The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 6/16/17 Mike Pence’s PAC, USS Fitzgerald Collision
Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
Date: June 16, 2017
Guest: Bob Bauer, Amy Klobuchar
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: That is “ALL IN” for this evening.
THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now. Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thanks, my friend. Have
a great weekend.
HAYES: You too.
MADDOW: And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
We got a lot going on in the news tonight, particularly a bunch of news out
of Washington tonight here on this show. We`ve got President Obama`s White
House counsel joining us tonight for the interview. I`m very much looking
forward to that. We`ve got a lot to get to.
Before we dive into some of that news tonight, though, this hour, I do want
to first update you on this strange and I have to say now bad story off the
coast of Japan tonight. This is the USS Fitzgerald. It`s a U.S. Navy
destroyer. That`s a large ship. It`s about 500 feet long. There`s nearly
300 crew onboard.
And as you can see from these images, the Fitzgerald has sustained some
pretty serious damage. It got that damaged when it collided tonight with
this other ship. This is a Japanese container ship, it`s a commercial
vessel. You can see it`s the damage to the container ship is comparatively
lighter, It`s to the front left side of the Japanese container ship, the
port side of the bow.
These two very large ships apparently collided with each other, about 60,
65 miles off the coast of Japan, in the middle of the night local time,
2:30 a.m. local time, that`s about 1:30 p.m. East Coast time in the United
States. And you know, we`re not sure exactly why this collision happened.
Things like this do not happen very often. I mean, it`s a big ocean and
these are too immense and modern ships.
But NBC`s excellent Pentagon producer Courtney Kube who has been on this
story since it first broke, she tells us tonight that the Fitzgerald
suffered significant damage, as you can see on its right side on its
starboard side, and the damage is apparently both above and below the
waterline, which is bad.
Just for reference, for visual reference, let me show you these pictures
here – can we actually drop the banner for a second so we can see a fuller
– yes, there we go. This is what these two ships look like on a normal
day before this collision. That`s container ship on the left, the Navy
destroyer on the right. That`s what they looked like on a good day. This
is the damage that both of them have sustained after this collision.
Now, we`re told that another U.S. Navy destroyer of the same class as the
Fitzgerald, a destroyer called the USS Dewey has been dispatched to the
scene to go help. We`ve also been told that two Navy tugs are being
dispatched as quickly as possible to the scene.
In terms of injuries and potential loss of life here, the news is worrying.
We`re told that at least one U.S. service member onboard was medevaced off
the Fitzgerald via helicopter. Beyond that for a long time after this
happens today and into tonight, we have been having a hard time getting a
clear indication as to whether there were other U.S. Navy sailors hurt or
missing in this incident. We know that Japanese Coast Guard and the U.S.
Navy have both been very actively involved in what is now a pretty big
response effort here.
But just in the last few minutes, a U.S. military official – excuse me, a
U.S. official has told NBC`s Courtney Kube that in addition to that U.S.
Navy sailor who is medevaced off the Fitzgerald after this incident
happened, an additional seven U.S. sailors are unaccounted for. And that
is very worrying news. So, again, this happened off the coast of Japan
about 60, 65 miles off the coast of Japan. It happened in the middle of
the night, local time. That is about 1:30 p.m. East Coast Time in the
So, we are several hours into this rescue effort now, you can see some of
the damage – you can see the damage that appears clearly on the container
ship, the damage on the Fitzgerald is again both above and below the
waterline. It`s turning into a large response and again that very worrying
news about those unaccounted for U.S. sailors.
We will keep you posted on that over the course of this evening as we learn
more tonight. As I say Courtney Kube is NBC`s Pentagon producer and who
has been reporting aggressively on this since it happened. We`re going to
be in touch with Courtney over the course of the hour as we get more.
I should also tell you tonight that we are also keeping an eye on the twin
cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul this evening. This afternoon, a jury
returned a not guilty verdict in the case of a St. Anthony, Minnesota
police officer who had been charged in the death of Philando Castile. You
remember that name because this is a case that got a lot of nationwide
attention. Philando Castile was killed by that police officer during a
routine traffic stop.
The officer today was acquitted but then immediately after the not guilty
verdict came in, his police department announced that he was fired from his
job. But again, he has been found not guilty. We`re keeping an eye on
possible protests tonight in the Twin Cities. You see a live shot there as
people are starting to gather in response to that verdict. We`re going to
keep you posted on that developing story as we learn more over the course
of this evening.
I should also tell you we are going to be joined in just a few minutes by
Minnesota Senior Senator Amy Klobuchar.
So, that`s all that`s all coming up. As I say, there`s a lot going on in
the news tonight. This is not a night to check out because it`s Friday.
This is a news – a night when the news is going to keep happening not only
through this hour, but I think late into the night.
That said, because it is Friday, if we`re being honest, because it is a day
that ends in Y in this era, there is a lot of news, including late-breaking
news tonight coming out of Washington as well.
In terms of the Washington news tonight, I need to tell you a story that
starts with Bill Clinton who went to college at Georgetown University in
Washington, D.C. Bill Clinton as a young man got there as an undergraduate
in 1964. He graduated in 1968.
And one of the stories about Bill Clinton`s college career ends up being
sort of relevant tonight to what we`ve just learned in Washington. Legend
has it, legend has long had it that at some time during Bill Clinton`s
early college years when he was at Georgetown when he was a young man maybe
when he was about so maybe when he was a freshman, young Bill Clinton went
to a party in Massachusetts that was a beach party. And political legend
has it that at that beach party, he was swimming in the ocean and he
basically got grabbed by a riptide and started to get pulled out to sea.
And when that happened, another young man, another, you know, 19-ish year
old man, a Harvard student, came to his rescue. And the man who came to
Bill Clinton`s rescue and that possibly apocryphal near-drowning story was
a man named Fife Symington Fife Symington was a Harvard student at the
time this supposedly happened. He also went on to be a very famous
politician in his own right.
Fife Symington was a Republican. He ended up becoming governor of Arizona.
Bill Clinton, of course, was a Democrat who ended up becoming governor of
Arkansas and then president of the United States.
I have to tell you. I`ve heard the story a million times, I have always
suspected that the 1960s beach party riptide Fife Symington/Bill Clinton
rescue story might be holy or at least in part apocryphal. But I`ve heard
it a million times and it is one of the things that people talked about a
Years later, in 2001, at the end of Bill Clinton`s time in office, when he
issued – surprise – a presidential pardon to Fife Symington, the guy who
maybe saved him from drowning all those decades earlier.
In 1997, Fife Symington had been convicted of seven felonies related to his
business life as a commercial real estate developer. Fife Symington was
charged with a whole raft of corruption charges. He was ultimately
convicted of filing false financial statements. Basically, he was
convicted of bank fraud, ultimately down the road an appeals court would
overturn his convictions and then later, in 2001, he would get a
presidential pardon from bad swimmer Bill Clinton.
But when that case was brought, when those convictions happened that was a
big traumatic legal case in the country broadly but obviously specifically
for Fife Symington. He was a very popular figure at Republican politics.
People were looking at him as a person of potential presidential timber.
Those convictions in 1997 forced him out of office immediately as Arizona
governor and ultimately ended his political career.
His lawyer as he went through that trauma and those convictions was a guy
named John Dowd. John Dowd also represented, I should tell you, Arizona
Senator John McCain in the Keating Five scandal. John McCain called his
own involvement in that corruption scandal, quote: The worst mistake of my
John McCain politically survived that scandal. He ultimately did not get
criminally charged like a lot of other people did, he didn`t get thrown out
of Congress for his involvement in it, but it was bad for John McCain. The
ethics committee in the Senate ripped him for his involvement in that
scandal. They ripped him for his poor judgment. They basically said the
only reason they didn`t go after him further for some of his own financial
entanglements in that scandal was because McCain was in the House at the
time he did those things, and the Senate Ethics Committee didn`t feel like
they had jurisdiction over him for his wrongdoing when he was just a member
of the House of Representatives, instead of the Senate.
So, John McCain survived the Keating Five scandal but by the skin of his
teeth, and his lawyer in that matter was the Fife Symington guy, it was
this guy, John Dowd.
John Dowd is also famous for this case from 2011. This is a case that went
very badly. I will just read you the lead sentence from “The New York
Times” report on this case the day the ruling came down.
Quote, The fallen hedge fund billionaire Raj Rajaratnam received the
longest prison sentence ever for insider trick – for insider trading on
Thursday. That fallen hedge fund billionaire, his lawyer when he got the
longest prison sentence ever for insider trading, his lawyer was John Dowd.
John Dowd, Fife Symington. John Dowd, John McCain. John Dowd, longest
insider trading prison sentence ever.
And that same lawyer, John Dowd, is now going to be Donald Trump`s new
President Trump had reportedly had a hard time finding name brand D.C.
lawyers and D.C. law firms to represent him in the ongoing investigations
into the Russian attacks on the presidential campaign last year, and the
question of whether or not his campaign might have helped in that Russian
attack. Those investigations have now also reportedly expanded to include
potential obstruction of justice by the president himself and maybe by
other people in his administration.
That resistance from big D.C. lawyers and big D.C. law firms him calling
them looking for representation, and firm after firm telling him no, that
has meant that the president`s legal team as he has assembled his legal
team for these scandals it`s been a little unorthodox for somebody who was
facing scandals as serious as the ones this president is facing.
The first lawyer he signed up famously with a lawyer named Marc Kasowitz.
He`s a lawyer who has done things like real estate law and divorce law for
the president in the past but he has never done anything like anything of
the Washington legal troubles that the president finds himself in now.
In addition to Marc Kasowitz, we also got indirect notice that the
president had signed up a notable litigator from the religious right, a guy
who started off representing televangelists, a guy who does cases about
like, you know, displaying the Ten Commandments and stuff like that. He
was a very good lawyer but he`s known for a very specific kind of law, we
got indirect notice that the president had also signed up Jay Sekulow to
his legal team when Mr. Sekulow started appearing on TV shows defending the
president and speaking for him apparently as one of his private lawyers.
That`s the way we found out he got that job.
Well, now, to that unlikely presidential legal team, the president has
apparently today added John Dowd who at least, at least he has been
involved in some high-profile political scandals in the past and Mr. Dowd
is well-regarded in his field even though some of the stuff he is most
famous for is stuff where his clients did not come out all that well at
all. His team of lawyers that the president is putting together to defend
them and his various scandals, this, of course, is a team that the
president will end up paying for himself or at least we the taxpayers won`t
have one that won`t end up paying for those lawyers. These are private
lawyers who are totally separate and apart from the official White House
counsel whose salary we do pay.
I imagine though that the matter of paying for his private lawyers is like
the least concerning element of all of this for President Trump, right, if
only because he is so personally wealthy. We got a reminder of in a lot
more detail about the extent of his personal wealth today when the White
House released new financial disclosure forms for the president himself.
We`ll be talking about those a little later – a little bit more later on
in this hour.
But I have to tell you as we got that new evidence of the president`s
wealth and we got new news about the president adding to his legal team, we
also just in the past hours got news that another senior member of the
administration, someone who is not wealthy at all, has also just hired
himself a top dollar, very well-regarded lawyer to represent him in these
ongoing scandals. And right now, as we speak, Vice President Mike Pence
who just hired that new expensive lawyer, he`s back home in Indiana tonight
and specifically, he`s at the Marriott Hotel in downtown Indianapolis
because he is holding a fundraiser there.
Interesting, though, Mike Pence tonight is not holding the fundraiser for
the Republican Party. He`s not holding a fundraiser for any of the
subsidiary elements with the Republican Party like its Senate campaign fund
or its House campaign fund. He`s not holding a fundraiser for like you
know that Republican candidate in next week`s congressional election in
Now, it`s interesting, tonight, Vice President Mike Pence is holding that
fundraiser in Indianapolis for his own political action committee, his own
PAC. Never before in the history of the country has a vice president set
up and operated his own political action committee while he was still
serving as vice president and not technically running for anything. The
people attending Mike Pence`s fundraiser for his PAC tonight in
Indianapolis paid a lot of money to go do it, anywhere from $1,000 just to
get into the reception up to $5,000 a plate to attend something they`re
calling the leadership committee round table, which I think is just
nonsense fundraising speak for I paid more money so I could be in a smaller
room. But five people are paying five thousand bucks a pop to go round
table with Mike Pence tonight in Indiana.
Now, it`s unusual, full stop, that a vice president has a political action
committee. But on top of that there is now this intriguing question as to
how Mike Pence is going to pay for his very expensive private lawyer who
just announced the hiring of yesterday. I mean, this is the person who`s
going to defend Mike Pence and represent Mike Pence in anything having to
do with the Trump-Russia scandal or the obstruction of justice
investigations. This is a lawyer who gets paid a lot per hour and it`s
probably going to be working a lot of hours.
Is it possible that this fundraiser for Mike Pence`s PAC tonight in
Indianapolis, is it possible that`s actually going to be a way for people
to fund Mike Pence`s legal defense?
We called the vice president`s spokesman tonight to ask whether the money
that the vice president is raising right now tonight for his PAC, whether
that money might be used in the future for Mike Pence`s legal defense. The
vice president`s spokesperson would not really say exactly. But this is
the exact response we got from him. Quote: His legal fees will be paid by
non-tax dollars. Quote: That`s all we are saying. We have not discussed
it except to say that it is not tax dollars.
That was in response to us asking if this fundraiser for his PAC tonight is
going to raise money for his legal-defense. It won`t be tax dollars.
That`s all we`re saying.
So, we don`t know if that means that donations to Mike Pence`s PAC are
going to be used to pay his legal defense. If that`s now going to be how he
spends his time as vice president doing fundraisers to pay for his lawyers.
The only assurance that we have from the vice president`s office is that
you know he`s not going to have a taxpayer-funded defense but we knew that
already he can`t have a taxpayer-funded defense.
I should tell you, we then tried to contact Mike Pence`s PAC itself. The
vice president`s PAC is called the Great America Committee. There is a
person who`s listed on their FEC forms as the contact person for the PAC.
We found that person tonight and spoke with her, find out if tonight`s
fundraiser might ultimately be used to fund the vice president`s legal
fees, she told us that she has forwarded our question to the appropriate
contacts. But we don`t know what that means that we have anything further.
So, we`ll let you know that may be a new part of how the vice-president
spends his vice presidency.
The vice-president and his family do not have particularly deep pockets.
They`re going to have to raise money somehow for his legal fees.
Now, whether that`s already started with the creation of this PAC in this
fundraiser tonight in Indianapolis, we honestly don`t know. We do intend
to find out.
You know, a lot of the focus on the scandal surrounding the White House has
shifted this week to potential obstruction of justice, right? This week
will be remembered for this blockbuster reporting that the special counsel
Robert Mueller has now made the president the subject of an ongoing FBI
criminal inquiry into whether or not there was obstruction of justice by
the president to try to somehow floor or pervert the FBI`s ongoing
investigations into the Russia issue.
And that`s a very, very big deal. But even as that – the media focus has
shifted to that question because of that new reporting, is shifted to
obstruction of justice, the original question about whether or not the
Trump campaign colluded with Russia, colluded with the Russian government
in the Russian attack on the election, that`s still the central question,
that`s still at the center of the bullseye in terms of what investigators
are looking at both in Congress and at the FBI.
And that came back into a very sharp focus with the other big news that
just broke tonight and that`s next.
MADDOW: Tonight, CNN was first to report that the guy who ran digital
strategy for the Trump 2016 presidential campaign is about to be called to
testify before the House Intelligence Committee that`s investigating the
Russian attack on our election and the question of whether the Trump
campaign colluded. And that`s really interesting. I think it`s also a
sign of what`s going to be coming down the pike in the next couple of
weeks. In general, I should tell you that over the next week or two, it
looks like we`re about to get back to a focus on that that collusion issue
and on the Russian attack itself.
Next week on Wednesday, the House Intelligence Committee is going to hear
from Jeh Johnson. He was homeland security secretary during the Russian
attack, right through the end of the Obama administration. That same day,
the intelligence committee in the Senate is going to take testimony from a
bunch of experts and elections officials who are going to be talking about
the Russian hacking attack as they experienced it, as it targeted state and
local election systems.
Beyond that Russian hacking attack on state and local election systems
though, which we`re learning more and more about all the time, and beyond
the Russian hacking attack on the Democratic Party and the Clinton
campaign, the other prong of the Russian attack last year was, of course,
their open source social media stuff. Russia appears to have had paid
operatives and automated bots using propaganda and disinformation and
mounting these kinds of swarming style attacks to disrupt the messaging of
the pro-Clinton anti-Trump side and to promote and circulate pro-Trump
anti-Clinton news and disinformation.
And if CNN is right in this report tonight, and the investigating
committees are now going to start questioning Donald Trump`s digital
campaign chief from his presidential campaign about that part of the
Russian attack, then it would seem that they`re getting – the
investigative committees are starting to focus pretty intently on that
original basic question of whether or not anybody associated with the Trump
campaign was a confederate, was an American confederate helping the
Russians mount this attack on our country.
As CNN describes it in their report tonight, quote: The committee`s are
interested in how Russian bots were able to target political messages in
specific districts, in critical swing states. Senator Mark Warner on the
Senate Intelligence committee asked about this publicly at an open hearing
in March, saying, quote, would the Russians on their own have that level of
sophisticated knowledge about the American political system if they did not
at least get some advice from someone in America?
Again, CNN reporting tonight that Trump digital director the presidential
campaign digital director Brad Parscale will be called before the House
Intelligence Committee, quote, soon. They also report that the – and they
also note, I should say, that the executive in charge of data operations
overall for the Trump campaign was Trump`s son-in-law Jared Kushner, who
keep circling – his name keeps surfacing in all sorts of reports about the
Now, in terms of the investigatory committees in Congress, we were first to
report today that although it is the Judiciary Committees in the House and
Senate who have oversight responsibility for the Justice Department and the
FBI, it`s the judiciary committees who therefore would be investigating
credible allegations of high-level obstruction of justice in the White
House, we were first to report today that although the Senate Judiciary
Committee is taking up that investigation, the Judiciary Committee in the
House is not.
The Republican chairman of the Judiciary Committee in the House is named
Bob Goodlatte and a Judiciary Committee staffer today gave us this
statement, which is very vaguely worded but I`ll give you the bottom line -
- they`re not doing any investigating into obstruction of justice in the
Now, in the Senate, they certainly are. Boy howdy, are they?
Dianne Feinstein, the Democrat, Chuck Grassley, the Republican, those are
the top two senators who are senior on that committee, and the two of them
have been exchanging increasingly detailed public letters about all the
things they want to investigate related to potential obstruction of
Senator Feinstein sent a letter yesterday in which to explain to Senator
Grassley that these are all the people she wants to testify as that
committee starts to dig in on this obstruction of justice question. She
says she wants testimony from the Attorney General Jeff Sessions. She says
she wants testimony from fired FBI Director James Comey and if he keeps
saying no to their asking them – they`re asking him she wants him to be
She also wants Director Comey`s memos. She also wants to question all of
the senior FBI officials who James Comey says he told about his
conversations with the president. She wants to interview the deputy
director of the FBI and the chief of staff - the FBI director and the
general counsel of the FBI and the number three person at the FBI, and she
wants to interview the head of the national security branch in the FBI.
She wants to interview Dana Boente, who is the number four person in the
Justice Department. She wants to interview the Director of National
Intelligence Dan Coats. She wants to interview the head of the NSA, Mike
Rogers, and she would like to do all of that very soon please.
I don`t know if Republican Senator Chuck Grassley, the chairman, will agree
to that list, but she has made her list public. She has argued her case
publicly for why that committee needs to hear from those people if we are
ever to get to the bottom of these obstruction of justice allegations.
One point here though – even with that giant list of people that that
investigatory committee apparently wants to talk to, there is one name that
is not on that big long list that puzzles me for not being there. Part of
the reason everybody wants to keep talking to the Director of National
Intelligence Dan Coats. You know, he gave hours of testimony in open
session last week, he apparently gave three hours of testimony in
classified session yesterday, three hours alone in classified session with
the Judiciary Committee – sorry, with the Intelligence Committee.
Now, the Judiciary Committee wants to talk to him too. It has been
reported by “The Washington Post” and “The New York Times” and NBC and “The
Wall Street Journal” that Robert Mueller also plans to interview Dan Coats
sometime very soon if he hasn`t already. And part of the reason everybody
wants to talk to him, part of the reason Dan Coats is so important to the
question of obstruction of justice, is because the obstruction of justice
thing isn`t just about firing James Comey. Nobody thinks Dan Coats was
involved in the firing of James Comey.
There is a question beyond that of whether or not the White House, the
president himself maybe, tried to pressure the FBI into dropping their
investigation beyond just the threatening and firing of James coming. And
“The Washington Post” reported that on March 22nd, President Trump asked
Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence, in person, in the Oval
Office, if he could contact the FBI and try to get him to drop their Russia
investigation. If that reporting is true, if the president said that to
Dan Coats, if that`s what`s driving all of the interests and all of these
committees of the special counsel and talking to Dan Coats, if that`s
what`s driving all the imperative to get his testimony about this, it
should also be noted that that report from “The Washington Post” says there
was a witness to that conversation between the president and Dan Coats,
there was somebody else in the room when President Trump reportedly made
that request. It was the CIA Director Mike Pompeo.
With all these gigantic lists now of people who have been, you know,
advised to get lawyers and told to get ready for their interviews of the
special counsel and get prepared to be interviewed if not subpoenaed by the
investigative committees in Congress, Mike Pompeo, he was reportedly in an
in-person direct witness to one of the most overt alleged acts by the
president to obstruct justice in this case, but nobody seems to want to
talk to him.
Tonight, we can report that at the end of last month, at the end of May,
Chuck Grassley and Dianne Feinstein sent him a letter. They sent a letter
to CIA Director Mike Pompeo, asking him to tell them what he knows about
whether White House officials tried directly or indirectly to pressure the
FBI about its Russia investigation. They sent him that letter on May 26,
telling him they needed his response by June 9th. June 9th was a week ago.
We can report tonight that Pompeo never responded to that.
These investigations are as red-hot as they have ever been. We`re going to
be talking tonight about the speculation, I would even say the indications
that the president may be gearing up to try to fire the special counsel,
and he – and maybe other senior justice officials on it on his way toward
that goal. But stick a pin in this thing about the CIA Director Mike
Pompeo. I mean, maybe – I don`t know maybe there is something magic about
being CIA director that means investigating committees and special counsels
don`t interview, they don`t call you as a witness even if you were in the
middle of something they are investigating.
But unless there`s some magic CIA rule like that protecting him from being
questioned, it does seem strange so far that Mike Pompeo appears to have
like a little force field around him, deflecting any concerns about his
actions and what he knows and what he saw, while everybody else around him
up to and including the vice president and the president start lawyering
We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: The president woke up this morning and he made a public statement
on Twitter which is not the sort of thing that would usually grab my
attention. This one I think has ended up being important though because
something appears to have gone wrong in his lawyer`s response to it.
The president statement this morning started with these exact words, quote,
I am being investigated.
Things went hinky shortly thereafter. After the president made that public
statement today starting with those key four words, we got this at NBC
News: A source close to Trump`s outside legal counsel tells NBC News that
the president definitely was not confirming that he is under investigation
when he made that statement on Twitter this morning. That statement again,
I am being investigated.
Now, I am not a lawyer and I know that sometimes lawyer talk is magic talk
that regular humans can`t understand. But when you say, quote, I am being
investigated, that is not a subtle thing. That`s not open to a lot of
interpretation, right, unless maybe they`re trying to say that being
investigated is something different than being under investigation maybe
that`s the divide – is that a distinction? Is that a difference?
Look, unless the president`s lawyer is trying to make us believe something
that insane, he appears to be already having some basic trouble handling
even the basic public utterances of his client. His client is saying in
public, I`m being investigated. His lawyer says my client never said that.
With the news today that the president has added another lawyer to his
personal legal team, it does look like the president`s private counsel will
be getting some help, but jeez, this is not the way you would expect a very
serious multi-pronged investigation into a sitting president to be
unfolding in the modern era. I think it is unfolding the way you might
expect on the prosecutors side, but not so far on the president`s side.
Not at all and I`m not sure that`s good for people who like the president
or people who don`t.
Joining us now for the interview is Bob Bauer, who is an excellent lawyer.
He was White House counsel to President Barack Obama.
Mr. Bauer, thank you very much for being with us tonight. I really
appreciate your time.
BOB BAUER, WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL FOR OBAMA ADMINISTRATION: Thank you.
MADDOW: As a legal matter, it`s, of course – I mean, it`s of interest to
us non-lawyers, it`s of interest to us in the public that the president is
confirming that he`s under investigation. But is there a legal reason why
his lawyer would try to dispute that? Is there any legal consequence to
the president admitting publicly that he is under investigation?
BAUER: No, lawyers going to want the client to be shouting from the
rooftop but he`s under investigation and that certainly would be true with
the president of the United States. There was another aspect to the tweet
this morning there was quite striking another attack on law enforcement and
that too would have to concern the president`s counsel.
The president after all is worried that he`s being investigated for
obstruction of justice and for him, then oddly enough, to begin attacking
the people who are conducting the investigation is not the presentation
that he wants to make, that after all the whole point is he doesn`t want to
appear to be impeding the administration of justice not by tweet, not by
any other actions that he takes in the Oval Office. So, his communication
strategy does not seem to be aligning very well with his legal defense.
MADDOW: Let me ask you, though, again coming at this from a non-lawyer
perspective the president`s argument made in you know Twitter ease, you
know, characters or less was that he`s under investigation for firing the
FBI director by someone who advised him to fire the FBI director. He`s
obviously referring to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein there.
Does the president sort of have a point that if the Comey firing is being
looked at as potential obstruction, nobody who had any role in that firing
should be overseeing that investigation?
BAUER: That question came up today. There were reports that the deputy
Attorney General Rosenstein was thinking about recusing himself. Later in
the day, his office put out the word that in fact he wasn`t prepared to do
so, but that that opinion could change at any time. And that the
investigation proceeds he`s going to have to make a judgment about whether
he`s going to be drawn into this obstruction investigation as a witness
perhaps, in a way that makes it impossible for him to supervise the
investigation and then if he refuses of course it goes to another
departmental official to take over the responsibility of supervising the
MADDOW: So, are you saying that if the obstruction investigation does come
to focus on this issue of the firing of the FBI director, the special
counsel might have an option whether or not to call on Mr. Rosenstein as a
potential witness if he doesn`t, if he chooses to leave Mr. Rosenstein`s
involvement beside the point and outside the scope of his or outside that
the bounds of his investigation that might protect Rosenstein in his role
and allow him to stay on board overseeing the investigation overall?
BAUER: It`s difficult to see that he`ll never contact Mr. Rosenstein. I
think maybe what Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein is waiting to see is
what precisely is the line of questioning that he will face have deeply
drawn in, he will be what role effectively he`ll play in the investigation
and it may be on that basis that he decides whether he`s required to recuse
himself if the rule.
If fairly is minor, that may be one thing. It`s not clear at all just
exactly how he`s going to apply the recusal standards in this case.
MADDOW: We`re all learning about that you know order of succession at the
Justice Department, thinking about that prospect the number three in
succession, Rachel Brand, the number four in succession, Dana Boente,
they`re now becoming very interesting figures political in terms of their
political leanings and what people think about them in the legal
profession, it`s all hypothetical at this point until that recusal happens.
But on the other side of this Mr. Bower, I wanted to ask you about the
legal team that the president has started to assemble thus far. I don`t
want to ask you to be personal than any of these lawyers, I don`t know if
you even know any of them personally.
But do you think that he`s got the right kind of counsel to give him the
best possible defense?
BAUER: Well, he`s adding different lawyers with different experience.
What is most notable is that the lawyer that he has at the pinnacle, the
one who`s in charge, doesn`t have any Washington or meaningful white-collar
criminal experience would be brought to bear in a case like this and in the
end you know the team is really defined by its leadership. But perhaps,
you know, the lawyer will find the appropriate balance and he`ll build sort
of in Lego-like fashion what he needs to represent the president
MADDOW: Bob Bauer, former White House counsel to President Barack Obama,
Mr. Bauer, thank you very much for your time tonight. I hope you come back
and talk to us again soon.
BAUER: Thank you.
MADDOW: Thank you.
All right. I have – I have more questions on this topic, particularly
tonight on the Senate investigation side of this, which seem to be heating
up very fast. Luckily, we`ve got a member of the Senate Judiciary
Committee on this show tonight. That`s ahead, plus lots more.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: So, it`s at scandals surrounding the Trump presidency in
Washington the investigative focus on Capitol Hill has shifted sharply in
the last couple of days to the Senate Judiciary Committee. Senator Amy
Klobuchar is a member of that committee. Senator Klobuchar is also doubly,
triply at the center of news we`ve been covering today and tonight because
in the Senate, she has also been a staunch advocate of lifting the embargo
Today, the president partially rolled back President Obama`s efforts in
that regard. Also, Amy Klobuchar is the senior senator from Minnesota and
protests tonight are starting to take shape in Minnesota. We`ve been
expecting that tonight in the twin cities region after a controversial
verdict acquitting the police officer who killed Philando Castile in a St.
Paul suburb last year during what was otherwise a routine traffic stop.
Joining us now is Senator Amy Klobuchar, who is at home in Minnesota.
Senator, it`s really nice to have you back with us again tonight. Thanks
for being here.
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D), MINNESOTA: Thank you very much, Rachel.
MADDOW: Let me – let me first get your reaction to this verdict today in
the Philando Castile cases. Thirty-two-year-old African-American man shot
by police after being pulled over in his car last year. There`s been a not
guilty verdict for that officer and we`re seeing protests start to take
shape in the streets.
KLOBUCHAR: Well, I met Philando Castile and his family, attended the
funeral, and I can tell you, he was loved by so many students. He was a
cafeteria worker for a number of years, and a lot of people from that
school miss him dearly.
So, this is going to be a hard day and a hard weekend in the Twin Cities,
hard for our community. I will tell you there were top-notch prosecutors
assigned to this case from not just the Ramsey County attorney`s office but
the also the U.S. attorney`s office. And as the St. Paul mayor has asked
for this son of St. Paul that was that bet died that we have peaceful
marches we have a large history of activism and social activism in
Minnesota, and our hope is that we will have peaceful marches this evening.
But people certainly have a right to express their views.
MADDOW: Do you have faith in local authorities and local police that they
are capable of policing large even angry large demonstrations and keeping
order without things – without things getting violent?
KLOBUCHAR: Well, we hope so. This had been planned. We knew that the
verdict would come out and the plan had long been from the community to go
to St. Paul, to go to the capitol the day that the verdict came out not
knowing what it would be.
And so, so far, they are peaceful protests and we hope that will continue.
It`s very important that people have the right to express their views.
MADDOW: Senator, let me also ask you about a controversy that you`ve been
very outspoken on, an international matter of the embargo with Cuba.
President Trump, I forgive – I don`t mean this in a mean way, but he
hasn`t accomplished much in terms of policy.
KLOBUCHAR: You be mean? No.
MADDOW: I know, I tried never to be me especially when I talk to you
MADDOW: But, I mean, obviously got Neil Gorsuch confirmed in the Senate,
they had to change the Senate rules in order to do it. He hasn`t really
passed any substantive policy at all. The Republicans haven`t passed
anything. They have however rolled back a number of initiatives from the
Obama administration, including today, taking a big whack at the policy
change that President Obama initiated towards Cuba.
What`s your reaction to that?
KLOBUCHAR: Well, this made no sense to me. Seventy-three percent of the
American people believe that we should continue to open relations with
Cuba, and here you have a policy that he announced today that while is not
a full rollback, which is no surprise, it`s a setback not a rollback.
But it basically chills tourism. It makes it harder for people to visit.
There`s talk about auditing them within the next five years, you don`t know
when you`re going to be asked why did you go to Cuba and, yes, it`s
supposed to show the Treasury Department, your records.
And I don`t think this is a positive development. We now have senators on
the bill to lift the ban to travel to Cuba, 55 senators including a number
of Republicans. We have many senators on my bill to lift the embargo with
Senator Enzi, Republican from Wyoming.
And so, my concern is that that`s really going to slow that momentum down
at a time where Russia is starting to invest, China starting to invest, the
Spain – Spanish companies are building hotels and it makes no sense to me
at all the way you change human rights in Cuba, as the pope believes, is by
opening up Cuba to the rest of the world.
MADDOW: Senator, you`re also on the Judiciary Committee. I said you`re in
the middle of all of our different stories of recovering tonight. The
Judiciary Committee is now taking a newly assertive role in the
investigation into these scandal surrounding the Russia attack, the
potential collusion by the Trump campaign with the Russia attack, and
specifically on your committee the question about whether there`s been an
effort to obstruct justice, trying to impede those investigations in any
Do you support that move by your committee? Do you think it`d be better to
handle it all in intelligence rather than spreading it out among the
different committees and other jurisdictions?
KLOBUCHAR: Intelligence is playing a very important role here. They are
looking into a foreign power influencing our election and they`ve done it
in a bipartisan basis, and they must move ahead.
But remember, the jurisdiction over oversight of the FBI and the Justice
Department is squarely in the Senate Judiciary Committee, and I think it is
very important that Senator Grassley has agreed with Senator Feinstein to
move forward with our own hearings, because we`re going to have the new FBI
nominee before us. We have to determine what happened with this firing.
Senator Sessions, it`s unprecedented that he would go now attorney General
Sessions before the Intelligence Committee which is fine, but to do that
before judiciary, we not only want to ask about Russia and is meeting with
the ambassador. We also want to ask about what they`re doing with the
refugee order with voting rights? What is happening with the criminal
justice reform or the lack thereof?
There are a lot of things that the attorney general must come before the
Senate Judiciary Committee to discuss.
MADDOW: Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, it looks like it`s going to be
a tough night tonight in Minnesota with those big protests and people very
upset about that verdict. Good luck tonight and stay in touch with us over
the course of this.
KLOBUCHAR: Thank you so much, Rachel.
MADDOW: Thank you, Senator.
All right, we got more to come here tonight. Do stay with us.
MADDOW: We got one more story we`re going to close with tonight before we
get to that last story I just want to quickly mention something that MSNBC
is going to do this weekend that I think is going to be kind of awesome.
You might have seen the promos for this, but trust me, it`s really good.
We`re going to be airing this thing, “All The President`s Men: Revisited”.
“All the President`s Men” is, of course, one of the greatest American
politics movies of all time. It`s about the Watergate scandal and the
reporters who broke the story.
But this thing that we`re doing Saturday night puts together that amazing
movie and the real-life story that it`s about. It sits together all the
president`s men and the actual Watergate scandal. The real stuff into the
movie about the real stuff together, and it`s really good. This Saturday
night, it`s airing at 9:00 p.m. here on MSNBC. I have seen it it`s really
good. You should watch it. There.
I`ll be right back.
MADDOW: Before Lawrence takes over for the night, I just want to update
you on the story that we started with this hour, that U.S. Navy destroyer,
the USS Fitzgerald, that collided with a Japanese container ship off the
coast of Japan today. We have now confirmed that seven U.S. sailors are
unaccounted for after that collision. We`re told by the Navy that the ship
itself and the Japanese coast guard are looking for those seven missing
And I had said earlier that one sailor was medevaced off the ship after the
collision we can now report based on the statement from the U.S. navy that
the person who was medevaced off the ship was actually the commanding
officer of the ship, Commander Bryce Benson. We`re told that other injured
sailors are being assessed, and again there are seven sailors unaccounted
As what we know right now the commanding officer of the Fitzgerald is at
the U.S. naval hospital in Yokosuka in Japan, who`s reportedly in stable
condition. But again, he was removed from that ship after the collision by
So, a serious situation off the coast of Japan tonight. We will continue
to monitor it through the evening.
That does it for us tonight though for this hour. We`ll see you again on
Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL.”
Good evening, Lawrence.
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