Sen. Flake on Trump: “I will not be complicit” Transcript 10/24/17 The Rachel Maddow Show
Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
Date: October 24, 2017
Guest: Devlin Barrett, Adam Schiff
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST, ALL IN: 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.
HAYES: You bet.
MADDOW: And thanks at home for joining us this hour. Happy Tuesday.
The big news out of Washington today is the announced resignation of
Republican Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona, who has become one of the most
outspoken critics of President Trump within his own party. Senator Flake`s
17-minute Senate speech today denouncing Trumpism in his own party was one
of those Washington moments, one of those Washington spectacles that
absolutely stopped people in their tracks today.
That said, strategically, it came with one major asterisk on it. So, we`re
going to be speaking with presidential historian Michael Beschloss about
not just that spectacle today and what a moment that was but what that
might mean about the Trump presidency. So, that`s coming up a little later
And that story about Jeff Flake and these remarkable comments he made today
on the Senate floor, that was the story that really dominated Beltway media
coverage today. And I think because of that, there were a number of other
important stories that broke today that didn`t get as much attention as
they might otherwise. Just because the Jeff Flake story understandably
took so much oxygen out of the room.
In case you missed it, though, also today, there was a sort of ridiculous
scandal that broke involving Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. While the
White House and the administration are increasingly trying to present the
Trump presidency as a national security success story – that seems to be
their new line they are pushing on the press – the security situation in
Afghanistan, where thousands of U.S. troops are still serving, has actually
become increasingly dire over the last few months, and in particular over
the last several weeks.
There`s been a sharp increase in large casualty event attacks, including in
the nation`s capital of Kabul and in terms of attacks that target security
forces in Afghanistan. So, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson traveled to
Afghanistan in the middle of this bad security situation. He arrived in
And then, well, the State Department initially tried to get away with
saying that this meeting between Rex Tillerson on the left and Afghan
President Ashraf Ghani on the right tried to get away with saying this
meeting took place in the capital city of Kabul. It did not. They did not
meet in Kabul. They met, rather, inside the perimeter at a U.S. military
base at Bagram.
The Afghan government initially tried to say that the meeting took place at
Kabul, but at least they went through the trouble of covering up in the
photo a digital clock that had been visible in other photos that clearly
showed U.S. military Zulu time on the wall behind them.
The Afghan picture just photoshopped that out when they tried to get away
with saying this meeting took place in Kabul and not at a U.S. military
base. That digital clock showing Zulu time would be a dead giveaway, that
these two actually had met at a U.S. military base, not some random
location in the city of Kabul, but the secretary of state was called out by
the two different photos, including one with the bad photoshop job and the
misstatement about where they were and the misstated implications how safe
it is in Kabul for Rex Tillerson to go visit.
The State Department later issued a correction, admitting, yes, they
actually met at a military base. That happened today.
On national security, there was also a bunch of new reporting today on the
circumstances of the ambush in Niger that killed four special operations
soldiers on October 4th. NBC News reports tonight on the nature of the
mission these soldiers may have been pursuing when they were ambushed and
the high-value terrorist target they may have been directed to pursue.
That news comes to light tonight at the same time that the U.S. army has
released the service records of the soldiers who were killed.
And those service records show that whatever dangerous and relatively
unsupported mission these soldiers were on, they did not have significant
combat experience between them. One of the four soldiers who was killed
had never before been an on an overseas deployment. The other three
soldiers who are killed each had had one deployment. None of them held the
Army`s combat infantry badge, and none of them had been awarded a combat
action badge, which is what you get if you have seen combat action before.
So, again, we still do not know why the president continues to refuse to
publicly acknowledge these soldiers being lost in the most deadly combat
incidents of his presidency. But we are getting new details reported out
today about the circumstances of their death and the mission they were on.
So, we`ll have more on that coming up tonight.
Here at home today, a federal appeals court intervened once again in the
case of a 17-year-old girl who the Trump administration has really – I
mean, there is no other way to say this – they have been trying to
physically prevent her from getting an abortion. They`ve been trying to
physically hold her to compel her to give birth against her will. She`s
being held in HHS custody in the office of – by the Office of Refugee
Resettlement. That`s an office within HHS that President Trump put a
prominent anti-abortion activist in charge, even though he had no
experience with refugee resettlement.
But this young woman is not asking for the government to pay for her
abortion, she`s not asking for government doctors to perform her abortion,
she`s not even asking for a ride so she can get to the doctor to perform
the abortion. All she`s asking for is for HHS to physically allow her to
obtain this procedure on her own with resources of her own. And so far,
HHS appears to be physically blocking her from going to get it.
And if you look at that another way, it really is pretty much the
government forcing her to give birth against her will.
The Trump administration appears ready to litigate this to biologically
what may be the point of no return for this teenage girl. But as of
tonight, a federal appeals court says this girl must be allowed to go
forward with this procedure. She must be released from HHS to a doctor`s
office so she can have it done. We will see if the Trump administration
tries to get the Supreme Court to stop her now, even beyond this.
But keep an eye on that story. Again, federal appeals court ruling. It`s
possible the Trump administration may try to appeal it to the Supreme Court
One other story today that flew below the radar, but I think worth knowing
because my personal view, I feel like this is an ethically inexplicable
story. Today, the FBI without warning and without notice, they released
more than 1,000 pages of FBI documents related to their investigation of
the mass killing of first graders and elementary school staff members at
Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2012.
Now, a lot of the material is heavily redacted, but a lot of it is very
readable. And it includes things like FBI agent`s notes from executing
search warrants and talking to family members and neighbors of the killer.
It includes detailed information and notes about FBI agents chasing down
every lead and tip they got from anybody related to anything connected to
this case, related to the possibility that there might have been anybody
else involved in the killing or what might have motivated it. It`s a ton
of material. It`s the raw material of them investigating that case, and it
is reading through it today, at times – you know, it`s gruesome to read
through it, it`s upsetting.
The reason I think this is a big national news story that happened today is
because the release of this type of information about the Sandy Hook
killings is likely to be particularly difficult for the families involved.
Not just because it`s information about those killings, but particularly
because the right-wing conspiracy theorists of the world, like Info Wars
and Alex Jones and all these people have spent years promoting that the
Sandy Hook killings were somehow a hoax and these families really didn`t
lose their kids. And it`s part of some government plot to come take away
So, this printed evidence that the FBI has just released, evidence of FBI
agents interviewing every possible chance that there might have been some
plot behind it, you know, all of this evidence of the legwork that the FBI
did to nail down that case and what happened there, it will be taken out of
context and used to torment these poor families further. And we are coming
up on the five-year anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary School
massacre. And these families are closing in on a time where more time will
have passed on earth since their children were killed than elapsed during
the lives of their children, right?
So, this is a very difficult time for the Sandy Hook families. But for
some reason, today, the FBI decided without warning they would dump all of
these hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of documents online, with no
advanced notice to anybody that these documents were coming, and
specifically with not even a heads up to the families of all of those
little boys and girls who were killed.
The families got no advanced notice that the FBI was about to do this, even
though the right-wing conspiracy theorists of the world who have made those
families their targets, are absolutely assured to lock at this stuff and
use it for a whole new round of emotional terrorism against the families
who lost their first graders.
So, nice move, FBI.
I mean, they released that information in response for a FOIA request. You
know, presumably, they released that stuff because they had to release it.
No beef there. But they didn`t have to release it without notifying the
Sandy Hook families in advance that they were going to. So those families
could at least brace themselves.
When we spoke to the FBI about this today, they told us this was the
natural sequence of events that they saw emerging from the FOIA request.
So, at least we know they thought it was natural.
So, as I said, it was a busy news day today. A bunch of I think important
stories that kind of flew under the radar because of the fascinating
electoral news in the U.S. Senate. We`ll have a bunch on those stories
later on over the course of this hour, including having Michael Beschloss
here in just a moment.
But there are two big stories that broke just as we are getting ready to go
in the air tonight. And one of them broke in “The Wall Street Journal.”
It concerns former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. Now, with Paul
Manafort, it is widely understood, it`s been widely reported that he is in
the crosshairs of the special counsel investigation being led by Robert
Mueller into the Russian attack on the presidential election last year and
the question whether or not the Trump campaign was somehow complicit in
Paul Manafort`s house in Virginia is the only personal home we know to have
been raided, subject to a no-knock FBI search warrant in this
investigation, and Paul Manafort is the only Trump associate or Trump
campaign figure who has reported to have been told by Mueller`s prosecutors
that he should expect to be indicted.
Well, now, tonight, “The Wall Street Journal” reports that the U.S.
attorney`s office in Manhattan, the most famous U.S. attorney`s office in
the country, southern district of New York, the office previously led by
Preet Bharara, the famous anti-public corruption prosecutor who was fired
by President Trump even after he was told earlier by President Trump that
he could keep the job. According to “The Wall Street Journal” tonight, the
SDNY, Southern District of New York U.S. attorney`s office is pursuing its
own investigation, its own criminal investigation into possible money
laundering by Paul Manafort.
Quote: The chief of the public corruption unit in the southern district of
New York, Andrew Goldstein, was hired over the summer by Robert Mueller to
join his wide-ranging investigation of alleged Russian meddling in the 2016
election, including possible collusion between the Trump campaign and
Russian operatives. Mr. Mueller`s operation took over parts of the
Manafort money laundering probe after Andrew Goldstein arrived on Team
Mueller. But federal prosecutors in his former office in the southern
district of New York have continued to pursue their Manafort investigation,
in conjunction with the special counsel`s team.
The inquiry and the Manhattan U.S. attorney`s office is being conducted at
least in part by assistant U.S. attorney – stick a pin in that –
assistant U.S. Attorney Paul Monteleoni, who was previously a member of the
money laundering and asset forfeiture unit, he joined the public corruption
team in recent months.
Now, this is an important story on a couple of levels. Number one, from
Paul Manafort`s perspective, the perspective of the Trump campaign
chairman, this adds yet another layer of talented federal prosecutors who
are looking at him as the former Trump campaign chairman, right? In terms
of his criminal liability there, this is serious.
This is also important because of what I said to stick a pin in there,
conducted at least in part by assistant U.S. Attorney Paul Monteleoni.
Since President Trump fired Preet Bharara and all the other U.S. attorneys,
he has not appointed somebody new to run that office. There is no
confirmed U.S. attorney running that office since Preet Bharara left.
And in fact, one of the minor ongoing scandals of the Trump campaign over
the last several weeks has been the revelation that the president has
personally been meeting with potential nominees for the U.S. attorney job
in these federal prosecutors` offices, specifically in the southern
district of New York, Manhattan. Also the eastern district of New York,
Brooklyn, where Jared Kushner`s family real estate company has received
subpoenas because they are reportedly facing criminal investigation. And
we`ve heard multiple but still unconfirmed reports, including a mention
from former Attorney General Eric Holder last night on this show that the
one other place where President Trump has personally been meeting with
potential U.S. attorneys, something no other president has ever done, the
one other place he may have also done that besides southern and eastern
districts in New York, may have been with a candidate for a U.S. attorney
job in Florida – the one that would have jurisdiction over his Florida
So, it had been previously reported – it`s been sort of brewing tertiary
scandal that the president was considering candidates linked to Marc
Kasowitz, his old hilarious personal attorney who used to represent him on
Trump/Russia and also linked to his old friend Rudy Giuliani for these
crucial federal prosecutors jobs in New York, where both the president
himself and Jared Kushner may really have skin in the game in terms of
potential criminal inquiries by those offices, right? So, there have been
worries about the president appointing somebody potentially beholden to him
to the offices that may potentially have criminal interest in him and his
Those worries about who he might appoint to those jobs have been very much
compounded by this totally unprecedented news in the last few weeks that
the president has been personally meeting with some of these candidates
before announcing who his nominee is for those jobs. What`s he asking
those people when he meets with them?
Well, now, the news that his campaign manager as well as his son-in-law is
under active investigation by those offices, that puts not just a red flag
on that unprecedented behavior by the president with his U.S. attorney
candidates, it really puts a – not like a – what`s bigger than a red
flag? A red siren. I big flashing red neon sign. A red clown nose?
I mean, potentially, if the president is specifically zeroing in on U.S.
attorneys` offices where he may potentially have his own or his campaign or
family criminal liability, that may end up attracting further interest from
the special counsel Robert Mueller, if, in fact, Robert Mueller is looking
at the president for a pattern of potential obstruction of justice. So,
that important story broke in “The Wall Street Journal” tonight.
The other important story that broke just as we were about to go to air
tonight is about – remember Christopher Steele? The ex-British spy?
I should tell you, Congressman Adam Schiff is standing by. He`s the top
Democrat on the Intelligence Committee. We`re going to be getting his live
perspective on this in just a moment.
But we have been following the story in recent weeks as Republicans in
Congress have tried to make a scandal out of the Christopher Steele
dossier, the dossier of alleged Russian dirt on Donald Trump that was
assembled by ex-British spy Christopher Steele during the campaign and that
was published to great controversy by “BuzzFeed” in January.
Republican Senator Chuck Grassley and Republican Congressman Devin Nunes
and to a certain extent actually, Senator Lindsey Graham, as well, they`ve
all tried to make it into the real Russia scandal that Christopher Steele
ever created that dossier in the first place. That he was ever hired by an
opposition research firm to dig that stuff up. The attacks on the dossier
itself, on Christopher Steele for having produced it, on Fusion GPS for
having commissioned that dossier, those attacks on the Republican side have
only increased over time as elements of the dossier have been proven true,
and as none of its major assertions have been publicly disproven.
It had been previously reported that Fusion`s opposition research into
Trump had initially been funded by a Republican donor who was interested in
defeating Trump in a Republican presidential primary. That funding
naturally dried up once Trump secured the nomination. But then Fusion GPS
reportedly lined up another donor to keep Steele`s research project going
for the general election and that was a donor who was in favor of Hillary
Well, tonight, after months of Republicans prying on this issue with a
crowbar, tonight, “The Washington Post” was first to worst that the
Democratic donor who took over funding the dossier for the general election
was a lawyer representing the Clinton campaign and the DNC, Marc Elias.
Quote, Elias and his lawmaker Perkins Coie, retained Fusion GPS in April
2016, on behalf of the Clinton campaign and the DNC. Prior to that
agreement, Fusion GPS`s research into Trump was funded by a still unknown
Republican client during the Republican presidential primary. The Clinton
campaign and the DNC through that law firm continued to fund Fusion`s
research through the end of October 2016, days before Election Day.
Fusion GPS gave Steele`s reports and other research documents to Marc
Elias. It`s unclear how or how much of that information was then shared
with the Clinton campaign and the DNC.
Joining us now is Devlin Barrett. He`s a national security reporter for
“The Washington Post”, who was part of the team who broke this story
Mr. Barrett, thanks very much for being here. Congratulations on the
DEVLIN BARRETT, NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Thank
MADDOW: I have to tell you, it`s bitter congratulations I`m giving you
because we were chasing this story all day today and you beat us to it.
And when your story today posted on “The Washington Post” Website, there
was a great yell of consternation that went up in our newsroom here at
MSNBC. So, well done.
BARRETT: Well, thank you. I mean, a lot of people have been chasing this
for a long time and it`s sort of become what the House Republicans and the
Senate Republicans want to know most about Russia. So now that it`s out
there, it will be interesting to see how everyone decides what it means
given the larger investigation.
MADDOW: I mean, at one level we had previously understood from previous
reporting that there was an initial Republican funder paying Fusion GPS for
oppo on Donald Trump, and then once he locked up the nomination, there
became a Democratic interested funder. In that sense, it`s not a surprise
that we`ve got somebody linked to the Democratic campaign who was – who
was funding this.
Is there surprise – is there anything particularly important as far as you
see it about it being Marc Elias, about it being that particular law firm?
BARRETT: So, I think there`s two things. One is the brass tacks of the
politics of it, right? Because the Republicans have been making
essentially this argument for a number of months and using this argument
that it`s just a Democratic opposition research effort to try to discredit
the entirety of the Russia investigation.
I assume this will give them some wind in their sails and they`ll try to
see how far they can take it. But I do think it is meaningful to know
that, you, this question mark, this uncertainty as to who paid for this
work in the first instance is now explained as, yes, in fact, the Clinton
campaign and the Democratic National Committee did pay for this research
work. That won`t end the questions as to what they found, and more
importantly, what the FBI found when they started looking into it. But I
do think that clears up a major unanswered question in this whole process.
MADDOW: Right towards the end of your piece tonight, you cite – your
sources saying that at no point did the Clinton campaign or the DNC direct
Steele`s activities. They described him as a Fusion GPS subcontractor.
So, the sources from whom you got this story are characterizing this not as
the Clinton campaign and the DNC telling Steele, you know, go write this
down for us, go tell us this particular story, they were paying him to find
out what he could find out and it was – it was self-directed.
BARRETT: Right. I think – I think part of what happens is there is an
evolution here and it starts out – you know, when a Republican donor hires
Fusion GPS at first, our understanding is they`re not really looking at
Russia that closely. It`s only later in the election process, you know,
roundabout the summer time when Steele and the issue of issue really come
to the forefront of what Fusion GPS is doing.
So, yes, that becomes more of an issue as time goes on, and, you know, what
we`re told is that, you know, the Clinton campaign didn`t have a ton of
interaction with this stuff, however, you know, just as an example of that,
tonight, a former spokesman for the campaign says that he didn`t know about
it at the time. If he had known about it, he would like to have had a
press conference about it or go to Europe, or dig into it more. But he
didn`t know about it at the time. That`s what he says.
MADDOW: That remains one of the mysteries here, looking at the timeline,
that if the Clinton campaign had access to this stuff, which it sounds like
based on the funding they should have, they never made a public – they
never made a public story of it during the campaign, at least in the way
that was trackable to them.
One last quick question for you, Mr. Barrett. No indication who the
Republican funder was before these Democratic funders came into the
BARRETT: We`re still working on that. You know, give us a day, Rachel.
You know, just let us have our day. We`ll keep working and try to figure
it out, we promise.
MADDOW: If you could figure it out before my news meeting, that would be
MADDOW: Thank you.
Devlin Barrett, national security reporter for “The Washington Post.” One
of – part of the team that broke this story tonight at “The Post”.
All right. The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee joins us
Plus, we`ve got NBC news presidential historian Michael Beschloss here to
talk about this remarkable stand that Arizona Republican Senator Jeff Flake
took against the president of his own party today.
We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: Today, the Intelligence Committee in the House interviewed the
Trump campaign`s digital director, Brad Parscale, as well as one of
President Trump`s personal lawyers and a former Trump administration
executive, a man named Michael Cohen. These were both closed door
interviews today. But CNN`s reporter Manu Raju was nevertheless able to
report that the Michael Cohen interview with the Intelligence Committee
was, quote, contentious. Tell me more.
Michael Cohen is famous as a Trump Organization executive for threatening
reporters in absolutely fantastically unprintable language. So I`m curious
as to what contentious means when it comes to him meeting members of
Congress and their staff. But those two appearances by Parscale and Cohen,
those happened today, again, behind closed doors and they happened both
before the news broke tonight that the U.S. attorney`s office in the
southern district of New York is reportedly pursuing a criminal money
laundering investigation against the president`s campaign chairman.
Those interviews also happened today before the news broke that the
Christopher Steele dossier of alleged Russian dirt on President Trump, that
dossier was financed first by a Republican donor who wanted to beat Trump
in the primaries, but then in the general election, we now know it was paid
for by a law firm linked to the Clinton campaign and the DNC.
Now, we had expected someone linked to the Clinton campaign or at least
somebody supporting Clinton`s candidacy had been funding that research
during the general election. We now know it was a law firm linked to the
Clinton campaign and the DNC directly. We still don`t know who the
Republican was who funded it in the first place before the Democrats
started doing so.
Joining us now is Congressman Adam Schiff. He`s the top Democrat on the
Congressman Schiff, it`s nice to see you. Thanks for joining us tonight.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), RANKING MEMBER, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: You bet.
MADDOW: Does knowing that the Clinton campaign and the Democratic Party
funded the research behind the Christopher Steele dossier for those six
months last year, does that shed any meaningful light in your committee`s
investigation into the Russian attack or whether they had help?
SCHIFF: Not particularly, no. We`ve known for some time, at least it`s
been publicly reported that the dossier or the hiring of Christopher Steele
was initially on behalf of one of the Republican candidates and later on
behalf of the Democratic candidate. This was the first confirmation of
half of that, but it doesn`t really shed any light where we really need
light shed, and that is how much of what Mr. Steele found can be
corroborated? How much of it is accurate?
We`ve been working hard to answer those questions, which are really what
the American people need to know, and, indeed, some of the dossier has been
corroborated. What I find most significant about it is the fact that
Christopher Steele, no matter who was paying for his services, may have
discovered before our own intelligence agencies that the Russians were
going to interfere in our election on behalf of Donald Trump.
So, we have a lot of work to do in terms of a lot of the claims in the
dossier, but it – I don`t think it really adds much value to know who paid
for it, necessarily, and I view this as part of the effort to discredit him
which really doesn`t advance the investigation.
MADDOW: Well, on the point of discrediting the dossier, if the dossier
went to the FBI, right, and to me I`ve always seen that as a sign that not
only the FBI saw Christopher Steele as credible, but that Christopher
Steele thought his own work would check out if somebody like the FBI
followed up on it and reviewed his sources and reviewed his findings.
But if the Steele dossier did go to the FBI and it was taken seriously by
the FBI and it became part of the FBI`s interest and part of the roadmap of
their investigation into what happened here, I can understand why the
Republicans would want to say that the dossier itself is a scandal, is
salacious, is fake, and that somehow anything that follows from the FBI
investigation, including the special counsel investigation, would be sort
of fruit of the poison tree.
What do you make of their overall effort to discredit it? Both the
strategy behind it and how well they`re doing at that.
SCHIFF: Well, I think you`re right. I think the strategy is much what you
see in a criminal case where if the facts don`t reflect well on the
defendant, the defendant tries to put the government on trial. So, here,
the Republicans are less interested in what did Russia do and how did they
do it and how do we protect ourselves? But rather, let`s shift the focus
on to any kind of government misbehavior, and maybe if we can suggest that
the whole investigation goes back to this dossier and this dossier was
opposition research, maybe we can discredit the whole investigation and
maybe we can get the country to ignore what Russia, in fact, did.
You know, the plain fact is, sometimes, what is uncovered in opposition
research turns out to be true. And here if what Christopher Steele found,
whether it was work for a Republican candidate and a Democratic candidate
later, proved to be true, proved to be of concern to the FBI and to the
country, then we need to know it and we can`t ignore it merely because it
came to the surface during a political campaign.
So, the most important thing is, is it true? How much of it is true and
how much outside of the dossier have we learned about the Russian
involvement? And, indeed, we keep on learning more and more. So, you
know, I view this as much like what happened, frankly, during our
interviews today when the Republican chairman of our committee announced
two new investigations of Hillary Clinton and the Obama administration as
really more of the same, to deflect attention from the Russia
investigation, much as the White House has been urging them to do.
MADDOW: Can I ask you about those – I know you won`t tell us – you won`t
tell anybody what happened behind closed doors in this closed-door hearing
today – closed-door meeting today where your committee heard from the
digital director from the Trump campaign Brad Parscale, and also one of the
president`s lawyers, Michael Cohen, but I – there have been published
reports that describe the meeting with Michael Cohen in particular as
Are those reports accurate? Can you tell us anything more about whether or
not there is anything we should know about that meeting today?
SCHIFF: You know, I can tell you that both of the witnesses today I
thought answered all the questions we had. I don`t think the witnesses
were contentious. There are always debates about some of the questions
that are asked and often those debates are with counsel.
But, no, I thought Mr. Cohen answered our questions as did Mr. Parscale.
And that`s – you know, that`s what we need them to do. We may have more
follow-up with those witnesses.
But the really contentious part, frankly, was what was taking place during
our interviews in the outside of the room, and that was the announcement of
those two other investigations.
I just want to tie it to your next guest Michael Beschloss and what he`ll
have to say about Jeff Flake. Jeff Flake and I came in together. He is a
man of tremendous integrity. I think what we saw in the House and Senate
today amount to a really sad indictment of the institution.
In the Senate, it became clear with Jeff Flake and Bob Corker that the
Senate has no place for people of that character and quality who are
willing to stand up for what they believe the Republican Party really
stands for. That the party has now become the Trumpist party, and
similarly in the House, in the actions of our chair and the chairs of other
committees to basically have a Benghazi redux, they`ve shown themselves to
be the party of Trump and no longer what we used to think of as the
conservative Republican Party.
MADDOW: Congressman Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House
Intelligence Committee – thank you for your time tonight, sir. It`s nice
to have you here.
SCHIFF: Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: All right. Lots of news to get to tonight, including Michael
Beschloss coming up. Stay with us.
MADDOW: He made it almost a year. He made it 362 days. Nixon had
clobbered George McGovern by 18 million votes. He won 49 states. The
electoral map looked like this in 1972. Nixon got that landslide win
November 7th, 1972.
And then in 1973, the following year, he didn`t quite make it a year, he
didn`t quite make it to November 7th, he only made it to November 4th
before the first senator of his own party called on him to resign. That
was Edward Brooke of Massachusetts.
Edward Brooke went through a lot in his career. He was the first African-
American popularly elected United States senator. He was a combat veteran
from World War II. He served in a segregated regiment.
Edward Brooke was used to being a lightning rod. He is somebody who stood
out and bore the brunt because of it. But years later when he talked about
the decision he made to become the first senator in the Republican Party to
call for the resignation of the Republican president, even years later, you
could still see that he was still shocked about the vitriol he earned for
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FORMER SENATOR EDWARD BROOKE (R), MASSACHUSETTTS: So, yes, I was the first
Republican to call, maybe the first senator, I don`t know, but certainly
the first Republican.
INTERVIEWER: Did you get a lot of heat because of it?
BROOKE: Oh, my mail was horrible. Horrible. And my party and traitor
this and threats, I always got threats. Now, I never mentioned that. But
there were threats against my life and my family.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Edward Brooke was the only African-American in the United States
Senate. He was the only Republican who said anything remotely like Nixon
And ultimately to be proven out, Nixon was gone. He did resign within a
But it was – it was front page, above the fold news when Edward Brooke did
it. It was shocking to the point that he and his family got death threats
that shook him years later.
Looking back on that now, though, it`s easy to forget how deep we were in
the Watergate scandal before the first Republican senator finally took
sides against Nixon. By the time Edward Brooke spoke out in November 4th,
1973, by then, the Senate Watergate Committee had already started its
nationally televised hearings. White House counsel John Dean started
cooperating with prosecutors.
The country had learned that there were tapes of Nixon in the Oval Office.
Nixon refused to turn over the tapes to the Watergate committee or the
special prosecutor who by then was looking into the matter. Less than a
month before Edward Brooke made those comments, the vice president had to
resign in a corruption scandal. When Edward Brooke was calling on Nixon to
resign, there wasn`t even a new vice president in place who would be taking
Nixon`s job if Nixon had followed Brooke`s advice.
By the time Edward Brooke spoke out in November 1973, Nixon had fired the
attorney general and fired the deputy attorney general all because they
refused to fire the prosecutor who was pursuing the Watergate
investigation. And still, even at that point, Edward Brooke was the first
Republican to say maybe the president should go.
That was November of `73. It was not until the following spring, the
spring of `74, by which point Nixon`s campaign staffers began to plead
guilty to criminal charges. His personal lawyer had pled guilty.
It was not until after senior White House officials, up to including the
White House chief of staff had been indicted and the president had been
named as an unindicted conspirator, it wasn`t until then that other
Republicans reluctantly dragged themselves on board to start criticizing
the president and to call for him to step down.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JAMES BUCKLEY (R), NEW YORK: There is one way and one way only by
which the crisis can be resolved and the country pulled out of the
Watergate squalor. I proposed an extraordinary act of statesmanship and
courage, an act once noble and heartbreaking – at once serving the greater
interests of the nation, the institution of the presidency and the stated
goals for which he so successfully campaigned. That act is Richard Nixon`s
own voluntary resignation as president of the United States.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Conservative Republican Senator James Buckley of New York.
You can tell even from the complimentary language he used towards Nixon as
he was calling for Nixon`s resignation that Buckley represented a very pro-
Nixon part of the Republican Party. It took a very long time for people
like that to start speaking out in light of the Watergate scandal.
Buckley made those remarks in March of 1974. By April, the White House
tapes had been subpoenaed. By May, impeachment hearings started in the
House. That summer, the Supreme Court ordered the release of the tapes.
By early August, Nixon was gone.
Presidents in crisis are presidents doing a very bad job and getting
criticized by members of their own party because of it, that`s not unheard
of in American politics. But when it comes to serving senators of a
president`s own party, the senator in question usually has to be a bit of
an outlier himself or the president himself needs to be teetering on the
edge of a political cliff before you expect full-throated intraparty
denunciation and rejection of a serving president.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JEFF FLAKE (R), ARIZONA: Without fear of the consequences and without
consideration of the rules of what is politically safe or palatable, we
must stop pretending that the degradation of our politics and the conduct
of some in our executive branch are normal. They are not normal.
Reckless, outrageous and undignified behavior has become excused and
countenanced as telling it like it is, when it is actually just reckless,
outrageous and undignified. And when such behavior emanates from the top
of our government, it is something else. It is dangerous to a democracy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona levied the kind of sustained, high-
minded criticism at President Trump today that was fairly often directed at
him during the primary campaign last year by his Republican competitors.
We`ve seen little sparks of the same kind of criticism of the president
emerge from Republicans around things like the president`s praising of neo-
Nazi protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia.
But in the big picture, in the context of other president who`s have been
enveloped in scandal or just behaved very badly in office, where do we put
this criticism today from Senator Flake and the similar criticism we`ve
seen in recent days from Republican Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee? How
do we understand how important that is in the life of this presidency,
especially given both Senator Corker and Senator Flake unleashed their
unchecked criticism of President Trump while simultaneously announcing they
were leaving politics and never again running for re-election?
Every headline in the Beltway press today was about Jeff Flake putting up
this fierce fight against President Trump. Well, it is the rare fierce
fight that includes quitting while you are starting the fight. So, how
should we see this as presidencies go?
Hold that thought.
MADDOW: It tends to be an important moment in a presidency when senators
of the president`s own party start publicly denouncing him. This time,
though, the two senators who are now doing that to President Trump, Senator
Bob Corker of Tennessee and now, Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona, both of
them have paired their blistering criticism of the president with
simultaneously – simultaneous announcements that they themselves are
Well, how do we read that asterisk? How does that fit into presidential
history and presidents facing this type of criticism in the past?
Joining us now is Michael Beschloss, NBC News presidential historian.
Michael, it`s great to have you with us tonight. Thank you for being here.
MICHAEL BESCHLOSS, NBC NEWS PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: I was very interested to see Senator Flake`s remarks tonight.
They are not inconsistent with the kind of criticism that he levied against
the president during the campaign. He didn`t endorse the president during
the campaign. He wrote a book very critical of the president`s style of
MADDOW: The surprise today was that he announced he was quitting. How
does that help us understand the importance of this for the presidency?
BESCHLOSS: Well, it sure shows that the Republican Party at the moment, a
lot of Republican voters like Donald Trump and if Jeff Flake had wanted to
run again, that would have been an uphill climb. But if you look at what
Bob Corker said today plus Jeff Flake plus John McCain, a little bit more
obliquely a few days ago and even George W. Bush the same, you know, these
were scathing statements about an incumbent president.
And if you look at Corker and Flake today, these are probably the most
scathing speeches we`ve heard from a sitting senator of a president`s own
party, all the way to Nixon at the time that you were talking about with Ed
Brooke and James Buckley.
You know, one thing we have to remember about that last year of Nixon, it
finally culminated in a couple of days before Nixon resigned, the
Republican leader of the House, Republican leader of the Senate, the
previous Republican presidential nominee Barry Goldwater, they all trooped
up to the Oval Office and they said to Nixon, you know, you`re going to be
impeached before. And just in case you feel like hanging on for a Senate
trial, you`ve got about ten senators, maybe. And that was despite the fact
that unlike Donald Trump, Nixon had a lot of long-time friends in the
Senate who owed him.
MADDOW: Michael, we have been, I think – we have learned over time, and
not just in modern times, but particularly in modern times, that people
have a hard time listening across-party line.
BESCHLOSS: For sure.
MADDOW: That people can`t hear and absorb criticism of people from the
opposite party. That`s why intraparty criticism, a Republican criticizing
a Republican is seen as something that can be so powerful, it`s seen as
something that can open the gate, sort of give permission to other
Republicans, to their peers to do the same thing.
Does the pairing of this criticism with quitting mean that that door may
not open as far for Republicans who have no intention of leaving the Senate
like Corker and Flake are?
BESCHLOSS: Absolutely. And I guarantee you there are a lot of Republican
senators tonight who privately are saying exactly the same thing that
Corker and Flake said today. But they`re terrified to say it in public,
because they want to win the next election.
MADDOW: Michael Beschloss, NBC News presidential historian – thank you
very much for helping us through this. Really appreciate it tonight.
BESCHLOSS: My pleasure. Be well, Rachel.
MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Yesterday afternoon, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,
Dunford, spent nearly an hour outlining the chain of events that culminated
in the deaths of four Army Special Operations Forces in Niger in October
4th. The president still refused to discuss the deaths of those four
soldiers, but journalists have been trying to fill in some of the blanks
and the timeline that`s been laid out thus far by the pentagon.
The mayor of the town where the ambush happened told Voice of America News
that the people of the village where the attack happened purposely led the
soldiers into the ambush. That account was augmented by the news that a
tribal chief from that village has been taken into custody. He has been
Then, NBC reported more details on the setup of the ambush, which
reportedly involved an initial false attack to draw the soldiers into a
response whereupon they were attacked, whereupon they retreated about a
mile before they were ambushed a second time.
Tonight, we have some more new reporting on the circumstances of these
soldiers` deaths. Multiple U.S. officials telling NBC news tonight that
U.S. Special Forces had been pursuing a senior terrorist leader in that
region, a recruiter for an ISIS-linked group in Niger.
Quote: One theory is that the soldiers were gathering information about
that target. And after learning his whereabouts, they decided to pursue
him. But, quote, it is also possible that the 30 Nigerien troops the
troops were accompanying decided to pursue the target themselves.
Now, General Dunford said one of the things they are investigating –
remember, it`s a Pentagon and FBI investigation. He said one of the things
they are investigating is whether the mission changed as it unfolded.
But those are going to turn out to be important questions. Why did a
reconnaissance mission turn into a kill or capture mission? Was it the
idea of these U.S. soldiers who ended up being killed in this ambush? Was
it the idea of their Nigerien counterparts?
Were they equipped for that kind of mission? Were they trained for it?
Did potential backup know that that`s what the mission had changed to?
There are a lot of blank spaces in the story. The president remains
absolutely unwilling to discuss the deaths of the soldiers or the
circumstances under which they were killed. But little by little, it is
now journalists who are filling in the gaps.
Watch this space.
MADDOW: This morning, I went to physical therapy for my screwed up back.
And because I`m a terrible person, I follow up going to the doctor with
immediately then going to the diner next door for a gigantic unhealthy
breakfast and a gallon of coffee, which is how I roll. If you don`t like
me, don`t worry. I`ll be dead by 60.
But I was leaving there feeling kind of guilty about having done this,
right? Finishing my gigantic breakfast, leaving the diner, and I got up
from the counter. And the woman sitting next to me at the counter at the
diner had not said anything to me the whole time. You know, nice enough.
Whatever, we`re just eating our bacon and eggs.
She turns to me as I`m leaving and grabs me by the shoulder. She says
please, can I just say one thing to you? And I was like, oh, God. Sure.
What have you got?
Please tell Larry O`Donnell that he needs to run for president. And I was
like, that I will do.
That does it for us tonight. We`ll see you again tomorrow.
Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD” with the aforementioned Lawrence
Good evening, Lawrence.
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