quote, “explained for the first time at oral

argument that the executive order is merely and exercise of the president`s

bully pulpit.”

 

So, the new president is bragging about his executive orders at the 100-day

mark.  If you ask somebody who really knows about the 100-day standard, who

knows what presidents can do, who knows what presidents have done, and what

really ought to count as bragging rights, does it make sense that he`s

bragging about that? 

 

Joining us now is Michael Beschloss, NBC News presidential historian. 

 

Michael, it`s great to see you.  Thank you for being here. 

 

MICHAEL BESCHLOSS, NBC NEWS PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN:  Thank you, Rachel. 

 

MADDOW:  Let me ask you, first, where does the 100 days standard come from? 

 

BESCHLOSS:  It comes from Franklin Roosevelt.  Roosevelt was inaugurated on

March 4th, 1933.  In those days, that was the date a president was sworn

in.  And beginning on the 9th, Roosevelt went to Congress to get all sorts

of legislation to try to fix not only the Great Depression but also the

fact that the banks had failed. 

 

So, it was, you know, bill after bill during those next 100 days until the

16th of June, regulation to fix the banks, relieve people who were

suffering from the great depression, Tennessee Valley Authority, a lot of

the things we think of as the first New Deal. 

 

Every president since then has said it`s an impossible standard because we

can never measure up to that. 

 

MADDOW:  In terms of that being the benchmark, though, obviously there`s

this president bragging now that nobody has ever accomplished as much as he

has. 

 

BESCHLOSS:  I was amazed by that memorandum.  Taught me so much. 

 

MADDOW:  He likes to speak of himself in superlative terms. 

 

BESCHLOSS:  Right.  I`ve noticed that. 

 

MADDOW:  No matter what the subject. 

 

But from an historian`s perspective, especially given the FDR standard, has

this new president actually passed anything that would count as major

legislation looking at it from an historical lens?  Anything?

 

BESCHLOSS:  By his own standard, no, because think of all the things he was

talking about during the campaign.  You know, health care reform,

infrastructure, tax reform, all sorts of other things. 

 

And you look back on these nearly 100 days.  He hasn`t been able to get

these things out of Congress, and it`s particularly amazing because, you

know, Donald Trump`s whole premise during this campaign was elect me, elect

a Republican Congress – what Paul Ryan has called united Republican

government.  And you`ll see all this legislation coming out.  It hasn`t

happened. 

 

MADDOW:  Let me also ask your perspective on him bragging on the raw number

of executive orders he has signed.  It`s funny from hypocrisy perspective

because he derided executive orders as a concept.  But he`s bragging now

that he`s signed so many of them. 

 

What do you make of that? 

 

BESCHLOSS:  It`s pretty ridiculous because, you know, an executive order

can be I, the president, command the White House bowling alley is going to

be moved or something like that or, you know, today will be national

fishing day.  You know, it`s not the number of executive orders.  It`s the

content. 

 

If you look at these executive orders, you know, a few of President Trump`s

executive orders have been things like, you know, I`m asking for a study of

trade, or I`m asking for a study of some other area of the tax code.  You

know, these do not exactly measure up to for instance Abraham Lincoln that

had the most famous executive order of all, which was the emancipation

proclamation.  Not quite at that level. 

 

MADDOW:  Yes, I have to say at least.

 

Michael Beschloss, NBC News presidential historian, a great provider of

context for us – thank you, Michael.  It`s good to have you here. 

 

BESCHLOSS:  Thank you, Rachel.

 

MADDOW:  I will say – if he is going to propose national fishing day, I`m

against it.  That would be a terrible day to go fishing.  Everything would

be very crowded.  It would be awful.  I`m against it already. 

 

We`ll be right back. 

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

MADDOW:  Following the Chinese president`s visit to Mar-a-Lago, both he and

President Trump spoke again by phone.  But it`s interesting.  The read-out

of that call, the information provided by the Chinese government and by the

American government couldn`t have been more different.  The Chinese read-

out about that call is long.  Look, it`s over two pages, covers all the

highlights. 

 

The two men talked about the situation in North Korea and the use of

chemical weapons in Syria and U.N. Security Council resolutions and

President Trump`s visit later this year to China.  This caution from the

Chinese president about not escalating the situation with North Korea. 

Very interesting.  Long, very informative. 

 

Take it with a grain of salt, though.  It is the Chinese government account

of the call. 

 

But then there`s the American government account of the same call, which

you may not want to take with a grain of salt because it`s our own

government but you have to take it with a magnifying glass because the

White House account of that call is 28 words long.  This is it, the most we

can bleed from that stone is that it was, quote, a very productive call. 

It was a very productive call.  That`s it.  That`s the read-out. 

 

And this is a regular thing they do now.  Who knew that this could even be

a problem in our government?  Refusing to get read-outs of contacts between

our president and foreign leaders?  I didn`t even know to worry about that

before it stopped happening. 

 

But they are inventing new problems all the time.  Today, President Trump

spoke with the Canadian prime minister about trade tensions between our two

countries, specifically the Trump administration`s decision to slap a

tariff on soft wood lumber from Canada entering the United States. 

 

There`s a Canadian read of the call.  It`s quite lengthy.  Also a little

color from the call.

 

Quote, “The prime minister refuted the baseless allegations by the U.S.

Department of Commerce and the decision to impose unfair duties.”  That`s

the Canadian read-out. 

 

Now, here`s the White House read-out.  Four sentences long.  The first

sentence is only says there was, in fact, a call.  It goes on to elaborate

that they discussed lumber.  It was a very amicable call. 

 

Who knows if these two men were even on the same call, but we can`t get any

information out of our own government about it anymore.  Does that mean

we`re supposed to trust the foreign governments? 

 

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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