Putin talks up Russia’s invincible nuclear weapons. TRANSCRIPT: 03/01/2018. The Rachel Maddow Show
Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
Date: March 1, 2018
Guest: Adam Schiff, Brigitte Amiri
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST, “ALL IN”: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right
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 juggling a bunch of important new stories that have broken late today
and into this evening.
Nicolle Wallace of MSNBC was first to report today based on five sources
that national security adviser H.R. McMaster is on his way out of the White
House. We will have more on that in a moment.
NBC News also first to report today on the next round of criminal charges
that are expected from the Robert Mueller special counsel investigation.
We will have more on that in a moment as well.
We`ve got some exclusive reporting tonight on this show about a Trump
administration official who we have got on tape. This is a story we`re
going to be breaking here tonight. You have not heard it anywhere else.
It`s going to give us a new development in what one of the more radical
Trump administration scandals, one they have consistently been losing court
battles over for months now. But we`ve got a new development in that story
tonight. Again, including that Trump administration official on tape.
So, we`ve got a big show ahead, a big hour ahead.
If you felt, though, like today was a chaotic day in the news, you`re
right. Today was more chaotic than usual, in ways large and small. We
woke up today to an unexpected show-stopping nuclear weapons announcement
from Russian President Vladimir Putin. He used a video presentation with
some cartoonish animation. He read from a script that was very bellicose
and very emotional.
President Putin announced a whole new family of nuclear weapons today,
nuclear weapons that are considerably different than any existing weapons
anywhere on earth. He repeatedly bragged that these new nuclear weapons
that the Russians had developed would be unstoppable by any missile defense
system anywhere on earth.
Now, the reason I think it`s fair to say that this was part of the chaotic
nature of our news day today is not just because of the alarm bells that
Vladimir Putin intentionally rang with that announcement today, it`s also
because nobody quite knows how to take it. Nobody actually knows if these
new nuclear weapons he announced are real or even plausible. I mean, he`s
not likely to be just purely bluffing, but nobody can say whether Russia is
on some sort of path to ultimately end up having these weapons some day or
if this might have just been Vladimir Putin spitballing about the kind of
nuclear weapons he`d like if they had a magic wand but they`re not actually
going to build them.
So, the confusion over Putin`s remarks came shortly after the initial alarm
from his announcement. But then the confusion was heightened when it
emerged later on today that those fancy cartoonish graphics he used to
supposedly demonstrate the capabilities of these new weapons where it
looked like they were flying down to hit Florida and all of that, some of
that wasn`t even new video. Some of it was taken from a Russian thing that
came out seven years ago that you can still look at on YouTube today if you
know how to check it for it.
So, he didn`t even event new videos, let alone new weapons? It`s kind of a
Here at home in our domestic politics, confusion also reigned today over
gun reform. The president really does appear to just been riffing
inconsequentially when he told lawmakers yesterday at the meeting at the
White House televised that there were all sorts of gun reform measures he
thought should be pursued and he thought could pass Congress and that he
supported. Today, the White House showed no sign of actually pursuing any
of those policies.
And Republicans in Congress are going to pretend that the president either
didn`t say what he said yesterday or if he did say it, he definitely didn`t
mean it. In any case they do not appear to be changing any of their plans
about not pursuing gun reform.
The kids who survived the latest school massacre in Parkland, Florida, have
called for a nationwide march on D.C. on March 24th, the March for Our
Lives. Today was the kind of day when even that fairly simple news was
complicated by, in this case, by “Washington Post” reporting that actually
a conflicting event has already been permitted for the National Mall on the
day of the big gun march.
I kid you not. They`ve already permitted for the national mall that day a
talent show. And so, the talent show gets the permit and not the big gun
reform march. So, the kids from Parkland continue to lead a remarkable
national response and sort of national political uprising on guns, yet more
big retailers announcing they won`t be selling guns or they`ll be changing
the way they do that.
But even the news about the national march they`re planning got knocked off
its rails a little bit today by the turbulence of this very strange news
cycle that we`re in.
At the White House, the word used most often today to describe what`s going
on there, the top of this administration, the word used most often today
was the word meltdown. And I don`t – I don`t place that much stock in
pseudo-psychological profiles of how things feel in any particular White
House. But you can see by the actions of this White House today that
there`s certainly something chaotic is going on behind the scenes.
We woke from early morning news from the president that he was planning to
impose new tariffs on foreign aluminum and steel, those tariffs being
debated to such good effect on Chris Hayes` show just moments ago.
That early morning announcement from the president that he was going ahead
with those tariffs today, that was quickly followed by a round of news
stories that said actually, no, he`s not going to go ahead with those
tariffs. The president had been planning on it but changed his mind, the
White House now letting people know that wasn`t going to happen. Policies
weren`t ready. People talked him out of t at least that`s not going to
News that we wouldn`t get new tariffs today was followed by a new round of
news that, oh, yes, actually, we would get new tariffs today or at least
the president would like to make that announcement but that second round of
no, there`s not going to be an announcement story, that was correct when
they said there was no policy for him to announce. So, instead what we
ultimately got was the president announcing this afternoon that he will
announce something next week about tariffs on aluminum and steel, whereupon
the stock market dropped 482 points, closed for the day and everybody
looked around and said, my god, what just happened? Which round of those
new stories is correct?
Did we get tariffs? He said we`re going to them? We don`t have them now?
We`re going to? Are we sure? Should we have reacted that way?
Will he remember next week he said he was going to announce them next week?
Given that he said.
Part of the more chaotic than usual goings-on at the White House may have
to do what`s with what`s happening in the upper echelons of White House
staff. In the past 24 hours, of course, we`ve had word of the departure of
the White House staffer who was reportedly closest to the president without
being related to him. There were some conflicting follow-up reports today
about the circumstances of the departure of White House communications
director Hope Hicks. But last night`s news that she is out, that news
still holds. She has resigned.
In terms of staffers who are related to the president, we appear to be
hitting a little bit of a crisis for them right now. “New York Times”, of
course, last night, broke the news that Jared Kushner`s family real estate
company received two gigantic loans, two truly huge loans, totaling a half
billion dollars from two companies whose executives met with Jared Kushner
as part of his White House responsibilities.
Now, in the fallout from that bombshell report last night, we`ve seen
denials from the company side and from Kushner`s side, claiming that there
were saying there was nothing nefarious about these loans, there was
nothing wrong about Jared meeting with these guys at the White House or
Jared subsequently taking their money. But crucially, that “New York
Times” reporting from last night is holding up.
Nobody is denying that these huge loans were, in fact, made, one for more
than $180 million. One for $325 million. Nobody is denying that the loans
were made to the Kushner companies. Nobody is denying that Jared actually
has a personal financial stake in the specific entities that received these
giant loans at Kushner companies. I mean, nobody is denying that the White
House meetings took place with Jared before those loans were made to his
And so, that means, you know, yes, the people named in the story may not
like the sound of the story, but the White House is effectively conceding
that a White House adviser took meetings in the White House with companies
who are seeking something from the White House, and then subsequently those
companies shoveled hundreds of millions of dollars to that White House
official and his family business. That`s a problem. That has got to be a
I mean, that`s the kind of problem where if that was happening in another
country, that would be like a flag for the Foreign Corrupt Businesses Act
that Americans shouldn`t do business in that company. I mean, even an
administration like that one, that is so blunt, it has to be a problem.
And you can imagine it is unsettling to the president on a few different
levels. I mean, the prospect of his son in law, his daughter`s husband
being in a whole new round of high dollar trouble, based on meetings in the
White House, on top of him already this week being stripped of his security
clearance, for a president who famously puts his family first. Jared`s
troubles may loom large for the president on a personal level. I mean, it
could only be worse if it wasn`t just his daughter`s husband, it was also
And CNN is now reporting that it`s also his daughter. According to this
new report from CNN, FBI counter intelligence officials are looking into a
business deal made by Ivanka Trump. It is a deal involving a Vancouver
hotel and spa which opened right after the inauguration. Reportedly both
the negotiations leading up to that deal and its financing have attracted
counterintelligence interests from the FBI. We`re not sure of the nature
of the FBI`s interests and this CNN reporting has not been confirmed by NBC
But this is now the latest in a litany of bad national security stories
that have come out over the last few days about president`s children who
have high-ranking White House jobs, Jared Kushner and now Ivanka Trump
That brings us to tonight`s big scoops, both of which happen to have been
broken by NBC. I would be talking about these scoops no matter who broke
them. It is a coincidence but they both derived from this building today.
The first one was about H.R. McMaster, national security adviser, he, of
course, replaced Mike Flynn after Mike Flynn lasted a record 24 days,
shortest time period ever for a national security adviser. After his 24
days as national security adviser, Flynn, of course, has now pled guilty to
a felony and is awaiting sentencing while he serves as a cooperating
witness in the Mueller investigation.
MSNBC`s Nicolle Wallace reports today, based on five sources with knowledge
of the matter, that H.R. McMaster will be out soon as Trump`s second
national security adviser. He will be out by next month.
Now, if this president does think of his family first, the departure of
H.R. McMaster as national security adviser was probably written on the wall
as soon as we saw Mr. McMaster named in that bombshell “Washington Post”
story a few days ago about Jared Kushner and national security concerns
that were driving White House officials to oppose a permanent security
clearance for Jared Kushner separate and apart from anything that the FBI
might have been finding out about him in their background check. In that
report, General McMaster was said to have been, quote, taken aback by what
he learned about Jared Kushner`s meeting with foreign officials that he
took without notifying National Security Council that those meetings were
McMaster had also reportedly been briefed repeatedly on what foreign
officials were saying back home about what their meetings with Jared
Kushner were like. Just as an aside here, one of the rationales for having
anti-nepotism laws, anti, you know, hiring your children laws, when you
hire close relatives for important positions, it creates weird incentives,
it creates weird power dynamics. When other senior officials come into
conflict with a special White House official, somebody who is special
because they`re a presidential family member, what happens in that case of
a conflict, especially if it`s an important, substantive, principled
I mean, in this case, we`ve got this flood of reporting about national
security concerns about members of the president`s family. And that report
points explicitly to H.R. McMaster. As the national security adviser, as
the senior official who has those national security concerns about the
president`s family members and he has voiced them. Well, now, if Nicolle
Wallace`s reporting bears out, we are seeing how that kind of conflict ends
when he employs his children, the presidential family members about whom
there are serious national security concerns, they appear to be staying.
Can`t fire your kids.
And so, the White House official, who is worried about those national
security concerns and is expressing them – well, that`s the guy who`s got
to go. That is exactly why we have laws to prevent this sort of thing.
That is why it is not in the national interest and it is, in fact,
dangerous to national security for you to have your kid working in an
important and sensitive White House role, right?
File for future reference. Hey, future generations, don`t do this. Don`t
let them do this. It`s not a hypothetical concern. This is not like a
This is not that it`s uncouth. It`s really bad. Nepotism stuff is really
bad. It has terrible consequences for the country.
But then there`s the other big scoop tonight. As I mentioned, it`s also
from NBC. Ken Dilanian and Julia Ainsley reporting about new charges that
are expected in the special counsel investigation. A couple of weeks ago,
you will remember that Robert Mueller and his prosecutors charged 13
Russian nationals and three different Russian entities with a big long list
of criminal charges related to one part of the Russian attack on our
presidential election. Those charges were related to the way that Russia
used online operations to disguise their identities and insert themselves
into the American election to try to influence the outcome of that
That, of course, is just one component of what Russia did to try to
influence that election. It was interesting at the time those charges were
filed a couple of weeks ago. But although these were the first criminal
charges related directly to what Russia did, the most obvious crime
committed by Russia in their election attack, it hadn`t been charged in the
first criminal indictments brought against them.
We`re finally getting criminal charges on this thing. But the big, obvious
crime wasn`t what Mueller charged. The big, obvious crime committed by the
Russians in their attack was, you know, electronic breaking and entering.
When they broke into and stole documents and e-mails from the Democratic
Party and the Hillary Clinton campaign.
That kind of online breaking and entering, that hacking and theft, that is
very clearly, very simply, very uncontroversially a crime. That crime has
not been charged yet.
Well, yesterday, NBC reported that one of the things people are being asked
about by Mueller`s investigators when they`re brought in for interviews is
whether or not the Trump campaign, whether or not President Trump himself
had knowledge during the campaign of Russia committing that crime, Russian
hackers hacking into the Democratic Party in the Clinton campaign, stealing
e-mails and documents.
Quote, was Trump aware that Democratic e-mails had been stolen before that
was publicly known? Quote, was Trump involved in the strategic release of
those emails and documents? Quote, Mueller`s investigators have asked
witnesses whether Trump was aware of plans for WikiLeaks to publish the
stolen Russian e-mails.
This is the heart of the matter, right? This is the crucial question. NBC
reports that the investigation – the Mueller investigation is now zeroing
in on that crucial question, when the Russian government committed these
criminal acts to try to influence the outcome of our election, was there a
conspiracy with people here in America to help pull that off?
Who on the Trump campaign knew that Russia had committed that crime and
stolen those documents? Who on the Trump campaign knew about the Russian`s
plan to disseminate those documents to try to influence our election? Did
anybody on the Trump campaign know about that crime while it was a crime in
Did anybody on the Trump campaign abet that crime? Did they give their
assent, their encouragement? Did they offer to help out or play a role in
it, or give advice, or help plan any aspect of that crime? That`s the
heart of the matter, right?
Well, we learned from NBC yesterday that Mueller and his prosecutors are
focused in on those questions now in this investigation, and we learned
from NBC tonight that charges are coming related to that part of the crime,
related to the hack of those stolen e-mails. And the first sign we knew
that something like this was coming actually came from a member of
Congress, came from Congressman Adam Schiff a few days ago.
I will explain the sort of heads up he gave about this. He is here to help
us understand it, next.
MADDOW: “The New York Times” reported late last year that it all started
because of a demon drink. “The Times” reported that the FBI`s
counterintelligence investigation on the Russia matter began during the
campaign because of some drunken talk by Trump adviser George Papadopoulos.
Quote: During a night of heavy drinking at an upscale London bar in May
2016, George Papadopoulos made a startling revelation to Australia`s top
diplomat in Britain. He said that Russia had political dirt on Hillary
Clinton. That is what triggered the FBI investigation.
When the special counsel charged George Papadopoulos with lying in October,
we got more about where that drunken talk had come from. Quote: on or
about April 26th, 2016, the professor, a professor from Malta named Joseph
Mifsud, mysterious character, told defendant George Papadopoulos that they,
the Russians, have dirt on her. The Russians had e-mails of Clinton. They
have thousands of e-mails.
George Papadopoulos bragged about that to a guy in a bar drunkenly in May
2016. But he really had been told about it the month before, in April
2016. And it turned out to be true. I mean, it was drunken smack talk
when he bragged about it to this Australian guy, but it was true
information. The Russians did have thousands of e-mails they stole from
the Democrats and the Clinton campaign.
Thanks to Mr. Drunky Pants and his eventual guilty plea, we know that
before those stolen Democratic e-mails began appearing online in July 2016,
the Trump campaign, at least one member of the Trump campaign, knew that
Russia had them, knew, was aware that Russia had those e-mails, aware about
it enough to brag about it in a bar over a few drinks.
At least that guy on the Trump campaign knew Russia had committed that
crime, by breaking in and stealing all that stuff from the Democratic Party
and the Clinton campaign. So, we knew that.
And then this week, we got the other part of it. This weekend, we got that
10-page memo from the Democrats on the Intelligence Committee that was, in
part, about their ongoing fighting with the Republicans on that committee.
But it also gave us some very specific new information about this
investigation, like this important line from page six.
Quote: DOJ appropriately provided the court with a comprehensive
explanation of Russia`s election interference, including evidence that
Russian agents previewed their hack and dissemination of stolen emails.
That last line there, Russian agents previewed their hack and dissemination
of stolen emails, that is new. And that`s potentially a big deal. I mean,
knowing that they had these stolen e-mails is one thing. But hacking in to
computer servers from the Democratic Party and Clinton campaign to steal
those documents, that`s a crime. And disseminating those e-mails in an
attempt to alter the election is also likely to be a crime.
If Russia previewed to the Trump campaign that they were going to commit
those crimes before they actually committed them – well, that`s trouble.
And we know about that trouble thanks to that memo that Adam Schiff and
other intelligence Democrats just released. And that seems not just
important but critically important if this new NBC reporting is correct,
that a new round of indictments is coming about that`s going to be related
to this part of the Russian attack and that Mueller`s team is now asking
witnesses directly if the president himself is one of the people on the
campaign who got that preview, that preview of what the Russians were doing
before they actually did it.
Congressman Adam Schiff is the top Democrat on the House Intelligence
Committee and he joins us now.
Congressman, thank you for being here.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), RANKING MEMBER, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: You
MADDOW: I am reading a lot into that specific line in the memo that you
and other Democrats on House Intel released. I am reading into that in
part because you, yourself, have done a few interviews about it. You have
talked about that new information. This wasn`t just the same information
we had before phrased in a different way. This is the first time that
we`re learning that Russia previewed for at least one person on the Trump
campaign that they were going to disseminate this stuff that they had
SCHIFF: Well, that`s exactly right. And it is significant because we know
from the guilty plea and the statement of the Papadopoulos defense that the
Russians told them, hey, we have stolen Clinton or DNC e-mails. We know
from the FISA application and what the Justice Department allowed us to
share that they previewed the dissemination, that they could basically
unanimously publish these emails. That`s in April, before the Clinton
campaign even knows the Russians have those e-mails.
So, a few weeks later when the president`s son takes this is meeting in
Trump Tower with the Russians with this lawyer sent out from Moscow for the
purpose, with the promise of incriminating information about Hillary
Clinton as part of the Russian government`s effort to help Donald Trump,
what`s Don Jr.`s response? If it`s what I think it is, I would love it.
What does he think it is? Does he think it is e-mails because Papadopoulos
was told the Russians have it and the Russians are prepared to disseminate
it? It`s certainly one very plausible explanation of what he was
expecting. It would also explain why he was so deeply disappointed that
what they produced at this meeting wasn`t what was expected.
Now, shortly after that meeting when word goes out that have meeting that
the Trump campaign at the highest levels wants Russian help but they`re
disappointed in what we produced at the meeting, within days of that,
Julian Assange announces he has received stolen Clinton e-mails which we
now know he has gotten from the Russians. So, it is significant. It`s
another piece of the puzzle.
I think when I saw that indictment of the 13 Russians and all its detail
and whatnot, what leapt out at me is the same thing that leapt out at you,
which is there`s no discussion of the hacking and dissemination of e-mails.
Now, why is that? I can tell you one thing, it`s not because of a lack of
evidence that the Russians did all this. There`s abundant evidence that
could have been included.
Indeed, if there were going to be the end of the story, it would have been
included. You would want to make the most complete and powerful case
against what the Russians did. These two things complement each other.
They explain the whole story or a large part of the story.
So, why don`t you do it? You don`t do it if you`re not ready for some
reason on that piece. And it`s not because they weren`t ready on the
Russian piece. It may be because they weren`t ready on the collusion
piece. That is, would U.S. persons be included in that conspiracy to
defraud the U.S. and violate U.S. election laws?
So, I don`t know that Mueller has reached the conclusion about whether he
can prove that beyond a reasonable doubt or not. But it seems to me that
the reason you don`t include that in the first indictment is you`re still
working on that part of the investigation.
MADDOW: And you are speaking not just as the top Democrat in the
Intelligence Committee but also as a former prosecutor yourself. And
conspiracy, I think, means different things in layman`s language than it
does in legal terms. But if we`re talking about a crime being committed,
which is the stealing of the documents, the way that Mueller defined
conspiracy to defraud the United States in some of his earlier indictments,
I think we may also see – I can imagine him also describing the
dissemination of those document back to the U.S. public in an effort to
influence the U.S. election as also being a criminal act.
If a person was aware that criminal actions like that were taking place,
that a theft had happened, that the proceeds of that theft were going to be
used to commit another crime – if somebody was made aware of that, is just
that awareness itself, does that create some sort of responsibility? Do
you have to go to the authorities with it? If you cheer for that action
without doing anything to stop it, is that also potentially criminal
liability? Do you actively have to be helping and be part of what they`re
doing in their criminal acts to be part of a conspiracy?
Where is the line in terms of just bad behavior versus getting indicted?
SCHIFF: Yes. Well, one of the reasons that I`ve used the term collusion
rather than a conspiracy to violate sections such and such and such and
such, is the bar shouldn`t be set so low as to what was a crime. It ought
to be if the Trump campaign was aware of what the Russians were doing, had
a preview of what the Russians were doing, urged the Russians to do it –
you had Donald Trump speaking publicly, hey, Russians, if you`re listening,
hack Hillary Clinton`s e-mails. You`ll be richly rewarded.
If that message had gotten to the candidate and the candidate is egging
them on, whether it`s a crime or not, it ought to be condemned by the whole
country, Democrats and Republicans alike.
Now, what does it take to prove a case or indict a case? I think there has
to be a meeting of the minds between the campaign and the Russians. OK,
we`re going to do this. There has to be some overt act. Not necessarily
an overt act on the part of the Trump campaign`s part but there has to be
And I think what bob Mueller may be looking at and weighing is if you
compare this to Watergate, there was a lot of evidence of Nixon`s
involvement in Watergate. Even insiders like Dean who spoke in voluminous
detail about conversations with the president, it was the recordings that
made the difference, though, that gave the Congress and the country enough
evidence that warranted his removal.
Bob Mueller may be trying to weigh what does it take in this kind of
environment to prove this kind of a case. But I don`t think we should set
the bar so low. That`s Bob Mueller`s job. It`s our job to tell the
country what happened, to protect the country from it happening again, but
also to condemn unethical conduct, whether it meets the standard of
conspiracy or not.
MADDOW: Well, condemn it and – yeah, potentially bring about some sort of
accountability for it. And that`s a different standard in terms of
congressional investigation than it is for this criminal investigation that
Mueller is doing.
Congressman Adam Schiff, top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee,
working on a committee that seems to be pulling apart at the seams right
now, but hanging in there – thank you so much for being with us, sir.
It`s really good to have you here.
SCHIFF: Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. We`ve got a lot more show to come. Stay with us.
MADDOW: We keep putting up this list. And it`s getting longer and longer
and longer and more ridiculous. I mean , literally at this point, we have
to do like do fancy camera work where I turn, so you can have the bigger
wall behind me so we can make the list this big.
This is nuts. And, you know, even after the Hope Hicks` departure news
broke last night, we got even – we got more. Another career diplomat
leaving, Roberta Jacobson leaving after more than 31 years in service, most
recently as our ambassador to Mexico. She`s actually the fifth senior
level departure from the administration in five days and now, we`d just had
tonight`s headlines about the impending departure of yet another national
security adviser, this time H.R. McMaster.
So, we`re ready to add to this gigantic list at a moment`s notice. But
even with all these people gone or going, there is at least one Trump
appointee who is going nowhere. Despite him starting all on his own, one
of the strangest and most radical scandals of this young administration.
And we`ve got him on tape for an exclusive story, next. You won`t see this
anywhere else. You will want to see it here. It`s right after the break.
MADDOW: The presidential transition from Obama to Trump was a little
rockier than most transitions. Remember, they had thrown out the guy who
had been in charge of planning the transition, Chris Christie. That
included throwing out all the briefing materials he had prepared, the list
of possible candidates for administration jobs, even national security
staffers have said crucial briefing materials even on national security
issues appear to have just never even been opened, let alone used
substantively by the incoming Trump teams.
Well, at the Health and Human Services Department, one of the people
brought in as an adviser to the Trump transition was a long-time anti-
abortion activist lawyer named Scott Lloyd. During that transition, Scott
Lloyd was brought in as a special adviser in Health and Human Services, but
he didn`t have any specific job title. One day, though, somebody came to
him and said, hey, Scott, we`re going to pick you to be the head of the –
what`s it called again – Office of Refugee Resettlement. That`s going to
be your new job.
Scott Lloyd had not applied for that job. Somebody from the White House
just asked him, approached him and asked him if he wanted to do it. And he
said, OK, sure, yes. What? What`s it called again?
There is nothing about Scott Lloyd that screams put me in charge of the
Office of Refugee or resettling anyone or anything. But why not?
Alongside the very controversial immigration policies and behavior of ICE,
Immigration of Customs Enforcement, during the Trump administration,
there`s also the specific matter of what happens to people who are underage
when they come to this country. Kids who come to this country alone and
cross the border without parents, they actually don`t get handled by ICE.
They don`t get put into detention centers the way people who get picked by
ICE do. They get funneled into a completely different government agency,
into Health and Human Services, specifically to an office inside HHS that`s
charged with putting those kids in shelters, shelters that have social
workers, and people who can help the kids get medical care and help these
kids who are here without their parents find a sponsor, an adult sponsor
who could help them stay in this country, potentially, as a refugee.
There`s a specific office in HHS that does this work with those kids and it
is the Office of Refugee Resettlement now headed somewhat randomly by Scott
Lloyd, the anti-abortion activist who had never resettled refugees in his
life. Where Scott Lloyd`s resume really pops is in anti-abortion activism.
That`s what`s he`s been his whole life. He`s written extensively on the
If you want to know where he falls on the number line of activism on that
issue, you should see his essay how birth control is just as bad as
abortion – actually how birth control is abortion. He said you can`t even
call yourself anti-abortion if you think contraception is OK. So, Scott
Lloyd, this very conservative, anti-abortion activist, he takes over as the
head of the office of refugee resettlement. And then headlines like this
Trump official sought to block abortion for 17-year-old rape victim. That
17-year-old rape victim was ultimately able to get an abortion only because
the ACLU helped her sue Scott Lloyd. She`s one of four anonymous teenagers
who say they`ve been blocked from action toes abortion and taken Scott
Lloyd to court in order to get it.
Tonight, we have new insight into the kinds of tactics Scott Lloyd has been
using against pregnant teenagers who have somewhat randomly ended up under
his control because the Trump administration gave him this job. ACLU has
been suing on behalf of these teenagers. They deposed Scott Lloyd in
December and they have just now released selections of the transcript and
the video of that deposition.
The lead ACLU attorney on this case is Brigitte Amiri and she`s asking the
questions here. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRIGITTE AMIRI, ACLU: You`re personally opposed to abortion, correct?
SCOTT LLOYD, OFFICE OF REFUGEE RESETTLEMENT: Yes.
AMIRI: You`ve written on the subject?
AMIRI: You`re personally opposed to contraception, correct?
AMIRI: You wrote an article that said in order to be pro-life, you need to
LLOYD: That was the title of the article. Something along those lines.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Something along those lines, something like – we have the
article? We have the article? There you go.
Facts on abortion. Why you can`t be pro-life and pro-contraception. Yes,
something along those lines. It was exactly along those lines. That`s
what it was.
ACLU attorney in this case goes on to ask Scott Lloyd about his time spent
in federal government trying to personally block teenagers from getting
abortions that they`re legally supposed to be able to get.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AMIRI: Have you ever approved an abortion request in your time as ORR
AMIRI: Are there any circumstances under which you would approve an
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Objection. Calls for speculation.
LLOYD: Yes. I`m not going to answer that.
AMIRI: You can still answer it.
LLOYD: I don`t know.
AMIRI: You denied abortion request, correct?
AMIRI: You denied abortion requests even in the context where the
pregnancy was a result of rape, right?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: So the way this has been working is that a 17-year-old pregnant
rape victim, a girl who became pregnant because she was raped, she made her
way to the United States by herself, seeking help after this rape. She had
to get permission from that guy, that individual guy if she could have an
abortion and he told her no.
We`ve also obtained a document that the ACLU plans to file in court
tomorrow that sheds more light on how Scott Lloyd treated this particular
17-year-old rape victim, whom he was trying to force to carry her pregnancy
to term and bear her rapist`s child against her will. In this email from
Scott Lloyd obtained by the ACLU as part of their ongoing lawsuit against
the government, Mr. Lloyd runs down a list of things he wants shelter staff
to tell this pregnant teenage rape victim who`s asking for an abortion,
that he`s not going to allow her to get anyway.
He says in this e-mail that he wants the shelter staff to make sure this
girl has a proper understanding of the development of her baby. He
instructs them to inform her of the possibility that she may experience an
abortion as an additional trauma on top of the trauma of her rape. He then
instructs the staff to tell her that if born in the U.S., her baby would be
a U.S. citizen.
That reason the 17-year-old girl was able to get an abortion is because
somebody tipped off ACLU about what Scott Lloyd was doing about her case
and the ACLU got her case into court and beat Scott Lloyd in court and that
lawyer joins us next. Stay with us.
MADDOW: So we have this document tonight which the ACLU plans to file in
court tomorrow as part of an ongoing legal case against the head of the
Office of Refugee Resettlement in the Trump administration, a young man
named Scott Lloyd, this is an e-mail where he tells shelter staff what they
should tell a pregnant teenager who is a victim of rape and is asking for
He tells the staff they should tell this girl of, quote, the possibility
that she may experience abortion as an additional trauma on top of the
trauma of her rape. He also tells staff to instruct that if born in the
U.S., her baby would be a U.S. citizen. Scott Lloyd tried to force that
17-year-old rape victim and at least three other pregnant teenagers to
carry their pregnancies to term against their will.
Not only has Scott Lloyd defied access to every girl who has requested an
abortion since she took over as the head of the Office of Refugee
Resettlement, under his leadership, shelter staff had been instructed not
to allow pregnant girls in their care to meet with lawyers about getting a
judicial bypass and outside approval from a judge for an abortion. Scott
Lloyd told the ACLU in its deposition in December that he believes these
girls who ended up under his control at his agency, he doesn`t believe they
have a right to access abortion like everybody else in America, he says
that he doesn`t thin they have that right because of their immigration
This would be a novel legal claim. Not even the Justice Department makes
that claim. We don`t know how many pregnant girls are under his control
right now or how many of them he`s blocking from access to abortion, just
held until they give birth against their will.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AMIRI: In what universe or facts could present themselves to you that
would lead you to approve an abortion request?
LLOYD: I don`t know.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Objection, calls for speculation.
AMIRI: If a young woman`s life was in jeopardy if she carried the
pregnancy to term.
AMIRI: Potentially, that would lead you to approve the abortion.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Potentially. Maybe if the girl were literally dying, it was
literally going to kill her, maybe then he`d have to think about it, maybe
he would then let her have an abortion to save her life, maybe. But he
might just keep personally stopping him. Why does he have this power, this
Joining us now is Brigitte Amiri. She`s the senior staff attorney at the
ACLU`s reproductive freedom project. She is the person who is questioning
Mr. Lloyd in that deposition.
Ms. Amiri, thank you very much for being with us.
AMIRI: Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: Can you tell me about how – I`m trying – the Office of Refugee
Resettlement was not something high on my visibility list in terms of how
government official behaves. How different is Scott Lloyd`s behavior
compared to other people who`ve previously held this job.
AMIRI: It`s very different. Actually, we`ve been investigating the Office
of Refugee Resettlement and their policies with respect to abortion access
for over a decade. So, in the Bush administration, there was concerns
about government funds going to religiously affiliated shelters that were
blocking access to abortion. And we did a number of FOIAs.
And eventually, we sued the Obama administration for violations of
separation of church and state. But Scott Lloyd has taken it to a whole
new level. He is directly obstructing access to abortion, at his direction
holding young women hostage at the shelter to prohibit them from accessing
abortion. This is unprecedented in terms of the government official
robbing young women of their right to access abortion.
MADDOW: He`s obviously a young man. He`s an attorney, we know from his
back story of background story in terms of how we got the job that he was
working on the Trump landing team at HHS, and apparently was just plucked
by the White House into this job, has no experience in this field. He`s
now making the case to you that these women, these young women, teenage
girls who end up under his control because of his job at the agency, they
actually don`t have a right to access an abortion.
My reading of that, not as a lawyer, is that not even the Justice
Department under President Trump says that. That seems to me to be a very
novel claim that there`s something about these women`s immigration status
that infringes on their constitutional right to get an abortion if they
AMIRI: That`s right. And it`s deeply troubling that this political
appointee who has sworn to uphold the Constitution thinks the Constitution
doesn`t apply to the marginalized young people in his care. That is
frightening and, you`re right, the Justice Department doesn`t even take
that extreme position.
MADDOW: Tell me about the status of this case right now. Obviously, this
is an ongoing concern. As far as we know we don`t know right now how many
other girls may be in this circumstance where they`re effectively being
forced to continue a pregnancy that they`d like to end.
AMIRI: And I`m deeply concerned about the young women that we will never
find out about. And as you mentioned before, we are relying on anonymous
tips right now so we can potentially find young women who need our help.
We`re asking the district court to certify a class action and block the
policy while the case continues. That – those motions are fully briefed
and we`re waiting for a decision. So, we`re hoping to stop this to prevent
this from happening to young women going forward.
MADDOW: Brigitte Amiri, senior staff attorney at the ACLU`s Reproductive
Freedom Project, reproductive rights are always such a fraught and
interesting battleground in this country. This case involving this one
official taking on this much power for himself to chance all of these young
women`s lives in this profound way, it`s like fiction. It`s very hard to
get your head around. Thank you for helping us understand it. Thanks.
AMIRI: Thank you. Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: All right. One last very important thing to get to tonight,
slightly embarrassing on my part, but we`re going to do it. That`s next.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: OK. It`s a little weird. I have to take a point of personal
privilege here. This is embarrassing. It`s embarrassing but I can`t not
One last thing to let you know about and I`m going to hand you off to the
good graces of Lawrence O`Donnell. I want you to forgive me for doing this
on the show, but I am bursting with pride and I have to say something.
Tomorrow or maybe even late tonight, you should check now, the “New York
Times” is going to publish something by me. I`ve never had a thing
published in “The New York Times” before. I sometimes do columns in “The
Washington Post.” I`ve never done one in a long time, but I never had a
thing in “The New York Times” before.
And this thing I just did for “The New York Times”, it almost killed me
putting it together. I got it done and it is about to come out. I was
going to say I hope you like it, but honestly, I`m so excited about it, I
don`t care. Even if everyone hates it, I am still so excited.
So, drum roll please, tomorrow, it is – it will be my first ever “New York
Times” crossword. By which I do not mean that I am a clue in “The New York
Times” crossword tomorrow, although that is a huge enough did. I mean, I
actually did, I made a “New York Times” crossword, I made one, with a
genius guy named Joe DiPietro, who is so freaking smart about this stuff
and who was so nails with me about how terrible I was at the start of the
process, that I`m scarred for life. But he was amazing.
Joe DiPietro, you`re amazing. You`re terrifying me. And, of course,
legendary “New York Times” crossword editor Will Shorts tore the whole
thing apart and put it back together.
But I mean, technically, I did it. And it comes out tomorrow. It`s a hard
one. It`s a theme-less Friday puzzle. So good luck. No cheating. I`m
sorry I just bragged about that. But I`m very excited.
That does it for us tonight.
Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL.”
Good evening, Lawrence.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced,
distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the
prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter
or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the