WSJ: Mueller probes Kushner’s contacts Transcript 11/21/17 The Rachel Maddow Show
Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
Date: November 21, 2017
Guest: Chris Coons, Xeni Jardin
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST, ALL IN: That is “ALL IN” for this evening.
THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now.
Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thanks, my friend. Much
HAYES: You bet.
MADDOW: And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
We`re following a number of developing stories tonight, including news that
the House Ethics Committee is launching an investigation into the longest
serving member of Congress in Washington, 88-year-old John Conyers,
Democrat of Michigan.
After reporting from “BuzzFeed News” yesterday about settlements paid to
former staffers in Conyers` office, John Conyers said today that he
vehemently denied that he had sexually harassed anyone. He said, quote: I
expressly a vehemently denied the allegations made against me and continue
to do so. My office resolved the allegations with an express denial of
liability to save all involved from the rigors of protracted litigation.
That shouldn`t be lost in the narrative.
That was his statement this morning. But then this afternoon, “BuzzFeed”
published another allegation from another former staffer. And now, the
House Ethics Committee says it will be investigating.
Congressman Conyers is the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee in the
House. Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi had called for the Ethics Committee
to evaluate the evaluations against John Conyers. She may now have a
decision to make as to whether he keeps that prime seat on that prime
committee, judiciary, while the accusations against him are investigated.
So, that happened today.
Meanwhile, in Alabama, today, where serious allegations have been lodged
against Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore, his Democratic opponent Doug
Jones is now overtly trying to capitalize on Roy Moore`s troubles in this
race, including a stepped up campaign schedule for Jones. Jones is also
put out this blunt new ad.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
AD ANNOUNCER: On Roy Moore`s disturbing actions, Ivanka Trump says there
is a special place in hell for people who prey on children and I have no
reason to doubt the victims` accounts.
Jeff Sessions says, I have no reason to doubt these young women.
And Richard Shelby says he will absolutely not vote for Roy Moore.
Conservative voices putting children and women over party, doing what`s
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: After that ad was released today and got lots and lots of national
attention, President Trump decided to speak about Roy Moore for the first
time. The president`s comments on the matter today were that Roy Moore
denies the allegations against him. And besides, the president said,
quote, we don`t need a liberal person in there.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I can tell you one thing for
sure. We don`t need a liberal person in there, a Democrat, Jones.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Which is the too afraid to say it way. To say, I want you to vote
for Roy Moore.
Those are the president`s first remarks on Roy Moore since the allegations
against him first surfaced two weeks ago. The president himself, of
course, faced allegations during the campaign from 16 different women who
is a say he groped, sexually harassed or sexual assaulted them. One of
those by a former contestant on “The Apprentice” has led to a lawsuit in
New York in which lawyers for the women who is accusing Trump, they
demanded documents from the Trump campaign which they say detail how the
campaign discussed and reacted to the multiple women who made those
allegations against Mr. Trump, in real time.
There`s also a new report tonight in the “Wall Street Journal” that
witnesses interviewed by the prosecutors working for special counsel Robert
Mueller have been asking extensive – have been asked extensive and
detailed questions about White House adviser Jared Kushner, the president`s
son-in-law. According to “The Wall Street Journal” tonight, Mueller`s
investigators have been trying to nail down details with other witnesses
about Jared Kushner`s involvement with foreign leaders during the
transition, and what role Jared Kushner may or may not have played in the
White House decision to fire the FBI Director James Comey.
Those lines of inquiry about Jared Kushner and are separate and apart from
the multiple instances where Jared Kushner had reported contacts or
communications with Russian officials or Russian actors during the
campaign, during the transition, and then he did not report those contacts
publicly or on his security clearance application, or even reportedly while
he was under oath and being questioned about those matters before Congress.
In light of this Mueller investigation, and those congressional
investigations – I mean, those repeatedly non-disclosed contacts would be
difficult things for anybody to explain who had had any role on the Trump
campaign. The fact that Jared Kushner wasn`t just involved with the
campaign - he`s still employed at the White House and at a high level, it
makes this detailed questioning about him a particularly risky endeavor for
the White House and for people who still work – discuss me still working
alongside him now.
And speaking of which, we`re also still awaiting word about the current
White House communications director, Hope Hicks. Hope Hicks is reportedly
set to be interviewed by Mueller`s investigators. It`s also been reported
she maybe testifying to the grand jury in the Mueller investigation as
well. Hope Hicks, of course, was in a front row seat at the Trump
Organization, and on the Trump campaign, and in the Trump White House where
she remains a senior official.
So, it`s expected that her testimony could potentially be a big deal
depending how it goes. We await word on when that`s going to happen if
fact it hasn`t happened already.
So, we`ve got a bunch more on a bunch of those stories ahead tonight.
We`ve got Xeni Jardin here tonight on the Trump administration`s decision
to let Internet companies control what you can and can`t look at online and
what Internet-based tools you can and can`t use. We`re talking to Xeni
tonight about the fight, the political fight that the Trump administration
has picked for itself with this decision. I think all indications are that
they have underestimated the fight they`ve got on their hands on this one.
We`ve also got a senator here tonight raising an alarm about a senior
career law enforcement official who has just fired without explanation by
the Trump administration. That story and that interview are both ahead
But we`re going to start tonight in Michigan. In the Flint water crisis in
Michigan, criminal charges have been brought now against 15 current and
former government officials. Flint`s water – you probably remember –
Flint`s water didn`t get poisoned by lead because of some degradation in
the infrastructure or some sort of poor local planning by Flint`s, you
know, city government, no. Flint`s water got lead poisons and kids in
Flint therefore got lead poisoned because of the state government in
Rick Snyder is the Republican governor of Michigan. The lead poisoning in
Flint happened after Governor Snyder and the state declared that there was
a financial emergency in Flint, and because of that financial emergency,
they declared they would install their own emergency manager, who is
appointed by the governor and who overrode local democracy. Essentially
voided local election results in Flint.
Local elections where people picked their elected officials were null and
void because this governor appointed emergency manager would get to make
unilateral decisions on his own about Flint. And one of those unilateral
decisions made by the governor`s appointee while he was running the city
was to switch the water supply in Flint. And they made that switch
improperly. They did it in a way that wrecked all the pipes in town. And
that`s how Flint got lead poisoned.
That`s how their water got lead poisoned. That`s how the kids of Flint got
poisoned as well. Incidentally, that`s also apparently the reason why
Flint had a gigantic of outbreak of something called Legionnaires disease
at the time of the water switch. And Legionnaires disease did damage
beyond just poisoning thousands in the city. That part of the Flint water
disaster killed people directly, at least 12 people died from Legionnaires.
The disaster in Flint wasn`t some slow moving, inevitable breakdown where
lots of things went wrong and combined to create this crisis. No, the
Flint water crisis was caused by a bad government decision, bad state
government decision. The state government took over the town and then
poisoned it with the flick of a switch.
Now, the head of the state government in Michigan, Governor Snyder is still
governor. By the time people figured out what his administration had done
in Flint, he had already been re-elected to his second term. And he can`t
run for a third term. So, Michigan voters never got a chance to tell Rick
Snyder what they thought about him, at least at the ballot box after the
Flint catastrophe became known.
But over the course of the past year, 15 current and former government
officials have been criminally indicted for their role in the Flint water
crisis. And some of them are low level, but some aren`t.
The man who Rick Snyder appointed to be the director of the Michigan
department of health for example, the head of that agency, prosecutors say
his reaction to the Legionnaires deaths was, quote, everyone has to die of
something. He was charged this summer in a multiple felony count
indictment. Criminal charges also brought against at least two other
members of his department, the state department of health.
Criminal charges were also brought against at least five officials from the
state department of environmental quality. The state epidemiologist was
charge. Rick Snyder`s hand-picked chief medical executive for the state of
Michigan was also charged. She was charged in a multiple count indictment
and last month prosecutors went back to her and said they`d seek to upgrade
the charges against her, adding new felony counts of misconduct in office
and involuntary manslaughter.
Today, that official was back in court for proceedings in indictment and
last month prosecutors went back to her and said they`d seek to upgrade the
charges against her adding new felony counts of misconduct in office and
involuntary manslaughter. Today, that official was back in court for
pretrial proceedings in the criminal case against her.
And that`s a – you know, that`s a big deal for the people of Flint, for
the families of people who may have died because of the Flint water crisis,
for the families whose kids were irreparably hurt by that crisis. These
criminal proceedings today, they`re a big deal for the Flint. They`re a
big deal for the defendant obviously.
Turns out they are also a big deal for the Snyder administration and for
state government in Michigan, because this woman who is under a multi-count
felony indictment in the Flint crisis, she is still serving as the chief
medical executive for the state of Michigan. Governor Rick Snyder kept her
in that position after she was indicted. Also, the “everybody has to die
of something” guy, who is running the state department of health, he kept
him as well, after his felony indictment.
And when it comes to this one, the chief medical executive, the one who`s
facing the new manslaughter charges, the one who was in court today, she`s
actually got a lot on her plate right now when it comes to state government
because Governor Rick Snyder just yesterday appointed her to run, to head
up a new public health advisory council for the state of Michigan – in
between her responsibilities to the court pertaining to the felony charges
against her presumably.
So, that`s how well your state government is working right now in Michigan.
You can play duck, duck goose at after cabinet meeting to figure out who is
under felony indictment and who`s not.
“The Associated Press” just profiled a volunteer effort that sprung up in
Michigan after the 2016 election last year to try to fix part of governance
in that state. Obviously, around the country, there have been a ton of
protests, a ton of new organizations founded, lots of new organizing
efforts of all kind since the 2016 election. But one very, very successful
one has happened over the course of the past year in Michigan, and it`s
been way below the radar certainly on a national level.
But in Michigan, it has been very successful and it has been flummoxing the
political powers that be. It`s a very simple campaign in Michigan. They
want districts in Michigan to be drawn in a nonpartisan way –
congressional districts and legislative districts, nonpartisan districts.
Oh, the horror.
The Republican Party bragged nationwide in 2012 about how well they rigged
the districts in Michigan for the Republican Party. This is from the
Republican Party`s own national self-assessment after their effort to use
the census year in 2010 as their parties` leverage to change districts in
their favor all over the country.
Michigan was one of the places where they felt like they did the best work.
In 2012, the Republican Party was actually super-psyched in a way they got
a lot fewer votes than Democrats did for congressional races, because that
proved any had guaranteed a way for themselves to win more seats in
Congress for Republicans, even when Republicans got fewer votes.
In Michigan, in 2012, in congressional races in Michigan, people in that
state cast nearly a quarter million more votes for Democratic candidates
than they did for Republican candidates. And the results of those votes
where Democrats got a quarter million more votes, the results was that
Republicans got nine seats and Democrats got five, which shows their system
worked very well. That was in 2012. The Republicans were super-excited to
brag about that.
In the 2016 election last year, it worked the same way in the state
legislature. People in Michigan in 2016, they cast their votes for state
legislature basically 50/50 between Democrats and Republicans. And the
result of that 50/50 vote was that Republicans took 16 more seats in the
legislature than the Democrats did, which made the Republicans very happy.
And it showed how well, they had done their work, when they rigged the
districts to their own benefit after 2010, after the 2010 census.
And that same dynamic, that`s the same reason why we still don`t know
tonight who is in charge in the state of Virginia. Two weeks after
Democrats just absolutely shellacked Republicans in Virginia, winning not
just the governorship but running the table against incumbent Republicans
in the state legislature. You add up the votes for the Virginia
legislature two weeks ago and it`s a stunning disparity. Democrats beat
Republicans by nearly 10 points in terms of votes cast for state
But even tonight, we still don`t know who is going to be in charge of that
state legislature, because apparently, it takes Democrats winning by at
least 10 points for them to have a shot at winning the majority of seats.
That`s because Republicans were really, really, really aggressive and smart
and strategic about using state legislatures to rig districts in their
favor so they could win the most seats, in congressional elections, in
state elections, even when they don`t win the most votes. They did it all
over the country.
And that`s why Republicans right now are freaking out about in wildly
successful effort in broken, broken Michigan to put a measure on the ballot
so districts won`t be drawn in a partisan way anymore. So, they`ll be
drawn in a fair, competitive, nonpartisan way. An all-volunteer group of
activists has defied the odds by collecting hundreds of thousands of voter
signatures for 2018 initiative to overhaul redistricting in Michigan
without having to pay a dime for a signature. It`s a rarity in state
politics. Voters not politicians, a ballot committee opposed to the
partisan gerrymandering of congressional and legislative districts is
poised to turn in roughly 400,000 signatures by year`s end, an astounding
350,000 signatures have been gathered in just three months, thanks to a
legion at least – of at least 3,000 volunteers.
A local Republican strategist telling “The A.P.” that a petition circulated
was recently spotted with a table at a rest stop along Interstate 96 in
Howell, Michigan. Quote: Wherever two or more are gathered, they`ve been
there. Their grassroots effort has been remarkable.
I mean, I don`t know what you`ve done since the election last year. But
somebody has been setting up a card table alongside the interstate in
Michigan in a town you have never heard of to get signatures to make the
districts in that state not so partisan anymore. And it`s working what
they`re doing in Michigan. They`re blowing everybody away with the number
of signatures they have been able to get in a very short period of time
with no paid signature gatherers, and that thing is going to be on the
ballot next year. And you know what? If it`s on the ballot, it`s going to
And again, I don`t know what you`ve been doing since the election, but in
Virginia, a whole bunch of people turned their own lives upside-down to do
everything they could to try to bring about a Democratic landslide in that
state in this off-year election in 2017. And in Virginia, that worked as
far as it goes, but the districts are so partisan there, even that
Democratic landslide two weeks ago might not be enough to give the
It all goes back to the Republicans using the occasion of the 2010 census
to us change all of the districts so much in their favor. They did it
through something called the Red Map Project, which was an act of political
genius on their part. And they had almost no competition when they did it.
Well, now, the 2020 census is just around the corner. And this time, the
Democrats are very aware that it`s coming.
That`s why the political effort that President Obama and Eric Holder are
working on together after the Obama administration what they`re working on
is districts. How the districts will be drawn after the 2020 census. They
want Democrats to make up what they lost when Republicans ran the table and
changed all the districts in their favor in 2010.
That`s the same effort that`s going on with that massive effort in Michigan
right now not to make the districts more Democratic but to make them
nonpartisan, to make them competitive. That`s what`s going on with all the
focus in Democratic politics on winning state level elections. You keep
hearing Democrats and Democratic Party, partisan fighting about the stuff
talking about the need to win at state level, to win state legislature
seats? That`s what that`s about.
It`s a renewed focus for Democratic activism in every single state in the
country. That`s what`s driving it. The fact that every state in the
country is about to redraw their districts again based on the results of
the 2020 census which is right around the corner.
Today, we learned who President Trump wants to put in charge of the 2020
I did not make this up. It`s the author this book. See that – the title
is in large letters you might have to look close to see the sub-heading.
He`s the author of this book. It`s titled, “Redistricting and
Representation: Why Competitive Elections are Bad for America”.
He is a professor from the University of Texas at Dallas. He has never
worked in government before. He has never managed a large agency. He`s
never worked with federal government statistics.
But he is the leading the proponent of the theory that competitive
elections are bad. Literally, he wrote that title for his book. And he
has been a Republican activist for years representing Republicans` most
controversial efforts to use the Census to create intensely partisan
districts, including the North Carolina effort they tried to get away with
a few years ago that was struck down as profoundly racist even for this
everything-goes era in this part of our politics.
I mean, for perspective here, the last person who held this job in the
Obama administration left the job to become the chief statistician for the
United States government, because this is a job for which you are expected
to be a massive statistics brain. President Trump`s nominee for the job
has no background in statistics, at all.
According to reporting in politico.com today, President Trump initially
wanted this guy to be census bureau director, but then apparently the White
House got shy when they realized that means he`d have to be Senate
confirmed. Instead, now, the Trump administration plan, according to
politico.com, appears to be to nominate no one to be the census bureau
director since that`s a job that needs Senate confirmation, and instead
they`re going to install Mr. Competitive Elections are Bad for America as
the number two in the agency, as the deputy director, which is the job
where you actually hands on run the census and very importantly, that`s a
job for which you do not need to be Senate confirmed. Trump just said
says, I pick you, and you`re in.
We are a big complicated country with big complicated politics. There are
very few disparity multi-state problems in American politics that all trace
back to a single cause. But making a partisan sledgehammer out of the
Census last time around, that really is one of those things that has been
ringing like a bell loudly across the country ever since. And that will be
nothing compared to this, if the Trump administration is now going to turn
the census officially into a tool designed to destroy competitive elections
in America. That would be such a radical move, it is almost hard to
Watch this space.
MADDOW: Currently, the top – currently, the top prosecutor – I don`t
think they like to be called persecutors. Currently, the top prosecutor at
the national security division in the Justice Department in this man, his
name is Dana Boente. Dana Boente has been serving in that position running
the national security division in an acting capacity since May of this
year. Dana Boente is a career prosecutor. He has worn many hats in the
Justice Department, including recently in the Trump administration.
And the jobs that he had recently have landed him smack-dab in the center
of the ongoing Russia investigation. Dana Boente briefly served as acting
attorney general after the president fired Sally Yates. Dana Boente also
served for a time as acting deputy attorney general, meaning he was the
direct supervisor of James Comey during the time that FBI Director James
Comey says he was being pressured by President Trump to let go of the
investigation into Michael Flynn. James Comey testified that he reported
those interactions with the president up the chain of command to his boss
at the time. His boss at the time was Dana Boente.
Incidentally, that`s also reportedly the time that the FBI started its
investigation into whether or not the firing of Comey was an attempt to
obstruct justice by the president. That investigation reportedly started
before Robert Mueller was ever appointed as special counsel. Dane Boente
himself may well end up being a witness in at least that part of the
But Dana Boente`s real day job, the one he was appointed to in the first
instance by President Obama was being the U.S. attorney in the eastern
district of Virginia, which is a really important federal jurisdiction. As
the top prosecutor in the eastern district of Virginia, among other things,
it was Dana Boente who oversaw the issuing of grand jury subpoenas related
to the Mike Flynn investigation and the Paul Manafort investigation. In
that role in the eastern district of Virginia, Dana Boente has also been
overseeing the continuous and ongoing investigation into WikiLeaks and
their role in the Russian operation targeting our election last year.
I mean, there is a case to be made that if anybody outside of special
counsel Robert Mueller`s office knows what`s going on from the very
beginnings of the Trump Russia investigation, it`s probably Dana Boente,
given his role in the eastern district of Virginia, acting AG, acting
deputy AG, national security division.
So, it was really something when last month, on the same day we learned
about the first criminal indictments from Robert Mueller, last month, Dana
Boente we learned would be quitting. Dana Boente announced his resignation
as U.S. attorney for eastern district of Virginia.
Those initial reports proved misleading because NBC soon reported that Dana
Boente wasn`t voluntarily stepping aside. He wasn`t jumping. He was
The Trump administration demanded his resignation. For some reason and as
a surprise, Dana Boente reportedly did not see it coming. Just days before
the Trump administration told him to resign, Boente reportedly was telling
people how excited he was to continue his work as U.S. attorney in
Virginia. Again, there has been no explanation for why Dana Boente was
pushed out at the national security division and out of the eastern
district of Virginia, just as the first indictments were announced in the
Mueller investigation. And despite the fact that the Trump administration
had previously told him that he could keep his job.
Well, there is one key senator who has been trying to figure this out, sent
a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions and to the deputy attorney
general, demanding an explanation for the abrupt termination of Dana
Boente. The deadline the senator gave to get those answers was November
21st, which is, I`m not wearing a watch but I remember it`s today.
That senator is pushing hard on this. I have a feeling he is ultimately
going to figure it out. And he joins us live next.
MADDOW: (AUDIO GAP) attorney for the eastern district of Virginia was told
to resign last month right as the first indictments were coming down in the
Robert Mueller investigation. The Trump administration gave no explanation
for why they wanted him gone. They had previously told him he could stay.
Dana Boente`s abrupt dismissal immediately raised concerns for one
Democratic Senator Chris Coons, a member of the Judiciary Committee.
He sent a letter to the attorney general and the deputy attorney general
demanding an explanation for the abrupt termination of Dana Boente. He
gave the Justice Department a deadline of November 21st to provide those
answers. Today is November 21st. And tonight, we can report that there`s
been no response from the attorney general or the deputy AG.
Senator Coons is not taking no for an answer. He`s drafted another letter
to the attorney general demanding information about, quote, the reason the
president asked for Mr. Boente`s resignation. The senator has also opened
a new front here. He`s now asking the Republican chairman of the Judiciary
Committee, Chuck Grassley, to hold a hearing to examine potential
presidential interference with U.S. attorney`s offices.
Quote, Trump`s reported demand for Boente`s resignation, the sudden nature
of its timing, its proximity to the indictments issued by special counsel
Mueller and reported connections between the U.S. attorney office for the
eastern district of Virginia and the investigations of Paul Manafort and
Mike Flynn. They all led me concerned that this resignation was not
business as usual. Quote, I cannot take on faith that this dismissal was
normal or justified.
Joining us now is Senator Chris Coons of Delaware.
Senator, really appreciate your time tonight. Thank you for being here.
SEN. CHRIS COONS (D), DELAWARE: Thank you, Rachel. Great to be on with
you. Thanks for drawing attention to this important matter.
MADDOW: Well, I have been – I`ve been really interested in this because I
felt like this potential seriousness of this firing, the surprise nature of
his resignation is very much out of proportion to the a explanation we`ve
had for why he went. One of the reasons I wanted to talk to you about
this, senator, is that sometimes senators push like this publicly because
secretly, you actually know what happened to the guy and you`re trying to
get people to admit it.
Is this one of those cases? Do you actually have a sense of what happened
to Dana Boente?
COONS: Well, I`ve got real questions, Rachel, but I don`t have a firm
answer as to why Dana Boente was pushed. As I laid out in the letter that
I sent to the attorney general which has gone without a response so far,
and as I laid out in my letter to the chairman of the Senate Judiciary
Committee asking for hearing. This fits within a broader troubling pattern
of interference with U.S. attorney`s offices.
And while the president does have the right to act for U.S. attorney`s
resignations, he can`t do it for an improper purpose, to interfere with an
ongoing investigation. And as you pointed out in the run-up to the
segment, there are some troubling intersections between the ongoing
investigation, the announcement of indictments and in the case of
Papadopoulos, a guilty plea, and the timing of Dana Boente`s now revealed
MADDOW: We have had some reporting about the role of the prosecutors
office in the eastern district of Virginia. Obviously, grand jury
proceedings are secret and we only know what`s made its way into the press.
I don`t want you to talk about anything that we`re not suppose to talk
about, that you may know about.
But I`ve also wondered whether or not these questions about Dana Boente
should be both about his role as the acting director of national security
division at Justice Department and also his role in that key jurisdiction
in the eastern district. Again, that district has been named quite a few
times in reports about elements of what is now the Mueller investigation.
I don`t know what the national security division does in terms of whether
it might also overlap with this investigation.
Is that part of way you`re also concerned?
COONS: It is part of why I`m also concerned. The national security
division lass a central role in law enforcement matters that relate to
actions by our adversaries or actions that implicate our intelligence
community. And I think it would be easy to conclude why that might be
specifically relevant to Russian attempts at interference in our last
election or any counterintelligence matters that might be a part of that
I also want to raise the matter that Dana Boente, the eastern district of
Virginia U.S. attorney is fourth in line of succession. So, if there would
happen to be a set of circumstances where the attorney general was recused,
the deputy attorney general was ordered by the president to do something
improper, refused to do so and resigned, Dana Boente would be the third in
that line of succession.
Those of us who know our Watergate history and the Saturday night massacre
know it`s possible that there will be a fact pattern where the president
ordered folks in the senior levels at headquarters of the Department of
Justice to do things which they refuse to do, the first person in that line
of succession outside of DOJ headquarters is the eastern district of
Virginia U.S. attorney.
MADDOW: Wow, that`s an ominous prospect.
Senator, one last question for you. I know the deputy attorney and the
attorney general did not respond to your initial letter about this. You
gave them this deadline of today.
Do you have any options in terms of compelling them to respond? Do you
anticipate in the future being able to question them about this or
potentially being able to question Mr. Boente himself about the
circumstances of this firing?
COONS: Well, it`s my hope that the Senate Judiciary Committee will
continue to work in a bipartisan way. It is my expectation we`ll have a
chance to continue to seek the production of both documents and witnesses
in the coming weeks. There are folks who I think should be appearing in
front of the Senate Judiciary Committee because of their incomplete or
misleading previous answers. And it`s my hope that the Senate Judiciary
Committee chairman will agree that these are folks who ought to be in front
of us and that getting to the bottom of what`s happened with Dana Boente is
an appropriate use of committee resources and protection of the
independence of the Department of Justice.
MADDOW: Serious matters.
Senator Chris Coons of Delaware, thank you very much for joining us
tonight, sir. It`s really nice to have you here.
COONS: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: All right. Coming up, why Thanksgiving may be way more
politically busy than it might typically be this year? That`s next. Stay
MADDOW: Started with a million sheets of paper. January 2014, the FCC got
a special delivery right on their doorstep, a million letters from people
all over the country. The courts had just put at risk something called net
neutrality. And there were a million people who wrote letters to the FCC
to tell them to do something about it.
They boxed the letters, piled them into cars and dragged them to the
headquarters of the FCC in Washington, asking the FCC to write up
regulations that would keep internet companies from being able to decide
which Website run fast and which Website run slow – basically what you can
see and what you can`t.
Those file boxes full of letters were just the beginning of what turned out
to be a full on grassroots assault on the FCC, lobbying the Obama
administration to get tough to protect the neutrality of the Internet,
access to information on the Internet. Hundreds of people protested
outside FCC headquarters day in and day out. They camped outside of FCC
headquarters for weeks.
Eventually, the head of the FCC himself, Tom Wheeler, the guy on the left
there, he came down from his office to hear people out. They still kept
the pressure on him, though. He made a big paper mache Tom Wheeler and
paraded him through the streets. When the FCC held public hearing,
protesters were there too. They stood up and said their piece and get
dragged out one by one by security.
The grassroots fight to restore the neutrality of the Internet, to restore
net neutrality regulations, basically took over every crevice of the
country in 2014. It was a really big, loud effort. It was heated. It was
sustained. And eventually it worked.
President Obama sided with the neutrality activists. The administration
put in place rules that kept Internet companies from giving preferential
treatment to certain Website, making some stuff run fast and some stuff run
slow. All information on the Internet has to be treated equally regardless
what`s on the Website or what the Internet service providers want to do
But then today, the Trump administration wiped all that away. The FCC
today under new Trump-appointed leadership announced they plan to do away
with virtually all of the existing rules that protect net neutrality,
including the Obama era regulation that followed that tidal wave of public
Now is the part that I should tell that you that NBC, MSNBC is owned by
Comcast, which has an interest in this fight. They say they support net
neutrality but they would like to get rid of the regulations that currently
Before the Trump administration`s net neutrality proposal gets put in the
box, the FCC has to put it to a vote on that commission. That could come
as early as next month. That`s expected to easily pass the commission
because it`s controlled by Republicans.
But for the people who track this stuff, for the people who are in the
streets in 2014, none of this came as a surprise. They have been getting
ready for this moment. Protests already started even before today`s
announcement. The pressure is already on.
There`s been some speculation today that they might have announced this
before Thanksgiving because they thought it would die away into the news
cycle and people won`t notice. I don`t think they realize that people are
now going to spend their Thanksgiving break being activists about this. We
have – we have seen this before.
Joining now is Xeni Jardin. She`s the editor of “Boing Boing”.
Xeni, it`s really great to see you. Thanks so much for joining us.
XENI JARDIN, EDITOR, BOING BOING: It`s a pleasure Rachel. Thank you for
focusing on this issue. This really matters.
MADDOW: It does really matter, and I think it`s hard for a lot of people
to grasp. You above everybody else I know in the world is better at
putting issues like this in terms that regular people can understand even
if they don`t usually follow it.
What is so important about this?
JARDIN: What`s important is that we the people have a right to
communicate. We have a right to access information and to share
information. And the Internet is an important part of all of our lives.
Even those of us who don`t like to spend all day on Facebook or Twitter or
playing “Minecraft” or what-have-you. We know that it`s an important part
of the national discourse leading up to the elections like – leading up to
elections like the one we had last year.
Basically, what`s at stake with net neutrality is this, the changes that
are being proposed would give Internet service providers – that`s like
Comcast or AT&T or Verizon – it would give the large companies the option
to charge you more for fastest service or to block certain kinds of content
that might be – not aligned with their business interests. So, you can
imagine for instance if you wanted to watch a sporting event, and the –
let`s say ESPN is broadcasting a sporting event live and you happen to have
an ISP that doesn`t have the sweetheart deal with ESPN, well, maybe you`re
going to miss the best plays or maybe it`s going to be kind of junky and
buffering. And you`re going to miss the experience.
Or more importantly, in my opinion, think about – so I`m here in Nevada
today. And Nevada, in Utah, where I spend time, and California and every
state in the country, there are communities that are rural that have been
kind of left behind, the digital divide. Remember we talked about that a
lot. Not everybody has affordable access to 21st century Internet.
And I think there is great concern that this is going – that this change -
- these changes – we don`t know all the fine print yet, but this could
make the infrastructure that is so sorely needed around the country that
could make that harder. I got to say the only people who are really
excited about this news announced by the Trump`s FCC and Ajit Pai, the only
ones really happy about it are the ISPs, everybody from Mozilla to
Alphabet, that`s the parent company of Google, small independent publishes
like Boing Boing, like the blog that I`ve run with my friends for – it`s
been around for a long time.
But independent publishers like us are also very concerned. I mean, look,
bottom line, do you want Donald Trump changing the Internet right now?
JARDIN: I mean, seriously?
MADDOW: Xeni, what do you make of the political prospect for stopping
this? The reason I highlighted that activism in 2014 is because even if it
was – it was sort of Greek, some people who didn`t necessarily understand
what fast versus slow Internet meant in terms of free speech and the
ability to protect our First Amendment rights as you describe. There was a
huge and very energized movement to get done what got done, in that fight
with the Obama administration.
What do you think about the prospect for stopping this now given the Trump
administration`s position and the fact that that political organizing is
now recent American history that we can learn from?
JARDIN: We know that whether we are talking about offline civil rights or
the rights that each of us reinforce by being connected to each other,
being connected to the country as a whole, these rights have to be
continually reaffirmed and fought for. You don`t just fight for things
once. So, to all of you fellow nerds at home fixing mom or grandpa`s
computer or thinking about your wish lists for the holiday, this is the
time to talk to your families, to talk to people who maybe don`t understand
the very weird bland word net neutrality.
What does that mean? Well, this is a really good time to like hold teach-
ins around the Thanksgiving table with people.
But most importantly, I think it`s important to affirm that this is not a
political – this is not a bipartisan issue. This is – let me say that
more clearly – this is not a Republican versus Democrat issue. This is an
issue of inclusion. So many of the challenges we are dealing with right
now are we didn`t care about health care policy until they started mucking
with their health care. We didn`t care much about changing taxes until
everybody started getting really worried that that might be abruptly
changing in a way that harms a lot of people.
It`s time to start getting really worried about the Internet, and to inform
yourself and to inform people around you. But when the only people in the
room that are loudly cheering this are the largest ISPs in the country –
look when they opened this up right before the Thanksgiving holiday and the
vote is of course slated to happen in mid-December – I think to look at
the timing of that and wonder, if we aren`t being invited into the
conversation, we`re going to need to start the conversation, because the
Internet is really important for America. It`s really important that we
keep – that we include more of America in the conversation.
MADDOW: Xeni Jardin, editor at “Boing Boing” – it`s always great to have
you on the show. It`s great to hear you on this, Xeni, my friend. It`s
great to see you. Thank you.
JARDIN: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: (AUDIO GAP) keeps happening. Around 1:00 Eastern Time this
morning, “Reuters” published a tiny little blurb, literally three sentences
long, that was sort of a major piece of news. President Trump would be
talking on the phone to Russian President Vladimir Putin sometime today.
Boy, these guys get together a lot. Wasn`t it last week on the Asia trip
when he met with Putin three times? Yes. But, apparently, they had more
to talk about. So, that`s one thing Putin and Trump getting together
But then there is the news about then getting together, how we learned
about it. “Reuters” was the first English language media outlet to have
this news about the new Putin-Trump meeting today. But it wasn`t “Reuters”
exclusive. In fact, it was third hand.
They got what they got from something called “Interfax”, which is a Russian
– a Russia-based news agency. And where “Interfax” got this news was from
the Kremlin. So, we learned about Trump and Putin having this next
meeting, yet another meeting today, we learned about it from the Kremlin.
And it`s not the first time the Kremlin has scooped all American media and
the White House with big news on the behavior of our own president. Less
than two weeks ago, it was a Putin staffer who informed all of America that
his president would be meeting with our president on the sidelines of that
Asia trip, the Asian Economic Summit in Vietnam. And that wasn`t the first
In May, President Trump met with the Russian foreign minister, Sergei
Lavrov, and the Russian ambassador, Sergei Kislyak, also known as that guy
who everybody in the Trump campaign can`t remember meeting. They met right
in the White House. They met in the Oval Office. We found out about it
because a Russian state media outlet uploaded pictures of the meeting to
the Getty News Service. And they were all credited to the Russian foreign
I mean, the White House does have an entire department with people whose
salaries we pay that`s devoted to communicating the president`s whereabouts
and his actions to the public. But when it involves Russian government
officials, the White House consistently is silent and not just silent.
They`re ceding control of the narrative to the Kremlin.
The Kremlin tells us what Trump does with Putin. We don`t get it from our
side. Why does that keep happening?
We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: I`m late. Sorry!
That does it for us tonight. We will see you again tomorrow.
Now it`s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL.”
Lawrence, I`m sorry. I jumped into your first segment.
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