The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 9/5/17 Hurricane Irma now a Cat 5
Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
Date: September 5, 2017
Guest: Cristina Jimenez, Adam Schiff
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
Woodrow Wilson was first elected president in 1912. When he ran for re-
election in 1916, one of the animating issues of that campaign was World
War I, which was raging in Europe in which Wilson promised the United
States would not join.
In 1916, Wilson was reelected barely, but then in 1917, the U.S. declared
war on Germany and threw itself into World War I, and by the time the
midterm elections came around the year after that, in 1918, Wilson was not
only facing the typical headwinds that a president`s party usually faces in
midterm elections he was also just roundly detested for World War I and for
other stuff too.
And so, in those midterm elections in 1918, Woodrow Wilson`s party, the
Democratic Party, got walloped. Republicans took over control of the
Senate and they took over control of the House. And the Republicans get in
Congress that had far-reaching consequences in all sorts of ways.
But in the House, it meant a gigantic and very, very consequential
promotion for this man. His name is Albert Johnson. Such a generic name,
right? It`s actually hard to Google. There was another congressman named
Albert Johnson from a different state who had nothing to do with them.
There was a federal judge was called Albert Johnson. There was a famous
Canadian fugitive called the Mad Trapper of Rat River who was called Albert
But this was Albert Johnson, a backbench congressman from Washington state
whose whole public profile had been built around the defense of the white
race and the threat that non-white immigrants posed to white civilization
in the United States. Albert Johnson at home in Washington state, he ran a
rabble-rousing anti-immigrant newspaper called the home defender. He
bragged about having been part of mob violence that chased immigrants out
of Washington state and out of the United States into Canada.
And so, he had been a rabble-rouser and an orator on that pet issue for
decades, but he`s never really wielded power on the subject until Woodrow
Wilson got shellacked in the 1918 midterm elections, and Albert Johnson`s
party, the Republican Party, took over leadership of the Congress. And
that is what made it possible for Albert Johnson to take real power. He
became chairman of the Committee on Immigration and Naturalization. It was
his life`s dream to be in charge of something like that and he did what he
could with it.
As soon as soon after he took over, the House of Representatives Committee
on Immigration and Naturalization hired themselves an expert eugenics
agent. Albert Johnson, the chairman, in addition to serving in Congress,
he had become the president of the Eugenics Research Association of
America. And once he was chairman of that committee, he brought on one of
the officers from the Eugenics Research Association, this guy Harry
Laughlin, to become an expert eugenics consultant to the immigration
committee in Congress. And together, these two eugenicists – they got to
In 1922, Harry Laughlin created this chart. Look, science, it`s a chart.
You can see diagonal there. That`s the watermark of Truman State
University. They`ve preserved this document online as part of their
history of eugenics project.
But this is a chart that Harry Laughlin created when he was the expert
eugenics agent for that congressional committee. What this chart purports
to show is the relative social inadequacy of various immigrant races in the
What counts is social inadequacy?
Well, according to the chart, that includes feeble-mindedness, insanity,
crime, epilepsy, tuberculosis, blindness, deafness, deformity and
dependency. And then the chart ranks your likelihood of being any of those
things or having any of those things based on your national origin.
Eugenics is best understood and best remembered now as the pseudo
scientific mumbo-jumbo that the Nazis used to explain why they felt the
need to categorize and kill whole populations as part of this insane
supposedly defensive plan to preserve their fragile but still superior
Aryan gene pool, right?
Eugenics is I think most easily associated with that genocidal, murderous
20th century movement. But eugenics wasn`t a Nazi invention. It wasn`t
only a foreign fascist fascination. In the 1920s, we really did have a
chief congressional eugenicist who was using taxpayer dollars to rank the
relative feeble-mindedness of American immigrants on the basis of their
Before Congressman Albert Johnson made Harry Laughlin the chief eugenics
consultant for his congressional committee, Mr. Laughlin had made a name
for himself by promoting model compulsory sterilization laws around the
United States. Laughlin wanted states to forcibly neuter people as if they
were animals, to improve the American gene pool and Laughlin was frustrated
with the inefficient way that some states were going about that. So, he
wrote model legislation to try to standardize it, make it more aggressive,
make it more widespread – sterilize more people against their will if
their genes are up to it.
So, Albert Johnson became chair of the committee in 1919. He hired this
chief eugenicist for the committee in 1921. By 1922, they were publicly
ranking the genetic failings of Americans by their national origin. And by
two years after that, by 1924, they actually had achieved what they were
By 1924, Wilson was gone. It was a new president, Calvin Coolidge, and he
signed an anti-immigration bill that was written by Albert Johnson. It was
called the Johnston Reed Immigration Act of 1924. Johnson was the author
in the House. Reed was the author in the Senate.
And it was a eugenics bill. It was a bill to protect America from a stream
of alien blood. It was a bill to stop American civilization from
descending into barbarism. That 1924 bill restricted immigration
But also in a very specifically targeted way, it banned immigration from
Asian countries altogether. It defined an Asian exclusion zone from which
you were not allowed to come to this country. It targeted Jews. It
targeted Italians. It targeted other unworthy populations that tended to
be unpopular with the ascendant Klan at the time.
And it did so through a kind of a neato (ph) math trick. The Johnson Reed
anti-immigrant formula that they put into law in 1924. It limited
immigrants based on national origin, but it did it in this very specific
way. The numbers were based – the numbers of immigrants who would be
allowed and now were based on the number of people of that national origin
who had made it into this country by 1890.
They went all the way back to 19th century to pick a date that they decided
was white enough in American history to try to bring the country back to.
So, they used the 1890 census as their benchmark to basically say, if your
people weren`t here in sufficient numbers by then, you can`t come now. We
want the country to look like it did in 1890, not the way it`s getting a
little swarthier now.
And, you know, you can look back on that now and see how radical it was. I
mean, looking at it from almost any contemporaneous angle, but what is in
arguable about that law is what`s clear in the contemporaneous record about
how it was argued. It was nothing subtle about it. It was an explicitly
racist law, it was explicitly race-based in its intention there was no
secret about that.
That was openly the way the legislation was talked about and argued about.
The senator who wrote the bill with Albert Johnson, a Rhode Island senator
named David Reed, he was quoted in “The New York Times” saying that thanks
to that bill, quote, the racial composition of America at this time is thus
Another senator named Ellison Durant Smith got up on the Senate floor to
spell out why the Johnson-Reed 1924 immigration bill was getting his vote.
He said, quote: It seems to me that the point of this measure is that the
time has arrived when we should shut the door. Thank God we have in
America perhaps the largest percentage of any country in the world of the
pure unadulterated Anglo-Saxon stock. It is for the preservation of that
splendid stock that has characterized us that I would make this not an
asylum for the oppressed of all countries, but a country to assimilate and
perfect that splendid type of manhood that has made America the foremost
nation in her progress and in her power.
I mean, it`s somewhere between embarrassing and painful, right, to think
about the fact that this is less than a hundred years ago, that the United
States made an explicitly eugenicist overhaul of its immigration policy,
right? To make America more white, to protect the white race from these
genetically inferior hordes who are somehow going to threaten the genetic
superiority and purity of white Americans, right?
I mean, we can at least be thankful that the historical record on this is
so clear, right? So there can be no mistaking that that`s what it`s about.
Anybody looking at the immigration policy in this country and where we`ve
been has to know what that was all about. That really was eugenics.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
THEN-SENATOR JEFF SESSIONS (R), ALABAMA: In seven years, we`ll have the
highest percentage of Americans non-native born since the founding of the
republic. And some people think, well, we`ve always had these numbers but
it`s not so. This is very unusual. It`s a radical change. And in fact
when the numbers reach about this high in 1924, the president and Congress
changed the policy, and it slowed down immigration significantly and we
then assimilated through the 1965, and created really the solid middle
class of America, with assimilated immigrants, and it was good for America
changed the president and the Congress changed the policy that was good for
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: That 1924 change, the president and the Congress changed the
policy. That was good for America.
That was Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaking in October 2015 when he
was still senator. He`s speaking on Breitbart Radio with man named Steve
Bannon who would soon go on to run Donald Trump`s campaign for president.
That was surfaced at the time by Right Wing Watch, was picked up in January
by “The Atlantic”. Slate.com picked it up again today.
Today, as Attorney General Jeff Sessions, he was sent out by the president
to make the announcement that the hundreds of thousands of people who were
brought to this country by their immigrant parents when they were still
kids, those hundreds of thousands of people who had been given leave by the
previous administration to stay in this country legally, they are now on
track for deportation.
NBC News confirming tonight that a set of talking points is distributed by
the White House to offices on Capitol Hill. It advises people who have
been living here under the DACA program, the Deferred Action for Childhood
Arrivals program, it advises them to, quote, prepare for a departure from
the United States.
So, this affects – I mean, as you`ve been hearing today, this affects
directly about 800,000 people who live in the United States. By virtue of
their participation in the DACA program, you can generalize about this
group of people to say they are people who don`t have criminal records,
people who are constructively engaged in contributing to society, in the
military, in college, of gainful employment. We`re going to be talking
tonight about the prospects for exactly how the Trump administration plans
to now round these young people up, including the key question of whether
the information these kids provided to the government in order to join this
program will now be used against them, to find them, collar them, send them
to countries they have never lived in as adults.
It is not an accident that Attorney General Jeff Sessions is the one who
was sent out to make this announcement about this today. He is – I mean,
Jeff Sessions has a long adult record on this subject, right? He is – he
is outspokenly against legal immigration, let alone illegal immigration.
For years, he has been an outspoken, unabashed admirer of the eugenics-
based, race specific immigration bans of the 1920s Klan era in U.S.
But it`s not like we couldn`t see this coming either because of previous
echoes in American history or because of the rise of this particular
president. I mean, Jeff Sessions has always stood for this stuff, but so
has Donald Trump as a public political figure.
I mean, even just in presidential politics, he started his presidential
campaign saying that Mexican immigrants were rapists and in bringing crime.
He proposed a ban on Muslims entering this country. He argued repeatedly
and vehemently that a judge of Mexican-American origin could not fairly
serve as a judge in a case involving the Trump business – remember that?
He`s a Mexican. He`s a Mexican. He`s a judge born in Indiana, isn`t
allowed to judge Trump because he`s a Mexican.
Since the election, Trump has claimed that the only reason he lost the
popular vote is because millions of undocumented immigrants somehow voted
for Hillary Clinton, which is not true. He has issued a pardon – his
first pardon to a convicted former sheriff who defied a court order in
order to continue to racially profile immigrants in Arizona, despite the
fact that it was against the law and there was a court order he needed to
follow on that subject.
His administration literally opened an office of immigrant crime to try to
promote the visibility of criminal acts by people who are immigrants to
this country, even though immigrants commit fewer crimes than people who
are not immigrants. So, there`s a lot to talk about tonight in terms of
the specifics, right?
In terms of what`s going to happen to the 800,000 DREAMers in communities
all across this country, and seeing some of the reaction today to this news
in terms of people turning out in the streets, people risking arrest,
people protesting, it`s pretty intense stuff. We`ve got some pretty
incredible footage from that coming up in just a second.
But in terms of where this came from – I mean as far as I can see, we`ve
covered the Russia stuff a lot in this show, right? As far as I can see,
there are really only two bright through lines for this president, in what
is otherwise been kind of an incoherent and hard to follow mishmash,
political ideology from him. There are really only two things that are
clear as a bell and never changing.
One of them is really unprecedented, which is the president`s strange,
continued and unerring insistence on saying nice things about Russia and
excusing their behavior, right? That`s weird. That is unprecedented.
But the other through-line, the other thing that is consistent and coherent
and unswerving in this administration is vehement antipathy toward
immigrants, blaming immigrants, trying to stir up animosity and hatred
toward immigrants, making immigrants a scapegoat, punishing immigrants for
even sins that are not theirs. Those are the two through lines that I can
see that are consistent in this administration.
But unlike the Russia one, this one about immigrants this is not
unprecedented. This one taps into a deep, old through-line in this country
that we have seen before and it is a history that we used to look back on
with astonishment and with shame.
MADDOW: This was 11:00 a.m. Eastern Time today. A lot of people counting
down to that hour today once it was clear what was coming.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GUSTAVO TORRES, CASA, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR: I just want to let you know that
is 11:00. Son las once. And we just received information he`s right now
official, this administration just ended up DACA.
TORRES: We are here to stay. We are here to keep fighting. We are here
to send a very strong message to this administration – hate doesn`t have a
space in this country. We are going to keep fighting with our DREAMers.
We are going to keep fighting with our community for justice.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The woman you can see there in that footage is Monica Camacho
Perez. She`s 23 years old. She works for the advocacy group Casa. She
came to this country 16 years ago, when she was 7 years old. She has never
lived anywhere else other than here since she was 7. She`s a DACA
So, this was D.C. today. Protesters gathered in front of the White House.
Protesters also marched to the Trump Hotel in downtown D.C. In New York
City, people gathered in front of Trump Tower. More than 30 people were
actually arrested outside Trump Tower.
In Denver, Colorado, hundreds of kids from several schools walked out of
their high schools today. The same thing happens in Phoenix, Arizona.
Same thing happened at the University of New Mexico and Albuquerque. This
was the University of Arizona in Tucson today.
Protests popped up all over the country today, in Nashville and Louisville
and Austin and San Francisco, in Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and Sacramento
and San Jose.
A line from the White House is that Congress is now supposed to fix what
the administration just did to set up for deportation these kids who don`t
have criminal records, who don`t know any other country other than this
one. Frankly, it`s hard to imagine this Congress having the unified will
to tie its own shoes these days, let alone pass legislation to help
But it looks like that may be the only way out here of what the president
has just done.
Joining us now is Cristina Jimenez. She`s the executive director and co-
founder of United We Dream.
Ms. Jimenez, I really appreciate your time tonight. I know this is a very,
very busy time.
CRISTINA JIMENEZ, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, UNITED WE DREAM: Great to be here
with you, Rachel.
MADDOW: So, let me just ask your first reaction today. We – you knew as
well as we did that this was probably coming mid-morning today. How did
you hear about it and how do you feel?
JIMENEZ: Rachel, since the day of the election, Donald Trump around the
campaign committing to end the DACA program, and the anxiety and the fear
and our community has been rising. And so, today is a very difficult day
for families like mine. My brother Jonathan who`s 23 years old is one of
the close to million young people that have benefited from the DACA
program, that has allowed him to live without the fear of being deported,
to go back to school, to help my family out financially because he`s been
able to work. And like him, thousands of young people have received the
difficult news today.
So, we are outraged at this decision, Rachel. And I want to be cleared
about something – Sessions mentioned in his speech today that this was all
about DACA being not constitutional.
Now, what I want to be cleared about is that this was not a legal decision.
This was a political decision, and the reality is that the president did
not have to make this decision. The September 5th deadline was an
arbitrary deadline pushed by Attorney General Paxton from Texas.
If he wanted to do the right thing, as he had said in multiple interviews
that he had heart for immigrant youth, if he did have the heart for
immigrant youth, he did not have to make this decision. He could have kept
the program in place. But today, we know that thousands of undocumented
young people, and many, many allies are joining us in ensuring that we do
all that we can to protect young people.
I grew up undocumented, Rachel, and I came out as undocumented and unafraid
over 10 years ago and we`re not going back into the shadows and that`s the
commitment that members of United We Dream and immigrant youth across the
MADDOW: And, Cristina, we`ve been hearing news today, strategizing today,
about a legal fight in the future, about various entities and even states
considering bringing this matter into the courts and trying to stop it that
way. Beyond whatever may happen in terms of a litigation strategy and I
think that`s sort of yet to be understood in terms of how viable those
strategies are, do you expect is going to be a direct action resistance to
this as well, that there`s going to be direct community resistance to try
to protect people and stop deportations in a physical way, in terms of
protest and confrontation?
JIMENEZ: I mean, if there`s anything that that we show today is that not
only undocumented young people in our communities but many of our allies,
faith leaders, educators business leaders that have come out from the
Democratic side, from the Republican side, we have the majority of the
country standing in favor of the DACA program, standing in favor of
undocumented young people. You show the images of the walkouts of happen
in new Mexico, in Colorado, the direct actions that happen in Washington,
D.C. I was there with thousands of people that join the actions in D.C.
So, what is very clear to us is that we will continue to lead a direct
action movement. This is the way that we won DACA, Rachel and I remember
having this conversation with you a few years ago in your show, it was
undocumented young people who came out as undocumented and unafraid, share
our stories, led seat-ins, let direct action and marches across the
country. That`s how we push President Obama to do the right thing and
that`s what we are determined to do, because we are very clear, Rachel,
that this is – that this decision about terminating DACA, it was a
priority led by white supremacist in the administration, folks like Miller
and Jeff Sessions. This was one of their policy priorities of folks that
want to drive people like me and my family and my brother out of this
And so, for us, the intention of the administration and those that are
advising the president is clear, which is why we are ready with allies to
continue to organize and to push for a permanent solution that will protect
young people from deportation.
MADDOW: Cristina Jimenez, executive director and co-founder of United We
Dream – thank you. I know again that this is an incredibly intense time.
But what you just said about how DACA came apart came about in the first
place, I absolutely remember absolutely remember having those conversations
with you watching the power of direct action to make it happen, and that
will be the most effective tool to try to keep it in place now.
Good luck. Keep us apprised.
MADDOW: Thank you.
All right. Some unexpected news breaking late tonight in the Trump-Russia
investigation. It turns out one of the congressional committees
investigating the Trump-Russia scandal has now just subpoenaed the FBI,
which is as weird as it sounds. But that story`s next. Stay with us.
MADDOW: In 1972, Richard Nixon was about to make history, or at least he
was about to make Republican history. The Republican Party had run Richard
Nixon from vice president in 1952 and 1956, when he won, right, as
Eisenhower`s vice presidential running mate in those two elections.
Republican Party had also run Richard Nixon for president in 1960 when he
lost to Kennedy. And then they run him for president again in 1968, when
Nixon beat Humphrey.
So, heading into the 1972 election, Richard Nixon had already been the
Republican Party`s candidate for president or vice president four different
times. So, standing for re-election as president in 1972, Richard Nixon
was due to make history. He was going to match FDR`s record for being on
the national ticket for his party in five different elections.
FDR had stood for vice president once. Of course, he stood for president
four times, well, finally, in 1972, Nixon was going to match that record.
He was going to become as preeminent a figure in Republican politics as FDR
had been to Democratic politics.
And so, heading into the 1972 election when he knew he was going to get
that nomination, he wanted to make a big self-centered deal about it,
specifically, he wanted to hold the Republican nominating convention that
year in southern California, where he had been born and raised, where he
knew his presidential library would someday be located.
The Nixon White House wanted it to be a hometown thing. They picked San
Diego in southern California as the site of the 1972 Republican Convention
for Nixon to get that historic fifth nomination. And the RNC made this
public announcement that San Diego was where they were going to hold their
convention that year.
But then they didn`t do it. They had already said the previous year that
it was going to be San Diego. But three months before the convention,
three months before Nixon`s triumphant 1972 homecoming, history-making
convention, they didn`t do it in San Diego at all. They moved it real
quick out of San Diego and instead decided to do it in Miami Beach, where
the Democrats were holding their convention that year already.
This is the last time the Republicans and Democrats held their convention
in the same city, and it was a last-minute change by the Republicans that
forced it to happen. So, this radical late change to dump San Diego and go
with Miami instead totally messed with Nixon`s plan to get his moment in
the sun in his home state, with that final historic fifth nomination.
The whole reason they had to make that change and dump the San Diego idea
is because of this guy, Jack Anderson, legendary columnist and
investigative reporter. In February 1972, Jack Anderson got something red-
hot. He got his hands on a memo that had been written by a lobbyist for
the big phone company at the time, ITT. And in the memo, which was marked
for internal use only at ITT, the lobbyist laid out how that company, ITT,
had made a surreptitious deal with Nixon`s Justice Department.
The Justice Department under Nixon had been pursuing an antitrust lawsuit
against ITT, trying to stop that company from gobbling up other companies
and becoming an even larger conglomerate. ITT did not like that legal
pursuit by the Justice Department. To try to evade that legal scrutiny, to
try to squirm out of that antitrust case, they made this secret deal. The
Justice Department would go easy on ITT for an antitrust case, and in
exchange, Nixon`s beloved San Diego convention would get that much closer
to reality because ITT would make a huge monetary donation to that
convention. They donate $400,000, which in today`s dollars would be like a
couple million bucks.
So, Jack Anderson got that scooped he got that memo, that internal memo
from ITT, and he wrote about it, and the whole thing just blew up. And
suddenly, the San Diego Republican Convention didn`t seem like such a good
idea anymore. The ITT lobbyists tried to claim the memo wasn`t real, but
by that point, the FBI had already authenticated it. Then it turned out,
the FBI had been pressured by the White House, by the Nixon White House to
not authenticate it, to disprove the memo and call it a forgery even though
Then, the Senate Watergate Committee turned up an internal White House memo
that warned that the president himself appeared to have been directly
involved in arranging this corrupt ITT deal to drop that prosecution in
exchange for the donation. It all just – it all just spiraled.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TV ANCHOR: Attorney General Elliot Richardson today asked the special
Watergate prosecutor Archibald Cox to look into a government investigation
of last year`s controversial merger of the International Telephone and
Telegraph Company with the Hartford Fire Insurance Company. This could
mean that IT&T may be drawn into the Watergate scandals.
REPORTER: The FBI has conducted an extensive investigation into the case
in recent weeks and has come up with a great deal of new evidence. This
evidence is now being studied by a team of four lawyers working under the
government special prosecutor Archibald Cox. The evidence is regarded as
so incriminating that a prosecution already is being planned.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: So, the special prosecutor who was already looking into the
Watergate scandal came across this other thing, this ITT thing, this other
scandal in the Nixon White House came across it in the course of the
Watergate investigation and even though it had nothing to do with the
Watergate break-in at the Democratic Party`s headquarters or the efforts to
cover that up, the special prosecutor still went after it.
Within the Watergate investigation, the special prosecutor set up an
internal task force to work on that ITT thing specifically, dropping the
prosecution in exchange for that donation. It was basically an offshoot
investigation within the Watergate special prosecution, even though it
wasn`t related to anything the prosecutor had originally set out to
And you can see that lines here as they found out about it at the time.
1973, Cox bolsters team investigating ITT. That`s the Watergate special
prosecutor Archibald Cox bulking up his team to look for evidence of
perjury and obstruction of justice in the ITT scandal.
And, of course, Nixon ultimately fired the special prosecutor Archibald
Cox, but he couldn`t kill the Watergate investigation just by firing
people. And eventually, the Watergate investigation that led to Nixon`s
resignation, it also led to the first ever criminal conviction of a U.S.
attorney general. Nixon`s Attorney General Richard Kleindienst had lied
about the ITT scandal during his confirmation hearing, and he got nailed
for it, because of the task force that was set up under the Watergate
special prosecutor to look at that specific thing.
So, what started with a check for $400,000, and a supposedly triumphant
homecoming Republican convention for an insecure president, that discrete,
standalone, quid pro quo corruption scandal, unrelated to the Watergate
break-in and the Watergate cover-up, that ITT scandal, making that
antitrust case go away in exchange for money, that separate distinct
scandal got vacuumed up into the special prosecutor`s investigation and it
eventually resulted in a guilty plea from a U.S. attorney general.
And you know what, had Gerald Ford not pardoned Richard Nixon, that ITT
task force might eventually have led to charges against Nixon, too, because
Nixon really was caught on tape explaining how he`d taken care of that
whole ITT prosecution at the Justice Department.
So that – that ITT case has always been a very interesting loose thread
from Watergate, right? It looms large and the what-if questions about what
criminal charges Nixon might have faced if Ford hadn`t pardoned him. It
also looms over the potential obstruction of justice questions involving
President Trump`s first use of the pardon power.
If Trump has, as has been reported, if Trump in fact tried to get his
Justice Department to quash the federal prosecution of convicted Sheriff
Joe Arpaio before Trump issued him a pardon, then that successful ITT task
force that was formed by the Watergate special prosecutor in the 1970s,
well, that`s the model for how the Robert Mueller special counsel
investigation now might expand its inquiries to cover that potential
obstruction of justice related to the Arpaio pardon today.
We know that the Mueller investigation is already looking into potential
obstruction of justice and Trump`s firing of the FBI Director James Comey.
In fact, we know there is a new wrinkle that has come up in that part of
the investigation and that`s coming up with Congressman Adam Schiff.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: So, tonight, we`re getting some, frankly, strange new reporting,
about subpoenas coming from the House Intelligence Committee, subpoenas
that relate to the dossier of alleged Russian dirt on Donald Trump that was
prepared by a former MI-6 officer and that was published to great
controversy by “BuzzFeed” in January.
It`s “The Washington Examiner”, that conservative outlet, that`s reporting
tonight that the House Intelligence Committee has now sent subpoenas about
that Trump-Russia dossier to the FBI and to the Department of Justice. So,
this is not the Department of Justice or the FBI issuing subpoenas, right?
This is like – this is Congress subpoenaing the FBI. Does that mean
they`re trying to force the Mueller investigation to hand over stuff to
Congress? What does this mean?
As “The Washington Examiner” describes it tonight, quote: The subpoena is -
- excuse me – as “The Washington Examiner” describes it tonight, the
subpoena is for documents, quote, relating to the dossier, the FBI`s
relationship with dossier author Christopher Steele, and, quote, the
bureau`s possible role in supporting what began as an opposition research
project against candidate Donald Trump in the final months of last year`s
They`re mad at the FBI and they want information from the FBI about them
receiving the dossier? According to this reporting tonight, the FBI and
the Justice Department were given a deadline of September 1st to hand over
documents related to these requests, a deadline that they did not meet.
This latest news about the subpoenas comes, of course, amid tension within
the House Intelligence Committee.
Last week, the top Democrat on the committee, Adam Schiff, warned that the
investigation in that committee might result in two separate partisan
reports, one by the Democrats, one by the Republicans. That came after
reports that two Republican staffers on the committee flew to London this
summer unbeknownst to the other members of the committee apparently in an
effort to contact the author of the dossier, ex-British MI-6 agent
That move prompted Democrats to start voicing their fears that their
Republican counterparts were more interested in trying to discredit the
Christopher Steele dossier rather than trying to substantiate its
allegations. And now, we have these new subpoenas from the committee to
the FBI and to the Justice Department demanding documents related to the
I`m not quite sure what to make of this, but I am very happy to say that
joining us now is Adam Schiff. He`s the top Democrat on the Intelligence
Committee in the House.
Congressman Schiff, thank you for being here tonight. I really appreciate
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: You bet. Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: I described this as strange news and I will admit to being a
little bit baffled by this. Can I just ask if this is something that you
were surprised to learn tonight? Did you know this was happening? And can
you help me understand what it means?
SCHIFF: Well, during the recess, we were informed that the majority wanted
to send subpoenas to the DOJ and FBI requesting these documents, which I
think perplexed us because we hadn`t even made a voluntary request to by
letter for the information. We have a committee practice, we don`t
subpoena parties unless they turn down our request for information, which
the FBI and DOJ really hadn`t done.
So, we opposed it. We thought it wasn`t warranted. They told us they were
going to do it anyway.
And this also stood in stark contrast to a different situation where we had
requested twice in writing documents from the White House any tapes or
memoranda reflecting conversations between the president and Director Comey
and the White House basically sent us misleading and incomplete replies and
there, we really should subpoena the White House but they have not been
So, I was concerned about both the disparate treatment here, but also
really trying to antagonize the FBI and DOJ, trying to provoke a conflict
potentially special counsel. I think, Rachel, basically what`s going on
here is you know something that I saw back in my days as a prosecutor,
sometimes the defense opts for a strategy of trying to put the government
on trial and here, I think there`s a hope that if they can impeach
Christopher Steele and they can impeach the FBI and DOJ, maybe they can
impeach the whole Russia investigation.
But that`s not our purpose. It`s really at cross-purposes we ought to be
trying to figure out how much is accurate within what Mr. Steele reported,
not trying to discredit him for some reason.
MADDOW: Are they – I mean, I don`t want to ask you to put words in their
mouth and I know that you can really only speak for yourself and you`re
very careful about that in terms of dealing with your colleagues on the
committee. But I don`t really understand the point that they`re trying to
make. Are they trying to create a counter-narrative in which the existence
of the dossier is itself a scandal, that that`s the Russia scandal, that
the dossier itself is the original sin and that that therefore the FBI is
participating in some sort of Russian plot when it comes to the dossier?
SCHIFF: You know, I honestly don`t really understand what they hope to
accomplish with this. Maybe they can discredit Mr. Steele, although he`s
held in very high regard within the intelligence community. Maybe they
want to discredit people in the FBI or the Department of Justice.
But what`s to be gained about that? It doesn`t undercut the fact that
Russia hacked our election institutions and tried to influence the outcome
of our election. It`s only going to impede our ability to get at the
facts. So, I don`t really understand what they hope to accomplish from
But I am disturbed at this quite evident double standard of subpoena
agencies for public effect I think that`s really what was designed here
rather than investigatory purposed and where we really do have a need for
subpoenas as in the case when the White House refuses to voluntary requests
to comply, we can`t get their acquiescence in the subpoena.
So, it is a worrying trend.
MADDOW: And I`m all that familiar with what the FBI is required to do in
response to a subpoena like this. This just isn`t a process that I`m all
that familiar with.
Is there anything that could be done through this process? Is there
anything that Mike Conaway or Devin Nunez could do on your committee to
really interfere with the Mueller investigation or to either I guess forced
them to disclose stuff that might impede their ability to prosecute and
investigate this? Or otherwise screw with what the special counsel is
SCHIFF: Well, you know, they certainly could make the department and
special counsel`s life difficult if their subpoena materials that are part
of the investigative work product that the department normally would not
share with Congress. And so, yes, it could create real problems. Now,
here, they`ve threatened to bring the attorney general in open session
before our committee. Frankly, many of us would welcome that, welcome the
chance to question the attorney general under oath. I have a hard time
believing they would actually fall through on that threat. But
nonetheless, we would welcome the opportunity to have him testify before
But we don`t want to interfere and anything that Bob Mueller is doing and
we made it clear and committed at the outset, we would do our best to
coordinate so that we wouldn`t. This to me violates that commitment to the
special counsel, and I leave it to my colleagues in the majority to explain
why they`re doing this, why this confrontation with the Department of
Justice which seems so wholly unwarranted.
MADDOW: Congressman Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House
Intelligence Committee – thank you for joining us on short notice tonight,
sir. It`s nice to see you.
SCHIFF: Thanks, Rachel. You too.
All right. More ahead tonight. Stay with us.
MADDOW: We just set a new record. Hurricane Irma is now the most powerful
hurricane ever recorded in the open Atlantic. It`s not even two weeks
since Harvey slammed ashore in Texas, but if you haven`t been paying
attention to this next storm Irma yet, this is the time to start worrying
Forecasters are saying this could be worse than Harvey. The National
Hurricane Center calls it potentially catastrophic. It`s a category 5
storm and then some. Sustained winds of up to 185 miles per hour, which is
insane even for hurricane winds. It`s also big. It`s over miles wide,
which is larger than the state of Ohio.
Florida`s already declared a state of emergency. There`s mandatory
evacuation in the Keys starting tomorrow. The mayor of Miami`s told
everybody to stockpile at least three days of food and water and medicine
and fuel. But ahead of that potential mainland threat, tonight, Irma is
already a life threatening storm for people on the islands of Barbuda and
Antigua where the storm is expected to hit. As early as tonight, we`re
already seeing some of these harrowing images from those islands.
Irma is also a very real threat to the residents of Puerto Rico. Late
tonight, the president declared a state of emergency of Puerto Rico, as
well as the U.S. Virgin Islands. Officials have been warning that a
combination of the size of the storm and challenges to the infrastructure
and the election the electrical grid in Puerto Rico means that certain
parts of Puerto Rico could be out of power for up to six months once this
And then as I said, starting Friday, Florida could get hit with the first
edge of this, the tropical storm force winds. The latest models show Irma
making landfall mainland sometime over the weekend. So, forecasters say
Americans from Texas to Virginia need to be on alert, but prayers for the
Caribbean tonight. I`ll be right back.
MADDOW: I just want to real quick underscore two things as we wrap up
First, this “Washington Examiner” report tonight which I just spoke about
with – spoke with Adam Schiff about. This may be important. If this
bears out, this may be the first real substantive effort by Republicans in
Congress to mess with the special counsel investigation by Robert Mueller,
these subpoenas they`ve now sent to the FBI and the Justice Department.
They apparently haven`t gotten a response yet, but this does look like it
may be the first real salvo by congressional Republicans to try to
interfere with the Bob Mueller inquiry. So, stick a pin in that. That`s
Second thing to underscore tonight is that Lawrence O`Donnell has Senator
Kamala Harris from California on his show tonight. She never talks to
anybody on cable news. She`s talking to Lawrence tonight.
That does it for us tonight.
Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL”.
Good evening, Lawrence.
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