GOP memo a dud. TRANSCRIPT: 2/2/2018, The Rachel Maddow Show
Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
Date: February 2, 2018
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST, ALL IN: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now.
Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Have a great weekend, my
HAYES: You bet.
MADDOW: And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
That`s all they`ve got. This is what all the hype was about for what is
it, two weeks now they`ve been hyping this?
You know, I hyped that I had Donald Trump`s tax returns and then I
clarified that I actually had two pages of Donald Trump`s tax returns for
one hour before I actually released two pages of what actually were Donald
Trump`s tax returns.
And for a year now, people have been telling me that was unconscionable
hype about Donald Trump`s tax returns. But you know what? At least those
actually were Donald Trump`s tax returns, even if they were boring in the
This thing – this was two weeks of this memo is going to end everything.
This memo – have you heard about the memo? Hashtag release the memo.
This memo will make Donald Trump innocent. This memo will put Robert
Mueller in jail. It will abolish the FBI. The Justice Department will
have to rename itself the Donald J. Trump and Family Private Security Task
I mean, I can`t believe this is it.
I don`t really believe in the whole cable news wars idea, I know people who
work across the street at the Fox News Channel. I`ve got friends who work
there. I think we`re all doing our own thing in our own way best we can.
I wish everybody the best.
But oh my god, right? They have been hyping and hyping and huffing and
puffing and working their audience up into a frenzy. For two solid weeks,
they have literally built a right-wing public movement that this memo must
be released because this memo will fix the Trump presidency. It will fix
the Russia scandal for President Trump that will make the whole thing go
And apparently despite all of that, apparently, they either didn`t know or
they didn`t notice that this thing they have been clamoring for and hyping
for two solid weeks that they have built up this frenzy around, it actually
disproves their whole point. I mean, at some point in the past year, they
fixed on this strategy that that dossier that “BuzzFeed” published right
after the election, January 2016, the Republicans and conservatives and
conservative media focused on that – fixated on the idea that maybe that
dossier was something they could use to try to undercut the whole idea that
there should have ever been a Russia investigation in the first place,
They promised the Fox News audience. They promised the country. They
talked a big portion of the normal media into believing that they were
about to shake the earth they were about to prove that the whole basis of
the Russia investigation was that dossier. They never even planned to come
up with a good argument against the content of the dossier. They didn`t
think they would have to.
It was, you know, step one, say the dossier is bad. Step two, say the
whole Russia investigation is based on the dossier. Step three was today,
release the memo that proves step two, that proves that the dossier was the
basis for the whole Russia investigation.
And then boom, you don`t need a step four because game`s over. Trump`s
president for life and being a Democrat is illegal and if you don`t support
Donald Trump, by definition, you`re a Democrat and your illegal, goodbye.
I mean that – today was the big reveal, right? Today was step three. The
memo that proves the whole Russia investigation is based on the dossier.
And then they released this memo which says in its final paragraph sort of
distractedly while trying to make another point about specific FBI agents
being bad people who have affairs, they let slip in the last paragraph of
the dossier, last paragraph of the memo that oh by the way, the dossier
didn`t actually lead to the Russia investigation.
The FBI was looking at a Trump campaign guy for his contacts with the
Russians, that guy George Papadopoulos did actually end up pleading guilty
to the FBI about lying about his contacts with the Russians. Papadopoulos
things would start at the investigation, right?
They released this memo to prove that the dossier started everything. The
memo says that dossier didn`t actually start anything, at which point
everybody in America goes – everybody else in America I guess goes, right,
that`s what we`ve been saying.
But what happens now to all the hype over this thing at Fox News over the
past couple of weeks? I mean, this was a lot of hype. What happens to the
plan by the White House where the president was apparently led to release
this thing not because he knew what was in it, not because he had even
bothered to read it himself, but because he was watching Fox News segments
about it and those Fox News segments were convincing him that this memo was
the magic ticket that was going to be his get-out-of-jail-free card.
What happens to the president`s argument that this memo is all the
justification that he needs to start removing the deputy attorney general
or maybe even the FBI director or everybody else who might conceivably give
him some path toward stopping the Mueller investigation?
Fox News apparently convinced the president that this memo is all he would
need to be able to fire Rod Rosenstein, to be able to get rid of the
Mueller investigation? By one report, to get Jeff Sessions to indict
Robert Mueller. “Washington Post” reported this morning that the president
was left alone with the memo for several hours so he could read it.
The memo is only three and a half pages long, and the font is not that
small. And I know the president famously does not enjoy lots of reading
but – I mean several hours to read three and a half pages, there`s no
reason to assume he had adequate time to get through all three and a half
pages in several hours. I mean, maybe he didn`t get to the end, to the
really bad part at the end.
So, after all of the hype, after all of the excitement, after all of the
absolute fixation on this big reveal, this big revelatory moment today, I
will admit to being shocked that this is what they released. It was – it
was it was just kind of like a sad trombone. We only bring that out for
very special occasions.
But we did nevertheless get a landmark moment in American history with us
today. We did get a public release of classified information pushed by
House Republicans and okayed by the president of the United States
apparently because he thought this was going to be good for him politically
because Fox News told him it would be.
FISA warrants are classified. The whole FISA court process is a classified
process. We`re not supposed to get any public information about the FISA
court or FISA warrants. Public confirmation of specific warrants,
confirmation of specific targets of FISA warrants, that`s – we`re not
supposed to get that.
But in this case, now, we`ve got that and so, now, we know thanks to this
memo that on October 21st, 2016, a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act
FISA warrant was approved to start surveillance on Trump campaign foreign
policy adviser Carter Page.
We then also learned from this classified memo today that it that warrant
was renewed three times after its initial approval and that`s helpful
information. Even though it`s information we`re really not supposed to
have, it`s good to know. I was talking to a reporter friend of mine today
in my office and we were both counting off on our fingers what those three
renewals mean in terms of exactly when that means Carter Page was subject
to this surveillance warrant right?
If it started in October 2016, they run for days, right? So, that would
mean that it was renewed in November, December, January. And then if it
ran for another 90 days, and it was renewed again for a second time. That
would be in February, March, April.
And then if it ran for another 90 days, and it was renewed for a third time
which is what the when most said today. That means it was renewed in July.
And then it would run for another 90 days which would be August, September,
So, that means from October 2016 to October 2017, at least, Carter Page was
being surveilled under a FISA warrant, which is the kind of thing we are
never supposed to know, particularly for something that is an ongoing
investigation. But now we`ve got that information because they released
this classified information. From at least October `16 to October 2017,
this Trump foreign policy adviser was under surveillance, thanks to a FISA
warrant because he was believed to be either a foreign agent or at least a
U.S. person who was in contact with a foreign intelligence service.
And it`s bizarre that we know that. It is bizarre that that has been
declassified and given to the public. I mean, it`s handy to know for
trying to piece together some of the timeline on this stuff. I mean, it`s
handy to know if only because it makes clear that when Carter Page came to
this studio in this building to do an interview with my friend Chris Hayes
in October of last year, October 2017, based on the math and the number of
fingers I have, that probably means he was still being surveilled under the
FISA warrant at the time he did that interview.
And that interview here when he was here with Chris, that interview was
nutty. All of Carter Pages interviews are a little nutty.
But he did say this one now very intriguing thing not really about his own
case or about Donald Trump, but about House Republicans.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CARTER PAGE, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN ADVISER: In the interest of really
getting the truth out there, because I think when the truth comes out, when
Speaker Paul Ryan says the FISA warrant or the funny – the details about
the dodgy dossier and what happened and all those documents around that
it`s going to be released, that`s what I`m really excited about. I think
that the truth will set a lot of people free.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Because of the way he talks because of the way he behaves in
interviews, everything Carter Page says seems a little fuzzy like a little
where you going man? But what he just said there actually is what happened
and he knew about it months in advance. This is months ago last October,
Carter Page somehow knew that Speaker of the House Paul Ryan would green-
light the release of classified information about what went into the FISA
warrant for the surveillance of Carter Page.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PAGE: When Speaker Paul Ryan says the FISA warrant or the – the details
about the dodgy dossier and what happened and all its documents around that
it`s going to be released that`s what I`m really excited about.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Paul Ryan`s going to green light the release of the information
around your FISA warrant? I mean, it just sounded like another crazy thing
that Carter Page said but that was months ago and that`s now what just
happened so months ago there was apparently already a plan in the works
that Carter Page knew about that involved Paul Ryan that they would try to
use this warrant against Carter Page to make a public case, to try to turn
that warrant somehow into some sort of public information that presumably
would be used to turn the whole Russia investigation into a scandal.
And then what`s happened and they have put out their memo and it is such a
bust it is so not what it was hoped to be. But I think it is worth being
clear that this is something they`ve been trying to figure out a way to use
for a very long time. Apparently that let`s release the classified
information about what led to the warrant plan, apparently, that plan was
in the works since at least last October when Carter Page blurted it out to
I think it`s also worth noting that even before that, last March, you
remember the Obama wiretapped Trump Tower scandal remember that? March of
last year, right at the start of his administration, Trump – President
Trump made that strange allegation. Terrible, just found out that Obama
had my wires tapped in Trump Tower just before the victory. He said, I bet
a good lawyer could make a great case out of the fact that President Obama
was tapping my phones in October.
Trump Tower was not wiretapped and President Obama was not tapping Donald
Trump`s phones in October. But you know the FBI was in October wiretapping
Trump foreign policy advisor Carter Page. That is in October, October
before the election, that is when they got the FISA warrant to surveil
Carter Page. There was surveillance of Trump`s ex campaign aides starting
But if that`s what was the truth behind that wooly effort to try to create
some giant national security scandal around it, I mean, it – I think it
worked sort of for a couple of weeks while people were very upset about
this allegation from the president that President Obama had had his wires
tapped and everything and people tried to figure out what he was talking
about it was very distracting. That lasted for a couple of weeks before
everybody finally realized it was nonsense.
And then a couple weeks later, they tried to kind of re up it, right?
Couple weeks after the Obama wiretap to me stuff, that same month, March
2017, it was Devin Nunes, breathing hard, sweating, summoning reporters,
kind of visibly upset, saying he had received from a whistleblower terrible
information about people from the Trump campaign being monitored in foreign
surveillance this was such damning and terrible information he said. Sorry
he had to go. He had to rush to the White House to brief the president on
this disturbing revelation.
Well, that disturbing revelation we later learned was information that was
actually provided to Devin Nunes from the White House in the first place.
Was that all about Carter Page having the FISA warrant out on him as well?
Is that what that was about, too?
I mean, what is this what is this all about? The Trump campaign did hire
someone, lord knows why, who had no foreign policy profile, no national
security profile and no political profile at all, but he was believed by
the FBI to either be a witting foreign agent of Russia or at least a U.S.
person who was in contact with a foreign intelligence agency. The FBI had
had him on their radar for years. He had turned up as in a starring role,
in a Russian spy ring that had been broken up involving a branch of VEB
bank in New York City a few years earlier.
During the course of the Trump campaign, another Trump foreign policy
adviser came to the attention of counterintelligence officials because of
his contacts with Russian intelligence. So, the FBI was on that case.
They were looking at these matters, not without cause it turns out. And as
part of their investigation, they did get a FISA warrant on Carter Page in
October 2016. We can now confirm that because they released classified
information to the public about it, in order to make this big political
point about it.
But they`ve been trying to make some big political point about this warrant
on Carter Page for a long time. It seems like they`ve taken a few
different cracks at it the existence of that warrant for Carter Page has
been – has been kicking around a lot. That itself is an unusual thing.
You know FISA warrants and details about FISA warrants really don`t make it
into public discussion very often.
I mean, we debate FISA and its controversies in the abstract but knowing
about the target of a FISA warrant, especially an ongoing one, knowing
about when the application was made and renewals and who it`s about why –
like this is stuff that really doesn`t leak to the press with any frequency
at all. But this Carter Page one for whatever reason, it`s really been
around. We`ve known about it. There`s been a ton of reporting about it.
“Washington Post” was first to report on that warrant in April, then CNN
got the story, then “The New York Times” got the story.
For some reason, people knew enough about this FISA warrant about Carter
Page to be kibitzing about it, so much so that it got picked up in multiple
news organizations. And it`s clear – it`s been clear for a long time that
Republicans and the Trump White House have wanted to try to make that thing
into a scandal somehow it`s been clear for months Carter Page made that
clear in the Chris Hayes interview back in October.
I think also, based on the timing, this may also be what they tried to turn
into the Trump Tower wiretapping thing, and then Devin Nunes rushing to the
White House thing, right? That may all just have been about the Carter
Page FISA warrant.
How did anybody know about it in the first place? We still don`t know.
But now it`s confirmed publicly because they did as Carter Page said they
would, they took their big shot at it today. They declassified the
information about that warrant and what led to it selectively, so they
could take their big shot, so they could finally figure out the highest use
they could put that warrant to. They`d use this memo to make the Russia
investigation go away. Poof. Right?
They would show that the FISA warrant for Carter Page was based on the
Steele dossier. Steele dossier they will say was therefore the source of
the whole FBI Russia investigation and therefore, boom, national consensus,
there is no more Russian investigation. Trump is innocent, problem solved.
Now, as I mentioned at the top, this plan is undercut by the memo itself,
sad trombone, which notes in passing, quote, the page FISA application also
mentions information regarding fellow Trump campaign advisor George
Papadopoulos. The Papadopoulos information triggered the opening of an FBI
counterintelligence investigation in late July.
So, that means the dossier wasn`t the basis for the FBI`s
counterintelligence investigation. It was other intelligence that the FBI
had about actual worrying contacts between the Trump campaign and the
Russians. They weren`t made up. They`ve already resulted in a guilty plea
and a cooperating witness.
Oops. Wow. Why`d they put that in there big memo? I mean, they could put
anything in here, right? They didn`t let anybody check it against the
actual effects. They just released it on their own. Why they put that in
there? Oops, but they did.
I mean, even if you never fell for any of the now embarrassing Fox News
hype about this thing, even if you never expected this was actually going
to be a get-out-of-jail-free card for the president and his family, you
know there is one assertion in this memo that does still really stick out.
I think it`s designed to seem very worrying. Its assertion in the memo
about Christopher Steele himself.
Now, Republicans have been telegraphing their punches on this for a long
time. They`ve tried to make the dossier a scandal, right? They`ve tried
to make Christopher Steele a scandal. Christopher Steele was the head
Russia guy at MI-6 in Britain for years. They`ve tried to make him into a
scandal on some sort of dubious dodgy person.
But because they`ve been trying to make that case for a year now, in fact
they`ve turned a lot of what are supposed to be the congressional Russia
investigations into instead full-time efforts to impugn Christopher Steele
in the Russia dossier, because the Republicans have done that, we`ve
actually got pretty good public record. We`ve got documents in the public
domain about the dossier and about Christopher Steele, about the creation
of the dossier about the firm that commissioned it.
Part of the reason we`ve got all that details because the Republicans have
hauled Fusion GPS up to Capitol Hill and pressured their founder into
giving hours of court congressional testimony about Christopher Steele and
the Steele dossier because Republicans are so invested in making it seem
like a terrible thing. Well, in this memo released today, this is what
they say about Christopher Steele personally, which is designed to undercut
him as a source, thereby undercut the dossier, thereby undercut the Russia
investigation, even though the investigation wasn`t based on the dossier.
This is what it says actually about Steele in the memo today, quote:
shortly after the election, the FBI began interviewing a senior DOJ
official, Associate Deputy Attorney General Bruce Ohr, who had been in
contact with Christopher Steele. Ohr, according to the memo, had been
documenting his communications with Christopher Steele.
Quote, for example, in September 2016, Steele admitted to Ohr his feelings
against then candidate Trump when Steele said he was – and this is in
quotes – desperate that Donald Trump not get elected and was passionate
about him not being president. It`s actually the only phrase in the entire
memo that`s in bold type. They really want you to know that Christopher
Steele communicated that when he brought his material to the Justice
Department. Well, thanks to the – thanks to the Russia probes in Congress
being turned into anti-Christopher Steele investigations, thanks to the
Glenn Simpson transcripts because they hauled the Fusion GPS guy back to
Congress again and again and again, we actually know what the context is
for Christopher Steele`s state of mind around that time.
We know what was going on at the time that might have led Christopher
Steele to say something like that about how he felt about Donald Trump
being elected president. We have more information about that than just
what`s in the memo. The first Glenn Simpson transcript was released was
from his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
In that, on page 219 of that transcript, Glenn Simpson explains his and
Chris Steele state of mind about Donald Trump, given all the information
that Steele had just collected about him which caused them to take their
information to the FBI and the Justice Department, basically out of fear
because they were so alarmed by what this research project had turned up
about Trump. So, this is – this is from the transcript, quote.
So, after the election, obviously, we were as surprised as everyone else
and Chris and I were mutually concerned about whether the United States had
just elected someone who was compromised by a hostile foreign power. We
were you know unsure what to do initially, we didn`t do anything other than
to discuss our concerns but we were gravely concerned. OK.
Then we get a second transcript from Glenn Simpson talking to the House
Intelligence Committee and he explains the state of mind that Christopher
Steele had at the time explains it in more detail, page 78. Did the FBI
ever reach out to you or Fusion GPS in relation to the matters that Mr.
Steele informed them upon? I was asked to provide some information to the
Justice Department. By whom and when?
It was by a prosecutor named Bruce Ohr, who was following us. Did Mr. Ohr
reach out to you, or how did that shake out originally? I think Chris it
was someone that Chris Steele knows. Chris Steele knows who? Bruce Ohr,
Chris told me that he`d been talking to Bruce, that he`d told Bruce about
what happened and that Bruce wanted more information and suggested that I
speak with Bruce. The context of this is that it was after the election a
very surprising thing had happened which is that Donald Trump had won. We
were by that time, we were enormously concerned about rapidly accumulating
indications that the Russian government had mounted a massive attack on the
American election system and that, you know, Donald Trump and his
associates might have been involved and there was a lot of alarming things
happening, including Trump saying things about Vladimir Putin that really
didn`t make any sense that weren`t ordinary things for a Republican to say
and, you know, anyway.
And we had also by this time given this information to the FBI. They had
indicated to Chris that they were investigating it and then they apparently
told “The New York Times” that they weren`t. Now, instantly, that`s about
this article which is published by the New York Times on October 1st, right
before the election, investigating Donald Trump, FBI sees no clear link to
The substantive claims in that “New York Times” article have all basically
been disproven. There`s a raging debate over why “The New York Times”
hasn`t retracted or corrected that article but it existed at the time, so
that led to this. Again from the transcript, again, we had also by this
time given this information to the FBI, they had indicated to Chris that
they were investigating it, but then apparently they told “The New York
Times” that they weren`t.
So, it was not clear to us whether anyone at a high level of government was
aware of the information that Chris had gathered and provided to the FBI.
So, you know, we were frankly very scared for the country and for ourselves
and we felt that if we could give it to someone else higher up we should.
And so, Chris suggested I give some information to Bruce, give him the
background all this, we eventually met at a coffee shop and I told him the
And then that part of the transcript ends with: my time is up. Thank you.
So, the memo released today by House Republicans, this classified memo that
they thought would be the big get-out-of-jail-free card, would end the
Russia investigation, the one actually alarming piece of it, or at least
kind of shocking piece of it is when they say that Chris Steele expressed
grave worries about Donald Trump being elected president of the United
They take that one piece and bold it it`s the one bold line in the whole
memo they hold that up as the proof that Christopher Steele was a terrible
anti-Trump partisan even though he`s not even from this country. They
don`t mention that the reason Christopher Steele had feelings of
desperation about Donald Trump might be because what he had learned in his
research about Donald Trump and Russia and compromise and blackmail.
It`s a fiasco. What embarrassment.
MADDOW: We are joined now by Congressman Adam Schiff, who is the top
Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee.
Congressman Schiff, thank you very much for being here. I know that this
has been kind of a weird day.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), RANKING MEMBER, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE:
Yes, it has.
MADDOW: You know what the underlying intelligence is that led to this
Republican memo today. We know that the other Republican member of
Congress who has seen that underlying intelligence is actually not
Congressman Devin Nunes, whose staff authored this memo. It`s Trey Gowdy
who just surprised everybody this week by announcing that he would be
resigning from Congress.
There`s been conflicting information as to whether or not he actually wrote
this document. We contacted Congressman Gowdy`s office and asked, and they
told us he was not involved in writing this memo. Congressman Nunes now
says that it was he and Trey Gowdy who wrote it.
Do you have any clarity on that?
SCHIFF: I think the Republican staff wrote the memo. That`s the best of
our understanding and, of course, that`s quite breathtaking because the
chairman didn`t bother to review the underlying material. The only one
apparently of Republican members who did, Trey Gowdy, is the same who
brought us those endless Benghazi conspiracies that never prove to be true.
But I think it`s very important for people to understand as they try to
justify this use, this use of this never before used House rule to publish
this, this is not what oversight looks like. They claim this is part of
oversight. We do oversight every day. Oversight involves bringing the
agencies before our committee, asking them tough questions, getting
answers, demanding information.
When they raised this memo, which they raised with no notice to us, we
said, let`s bring in the FBI, let`s bring the Department of Justice, let`s
hear what they have to say. Let`s look at the full FISA applications.
Let`s go through them and see what`s being left out of this memo.
We took a vote on it and they voted no, we don`t want to know. We who
haven`t read it, we who don`t look at the underlying materials, we don`t
want to know. We just want to publish our memo.
And so, clearly, this is not about oversight. This is about a narrative
that they wanted to tell, that they wanted to get out in the public domain.
And you`re absolutely right in the context you set, Rachel.
I would just add one other thing to that timeline. This all began on March
20th when James Comey testified before our committee in the first open
hearing and revealed for the first time there was a counterintelligence
investigation going on of the Trump campaign. We on the committee, the
Democrats, laid out I think a very powerful case for why a thorough and
investigation needed to be done.
Republicans later told me they view that hearing as an utter disaster, as
did the White House.
Now, why is that a disaster? It`s only a disaster if you view your job as
protecting the president and to not finding out the truth. It was the very
next day after that hearing that Devin Nunes went on the midnight run to
his undisclosed location to get these incriminating documents that didn`t
stand for anything like he represented them and the day after that, that he
would present them back to the White House.
So, that whole gambit began the day after that hearing and it`s never
really ended. This is just the latest chapter in an effort to distract
attention from the Russia probe and try to put the government on trial.
MADDOW: What do you make of the effectiveness of this effort? I mean, to
me, it feels quite fitting that today is Groundhog Day because it feels
like we have seen this movie before in terms – waving around. You know, I
have this – I have this list. I have this classified information that
proves that the whole Russia investigation is based on something
inappropriate that it should go away, that the real villains here are the
Obama administration or Hillary Clinton.
I feel like we`ve seen a number of different iterations of this. But with
the weeks of hype that conservative media and Republicans in Congress put
in to this, with the dramatic and unprecedented action where they actually
released classified information in order to do this, I have to ask you –
how damaging you think this is and how well this particular attempt of
theirs has done at its aim to protect the president and try to divert the
SCHIFF: Well, I think it`s been very damaging but not in the way
Republicans have hoped. It`s been damaging I think because they have built
this up so much. On FOX, they were trumpeting this as the worst scandal in
the history of the republic, something that made Watergate look like a walk
in the park. Some of the GOP Tea Party members were out there saying this
is the most vile thing they`ve ever seen and it`s a big dud.
Their proof of systemic abuse by the FBI and the Department of Justice
consists of a single FISA court application against someone who had already
been under inquiry by the FBI because he had already been approached by
Russian intelligence for information years before Donald Trump came along.
But the real damage they have done is they have damaged the relationship
between our committee and intelligence community. In the future, the
intelligence committee is going to be wary about sharing information with
us because they won`t trust us, and be responsible stewards of it, and
sources of information are going to dry up.
If you have a neighbor next door who is buying a lot of fertilizer and it
seems odd to you because they don`t have a yard, are you going to think
twice before calling the FBI because if they get a search warrant for your
neighbor and something is politicized, the political winds change, and
there is investigation, your identity is going to be revealed because you
really can`t trust that this is going to be kept confidential anymore.
There`s a reason why this process never been used before. But even so, the
process presumed that the president of the United States who has a veto
over this would be a responsible person who would have the interest of the
nation at heart. And, of course, that`s not what we have here.
MADDOW: Congressman Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House
Intelligence Committee, currently engaged in the fight to have the
Democratic rebuttal memo to this declassified and released – sir, please
keep us apprise. Thank you for being with us tonight.
SCHIFF: Sure will. Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: All right. A lot more to get to tonight. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEFF SESSIONS, ATTORNEY GENERAL: Rod and Rachel are Harvard graduates.
They are experienced lawyers. They are – Rod had 27 years in the
department, Rachel`s had a number of years in department previously, and
so, they both represent the kind of quality and in leadership that we want
in the department.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you very much.
REPORTER: Are you likely to fire Rosenstein? Do you still have confidence
in him after reading the memo?
TRUMP: You figured that one out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The Republicans appear to have laid a bit of an egg with their big
memo release today. But the president reportedly had been convinced by
watching Fox News Channel segments in the lead up to today`s memo release.
He had reportedly been convinced that this memo would offer him all the
ammunition he needed to fire Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein who
oversees the Mueller investigation at the Justice Department.
When the president was asked about that today by reporters, it doesn`t make
you more likely to fire Rosenstein, do you still have confidence in him?
The president`s response was, you figure that one out.
Joining us now is Chuck Rosenberg, former FBI chief of staff, former acting
head of the DEA as a former U.S. attorney, has extensive experience with a
FISA process at the FBI. He worked under both James Comey and Robert
Mueller. It seems like the guy to talk to tonight.
Chuck, it`s great to have you with us tonight. Thank you very much for
CHUCK ROSENBERG, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: My pleasure, Rachel.
MADDOW: So talk to me a little bit about the FISA process. Obviously,
there has been criticism of the fact that any classified information about
the FISA process has been released at all. Further, there has been
criticism that if something`s going to be released, this selection of
information about the FISA process according to Democrats is leading an
incomplete, and according to the FBI, it`s sort of fatally incomplete, and
From what you know about the FISA process, would it be possible to
declassify safely enough information about a FISA warrant to give the
public a true picture of what appropriately or inappropriately led to a
warrant being issued?
ROSEBNBERG: Well, I could answer it this way Rachel if you wanted to give
everyone a full picture. This wouldn`t do it. What you have right now are
three pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, with 997 missing and no box stop. So,
this doesn`t give you any picture at all. I can tell you, having worked
for Bob Mueller at the FBI, that I was responsible for reviewing the FISA
warrants before he certified them, before the attorney general signed them,
before prosecutors brought them to a FISA court judge to be authorized.
And so, lots and lots of people before me worked on those warrants, vetting
them and corroborating them and making sure that everything was checked to
the extent it could be. It`s a really exacting process and in fact,
ironically, it`s the rank-and-file of the FBI, the agents and the analysts,
it`s the rank-and-file of the Department of Justice, the paralegals and the
prosecutors to ensure the accuracy of these things. That`s the people that
the president lauded today the rank and file and those are the ones who
helped prepare these for court.
MADDOW: Is there – to the extent that this is going to be used as a
political document, I played that clip from the president at the top here
because there have been multiple reports that the president believes that
he can use this, this memo, the release of this memo and the attendant
publicity around it, particularly in the conservative media, to give him
public support for dramatic action like potentially firing the Deputy
Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. Given its intended use, which I think is
a political and public relations use, should we expect that there would be
some kind of rebuttal that the FBI would issue a public statement
clarifying what are the implicit allegations against them in this memo?
ROSENBERG: I think the FBI said its piece and properly so. Look the FBI
is in a bind here. It`s in a tough bind. They didn`t want anything out
and they only compound the problem by putting more out. And here`s the –
can I take a minute just to explain what`s odd about classified
MADDOW: Sure, please, please?
ROSENBERG: Yes. So, here`s the thing. Imagine that someone leaked a
document that said that Rachel Maddow is senior official of a foreign
government loved a Nutella but would only eat it with a red plastic spoon,
and that becomes public and is marked top secret, and everyone`s wondering
why in the world would that be marked top secret? That seems so innocuous.
But it turns out that only one person in the whole world you`re Great Aunt
Barbara knows that you like eating Nutella with a red plastic spoon. And
so, we`ve now told the whole world that Great Aunt Barbara is the source
for the United States government. She`s a mole. She`s a spy, and
something very bad is going to happen to her in the next couple of days in
that foreign country.
And so, the FBI cannot be in the business of rebutting this stuff because
to rebut it, they`re going to lay out other facts that foreign governments
are going to use to their advantage and our disadvantage. They`ve said
MADDOW: Chuck, I have to tell you, I actually have an aunt named Barbara
who`s kind of freaking out right now, but in a different way that –
ROSENBERG: No reason to think she`s a spy. Yes.
MADDOW: – in a different way than you freaked out the whole country with
what they`ve given away with this classified information.
Chuck Rosenberg, former U.S. attorney, former senior FBI official, former
acting DEA administrator – Chuck, thank you very much. I really
ROSENBERG: My pleasure.
MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: There are five high-ranking officials who are named in this memo
that was just released by House Republicans today. FBI Director James
Comey, fired. Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe, pushed out. Deputy
Attorney General Sally Yates, fired. Acting Deputy Attorney General Dana
Boente who hadn`t been fired but they brought him back. And Deputy
Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, the one who oversees the Mueller
The White House has denied tonight that Rod Rosenstein`s job is on the
line, but then they also repeatedly denied that the president ever tried to
tried to fire special counsel Robert Mueller which we now know he did.
This is why people have been calling this moment a slow-motion Saturday
night massacre, after Nixon cleared out the Justice Department in 1973, to
try to stop the investigation against him.
Joining us now is our friend Michael Beschloss, NBC News presidential
Michael, thank you very much for being with us.
MICHAEL BESCHLOSS, NBC NEWS PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Pleasure, Rachel.
MADDOW: Will you put this in historical context for us in terms of
magnitude, in terms of how big a deal this is and how strange it is?
BESCHLOSS: Well, it could be a really big deal because number one just as
you`ve been suggesting, you know, we could maybe even the next few days be
seeing the firing of Rod Rosenstein, which could lead to an effort to
constrain Robert Mueller`s investigation or even shut it down you know with
all that would entail. So, I suggest the next couple of days, we all sleep
with one eye open because we just cannot know what`s going to happen.
But even a larger context, Rachel. You know this is a guy Donald Trump who
since the time he has – was elected, has talked about attacking some of
the most vulnerable aspects of our democracy and at the beginning and also
in recent times, the FBI – he`s talked about reconstructing the FBI. I
don`t think I want to see an FBI where a president can use FBI agents to go
after his political enemies.
Justice department, we saw that actually today. There`s an effort to cast
doubt on the Justice Department, which is now our legal system is a threat
to Donald Trump in his circuits and his circle and also the intelligence
community from the very beginning after he was elected, he attacked. This
is something that has in recent years you know kept us strong against
Russia and is one of the bulwarks against Russia invading our electoral
system this fall in the midterm elections. So, this is not only a threat
to the Mueller investigation I think it goes way beyond.
MADDOW: As we see the White House and its allies in the Republican Party
in Congress try to really not just rebut, but really impugn, really undo
the Mueller investigation, the FBI, the Justice Department, to a certain
extent the intelligence community, as you said, I`ve tried to put – I try
to see that in the context of the beef that various presidents have had
with the media over time, to the beef that various presidents have had to
people who are investigating them.
MADDOW: What seems different to me is the conservative media messaging
machine that has turned this into not just a political stance has turned it
into a cultural stance for conservatives.
MADDOW: Does that have historic precedent or is that new?
BESCHLOSS: It`s something that Nixon was desperate to have and as a matter
of fact, we now know from fairly recently released documents that Richard
Nixon actually met with Roger Ailes of all people and talked to him about
the possibility of establishing a conservative TV network. Nixon would
have loved to have that during Watergate.
In the case now, I think it`s emboldening Donald Trump.
MADDOW: So, it ended up happening. It just didn`t benefit that version.
BESCHLOSS: Little aid for Nixon, but very helpful to Trump.
And the other thing, Rachel, is today was a day that really threatened
America`s faith in government. That`s at the top of this – of the Russian
wish book. This was a great day for Russia and I think that`s something
that none of us want to see.
MADDOW: NBC News presidential historian Michael Beschloss – really
appreciate your time tonight, Michael. Thank you.
BESCHLOSS: Be well. Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: – different jobs in the Trump administration. Five jobs, Dana
Boente, he was already the U.S. attorney for the eastern district of
Virginia, which is big important position, given its proximity to
When the president fired Acting Attorney General Sally Yates just days into
his administration, he promoted Dana Boente to take her job as acting
attorney general. Then, Jeff Sessions got sworn in as attorney general,
they decided to keep Dana Boente around even longer. They made him acting
deputy attorney general until Rod Rosenstein got sworn in as deputy
attorney general. But still, they wouldn`t let go of Dana. They made him
the acting assistant attorney general of the national in charge of the
national security division at the Justice Department. So, he was doing
that while also keeping his day job as the U.S. attorney in the eastern
district of Virginia.
Now, considering it was an Obama holdover, the Trump administration really
did appear to be making heroic efforts to keep Dana Boente around and to
keep putting him in all these important positions that`s why it was
surprising just a few days before Robert Mueller dropped his first
indictments in the Russia investigation when Dana Boente was finally out,
suddenly announced he was leaving the Justice Department, and NBC News
later learned he didn`t jump, he was pushed. He had been told to resign.
After they gave him all those jobs, why did they finally fire that guy?
After they`d been moving around all those other senior positions? Don`t
But then they changed their minds. Just a few days ago, they brought him
back to yet another big job. They have him working now as the general
counsel of the FBI. The Trump administration just can`t quit Dana Boente.
But today, we learned something else about him, something he did during his
stint when he was acting deputy attorney general, and that is that Dana
Boente was one of the many justice officials who signed a FISA application
to renew surveillance on Trump foreign policy adviser Carter Page. I know,
I mean, the president had reportedly been hoping to use this memo as a way
to get rid of Rod Rosenstein because Rosenstein signed off on one of those
too. In fact, he appears to have done what everybody else did before him
when it came to seeking a warrant to surveil Carter Page, and for all the
other officials in his position signed off on these things. Four different
judges were happy to approve surveillance warrants and renewals when it
came to Carter Page.
The difference is all the other high ranking officials have been fired or
on their way out the door or they are being threatened with being fired now
like Rod Rosenstein.
Dana Boente signed one too. They`re not going to get fired? Again?
If Trump fires Rod Rosenstein over this memo, does that mean he has to get
rid of Dana Boente too? He also signed this FISA application. He did it
even before Rod Rosenstein did.
Why would Rosenstein have to go and not Dana Boente? Somebody explain this
We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: I hereby wish you a very, very happy Super Bowl weekend. I also
hereby wish you gastrointestinal relief, now that this memo has dropped,
the ones that our friends at the Fox News Channel and Republicans in
Congress and the Trump White House had hyped and suggested would be the
get-out-of-jail-free card for anybody who did anything untoward that led to
an FBI investigation ever over the course of the Trump campaign or
Now that it has dropped and it, if anything, disproves the main point they
were trying to make with it. I feel like – well, like I said, I wish you
gastrointestinal relief. I feel as a country, we basically just had a very
relieving burp. Whoo, that`s over.
All right. That does it for us tonight. We`ll see you again on Monday.
Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD”. Great Joy Reid is in for Lawrence
Good evening, Joy.
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