New scrutiny on State dept. firing. TRANSCRIPT: 03/16/2018. The Rachel Maddow Show
THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
March 16, 2018
Guests: Ellen Barry
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
Much appreciated. Happy Friday.
The national security advisor to the president of the United States did not
get fired today and that counts as both news and a surprise because the
White House sparked a thousand headlines last night and a raft of competing
scoops all day today about the president`s intentions to fire the national
security adviser H.R. McMaster.
And honestly, I have very little – they have very little appetite – I
have no appetite at all for Kremlinology-style coverage and speculation
about who`s in favor and who`s out of favor and who`s been able to move
their desk a little closer to the Oval Office and who might someday be
fired and who`s angling for what job.
The government is not supposed to be conducted like the gong show, right?
But it has been a weird 24 hours in the news because of this word that went
out from the White House last night, that the national security advisor
H.R. McMaster was to be fired why did the White House put that word out
last night? I don`t know and neither do you.
But you should know that right before the White House put out that word
last night, this is the last public thing that national security adviser
H.R. McMaster did. This is what he did yesterday afternoon.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
H.R. MCMASTER, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Russia is also complicit in
Assad`s atrocities. The Russian government has bombed civilian areas and
provided political cover for Assad`s crimes. From February 24th to
February 28th, Russia conducted bombing missions every day in the eastern
Ghouta and Damascus areas in Syria. Russia has also repeatedly thwarted
efforts by the OPCW to hold the Assad regime accountable for using chemical
This morning, the United States, France, Germany and the United Kingdom
condemned the abhorrent nerve agent attack on Sergei and Yulia Skripal that
took place in Salisbury, United Kingdom, on March 4th. The statement made
clear that we believe that Russia was responsible for this attack.
And if Iran and Russia do not stop enabling the regime`s atrocities and
adhere to U.N. Security Council resolutions all nations must respond more
forcibly than simply issuing strong statements. It is time to impose
serious political and economic consequences on Moscow.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was a H.R. McMaster, national security adviser making the
strongest comments he has made against Russia during his full time as
national security advisor. That`s the last thing he did publicly yesterday
before we got that spate of headlines last night that he was about to be
H.R. McMaster made those remarks yesterday afternoon veteran national
security reporter Spencer Ackerman covered that speech and then rushed back
to “The Daily Beast” to file his report on McMaster`s comments. You see
the headline that he put on his report, quote: H.R. McMaster gives the
Kremlin a double bird salute, by which he means two metaphorical middle
So, that was H.R. McMaster`s afternoon yesterday. And then last night,
there was this explosion of reporting that, yes, he`s going to be fired.
Now, one possibility here is that those two events are totally unrelated.
It`s total coincidence. They had nothing to do with each other.
Another possibility is that McMaster knew he was getting fired, that we
were in the ramped up to him being fired, he knew he was on his way out and
therefore he felt like this would be a good time to take some shots at
Russia since they`re getting rid of him anyway. Maybe that`s possibility.
But another possibility here, of course, is that McMaster made these strong
anti-Russia remarks yesterday and then that somehow precipitated the
president`s desire to fire him or to at least start telling lots and lots
of reporters that in fact he has decided to fire him. And it`s weird that
we even have to consider that kind of a possibility, but part of the reason
we have to consider that possibility is that in the last few days we just
went through something very similar with the Secretary of State Rex
Tillerson. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was fired by the president on
Tuesday morning. On Monday night, reporters traveling with Rex Tillerson
on an overseas trip said that they had no sign from him that he might
eminently imminently be leaving his post.
But on Monday night, speaking to reporters, he did make some remarkably
strong comments against Russia. Like H.R. McMaster, they were the
strongest remarks he has ever made against Russia since he has been serving
as secretary of state.
Question, have you been tracking the ex-spy`s poisoning in the U.K.?
Answer from Secretary of State Rex Tillerson: I just got off a phone call
with British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, we`re going to be putting out
a statement to support what their findings have been. This is a really
egregious act. It appears that it clearly came from Russia. This is a
substance that`s known to us, it does not exist widely. It`s only in the
hands of a very, very limited number of parties.
I`ve become extremely concerned about Russia we spent most of the last year
investing a lot into attempts to work together to solve problems to address
differences and quite frankly after a year we didn`t get very far.
Instead, what we`ve seen is a pivot on their part to be more aggressive.
This is very, very concerning to me and others, that there seems to be a
certain unleashing of activity that we don`t fully understand what the
objective behind that is.
And if in fact this attack in the U.K. is the work of the Russian
government, this is a pretty serious action.
So, Tillerson spoke those words he made those remarks to reporters we`re
traveling with him on Monday night. He then put out a written statement,
this is the final written statement that was issued under his name as
secretary of state before he was fired.
Quote: we have full confidence in the U.K.`s investigation and its
assessment that Russia was likely responsible for the nerve agent attack
that took place in Salisbury last week. There`s never a justification for
this type of attack, the attempted murder of a private citizen on the soil
of a sovereign nation. We`re outraged that Russia again appears to have
engaged in such behavior. From Ukraine to Syria and now the U.K., Russia
continues to be an irresponsible force of instability in the world, acting
for – acting with open disregard for the sovereignty of other states and
the life of their citizens. We agree that those responsible, both those
who committed the crime and those who ordered it must face appropriately
Those who committed the crime and those who ordered it – that was the last
written statement put out by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Then the
following morning, he was fired.
Now, as with H.R. McMaster and his Russia criticism in that afternoon
speech right before the White House put out word last night that he is
going to be fired, like the situation with McMaster this absolutely could
be coincidence, there could be no connection between these events at all.
It could just so happen that the president wants to fire these guys or is
mulling over firing these guys at the same time that this Russia crisis is
happening with what appears to have been a Russian state attack using a
nerve agent on a private citizen on British soil. It could just be that
this is all just coincidentally happening at the same time, so these are
the kinds of public remarks these national security officials would
typically be making at this time regardless of whether the president was in
the process of firing them or not.
But now we have seen this same dynamic play out twice in a week. We saw
this play out in very quick succession with the McMaster news last night.
Before that, we saw it playing out in very quick succession with the
Tillerson firing on Monday night into Tuesday morning.
And because it`s now happened twice, it may be worth looking at what`s
going on here, right? It`s not just it`s not just palace intrigue, right?
This is not just the president enjoying chaos around him.
These are serious men in serious jobs. This is the American secretary of
state. This is the top national security official in the U.S. government,
both of them having their jobs either taken from them or threatened openly,
both of them immediately after they made strong critical comments about
Russia and Russia`s leadership.
And the reason I think even further, this is worth looking more closely is
because there is a piece of this that the White House is lying about. And
I don`t say that lightly. I think it`s a big deal if the White House lies
Whether or not you think it`s a big deal, whether or not you care about the
White House lying just as a general experience, my experience in covering
the news is that one high-ranking people go out of their way to concoct a
lie about a checkable thing, whether or not you care about them lying you
should probably look more closely at the thing they`re lying about because
that`s probably going to end up being the juicy part of the story, not just
the fact that they lied, but why they had to lie about that thing.
And in this case, what the White House has lied about is how Rex Tillerson
was fired. This was how we found out that Rick Tillerson was fired. It
was this tweet from the president on Tuesday morning.
Mike Pompeo, director of the CIA, will become our new secretary of state.
He will do a fantastic job, exclamation point. Thank you to Rex Tillerson
for his service, exclamation point.
That was how we learned the secretary of state was being fired. Then
shortly thereafter, the president explained to reporters on Tuesday morning
how this all came about.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As far as Rex Tillerson is
concerned, I very much appreciate his commitment and his service, and I
wish him well. He`s a good man.
REPORTER: Mr. President, what did you tell Rex Tillerson?
TRUMP: Rex and I have been talking about this for a long time. We`ve got
along actually quite well, but we disagreed on things.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: After the president announced on Twitter that the secretary of
state was being fired, you saw him explained to reporters there, Rex and I
have been talking about this for a long time. Rex and I have been talking
about this for a long time.
That story directly from the president then morphed into a different sort
of but related account from anonymous White House officials who started
telling reporters and multiple news outlets that Rex Tillerson is firing
didn`t come up – didn`t come up suddenly on Tuesday.
It was no surprise. There was nothing that suddenly occasioned it Tuesday
morning. In fact, White House officials told reporters Rex Tillerson had
been notified on Friday that he was fired, or maybe he`d been notified on
Saturday that that he`d been fired. In any case, though, White House chief
of staff had definitely called him days in advance and told him that he was
It turns out that`s not true. As best as we can tell, Rex Tillerson hadn`t
been told on Friday that he was fired. He hadn`t been told on Saturday
that he was fired. He had certainly not been talking about it with the
president for a long time.
The undersecretary of state for public diplomacy, number four position in
the State Department, a man named Steven Goldstein, soon put out a
statement that explained Tillerson`s state of mind when he found out about
the timing of all this.
Quote: The secretary had every intention of staying because of the critical
progress made in national security. He will miss his colleagues at the
Department of State. The secretary did not speak to the president and is
unaware of the reason for his firing, but he`s grateful for the opportunity
to serve and still believe strongly that public service is a noble calling.
So, when the president said he and Rex had been talking about this for a
long time, according to Rex, they had not been talking about this for a
long time. The secretary did not speak to the president.
When White House officials then put out word that Tillerson had been
notified days earlier, he had been fired by Chief of Staff John Kelly`s
days before, I should tell you John Kelly incidentally is still telling
reporters that story tonight. John Kelly reportedly bragging to reporters
tonight at the White House that Rex Tillerson was on the toilet coping with
the effects of a stomach bug when John Kelly placed the call to him,
letting him know he was going to be fired. And that`s nice and its own
But that story, toilet or not, appears not to be true because, you know,
Rex Tillerson would know whether or not somebody had called him up and told
him he was being fired. And what he says is that he hadn`t spoken to the
president and he didn`t know why he was being fired and in case there was
any ambiguity about it, senior State Department officials later clarified
directly to NBC News that, in fact, Tillerson found out he was fired from
Trump`s tweet on Tuesday morning.
And that timing ends up being really important because that means the
timeline here is not that Rex Tillerson was a dead man walking and he`d
already been told he was fired when he made those strong anti-Russia
comments and put out that strong anti-Russia statement on Monday night.
What this means about the timeline is that Tillerson made those strong
anti-Russia comments on Monday night, then he got fired on Tuesday morning
And for some reason, the White House has tried to create an alternate
timeline of his firing to make it look like he wasn`t fired right after his
strong Russia criticism, and that`s why for all the palace intrigue, all
the who`s up who`s down, you know, White House personnel merry-go-around
reporting that there`s been in Washington all week long and that the
president appears to so enjoy stoking, what really stands out here that the
White House has not really had to answer for at all is that in addition to
firing Rex Tillerson on Tuesday morning, later in the day on Tuesday, they
went on to fire another senior official from the State Department.
They fired the guy who put out the statement. They fired the
undersecretary of state for public diplomacy. This is the guy who put out
what we believe is the true statement explaining the real timeline of when
Tillerson was fired, the timeline that says he was fired right after his
Russia remarks, the timeline that puts a freaking spotlight on this
unbelievable question of whether his Russia criticism could conceivably
have been the precipitating event for why he got fired.
The statement Steven Goldstein put out that Tillerson hadn`t actually
spoken Trump, despite the president saying they had the statement not
Goldstein saying that Tillerson hadn`t been fired days before, that he only
found out he was being fired on Tuesday morning when the president tweeted
about it, that it was news to him he had intended to stay – that statement
from all our reporting appears to be 100 percent true, and they fired him
White House officials later explained to NBC News that the reason Steven
Goldstein was fired was because of that statement, contradicting what the
White House was saying about the firing of Rex Tillerson. He was fired
because he contradicted what we believed was an untrue statement that the
White House is trying to put out about this firing, offering aid alternate
timeline to what really happened. And this wasn`t just some low-level
staffer who they fired. They didn`t just decide to shoot some lowly
This guy is the number four official at the State Department. There`s only
six permanent under secretaries of state in the United States of America.
He was one of them. They fired him for putting out a true statement about
when they fired Rex Tillerson and how – a true statement that put a
spotlight on something uncomfortable that the president isn`t having to
answer questions for because of this alternate timeline that the White
House has invented which appears to be false.
And, you know, in a different White House, in a more normal administration,
the fact alone that the White House had fired the number four official at
the State Department, that itself would be huge news. The White House
firing the number four official at the State Department for telling the
truth about something the White House is lying about, that would typically
be a really big scandal, both that they`d fire somebody for telling the
truth but also because the firing appears to be an effort to cover up their
lie. In a normal administration, this would be a very big deal. And even
this administration, frankly, it is a big deal.
The Steven Goldstein firing should probably get more attention than it is
getting. I mean, if we`re going to obsess about people coming and going
from the administration, here`s a scandal for you.
Joining us now is Andrea Mitchell, NBC News chief foreign affairs
correspondent and the host of “ANDREA MITCHELL REPORTS”, weekdays at noon
here on MSNBC.
Andrea, it is great to have you here tonight. Thank you so much for being
with us on a Friday.
ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS CHIEF FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Thank you.
Good to be here.
MADDOW: So, can you talk to me about the Steven Goldstein firing? As far
as I understand, the Steven Goldstein was not a hugely well-known quantity
inside the State Department. He had not been there for a very, very long
MADDOW: What do you know about the circumstances of his firing and the
reaction to it.
Well, it`s as you reported, he was fired and in fact was fired for telling
the truth for describing at least how Tillerson thought or perceived his
firing. The fact that he did not know about it until he was called and
told that there was the tweet. He had arrived at Andrews Air Force Base at
4:00 a.m. The tweet was at 8:44 a.m.
He had the night before on the trip, according to all the people whom I
spoke to who were on that plane, including NBC`s Abigail Williams, Gardiner
Harris from “The New York Times”, Josh Lederman from the ABC, from –
excuse me, the – Josh Lederman from the “Associated Press”, from “The
All of these people and I just circled back to them yesterday, all reported
that in his briefings to them, when they were on the trip, when they were
refueling in Cape Verde, and then they finally came home overnight, he was
talking about North Korea, what they were about to do. He was talking
about Russia as you read, and it was all forward-leaning.
He did say that he had had a problem with Ethiopian food and that`s why he
cancelled his schedule on Saturday and that he had been awakened by a call.
He didn`t say it was from John Kelly, but by a call at 2:30 in the morning
– but not that he`d been fired.
And I think there is a disconnect here – either John Kelly did not say
explicitly to him what he says he said, or Rex Tillerson, having been
threatened before with firing, thought he could tough it out.
And I`m sure that he said to Kelly, I want to talk to the president, he`s
going to have to, you know, fire me to my face. That`s what he`s been
saying, I`m not going to quit. I want to stay on this job. And that`s
what he had said to us publicly for months and months.
So, obviously, it was rocky. What we have been told is that the president
never forgave the October 4th NBC report that back in July, he had after a
Pentagon briefing called the president a moron in front of enough witnesses
that Tillerson to his credit never denied that, just sort of said, I`m not
going to talk about things like that. He never lied about the fact that he
had in fact said that.
Obviously, there were disagreements about Iran. That was profound. He was
very angry, we`re told, infuriated that Tillerson spoke, as you just
described, about Russia, after Sarah Sanders had refused to agree with the
British at the last public statement from the White House on Friday. So,
this was his briefing on Monday when he very explicitly said I just got off
the phone with Boris Johnson and it was the Russians and very few people
have this and we think it likely was the Russian government, and this is
egregious and all the rest.
So, the Russian issue did bother them, and obviously, Iran he was trying to
renegotiate with Europeans and try to fix the Iran deal by toughing it up
and trying to get the president from blowing it up with a next deadline
takes place in May. There were a lot of policy disagreements. But the
profound part I think was that they just were a mismatch, the chemistry was
And as to Steve Goldstein, Steve Goldstein had been hired by Rex Tillerson
confirmed and came on board in December and was certainly perceived as
Tillerson`s man and while the chief of staff, a very controversial person,
Margaret Peterlin and her deputy, were permitted to resign gracefully later
in the day and are still at the State Department helping Tillerson close up
shop by March 31st, Goldstein was summarily dismissed.
MADDOW: And just to underscore what you just said there about Goldstein
specifically, from your reporting and from everything we understand about
these circumstances, the White House says – admits to NBC News that
Goldstein was fired for this statement. The statement does contradict what
the White House said about Tillerson`s firing but Goldstein statement which
he was fired for is actually the version that was true, in term – at least
as Rex Tillerson understood it.
MITCHELL: Exactly, and when you said that there are six interested
undersecretaries he actually was the only confirmed undersecretary other
than one who`s already resigned, veteran Tom Shannon who`s going to be
leaving. So, now, there are none.
MADDOW: Wow. Andrea Mitchell, NBC News chief foreign affairs
correspondent, the host of “ANDREA MITCHELL REPORTS”, weekdays at noon –
Andrea, I realize this is this – I think to some people, this will feel
like intricate reporting about these departures at the State Department,
with so many other buffeting winds right now in Washington, but I think the
circumstances of these departures is strange and bears this scrutiny.
Thank you for helping us through it.
MITCHELL: Well, let me just say it certainly reflects the meanness, the
desire to humiliate – and that comes from the top.
MADDOW: Andrea Mitchell, thank you, my friend. Great to have you here.
MITCHELL: Thank you.
MADDOW: Again, just underscoring what Andrea just said there. You know,
obviously, in terms of why Rex Tillerson left and we`re still waiting to
find out if H.R. McMaster will be pushed out as well. But the president
there obviously describing the day that Tillerson left, having long-
standing differences of opinion with Tillerson on a number of matters, and
we know that to be true, differences of opinion on Iran, differences of
style and approach to various matters.
They`d never previously been known to have differences of opinion on
Russia. And whatever the long-standing differences were between the
president and Rex Tillerson on any number of matters, what Andrea just
describes there as the president`s fury, his anger about Tillerson comments
on Russia, those – the Russia comments were the ones that happen right
before he got fired, and I think this deserves more scrutiny than it`s
We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: We have some breaking news about the lawsuit between the adult
film actress who is suing the president – this is a thing you get to say
in 2018, but I still admit it feels weird to be talking about the president
and the adult film actress. But Stormy Daniels sued the president of the
United States earlier this month to get out of a non-disclosure agreement
that she entered into with Trump, right before he won the 2016 election.
She agreed that she would not talk about their past sexual relationship in
exchange for him giving her $130,000.
She now says that because the president himself never signed his half of
the NDA, she shouldn`t have to keep up her into the bargain either. She
should be allowed to talk about their alleged relationship. She filed that
case in the L.A. County court system.
Well, today, the lawyers on the president`s side of this case tried to move
the case into federal court in California, which itself is interesting in
terms of trying to change the jurisdiction in the venue here. But when we
took a look at the court paperwork, the effort to move this into federal
court, we noticed something interesting on the paperwork. The electronic
signature on this fairly routine court document list the attorney of record
for a defendant Donald J. Trump as Charles Harder.
Remember who Charles Harder is?
Charles Harder was the lawyer who won a $140 million judgment against the
news Website Gawker after Gawker posted a sex tape of Mr. Harder`s client,
the pro-wrestler Hulk Hogan. Gawker ultimately settled for less, but they
still went out of business, as that suit was designed to force them to.
Charles Harder is also the attorney who represented First Lady Melania
Trump when she filed a defamation lawsuit against a blogger in Maryland, a
guy who had said on his blog that it was widely known that Melania Trump
was not working as a model when she first came to the United States but
instead as a high-end escort. The problem for the blogger was that that is
not widely known because there`s no evidence that it`s true. Mrs. Trump
sued him, sued “The Daily Mail” for making a similar claim. Both the
blogger and the British tabloid ended up apologizing and issuing
But even then, Melania Trump and her attorney Charles Harder didn`t let it
go, the whole thing didn`t get wrapped up until Melania Trump had been
first lady of the United States for several months. She settled with “The
Daily Mail” reportedly for nearly $3 million in April 2017.
So, seeing the name Charles Harder as the president`s attorney of record,
new attorney of record in the Stormy Daniels case, could be a sign that the
Stormy Daniels case is not going to go away quietly. This effort to move
it into federal court and also to add a lawyer who`s known for suing people
into the grave means that this case has just changed materially. It also
means that the president probably thinks this case is a really big deal and
worth spending some big legal fees on.
Watch this space. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Maxine Waters was first elected to Congress from greater Los
Angeles in 1990. Maxine Waters is a Democrat. She`s got a high national
profile. She has been in Congress for 27 years. She has a Republican
opponent for her seat this year. He also ran against her in the last
election cycle. He`s a man named Omar Navarro.
Omar Navarro is an ardent Trump supporter. He`s a former car salesman. He
lost to Maxine Waters in 2016 by more than 50 points. Still, though, he`s
given it another try, this time with backing from high-profile Trump
supporters from all over the country. Among them, Trump advisor Roger
Stone, pardoned former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, and the Info War`s guy
who says the Sandy Hook massacre didn`t really happen.
As for Mr. Navarro himself, according to “The L.A. Times”, he resigned as a
local traffic commissioner last year after a pepper spray incident. He was
accused of pepper spraying a child while he`d actually been aiming to shoot
pepper spray at rallyers at a pro-sanctuary cities event.
He also pled guilty last fall to a misdemeanor that had to do with an
electronic tracking device he attached to his wife`s car. After pleading
guilty, he was sentenced to a day in jail and months probation and he was
ordered by the court to take an anger management course.
Now, listen to what happened when the local paper “The Daily Breeze” tried
to ask him about that.
Quote: He initially said there are a lot of Omar Navarros, implying that
perhaps someone else with the same name was convicted of the same charge,
on the same day, involving the same wife. Then he said the incident that
led to the criminal charge occurred years ago. It actually happened last
year. And finally, he acknowledged the conviction, but first he blamed the
orange county district attorney`s office and the media for fake news.
And then, finally, he admitted that it was his own doing in any case I can
tell you, as of this week, Omar Navarro is apparently no longer on
probation. “The Daily Breeze” says he was set to get off probation on
Monday, four days ago, which is great timing because he`s got a big
campaign fundraiser tonight and he is picketing up the coveted endorsement
of – Mike Flynn. Seriously, General Mike Flynn.
Ex-Trump national security adviser and himself a newly minted felon having
pled guilty to lying to the FBI and the Mueller investigation. General
Flynn was set to make remarks at this fundraiser tonight and to announce
his personal endorsement of Mr. Navarro. So, a candidate who is just off
probation on Monday is getting a coveted endorsement from the cooperating
witness in the special counsel investigation while he is now awaiting
sentencing. Whether that endorsement helps a Republican in California`s
43rd district or anywhere for that matter who knows, but it is a reminder
that Mike Flynn is out on his own recognizance, while he`s awaiting
And he`s apparently a draw on one very specific fundraising circuit.
That`s more than you can say for Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who
is now confined to his Virginia home and wearing two ankle bracelets, as he
faces dozens of felony charges, including nine counts of bank fraud and
bank fraud conspiracy that he allegedly committed during the campaign that
he was running.
Today, “BuzzFeed” cites documentation from inside the Treasury Department
in reporting new details about yet more allegedly suspicious reported bank
activity related to Paul Manafort, relates to Paul Manafort bank accounts
in California. According to “BuzzFeed`s” new reporting they say this
California bank closed Manafort`s accounts after transactions were flagged
due to suspicions about the source of the funds, suspicious wire transfers
and electronic fund transfers, suspicious use of non-cash monetary
instruments and a transaction with no apparent economic business or lawful
According to this report today, Manafort got his bank account shut down in
that California bank after these transactions took place and the
transactions took place between August 26th and September 6th of 2016. So
put that on the timeline, Paul Manafort left the Trump campaign August
19th. These reported and suspicious transactions that were seriously
suspicious enough to shut down his bank accounts, they started within a
week of Manafort exiting the campaign.
That timing tracks was some of our earlier questions about strange
financial circumstances surrounding Manafort`s departure from the Trump
campaign. The day he resigned as Trump`s campaign chairman, Manafort
created a shell company called Summer Breeze. He then used Summer Breeze
to acquire roughly million dollars in loans from multiple banks around the
country, from August through the election and an up until around the time
of the inauguration. Loans that Robert Mueller now charges were
We`ve always had this question about why Trump would pick Paul Manafort to
chair his campaign and why Paul Manafort would chair it for free, but there
is also this question of what Paul Manafort was doing right after he left
the Trump campaign that triggered this strange bank activity, all over the
country, bank activity that led to his bank accounts we now know being shut
down in California and that have led to multiple felony charges from the
special counsels office here on the East Coast. Open questions, he`s not
pled guilty. This week, he did hire a new white-collar lawyer, Richard
Westling, became the third high-powered attorney to join Paul Manafort`s
defense team this week.
We know from a transcript this week that the judge in Virginia is not
inclined to let Mr. Manafort wander around because he`s potentially facing
life in prison. So, he sits at home waiting for the first of his two
trials to start in July. Meanwhile, across the country, the general who
pled guilty in this investigation is apparently giving remarks at the
fundraiser for the longest of long shots candidates.
If you thought this investigation and the characters in it couldn`t get any
weirder, just hold your breath for a few seconds. Surprises at every turn.
Much more ahead tonight. Stay with us.
MADDOW: I know you`ve heard about the Russian guy who appears to have been
the victim of a Russian nerve agent assassination attempt in the U.K. last
week this is not a story about that guy. This is a different guy, also
Russian, also in the U.K., except this second guy he`s not fighting for his
life at U.K. hospital like Sergei Skripal and his daughter are.
This second Russian guy, he`s definitely already dead. This week, police
in the southwest London neighborhood of New Malden started putting up blue
tents outside the home of Nicolai Glushkov. After Glushkov was found dead
in his home on Monday night.
Now, London police at first called this desk – called the death just
unexplained, but now they say they`ve launched a murder investigation and
they`re not having this murder investigation handled by just local police
in southwest London, they`re having this murder investigation handled by
British counterterrorism police.
Nikolai Glushkov`s death follows the Russian rare nerve agent poisoning of
Sergei Skripal and his daughter by only eight days. These two incidents
happened eight days and only about miles apart in Britain. Unlike Sergei
Skripal case though, Nikolai Glushkov was reportedly not poisoned. Police
say he died as a result of compression of the neck, which sounds to me like
a way to use for words instead of one to say strangulation. But for
whatever reason the phrase they`re using is compression of the neck.
British authorities say, so far, there`s no known link between Nikolai
Glushkov`s death and the attempted murders in Salisbury eight days earlier.
But you could see why they might be looking into it, right? And that makes
this new murder inquiry under the auspices of the counterterrorism police
particularly fraught. The U.K. is already overtly blaming Russian
President Vladimir Putin for Sergei Skripal`s attempted assassination and
their expelling Russian diplomats and all the rest.
If there ends up being a second connected attack in Britain that gets
linked to Russia, it`s hard to know how the U.K. might further escalate its
response. But that story is next. Stay with us.
The way Vladimir Putin became president of Russia is that he was basically
elevated into position to be ready to take over the top job by Boris
Yeltsin. Yeltsin was president in the 1990s. An August 1999, he promoted
this relatively unknown guy, Vladimir Putin, to be prime minister and he
announced his belief that Putin should succeed him as Russia`s president.
In the 1990s when Yeltsin was president, the richest man in Russia, the
most powerful of all the oligarchs in Russia in the Yeltsin era was this
guy, Boris Berezovsky. Berezovsky basically acted as a fixer and a
financial backer for Yeltsin and his family. He helped finance Yeltsin`s
political campaigns. He was as influential as you can possibly imagine.
It`s believed that Berezovsky was one of the architects of that maneuver to
get Putin elevated into the prime minister job and put in the right place
at the right time to be ready to take over for Yeltsin as president. But
in the snake pit of Russian corruption and politics and Russian politics
and corruption, Boris Berezovsky ended up falling out with Putin. He ended
up fleeing Russia for the relative safety of Western Europe. He took his
billions and he decamped to London.
In London, he became a fierce critic of Putin. He hosted and supported
other Russian exiles and people who`d been chased out of Russia by Putin.
Berezovsky openly funded opposition movements against the Kremlin. He
fought Putin and his loyalists for control of his own Russian assets and
Ultimately, those were huge legal fights that Berezovsky mostly lost. At
one point, Berezovsky even started talking about the necessity of the
violent overthrow of the Putin government, saying that he would fund that.
In 2013, Boris Berezovsky was found inside his home in England dead, in his
bathroom with the door lock and a rope around his neck. Police said at the
time they believed he took his own life but there was no official cause of
In 2006, former FSB officer Alexander Litvinenko who had been granted
asylum in the U.K., he was poisoned as someone who slipped radioactive
polonium into his tea. Alexander Litvinenko was an associate and colleague
of Boris Berezovsky. A British government inquiry later found that the
likely culprit in the Litvinenko assassination was the Russian government.
The year after Litvinenko died in 2007, another business associate of
Berezovsky, a guy named Yuri Golubev was found dead in London. The year
after Golubev died in 2008, another business partner of Berezovsky died in
London, possibly of a heart attack, possibly poison. He was a Georgian
oligarch his name was Badri Patarkatsishvili.
And then there were the two British lawyers Stephen Moss who died suddenly
of a heart attack at age 46, and Stephen Curtis who died in a helicopter
crash, both associates of Boris Berezovsky. Both suspected of helping
Russian oligarchs funnel money out of Russia.
Last year, “BuzzFeed” did an investigation into suspected Russian hits on
people in the United Kingdom, they found a total of nine men in Boris
Berezovsky circle, including Berezovsky himself, whose deaths were declared
by British police to be non-suspicious but now, quote, “BuzzFeed News” is
reporting that MI6, Britain`s secret intelligence service has asked its us
counterparts for information about each one of these deaths, quote, in the
context of assassinations. They`re all friends or business associates of
Boris Berezovsky, this former Russian oligarch who turned on Putin and
became his enemy.
And now, another friend of Berezovsky had turned up dead in London.
Nikolai Glushkov is found dead in London at his home on Monday night. It`s
a death that is now being treated as a murder in an investigation led by
British counterterrorism police. Glushkov had been a director at the
Russian airline Aeroflot and at one of Berezovsky`s companies.
Around the time that Berezovsky fled Russia for the U.K., Russia charged
Glushkov back home in Russia with money laundering and fraud related to
those enterprises. They sentenced him to five years in prison. He served
that time in prison but when he got out he too fled to the U.K. The U.K.
granted him asylum.
Once he was there, he helped out his old friend Boris Berezovsky. In 2011,
Berezovsky brought a lawsuit against another Russian oligarch, an ally of
Putin, claiming that he had stiffed him for billions of dollars. It was a
clash of the titans legal battle, the former Russian oligarch versus the
current Russian oligarch who was still favored by Putin.
Glushkov got up and testified for Boris Berezovsky against this Russian
oligarch close to Putin. The judge threw out Berezovsky`s claim. He lost
that case, a lot – he lost a lot of his wealth.
After Berezovsky`s body was discovered in the bathroom at his house, it was
Nikolai Glushkov who came forward to the press and said he didn`t think it
was an accident. He said, I don`t believe it was suicide. He said too
many deaths of Russian exiles have been happening.
You know, Glushkov himself has turned up dead.
Joining us now is Ellen Barry, an international correspondent for “The New
York Times”. She`s been covering Russia for a long, long time.
Ms. Barry, thank you very much for being here with us on a Friday night. I
know it`s very late where you are.
ELLEN BARRY, INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Thank you.
MADDOW: As of the Monday night, the death of Russian political exile
Nikolai Glushkov was being called suspicious. Now, authorities are calling
this a murder investigation. Do we know why they decided to do that today?
BARRY: Well, Britain has a real problem with enemies of the Russian state
turning up dead on its soil and this has accumulated gradually, many of
these deaths were quite ambiguous looking. They look perhaps like heart
attacks or in some cases like suicides. But the heat is really up now
because of this Skripal case for the authorities to kind of clump these
cases together and address them as a sort of category of crime.
So, Glushkov`s death happens just at a point where they have to be much
more decisive and articulate about what`s happening.
MADDOW: Materially, this being handled as a matter basically of national
concern the counterterrorism police being involved here it`s being declared
a murder in Korea and despite the few days where they hadn`t said that
about Glushkov. These reports that previous deaths of Russian expats in
the U.K. are going to sort of be re-examined.
Do we expect that all of this new attention will bring actually new
investigative power to the – looking at those previous deaths, do we
expect there to be new information or potentially new attribution for those
deaths, even though many of them are years old?
BARRY: Well, I think all the new cases that come up are going to be
addressed differently. There`s been long been a case made within Scotland
Yard that they should be categorized and dealt with by a senior officer who
is just focused on suspicious Russian deaths. And I think now you know
that cases has become overwhelming.
I mean, there`s really only two cases that have been sort of very clearly
pinned to Russia. The first was Litvinenko`s death, and the second is now
Skripal`s. But I think the fact that there are now, you know, more than a
dozen cases on the list has made the British authorities look ineffectual
in the way that they`re handing them.
So, Amber Rudd said this week that they would reopen all of the cases I
believe that were in the “BuzzFeed” report that you mentioned. Whether
they`re going to be able to find new evidence in those old cases, I think
that`s unlikely. There are very few cases as relatively clear as the
MADDOW: Ellen Barry, international correspondent for the “New York Times”
– I really appreciate your time tonight, especially with the time
difference and how late it is in London. Thank you for joining us.
All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: So we got this sort of unbelievable news tonight about Trump
national security advisor Mike Flynn turning up at a fund-raiser in
California for a Republican congressional hopeful who himself just got off
probation this week.
General Flynn, of course, pled guilty in December to lying to the FBI.
He`s a cooperating witness in the special counsel investigation. He`s
personally awaiting sentencing for his felony guilty plea. Despite, that
he`s apparently free to travel and we know that because he just turned up
tonight at this southern California Republican fund-raiser.
And we just got in this footage. Look at this hero`s welcome he gets.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As national security advisor to United States President
Donald Trump, General Flynn`s military career, include a key role in
shaping U.S. –
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Michael Flynn tonight, awaiting sentencing on his felony guilty
plea, but being – essentially basically ready to crowd-source there at
that Republican congressional fund-raiser in California. Apparently, you
can do that while you`re waiting sentencing.
That does it for us tonight. We`ll see you again on Monday.
Now, it`s time for THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL.”
Good evening, Lawrence.
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