Dems warn: Mueller investigation in peril Transcript 12/21/17 The Rachel Maddow Show

Ron Wyden, Brigitte Amiri

Date: December 21, 2017
Guest: Ron Wyden, Brigitte Amiri

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST, ALL IN: That`s a big question. Look forward to
both of you, writing essays in the future versions of the god that failed,
about leaving conservatism, set to be published in four years.

BILL KRISTOL, WEEKLY STANDARD: Only when you write your essay how
progressive is a big – is a myth.

HAYES: Jennifer Rubin and Bill Kristol, thank you both.

That is “ALL IN” for this evening.

THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now.

Good evening, Rachel.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Recruiting turncoats. I love it.

HAYES: I think there`d be an interesting essay.

MADDOW: They will demand yours first. I understand how this works. Well
done, my friend. Thank you.

And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.

All right. Let`s say you live in a house. Your house has a driveway in
front. You have a car. You tend to park your car in your driveway, some
or all of the time.

So you get home one day, pull your car into your driveway, park your car,
get out of your car and you then see a guy jogging down your road. Pretty
good pace. Running past your house and you think, OK, no big deal.

Then, a few seconds later, you see two fairly burly dudes running after
that guy, chasing him as fast as they can, going full (INAUDIBLE). And
from what you can tell, you`re not totally sure, but it kind of looks like
those guys who are doing the chasing maybe have guns.

Now in this hypothetical instance, you decide you`re not going to be just a
bystander to this chase scene. You decide that you`re going to intervene.
And so, you get back in your car, start the engine, throw it in reverse and
back your car out. You back your car out so it blocks the road. You block
the two burly guys who were chasing the other guy. You physically stop
them in the street and those guys stop because they have to but they are
really mad at you because you stopped them, and then they tell you that
they are cops.

And that is why they, in fact, have guns, and they show you their badges
and they`re real badges and they tell you in no uncertain terms the reason
they were running so fast down your street is because they were chasing a
guy and the guy they were chasing just robbed a bank. You say, oh, no, oh,
dear, sorry, officers.

You go back into your car and start it back up, throw it into gear, you
pull back into your drive way, you clear the road and they resume their
pursuit. Very mad at you.

Now, if you had no idea they were cops, no idea of any of this. If this
was an innocent miscalculations of your part, you know, you thought you
were doing the right thing, you thought you were stopping an armed assault
of some kind – you know, those cops who you stopped, they`re still going
to be mad at you for screwing up their pursuit, but you can at least make
the case that what happened here was an honest mistake on your part.

On the other hand, if it turns out the reason you backed your car out of
the driveway and stopped those guys is because actually you knew they were
cops and the guy jogging down your street ahead of them was actually your
little brother who you pretty well knew probably just robbed that bank, so,
this whole scheme with you blocking the road, blocking the cops with your
car was a deliberate effort to help your brother get away with a bank
robbery – if that turns out to be the case, the cops aren`t just going to
be mad at you, they`re going to arrest you for, among other things, you
know, criminal obstruction of justice.

Now, OK. Obviously, this is a hypothetical, depending on where you live
and what your brother is like and what your car is like and what the cops
in your neighborhood are like, it`s quite possible if this happens in real
life, everybody gets shot for no good reason, right? But the important
thing here for understanding, whether or not this American president gets
to keep being president, the important thing about this story is it matters
why you did the thing you did. In this case with your hypothetical
driveway and the guys running down the street chasing the other guy, it
matters not just that you blocked the cops, it matters that you knew that
is what you were doing and the reason why you were doing it was because you
were trying to help somebody get away with a crime.

The cops are going to be mad either way. If you take actions to obstruct
their lawful and reasonable law enforcement activities, they are going to
be mad either way, but you`re not going to be criminally in trouble for
those actions unless a prosecutor can show and prove that you knew what you
were doing. And you knew why you were doing it when you did it.

In our American presidency right now, and this scandal that is roiling in
this first year of this presidency, the cops, from our hypothetical
scenario, obviously, are the FBI. Beloved little brother bank robber
jogging down the street getting chased, that is obviously Trump national
security adviser Mike Flynn. The way the president allegedly tried to
block the cops in their pursuit in this case was by pressuring the FBI
director, right? Pressuring Director Comey for his loyalty, pressuring him
thereafter, directly, to drop the FBI investigation into Mike Flynn, and
then, of course, allegedly firing the FBI director because he didn`t accede
to those demands, right?

And there are some parts of this scenario that are settled. We know for a
fact that, you know, Mike Flynn robbed the proverbial bank. You know, he
has pled guilty to lying to the FBI. So, we know that he lied to the FBI.
We know that the FBI was pursuing him, at least in part, because they knew
he was making false statements about his connections with the Russian

In our hypothetical, that means we know why the guy was jogging down the
street in the first place and we know why the other two guys were racing
after him.

But there are two open questions for us as a country, in terms of the
president`s liability in this part of the Russia scandal. And both of
those open questions we got really important new pieces of information
about today. The first basic question is one that is contested by the
White House, and so, it therefore has to be seen as at least some what of
an open question.

The first question that has been open, in terms of this liability for the
president is, did he really put pressure on the FBI? Did the president
really back his proverbial car out of the driveway to block the cops who
are running down the street after Mike Flynn?

All right. That`s the open question number one. Was there obstruction by
the president? Did the president obstruct that lawful and reasonable FBI
inquiry? One.

Question two is, if so, was it innocent on the president`s part? I mean,
if he did pressure the FBI to back off Mike Flynn, did he know at the time
that he was imposing that pressure, that Flynn had robbed the proverbial
bank? That he had lied to the FBI? And that`s why these guys were chasing

Did he know Flynn had lied to the FBI? Did he know that was, at least in
part why the FBI was after him?

You know, as I said, we got important parts of both of those open
questions, if not answer tonight, we at least got more information about
them. So, that first question, whether or not the president in fact put
pressure on the FBI about the Flynn case. Did he block the cops innocently
or not while they were trying to go after Flynn?

Now, the basis of the belief that the president did that is the sworn
testimony in an open hearing in Congress from the FBI Director James Comey,
who was, in fact, fired by the president after what he says was a sustained
campaign by President Trump to interfere with the Flynn investigation.
According to Comey`s sworn testimony, the president was very unsubtle about

Comey says the president demanded his loyalty. Comey says the president
told him directly that he hoped James Comey and the FBI would let the Flynn
matter go. But this is, as I say, an open question. This is a he said, he

The White House denies that the president ever pressured the FBI director
about the Flynn investigation. James Comey says the president did. So,
it`s he said, he said. But James Comey also has on his side some
corroborating evidence. And remember, when we learned all this stuff in
the spring, these revelations, these accusations from Comey were so serious
and so shocking, they`re basically what led to the appointment of special
counsel Robert Mueller to start investigating this whole thing.

Comey described under oath what he said were his conversations with the
president about dropping the Flynn investigation but then he also told
Congress, under oath, that he memorialized those conversations
contemporaneously. He wrote up detailed memos immediately after his
conversations with the president as FBI agents are trained to do, and he
said he didn`t just keep those memos to himself. At the time, he shared
them with other senior officials at the FBI.

So, even though by the time he was testifying, these conversations with the
president had allegedly happened months before, he also testified that he
had made sure there would be real-time corroboration, from the time of
those conversations, where multiple senior FBI officials would be able to
back up what Comey said at the time had happened. Very serious allegations
from the FBI director and seriousness of those revelations from Comey,
again, that`s what led to the Mueller appointment.

Well, now tonight, one of those senior FBI officials, who remains at the
bureau, remains the deputy director of the FBI, he reportedly told the
judiciary and oversight committees under oath in a closed session that, in
fact, he is a corroborating witness for James Comey to the fact that those
conversations happened between the president and James Comey. According to
CNN tonight, quote, Andrew McCabe told lawmakers that Comey, in fact,
informed him of conversations he had with President Trump soon after they
happened. Testimony suggests McCabe could corroborate Comey`s account.

Quote: Earlier this year, Comey testified that he briefed senior FBI
officials about at least two conversations with Trump. The January dinner
where Trump asked for loyalty, and the February meeting where Trump asked
Comey to go easy on former national security adviser Mike Flynn, who was
under FBI investigation. FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe has now
reportedly testified in Congress that Comey did, in fact, tell him at the
time about those conversations.

OK. So, this is going to be a problem for the White House. If their
position on whether or not the president criminally obstructed justice
hinges on their contention that President Trump never told James Comey to
ease up on the Flynn investigation, well, one man`s word versus another
man`s word is not a great basis for an indictment or prosecution, but when
one man`s word in that kind of a he said, he said, one side is bolstered by
contemporaneous detailed memos written by a trained FBI official and
bolstered by contemporaneous reporting to other senior FBI officials who
are now starting to testify under oath that, in fact, they got those
notifications contemporaneously at the time those conversations happened?
That`s not he said, he said anymore. That`s going to be difficult for the
president, in terms of his liability on obstruction.

OK. So, that`s the first open question. Did the president try to obstruct
the FBI inquiry? New information on that tonight, in terms of a
corroborating witness coming forward under oath. Tough for the White

But as we know, from your bad decision to back your car up in front of
those cops out of your driveway, the question isn`t just, did you obstruct
an investigation, did you block the cops? The question is, did you know
why you were doing it when you did it? Were you trying knowingly to help
somebody get away with a crime?

And on that part of the potential obstruction of justice case against the
president, we also have new and potentially very dangerous reporting for
the White House today. Again, crucial legal question here is, if it can be
proven that the president did try to derail the FBI investigation into
Flynn, crucial question is, did he know that Flynn had committed a crime at
the time he did that? Did the president know Flynn committed a crime and
that`s why the FBI was after him?

Did the president know? This is an empirical question. This is an empire
call question about a knowable thing. The president must know one way or
the other, if he had been advised or if he believed that Mike Flynn had
lied to the FBI, and that`s why the FBI was after him.

The president knows if he knew, before Flynn resigned, did he know? After
Flynn resigned, did he know? Did he know at any time before Flynn pled
guilt to those charges, right?

This is a knowable thing. But the president himself and White House
steadfastly will not answer that question.


REPORTER: A few quick questions for you, statement of facts, when did the
president know that Mike Flynn lied at the FBI?

referred you to John`s clarification, and that was –

REPORTER: I`m asking for a day, when did he find out? Was it when the
announcement was made Friday, was it prior to that?

SANDERS: Again, I`m not aware of the specifics, but I would refer you to
John Dowd for that specific question. I would actually refer you to John
Dowd on that specific question –

REPORTER: No problem. Point to you, you have weighed in on other special
counsel issues before. Statement of fact during administration, what day
the president discovered this lie issue.

SANDERS: And I`m telling you as a statement of fact you should contact
John Dowd. It doesn`t seem that hard.

REPORTER: I`ll ask on Monday when the president became aware that Michael
Flynn lied at the FBI, you referred her to John Dowd, those of you tried
John Dowd, he`s not engaging. That`s a knowable fact in this building.
It`s not a legal matter for the attorney to say. Can you tell us when the
president became aware of that?

SANDERS: The attorneys feel differently and feel this is a question that
should be answered by them and I`ll encourage them again to respond to you,
but I`m going to have to refer you to John Dowd again.

REPORTER: It`s a legal question not about something the president knew and
when he knew it.

SANDERS: John Decker is the only attorney in here. I`ll listen to the
attorneys on this one and John Dowd will hopefully follow up with you on
short order.


MADDOW: John Dowd did not follow up with anybody in short order.

The White House has said, over and over and over and over again, even under
considerable pressure from the press corps, they keep saying that the
president`s Russia attorney, John Dowd, will be the one who answers this
question, about whether the president knew that Mike Flynn had lied to the
FBI. The president`s Russia attorney will not, in fact, answer this
question, nor will the president himself.

Sometimes he pretends like he hasn`t heard the question when it gets asked
to him. Sometimes he pretends like he`s answered it before and we all
already know the answer.


REPORTER: Mr. President, will you –

REPORTER: When did you find out Michael Flynn lied at the FBI? When did
you find out?

the answer. How many times has that question been asked? Yes, go ahead.

REPORTER: No, no –

REPORTER: Mr. President, when did you find out he lied to the FBI?


MADDOW: This matters, because if the president is potentially criminally
liable on obstruction of justice, prosecutors will need to prove he not
only tried to block the FBI`s investigation into Mike Flynn, but that he
also knew that Flynn had committed a crime, that Flynn had lied to the FBI.
And that`s why the FBI was after him.

And the White House just won`t say, won`t say one way or the other, which
is remarkable. Well, now at, reporter Murray Waas has
what may be a bombshell new report that says, in fact, the president did
know that Mike Flynn had lied to the FBI. He knew right away, well before
Mike Flynn resigned and he knew because the White House counsel told him.

Quote: The White House has turned over records to special counsel Robert
Mueller revealing in the very first days of the Trump presidency, White
House counsel Don McGahn researched federal law dealing both with lying to
federal investigator and with violations of the Logan Act. The records
reflected concerns that McGahn had, that Michael Flynn had possibly
violated either one or both laws at the time.

The disclosure that these records exist and that they`re in possession of
the special counsel could bolster any potential obstruction of justice case
against President Donald Trump. The records that McGahn turned over to the
special counsel indicate that he researched both statutes and that he
warned President Trump about Flynn`s possible violations.

Quote, a senior administration official close to McGahn said he felt like
the president and others in the administration at times were using him and
his office as scapegoats for Trump keeping Flynn, for example, Reince
Priebus, then the president`s chief of staff, said on “Meet the Press” in
February that Trump did not take sooner action regarding Flynn because the
legal department came back and said they didn`t see anything wrong. The
records turned over to the special counsel appear to contradict such a
narrative. They show that McGahn researched both statutes, clearly raised
issues as to Flynn possibly violated federal law and that White House
counsel Don McGahn voiced these concerns to President Trump after meeting
with the Acting Attorney General Sally Yates.

If this new reporting from “Foreign Policy” is true, if there are White
House records that show that the White House counsel knew that Flynn lied
to the FBI, that he was aware that that was a criminal act and that he
conveyed that information to the president, that will be like an anvil
falling on one side of the scale as people try to balance considerations
here about whether the president is likely to face criminal liability for
obstruction of justice. If Murray Waas` reporting in “Foreign Policy” is
correct, that there are not just people who will say the president knew,
but there are documents that prove it and Mueller`s got those documents –
well, that`s a very big deal.

It`s always a very big if. The sourcing here in this piece from “Foreign
Policy” is opaque. No other news organizations have corroborated this
specific reporting. And it is worth noting that this account, which is
sourced to reportedly to sources close to White House counsel Don McGahn,
it directly contradicts what multiple White House officials and the
president himself have said about how this went down.


Department of Justice notified the White House counsel of the situation,
the White House counsel briefed the president and a small group of senior
advisers. The White House counsel reviewed and determined that there is
not an illegal issue. When the president heard the information as
presented by White House counsel, he instinctively thought that General
Flynn did not do anything wrong and the White House counsel`s review
corroborated that.

LESTER HOLT, NBC NEWS: The White House was notified that Flynn was at risk
of compromised and blackmail. My question is, why allow someone in a very
sensitive job to stay on for 18 days (INAUDIBLE) overnight?

TRUMP: Because my White House counsel, Don McGahn, came back to me, it did
not sound like an emergency of any – didn`t make it sound like he was, you
know, and she actually didn`t make it sound that way, either, in the
hearings the other way, like it had to be done immediately.

27th, it was – our legal counsel got a heads up from Sally Yates that
something wasn`t adding up with his story, and so then our legal department
went into a review of the situation. The legal department came back and
said that they didn`t see anything wrong with what was actually said.


MADDOW: That`s the president himself, White House spokesman at the time,
White House chief of staff at the time all saying nobody ever told them.
White House counsel definitely didn`t tell them that Mike Flynn had broken
the law.

In fact, the White House counsel, as far as they`re concerned, looked at
it, investigated whether or not Mike Flynn had broken the law and
determined overtly that Mike Flynn had not broken the law. And that was
conveyed to the president.

That`s the story from those former White House officials and from the
president. According to this new reporting on “Foreign Policy”, the
opposite is true and according to the new reporting in “Foreign Policy”,
not only is the opposite true, according to sources close to the White
House counsel, but there are documents that show that the White House
counsel was told what Mike Flynn had done, he researched the law in those
matters, he concluded that Flynn had broken the law and had likely lied to
the FBI and then the White House counsel advised the president of that

Either the White House counsel told the president that or the White House
counsel didn`t tell the president that, both of those stories cannot be
true. And it`s going to get particularly hairy if the White House counsel,
Don McGahn says, I did tell you guys he lied to the FBI, and somebody like
Reince Priebus is going to say, no, you didn`t. You never told us that.

If those two are going to be at loggerheads on this, that`s going to get
hairy, in part because Don McGahn and Reince Priebus, right now, have the
same lawyer, representing them both on the Russia investigation. That is
instantly awkward if the two of them are telling factually inconsistent,
factually conflicting accounts about something that may decide whether or
not the president is criminally on the hook for obstruction of justice.

More broadly, I should say, if the White House counsel is going to
completely contradict to the president and the whole White House line, all
these other senior officials in terms of what they`re saying about Mike
Flynn and whether or not the president should be legally be on the hook for
obstructing justice in the Flynn case, the White House counsel is going to
stand against all of the rest of the White House on this, that`s a big, big
deal. It`s not unprecedented.

White House counsel John Dean was probably the single most important
witness against Nixon in Watergate. But Nixon also fired John Dean in
Watergate, before John Dean started singing his own tune.

Don McGahn right now still works at the White House. So, if he`s handing
stuff over to Mueller that says the president`s legally on the hook for
obstruction of justice – it`s going to have a really big effect on the
president`s future. It`s weird that he`s still working there, right?

We contacted the White House tonight, we could get no comment from them,
including from the White House counsel`s office. We contacted White House
counsel Don McGahn`s personal lawyer, who`s also Reince Priebus` lawyer, we
could get no comment from him. We contacted the president`s Russia lawyers
tonight, we could get no comment from them, which is particularly
interesting, because of the reporting that the president`s Russia lawyers
may be meeting with Robert Mueller and his team now, today or tomorrow,
sometime late this week, to talk about the president`s fate in this

So, there are a lot of important pieces of this moving right now. This is
an important time. And just keep your eye on the fact that we now may be
getting senior serving FBI officials for the first time under oath
testifying that, yes, they can corroborate James Comey`s testimony about
Trump pressuring him to drop the Flynn investigation. If that is starting
to happen, it is probably no surprise that the Republican`s attacks on the
FBI are entering this intense new phase.

We got that jaw-dropping new reporting last night from that
Republicans for weeks have been working on a secret effort in Congress to
take documents for the House Intelligence Committee`s Russia investigation
and instead, they`re repurposing those documents to use them for their own
parallel secret Republican-only working group in which they are trying to
indict the FBI. Deputy Director Andrew McCabe did do seven hours with the
House Intelligence Committee two days ago. Today, he was scheduled for six
hours of testimony with a different Republican-led committee.

Interestingly, NBC News reporting today that that testimony for McCabe
started more than an hour late. He was on time, but the Republicans who
head that committee, they didn`t show up on time. Instead, they huddled,
alone, amongst themselves, to reportedly plot their strategy for how they
were going to approach the questioning of McCabe and they showed up more
than an hour after the meeting was supposed to start.

Whatever the end game for pro-Trump Republicans in Congress going after the
FBI, Democrats are clearly very fired up and very on alert about whatever
it is that`s going on. On his way into the McCabe hearing today, Democrat
Elijah Cummings shot off this Roman candle.


the press, I beg you to get it right because you are recording this
history. You got to get it right. This is a fight for the soul of our
democracy. Nothing less.

And so – I`m going to work hard to make sure we save that democracy, and I
will fight until I die.

CIA criticized, FBI criticized, over and over and over again. Now, the
rumors, and I hope that`s all they are, of Mueller possibly being fired. I
hope that`s not true.

But those are the kinds of things that tear down a democracy, because they
are the very things that a democracy is based upon. And I say to all
Americans, and I beg you to guard this democracy. Guard it.


MADDOW: Elijah Cummings, top Democrat on oversight, just the latest
Democrat in the last couple of days to sound a loud alarm about whatever it
is that`s going on with the Republicans going after the FBI right now.

A brand-new alarm was sounded by another very senior Democrat late this
afternoon. He says he`s going to block Trump nominees until he gets his
way on what he is most worried about right now. That story, and that
senator, coming up.

Stay with us.


MADDOW: Funny thing happened last night on this show. We had Congressman
Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the Intelligence Committee. Former
prosecutor. Very serious. Very careful in his speaking style. Never a
word out of place, never about unintentional utterance.

He`s a very – he`s charismatic guy reasonably speaking. But he`s very
reserved. He`s very deliberate.

So, he was here last night. I was asked him about this story
that broke last night, that there`s a secret working group of Republicans
who have been using documents from the Intelligence Committee`s Russia
investigation to instead try to somehow indict the FBI. He`s the top
Democrat on that committee. So, I`m getting his reaction to that news.

And he does something unexpected. The world`s most carefully spoken
congressman, he basically just did a cannon ball into the pool. I was not
asking him about where he went here, but he just went there, on his own.


to Republican members talk about a coup and talk about criminal activity in
the FBI, that will encourage the president to think that he can fire
Mueller with impunity or perhaps even more pernicious from my point of
view, fire Rod Rosenstein, put in place someone who will tell Bob Mueller
privately, you cannot look into these issues, you cannot follow the money,
you cannot consider investigate whether the Russians laundered money
through the Trump organization, guaranteed loans for the Trump
organization, you can`t look at any of those things that could provide
leverage over this president by the Russians.


MADDOW: What`s that about all the money stuff? The White House may want
to put someone in charge of the Mueller investigation, the congressman
volunteers, who will tell Mueller, you cannot investigate whether the
Russians laundered money through the Trump Organization. You cannot
investigation whether Russians guaranteed loans to the Trump Organization.
You can`t look at any of these things that could provide leverage over this
president by Russia.

Who – who, what now? Russia laundering money through the Trump
Organization? Russia guaranteeing loans to the Trump Organization and
thereby getting leverage over this president? Where did that come from?

I don`t know. But Adam Schiff is a very careful, deliberate speaker. I`ve
been wondering all day why he brought that up, why he sent up that
particular flag.

And then tonight, on the Senate floor, Senator Ron Wyden, I think, maybe
broke it open. Now, I think we know what that warning was about and why it
is being issued urgently when they are not even being asked about it.

Senator Wyden is here to explain, next.



began asking the committee leadership to look into any and all financial
relationships between Russia and Donald Trump and his associates. These
financial ties need to be a central focus of the intelligence committee`s

Unfortunately, I and our committee has gotten no cooperation from the
Treasury Department. Despite my repeated requests as the ranking Democrat
on the Finance Committee, the Treasury Department has just stonewalled,
plain old stonewalling the lead committee with jurisdiction for the agency.

For that reason, I want to announce tonight, Mr. President, that I will
hold indefinitely the nomination of the individual to be assistant
secretary of the treasury for intelligence and analysis until the
department cooperates with the Finance Committee and provides the committee
with documents it needs to do its job.


MADDOW: Joining us now is Senator Ron Wyden, the top Democrat on the
Senate Finance Committee. He`s also a member of the Senate Intelligence

And you saw him announce on the Senate floor tonight that he`s going to
hold an important treasury nominee, because he says treasury is not
complying with reasonable requests for documents on the Russia

Senator Wyden, thank you for your time.

WYDEN: Thank you.

MADDOW: What is it that you want from the Treasury Department that you`re
not getting?

WYDEN: Well, we aren`t even able, Rachel, to get material that`s not
classified. And let`s be clear about what`s going on here? Following the
money is counterintelligence 101. If you want to compromise somebody,
money is one of the best ways to do it.

That`s why the Manafort matter is so significant. The second count is tax
evasion. He isn`t going to be able to sweep all these details under those
expensive rugs, and that`s why we`re going to get to the bottom of it.

MADDOW: In terms of the competing investigations here, or the coinciding
investigations here, we were able to confirm within the past week that both
Deutsche Bank, which is the president`s largest lender, and Wells Fargo,
which is – we`re not exactly sure of the connection of Wells Fargo to the
matters under investigation, they have both been served subpoenas from the
Mueller investigation.

What is it that you think the Senate investigation, the Senate ought to be
investigating alongside what Mueller clearly is?

WYDEN: Well, I`m not going to get into matters that we`re looking at,
because you can`t do it, but I`ve always felt that following the money is
how you connect the dots.

Look, the Trump family said in 2009 much of their portfolio is Russian
money. This is the first president in 40 years who has not been willing to
disclose his tax returns. You mentioned the tax bill and the finance
committee. Clearly, these pass-through provisions could be of enormous
benefit to the president. And that`s why we`ve got to connect the dots.

And I`m just not going to sit by and let the follow the money issues get
short tripped. There are two big questions. Following the money and then,
what you`ve been talking about tonight, if there is any effort to interfere
with the investigation or actually firing Bob Mueller, I think that would
be a criminal act. And I think it would be an assault on the rule of law
and it would be obligate the Congress to step in and check presidential
abuse of power.

MADDOW: Why do you say it would be a criminal act? Clearly, it would be a
huge political matter. It would be a huge political risk for the president
to do a lot of people would criticize the president for doing it. But in
what sense would it – would it be criminal?

WYDEN: We`ll start with obstruction of justice as just one thing, but
there are a whole host of other matters. Look, it is clear that Bob
Mueller, a decorated marine, he has been doing this investigation by the
book. And it`s clear that what we`ve seen in the last few days is really a
smear effort, an effort particularly because this White House, I think, is
concerned that Bob Mueller is really digging into the essential issues,
which I think really are the follow the money questions, and I think both
with respect to the FBI and Mr. Mueller, you`re really seeing something of
a smear campaign under way.

MADDOW: We saw Senator Warner give remarks at length on the Senate floor
yesterday, warning about the efforts to undermine the Mueller
investigation. We saw you giving your remarks on the Senate floor tonight.
Congressman Adam Schiff has been sounding the alarm about his own committee
and now about the possibility for firing not just Mueller, but potentially
Rosenstein as something that would also be an affront. Elijah Cummings
pleaded with America to guard democracy on this front.

Clearly, a lot of Democrats that are intensely involved in the
investigations, including yourself, are fired up and very much alert.

Is there something going on among either Republican colleagues in Congress
or that you can see happening in the White House that is leading to this
acute concern that you guys are displaying right now, or is it just that
you`re seeing the same trends in conservative media and Republican rhetoric
that we`re all seeing?

WYDEN: The reason to be especially vigilant right now is we all understand
that Congress wrapped up tonight, people are on holiday. This is the time
when you always have to be concerned about potential abuse of power, and
that`s why I wanted to make it clear that I think every single member of
Congress, every Democrat, every Republican has got to make it clear that
interfering with this investigation or firing Bob Mueller would constitute
a criminal act and every single member of Congress would have to step in
and defend the Constitution.

MADDOW: Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon – Senator, thank you for helping us
understand your take on this.

WYDEN: Thanks for having me.

MADDOW: I really appreciate it.

All right. We`ve got more ahead tonight. Stay with us.


MADDOW: In March 2016, Donald Trump was still just a candidate for
president, and he did a town hall in Green Bay, Wisconsin, with my friend
Chris Matthews. I maintain that there is no one better in America at
interviewing Donald Trump than Chris Matthews. And that day in Green Bay,
Wisconsin, more than anything, proved why. Here`s what we remember, still,
from their head to head comments that night.


CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST, HARDBALL: Do you believe in punishment for
abortion, yes or no as a principle?

TRUMP: The answer is that there has to be some form of punishment.

MATTHEWS: For the woman.

TRUMP: Yeah, there has to be some form.

MATTHEWS: Ten cents? Ten years? What?

TRUMP: I don`t know. That I don`t know. That I don`t know.

MATTHEWS: Why not?

TRUMP: I don`t know.


MADDOW: Ii don`t know, I don`t know. I`m Donald Trump. I`m powerless
before you Chris Matthews.

Almost two years on from that, President Trump still does not have much
more clarity on that difficult issue and now that he`s president, that`s
about to become a very big headache for his administration in very specific
ways. And that`s next.


MADDOW: – in October about a pregnant 17-year-old girl, an immigrant to
this country, who was living in a shelter run by the federal government in
Texas. She`s pregnant, she wanted to have an abortion, even though she is
legally entitled to do that at her own discretion, a Trump administration
official blocked her from leaving the facility in order to get a legal

Eventually, the ACLU stepped in to assert that young woman`s rights, and a
federal appeals court judge finally allowed that 17-year-old girl to get
the abortion that she wanted.

Now, the federal agency, the federal official that`s tried to block these
young women from obtaining legal abortions, it`s the office of refugee
resettlement, which is part of Health and Human Services. This agency, and
the man who heads it, are still on this crusade against immigrant teenage
girls who want to get abortions. These fights are continuing. And the
ACLU has continued their side of the fight.

Recently, they were trying to get the Office of Refugee Resettlement to
explain their reasoning behind their continued efforts to block these young
women from accessing legal abortions. Well, today, the ACLU got the
government to release an extraordinary memo from Scott Lloyd, who is the
Trump appointee anti-abortion activist who`s now in charge of the Office of
Refugee Resettlement. He`s the guy who appears to have made it a personal
crusade to go after these teenage girls.

In a current case involving a teenage girl who`s pregnant, he was trying to
block from getting an abortion, this Trump appointee Scott Lloyd describes
the young woman`s pregnancy, in this case, as a result of a rape in her
home country before she arrived in the United States. He acknowledges
that, but then goes on to say on behalf of the government of the United
States, he still wants to compel this girl, he still wants to force this
girl against her will, to bear her rapist`s child.

Quote, abortion does not cure the reality that she is the victim of an
assault. Quote, it is possible and likely this woman would experience the
abortion as an additional trauma, on top of the trauma she experiences as a
result of her sexual assault. For that part, he cites a website for a
Catholic ministry against abortion.

His memo continues, quote, to decline to assist an abortion here is to
decline to participate in violence against an innocent life. And although
he says he disagrees with the notion that his office is forcing this woman
to carry her pregnancy to term, he also says, quote, I am convinced
assisting with an abortion in this case is not in her best interest.
Right. Despite what she says.

He ends the memo saying, quote, we have to choose, and we ought to choose
to protect life, rather than to destroy it.

This is from the director of a government agency, a federal government
agency, here in this country in 2017, where abortion is legal and has been
legal for decades.

Joining us now is Brigitte Amiri. She`s a senior staff attorney at the
ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, who`s been very much involved in this

Ms. Amiri, thank you very much for being here.


MADDOW: We talked about this in October with another one of your clients.

AMIRI: We did.

MADDOW: And we talked about, at that time, the likelihood that this was
going to become the federal government`s M.O. here. They`re continuing
with their same efforts in the same way.

AMIRI: That`s exactly right. We knew other young women need care and we
were exactly right. This week, we were in court on behalf of two young
women, the one noted in memo and another one, and we had to fight the Trump
administration yet again to ensure those young women were able to get the
care they needed and they were constitutionally entitled to receive.

MADDOW: So, tell us about this from a bigger perspective. So, there`s a
young woman, in a circumstance like this, say she wasn`t pregnant, let`s
say she has been diagnosed with ovarian cancer, or diagnosed with something
else that turns up in the process of her being detained by the U.S.
government during the middle of the immigration process.

What happens to a young woman`s health care in that situation? The federal
government takes on the responsibility for providing that, yes?

AMIRI: Yes. And that`s a legal requirement. The federal government
provides access to medical care for this population, without question.
Abortion is singled out for unique treatment.

And what we have seen is that the Trump administration has a policy of
trying to coerce young women to carry their pregnancies to term and if that
fails, they outright block them from accessing abortion.

MADDOW: Physically, by not allowing them to go to medical appointments.

AMIRI: Correct. They have the key, basically, to the shelter, where
they`re staying and they prohibit the shelter from allowing these young
women to be transported for the purposes of obtaining an abortion or
receiving abortion counseling.

MADDOW: Now, what`s the difference between how the federal government is
handling this for girls under age 18 as opposed to women over the age of

AMIRI: That`s another bizarre part of this story, is that the federal
government, for adults in ICE custody, the custody for undocumented
immigrants, they allow access to abortion and federal prisons also allow
access to abortion. And so, it is very unique to the Office of Refugee

And, really, what this is all about Scott Lloyd`s anti-abortion ideology.
He is imposing his beliefs about abortion on these young women to deny them

MADDOW: Now, you have been winning these legal cases.

AMIRI: We have.

MADDOW: But your victories in these legal cases are not prohibiting them,
not changing the behavior at the agency so they stop doing this in a case
by case basis.

AMIRI: That is true for now, though we`re trying to strike the policy
down. So, we have motions pending with the federal district court judge to
allow us to proceed as a class action on behalf of all pregnant young women
in the care of Office of Refugee Resettlement, and then a preliminary
injunction that would prohibit the government from enforcing this policy
against that class action.

MADDOW: One of the things I`m struck by in reading the details of these
cases of your individual clients is that some of them are quite far along
in their pregnancies when these things are being fought. Is it your sense
that part of this strategy for this agency and this one particular
crusading appointee is they are trying to stretch out individual legal
fights over each of these young women so their pregnancy gets, goes further
along in time so they legally can`t obtain an abortion anywhere?

AMIRI: Definitely pushing the legal fight, but also even before they come
to our attention, dragging their feet, not making a decision, delaying
their abortion for weeks before maybe we even hear about it. And the only
way we heard about the two young women is through anonymous tips.

So, we don`t know how many other young women are out there, who need
abortion, and we also don`t know how long that the government is pushing
them further into their pregnancies, making them remain pregnant against
their will, day after day, until we are able to go to court and intervene.

MADDOW: Even in this case, where they acknowledge that the pregnancy is
the result of a rape and they want to force the young woman to do this
against her will anyway.

These remarkable case studies and remarkable fight.

Brigitte Amiri, senior staff attorney at the ACLU Reproductive Freedom
Project, thanks for helping us understand.

AMIRI: Thank you. Thank you so much.

MADDOW: Thank you.

All right, we`ll be right back. Stay with us.


MADDOW: So, yesterday, Republicans passed their tax bill, which, among
lots and lots and lots of other things, will gut Obamacare. It will result
in 13 million Americans losing health insurance. It`s also expected to
result in everybody`s health insurance premiums spiking, starting next
year. That happened yesterday.

Then today, we learned that almost 9 million people signed up for Obamacare
in the latest enrollment period. Upon hearing this news, the top
Republican in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, announced that Republicans will
probably move on from further efforts to erase Obamacare next year.

In an interview with NPR today, Senator McConnell said, quote, we obviously
were unable to completely repeal and replace with a 52-48 Senate. We will
have to take a look at what that looks like with a 51-49 Senate and
probably move on to other issues.

Really? You sure? Going to abandon the whole repeal and replace thing
after you tried 70-plus times to do that? At least you said so?

Now, instead, you`re just going to yank out the guts of Obamacare and hope
it`s fun to watch while you don`t try to fix it at all? No replacement
idea? Nothing?

That does it for us tonight. We`ll be seeing you again tomorrow.

Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD” hosted by the great Joy Ann Reid.

Hello, Joy.




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