The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 4/25/17
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
“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
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
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
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
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.
(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.
(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
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
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
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
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
Congressman Elijah Cummings joins us next.
(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
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
(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
Did you expect to receive something or did you think that you`d get
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
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
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
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.
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 –
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced,
distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the
prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter
or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the