Politico: FCC to seek repeal of net neutrality Transcript 11/20/17 The Rachel Maddow Show
Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
Date: November 20, 2017
Guest: Paul Rosenzweig, Shannon Pettypiece
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST, ALL IN: That is “ALL IN” for this evening.
THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now.
Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: You know, you get what you paid for in terms of
your political consulting. You`re getting it for free on TV.
HAYES: That`s exactly right. Yes. Not what you want to lead with on the
yard signs in America.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You watch Rachel Maddow. I watch Rachel Maddow. Vote
HAYES: Defends on the district.
MADDOW: Yes, that`s worked for absolutely everyone who`s ever around on
MADDOW: Thanks, my friend.
And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
Wow. So, this has been an incredible and fast-moving day of news. I sort
of think like the news gods are looking ahead and thinking all right,
Thursday`s a holiday, for Thanksgiving, we`d better get moving because
we`ve got a lot to cram into what looks on the calendar like a week, but
it`s going to have to go fast. I mean, just in terms of me and my staff
putting this show together, what we thought was going to be on the show at
the start of the workday today has changed 100 percent over the course of
today, over the course of this day and afternoon and evening where big news
just keeps breaking.
So, let`s start at the top, which tonight feels like starting at the bottom
of the barrel. “The Washington Post” has just published a long stomach
churning expose describing eight different women making allegations of
sexual misconduct against long-time PBS and CBS News anchor Charlie Rose.
Charlie Rose is accused by more than a half dozen women that worked for him
in various capacities of unwanted sexual advances and groping and lewd
calls and frequently figuring out ways to take off all his clothes around a
series of his female subordinates, once he found ways to get them alone,
even though they thought it was a work environment.
Charlie Rose hosts his own long-running TV show on PBS and on Bloomberg TV.
That has now been suspended. He`s also a high-profile co-host of the daily
morning show “CBS This Morning.” He`s also a contributing correspondent
for “60 Minutes.” CBS has now suspended him from both of those programs as
So, again, that news breaking today in the “Washington Post” and that news
about Charlie Rose comes immediately on the heels of news from “The New
York Times” that they have suspended their high-profile White House
reporter Glenn Thrush after Vox.com this morning published a number of
sexual harassment claims against Glenn Thrush. Most of the claims made
against thrush are from his time as a reporter at politico.com, not from
his time at “The New York Times.” But he now works at “The New York Times”
and that`s who suspended him today.
And that brought us to the news that broke this evening in “Reuters”, about
21st Century Fox. “Reuters” was first to report tonight that 21st Century
Fox, which is the parent company of the Fox News Channel, they have, quote,
reached a $90 million settlement of shareholder claims arising from the
sexual harassment scandal at Fox News.
Fox, of course, has previously been known to have paid tens of millions of
dollars to a large number of women who have made sexual harassment claims
about the work environment and workplace behavior by specific personalities
and executives at Fox. But according to “Reuters” tonight, the settlement
that was arrived at today, will result in an additional $90 million being
paid out, this time to shareholders of the company. The $90 million will
reportedly come from insurers of Fox officers, Fox directors and Roger
But again, if this settlement is approved by a judge overseeing this
matter, this will be another $90 million paid out in Fox News sexual
And those are just the media sexual harassment and sexual abuse claims for
the day. Now for the politics ones. Today was the day a second woman came
forward to say she was touched inappropriately by Senator Al Franken. This
alleged incident took place at the Minnesota state fair in 2010. That
would be when Al Franken was a United States senator and that would mean if
Franken`s case is ever taken up by the Senate Ethics Committee, the
jurisdictional question of whether or not any of the alleged behavior
happened while he was a senator, well, that would be different for this
alleged case from 2010 as compared to the one we learned about last week
which was from before he was a senator.
And then there`s the case of Roy Moore, the Alabama Senate candidate who`s
remaining in that Senate race despite the National Republican Party and
almost every sitting Republican senator calling on him to drop out
following multiple allegations of him making different kinds of sexual
advances on teenagers when he was in his 30s. We`ll have more on that
story coming up later in the show tonight. But you should know that this
weekend, the largest papers in the state of Alabama made news by forcefully
and unequivocally and aggressively endorsing Roy Moore`s Democratic
challenger for that Senate seat, Doug Jones.
In Washington today, the big news is the Trump administration decided to
declare that North Korea is a state sponsor of terrorism. Now, the U.S.
flipped back and forth on this designation for North Korea over the years.
There is no sign that today`s announcement from the Trump administration is
based on any new information about North Korea. So, this appears to have
not necessarily been driven by events. It appears to be a strategic
decision of some kind by the Trump administration.
As to whether or not this is a good strategic decision, don`t know. It is
hard to anticipate how a declaration like this one today might affect the
ongoing insult go-round that our president has adopted as his strategy
toward the North Korean leader on a personal level.
Then, late tonight, came this headline from NBC News. The president is
closing his controversial self-named charitable foundation. The Trump
Foundation is closing.
Now, reporting on the dubious financial practices of the Trump Foundation
last year earned “Washington Post” reporter David Fahrenthold a Pulitzer
Prize. That`s how we learned, for example, that Trump himself had not
donated any money to his own charitable foundation since at least 2008.
Since that round of reporting sparked by the president`s campaign last
year, since that round of reporting began, the Trump foundation has
admitted formally to self-dealing, meaning it disburse what`d were supposed
to be charitable funds to benefit Trumps rather than for any charitable
The foundation has also come under intense legal scrutiny from the attorney
general`s office in the state of New York where the foundation is
incorporated. And that leads to a really interesting detail to watch in
this story. As Ken Dilanian notes at NBCNews.com tonight, even though
president Trump may wish to now close his charitable foundation, and indeed
he may have started the process of dissolving it, legally, he might not be
able to close it, while the foundation is under legal scrutiny by the
attorney general. You cannot evade legal scrutiny by ceasing to exist as
On the Russia investigation, “The Washington Post” had a long somewhat
ominous report on what it`s like to work in the White House right now under
the specter of Robert Mueller`s special counsel investigation. According
to the report in “The Post” today, witnesses questioned by Mueller`s team
warned that investigators are asking them about foreign contacts and
meetings that have not yet become public. Which means, quote, expect a
series of new public revelations.
Recent revelations over the past few days have not been great for current
senior White House staff, particularly White House senior advisor Jared
Kushner. Over the weekend, we learned Jared Kushner reportedly told two
congressional committees under oath that he was unaware of any contacts
between the Trump campaign and WikiLeaks. Those congressional committees
we now know have proof, they have documented evidence that Jared Kushner
was not only notified during the campaign, that the campaign was in touch
with WikiLeaks, he went further than just receiving information by e-mail,
he turned that information around and forwarded it himself to another
member of the campaign staff, which is going to make it hard for him to
explain why he denied any knowledge of that under oath.
In addition, Jared Kushner appears to have omitted any mention to
investigators of yet another overture to the Trump campaign by another
Russian – in this case another Russian banker. Jared Kushner reportedly
received and responded to an overture from an official at the Bank of
Russia who`s linked to Vladimir Putin and who`s been accused of having ties
to Russian organized crime.
With this latest set of reports Jared Kushner, I`m not exaggerating here,
Jared Kushner appears to have had more contact with more different Russians
during the campaign and the transition than any other senior member of the
Trump campaign that we yet know about. Jared Kushner has also been 100
percent unforthcoming about those contacts, at least in the first instance.
And he continues to serve at the highest levels in the White House. And
that would seem to be an untenable situation in the long run.
But it remains to be seen what Robert Mueller`s inquiry and the
congressional investigations are going to do with this continually evolving
not good information about Kushner and how honest he`s being and what kinds
of contacts he had with Russia while Russia was attacking the election to
try to benefit Trump. So, eyes on Jared Kushner now.
We`re also right now waiting for the White House communications director
Hope Hicks to have her scheduled interview with Robert Mueller`s
Now, we`re told that the Hope Hicks interview may happen as soon as this
week. Crucial question, it`s also not clear whether Hicks will be called
to testify to the grand jury, in addition to speaking with Mueller`s
prosecutors in an interview setting.
So, again, we don`t know exactly when the Hope Hicks interview and/or
testimony is going to be but we expect it should be any day now if it
hasn`t happened already.
So like I said, busy day. All of that is going on in the news right now.
That`s the kind of news cycle we`re in right now.
And on top of all that, Charles Manson died – news at which the world does
In August 1970, Charles Manson was on trial, along with two of his
accomplices for multiple murders when the man who was president at the time
threw that Charles Manson trial into chaos. The president totally messed
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD NIXON, FORMER PRESIDENT: I noted for example the coverage of the
Charles Manson case when I was in Los Angeles. Front page every day in the
papers that usually got a couple minutes on the evening news. Here is a
man who is guilty, directly or indirectly, of eight murders without reason.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On his way back to Washington from San Clemente today,
President Nixon stopped in Denver to talk to a meeting of law enforcement
officials and then he called a news conference and then the president made
the flat statement that Charles Manson, who is on trial for his life in Los
Angeles, is guilty, directly or indirectly, of eight murders. A few
minutes later, his press secretary called back and said he was retracting
the president`s statement because he had failed in referring to Manson,
failed to use the word “alleged.” But by then the trial in Los Angeles had
been thrown into a small uproar.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Had been thrown into a small uproar. Charles Manson, of course,
proved to be profoundly guilty. But when you`re president, you can`t
prejudice the outcome of any ongoing criminal trial by making a statement
like that in public. If somebody is on trial, if you`re the president, you
can`t say that person`s guilty. I mean, short of a pardon, that`s the best
way a president has to set somebody free by, screwing up a prosecution that
Still, for whatever reason Nixon said it. The White House spokesman tried
to rescind it right after Nixon said it. Nixon had to come out later on
after his spokesman tried to take it back and say he didn`t really mean to
say what he had said, but he had said it.
This was the cover of the “L.A. Times” the next day. Look at that. That`s
how big the headline read. “Manson guilty,” comma, “Nixon declares.”
Manson`s lawyers held up that headline in court and used it to call for a
mistrial. And the judge had to make the call. And ultimately, the judge
didn`t allow for a mistrial but he could have. I mean, the jurors were
supposed to be sequestered from all news about the Manson case. But once
the president proclaims a defendant to be guilty, there are reasonable
worries that the president declaring the defendant to be guilty might leak
through to the jury. The jurors might unavoidably hear that news or see it
in the paper in three-inch headlines.
Presidents are not supposed to influence law enforcement. Presidents are
not supposed to have sway over the behavior of the Justice Department when
it comes to federal law enforcement. It`s a very, very, very bright line
in our democracy. All sorts of stuff to worry about in our government and
our country, one of the bright lines to worry about, one of the things
actually worth keeping you up at night is the question of whether or not
law enforcement is being perverted for political means.
Richard Nixon was a president who didn`t get that. He crossed over that
line frequently and easily, and that`s ultimately what led to his
resignation as president. The articles of impeachment against Nixon were
about obstruction of justice, his interference with law enforcement.
I mean, this is a big thing that presidents can get wrong, it could get you
impeached. It could lead to you almost accidentally springing Charles
Manson from his murder trial. In Nixon`s case, it got his own attorney
general convicted. In Nixon`s case, it resulted in the first time we ever
had a criminal conviction of a U.S. attorney general.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIODENTIFIED MALE: For the first time in American history, a former
attorney general of the United States, Richard Kleindienst, pleaded guilty
today to a crime. Kleindienst admitted to federal Judge George Hart in
Washington he had withheld information from the Senate Judiciary Committee
during his confirmation hearings. This information involved a presidential
order to Kleindienst to drop antitrust proceedings against ITT.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The former attorney general entered the plea swiftly
and un-dramatically. In a written statement, he said he regretted not
being more candid. He told a Senate committee there had been no White
House interference in the ITT case when in fact there was.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This was all that was seen of Kleindienst outside. His
car sped away from the courthouse basement.
Kleindienst will be sentenced early next month.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Nixon`s attorney general pled guilty to lying to Congress about
something called the ITT case. The ITT case was an antitrust case brought
by the Justice Department when Nixon was president and it was a case that
Nixon as president corrupted.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
NIXON: And incidentally, Kleindienst has the ITT thing settled. He cut a
deal with ITT. Now, this is very, very hush-hush and it has to be
engineered very delicately. And it will take six months to do properly.
HALDEMAN: Does ITT have any money?
HALDEMAN: Geneen, yes.
NIXON: Oh God, yes. Does he ever. That`s part of this ball game. But it
should be later.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: Does he have money? Oh yes does he ever. Oh, God yes. That`s
part of the ball game. But it should be later.
That`s Nixon on the Oval Office tapes in 1971 talking about the corrupt
deal he cut with ITT and how the money part of it should be settled later
because this all has to be very hush-hush. Not very subtle on the Oval
Office tapes, right?
What that was about is this company ITT wanted to merge with some other
companies. Justice Department sued them on antitrust grounds. They said,
no, you can`t merge with the other companies. You can`t buy those other
And then Nixon quite bluntly arranged for that suit by the Justice
Department to be dropped, to be settled, in exchange for ITT giving the
Republican Party a whole bunch of money.
The ITT scandal was basically an adjunct to the whole Watergate scandal.
It was a whole tangent in the prosecutor`s office where they went after
just the ITT scandal. They got the attorney general`s scalp to show for
it. It was plainly criminal interference by the president, by the White
House, in the law enforcement functions of the Justice Department.
Even if there hadn`t been any money, even if there hadn`t been a bribery
component of it, it still would have been illegal influence by the
president to have done what he did in that case. More than anything what
made Nixon Nixonian, more than anything what resulted in the Watergate
catastrophe and the resignation of that president, more than anything what
led to that was Nixon not being able to keep his paws off the Justice
Department, off of law enforcement.
He treated law enforcement as his own and because that is a violation of
the law and because that is a violation of our American norms, because that
is widely viewed as the lesson of what went wrong in the Nixon presidency,
since Nixon resigned we did not see a president proudly exert overt
political pressure on the Justice Department and its law enforcement
decisions. We didn`t see that for more than a generation.
We are very obviously seeing that now. President Trump has proudly
publicly pressured the Justice Department to prosecute his political
opponent from the last election, Hillary Clinton. He has proudly publicly
pressured the Attorney General Jeff Sessions to try to get him to reverse
his recusal on the Russia investigation.
The president has taken personal meetings with candidates for federal
prosecutor jobs in high-profile jurisdictions where he personally has
business or other interests. And now in this nutso news cycle we`re having
today there are two new reports, one very high-profile, one lower profile,
about President Trump reportedly exerting or at least appearing to exert
improper influence on the decisions of the Justice Department when it comes
to something quite important.
The lower profile incident was reported last night at the “Washington Post”
by national security reporter Devlin Barrett. Quote, Justice Department
officials are preparing to announce several cases involving Iranian
suspects in the coming months.
Now, that`s the lead. It`s kind of a weird lead. Right? Why would we
know in advance there are going to be announcements about specific kinds of
suspects being charged with crimes? Why would you know that in advance?
To get to the why, you have to read into the sub-lead which is really the
important part of this story. Quote: Last month, national security
prosecutors at the Justice Department were told to look at any ongoing
investigations involving Iran or Iranian nationals with an eye toward
making them public.
Quote: The push to announce Iran-related cases has caused internal alarm at
the Justice Department with law enforcement officials fearing they`ve been
directed to publicize these specific cases, quote, because the Trump
administration would like Congress to impose new sanctions on Iran.
Quote: Federal law enforcement officials have voiced concerns that
announcing the cases rather than keeping them under seal could imperil
ongoing investigative work or make it harder to catch suspects who might
travel out of Iran.
So, if this reporting is accurate, yes, you can look at this through the
lens of what`s going on with Iran. But look at this through the lens of
our democracy here for a second. The Trump administration is reportedly
pushing the national security prosecutors at the Justice Department to
unseal specific cases they are working on for political effect, even though
it might negatively affect the ability to prosecute those cases. This is
like a huge red flag in terms of the independence of the Justice Department
and of federal law enforcement.
So, that I think ended up being a lower-profile story in part because it
broke on Sunday night. But then there is tonight`s bombshell financial
page reporting that for the first time in decades, the Justice Department
will be filing an antitrust lawsuit against AT&T, to try to block its
acquisition of Time Warner. Now, however you feel about that proposed
merger, if you feel anything about it at all, this president declared once
this proposed merger was announced that if he became president, he would
make sure it never happened. That`s not your decision as president.
On November 8th, “The New York Times” reported that the Justice Department
under President Trump had told Time Warner that they`d have to spin off and
get rid of CNN if they wanted this big multibillion-dollar merger with AT&T
to go forward.
I mean, with any other president, it would be weird to consider the
president`s personal antipathy toward a media outlet like CNN as a factor
in whether or not the Justice Department of the United States was going to
court to block a merger like this. But the Justice Department hasn`t tried
to block a merger like this in decades, and with this president, he hasn`t
just hinted at that as a motivation for the actions of his administration,
he`s openly threatened that`s what he will do amid a cascade of behavior
and public comments by the president that make clear that he sees the
Justice Department and the power of law enforcement as his personal
political arsenal. Unprecedented since Nixon. If only because everybody
is supposed to know that`s what brought Nixon down.
And in the midst of that, there is something else that has just broken in
the news, which is also about the Justice Department which I will confess
to absolutely not understanding. With that backdrop of what`s going on
between the White House and the Justice Department, there is also this
report that is about the Mueller investigation, new reporting that in the
Russia investigation essentially, the Justice Department has just
I don`t get it, either. That I need explained, and that one`s next.
MADDOW: It`s a little hard to believe at this stage of the big sprawling
complicated Trump Russia investigation which has already resulted in a
guilty plea and two felony indictments, but we have news tonight of what we
think is a first. It`s not only a first for me from the Russia
investigation. For me, this is a first-first. Never heard anything like
Special counsel Robert Mueller was appointed by the second in command at
the Justice Department by the deputy attorney general. He reports to the
deputy attorney general. He could conceivably be fired by the deputy
And that arrangement between Mueller and the Justice Department makes this
a potentially awkward piece of news. Citing a source who has not seen the
request but was told about it, ABC News now reports the special counsel
Robert Mueller has just demanded that the Justice Department itself should
hand over a bunch of documents that pertain to Mueller`s investigation.
Now, NBC News has not confirmed this reporting. But ABC News is reporting
that sometime in the last month or so, the special counsel demanded
documents from the Justice Department. The special counsel is reportedly
particularly interested in e-mails relating to the president firing FBI
Director James Comey and before that, Attorney General Jeff Sessions`
decision to recuse himself from things related to Russia or the 2016
Quote: The directive marks the special counsel`s first records request to
the Justice Department, and it now means that Mueller is demanding
documents from the department overseeing his investigation.
And I mean, you know, carry the three, right? Put these things together.
I think this means that the Justice Department by way of special counsel
Robert Mueller has just subpoenaed itself in the Russia investigation,
which would be awkward under the best of circumstances.
But for me, this is new. This is kind of what it`s like now. New and
awkward things every day, at least for this go-around in the investigation
of a president and his administration.
Joining us now is Paul Rosenzweig. He was a senior counsel on the Ken
Starr investigation during the Clinton investigation. He`s currently a
senior fellow at the R Street institute which is a new think tank in
Mr. Rosenzweig, I really appreciate your time tonight. Thank you for being
PAUL ROSENZWEIG, SENIOR COUNSEL ON THE KEN STARR INVESTIGATION: Thank you
very much for having me.
MADDOW: So, I am not an expert in these matters. I`m just an agog lay
observer of these sorts of things. The Justice Department demanding
documents from itself to me feels strange. It feels like something I
haven`t seen before.
Is this an unusual move?
ROSENZWEIG: Well, it`s both unusual and not. I mean, the not portion is
of course, Mueller is going to want to get all of the documentary evidence
relating to anything he`s investigating and in this instance the issue at
hand is potential obstruction of justice charges relating to the dismissal
of Director Comey. So, naturally, he`s going to want the documents.
What makes this odd is that even though de facto he is independent of the
Department of Justice, he is, as you pointed out, de jure under law a part
of the department. So, this is like a subordinate demanding documents from
his superior officer. It`s one of the reasons why we have an independent
counsel law, to take that oddity out and put the independent counsel
formally in the judicial branch.
Now, that that`s gone away, we`re left with this kind of unusual
circumstance. And it`s going to be an interesting story to see how it
plays out going forward.
MADDOW: This would be unusual and would have that almost backwards dynamic
you`re describing even if the deputy attorney general was not himself
directly personally a player in the obstruction of justice matter that is
being investigated here. Rod Rosenstein of course played a key role in at
least the public explanation of what happen in the firing of James Comey.
Is it possible that Robert Mueller in investigating that matter and
requiring documents from the Justice Department around that matter, that
Robert Mueller would have seen it as inappropriate to bring that to Rod
Rosenstein himself? Rosenstein as a potential witness in that matter
himself. Is there anybody else he would go to or does he have to take it
to Rosenstein himself?
ROSENZWEIG: Well, I imagine the document request was sent over to whoever
is their liaison. One thing I`m not sure about from the reporting is
whether it was actually a subpoena or just a letter demand that doesn`t
have the force of law. But to the extent that the deputy attorney general
is a witness in this case and you`re right to say that this aspect of the
case does suggest that he might be, then the natural order of things,
oversight would fall to the associate attorney general, a woman named
Rachel Brand, who would then be responsible for managing the department`s
response to Mr. Mueller`s request at least in a formal way.
MADDOW: Do we have – as the public, do we have any right to information
about these processes?
I noted that NBC News has not confirmed this report. This is an ABC News
report that we`re basing these discussions on. I know a little bit about
what parts of the government are subject, for example, to FOIA requests.
And we`ve seen – in the Manafort and Gates indictments, we`ve seen
essentially a gag order from the court in terms of barring people involved
in those proceedings from talking to the press or anybody outside the court
from talking about those things.
When it comes to matters of recusal, document requests, things like this
being handled in the Justice Department, do we have any right to know?
ROSENZWEIG: In general, the answer is no. In general, criminal
investigations are exempt from FOIA requests. Grand jury investigations in
particular are subject to a very stringent rule of grand jury secrecy.
Rule 6-E of federal rules of criminal procedure. The violation of which is
actually a crime.
That having been said, the confidentiality obligations are on Mr. Mueller
and his team. There is nothing that says the recipient of a document
request like the Department of Justice could not voluntarily disclose it if
it wanted to. I don`t imagine that the department wants to very much.
MADDOW: No, but that gives me a whole good idea for how to spend my
afternoon tomorrow trying to figure this out.
Paul Rosenzweig, former senior counsel on the Ken Starr investigation,
currently a senior fellow at the R Street Institute – Mr. Rosenzweig,
first time you`ve been on the show tonight. I really appreciate your time.
I hope you`ll come back.
ROSENZWEIG: Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: Thank you. I appreciate it.
All right. When you work for a president who counts himself among the
very, very capital v, very rich and you yourself are more in the category
of just going along OK, you might want a little help paying the lawyers you
need on account of your very rich president boss. It would be only human
of you to want a little help. And tonight, that dynamic between and you
your very rich boss, that would be big news. That`s coming up.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: (AUDIO GAP) news tonight is word that the Trump administration,
their appointee who`s head of the Federal Communications Commission, is due
to announce tomorrow the Trump administration`s plan to kill what`s called
net neutrality. This was first reported by politico.com tonight. Net
neutrality is now one of those Washington phrases that makes a lot of
people`s eyes glaze over.
But if this happens, not only is this going to be a huge political deal.
This is something that is going to change your life if it goes through.
The net neutrality rule was put in place by the Obama administration
meaning big Internet providers can`t pick which traffic goes fast and which
traffic goes slow online. That makes the Internet more or less a level
playing field in terms of what content you want to access and how you want
to receive it.
Under the changes the Trump administration is going to propose tomorrow,
though, Internet companies can pick and choose which stuff you get in a
hurry and which stuff you have time, you know, to fold the laundry and run
around the block before it gets to you. In a sense, they get to shape what
the Internet is for money.
The proposal comes up for a vote formally next month but given the
Republican majority on the FCC, it`s expected to pass. FCC commissioner`s
going to roll out this plan tomorrow, in my opinion or in terms of the way
I guess I look at this story and how I followed it over the years, they`re
going to roll out this announcement tomorrow, I think you will probably be
able to expect pretty significant protests to start at least by the time of
the rollout but more likely they will probably start before. This is a big
deal and this is going to become a very big political deal for people
fighting this administration. Watch.
MADDOW: There are a lot of current and former Trump administration and
Trump campaign staffers who are staring down the barrel of really big legal
bills. And all of them have been on the hook for their own legal fees up
to and including the vice president of the United States, Mike Pence.
But not the Trump family. President Trump and his eldest son, they have
been having their legal fees paid for by the Republican National Committee
and by the Trump reelection campaign. The Republican Party, the RNC, for
example, spent $167,000 on Donald Jr.`s lawyer in September alone, which is
awkward and would seem to be counter-strategic for somebody whose current
and former staffers are talking to federal investigators right now.
I mean, somebody like former White House chief of staff, Reince Priebus, he
was head of the RNC for, what six years? He doesn`t get his legal bills
paid for by the RNC, but Donald Jr. does? Who decided that?
Honestly, was there a formal decision made at the RNC? No, we`re not going
to use donors` money to pay for normal staffers or even any of our former
employees, but we will pay for the billionaire president`s grown son and
the billionaire president himself him but nobody else, right? This has
always been such a weird and unexplained arrangement.
Well, on Friday, it started to change. Shannon Pettypiece at “Bloomberg
News” reported that President Trump would start paying his own legal fees.
And he would maybe start paying for the legal fees of current and former
White House staffers, or maybe he`d set up some mechanism by which other
people could pay for the legal bills of those staffers maybe. That was
Well, now tonight, Shannon Pettypiece reports that the Trump campaign, the
campaign, the Trump re-election campaign, is going to stop paying for
Donald Jr.`s legal bills. And that`s not because he`s going to cover them
himself or because his dad is going to cover them. Instead, they`re going
to be setting up a campaign legal fund to pay the legal fees of campaign
staffers and Don Jr., even though technically Don Jr. wasn`t a campaign
And so, this is clearly changing but I still have lots of questions, right?
We have this reporting tonight that the Trump campaign, the campaign, has
stopped paying Donald Jr.`s legal fees. What about the RNC, though? What
about the Republican Party? Have they also stopped paying Donald Jr.`s
legal fees? And who decided to pay them in the first place?
We still don`t have a satisfactory answer as to why the Republican Party
was paying the legal bills of the president and his son and no one else.
We don`t know why that was set up in the first place nor do we know why it
is reportedly stopping now.
White House lawyer Ty Cobb told NBC News that paying his own legal fees,
quote, “was always President Trump`s preference. So, why didn`t he? If he
really wanted to pay his own legal fees, what, did the RNC body-block him?
I mean, does the president think it was a bad idea for the Republican Party
and its donors to be paying for him and his son? If so, why doesn`t he
repay them? So many questions.
Joining us is Shannon Pettypiece, White House correspondent for “Bloomberg
Ms. Pettypiece, it`s really nice to have you with us tonight. Thank you
for being here.
SHANNON PETTYPIECE, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, BLOOMBERG NEWS: Thank you.
MADDOW: This story confounds me. It has confounded me from the very first
inkling that we got that members of the administration and the campaign
were going to need private legal counsel in these investigations. Without
getting into the – all the back and forth detail that I just ran through
in this new reporting, do you understand basically what`s going on in terms
of paying for legal fees in this investigation? Is there some method to
the madness here?
PETTYPIECE: I understand what`s going on at the moment, but I thought I`ve
understood that before, and I have been asking the questions you`ve been
asking since the summer really, since this investigation started to heat
up, who was going to be paying these legal bills, and asking the campaign,
the RNC, asking the individual lawyers. And it was a question that people
really couldn`t answer for me for the longest time.
Then, finally, it seemed there was some resolution, that the president
would have his bills covered by the RNC and the campaign and the campaign
would pick up bills for the staffers. But now, of course, it`s changed
again. There has been endless back and forth between the lawyers.
But as it stands right now, they`re looking at setting up at least two
legal defense funds. These are common funds that people have set up in the
past, one for White House staffers and one for campaign staffers. And the
big question out there right now is whether the president will be able to
contribute to one or either of these funds. It`s something that`s on the
table that they are looking at right now but we don`t have the answer to
MADDOW: It`s funny this is happening at the same time, like on the same
night we`re getting this reporting the president is closing down his
charitable foundation. And we know how he handled financing through the
charity in order to handle business expenses and settle legal disputes and
things like that. I think the idea that the president really wants to
contribute to legal fees is hard to square with the fact he`s the only
person we know aside from his adult son who`s had legal fees paid for by
other people thus far.
I mean, does the – do we know for sure that the RNC has only been paying
for Donald Trump Sr. and Jr.? Is it possible they have been paying for
PETTYPIECE: It is because we don`t have the filings yet. I believe the
most recent filing we have is from the third quarter. So the next round of
filings there could be more in there. But yes, it raised a lot of people`s
eyebrows to see those bills from Donald Trump Jr. in there, eyebrows of
people who had worked on the campaign.
I`ve been keeping in touch with campaign staffers who are faced with
$30,000, $60,000, $100,000 in legal bills themselves, who are liquidating
their own kids` college fund, their retirement accounts to pay for these.
And yes, when they saw $286,000 I think is the most recent number we had
going to Donald Trump Jr. and no one else there were a lot of questions and
there were a lot of frustrated campaign staffers.
MADDOW: Is this also becoming a controversy been the Republican Party in
terms of how these decisions were made and who`s responsible for these
PETTYPIECE: Well, there`s plenty of donors who donated money to the Trump
campaign and the RNC and donated that money to help get Republicans elected
to office, not to pay for legal fees from the past campaign. One of the
reasons the president`s lawyers have said they are now having the president
pick up his own legal bills is because they realized they wanted to keep
that money in the RNC coffers to help elect Republicans.
And the campaign is a similar situation. The Trump campaign is limited as
to how much they can fundraise. They are an official campaign so they can
only raise so much from individuals between now and 2020. So they want as
much money as they can to actually help with the reelection, not pay what
could be millions and millions of dollars in legal bills. They`ve already
spent $2 million in legal bills.
MADDOW: Wow. Draining the RNC and the president`s reelection campaign to
pay for legal bills not even a year into the administration. This is a
Shannon, thank you very much for being here. I do feel like I am super
glad that this is part of your beat at Bloomberg, and I also feel like
eventually, this is going to turn into being – part of this story I think
transfixes the country. It`s confusing right now, but this is going to end
up be a really important part of it.
Thank you so much for helping us understand your reporting.
PETTYPIECE: Thank you.
MADDOW: Again, Shannon Pettypiece, White House correspondent for
We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: – we have known was brewing for a while but which now might be
both starting to move fast and it may be starting to turn into a big, big
deal. Veterans groups are saying they were blindsided when the White House
started holding quiet meetings this past week to start the process of
radically undermining health care for veterans at the V.A. The White House
is reportedly starting talks, quiet talks, to fold veterans` health care
into a private health care program that`s run by the Defense Department.
“The Associated Press” reporting that, quote, news of the plan stirred
alarm from veterans` groups who said they had not been consulted.
One official from the American Legion telling “The Military Times”, quote,
we certainly want to be brought into the conversation or at least notified
Trump`s V.A. Secretary David Shulkin is aligning himself now with the
conservative groups, many of them funded by the Koch brothers, conservative
groups fighting a sort of stealth campaign over the past few years to do
away with the V.A. health care system, to privatize it.
From “The Wall Street Journal” today, “The top official at the Department
of Veterans Affairs said he wants private sector providers to play a larger
role in veterans health. Quote, David Shulkin said in an interview he
wants to make the V.A.`s hospital system compete with private sector
providers for military veteran customers.
When “The Wall Street Journal” pointed out to the V.A. secretary that what
he was saying was very much in line with what the Koch brothers and their
conservative donor network have been agitating for for the past few years,
Secretary Shulkin responded, quote: Well, if I it is, that`s by
Just like maybe it`s a coincidence that veterans` groups watching out for
what`s happening with their health care. Veterans` groups have been on
alert against privatizing the V.A. I`m sure it`s a coincidence that those
groups didn`t see this one coming at all. Must have happened when they
That the Trump administration is actively considering this plan for
veterans is one thing. That veterans themselves have been kept in the dark
is a pretty good sign about the character of what they`re trying to do.
Privatizing the V.A., we have known they wanted to do this for the last few
years. They are actually moving on it now. And they have to keep vets`
groups in the dark to do it.
Watch this space.
MADDOW: It`s tempting to keep your eyes on the president here in this
clip. But don`t watch him. Watch the cabinet officials around him trying
to pretend like they can`t hear anything that`s being said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: For the media, to the press,
thank you very much. Really appreciate it. Thank you.
REPORTER: Your thoughts on Roy Moore, Mr. President. Do you believe his
accusers? Do you believe Roy Moore`s accusers, Mr. President?
TRUMP: Thank you very much.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Thank you. Thank you very much. Cannot hear you. Can`t hear.
Can`t understand any of those nouns you said there. Thank you.
Anybody have any coloring I could work on?
Eleven days after “The Washington post” first reported on multiple
allegations of sexual misconduct against Senate candidate Roy Moore, the
president will still not answer a single question about Mr. Moore. But
despite the president himself not talking about it, the White House appears
to have settled on its line of choice, which is that the people of Alabama
Support for Roy Moore among Republicans in D.C. has fallen off a cliff, but
his support among Republican officials in Alabama remains strong. The
state`s Republican governor who was the lieutenant governor who got the big
chair herself because of another sex scandal that forced out the
predecessor in Alabama, she`s on board with Roy Moore. Alabama Republican
Party is sticking with him. as are many of the state`s elected Republican
officials. They`re all steadfast in their support for Roy Moore despite
the allegations against him, by at least nine women.
But now, even his support back home appears to be getting its first
hairline cracks. The young Republican Federation of Alabama, a group of
Alabama Republicans between the ages of 18 and 40 – yes, 40 is young! –
announced over the weekend that they have suspended their support for Roy
Latest polls also show some real hesitance among Alabama voters. Two
thirds of Alabama voters tend to vote Republican but the last two polls now
show Democrat Doug Jones winning that race. And who knows whether polling
means anything anymore in America. But that trend line is now suddenly
showing the blue line ever so slightly above the red line there.
And that was before three of Alabama`s largest newspapers this weekend ran
this shared editorial on their front pages. Not just above the fold but
above everything else. “Stand for Democracy.” Excuse me. “Stand for
decency. Reject Roy Moore.”
We don`t know ultimately what effect that will have. Today, the Alabama
secretary of state told NBC News he is expecting lower than typical turnout
in that special election, as well as a higher than expected number of
The secretary said he lowered the initial turnout projection as high as 25
percent to the 18 percent to 20 percent range predicting nearly 250,000
fewer ballots will be cast than might have previously been expected.
Again, how this affects the vote on December 12th is anybody`s guess. But
things do seem to be changing not just in the country but in Alabama on
That does it for us tonight. We will see you again tomorrow.
Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL.”
Good evening, Lawrence.
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