The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 6/15/17 Mike Pence Hires Private Counsel
Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
Date: June 15, 2017
Guest: Matt Zapotosky, Adam Schiff, Karen Weaver
NAOMI KLEIN: Yes, also, I would argue that no really does matter.
CHRIS HAYES, “ALL IN” HOST: Right.
KLEIN: The no just around Russia as opposed to the no of this whole give
HAYES: All right. Naomi Klein and Heather McGee, thank you.
That is “ALL IN” for this evening.
THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now.
Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thank you, my friend.
HAYES: You bet.
MADDOW: And thanks to you for joining us this hour.
In Watergate, prosecutors believed that they could not bring a criminal
indictment against a sitting president of the United States. That`s not
totally settled law, but they believed they couldn`t. A lot of legal
experts believe it is not possible to criminally indict a sitting
In any case, in Watergate, a lot of other people were indicted – 69
different people were indicted, criminally charged in the Watergate
scandal. But President Richard Nixon wasn`t one of them.
The Watergate grand jury famously considered President Nixon to be an un-
indicted coconspirator in the crimes around Watergate. But as a sitting
president, no federal prosecutor ever charged him with a crime. And that`s
why it was such a crucial touchstone moment in American history when Nixon
stepped down as president and his successor, Gerald Ford, immediately
It was a remarkably controversial thing. The country was in uproar about
it. People were mad at Gerald Ford about it for years and decades
But it was something really specific and important about Nixon and about
what the criminal law means around presidents. Because Nixon leaving
office as president, him resigning meant that as soon as he was no longer
president, he could have been charged. He could have been criminally
indicted. He might have ended up in prison.
It`s the fact that Gerald Ford pardoned him as soon as he left office, that
meant that Nixon never was charged. And so, we have never seen a president
sent to the pokey.
The Iran Contra scandal in the 1980s, that was another scandal where there
were a ton of criminal indictments. In the Iran Contra scandal, 14 Reagan
administration officials were indicted, criminally charged in the scandal
up to and including the serving secretary of defense. In that scandal, the
president himself, Ronald Reagan, was never named as an unindicted
coconspirator in anybody else`s charging documents. Reagan, of course,
served out the end of his second term.
But like Nixon, Reagan`s successor as president, George H.W. Bush, he was
the one who got to issue the pardons for Reagan`s scandal. All the
indicted senior administration officials from Iran Contra who hadn`t had
their criminal charges thrown out or their convictions reversed, all of
them were ultimately pardoned by Reagan`s successor, by George H.W. Bush.
And both Watergate and Iran Contra incidentally, they both happened to be
scandals from Republican presidencies. But, you know, the investigations
into those two scandals were not particularly partisan affairs. Members of
Congress and the various people involved in the scandals didn`t drop their
party affiliations as soon as the scandal came to light.
But in both of those scandals, in both Watergate and Iran Contra those
Republican presidents in the end, they faced both Democratic and Republican
inquisitors in Congress. Democrats and Republicans ended up challenging
those presidents and their administrations on those scandals. Both
Democrats and Republicans took an active role in the investigations. Both
Democrats and Republicans denounced those Republican presidents in their
administrations when the scandal got to be too much.
I think every generation thinks partisanship has gotten out of hand in our
time. And, you know, it was only the good old days when people rose beyond
party affiliation to do what was honorable and right for the country even
if it wasn`t right for their party. It always feels that way. It always
feels like it`s as bad as it`s ever been.
But history says otherwise. When there have been gigantic presidential
scandals in the past, when there have been like, you know, multiple
criminal indictments of senior administration officials and the possibility
of impeachment, you know, high level administration officials going to jail
or staring down the possibility, even when those scandals happened in what
people of the time thought were unbelievably partisan environments, there
is still a good, strong historical record of people dropping their partisan
allegiances in the face of major scandals, in the face of major criminal
In those circumstances, people – even elected officials in Congress have
dropped their partisan allegiances and let them slip a little bit for the
good of justice, for the good of the country, for the good of criminal
Today, Vice President Mike Pence hired private counsel. He hired a private
lawyer to represent him personally in the ongoing investigations into the
Trump-Russia affair both in Congress and by the special counsel, former FBI
Director Robert Mueller. As of last night, we now know that the Mueller
special counsel investigation has now spread to include not just the Russia
investigation, but also the behavior of the president himself. The special
counsel now looking at potential obstruction of justice by the Trump White
House related to the ongoing Russia investigation.
And because of this news about Mike Pence today, I think now we have
learned one of the things that`s going to end up being really important
about what we understand about Robert Mueller`s special counsel
investigation. The order appointing Robert Mueller to be special counsel
on May 17th, it spelled out that he would be investigating the question of
whether the Trump campaign or Trump associates were involved in the Russian
attack on our election last year. It also said he would be investigating
other members that arose directly from that.
But beyond what was in that initial order, since he started we have learned
that he didn`t come in and start this investigation from scratch. Some of
Bob Mueller`s investigation at the FBI has involved him picking up ongoing
work, taking on and absorbing management responsibility for some
investigations that were already ongoing before he started. For example,
“Washington Post” was first to report last night that the obstruction of
justice investigation into the president appears to have started at the FBI
right after the president fired FBI Director James Comey on May 9th.
Well, that was more than a week before Robert Mueller was appointed to his
job. So, presumably, that means the obstruction of justice investigation
into the president was already started before Robert Mueller got there and
took it over.
It has also been reported that Robert Mueller is managing the ongoing
investigation into Ukraine. Money that appears to have been looted out of
the government by the now deposed pro-Putin dictator of the country whose
long-time political guru was Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. That
investigation – the Ukraine kleptocracy investigation has been going at
the FBI actually for several years. That investigation we`re told, touches
on Paul Manafort directly and we`re also told that Robert Mueller has taken
over the investigation that Ukraine theft, corruption, money laundering
investigation has now been incorporated into Bob Mueller`s work as special
And in addition to all that, there is also the case in Virginia that he`s
taken over. And this is turning out to be an important thing. One of the
ongoing FBI and Justice Department investigations that was already under
way before Robert Mueller was appointed special counsel is the case
involving Trump national security adviser Mike Flynn and his foreign ties.
That ongoing investigation has been reported and described by multiple news
outlets. It was confirmed as an ongoing FBI criminal investigation last
week in sworn congressional testimony by James Comey. So, now, we know for
sure that it`s happening.
We know that the Mike Flynn investigation has produced already multiple
subpoenas to businesses associated – to people in businesses associated
with Michael Flynn. We know that a federal grand jury has been convened in
conjunction with that Mike Flynn case. That`s how the subpoenas are being
We know that that Mike Flynn case is being run out of the attorney`s office
in the eastern district of Virginia and we know that it`s being led by a
veteran espionage prosecutor, Brandon Van Grack.
But the venue of that Mike Flynn investigation, that ends up sort of being
sort of newly important or at least newly interesting in light of tonight`s
news about the vice president, because there are – there are federal
prosecutor offices all over the country in every state, right? There are
dozens of U.S. attorneys from sea to shining sea running federal prosecutor
offices and handling all sorts of important federal investigations and
prosecutions, right? Everything from public corruption to big drug cases
to terrorism to organized crime – you name it.
So, being the U.S. attorney anywhere in the country is a big deal. It
means you are the top federal law enforcement lawyer, law enforcement
prosecutor in whatever your jurisdiction is. Every inch of the country is
covered by some U.S. attorney`s jurisdiction. They are all important. I
don`t mean to cast dispersions on any other U.S. attorney`s offices.
But when it comes to big national security cases, particularly big complex
national security cases, particularly big complex national security cases
that might have big complex financial aspects to them, there are a couple
of U.S. attorney jurisdictions, there are a couple of districts that I
think are sort of considered first among equals when it comes to those
kinds of crimes.
One of them is the southern district of New York, the U.S. attorney`s
office in Manhattan. Preet Bharara is very well known as the
controversially fired, very high profile U.S. attorney from Manhattan, from
the southern district of New York. That district is very high profile in
terms of the national security cases.
The other district in the country that`s super high profile for its big
complex national security cases, cases that often have a nationwide and
even international reach, the other district like that besides southern
district of New York is eastern district of Virginia.
Right now, U.S. attorney for the eastern district of Virginia is Dana
Boente. And it`s interesting. Right now, Dana Boente is running – at the
same time, he`s running that U.S. attorney`s office in the eastern district
of Virginia, and he`s also running the national security division at the
Justice Department in Washington, D.C., which incidentally makes him the
number four person in the line of succession at the Department of Justice.
Dana Boente got a surprise mention last week in James Comey`s congressional
testimony when Comey said that he consulted with Dana Boente after
President Trump told Comey that he should make public statements
exonerating Trump in relation to the FBI`s counterintelligence
investigation on Russia. Comey says after Donald Trump asked him to make
those statements, he went to Dana Boente at the Justice Department and
asked him what to do about that presidential request. He says Dana Boente
told him, no, do not make those public statements that the president has
told you to make.
So, Dana Boente is running the national security division at the Department
of Justice, simultaneously, he is also still running the U.S. attorney`s
office in the eastern district of Virginia. And that U.S. attorney`s
office is where the Michael Flynn case is already under way. That eastern
district of Virginia office is where a federal grand jury is already
convened, that is already reviewing evidence, already issuing subpoenas and
working on the Flynn case already. That eastern district of Virginia U.S.
attorney`s office is where they`ve got the veteran espionage prosecutor
heading up the investigation into Mike Flynn and his foreign ties.
Now, as special counsel Mueller can convene his own new federal grand jury
if he wants to, to consider evidence and potentially down the road possible
indictments in either the Trump-Russia investigation or the obstruction of
justice investigation or both. He could convene his own grand jury. He
also has the option to just use whatever grand jury has already been
convened to work on the Paul Manafort-Ukraine kleptocracy case, or he could
continue to use the grand jury that is already convened and working in the
eastern district of Virginia, one that`s working on the Flynn case.
That eastern district of Virginia venue is proving to be really central to
what`s going on. When Bob Mueller was first appointed special counsel, the
first person we learned that he hired to work with him, the first person
who is named as coming with Bob Mueller to that job is a guy named Aaron
Zebley. Aaron Zebley is a former senior prosecutor from the eastern
district of Virginia.
That venue just keeps coming up over and over again in this case. And
because of that background, because of what we know about the venues
involved here, because of what we know about the grand juries, and the
investigators and the prosecutors who are already on board and working
these cases, because of that, it sort of seems like a wise move by Vice
President Mike Pence today that he has not only hired a private lawyer,
private counsel to look out for his individual interests in these
investigations. That seems wise for sure.
But it seems particularly wise that out of all the lawyers in the world who
Mike Pence might have picked, he chose a guy who happens to be the former
U.S. attorney from the eastern district of Virginia. That makes total
sense. That seems like an incredibly rational choice given what we know
about the progress of this investigation, where it`s taking place, who the
personnel are that are involved in it.
But it`s interesting. Beyond – so Mike Pence picked this guy as his new
attorney. Beyond his history, his experience in running the U.S.
attorney`s office in the eastern district of Virginia, here`s a really
interesting other thing to know about the man who Mike Pence chose as his
This is not some whippersnapper. This is not some up-and-coming whiz kid
at the start of his career. The guy who Mike Pence just chose to be his
private lawyer for these investigations has been around for a long while.
One of the things he`s known for in his career is the very interesting role
he has had in other big Republican presidential scandals.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TOM BROKAW, NBC ANCHOR: And in our Washington studios right now, former
Air Force General Richard Secord who is principal figure, of course, in the
Contra supply operation.
General, those are strong accusations against you. It is hard for the
public, I would guess, to accept the fact that in the interest of keeping
project democracy alive, a lot of people were making money according to
Senator Paul Trible, you among them.
MAJ. GEN. RICHARD SECORD: Well, Senator Trible has since the early days of
my testimony tried repeatedly over and over again to color me and some of
my associates as profiteers. Now, this is – and I have refuted these
charges with specifics many, many times.
SEN. PAUL TRIBLE (R), VIRGINIA: I really could not hear all that clearly
because of technical problems. Let me say this, let the evidence speak for
itself. I think there is clearly evidence –
SECORD: I can`t hear what he`s saying.
TRIBLE: But the most important thing is, the institutional statement that
clearly this is not the way we ought to be transacting the people`s
business. When you operate outside of established channels, when you
operate in this fashion, there are no checks and balances, there`s no
accounting. And good people and policy get in trouble.
And we heard that through the testimony of Oliver North today. There was
no accounting whatsoever. He was relying on Hakim, and Secord and others
and I don`t think they were well served.
BROKAW: But you used specific figures, Senator Trible, in fairness to
Richard Secord, of saying that he made a profit of more than 40 percent on
that one transaction. Are you absolutely confident of those figures?
TRIBLE: Those are his partners` figures supplied by Mr. Hakim under oath.
He certainly can`t dispute that.
BROKAW: And what about that? Can you hear us, General Secord?
SECORD: Yes, I can dispute it and do dispute it and have disputed it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: I love that tape. I love that they are trying to have a fight and
they`re both like, is that him? Can you hear him? That happens to me all
That was Tom Brokaw, 1987, hosting on NBC News an on-air fight between
Richard Secord, on the left, he`s a retired Air Force general. He had a
key, very controversial role in the Iran Contra scandal, and the person
he`s fighting with is a Republican U.S. senator named Paul Trible from
So, Iran Contra was a scandal in a Republican presidency. Paul Trible was
a senator from the Republican Party. But Paul Trible was on the committee
that investigated the Iran Contra scandal and on that committee, he frankly
made himself a huge pain in the butt to among other people Richard Secord
for among other things allegedly hiding his Swiss bank account records
while Congress was trying to figure out the money flow between the Reagan
administration illegally selling weapons to Iran and illegally shipping
weapons to Central America.
They were trying to follow the money. They thought the money went through
Richard Secord and Paul Trible became the grand inquisitor of Richard
Secord in trying to find the money. And it made Richard Secord really mad.
Senator Paul Trible of Virginia, a Republican, but he became a real
combatant, a real aggressive figure in the Iran Contra scandal. And to
defend himself and his own interests in the scandal, he hired – recognize
He hired Richard Cullen. He hired the same guy who Vice President Mike
Pence just hired to represent him in our current Republican presidential
And it`s very interesting. Richard Cullen also had a similar role in
Watergate. Very interesting.
Richard Cullen was also counsel, was also a lawyer for a Republican
congressman during Watergate named Caldwell Butler. He`s a Republican from
Virginia. He, too, was a Republican member of Congress who found himself
in the middle of a Republican presidential scandal.
He was in his first term in the House of Representatives. He got up as a
brand new Republican member of Congress and Caldwell Butler questioned how
President Nixon did what he could have done. Congressman Butler ended up
voting to impeach Nixon in 1974, even though he had previously supported
He`s famous for standing up and saying, Watergate is our shame, as a
Republican member of Congress serving in his first time, previously an ally
of President Nixon. And Congressman Butler, he too had a lawyer who was
working for him, representing his interests when he took this stand over
and above his party`s interests during Watergate. And his lawyer was –
Richard Cullen, who Mike Pence has just hired to represent him in the
investigation into the Trump-Russia affair and potential obstruction of
And so, it`s very interesting that the vice president has felt the need to
hire private counsel, right? The specific private counsel he`s chosen, who
knows if we should extrapolate from those previous experiences in previous
presidential scandals. I should tell you that the same attorney, Richard
Cullen, he also represented Tiger Woods`s wife in their divorce. I
definitely can`t make anything out of that in this scandal.
But, you know, it would appear that Vice President Mike Pence does have
stuff to worry about here. On the Russia investigation, he repeatedly made
what frankly are utterly implausible statements denying any knowledge of
the concerns about Mike Flynn or Mike Flynn`s foreign ties, despite the
fact that Vice President Pence was the head of the presidential transition
effort when the transition effort was notified formally in writing and in
person multiple times about those problems with Mike Flynn that Mike Pence
professed so much ignorance about.
The White House has also described Vice President Pence as being intimately
involved in discussions with President Trump that led to the decision to
fire James Comey. Despite him being such a supposed insider, being so
involved in that decision, the vice president repeatedly made statements
about why James Comey was fired that were later contradicted by the
president himself, that were later contradicted under oath by James Comey
himself and his congressional testimony.
Mike Pence stood before the cameras and said the James Comey firing had
nothing to do with Russia, said it was only in response to Rod Rosenstein`s
memo. Neither of those things appear to be the case. At least they are
both now contradicted by the president himself.
So, given the vice president`s exposure on both of those things which
happen to be both major elements of Robert Mueller`s investigation, both
the Russia issue and the potential obstruction of justice issue, given his
exposure on both those things, it`s not surprising that the vice president
has now found himself a private lawyer. But, oh, what a private lawyer he
That news breaking tonight: “Washington Post” first to break the story as
they have been ahead on so many of the twists and turns in this
investigation. There are two other pieces of this that have just fallen
into place today. And we`ve got details on that coming up. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Two new things we`ve just learned. “The New York Times” noted
this in their reporting last night on the president being investigated for
potential obstruction of justice. Quote: A former senior official says Bob
Mueller`s investigation is looking at money laundering by Trump associates.
The suspicion is that any cooperation with Russian officials would most
likely have been in exchange for some kind of financial pay off and that
there would have been an effort to hide the payments, probably by routing
them through offshore banking centers.
Now, the sourcing there at the “New York Times” is one former senior
official. Sourcing from one official is usually nothing to bank on, pun
not intended. But if “The New York Times” is right about that reporting,
that money laundering is a new focus for the special counsel, well, that
would make sense in light of something else that we have just learned from
new reporting in “Wired” magazines of all places.
“Wired” is reporting that an experienced Justice Department trial attorney
named Lisa Page is the latest hire for Bob Mueller`s special counsel
investigation. Lisa Page`s specialty, well, “Wired” describes her as
having, quote, deep experience with money laundering and organized crime
cases, including investigations where she`s partnered with an FBI task
force in Budapest, Hungary, that focuses on Eastern European organized
That Budapest task force helped put together the still unfolding money
laundering case against Ukrainian oligarch Dmitry Firtash, who`s a one time
business partner of Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.
The Justice Department has been working on that Dmitry Firtash character
for a very long time. They have been trying for years to get him
extradited from Europe. If special counsel Robert Mueller has now brought
on an experienced prosecutor from the Dmitry Firtash case, then one thing
you can be sure of is that money is definitely a major part of the trail
they are following here.
And that gets us to tonight`s scoop in “The Washington Post” – special
counsel investigating Jared Kushner`s business dealings. It`s been
previously reported by “The Post” and other news outlets that potential
financial crimes by Trump associates are an area of focus for the special
counsel`s investigations. “The Post” was first to report that Jared
Kushner was a person of interest for the FBI`s investigation.
Well, now, tonight, “The Post” has this. It`s Jared Kushner`s business
dealings that are under FBI scrutiny. What does that mean exactly?
Joining us now is Matt Zapotosky. He covers the Justice Department for
“The Washington Post” and he`s one of the reporters behind tonight`s scoop
that special counsel Mueller is investigating the financial and business
dealings of Jared Kushner.
Mr. Zapotosky, thanks for speaking with us tonight. I appreciate you
joining us on short notice.
MATT ZAPOTOSKY, THE WASHINGTON POST (via telephone): Yes. Thank you for
MADDOW: Let me just ask you how much further this reporting advances the
story. “The Post” previously reported that Jared Kushner was a person of
interest. It had previously been sort of vaguely described that possible
financial crimes by Trump associates are an area of FBI focus.
How does this advance either of those stories?
ZAPOTOSKY: So, I think it advances it incrementally but importantly. I
can remember coming on your show several weeks ago when we had reported
that Jared Kushner was a significant focus of the investigation and also
that financial crimes were a significant part of the investigation. But at
the time, I couldn`t connect the two. I just knew they were looking at
financial crimes and separately I knew they were looking at Jared Kushner.
Now, we know they are looking at Jared Kushner`s business dealings. He`s a
part of the Trump family now, of course, being the president`s son-in-law.
But he comes from wealth all his own, too, and we know that investigators
are interested in that.
Why? Exactly why, we don`t know. They haven`t alleged any specific
wrongdoing on his part. But as you mentioned just before I came on, you
know, the Feds are following the money. There could be money laundering
There are bringing on prosecutors who specialize in financial crimes. You
mentioned one, Andrew Weissmann, he used to have the fraud section of the
Justice Department before he came to work for Bob Mueller. So, long story
short, I think this is incremental but still important.
MADDOW: And, Matt, just to be clear in terms of the way the special
counsel is approaching this and the way the FBI is approaching this
broadly, if they are looking at potential financial crimes, potential
financial crimes by Trump associates and as you report tonight, potential
financial wrongdoing by Jared Kushner, does that necessarily mean that
those financial crimes, or that financial wrongdoing has to do with
colluding with Russia? Has to do with the initial focus of the
investigation? Or could it be totally separate stuff they stumbled upon?
ZAPOTOSKY: It could be totally separate. I think Jim Comey said it best
in his testimony. Was it two weeks ago? Last week?
He said, when you do an investigation like this, a complex investigation
that looks at hard targets and wealthy business people, you turn up a lot
of stones. And you`re going to find things under the stones and you have
to follow through on.
So, certainly, you can see areas where it would have to do directly with
collusion with Russia or some kind of Russian dealing. I mean, we know
Jared Kushner met with a Russian banker after the campaign was over in
December. And we know the FBI is interested in that.
But it also could be something totally separate, you know? Some other
malfeasance in his businesses that we just don`t know about yet.
MADDOW: Matt Zapotosky, covering the Justice Department for “The
Washington Post”, I really appreciate your helping us understand this
tonight, Matt. Thank you.
ZAPOTOSKY: Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. We`ve got a lot more ahead tonight, including the top
Democrat in the House Intelligence Committee joining us live.
Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Did the president fire Director Comey to impede the Russia
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, as you know, very
clearly, and has been stated repeatedly, and the president has been told
that he`s not under investigation. As former Director Clapper, the
director of national intelligence, said there is no evidence of collusion
between our campaign and any Russian officials.
REORTER: But intelligence officials have said there is an investigation
into potential ties between the campaign officials and Russian officials.
PENCE: That`s not what this is about.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Russia, Russia, that is not what this is about.
Did the president fire Director Comey to impede the Russia investigation?
That is not what this is about. That was May 10th. Vice President Mike
Tonight, we have learned that Vice President Mike Pence has just hired
himself a private lawyer to represent him in the investigations into the
Trump-Russia affair and into potential obstruction of justice by the White
Joining us now is Congressman Adam Schiff. He`s the top Democrat on the
House Intelligence Committee.
Congressman Schiff, it`s good to have you with us. Thank you for being
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: It`s my pleasure.
I just came from the ball game and it was great to be with all my
MADDOW: Let me ask you about that. Obviously, everybody is still on
tenterhooks waiting to hear the latest news about Congressman Scalise after
the shooting yesterday, as well as the former congressional staffer who was
so grievously wounded in that shooting, what do you think about the
decision to go ahead with this ball game and what was it like tonight?
SCHIFF: You know, I`m so glad that they did. It was really nice to be
with our colleagues and to applaud that brave Capitol police officer who
was injured but threw out the first ball. And just to see the members out
there enjoying each other`s company and enjoying the sport, it was really
just the kind of antidote to an otherwise just awful week.
Congressman, there have been moments in Congress and moments in the country
when something externally brought upon us brings us together and makes us
drop the things that divide us. It lasts in some cases and it doesn`t last
Obviously, there`s still – the primary concern here is still the health of
the people who were hurt here and the people who were traumatized by what
Do you think this is potentially one of these moments where there might be
a change in the way people approach each other, that this might be a last -
- might have kind of a lasting effect in terms of people despite their
party seeing themselves as being on the same team here?
SCHIFF: You know, I think it will have a lasting impact. How profound
still very much subject to question, but it undoubtedly will have an
impact, certainly on those of us that are in the Congress, I hope on people
around the country. I remember quite vividly the first day that Gabby
Giffords stepped back on the House floor of a her grievous injury. There
was no question about how united in our – just our happiness, sheer
happiness at seeing her again, having her take those brave steps onto the
So, you know, that left an impact. Certainly didn`t completely transform
the institution but it did have an impact. And this had an impact. And I
hope it will help us come together, recognize we are all Americans, all
part of the same family. And we can debate things, but at the end of the
day, we all love this country and want the best for this country.
MADDOW: Congressman, you have a senior and a key role on a committee
that`s got very grave responsibilities right now, investigative role that
the intelligence committee has taken with this Russia attack and with the
scandal surrounding it. If you wouldn`t mind sticking with us for a second
break I have specific questions to ask you about that work and about the
news that`s just broken in that case.
Can you stay with us?
MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back with Congressman Adam Schiff.
MADDOW: Back with us is Congressman Adam Schiff of California, the top
Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee.
Sir, you have said that you would like your committee, intelligence
committee in the House, to also start investigating obstruction of justice.
It`s now been reported that special counsel Bob Mueller is investigating
potential obstruction of justice. We`ve learned in the last 24 hours that
a Senate committee, the judiciary committee will also be looking at it.
Are you looking at that in the House? Is any committee in the House
looking at that?
SCHIFF: Well, we are the only committee in the House that`s been
authorized to – by the speaker – to look into any of the Russia related
matters, which is why I think it`s so important that we do investigate
I don`t think we can allow, for example, Senator Sessions` testimony to go
untested. We don`t want to create a precedent where members of the
administration can come before Congress, not answer questions, not invoke
the privilege either. I think that would be a terrible precedent.
And what`s more, we need to know the answers. If his letter, if Rod
Rosenstein`s memo were both written, knowing that they would be used as a
pretext for a decision that was being made on other grounds, as a way of
hiding the true motivation, and I don`t know that that`s the case, but I do
know that we should find out – someone has to get to the bottom of this.
Bob Mueller`s job and I can`t comment on what he may or may not be looking
at. But his job is to figure out whether charges should be brought against
someone and if so, for what?
Our responsibility is equally important but very different. It`s our job
to figure out what has happened to make sure there is no interference with
any investigation including our own, and to report to the American people.
So, this work needs to be done and we are the only committee in the House
that`s authorized to look into this.
MADDOW: Are you negotiating with Mike Conaway, the top Republican on the
committee on this investigation? Are you in negotiations with him on that?
SCHIFF: I have begun discussions with him about it earlier in the week.
Now, Mike was at the ball field practicing during the terrible attack. So,
he is, I think, quite properly taking some time to deal with that. I look
forward when he gets back next week and he may have been in this week. I
didn`t have a chance to see him to discussing it further.
But I do think that if there is anyone trying to interfere with what the
FBI is doing, we need to put a stop to it. We need to make sure that Bob
Mueller gets all the resources to do his job and is free from any kind of
interference, and if there has been an effort to interfere or obstruct,
that`s something that we need to inform the American people. And, of
course, if we discover evidence of that, that`s also something we would
share with Bob Mueller.
MADDOW: Congressman Adam Schiff of California, top Democrat on the House
Intelligence Committee – came to us straight from the congressional
baseball game tonight. And I appreciate you swinging by the studio on your
way back from that, sir. Thank you for being with us.
SCHIFF: Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. We`ve got much more ahead tonight. Stay with us.
MADDOW: When the Republican governor of Michigan, Rick Snyder, called a
hastily arranged press conference about a year and a half ago to talk about
the city of Flint, Michigan, that city had already been through hell and
was still going through hell, after Snyder`s state government basically
poisoned the whole city`s water with lead and then wouldn`t listen to the
people of Flint who were hollering about it for a solid year and a half.
The governor installed a series of emergency managers to run the city of
Flint. Those emergency managers switched the city`s water supply. And
that decision ended up poisoning the whole town.
And almost two years into that ongoing crisis, January 2016, Governor
Snyder called this press conference because he had something new and
horrible to share about Flint.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. RICK SNYDER (R), MICHIGAN: This is to continue the fact that we want
to make sure we are making good communications with respect to Flint. The
information was just recently presented to me, and I thought it was
important to share. Over the course of 2014 and 2015, we saw a spike in
legionnaire`s disease with the Genesee County. If you go back to the prior
years, I believe the numbers for the proceeding years before 2014, we had
six cases, 11 cases, 13 cases, and 8 cases. In 2014, we had 45 cases. And
then in 2015, there were 42 cases.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: At least a dozen people died from the outbreak of legionnaire`s
disease in Flint that happened after the water switch. And I say at least
a dozen, because we might never know the total number of cases, the total
number of deaths and the names of the people who died, in part because that
outbreak was kept so secret for so long.
But, you know, the two high-ranking state officials who stood alongside
Rick Snyder and spoke at that press conference with him when they finally
broke the news about it months into the crisis? That day last January, the
head of the health department and state`s chief medical officer, those two
top Snyder administration officials, they both have now been charged with
felonies for their roles in the legionnaire`s disease outbreak and how its
aftermath was handled.
Prosecutors say the chief of the health department knew about the outbreak
in January 2015. That`s a full year before that press conference informing
the public. They say while his department wasn`t telling the public what
was going on, at his department, they were discussing how to, quote, if the
Flint River water was the cause of the disease, it would be bad or
embarrassing for Governor Snyder, because that decision had been made under
emergency management, and he`d appointed the emergency managers.
Researchers at the local university have been tasked with finding out if
the water switch caused the legionnaire`s outbreak. Those researchers say
they were told by the state health department, by the state health
department`s chief medical officer that they should stop their analysis
because what they were finding, quote, proved problematic.
And when those researchers said publicly that they still had concerns about
the water, a senior adviser to Governor Snyder threatened to call their
university and get their funding taken away. When they told the health
director that if they couldn`t determine the source of the outbreak, more
people could die from the outbreak, he responded that he, quote, couldn`t
save everyone. They say that he told them, quote, that people have to die
Prosecutors in this case have witnesses who say they are ready to testify
in court under oath to all of this. The state director, four other people,
including a former Flint emergency manager appointed by the governor,
they`re all charged with involuntary manslaughter, with causing a death
through their responses to the legionnaire`s outbreak.
And the narrative that emerges from these charging documents is not just
that state officials in the Snyder administration failed to respond to a
crisis and to alert the public, but they were particularly concerned that
these deaths that the legionnaire`s outbreak shouldn`t be linked to the
Flint water switch, because that would look really bad for the governor,
because it was his personally appointed emergency managers who carried out
Step back in that for a second. I mean, poisoning a whole city with lead
is bad enough. Then causing a disease outbreak that killed at least a
dozen people on top of that is – it`s another level.
Now, the governor himself is not named in these latest charges. Everybody
involved insists that they never told him what was going on. But this
criminal case stemming from the Flint water crisis has now reached the
highest levels of state government other than the governor, a member of the
governor`s cabinet has just been charged with involuntary manslaughter.
And meanwhile, the city of Flint still doesn`t have clean water and is
still trying to recover.
And joining us now is Karen Weaver, the indefatigable mayor of Flint,
Mayor Weaver, it`s good to have you with us here tonight. Thank you for
MAYOR KAREN WEAVER, FLINT, MICHIGAN: Thank you. I`m glad to be here.
MADDOW: I wanted to just get your reaction when I first before this
charges yesterday. Before we had a chance to review the charging
documents, the charges themselves are so dramatic. How do you feel about
WEAVER: You know what? They really are. And people said these are some
serious charges. And I said yes, they are. But what happened in Flint was
serious. And you hit the nail on the head, Rachel, when you talked about
lead poisoning being bad enough. But on top of, that we had loss of life.
So, it was serious what happened. And we`re still trying to rebound from
this. So, they were serious charges, but they were serious crimes.
MADDOW: You know, one of the things that I`ve been struck by in terms of
the response to these charges, it`s obviously the state attorney general
who is bringing these charges, he has brought very serious felony charges
against very high-ranking state government officials. But the governor is
not firing any of those people or taking them out of their jobs. Would you
have expected that from the governor? Are you calling on the governor to
WEAVER: Well, you know what? I found that out. And I was surprised about
that, that they are still there. I wasn`t expecting that.
I had not had a conversation with him since these charges were filed
yesterday. So, I will be looking to have a conversation with the governor
MADDOW: And, Madam Mayor, in terms of the legionnaire`s outbreak, we
talked a lot about lead and about your efforts to get the water pipes
replaced and do what needs to be done in Flint to deal with the lead
poisoning. How confident are you that the legionnaire`s issue is over and
taken care of?
WEAVER: Well, you know what, we are waiting with baited breath to hear
about that, because now is the time for legionnaire`s to hit. And so,
while the test results that we have been taking have been coming back much
better, we`re hitting 90 degrees weather now. And so, we know we have to
wait and see what happens.
So, I`m waiting for this next round of test results. I`m really hoping not
to hear anything about legionnaire`s. But we`re waiting because, you know,
naturally, the people of Flint are anxious. We`re nervous what we`re going
to find with this.
So, we`re not comfortable with that part of it yet, Rachel. Not at all.
MADDOW: Karen Weaver, mayor of Flint, Michigan – plainspoken, as I said,
indefatigable. And you`ve been here a number of times updating us on
what`s happening in Flint.
Madam Mayor, thank you for your time. Thanks for keeping us updated.
WEAVER: Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: What you`re looking at right now is footage from just moments ago.
This is the end of this year`s congressional baseball game. Republicans
and Democrats shaking hands, hugging and embracing a little bit after the
game ended tonight, if you`re keeping score, the Democrats beat the
Mostly what this game has ended up being this year, though, is a show of
unity after yesterday`s incredible shooting targeting Republican members as
they held their last practice before tonight`s game.
One of the people who was shot in that attack is former congressional
staffer Matt Mika. He was shot multiple times yesterday. He has had
surgery. His family put out a statement tonight he is alert and conscious,
but he does need assistance breathing. He remains in critical condition.
We also got a statement late tonight from the same hospital which is also
treating senior House Republican Steve Scalise, who is the number three
Republican in the House. He underwent another surgery today, that`s his
third round of surgery. He also remains in critical condition. But the
hospital did just put out the statement tonight saying despite the fact he
is still in critical condition, they can say that his condition has
improved over the last 24 hours.
Again, Steve Scalise took a single rifle shot to the hip. That bullet
traveled across his pelvis and did a ton of damage. And he has been
through a lot already, including the loss of a lot of blood, but everybody
in the country obviously pulling for him.
All right. Well, that does it for us tonight. We will see you again
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
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