The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 4/26/17

Guests:
Cory Booker, Evelyn Farkas
Transcript:

 

CHRIS HAYES, “ALL IN” HOST:  All right.  Seth Meyers, always a pleasure. 

 

Make sure you can catch him on “Late Night” weeknights at 12:35 Eastern on

NBC, it`s a fantastic show. 

 

SETH MEYERS, “LATE NIGHT” HOST:  Thank you, buddy.  See you in the

elevators. 

 

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

 

And THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now. 

 

Good evening, Rachel.

 

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

 

HAYES:  You bet.

 

MADDOW:  And thanks to you at home for joining thus hour. 

 

Steel comes from iron.  Iron comes from iron ore.  And iron ore you dig out

of the ground. 

 

The largest-known but untapped iron ore deposit in the whole world is in

this one.  It`s in the nation of Guinea.  A Guinea is in a country in West

Africa, sort of surrounds Sierra Leone.  It borders Liberia.  It`s one of

the poorest country in the world, Guinea is. 

 

And that is a stark thing when you have some of the most impressive

untapped natural resources in the world.  But Guinea got independence from

France in 1958.  And then they started essentially a long cycle of

suffering under dictators who ruled for life and who took a long time to

die. 

 

Their first leader took power upon independence in 1958.  He stayed in

power from 1958 until he died in 1984, 26 years later.  Then as soon as

they were rid of him, they got another dictator in 1984.  And he held on

for 24 years, until he died too in 2008. 

 

But for all the problems that Guinea has had as a country, for all that –

all the challenges it has struggled through, Guinea`s natural resources

have not really been a help thus far.  Yes, they do have the world`s

largest untapped deposits of iron ore, but that has not necessarily turned

out to be a good thing for them.  Mostly what it has turned out to be for

them is a scandal and a crime.  And now that part of it is becoming part of

our presidential politics here in America. 

 

Reporter Jesse Drucker has a remarkable piece that just posted this

afternoon in the “New York Times.”  It`s about more potentially criminal

trailing ends that seem to have followed our new first family into their

new lives in the White House.  And although a lot of that story is about

this remote West African country of Guinea, my favorite part of the story

actually takes place in Jacksonville, Florida – at the Jacksonville,

Florida, airport. 

 

Just a few years ago, 2013, the widow of one of the past dictators of

Guinea, the widow of the dictator who died in 2008, she became a

cooperating witness for the FBI.  One day in the spring of 2013, she put on

a wire.  The FBI wired her up so they could surveil and tape her

conversation.  And she went to the Jacksonville airport.  And she had a

meeting at a diner at the Jacksonville airport with a representative from a

large mining company with interests in her home country and in that big

iron ore deposit. 

 

In 2008, Guinea had awarded to this company the exploration rights to half

of that gigantic deposit of iron ore.  It was a little bit of an unusual

deal at the time because the Guinean government had previously awarded all

of the rights for that mine to a totally different company, but then

inexplicably, a few years later, they just sort of changed their mind and

decided that half the rights would now go to this other country. 

 

It appeared at the time to be sort of a strange deal.  But now we know why

it seemed weird, because it was weird.  The Guinean government now says

that strange deal happened, that the awarding of half the rights to that

mine happened, according to the Guinean government, because of a huge bribe

paid by the company who got the mining rights.  They said the company that

got the rights to half of that iron ore deposit, they say that company paid

Mrs. Dictator $8 million, in exchange for them getting those rights. 

 

Now, the FBI eventually got involved in investigating that bribe.  And at

that airport diner in Jacksonville, in 2013, they set up Mrs. Dictator to

wear a wire while she met with a representative of that mining company. 

And while she was meeting with that guy from the mining company, he told

her in that conversation that she should destroy all the paperwork that she

had that documented anything to do with the bribe. 

 

And she was wired when he told her that.  She was a cooperating witness. 

So, the FBI got all of his instructions to her about that on tape. 

 

And they nailed him.  They nailed this guy from the mining company. 

Charged.  Pled guilty.  Prison time. 

 

And the company has since tried to say, oh, that guy was just a rogue

actor, he wasn`t speaking on our behalf, we don`t know anything about what

he was talking about, nothing to do with us.  But that same mining company

is also alleged by the FBI to have paid another large bribe to another

official in the Guinean government the following year.  And the reason we

know that is because of a trial that`s happening right now this week in New

York City. 

 

The former mining minister of Guinea is on trial in New York right now. 

And the FBI alleges in documents that have been made public in conjunction

with this trial, which have now been reported on by the “New York Times,”

the FBI alleges that this mining company was involved in arranging the

bribery.  So there was the bribe paid to Mrs. Dictator.  Within one year of

that another bribe paid to another Guinean government official, related to

this iron ore mine. 

 

Now, why is this trial happening in Manhattan?  One nice thing about being

the banking capital of the world is that financial crimes all over the

world can often technically be charged in New York if prosecutors want to

charge them there, because more often than not, any time significant

amounts of money move around anywhere in the world, that money in some way

will touch a New York bank as part of the transit of funds. 

 

That also means when it comes to crimes like bribing government officials

in other countries, even when the people involved are not Americans, the

FBI is often on it.  Even when it is not Americans involved, even when the

bribery takes place far away.  If you are involved in financial fraud or

corruption of any significant scale, no matter where you are in the world,

if the banking system is used at all in your fraud, your corruption, your

bribery, it is likely that the FBI is on it.  And you may find yourself on

trial in the southern district of New York. 

 

And in this case, they really did, you know, wire Mrs. Dictator at the

Jacksonville airport for what that guy from the mining company otherwise

thought was an innocuous meeting in a foreign country. 

 

But that ubiquitous presence of the FBI amid that kind of financial crime,

that means if you are in American business, it`s pretty easy to get caught

if what you do wrong is that you end up doing business with corrupt people

overseas.  If you end up doing business with other companies, with other

people, who pay bribes overseas, if you do business with otherwise corrupt

businesses who launder money or finance illegal activities or whatever it

is, whether or not you yourself are crooked, American firms and individuals

are not allowed to do business with crooked businesses overseas.  That`s

illegal under our own laws.  That`s illegal under the Foreign Corrupt

Practices Act. 

 

You may never bribe anybody, but if you`re doing business with somebody

who`s been paying bribes overseas, you`re going to get nailed.  People get

caught for that, the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, it`s a big deal.  And

frankly it follows the Trump organization around.  Because of deals like

their now-abandoned project in the capital city of Azerbaijan which was

recently reported out in exquisite detail by Adam Davidson at “The New

Yorker”. 

 

In that Azerbaijan project the problem for the Trump organization that is

they partnered with the family of a notoriously corrupt government official

who, for good measure, has financial ties to the Iranian Revolutionary

Guard, hm.  Well, thanks to this new reporting from the “New York Times”

and also from Bloomberg News today, we now know that the Foreign Corrupt

Practices Act may not just be following the Trump organization around deals

like its abandoned hotel project in Azerbaijan.  We now know the foreign

corrupt practices act may also be following around Jared Kushner. 

 

And that`s because as this mining minister from Guinea is on trial right

now in New York, with the FBI saying he facilitated bribes, paid for by

that mining company, for them to get rights to that big iron ore deposit in

Guinea, at the same time that that trial is happening in New York, the “New

York Times” and Bloomberg news are now both reporting that the family who

owns that mining company?  That mining company which has been under FBI

investigation in these bribery cases and which, according to “The Times” is

also – has also been investigated directly under the Foreign Corrupt

Practices Act, that mining firm is run by the Steinmetz family. 

 

And as of tonight, with this new reporting, we now know that the Steinmetz

family has also apparently been Jared Kushner`s secret financier for over

$100 million in very recent New York City real estate purchases. 

 

You don`t have to be crooked yourself as an American company, you cannot

legally do business with countries abroad and with individual businessmen

abroad who pay bribes, who launder money, or otherwise engage in foreign

corrupt practices. 

 

So, we`ve got a new Department of Justice now, helmed by Trump appointees

from Attorney General Jeff Sessions on down.  Deputy attorney general was

just confirmed yesterday, Rod Rosenstein.  There`s been lots of attention

to what it will mean to have the FBI investigations into the Trump campaign

potentially colluding with Russia now overseen by a guy who is a Trump

appointee. 

 

But now, we also know that the Trump appointee is running the Justice

Department, have also just inherited ongoing corruption, bribery, and

Foreign Corrupt Practices Act investigations into the family whose money

allowed Jared Kushner to roughly double his real estate holdings since 2012

in New York City to the tune of more than $100 million. 

 

The Steinmetz family and their web of companies and their problems with

these bribery scandals, these bribery investigations, this has not been

secret.  It was first reported by “The Financial Times” in 2012.  It was

reported everywhere thereafter, particularly in the financial press.  But

even after that reporting in 2012 and in 2013, Jared Kushner just kept

making bigger and bigger deals with them. 

 

In 2014, Jared Kushner appears to have become embarrassed or maybe cautious

enough that he stopped putting the Steinmetz family name onto his deals,

into the paperwork for his deals.  I don`t know, maybe their guy going to

prison after the diner conversation at the Jacksonville airport sent up

some red flags so it was time to take their name out of the paperwork. 

 

But still, even after that, even when he got more subtle about using their

name in his real estate filings and his financial filings, he still kept

doing more and more and bigger and bigger deals with them, including this

relatively new real estate deal in Jersey City.  I should mention that this

one as Trump-branded property. 

 

So we`re closing in on the 100-day mark for the new administration.  In the

campaign, Trump promised action on ten different major pieces of

legislation in the first 100 days of his presidency.  He has achieved none

of those ten legislative goals.  None of them. 

 

It now also appears that his pledge to build a wall on our southern border,

appears that is also dead or at least indefinitely delayed.  One piece of

major legislation they did try to pass was of course the repeal of

Obamacare.  That didn`t even come up for a vote in the Republican-

controlled House before it blew up.  We`re going to be talking later on

this hour about whether they might be potentially launching a successful

sneak attack right now to bring that legislation back at the last minute

before the 100-day benchmark. 

 

But today`s big reveal from the administration was what everybody was

calling their tax plan, their tax plan.  It`s one page.  And here`s a hint. 

The U.S. Tax Code is thousands of pages long. 

 

If this is your tax code, if your plan for comprehensively overhauling that

tax code is one page, double-spaced, with deep indents and almost no

numbers, that`s a lot of things but that`s not actually a tax plan.  That`s

not a plan for overhauling thousands of pages of the U.S. tax code. 

 

As a hint about their seriousness on this tax issue, it should be noted

that they are unveiling what they want you to call their tax plan, they are

unveiling that today before they have even bothered to nominate anyone to

be in charge of tax policy in this administration.  The Treasury Department

handles tax issues.  They haven`t even picked somebody yet for the job of

running tax policy in the Treasury Department.  But still, they rolled out

this one-page document today as if they`ve showed a tax plan before the 100

days, which is ridiculous. 

 

The only substantive thing we got out of this today is something that made

me frankly quite glad that we revealed two pages of the president`s 2005

tax returns on this show a few weeks ago.  Because one thing we can tell

from his one-page press release about his supposed tax priorities today is

that even under this skeletal outline they released today, he is proposing

something that would have saved him upwards of $30 million just in that one

year.  For which we got those two pages of that one return. 

 

So, there`s a lot to chew on in terms of the new administration and what

they`re doing.  When it comes to what they are saying and what they are

saying they are going to do, there`s almost nothing to chew on.  Honestly,

don`t bother.  They didn`t unveil a tax plan today.  They didn`t do their

ten promised pieces of legislation.  They`re not building a wall and

Mexico`s not paying for it. 

 

Don`t bother listening to what they`re saying, watch what they`re doing. 

What they`re saying about their other than behavior and actions is not

worth the individually double-spaced deeply indebted piece of paper it is

printed on. 

 

Well, amid all of that, amid all of the understandable beltway focus on

that stuff right now, there is a thing that is a big deal, and that is

truly new about the first 100 days of this administration, and it is

something we`ve never had before in this country.  It`s the running of this

administration like it`s a family business – a family business that is

also keeping its actual literal family businesses on the outside while

they`re holding high political office. 

 

I mean, a president having an outside business interest was literally a

national scandal when that outside business interest was something as

simple as a peanut farm in Georgia from which the president had divested

himself.  In this case, it`s a large-scale, ongoing, often international

set of arrangements that in an unsettling number of cases seem to have

attracted the interest of the FBI. 

 

Whenever there`s scandal associated with an administration, there are

always worries, well-founded or not, about whether the Justice Department

and FBI are capable of an independent and rigorous investigation into a

president`s actions as president.  But when a president and his family and

their ongoing business relationships stray into Department of Justice

territory, we really have no template at all, we have no help from history

in terms of what it means to keep those things on track. 

 

I mean, as that mining company bribery trial rolls on this week in New

York, as that minister of mines goes on trial in the southern district of

New York over those bribes allegedly paid by that mining company, spin that

out.  I mean, Jared Kushner says that his involvement with financing from

this family, doing his real estate deals, has nothing to do with the other

parts of that family that are involved in the mining stuff and the bribery

investigations and everything.  Kushner folks say this is totally different

part of that family that he`s working with. 

 

But what if it`s not, right?  What if this case that`s happening right now

in New York, just what if it stretches out into, you know, U.S. companies

knowingly doing business with a company that was bribing foreign officials? 

And that fact that they were under investigation for bribing foreign

officials, that was no secret.  And anybody considering doing business with

them should have known better. 

 

If it goes to that territory, if it goes to violations of the Foreign

Corrupt Practices Act, just hypothetically, how conceivable is it to you

that Jeff Sessions would ever green light charges being brought against

Jared for his ties to that hypothetical scandal?  You think Jeff Sessions

would do that?  Should he recuse himself from those decisions because he

knows Jared is the president`s son-in-law?  Does anybody not know that? 

 

First 100 days are a now-standardized way to map the success or failure of

a new administration.  But for many of the most important things that are

new about this new administration, we are totally off the charts in terms

of precedent and in terms of knowing who`s above the law and how to stop

that from happening. 

 

We`ve got a big show tonight.  Senator Cory Booker is here live.  He`s

fresh out of the all-senators briefing on North Korea which sounds like a

doozy. 

 

We`ve got lots ahead tonight.  Stay with us. 

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

MADDOW:  In the event of an emergency you will have approximately ten

minutes to prepare, and no longer.  That is the new advice to the citizens

of Japan from their prime minister.  If North Korea launches a ballistic

missile at Japan, the new actions to protect yourself guidelines that are

posted on Japan`s civil defense national website tell the civilians in that

country that they`ve got ten minutes to deal with that and get ready.  The

guidelines tell people to take cover indoors, to shut off all gas and

water, to stay away from all doors and windows. 

 

Japan maintains a civil defense website all the time to give just this kind

of advice.  But that website has seen more than 14 times its usual amount

of web traffic over the course of this month. 

 

Today, top U.S. – the top – excuse me.  Today, the top U.S. military

official in the Pacific Command said, as long as we`re on the subject,

Hawaii could use some additional missile defense capability, given what

North Korea has been showing off recently. 

 

In the continental United States, it is still a hypothetical threat that

North Korea could hit the U.S. mainland.  But in Hawaii, it`s a different

thing.  And in Japan and in South Korea, they know for sure that they are

already well within the range of weapons that we know North Korea already

possesses. 

 

This month, the Japanese central government has been holding meetings with

local governments around Japan, advising them what they should do if their

region is hit by a North Korean missile.  It`s unprecedented, that`s

something Japan has never done before in its post-war history. 

 

Yesterday, North Korea staged its largest-ever live-fire exercises off its

eastern coast.  Those are all artillery pieces we just saw there.  South

Korean news reports said the exercises involved 300 to 400 artillery

pieces.  You see them shooting there, those artillery rounds, into the sea. 

The U.S. and South Korean navies have also been conducting their own

military exercises.  Yesterday off South Korea`s western coast. 

 

Yesterday, the USS Michigan, a nuclear-powered submarine, arrived in South

Korea.  The USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier is also en route to the Korean

peninsula now, for real this time.  Things are already very tense right

now. 

 

And if you are feeling tense about that part of the world right now, I

advise you next time you`re at the grocery store to not look too closely at

the tabloid grocery store publication that our president has repeatedly

endorsed and said should win the Pulitzer Prize, because this week`s cover

of “The National Enquirer” is this.  “World War III is coming!  Top secret

Pentagon report, the day and time all-out war will break loose.  Navy

destroyers bound for North Korea.”

 

Now, after this came out today and started circulating online, defense

folks noted that the destroyer they put on the cover is a Russian

destroyer, not an American one.  But, whatever. 

 

For everything else that it is, “National Enquirer” honestly is sometimes a

little peek into this new president`s mindset.  If so, whoa. 

 

Back here on planet Earth, the president invited all 100 sitting U.S.

senators to the White House today for a highly unusual all-senators

briefing on North Korea.  That`s a lot of senators to bring up to the White

House. 

 

But they said they wanted to do this urgent briefing on North Korea.  They

didn`t want to do it in the secure facility where they usually do these

things at the Senate.  They wanted to do it at the White House for some

reason. 

 

In order to fit all the senators into one briefing they actually had to

MacGyver a makeshift secure facility on the White House grounds.  The

senators then had to go through this weird perp walk rigmarole where they

boarded buss and got shipped up to the White House like they were on a

school field trip. 

 

One reporter pointed out the added indignity the back window of one of the

buses they put the senators on was held up with duct tape.  And one of that

bus` lights was dangling off the bus, held by a wire.  Nothing but the

best. 

 

Once they got up to the White House, the senators got out of their hoopty

buses, they were apparently greeted briefly by the president.  They were

then briefed by the secretary of defense, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs,

and the director of national Intelligence, Dan Coats, also Secretary of

State Rex Tillerson, although that was apparently a surprise to Rex

Tillerson.  As recently as two days ago the State Department, quote,

“appeared unaware” that Tillerson would be delivering that briefing.  But

there it was today. 

 

The briefing lasted about an hour.  Why did it have to be at the White

House?  Why did all the senators have to get up on buses and go there for

it?  What was the important information that they needed to have imparted

to them at the White House about this urgent situation in North Korea? 

 

I don`t know.  But senators seem underwhelmed. 

 

Here, for example, was the Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign

Relations Committee, Senator Bob Corker. 

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

FRANK THORP, NBC NEWS REPORTER:  Senator Corker, how was the briefing? 

 

SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE:  It was fine. 

 

THORP:  Did you guys learn anything in there you didn`t know before? 

 

CORKER:  I didn`t really.  It was an OK briefing. 

 

THORP:  What do you mean it was an okay briefing?  Didn`t really learn

much? 

 

CORKER:  I – it was – it was okay. 

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

MADDOW:  It was okay.  Maybe not worth the trip? 

 

Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey was another one of the senators who was

there for that strange event today.  Senator Booker joins us live next. 

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

THORP:  Senator Corker, how was the briefing? 

 

CORKER:  It was fine. 

 

THORP:  Did you guys learn anything in there you didn`t know before? 

 

CORKER:  I didn`t really.  It was an OK briefing. 

 

THORP:  What do you mean it was an okay briefing?  Didn`t really learn

much? 

 

CORKER:  I – it was – it was okay. 

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

MADDOW:  Senator Bob Corker is chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. 

He did not seem psyched about how this big all-senators field trip went

today for at the White House North Korea briefing. 

 

Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey is a member of the Foreign Relations

Committee.  He was there today too. 

 

And Senator Booker joins us tonight for the interview. 

 

Senator, it`s really nice to have you here.  Thank you for being here.

 

SEN. CORY BOOKER (D), NEW JERSEY:  It`s good to be here.  Thank you. 

 

MADDOW:  Let me just – I don`t want to talk to you only about this

briefing but I do want to get your impression.  Senator Corker did seem

underwhelmed there.  Is that – was that also your experience? 

 

BOOKER:  I think it`s fair.  I mean – look, first of all, it`s very good

that the White House is actually having dialogue with us.  And something

I`ve been concerned about since I`ve been in the Senate is, whether it`s

President Obama or the current president taking military action without

going to the Senate, as the Constitution spells out for an authorization to

use military force. 

 

And so, I thought I was going into this thinking that this sort of

unprecedented putting senators on two buses and taking us would be

something pretty significant.  But –

 

MADDOW:  Meaning that you`d be briefed on significant information? 

 

BOOKER:  Significant information, new information, or in-depth details

about a strategy, or maybe even something more dramatic given the language

of our president, maybe it was to talk about an AUMF, an authorization for

the use of military force.  But we got there and it really was – again,

good dialogue is good, but underwhelming for the drama of bringing the

Senate there, where you brought 100 people to the White House, when easily

those four or five briefers could have come to an actual SCIF.  I mean, to

walk into this room that they had transformed, I mean, they had used

MacGyver, putting a tent over a camera, I mean – you can clearly see that

they had tried to go through a lot of details to do it. 

 

MADDOW:  Putting a tent over a camera? 

 

BOOKER:  You want to make sure – secure areas, usually turning your apple

watch or your phone to make sure that these devices can be hacked into. 

Clearly, they had taken measures for the cameras that are usually in that

room, to cover them up. 

 

MADDOW:  It was just an auditorium? 

 

BOOKER:  It was an auditorium they had to jerry-rig.  When I was coming

back, if we`re being fiscally conservative, the expense that was taken to

jerry-rig that room, to transport 100 senators, when there are so-called

SCIF, secure locations in the Senate, which is usually how we`re briefed.

 

And, frankly, I`ve been to briefings in the three-plus years I`ve been in

the Senate that have been more dramatic, with more significant information

about ongoing foreign policy crisis in that room, from this one which I

think you saw from our chairman, who by the way the ranking member Cardin

and Chairman Corker, they do a really good job of trying to suppress the

partisanship and really keep us focused on national interests, national

issues.  So, these are straight shooters that lead this committee as I see

it. 

 

That unfortunately I think he was very candid there, more than I would have

thought he would have been, about sort of – again, important dialogue,

important that the two branches of government are discussing critical

issues, but I still don`t get it for why the drama of us all get on these

two buses and going. 

 

MADDOW:  Yes, I don`t want to beat it to death because I realize we`re sort

of talking about the staging of this now. 

 

BOOKER:  Right. 

 

MADDOW:  But do you have any sense of why they put you on those buses? 

 

BOOKER:  I think what you said is really the point.  There was a lot of

that that sort of in many ways distracted from the substance of the issue,

which is we have North Korea violating international law, violating even

understandings of the Chinese.  They have nuclear weapons and they are now

testing ballistic missiles to be deliverable. 

 

This is a real credible threat.  We have two allies that – if those allies

are attacked, South Korea or Japan, we have an obligation to defend them. 

There are 250,000-plus Americans within tens of miles of the North Korean -

- the demilitarized zone. 

 

There`s a lot going on here that is very serious.  We should be having

discussions with – again, I disagree with the way they went about it

today, it`s good that the two branches of government are talking. 

 

I have serious concerns not just about North Korea but – we had a hearing

on Libya yesterday and serious issues that are going on there.  We

interviewed ambassadors for Western Africa as you covered today.  Very

important issues.  We have a State Department right now that has been

stripped to bear – no deputy secretaries, no under secretaries, assistant

secretaries –

 

MADDOW:  They`re not even doing daily briefing right now. 

 

BOOKER:  There`s so much in the State Department we`re not arming up to do

what experts are telling us we need to do, be focused on diplomacy,

building civic society, the kind of things that we need to not have a

military conflict, to solve our disputes.  Even USAID which I learned in my

years in the Senate is one of the more critical arms of the U.S. government

in creating environments that fight against terrorism.  That work against

that create – just basic needs.  Water, food, helping to stabilize

regions. 

 

We don`t even have a head of the USAID yet.  This is not because, as people

saw with the cabinet secretaries, because we`re fighting over Pruitt and

we`re – no.  These are –

 

MADDOW:  No nominations. 

 

BOOKER:  No nominations.  Democrats want these positions filled. 

 

So, there`s a lot about going on with this administration that I don`t get

right now.  That`s confusing.  When we have real crisis situations, not

just Syria, not just North Korea, but famines on the planet Earth that

we`ve never seen from South Sudan to places like Yemen.  We have

internationally displaced people and refugee crisis like we`ve never seen

before. 

 

America`s leadership is really needed right now and I don`t see this

administration working.  In fact, what was one of the more shocking and,

again, this Trump administration continues to roll out things that just

disappoint me.  The budget that the president put forward that slashes the

State Department, literally you have Secretary Mattis who was there today

who said, if you cut the State Department, again, these are the folks that

are critical to diplomacy globally, critical international coalitions that

need to be built and sustained to put pressure on people like North Korea. 

Mattis says, if you cut the State Department, I`m going to need more

ammunition. 

 

And what does the Trump administration do?  In their proposed budget

savagely, savagely cut the State Department and these critical programs. 

 

MADDOW:  Senator Booker, there`s another matter that is reportedly brewing

on Capitol Hill that`s not a lot of people very much on edge today, a

domestic issue.  Will you stick around for a second? 

 

BOOKER:  Yes, yes.

 

MADDOW:  Senator Cory Booker is here for the interview tonight.  He`ll be

back with us in just a second.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

MADDOW:  Joining us once again is Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey. 

 

Senator, thank you for staying with us. 

 

BOOKER:  Thank you.

 

MADDOW:  Domestic issue to ask you about.  A lot of new talk about the

Republican effort to kill the Affordable Care Act, which failed quite

spectacularly not that long ago.  A lot of talk today about the effort to

bring that back, not just substantively but sort of with a different cast

to the politics.  More conservative organizations signed on, more very

conservative members of the House signed on. 

 

Obviously, you`re in the Senate and that`s a different kettle of fish than

the House.  But what`s your assessment watching that?  I know how important

that issue is to you.  Do you think that they do have a chance of actually

moving it this time? 

 

BOOKER:  I`m happy to see their so-called moderate Republicans balking at

signing on to this right away.  The details that have slipped out to me,

it`s getting rid of pre-existing condition requirements, getting rid of

essential benefits.  This is more craven in terms of hurting every

American, hurting the very base that supported Donald Trump. 

 

Again, he made a promise that he was going to have more coverage than the

Affordable Care Act and better coverage.  This – what they`re trying to do

right now is 100 percent opposite, dropping tens of millions of people from

health care.

 

But more importantly – I mean, more distressingly than that, taking away

things like pre-existing conditions.  Taking away – making people not get

essential benefits for health care or for contraception.  This will change

health care as we know it in this country.  Even people who think they have

health insurance or have access to it will be denied. 

 

So, I just don`t think this has a chance in the Senate, which makes me feel

good, but the fact that Donald Trump continues to push this really to me is

a continued betrayal of his clear statements he made as a candidate.  And I

really do think just the fact that they`re trying again worries me, because

every time they charge this hill, we may laugh and think they don`t have

the competency to get up, but I just see danger every time they decide to

charge. 

 

MADDOW:  And you think even if they could, either this time or the next

time get it through the House, you still think the Senate, at this point

it`s dead in the Senate? 

 

BOOKER:  Again, the best thing I saw – again, there`s been numerous times

since this new administration started on inauguration day where I just felt

very frustrated and hurt.  And what always seems to rise me up is the

public`s coming out. 

 

So, I think that health care bill died because I saw it in New Jersey,

Republican congresspeople had folks ling up protesting, asking for visits,

town hall meetings.  Just when people thought they had a victory in

stopping it, are going to have to get that energy back if they try to push

this again. 

 

MADDOW:  Senator Corey Booker of New Jersey, nice to see you, my friend. 

Thanks for being here.  Thanks.

 

BOOKER:  Thank you.  Thank you very much. 

 

MADDOW:  All right.  Much more ahead.  Stay with us.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

MADDOW:  (AUDIO GAP) March, the House Oversight Committee sent a bipartisan

letter to the White House, asking them for any documentation relating to

them hiring Mike Flynn to be national security adviser.  In response, the

White House said they had no documentation to share on that matter. 

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D-MD), OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE RANKING MEMBER:  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:  No documentation.  Zero, zip, zilch, not a single piece of paper. 

 

We know that at the time Mike Flynn was announced as national security

adviser, he would have had to have re-upped his security clearance from his

time when he left government in 2014.  He would have had to at some point

reapply for at least some level of clearance.  So, there`s that part of it. 

 

But then there`s also just the basic vetting.  The White House telling the

oversight committee they`ve got no documentation, not a piece of paper,

nothing to pass on to them about hiring Michael Flynn means one of two

things. 

 

One, either the Trump White House didn`t vet Mike Flynn, they didn`t ask

him to fill out anything, they just made him national security adviser on

his own say-so?  They wouldn`t do that, would they? 

 

Or he was vetted.  And he filled out security clearance documentation. 

They filled out vetting information, and he had to pass all sorts of

strictures implied by the Trump administration before he was allowed to

come on board in that very sensitive position.  In that case, he presumably

would have disclosed or they could have easily discovered that he had been

paid tens of thousands of dollars by Russian entities and he had been

working on behalf of a foreign government, that maybe was Turkey but maybe

the money came from Russia in the first instance, and knowing that, they

decided to hire him anyway. 

 

So, either they vetted him or they didn`t, right?  But either way the White

House doesn`t want to share that documentation.  If there was documentation

and it`s really hard to believe there wasn`t, if there was any paper, if

the White House won`t hand it over now, does that mean they are covering

up?  Either for him or for their own process around hiring him? 

 

Former White House ethics lawyer during the George W. Bush administration,

Richard Painter, said this about this situation on Twitter last night.  He

said, quote, “U.S. House must subpoena the documents.  If no compliance,

impeach.  Zero tolerance for White House covering up foreign payoffs.” 

 

Yesterday, the ranking member, the top Democrat in the House Oversight

Committee, Congressman Elijah Cummings, told us here on the show that he

would like to work with the chairman of his committee, Congressman Jason

Chaffetz, to issue subpoenas to the White House for their documents about

Mike Flynn to find out what`s going on here. 

 

It`s unclear at this point if Congressman Chaffetz is on board with that

idea at all, though.  I mean, I can tell you back in September when

President Obama was still president, Jason Chaffetz felt very strongly

about the committee`s role in doing oversight on the government and getting

every document they requested, no exceptions.  I can – I remember it.  I

can also show it to you. 

 

Here is Congressman Chaffetz in one of those long over four-hour-long

hearing on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton`s e-mails and the FBI`s

classification and redaction process.  Watch him here. 

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

REP. JASON CHAFFETZ (R-UT), OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN:  What is it that

I as a member of Congress or any member of Congress, either side of the

aisle, what it is you believe we don`t have the right to see? 

 

See, this is the way our government works.  We get to do oversight.  That`s

why since 1814, this committee has been doing that. 

 

See, it`s trust but verify is how it works.  You don`t get to decide what I

get to see.  I get to see it all.  I was elected by some 800,000 people to

come to Congress and see classified information. 

 

I was elected by my colleagues here to be the chairman of this committee. 

That`s the way our Constitution works. 

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

MADDOW:  You don`t get to decide what I get to see, I get to see it all! 

He was very animated then. 

 

But there are signs of concern that he is not going to be so animated now. 

Sources on the Oversight Committee have now started to express some serious

concerns about whether or not Congressman Chaffetz will follow through and

press the White House to respond to his own document requests. 

 

The White House obviously blew off Chairman Chaffetz in a very public way

yesterday when they refused to provide even a single document.  Since then,

though, he hasn`t said anything about scheduling a meeting with the White

House, doing any follow-up with them at all, let alone subpoenaing them. 

Oversight committee sources tell us tonight that they are wondering if

Chaffetz is just going to back down to the Trump White House on this. 

 

Joining us now is Evelyn Farkas.  She`s the former deputy assistant

secretary of defense.

 

Ms. Farkas, thank you very much for being here. 

 

EVELYN FARKAS, FORMER U.S. DEPUTY ASST. SECY. OF DEFENSE FOR RUSSIA:  Thank

you for having me, Rachel. 

 

MADDOW:  I`ve admired your work for a long time.  It`s been too long for us

to have had you without being on the show.  Thank you for being here.

 

FARKAS:  Thank you.  Thank you. 

 

MADDOW:  I`m not sure I understand the security clearance process versus

the vetting process here.  What kind of documentation, what kind of process

would you expect somebody like Mike Flynn to go through in terms of

becoming national security adviser in the Trump White House? 

 

FARKAS:  Right.  Well, first of all, there is a security clearance, which

is to make sure you have no conflicts of interest, no foreign

entanglements.  Makes sure the government knows who you get your money

from, who you associate regularly, whether you have relatives or other

foreign contacts that you`re constantly in touch with, because they have to

make sure that you don`t have a conflict of interest, that you`re putting

the United States first because you are actually going into government. 

You`re going to take an oath to the Constitution, to the U.S. government. 

 

The vetting process, that`s something separate.  That`s actually more

political, although there is an FBI component to make sure you don`t have a

problem with, I don`t know, drunk driving or a criminal record that you

didn`t disclose. 

 

MADDOW:  It`s kind of a background check component to the vet process. 

 

FARKAS:  Yes.  So – but they`ll also do a political vetting.  What

articles did you write?  Did you write any articles that might cause

embarrassment to the White House?  But the most important thing really is

this SF-86, the security clearance form. 

 

Now, in the case of General Flynn you mentioned he would have had to re-up. 

It`s not entirely clear, because often times, someone like him coming out

of the government, he was director of the Defense Intelligence Agency,

right? 

 

MADDOW:  Right at the top. 

 

FARKAS:  It`s a really important job.  And oftentimes, even if it`s a new

administration, they want to have access to that person to be able to pull

them back, to use them as a consultant, say you`re the new DIA director. 

You have a hard problem.  You suspect your predecessor has some information

or experience pertaining to that. 

 

You can go back actually several administrations.  And I know many former

officials from previous administrations are still going in, getting

briefings, having active security clearances. 

 

MADDOW:  And that means they`re able to maintain their clearance over time

without having a government job that on the surface would require them to

have. 

 

FARKAS:  Correct.  So, that`s called an active security clearance if it`s

active.  Now, you can have an active security clearance for five years. 

And then you have to go and fill out all the paperwork again, especially if

you`re not in government, but even if you`re in government. 

 

MADDOW:  OK. 

 

FARKAS:  Because you have to keep that form up to date.  Maybe you have a

new friend.  Maybe you have a new relative due to marriage, right?  Someone

who is, say, a Turkish national.  You want to be able to disclose that to

the government. 

 

And I mention – I didn`t mention earlier, the other reason is you don`t

want blackmail.  You know, you want your government to know everything so

there are no secrets so no other government or entity can actually

blackmail you to do something counter to your government`s interest. 

 

MADDOW:  OK.

 

FARKAS:  So, it`s all about transparency.  It`s all about making sure we

don`t inadvertently hire spies or people who are working as foreign agents. 

 

MADDOW:  And thus the idea that the White House says they have zero

documentation related to Mike Flynn and his vetting seems a little –

 

FARKAS:  Well, so related to the security clearance, it`s possible that

they just took – because what we know from public documents from reporting

is that Mike Flynn got a new security clearance.  He re-upped.  He renewed

his security clearance, that SF-86 form in January of 2016.  And then,

publicly, he became associated with Trump in February of 2016.  But I think

he probably just was up on that five-year deadline. 

 

If he had renewed it in January of 2016, then it`s very – it is likely

that the NSC, the White House, the Defense Department would not have made

him do a full SF-86.  It`s a real pain in the ass, excuse my French.  You

have to write every country and as I mentioned already, all your foreign

contacts and actually American contacts too.  People have to reference –

give references and make sure, again, that you can be trusted. 

 

OK.  So once you do that, if you`re taking a new job, though, he has been

out of the government, in the U.S. government.  You may be required.  The

White House may have or should have made him update his SF-86.  Give all

the new contacts that he had since he filled out the form in January,

unless he was reporting those regularly to the Department of Defense. 

 

So, there are a lot of open questions with regard to what he was reporting. 

And then, of course, the financial disclosure forms, those he definitely

would have had to give to the White House Office of Personnel Management,

OPM for short.  And that`s the office that the congressmen should be

getting their information from. 

 

MADDOW:  OK. 

 

FARKAS:  They may not have very much.  It may be coming from DOD and it may

be that the White House didn`t give a full scrub of the security clearance

information.  And we don`t know what they did with regard to the FBI. 

 

MADDOW:  It`s all super important in terms of figuring out what the trail

is that these members of Congress are trying to follow and where there is

likely to be documentation, particularly given that they`ve just been

blanked. 

 

Evelyn Farkas, former deputy assistant secretary of defense, thank you for

helping us put this together.  I feel like it`s a puzzle and we`re filling

in the frame before we get to the middle of it. 

 

FARKAS:  Thank you very much.

 

MADDOW:  Thanks very much for your time.  Thank you. 

 

All right.  We`ll be right back.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

MADDOW:  Today, the White House rolled out this double space deeply

indented piece of paper they`re calling the president`s comprehensive tax

plan.  Tonight, the world`s foremost expert on what the president`s tax

plan might mean for the president`s own personal tax, David Cay Johnston,

is going to be live on this network on “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE

O`DONNELL,” which starts right now.

 

Good evening, Lawrence.

 

 

END

 

 

                                                                                                               

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