Franken on photo: “I shouldn’t have done it.” Transcript 11/16/17 The Rachel Maddow Show
Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
Date: November 16, 2017
TARA DOWDELL, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: So, yes, there are some challenges.
But Democrats are energized. And also, I want to point out one thing.
It`s women and people of color that are running, too.
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST, ALL IN: Particularly in Virginia.
Tara Dowdell and Cornell Belcher, thanks for joining me.
That`s “ALL IN” for this evening. It`s good night to stay up late, or set
your DVRs. I`ll be on “Late Night with Seth Meyers” tonight on NBC, talking
about all the craziness and much more. Don`t miss that.
And don`t miss THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW which starts right now.
Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thank you, my friend.
HAYES: You bet.
MADDOW: And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
It is a good day to stay up late, if only to absorb everything that
happened today, right? It has been just a whiplash day of big news
developments. I feel like we`ve got a lot of ground to cover in this hour
tonight, including, of course, the news about Democratic icon, Senator Al
Franken of Minnesota, a Los Angeles radio host publishing and then
describing an incident on a USO tour in 2006 when she says Senator Franken
forced a very unwanted kiss on her in the guise of rehearsing for a skit.
He then says that he groped her for what was essentially a prank photo
while she slept on the flight home from the Middle East.
This incident happened two years before Al Franken was a U.S. senator, but
it has now called into question the future of his Senate career. Senator
Franken today has issued two statements in response to these claims. A
short apology and then a much longer one. His fellow Democrats have been
just withering and unanimous in their condemnation of him today, which
itself has been remarkable to watch over the course of the day.
We`ll have more on that coming up tonight, including why there is
widespread speculation on Capitol Hill tonight, that this may be the start
of a whole bunch of allegations coming out. Not necessarily more about
Senator Franken, but more potentially about other members of Congress, too.
I will also get some expert help tonight in assessing how the Al Franken
story and his apology today might affect the handling of the allegations
against Republican Alabama Senate candidate, Roy Moore.
Also, in what I have to describe as a related matter, today, a seventh
woman came forward to say that she had been groped, sexually, by former
President George H.W. Bush. Now, with the six previous accusers of the
former president, those incidents were all incidents that they allege took
place well after President Bush had left office. And to be honest, those
repeated and strikingly consistent allegations from those six other women,
those have been, I think, treated differently than they might have
otherwise been about another prominent public figure, specifically because
of the advanced age of the former president when the incidents took place.
But the latest allegation, which was first published today by CNN, this one
is from a woman who says it happened in 1992, when George H.W. Bush was not
old, when he was running for re-election. So we`ve had no response thus
far from the Bush family about this very different type of allegation about
the former president.
Today also brought the shock of news of a mistrial in the federal
corruption case against New Jersey Democratic Senator Bob Menendez. Now,
the jury not being able to come to a unanimous verdict in his case means
that he was not convicted of the corruption charges he faced. But it also
could mean that it`s not over for him either, either in the Senate or
potentially in the courts. We`ll have more on that story coming up
tonight, as well.
Today also brought news that the Keystone Pipeline has sprung a leak. New
portions of the incredibly controversial pipeline were green lit by the
Trump administration in March after years of controversy over its safety
and environmental impact. Well, today in South Dakota, the original
Keystone Pipeline sprung a big leak and dumped 5,000 barrels of oil – not
gallons, barrels – just outside a town called Amherst in Marshall County,
And you know, the timing here may end up being very important. This coming
Monday, the state of Nebraska is going to decide whether to permit the
building of the Keystone XL Pipeline through the state of Nebraska. We`ll
see if it focuses their minds at all on that decision to have the sister
Keystone Pipeline in the neighboring state of South Dakota currently
swimming under a 200,000 gallon tar sands oil spill.
So, a lot of dark news today. That said, there was joy in Washington today
among House Republicans, when they passed their new tax bill through the
House. That very visible and audible elation from Republicans in the
House, though, was followed almost immediately by this.
The Senate gets the bill next, because now it`s passed the House. The
Senate version of it, officially, with according to the nonpartisan office
that studies this stuff in Congress, the Senate version of this bill will
give large tax cuts to millionaires while raising taxes on American
families earning between – get this – $10,000 a year and $75,000 a year.
Those are the people whose taxes are going to go up under the Republican
bill. Because, you know, if there`s one thing that Americans families
making $10,000 a year can really afford to do for their country, it`s to
give a little something extra, so American millionaires can get more.
It`s going to raise taxes on people who make $10,000 a year, all the way up
through $75,000 a year. And it has the added bonus of throwing 13 million
Americans off their health insurance. So, like I said, a very big news day
today. Today was like playing pinball in multi-ball mode for way too long,
right? It`s kind of exciting in the moment, but there`s too much going on,
all at once, to keep a handle on all of it.
And that was – all of those news stories I just did, what was before we
got news from the “Wall Street Journal” tonight that the Robert Mueller
special counsel investigation has now subpoenaed more than a dozen
officials from the Trump campaign. According to “The Journal” tonight, the
subpoena, quote, caught the campaign by surprise. The campaign had
previously been voluntarily complying with the special counsel`s request
for information, but that apparently was not enough to fend off the
subpoena. Now, there is this legally binding demand asking for e-mails and
documents from more than a dozen top officials.
This is the first subpoena that we know of to the campaign from the Mueller
investigation. That story in “The Journal” tonight also followed news that
presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner was told by the Senate that he did
not hand over to them what he was supposed to in the investigation of the
Russia matter. This letter today from the Senate demanding more documents
from Jared Kushner, names, a few different things that we didn`t know about
before. Names that Jared Kushner is having been involved in discussions
about and with Russians, that we previously didn`t know about.
So, we`ll have more on all of that ahead tonight. As I say, a busy night.
But NBC News tonight has just broken an important piece of news about what
appears to be a dramatic and new and probably bad development for the Trump
national security adviser, Michael Flynn. Now, overall, the special
counsel investigation into the Trump campaign and the Trump administration
is about Russia, right? And a lot of Michael Flynn`s role in the scandal
does have to do with Russia. He was fired as national security adviser 18
days after the acting attorney general went in person to the White House to
warn the White House counsel that Flynn was compromised by Russia, that he
was lying about the content of his communications with Russian officials.
He was lying in some cases about the existence of those Russian contacts.
Michael Flynn would later come under investigation at the Department of
Defense for his financial ties to Russia, including that all-expenses-paid
trip to Moscow that he took with his son in December 2015, the trip that
led to the most-famous-photo ever of Jill Stein`s left ear.
Michael Flynn is definitely an interesting part of the Russia-specific
investigation that ultimately led to the appointment of Robert Mueller,
special counsel. But from the beginning, there has also been a whole bunch
of Michael Flynn stuff that is about a totally different foreign country.
Now, the first we, the public knew about that was on Election Day, of all
days, when he published this over-the-top hyperbolic op-ed in “The Hill”
newspaper attacking a guy who was a legal permanent resident of the United
States who the government of Turkey really hates and blames for everything
bad in that country, including last summer`s coup attempt.
Now, that op-ed, honestly, to my mind, would have been seen as bizarre on
any day, but it was particularly bizarre on Election Day, when it had a
byline from the top national security adviser to one of the candidates in
that day`s presidential election. And a lot of people noticed how strange
that was and that generated considerable public reporting on Mike Flynn`s
apparent business ties, financial ties to the government of Turkey, while
he was working on the Trump campaign.
Mike Flynn ultimately decided to retroactively register as a foreign agent,
who had been working during the presidential campaign, to advance the
interests of Turkey for money.
This past week, we learned that Mueller`s investigators have interviewed a
man named Hank Cox, who is some kind of consultant who maybe appears to
ghost write things for people, I can`t quite tell. But he`s thought to be
involved in the production of that weird Election Day op-ed, that Flynn
published in “The Hill” newspaper. Robert Mueller`s investigators have
reportedly interviewed that gentlemen about that, so we know that that op-
ed, that work Flynn was doing for the government of Turkey in exchange for
money during the campaign, we know, at least based on that reporting, that
that`s of interest to Robert Mueller and his investigation.
So, there`s the op-ed from Election Day. Then, the next bizarre revelation
we got on this subject was in March, when former CIA director, James
Woolsey, told “The Wall Street Journal” that, well, six months earlier,
during the campaign, September 2016, he says he went to a meeting in New
York with a bunch of Turkish government officials and Mike Flynn. And he
says one of the things that was discussed at that meeting, much to his
chagrin, was a plan to kidnap that same guy in Pennsylvania, who Flynn had
written that over-the-top op-ed about on Election Day.
Quote: Woolsey said the idea was a covert step in the dead of night to
whisk this guy away.
So, that was – that was really weird, when that news broke in March,
right? I mean, for one thing, why did James Woolsey wait six months to say
anything publicly about that, if he knew that`s the sort of thing that top
campaign advisers to Donald Trump – if he knew that`s what they were doing
during the campaign, especially when Mike Flynn later got named national
security adviser? If he knew that`s the kind of thing he was up to, why
did he wait until March to say anything about it? For some reason, Woolsey
didn`t mention it publicly until March.
But then, it got even weirder, and more serious, when last week, “The Wall
Street Journal” furthered that story in two important ways. Last week,
“The Journal” reported that on a second meeting, between Mike Flynn and
Turkish officials, also in New York, except this time, it was after the
election. It was during the transition, in December. And once again, they
reportedly talked about kidnapping Gulen, kidnapping this Turkish cleric
who lives in Pennsylvania.
If “The Wall Street Journal`s” reporting on this story is right, though,
that means after the initial meeting in September where Woolsey says they
talked in general terms about kidnapping this guy, if “The Wall Street
Journal” is right about this, that means that Flynn and Turkish officials
then met again to talk about it three months later, in December. So they
met about it first in December and talked about it in general terms and
then met in December and talked about it again. And that time, when they
met about it in December, according to “The Wall Street Journal,” the plan
wasn`t some amorphous general idea, now it was an actual plan with
Quote, FBI agents have asked at least four individuals about a meeting in
mid-December about the 21 Club in New York City where Mike Flynn and
representatives of the Turkish government discussed removing Mr. Gulen.
The discussions allegedly involved the possibility of transporting Mr.
Gulen on a private jet to the Turkish prison island of Imrali.
And not only was this a very specific plan, it was also one with a specific
price tag. Quote: Under the alleged proposal, Mr. Flynn and his son were
to be paid as much as $15 million for delivering Gulen to the Turkish
So, that allegation reported in “The Wall Street Journal” last week.
That`s obviously a very serious allegation about Mike Flynn. It`s also
potentially a very serious matter for anyone who, say, might be under
scrutiny for having maybe obstructed justice when it came to Flynn`s
potential prosecution, right? I mean, it`s one thing to obstruct an
investigation into somebody for forgetting to fill out forms. It`s another
thing to obstruct an investigation into someone plotting a violent felony,
right, an international kidnapping and involving a prison island and
millions of dollars.
So, that was a very serious allegation that was laid out in “The Wall
Street Journal” last week, something reportedly under investigation by the
Mueller special counsel investigation.
But now, tonight, the story has just become even more cinematic and more
specific in terms of its human intrigue, because NBC News has a scoop on
this story tonight. NBC previously reported on November 10th last week
that when it came to that December meeting during the transition, the one
at the 21 club, where they supposedly discussed the specifics of the kidnap
plot with the private jet and the prison island and the $15 million and all
of that. NBC news reported last week that Mueller`s investigation was
looking into not just whether Flynn was shopping the idea of kidnapping
that guy in Pennsylvania and flying him to Turkey, Moore is also, according
to NBC News, investigating whether Flynn was shopping another plan as well,
a plan to spring a guy who was facing federal charges in New York, but who
Turkey desperately wants freed.
Now, the guy who`s facing charges is in federal custody. He`s charged in
federal district court in New York. He`s being prosecuted by the U.S.
attorney`s office in the southern district of New York. And the charges
are related to potential violations of sanctions on Iran.
This Turkish guy, who`s facing these charges, though, he`s very rich, he`s
very well-connected, including to the Turkish government, and even to the
Turkish president`s direct family, and Turkey really doesn`t want that guy
on trial. Turkey has been trying everything they can to get the charges
against that guy dropped and to get him freed.
They have attacked the New York judge and the prosecutors in his case.
They hired Rudy Giuliani and the George W. Bush era former attorney
general, Michael Mukasey, to lobby on this case, basically to try to
negotiate between Turkey and the United States, to get the charges dropped
against this guy. Turkey has also reportedly raised this guy`s case
repeatedly with the U.S. government as a bone of contention between our two
Did Turkey also, in addition to all of that, did they also hatch a plan
with Mike Flynn to find some way to use Mike Flynn/Trump campaign magic to
try to make the charges go away against this guy?
We absolutely do not know whether that is the case, but NBC News reports
that Robert Mueller is investigating whether that kind of deal was
attempted or Flynn would somehow get these charges dropped in exchange for
the Turkish government paying him a lot of money.
Well, now, here`s the kicker because today, we`ve just learned that the
dude in question, the guy who Turkey really, really wants freed, the guy
who they really don`t want to go on trial, he`s up on these very serious
criminal charges in New York in federal court, we have just learned that
that guy has been sprung from jail. His trial is about to start in a few
days. He was being held at the MCC, the Metropolitan Correctional Center,
which is a federal prison holding facility near the courthouse, where he
was going to be tried in New York.
Katie Zavadski at “The Daily Beast” today was first to report that this
Turkish guy was secretly sprung from that federal jail last week. Now,
tonight, NBC News reports that the reason he has been sprung from jail is
because he`s now cooperating with federal prosecutors. Quote: A gold
trader who is close to the Turkish president is now cooperating with
federal prosecutors in a money laundering case. Legal experts say
prosecutors may be seeking information about any ties between the Turkish
government and former national security adviser, Mike Flynn.
This guy, Reza Zarrab, is his name. He`s now out of jail, speaking to
prosecutors. This is a move President Erdogan had been desperately hoping
to avoid. Quote: Special Counsel Robert Mueller is investigating will
whether Erdogan, the Turkish president, offered Flynn upwards of $15
million during the presidential transition in December to use his upcoming
position as national security adviser to return his top political rival
from the U.S. to Turkey, that`s the guy in Pennsylvania, and also to see
that Reza Zarrab`s case was dropped.
So, the Russia investigation still appears to be mostly about Russia. The
Mike Flynn part of the Russia investigation appears to be partly about
Russia. But it also appears to be partly about this other foreign country.
How unusual is it for prosecutors to spring a guy out of jail, right before
he`s about to go on trial? So they can instead flip him for some other
case? Does this happen? And we mere mortals just don`t know about it? Is
this a normal thing in law enforcement?
And also, in this case, if they have flipped this guy, what does he
Joining us now is Tom Winter, NBC News investigative reporter who broke the
Tom, thanks very much for being here.
TOM WINTER, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER, NBC NEWS: Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: Let me just first ask you if I screwed up any of that in terms of
your reporting there?
WINTER: Not a single inch of it.
WINTER: You`re right on point.
Let me be clear: we don`t have reason to believe that this is the special
counsel, this is Robert Mueller`s investigator who was this guy, right?
WINTER: That`s correct. This case originally was prosecuted by the U.S.
attorney`s office for the southern district, their terrorism and
international narcotics unit. And he`s wanted for allegedly laundering
hundreds of millions of dollars of Iranian money and some of that money
flowing through some terrorist panels, going to banks all around the world,
China, Russia, numerous U.S. banks were flagged, this type of activity,
banks in the Middle East.
So, this was originally had nothing to do to our knowledge, anything having
to do with Michael Flynn or anything having to do with Russia specifically.
So, this is a case that was handled in New York and is still being
prosecuted in New York. And there are some other people that were
scheduled to go on trial with him. That`s still, again, all being held
here in New York.
There`s no overt indication at this point that Robert Mueller is
necessarily involved. Just based on what we`ve seen in the court
MADDOW: And the other people he was going to go on trial, they`re still
going on trial?
WINTER: They are still going on trial. As a matter of fact, there was a
significant hearing held today in that matter and Reza Zarrab was not in
court. So, that was yet another signal to folks that, hey, something here
MADDOW: And so, these are – as you described that, I mean, hundreds of
millions of dollars, potential terrorist involvement, Iran sanctions
obviously being a very serious thing is itself. Obviously, this is a
serious case. This is the kind of case – this is not a piddling item.
I imagine, I don`t know about how these things work. I imagine there has
to be some sort of formal agreement, something that`s argued and agreed to,
to get somebody taken out of jail, taken out of this trial?
MADDOW: Who negotiates that? Who signs off on that?
WINTER: Well, that`s something between the Department of Justice and his
attorneys. He`s got 17 of them, including noted criminal defense attorney
here in New York, Ben Brotman. So he`s got a huge legal staff.
And what they would do is they would go to the government and say, hey,
we`re about ready to go to trial. This is the time to do it. He is not
somebody who you already alluded to, this is not somebody used to spending
time in jail. He`s got a young daughter, he`s got a wife, and he just
spent 18 months in a Manhattan prison, jail, which I don`t think anybody is
used to spending time in. And now, he`s facing significant time, a
sentence if he`s convicted at trial.
There`s been discovery that`s been shared, which means he would have had a
chance to see some of the evidence that the government is going to present
at trial. So he knows and his legal team knows exactly the gauntlet that
they`re going to have to walk down in this case. And so this is typically
the time where we might see somebody saying, you know what, no mas.
I want to – I might have some information that you`re interested in, the
government, likely already talked to him and said, hey, these are some of
the things that would be great if you could help us out with. If he wants
to plead guilty, we can do something for him on sentencing where he doesn`t
need to spend as much time in jail.
The other thing is, we can get him out of jail now. He`s still in federal
custody, but not at MCC in Lower Manhattan.
So, that`s – those are some of the benefits he has to immediately
cooperating. There will be a written agreement. He`s pled not guilty in
this case. At some point, we`ll get a notice that there`ll be a change of
plea. That will become public.
And he`ll go before the judge and say, your honor, this is what I`ve did,
and I`ve agreed to cooperate with the government.
We won`t necessarily know right away what he has agreed to cooperate on,
and some things might be sealed and some things we might never know. But
to go back to your point, if Michael Flynn was a gardener, if he never
existed in the Trump orbit, to have this guy come forward and say, I`ll
cooperate with the government, just because of what he knows about Iranian
money laundering and potentially those ties to terrorism would be a huge
If he knows anything else about the president of Turkey, Recep Erdogan, if
he knows – and he`s close to that family, if he knows anything else about
Michael Flynn`s relationship with the Turkish government, even just how the
Turkish government operates, at this point, that could be an advantage to
U.S. prosecutors on numerous levels, as well as perhaps to special counsel
MADDOW: There are a lot of people who are freaking out about the fact that
this guy is no longer in MCC and talking to prosecutors tonight. But as
you say, we don`t know yet what he`s saying.
Tom Winter, NBC News investigative reporter – Tom, thank you. I really
appreciate it. Congratulations on this scoop.
MADDOW: All right, lots more ahead. Very, very, very, very, very, very
busy news night.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: When it comes to alleged very bad behavior and the United States,
we knew heading into today that this would be yet another day of the Roy
Moore saga. Last night, as we reported, breaking live in our hour, the
Alabama Republican Party decided to stand by Roy Moore as their candidate
for the Senate in Alabama. Alabama Republicans can`t take him off the
ballot at this point. They could decertify him, so he couldn`t win. That
would prop the door open for a write-in campaign by a Republican without a
long list of women accusing him of sexual misconduct and several cases when
they were teenagers.
But instead of decertifying him, leaders of the Alabama Republican Party
last night decided to stick with Roy Moore. He continues to deny the
allegations of wrongdoing.
Today, Alabama Republicans put out a statement of support for him saying,
quote, Alabamians will be the ultimate jury in this election, not the media
or those from afar.
That said, according to a poll out today from Fox News, Alabamians now
prefer the Democrat in the race, by eight points.
If you believe this Fox News poll from after the accusations began, Roy
Moore`s list of nine accusers is now larger than Doug Jones` lead, but only
We also had an inkling this morning that we were in for a second story
about alleged bad behavior in the U.S. Senate, when the jury in a federal
court in Newark, New Jersey, headed into its fourth straight day of
deliberations in the corruption trial of Senator Bob Menendez. They had
previously said that they were stuck and it was starting to feel like that
jury was going to teeter on the edge of permanently stuck, of not coming to
a verdict at all.
Sure enough, midday today, the jury announced that they could not agree on
a verdict. No unanimous agreement means no verdict, means a mistrial.
Afterwards, Senator Bob Menendez was happy, pretty happy about that.
Glowing. Close to gloating, even, maybe.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BOB MENENDEZ (D), NEW JERSEY: To those who were digging my political
grave, so they could jump into my seat, I know who you are. And I won`t
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: People standing up there with him are like, he`s kidding, right?
Hey, New Jersey! Yes. Is he really going to hunt down his enemies? Is he
really threatening that outside a courthouse?
But, you know, it is a little early for the senator to be celebrating this,
as if it`s over. A mistrial is not the same as an acquittal. The
government can decide to retry you again on the same charges after a
mistrial. Just ask Rod Blagojevich, the Democratic Illinois governor
celebrated very happily in 2010 after his corruption case ended in a
mistrial. And then the government tried him again after that and today,
right now, 2017, Rod Blagojevich is still in prison.
But because Bob Menendez and Roy Moore were not enough for one day, today
also brought us the bombshell news about liberal Democratic Senator Al
Franken. A radio host named Leeann Tweeden said today that Al Franken,
before he became a senator, he kissed her and groped her against her will
while they were on a USO tour together in 2006.
Last night, on the air, at the end of the show, after that “Washington
Post” story came out about Roy Moore, I had to read the quote from the
woman who said she was 18 when Roy Moore did almost this exact thing to
her. Now tonight, on the air, I have to read a statement that sounds
remarkably similar in terms of the alleged behavior, except this time it`s
about Al Franken.
It`s – this is my life now. The woman here is talking about being
backstage with Franken as he insisted they rehearse a kiss that he had
written into a comedic script for them to perform on their USO tour.
Quote: he continued to insist, and I was beginning to get uncomfortable.
He repeated that actors really need to rehearse everything and that we must
practice the kiss. I said, OK, so he would stop badgering me.
We did the line leading up to the kiss and then he came at me, put his hand
on the back of my head, mashed his lips against mine and aggressively stuck
his tongue in my mouth. Leeann Tweeden recounted that incident.
She also included a photo in her account. You have probably seen this
picture today. I have to tell you, had the photo not been distributed by
the woman who is being mistreated in this photo, I don`t think there`s any
circumstances under which I would show it.
But because she is the one who made this publicly available today and she
wanted this to be seen, here it is. She is legit asleep in this photo and
that is the future senator from Minnesota standing over her with his hands
on her flack vest.
So, the response today from Al Franken`s fellow Democrats in the Senate has
been unanimous, swift and pitiless and resolute condemnation.
Amy Klobuchar, his fellow Minnesota senator says, quote: This should not
have happened to Leeann Tweeden. I strongly condemn this behavior and the
Senate Ethics Committee must open an investigation.
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, quote: The allegations against
Senator Franken are deeply concerning. This kind of behavior is
unacceptable and should not be tolerated anywhere in our society. There`s
nothing funny about it and there`s no excuse for it.
Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, from the Democratic leadership. Quote:
There`s never an excuse for this behavior, ever. What Senator Franken did
was wrong. It should refer to the ethics committee for review.
Senator Tammy Duckworth, also of Illinois. Quote: These types of actions
are simply unacceptable and should be reviewed by the Ethics Committee.
Women across America should be able to feel safe in their workplace.
Senator Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader, quote: Sexual harassment is
never acceptable and must not be tolerated. I hope and expect that the
Ethics Committee will fully investigate this trouble incident as they
should with any credible allegation of sexual harassment.
So, these statements went on and on and on today. Democrats lining up to
say what Al Franken did was wrong and he should be investigated for it and
there`s no excuse for it.
Honestly, the only evolution we saw in response to this story today came
from Al Franken himself. His initial response was a short little three-
sentence rift saying he didn`t remember the incident, quote, in the same
way as the woman who recounted it. He said the photo was something that
was clearly intended to be funny but it wasn`t. And he said he was sorry.
We got that short statement shortly before 11:00 a.m. Clearly, that was
insufficient. By early afternoon, Senator Franken realized he needed to
put out something less dismissive, something more fulsome. And then
shortly before 1:00 p.m., we got this new statement from the senator, which
was eight paragraphs long. And it ended with the senator asking for an
ethics committee investigation into himself.
So, all this news, all happening at once today does raise some interesting,
I think, answerable questions. When was the last time a senator asked for
an ethics investigation of himself? Has that ever happened before? Does
it matter if this is going to be handled by the Ethics Committee
investigating Franken, does it matter in terms of the jurisdiction here
that the behavior involved happened before Al Franken became a senator?
I remember when David Vitter was the subject of a sex-related scandal and
the Ethics Committee said they couldn`t look into it because it was from
when he was only in the House, and he wasn`t in the Senate. Will that
factor in here given that Franken wasn`t a senator yet?
And what about Menendez? Even if Bob Menendez wins in court, if he`s not
retried, or if he gets retried and he`s acquitted, could he still face
getting booted out of the Senate now? Now that they`ve restarted their
ethics inquiry into him?
And then, of course, there`s candidate Roy Moore. Mitch McConnell has
promised that if Roy Moore wins in Alabama next month, Moore will be
investigated the second he steps foot on the Senate floor. What would that
really look like, what would it take to carry out? Does the same
jurisdictional issue apply in terms of you not having been a senator when
the alleged behavior happened?
So much bad behavior in such close proximity to the U.S. Senate. It all
calls for some real expertise and that`s next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R), TEXAS: – that should be referred to the Senate
Ethics Committee. I think that`s the appropriate way to handle it.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: It`s going to be referred to the
ethics committee. We`ll see what happens.
SEN. CHRIS COONS (D), DELAWARE: As the vice chair of the Ethics Committee,
I cannot comment on any matter that may or may not come before the
REPORTER: Could he be expelled from the Senate, do you think?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think the right place to address it is the ethics
SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D), WEST VIRGINIA: I think it`s an appropriate
statement. He`s asking for an investigation on himself. And the Ethics
Committee is very, very, very, very competent and very good.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Look, bipartisanship! Democrats and Republicans agreeing on
something, down to the letter. All it took to bring them together was a
lewd photo, some truly breathtaking sexual harassment allegations and an
apology by the Democratic senator in question.
Joining us now is the great Steve Kornacki, MSNBC national political
Steve, great to have you with us again on this. Really appreciate you
STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Thanks for having
MADDOW: So I don`t – I don`t know – I guess this is knowable. I guess
we keep records of these sort of things. Do we know if anybody has ever
asked for the Ethics Committee to investigate themselves in the Senate
KORNACKI: Yes, I – you know, I saw you raise that in the last block, off
the top of my head, I can`t think of one. That doesn`t mean it hasn`t
happened, but I can`t think of it.
This is a – it`s an unusual move, I think, and there`s – it also just
sort of raises the point here that when it comes to the Ethics Committee
and the investigations, that it chooses to launch, there really is no
standard, in terms of what triggers it. Sometimes a certain set of
political forces align in a way and the Ethics Committee looks into
something. Other times, it doesn`t.
I think the most famous example of the Senate not looking into something,
you go back to Ted Kennedy, former – late senator from Massachusetts, the
Chappaquiddick accident in 1969 and all the questions about his behavior.
Senate Ethics Committee never looked into it.
MADDOW: And I`m thinking about that little bit of tape that we just played
from Chris Coons there, vice chair of the Ethics Committee, and he says, as
the vice chair of the ethics committee, I cannot comment on any matter that
may or may not come before the committee.
If the Ethics Committee is going to take the unanimous bipartisan advice
from everybody who talked about it in the Senate today and they are going
to investigate Franken on this, should we expect a statement of
confirmation from them about that? Will any part of the process be public?
Will we know for sure if and when they`re doing that?
KORNACKI: Yes, we will know if they do it.
KORNACKI: In terms of what is actually transpiring beyond that timetable,
anything like that, that`s usually, you know, pretty well guarded. But we
will know that they are doing it if they do choose to go down that road.
MADDOW: OK. And Steve, I`m remembering the David Vitter scandal. There
were allegations about him and prostitution and there was a lot of
political heat around that. The allegations were from the time that he was
in the U.S. House before he went to the Senate and the Senate Ethics
Committee at the time, if I remember correctly, I think, they said that
they were not going to open an investigation into Vitter, because the
alleged behavior happened yes, while he was in Congress, but not while he
was in the Senate.
Is that a hard and fast jurisdictional, like, you know, red letter decision
– I guess, black letter decision, or is that an arguable thing in terms of
jurisdiction for the Ethics Committee?
KORNACKI: I think it falls into the category of arguable. Again, I think
it gets to the point where you have a body called the Senate Ethics
Committee, and I think when we all hear that term, we instinctively assume
there are a series of hard and fast time-honored, tested principles, rules,
standards that a company, how it conducts itself, the sorts of cases it
looks at. And really, there aren`t.
And I think it`s a situation where, look, if the Senate – the Senate
chose, for instance, in this case, if they did, to look into Franken and
conduct before he was elected to the U.S. Senate, or for that matter, if
Roy Moore were to get elected and Republicans were to convene the Ethics
Committee, as Mitch McConnell has suggested they might and they were to
look into his conduct years ago before he was elected, I think that`s
something that would have to be tested in the courts, if a Roy Moore or if
an Al Franken or if any senator whose behavior came under the microscope
like that wanted to test it in the courts.
I don`t think that`s something that`s been established. I think to the
extent you have some sort of guidance in the past. I think the most famous
example, the most famous case was Adam Clayton Powell, member of the House
back in the 1960s. And this was the House that was refusing to seat him
and basically the guidance that came from the courts at that point was,
well, you have to seat him and then it`s up to you if you want to expel
But, again, the guidance that came there at the time, too, suggested that
the expulsion would have to involve conduct while he was in office. But
it`s never been tested certainly on the Senate side that I know of.
MADDOW: Steve Kornacki, MSNBC`s political correspondent, you never know
when your arcane base of knowledge on this stuff is going to become very
important for multiple stories in one 24-hour news cycle. Steve, we`re
lucky to have you. Thanks for being here, my friend.
KORNACKI: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: All right. Another part of our federal government, another Senate
committee made some very, very surprising news today concerning the
president`s son-in-law. And that`s next.
MADDOW: A few days ago, Julia Ioffe at “The Atlantic” magazine had a
bombshell report that during the presidential campaign last year, Donald
Trump`s eldest son, Don Jr., he exchanged direct messages on Twitter with
WikiLeaks. Donald Trump Jr. released some of the messages himself, shortly
after that “Atlantic” piece dropped, including the one where WikiLeaks
tells him there`s a specific link that should be used while promoting
WikiLeaks` stolen Democratic documents.
Two days after getting that advice from WikiLeaks about how to most
efficiently promote their stolen documents, Donald Jr., in fact, tweeted
that exact link to his followers, which means, it`s now settled at a
granular level that the Trump campaign or at least the Trump family did
provide direct assistance to the Russian intelligence operation that used
WikiLeaks to distribute stolen Democratic documents during our election.
So, just in case we`re keeping track of that old chestnut, that`s now not
just proven, but agreed to. Julia Ioffe also reported 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.
We don`t know exactly how “The Atlantic” got ahold of those messages, but
we know that Don Jr. has turned over documents to the Senate Judiciary
Committee, as have others, including Paul Manafort and the campaign itself.
Last month, the committee asked Jared Kushner to turn over documents as
well, and apparently he did turn over some, but today in a letter to
Jared`s lawyer, the Judiciary Committee said there`s a problem. And they
broke some news while explaining this problem. The committee`s lawyer told
– excuse me, the committee told Jared Kushner`s lawyer, quote, you
produced documents to the committee, but the production appears to have
There are several documents that are known to exist, but were not included
in your production. For example, other parties have produced September
2016 e-mail communications to Mr. Kushner concerning WikiLeaks, which Mr.
Kushner then forwarded to then another campaign official - Hope Hicks.
Such documents should have been produced to us, but they were not.
In other words, hey, Jared, you said you gave us all the relevant Russia e-
mails and messages, but over here in Don Jr.`s pile, there are these other
e-mails to you and from you about Russia stuff. What gives?
But that`s not all. That correspondence about WikiLeaks that the committee
says that Jared Kushner left out, we know what that is, or at least we
think we do because of that reporting at Julia Ioffe, but the Judiciary
Committee also describe something else in this letter to Kushner`s . It`s
correspondence that we didn`t previously know about before today. It`s
stuff we`ve never heard about, at least as far as I can tell.
Quote: Other parties have also produced documents including a Russian
backdoor overture and dinner invite, which many Kushner also forwarded.
Russian back door overture and dinner invite, you say?
The letter continues, quote, and still other parties have produced
communications with Sergey Millian, copied to Mr. Kushner. Sergey Millian
who runs kind of a fake Russian-American business group, widely reported to
be one of the key sources for the Christopher Steele dossier, the report by
the former British intelligence officer about connections between Trump and
Sergey Millian has claimed to be a big player in Trump`s circles. But
Trump`s advisers have sworn up and down, this guy had nothing to do with
Donald Trump. But, today we learned that somebody in the campaign was
corresponding with him during the campaign and copying Jared Kushner. And
then Jared Kushner didn`t hand that over when he was asked.
Kushner`s lawyer Abbe Lowell, who`s also representing Bob Menendez, busy
day today, Abbe? Says in a statement today that he and his client have
produced all relevant documents, but they say they are happy to respond to
additional requests from the committee, senators are giving him until the
27th of this month to hand over the missing materials and anything else
they might be holding back, including a gazillion categories of information
related to Michael Flynn.
In the meantime, though, the committee sent the letter, which is a public
document, alerting Jared Kushner but all the rest of us that they`ve got
communications involving Kushner and a Russian backdoor overture during the
campaign, also correspondence with a guy who reportedly provided juicy
information for the Steele dossier.
Why are they telling us all of this? Why did they do this in a public
letter? And is there more stuff Jared Kushner didn`t turn over that they
know they ought to be able to get? You know, Senate Judiciary Committee,
if you`re trying to get our attention, you`re being a little obvious about
MADDOW: – week of the federal response to hurricane Maria, which has left
3.4 million American citizens living in more or less Stone Age conditions
in Puerto Rico. Tonight, 57 percent of the island is in pitch darkness.
And that`s an improvement. Last night, three quarters of the island was in
the dark after a major power line went down.
And you know what? You can get specific about this because we know that
that same power line went down last week, too. When it happened last week,
that left 82 percent of the island in the dark. After that power line went
down last week, 82 percent of the island in the dark, they clawed their way
back and then, boom, same one went down again. Twice in one week.
That particular power line that`s so key to the power on the island, that
one that keeps going down, twice in a week, throwing hundreds of thousands
if not millions of Americans into darkness every time it happens, that
particular power line was one repaired by Whitefish Energy, the Montana
Company that won a $300 million no-bid contract to repair Puerto Rico`s
power grid, despite the fact they appear to have two full-time employees.
Whitefish`s contract was cancelled amid a national scandal over that
contract on October 29th. But we found out after they were fired that
their contract contains a clause requiring 30 days notice before
termination which means the government is still paying them now. The
government will continue to pay Whitefish until the end of the month.
So, their work has still resulting in people continuing to lose power even
now. They`re still being paid and thanks to newly released records
unearthed by a congressional investigation we know that whitefish energy
charged Puerto Rico more than double the regular wages for utility crew
line workers and higher than normal daily meal rates. So, worked out great
The federal response to hurricane Maria has been historic in the
ineptitude. Conditions in Puerto Rico, forgive me, are a national
disgrace. But what was a botched recovery effort is starting to give way
to no recovery effort. I`ll stay on it.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: All right. I`m about to be deliberately mysterious. And I`m not
doing it for effect and not doing it for nothing. I just am not – I can`t
explain it yet.
So I have to tell you to trust me even though I can`t show my work, I can`t
explain it yet, but trust me on this.
Tomorrow night, MSNBC is going to have a scoop. Specifically NBC`s chief
foreign correspondent Richard Engel is going to have a scoop. I really
truly cannot tell you what it`s about, I can only tell you that it`s an
important story, and that it`s brand new and you haven`t heard anything
like it before, and it`s tomorrow.
And so, I wanted to make myself the first person to tell you absolutely
nothing about it except the fact that it`s going to happen and you should
trust me about that. So there. That`s as far out on a limb as I`m willing
That does it for us tonight.
Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD”. Ali Velshi is in for Lawrence tonight.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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