Chuck Rosenberg Interview Transcript 11/13/17 The Rachel Maddow Show
Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
Date: November 13, 2017
Guest: John Archibald, Chuck Rosenberg
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: That`s “ALL IN” for this evening.
THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Thank you, my friend. Appreciate it.
So, we`ve got a couple of big breaking news stories we`re covering tonight.
We also have an exclusive interview tonight I`m really looking forward to.
A national security and law enforcement veteran who has not spoken publicly
since he left the Trump administration for a very interesting reason. He
is going to be speaking out for the first time tonight. This is his first
interview since leaving the Trump administration.
He`s not only going to hopefully talk with us about the circumstances under
which he left the administration, but also about his potentially unique
ability to give us some insight into matters concerning James Comey,
matters concerning Robert Mueller, matters concerning the eastern district
of Virginia where the U.S. attorney there, we`ve just learned, has been
fired under circumstances that nobody quite understands. He has been very
closely associated with all of those people and institutions.
And he, again, is doing his first interview tonight since leaving the Trump
administration. He`s going to be live here in studio with me. That`s
going to be a big deal. I encourage you to stick around for that.
We`re also going to be joined tonight by Alabama political reporter John
Archibald. Last week after “The Washington Post” published allegations
from four named women about Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore,
all four women saying Moore had pursued them sexually or romantically, I
guess, while they were teenagers and he was a grown man in his 30s. After
that reporting broke in “The Washington Post” broke last week, John
Archibald from “The Birmingham News” burst the bubble a little bit of the
national reaction to that story when he explained that based on his long
history in covering politics in Alabama and particularly the politics of
the modern Republican Party in Alabama, he said based on his experience,
that that “Washington Post” story might cause Roy Moore to win the United
States Senate race next month by an even larger margin than he might have
previously been expected to win.
John Archibald explaining that that “Washington Post” story and the
allegations against Roy Moore would be galvanizing to Moore`s supporters in
a way that might positively help his political chances. So, that was John
Archibald`s take as of Thursday, the night the “Washington Post” story
first broke. But now today, a fifth woman has come forward, saying that
she was a 16-year-old waitress in Gadsden, Alabama, when Roy Moore, who was
then the local district attorney, didn`t just hit on her or ask her out.
She says he assaulted her violently in his car, that he tried to force her
into sexual activity and that he threw her out of his vehicle when she did
not accede to it.
Now, Roy Moore denies her allegations and has denied any sexual misconduct
with anyone. But this woman who came forward today, she`s Trump supporter.
She says she is not motivated by politics. She says she is not suing Roy
Moore, she is not seeking some sort of civil settlement with him. She`s
also not seeking any sort of law enforcement action against him.
But she is describing what she says happened to her. And she did use her
real name and go on camera to make these allegations. She is also,
importantly, volunteering to testify about her experiences under oath. Her
attorney saying today that if the Senate Judiciary Committee were to
convene a hearing to assess these allegations against Roy Moore her client,
who described this alleged assault from when she was 16, her client would
testify under oath under penalty of perjury to any such hearing.
Now, that offer, to testify this under oath, that ends up being not just a
dramatic illustration of how much this woman stands by these allegations
she`s making and how much scrutiny she`s willing to subject these
allegations to. It also ends up a very practically interesting idea, that
conceivably could be the Republican Party`s way out of this problem.
Because this is a big problem they`ve got on their hands, right? They`ve
got a declared, formally nominated Republican candidate for the United
States Senate who may very well win election next month, despite or maybe
even because of these myriad seemingly credible allegations against him.
Remember that all five women who have made these allegations against Roy
Moore have described remarkably similar types of behavior. They`ve all
given their names. None of these women apparently knew each other in any
other context. They say they have not coordinated their efforts.
The initial “Washington Post” story not only named all four women accusers,
they also corroborated these women`s allegations with 30 other interviews.
So, because of the weight of those allegations, the Republican Party does
have a real problem, right? They`re in a pickle. Roy Moore denies the
allegations and he insists he will not step down.
Per John Archibald and other veteran Alabama political observers, there is
a real chance that Roy Moore will win election next month, even after these
allegations have come out. The latest polling shows that Roy Moore is tied
with his Democratic opponent, Doug Jones, even after the allegations came
out, Roy Moore an even bet to win that Senate race.
But starting on Thursday, and then increasingly over the weekend and then
in a big tide today after the latest accuser came forward, Republicans who
were already serving in the Senate have started to insist that Roy Moore
should not join them as a United States senator. On Friday, the national
Republican Party`s Senate Campaign Committee, which is called the NRSC,
that`s the part of the Republican Party that`s supposed to elect and re-
elect Republican senators, the NRSC on Friday ceased raising or spending
any money for Roy Moore. Beyond that organizational decision, though, the
head of that group, the head of the NRSC, Senator Cory Gardner, went one
very practical step further today when he said if Roy Moore does win that
election in Alabama next month, the Senate should vote to expel him.
Now, senators voting to expel one of their own, that has happened very
rarely in the United States Senate. There was one guy in the 1700s who got
expelled for treason. And then there were 14 other members of the Senate
who all got expelled in a big rush between 1861 and 1862. All 14 of them
got thrown out for the same reason. They were all supporters of the
Confederacy which was quite literally waging war against the United States
So, one guy for treason in the 1700s, 14 Confederates. That`s it in terms
of expulsions from the Senate. Since the end of the civil war, nobody else
has ever been expelled from the Senate. There have been proceedings to
consider expelling members from the Senate and sometimes those have turned
up allegations lurid enough that people resign because they don`t want to
have to deal with it. I mean, there have been recommendations by specific
committees that senators should be expelled.
But actually forcing somebody out hasn`t happened since 1862. But Senator
Cory Gardner, head of the Republican National Senate Committee, he`s saying
it should happen again. It hasn`t happened since 1862. He says it should
happen for Roy Moore if Roy Moore wins in Alabama next month.
And that turns out not to be just an interesting history lesson, oh yeah,
there`s only been 15 of them in total and not since the civil war. It not
only ends up being an interesting point for Gardner to take, it also is
practically important because it offers a few different potential off-ramps
for the Republican Party if they want to get themselves out of this Roy
Moore crisis that they are in.
And of those off-ramps, the easiest one, the one that actually takes the
least courage, is to do what Senator Cory Gardner did today and just
threaten that if Roy Moore is elected, he may face expulsion. You can just
threaten that. That`s a possibility, Alabama, if you elect him, we may
expel him. If you want to kick it up a notch and be slightly braver than
that, they could turn that threat into a promise.
Republicans could organize the necessary votes in the United States Senate
to expel him. Make a public show of force. Don`t just threaten, promise
that if Roy Moore is elected he will be expelled from the United States
Senate. By our count there are maybe 20 Republican senators who have
publicly criticized Roy Moore so far to the point of strongly withdrawing
their endorsement or calling on him to withdraw from the race.
If all those Republican senators would all pledge to vote that they would
expel Roy Moore, if they would all pledge to vote to expel Roy Moore, you
add them to all the Democrats who would presumably go along, that would be
more than enough to reach the 67 votes they`d need in the Senate to expel
him, right? If they can line up 67 votes, they can say, these 67 senators
are going to vote to expel you. Then they can promise that he will never
be seated in the United States Senate.
I mean, are they working on that? It`s not like they`re busy passing
legislation. They haven`t passed a single substantive piece of legislation
since Donald Trump was sworn into office in January. I don`t know what
they do all day. If they wanted to solve their Roy Moore problem, the
Republicans in the Senate could whip those votes and then publicly promise
that an expulsion will happen. So they can threaten it, they can promise
But if they wanted to be even more brave, they really wanted to solve their
problem, if they really wanted to get rid of the threat of Roy Moore
actually becoming a sitting U.S. senator, they could move not just from a
threat to a promise but from a promise to a plan. There is no reason why
the Senate could not start holding hearings tomorrow on the credibility of
the allegations against Roy Moore and the question of whether or not he as
a Senate candidate meets the ethical standards required of a United States
Now, those proceedings would be moot if he ends up losing the election in
Alabama next month. But if he wins the election next month, the only way
they could be far enough along in their expulsion proceedings so they could
make good on that promise and guarantee that the day he shows up in
Washington to be sworn in is also the day he gets thrown out is if they get
cracking. Start it now. These things take time. No time like the
If you say you`re going to expel him if he gets elected, that actually
takes work. They could start doing that work right now. And if Republican
leaders in the Senate wanted to actually do something about this rather
than just talking about it on Twitter – well, the first witness they might
want to speak to who volunteered herself today in a tearful statement that
she says she is willing to make under oath.
So, the allegations against Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore continue
to mount. Senate Republicans do appear to be in a panic about what to do
about it. They could take action against Roy Moore starting immediately if
they wanted to. I also have to tell you, they could also take steps just
within the Republican Party internally to stop supporting Roy Moore in his
NBC news has a scoop tonight about the fact that the RNC, despite all of
this public handwringing, all this public denouncing by Republican
senators, you know what, the RNC is still actively right now, tonight,
supporting Roy Moore`s campaign in Alabama. And not just in the abstract
sense. They`ve literally, tonight, got operatives on the ground in Alabama
working to elect Roy Moore. And they are spending on his behalf, so much
for the Republican Party trying to draw a line under him.
So, Republicans have plenty that they could be doing right now if they
really want to block this Roy Moore problem from getting any worse for
them. We`ve got that story ahead tonight in terms of the RNC. We`ve also
got John Archibald from “The Birmingham News,” very much a live wire story
right now. I expect further developments probably while we`re on the air.
But as I said, there`s another major breaking news story tonight. It comes
from “The Atlantic Magazine” and the excellent reporter there, Julia Ioffe.
Now, their reporting tonight concerns Donald Trump Jr. and yet more
unreported contact between the Trump campaign and people involved in the
Russian operation targeting our presidential election last year while that
Russian operation was under way.
Now, you may have heard about this scoop already tonight. There are two
really important things about this scoop. One is that this is yet another
contact, another set of communications that they lied about. This is yet
another contact between the Trump side of things and the Russia side of
things that they have apparently sought to keep secret all this time.
And it`s – it shouldn`t blow my mind, but it does. I honestly felt like
I`m not sure what`s going to happen next in this scandal in terms of who
might to be arrested next, or who might be indicted next, who is going to
turn out to have been aware of something that they previously pled
Like I`d been expecting twists and turns, right? I was not expecting that
– a new FBI raid or something. I was not expecting we would still be
learning about yet more contacts between the Trump campaign and the
Russians even at this late date. You know, you know that you`re supposed
to explain – I mean, how many more of them can there be?
Literally today, “The Washington Post” published what they believed was an
omnibus account of all the different known contacts and meetings between
the Trump campaign and Russian operatives during the campaign. They came
up with a list of 30 different incidents. That was published this morning.
Already it turns out to be out of date. It turns out there`s more that
Donald Trump Jr. didn`t disclose. That`s one important part of this.
How many more can there be? Remember when John McCain said this thing is
like a centipede, you keep thinking the other shoe is going to drop, but
there`s a lot of shoes? Is there anybody in the Trump world, I don`t know,
maybe President Trump, who can say, who can make a public announcement,
hey, if you were involved in the campaign or the transition or my
administration and you had secret contacts with Russians and their
operatives and their agents, now would be a good time to say so? I mean,
you could call for that, right? It is all going to come out eventually.
Somebody should call on them to spill, particularly if you`re of the
mindset that there`s nothing nefarious about these contacts between the
Trump campaign and Russia, right? If you`re going to make the case that
it`s totally normal for presidential campaigns that are being assisted by a
foreign intelligence operation to have several dozen contacts with agents
and operatives and officials from that country while the operation is under
way, yes, that`s totally normal. If you want to claim that there`s nothing
weird about all these contacts, especially if you want to claim that
there`s nothing weird about it, then why do you keep hiding them? Fess up.
Say what they are.
Eventually, they`re all going to turn up, like in Julia Ioffe`s reporting
or on “NBC Nightly News.” If you think these contacts are all benign, why
have you been hiding them for more than a year?
So, that`s the first thing that`s important about this new scoop in “The
Atlantic” tonight. The second thing that`s important about this is the
timing. The first public reports of the hacking – that the hacking of
Democratic political organizations and the stealing of their documents and
e-mails weren`t just normal thefts or normal mischief. The first reports
that they were a product of a Russian intel operation was in mid-June last
year. “Washington Post” first to report that the hack of the DNC was a
And that public ascribing of responsibility for the hack, naming the
Russian government as responsible, that may well have kick-started the
process of Russia to start disseminating that stolen information, to start
releasing those stolen documents back into the United States to try to
affect our election. Within weeks, it was not just D.C. Leaks and Guccifer
2.0, it was WikiLeaks releasing stolen Democratic documents to try to help
Trump and hurt Clinton.
Those tactics, the hacking into Democratic institutions – stealing of
emails and data and documents and then the released of that information
back into the U.S., that was all being widely publicly described as a
Russian government operation including by U.S. intelligence officials, all
through last summer. But that first report, that it`s Russia, it`s not
just random theft, not just random hacking, it`s a Russian intelligence
operation, that first report came out June 14th last year.
And that timing ends up being really important. Last month, Betsy Woodruff
reported at “The Daily Beast” that Cambridge Analytica, the data firm that
was hired by the Trump campaign last year, Cambridge Analytica contacted
WikiLeaks last summer to ask if they could help, to ask if they could help
WikiLeaks more efficiently disseminate their stolen information to try to
hurt Hillary Clinton.
After that initial report from Betsy Woodruff of “The Daily Beast”, we
didn`t know whether or not Cambridge Analytica was technically working for
the Trump campaign at the time they made those overtures to WikiLeaks. Nor
did we know if they would have been cognizant when they were reaching out
to WikiLeaks, we don`t know if they would have been aware at the time that
WikiLeaks was doing what they were doing as an agent of the Russian
So, were they working for the Trump campaign? Did they know they were
dealing with the Russians? We didn`t know after that report from “The
Well, on Friday in “The Wall Street Journal”, we got clarification on one
of those points. Turns out Cambridge Analytica was working for the Trump
campaign at the time they reached out to WikiLeaks and asked them to help
them disseminate their stolen documents. We still don`t have clarification
on that other point, though, whether or not they knew WikiLeaks was part of
this Russian operation.
Did they reach out to WikiLeaks before or after it became publicly known
that WikiLeaks was part of this Russian intel op? Did the Trump campaign
through Cambridge Analytica try to knowingly collude with Russia in that
part of their attack?
They definitely tried to collude. We just don`t know if it was knowingly,
because we don`t know if they knew it was Russia they were dealing with.
So, it`s an interesting open question.
But soon after we learned about that overture, Cambridge Analytica to
WikiLeaks, we subsequently learned from the “Wall Street Journal” that
Trump mega donor Rebekah Mercer had also tried to make an overture to
WikiLeaks. She asked Cambridge Analytica to reach out to WikiLeaks to help
them disseminate their stolen Democratic documents. With Rebekah Mercer
there`s no ambiguity at all.
She made those overtures to try to help WikiLeaks in their operation in
August of last year. By that time, she was clearly established as one of
the largest donors to the pro-Trump effort and by then it was widely
publicly discussed that what WikiLeaks was doing was in service of this
Russian intelligence operation.
To the extent that we`re looking for evidence of the Trump campaign
knowingly trying to help Russia in what they did during the campaign,
Rebekah Mercer would appear to be right in the headlines on that one. Open
question as to whether Cambridge Analytica was doing what they did
knowingly. Rebekah Mercer, it seems quite clear.
And now tonight at the “The Atlantic” magazine, Julia Ioffe has put Donald
Trump Jr. on this as well. “The Atlantic” obtained and Donald Trump Jr.
later confirmed tonight by publishing himself his direct messages with
According to the messages produced by Donald Trump Jr., tonight WikiLeaks
contacted him a number of times starting in September of 2016 and they
continued reaching out to him for weeks. “The Atlantic” reports that the
messages from WikiLeaks actually went on for months longer into – well
into 2017. But Don Jr. has himself published his messages with WikiLeaks
from September and October, including WikiLeaks telling him on October
12th, 2016 that there`s a specific link that should be used while promoting
WikiLeaks`s stolen Democratic documents. It`s a sort of obscure URL,
Two days after receiving that advice from WikiLeaks about using that link
to more efficiently promote the stolen documents, Donald Trump Jr. In fact
tweeted that exact link. Quote: For those who have time to read about the
corruption and hypocrisy, all the WikiLeaks e-mails are right here, and
then he gave that obscure URL that had been given to him by WikiLeaks in a
contact that wasn`t previously disclosed or reported until today.
So, I mean, bottom line here, maybe the Trump campaign`s data firm,
definitely the Trump campaign`s top donor, and definitely Donald Trump`s
eldest son were communicating during the campaign with people who were
carrying out the Russian intelligence operation that was mounted during our
election to try to elect Trump and hurt Clinton. Donald Trump Jr. is now
admitting that he literally helped them distribute their stolen material.
So, questions. Is that illegal what he`s admitting to tonight, helping
distribute, more efficiently distribute stolen materials? Is that illegal?
If the stolen material in question was the product of a foreign
intelligence operation, does that affect what type of crime this might be
or whether it`s a crime?
Julia Ioffe further reports tonight that on the same day Donald Jr. got his
first message from WikiLeaks, he told everybody else on the campaign that
he was now in contact with WikiLeaks. He told Steve Bannon, he told
Kellyanne Conway, he told Brad Parscale, he told Jared Kushner, Jared
Kushner then told Hope Hicks. Apparently that`s documentation of all that.
OK. This was when WikiLeaks was widely reported to be part of the Russian
operation. They were all notified that WikiLeaks and Don Jr. were in
direct communication. So, when all or most of those people subsequently
claimed they had no idea anybody associated with the campaign had anything
to do with this Russian operation, is that like a criminal offense lie or
is that just a lie-lie or is there some other potential explanation here?
The day that Donald Trump Jr. tweeted out the special WikiLeaks link that
had given to him by WikiLeaks for more efficient distribution of the stolen
anti-Clinton e-mails, that same day, Mike Pence went on “Fox and Friends”
and was asked if there was any possibility that the Trump campaign was in
cahoots with WikiLeaks, and Mike Pence responded, quote, nothing could be
further from the truth. Literally that day the Trump campaign was actually
in cahoots with WikiLeaks.
So, is that actionable? Either in terms of potentially prosecuting
somebody or in terms of what investigators or prosecutors might do with
that falsehood from the man who is now vice president and from all those
other senior people on the campaign? How do you handle a case like this,
that`s both criminal and counterintelligence, it involved we now know
dozens of surreptitious meetings and contacts, some of which are still
being exposed for the first time today, now? How do you manage an
investigatory mushroom cloud like this one?
I mean, if you could invent a person to talk to about that you would invent
somebody who was like used to work with – counsel to Bob Mueller at the
FBI and was also like chief of staff to James Comey and maybe that person
had also been a former U.S. attorney himself and one of the really crucial
districts like the eastern district of Virginia. You would invent somebody
who had been involved in incredibly complex high-level Justice Department
investigations and prosecutions in their own right and who intimately knows
all the players involved here.
And I guess ideally you would want them also to have a little bit of Trump
administration experience. You would want them to know what the Trump
administration is like. And then you would probably want to get the first
interview with them after they left the Trump administration.
And that`s what we have done tonight, because that is a real person I`m
describing and he is my guest here exclusively, next.
MADDOW: Our next guest served as counsel to Robert Mueller when Mueller
was director of the FBI. Our next guest also served as chief of staff to
the deputy attorney general of the United States when that deputy A.G. was
James Comey. He also served as chief of staff to James Comey when Comey
was FBI director. You can see him in the middle there holding the Bible as
James Comey was sworn in to run the FBI.
Not for nothing, he also himself served as the U.S. attorney for the
eastern district of Virginia which is now a very familiar jurisdiction to
those of us who have been following the twists and turns in the special
counsel investigation and the investigations of Trump campaign chair Paul
Manafort, Trump national security adviser Mike Flynn. It`s one of the
highest profile U.S. attorney jurisdictions in the country, but in terms of
stuff related to Washington, also stuff related to spying and terrorism.
By the time the Trump administration came into being, our next guest was
serving as the acting director of the DEA. In September, he announced he
would be stepping down from that role. And “The New York Times” reported
at the time that he had, quote, “become convinced that president Trump has
little respect for the law.” I have been wondering about the circumstances
of his departure and was hoping I would someday get a chance to talk to him
ever since those reports were first published.
His name is Chuck Rosenberg. This is his first interview since leaving the
Trump administration. And, boy, do I have a lot of things to ask about.
Mr. Rosenberg, thank you very much for being here. I really appreciate it.
CHUCK ROSENBERG, FORMER ACTING DEA ADMINISTRATOR: It`s my pleasure,
Rachel. Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: I should mention you are also an MSNBC/NBC News contributor. We
are really happy to have you on board here.
ROSENBERG: Thank you.
MADDOW: I want to ask about a lot of different things that are going on
right now, in part just doing your mini resume there. I think our viewers
will understand that you`ve had proximity to a lot of the most interesting
people and jurisdictions here.
ROSENBERG: What they may take from that is that I can`t keep a job.
MADDOW: I wouldn`t say – none of those jobs are ones you`ve held for five
minutes. I`ve had a lot of those.
But I do want to ask you about your decision to stay on into the Trump
administration, and then your decision to leave this fall. Obviously, you
were acting DEA administrator when the Trump administration came into fore.
You stayed there for nine months before you announced you were leaving.
Why did you leave?
ROSENBERG: The first part is easy. I was asked to serve by Attorney
General Lynch under President Obama. I have great respect for the men and
women of DEA. So, when someone asks you to do something and you can do it,
then you try to do it.
And the reason I left is more complicated. But I was uncomfortable. And I
didn`t want to make it about me, Rachel. The worst thing that I can do as
a leader of an organization like the DEA is make it about me. And so when
the president condoned the mistreatment of criminal defendants in a speech
that he gave in New York, I sent an e-mail to all the men and women of DEA.
It became public, that was not my intent or my goal, but it became public.
MADDOW: Because you disagreed with the way the president had –
ROSENBERG: We don`t mistreat defendants. We respect their civil rights,
we respect their constitutional rights. They are human beings and we will
treat them as such. We don`t condone police brutality.
But I was concerned this was becoming about me, and that`s not fair to the
men and women of DEA. And so, it`s time to go.
MADDOW: When “The New York Times” characterized you more broadly as having
lost confidence in the president`s respect for the rule of law, was that an
ROSENBERG: It was.
MADDOW: Would you – did they ask you to stay or did they offer you a
different job when you made clear you would like to leave?
ROSENBERG: No, it was pretty clear they were going to make a change
anyway, and that`s fine, that happens all the time, I get that. And so, I
figured, let me clear out, let me go do something else.
MADDOW: You were chief of staff to James Comey when he was the deputy
attorney general and also when he was FBI director.
ROSENBERG: And we were colleagues before that. We were both assistant
U.S. attorneys together in the eastern district of Virginia.
MADDOW: Given that long relationship, can you describe your personal view
of him and I can ask you about some of the legal stuff too, but the
president this weekend on his Asia trip went out of his way to single out
former Director Comey by name and call him a political hack. The president
has kept up a cycle of personal attacks past firing him. I just wanted to
ask, as somebody who knows him personally, how do you think that affect him
and how does that affect you?
ROSENBERG: Yes, I don`t have a long complicated answer to your question.
Jim is a man of tremendous integrity and tremendous intellect, and he`s a
friend. So, I`m completely biased. But I also believe I am completely
It was a privilege to work with him. It was a privilege to work for him.
And I learned as much from Jim Comey as I`ve ever learned from any mentor
or boss in my entire life.
MADDOW: When he made contemporaneous notes of his conversations with the
president, which he testified about to Congress, he said those
conversations were troubling to him, that`s why he made contemporaneous
notes, that`s why he shared the content of those notes and memos with other
senior Justice Department and FBI officials. Is that standard operating
procedure? Is that something you knew him to do other times in his career?
ROSENBERG: I know others who have done it. I`ve done it myself. If you
see something you want to remember, and I don`t mean necessarily something
that troubles you, just something you want to remember, well, then you
write it down because memories fade. And so, I`ve done that too.
I`ve come from a meeting, I say, you know what, something happened today
that`s a little bit weird or a little bit good or a little bit odd or
whatever, and I write it down.
So, not unusual. Sometimes it`s just an e-mail to myself.
MADDOW: If that subject of your memo to self or notes you that shared with
other people ends up being part of a criminal investigation, how do
prosecutors or grand juries treat that kind of evidence? Obviously, there
was no witness in the room to what the president told James Comey. The
only sort of witness that we have is what Comey memorialized to himself in
terms of what happened in those conversations. How would that be treated
in terms of evidence?
ROSENBERG: Contemporaneous notes are helpful because they help witnesses
remember stuff, and frankly, we want witnesses to remember stuff. There`s
lots of ways for me to refresh your recollection on something that may have
happened to you. One way would be to show you something you wrote at the
Hey, Rachel, does this jog your memory? You would read it and say yes or
no, either it does or doesn`t. But that kind of stuff is helpful. And if
the person making the notes is a truth-teller like James Comey, that
stuff`s even more helpful.
MADDOW: Would the notes be admissible?
ROSENBERG: The notes themselves probably aren`t admissible. But if the
witness forgets something while testifying, you can use anything to refresh
their recollection so the notes could be used in that way.
MADDOW: We know there are other FBI officials that James Comey briefed.
Would we expect those people who he briefed about those conversations with
the president to be called as witnesses in terms of what they
contemporaneously heard from Comey?
ROSENBERG: Well, again, so without getting hyper technical, because that`s
sort of boring, you know, that might be hearsay, what he said to others.
There are exceptions to the hearsay rule that might permit it. But they
might also have independent knowledge. So yes, possibly, if they were part
of a conversation, they could be called as witnesses too.
MADDOW: Chuck Rosenberg is our guest, he is a former chief of staff to
James Comey, former counsel to Robert Mueller, former U.S. attorney for the
eastern district of Virginia. This is his first interview since leaving
the Trump administration last month. Will you stick with us?
ROSENBERG: I would be delighted.
MADDOW: You don`t have a choice.
MADDOW: We`ll be right back with Chuck Rosenberg in just a moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D-CA), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Let me begin with
one overarching question. Why do you believe you were fired?
JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: I don`t know for sure. I believe – I
take the president at his word that I was fired because of the Russia
investigation. Something about the way I was conducting it, the president
felt created pressure on him he wanted to relieve.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: I`m joined again by Chuck Rosenberg, former U.S. attorney for the
eastern district of Virginia, also former senior official and aide to both
James Comey and Robert Mueller. Until last month, he was the acting
administrator of the DEA until he stepped down because of his discomfort,
in his words, with practices of the Trump administration and of the
Mr. Rosenberg, thank you again.
ROSENBERG: My pleasure.
MADDOW: You just saw there James Comey making the case to Congress as to
why he believes he was fired. What is your view about how strong the case
is that the firing of James Comey was the obstruction of justice?
ROSENBERG: Well, it`s a possibility. I mean, there`s a whole bunch of
other things we need to know. I presume Bob Mueller knows them or will
find them out. You know, from where I stand, he might have an obstruction
case. But let me be clear about something.
The mere fact that you have the elements of a crime, that you`ve met the
elements of a statute, doesn`t necessarily mean that you have a
prosecutable case. Federal prosecutors are trained that you also have to
have a reasonable probability of conviction. So, there are times when we
have the elements, and it looks like you might here, but do we have a
prosecutable case? Different question. And I don`t know the answer to
MADDOW: And what are the necessary but not sufficient elements that you
need to put together in order to prove obstruction of justice?
ROSENBERG: Well, you need to have a pending investigation. You need to
have some act that impedes or impairs the investigation.
MADDOW: Or attempts to.
ROSENBERG: Or attempts to, endeavors to. And you need to have the
requisite intent. Now, of those things, intent is usually the most
difficult to prove. But you might have bare bones elements. But you might
not have a prosecutable case. Don`t know yet, Rachel. Don`t know. But
it`s in really good hands.
MADDOW: Well, to that point, I mean, tonight – we woke up this morning to
“The Washington Post” publishing a list of what it believed was the omnibus
list of contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian officials or
agents, 30 different contacts.
MADDOW: By this afternoon, we had news from “The Atlantic” magazine of
further undisclosed contacts between Donald Trump Jr. and WikiLeaks, which
has been named as essentially a Russian cutout as part of this operation.
That`s interesting on its face in terms of whether or not there`s contacts,
knowing contacts, which might themselves be legally problematic for Donald
But I`m wondering how the investigation is managed in such a way when it
continues to mushroom the way it does, when there are that many contacts,
that many people who have been not telling the truth about their
communications with Russians, and when obstruction of justice possibility
becomes a tangent off this one, Foreign Agent Registration Act stuff
becomes a tangent off of this one, bank fraud, potentially, becomes a
tangent off of this.
I mean, how do you handle something that big and spreading?
ROSENBERG: How do you handle a big thing? Well, first of all you have a
guy in Bob Mueller who ran the FBI. And remember, what was Bob`s first big
case? Because seven days after he started, the attacks of 9/11, Rachel.
You want to talk about a big case, that`s the biggest case in FBI history,
500,000 interviews, right?
You had agents all over the world working nonstop, day in and day out, on
the biggest case in FBI history. Guess who managed it. Bob Mueller.
And so, if you`re asking me is this a big case, you bet it is. If you`re
asking me does it appear to be getting bigger, the answer is yes. But you
have a brilliant manager at the helm. You have the right guy for this job.
And so maybe you bring on more prosecutors or more agents or maybe you
break up the team in different ways. I guarantee they have a few big
whiteboards in there. But this man can manage a case.
MADDOW: You were U.S. attorney in the eastern district of Virginia,
speaking of 9/11, prosecuted Zacarias Moussaoui, who is now in federal
super max prison, was prosecuted through the normal court system and not
ROSENBERG: Right. And I`m a big fan of Article III courts because – and
I`m completely biased here again. But we`ve done this for years. And
we`ve done it in a transparent way, tethered to the Constitution, to the
rule of law, to criminal rules of evidence and criminal rules of procedure.
I think Article III courts are the place to be if you`re trying to bring a
terrorist case in this country.
MADDOW: Eastern district of Virginia handles cases that important.
ROSENBERG: You bet they do.
MADDOW: Dana Boente was eastern district of Virginia U.S. attorney,
currently still s, but he`s been told, NBC News has learned that he was
fired, that he was intending to stay on in the eastern district of
Virginia. He`d been advised by the president personally that he could stay
on and we don`t know why he was fired, but we`re told that he was fired the
day before the first indictments came down in the special counsel`s
Those may be totally unrelated matters. But as the former U.S. attorney
there, as somebody who I believe has known Dana Boente for a long time, do
you have any insight into that firing?
ROSENBERG: I`ve known Dana for about 300 years. And, by the way, he was
my first assistant when I was the U.S. attorney. I asked him to take on
that job essentially as the chief operating officer of our office. Old and
As to your second question, Rachel, that`s up to Dana. Whatever reasons he
knows or is willing to share, I have to leave that to Dana. It`s not for
me to say.
MADDOW: It`s probably worth asking the Trump administration why they
decided to fire him.
ROSENBERG: You could ask them.
MADDOW: I`ll make some calls.
ROSENBERG: I bet you will.
MADDOW: Chuck Rosenberg is now an MSNBC and NBC News contributor. This is
his first interview since leaving the Trump administration last month.
Mr. Rosenberg, I hope this is the first of many times we get to talk.
ROSENBERG: I hope so too. Thank you, Rachel. Real pleasure.
MADDOW: Appreciate it.
ROSENBERG: Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. Chuck Rosenberg, former acting administrator of the
DEA, former U.S. attorney, former top aide to Robert Mueller and James
Comey, and now he gets to talk to us.
All right. We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: This is the editorial board for the largest newspaper in the state
of Alabama as of this afternoon. Look – our view: Roy Moore grossly unfit
for office. Quote: Roy Moore simply cannot be a U.S. senator.
The newspaper citing allegations from now five women who say they were
teenagers when Roy Moore, who was in his late 20s and early 30s, approached
them sexually or romantically.
Quote: The seriousness of knees incidents cannot be overstated. They
should not be parsed with talk of statutes of limitations or proof exists.
Proof beyond a reasonable doubt is a consideration for the courtroom, not
the ballot box. His candidacy is over. His true character has been
It`s time for the GOP to remove its official support. And since he and his
party can`t assure it, the voters of Alabama must.
Again, this is the editorial board from the largest newspaper in the state
of Alabama tonight.
Now, Roy Moore has denied allegations of sexual misconduct against a 14-
year-old girl. Today, he denied even knowing a fifth accuser who says he
violently assaulted her when she was 16. Those allegations are being cited
by a growing number of Republican senators across the country who say that
Roy Moore should now withdraw from that Senate race.
Here`s the thing, though. Back home in Alabama, Republican part officials
have made no efforts to try to stop Roy Moore from winning the Senate
election. And now, NBC News can report that neither has the National
NBC`s Vaughn Hillyard has been in Alabama reporting on the fallout there,
he reports tonight citing two sources, that the National Republican Party
still has 11 operatives on the ground in Alabama tonight, trying to help
Roy Moore win this Senate election.
So, the Republican Party Senate campaign arm has made a big show out of
dropping him. Lots of Republican senators as individuals have made a big
show out of dropping him. But not the RNC.
The RNC has a joint fundraising agreement with the Roy Moore campaign.
There`s no indication they have removed themselves from that agreement.
And again, they`ve got 11 paid operatives on the ground in Alabama tonight
helping Roy Moore win.
Asked whether the RNC planned to change its operations on the ground in
Alabama, NBC News got no response.
So, what does this race look like on the ground in Alabama, what are
Moore`s chances of still winning this race? With the national Republican
Party still sort of quietly still supporting him, is there concern back in
Alabama about what will transpire if he actually does win this seat?
Hold that thought.
MADDOW: On Thursday, after “The Washington Post” first reported
allegations of four women that they had been pursued sexually or
romantically by Roy Moore when he was a man in his 30s and they were
teenagers, John Archibald, columnist for “The Birmingham News” and AL.com,
told us Roy Moore wouldn`t drop out of the race and he told us that the
allegations probably wouldn`t hurt Moore`s chances of winning that Senate
Well, now that a fifth accuser has come forward today and this time
accusing him of a violent attempt the sexual assault, has the view from
Alabama changed at all?
John Archibald joins us now from the great state of Alabama.
John, it`s nice to see you. Thank you for being here.
JOHN ARCHIBALD, COLUMNIST, BIRMINGHAM NEWS: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Do you think that the overall trajectory of this case changes now
with this fifth accuser?
ARCHIBALD: I think it`s changed a good bit since I talked to you last. I
think it was a watershed day. Anybody who saw that press conference today
and didn`t find it compelling didn`t watch the same thing I watched and I
get that sense that a lot of people felt that way.
MADDOW: When you say you found it compelling, did you find it to be just
materially different and more disturbing than the earlier allegations or
just the fact that this woman was willing to put herself out there live on
camera and tell everybody in her own words?
ARCHIBALD: Well, you know, she had that – she was unmistakably Gadsden
when she spoke and she spoke like someone people here would know and she
spoke with a ring of truth. Now, I`m saying that. The so-called political
leadership here has not said that. They`re still holding fast to that
belief that, you know, if you say it was put up by the liberal media long
enough people believe it.
MADDOW: In terms of – I guess in terms of the preponderance of evidence
here, saying that this is a liberal media thing, saying that this is,
Gloria Allred brought this woman forward, “The Washington Post” initially
published these allegations, there`s new reports in “The New Yorker” and
corroborated by your paper that in the `80s, around the time of these
allegations supposed to have happened, Roy Moore was seen as a problem at
the local mall, that he was somebody who was asked to leave or somehow sort
of blackballed from the local shopping center because of his – what was
seen as predatory behavior toward young girls. That`s not a liberal media
creation unless your paper`s the liberal media.
Do you think that changes anything?
ARCHIBALD: Well, you know, I think there comes a time where the timing,
where it started, even if there were evidence that, you know, this was put
out by either the GOP establishment or Democrats it doesn`t matter when you
hear, you know, four women in the “Washington Post,” 30 sources there, plus
this woman today who was completely compelling, and others coming out time
and time again.
I mean, at some point you have to realize this is a problem no matter
whether, you know, somebody with a political interest pointed it to
somebody or another. But the behavior is unquestionably disturbing, and
what was described today was unquestionably criminal. This is not creepy
anymore. This is sexual assault of a young girl.
MADDOW: John, one last question. NBC News reported tonight that there are
11 operatives for the RNC still working in Alabama tonight on Roy Moore`s
behalf. You don`t have any information about that or any evidence about
what the on the ground campaign looks like for him right now, do you?
ARCHIBALD: No. I just know it continues and there`s been no change in
that direction. And I`m still betting he wins.
MADDOW: John Archibald, columnist at AL.com, thank you for your time
tonight. John, appreciate it.
ARCHIBALD: Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: “The New York Times” first to report tonight that White House
sources are floating the idea that if Senate candidate Roy Moore does get
elected to the Senate next month and then expelled from the Senate, maybe
the Alabama governor could appoint Jeff Sessions to that seat instead.
That would put Jeff Sessions back in his own seat. It will also have the
knock-on effect of removing him as attorney general, which would have the
knock-off effect of giving the Trump administration a chance to appoint a
new attorney who`s not recused from overseeing the Robert Mueller
investigation into Trump and Russia.
Jeff Sessions is right in the middle of a lot of different scandals
enveloping the Republican Party and the Trump administration right now. He
will be taking questions in an open hearing tomorrow morning, starting at
10:00 a.m. in front of the House Judiciary Committee.
That does it for us tonight. We`ll see you again tomorrow. Now it`s time
for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL.”
Good evening, Lawrence.
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