The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 4/26/17
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
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
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,
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
We`ve got lots ahead tonight. Stay with us.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
(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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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,
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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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