Cambridge Analytica harvested data. TRANSCRIPT: 03/19/2018. The Rachel Maddow Show
Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
Date: March 19, 2018
Guest: Amy Klobuchar, Neal Katyal
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: And thanks to you at home for joining us this
hour. Happy Monday.
In Watergate, it`s still not totally clear looking back why the Nixon White
House didn`t just destroy all the Oval Office tapes. They knew what was on
them, right? Why didn`t they just barbecue them? Frankly, looking back,
it`s still not clear why they made those tapes in the first place, but they
And by the time the special prosecutor was closing in in Watergate, Nixon
and the White House knew that if those tapes ever became public, that would
be the end. So, they fought to keep the tapes secret, the existence of the
tape secret. And then once the public knew they existed, they fought for
the right to keep them private and never release them.
Ultimately, the Nixon White House came up with a ridiculous offer that
would make it look like they were releasing the tapes without them ever
actually having to do so. We`ve talked about this on the show before. It
was called the Stennis compromise.
To avoid releasing the tapes, Nixon offered the special prosecutor in
Watergate a deal. The White House would not hand over the tapes but they
would listen to the tapes themselves, type up written summaries of what
they said was on the tapes and then they would cross your heart, pinky
swear that those summaries were absolutely accurate and there was nothing
else damning on the tapes at all.
And just in case you were some sort of cold-hearted cynical jerk and you
wouldn`t take President Nixon`s word for it, that those recent summaries
were an accurate description of what was on the tapes – well, for you
cynics, there would also be a verification process, a pro-Nixon Dixiecrat
senator named Senator John Stennis would personally, individually listen to
the tapes. He`d compare the tapes with the written summaries that have
been drawn up by the Nixon White House and Senator Stennis would personally
sign off attributing, right? He would listen to them. You could use his
own integrity to tell whether those written summaries were accurate. He
would attest to their accuracy.
And that was an absolutely ridiculous offer from the Nixon White House,
right? Not only was it a Rube Goldberg contraption, right, of the tapes
being made and the tapes being played and then transcribed and then
summarized and listened to again and then verified and signed off on by
this other dude and – but in addition to all of that, Senator John
Stennis, the key validator for this whole process, he was famously deaf.
So, he was not going to be able to validate the auditory accuracy of any of
So, the Stennis compromise was offered. The special prosecutor said, yes,
no. And Nixon responded by firing the special prosecutor. That was the
Saturday Night Massacre.
He couldn`t fire the special prosecutor directly, so he ordered his
attorney general to fire the prosecutor. The attorney general said no.
So, he fired his attorney general. Then he gave same order to the deputy
attorney general who said no. He fired the deputy attorney general said.
Ultimately, it was the solicitor general, Robert Bork, who said, yes, OK, I
will fire the special prosecutor.
Now, as ridiculous as it is in hindsight, Nixon apparently really believed
his own sales pitch. He really believed that the Stennis compromise was
such a reasonable, generous offer from him that the country would be
absolutely on his side in this standoff. Look what I`ve offered. How can
they say no to that?
That is not how the country received it. Instead, the Saturday Night
Massacre got the whole country up in arms. The whole thing really blew up,
both sides of the aisle. Ultimately, a new special prosecutor was
appointed. And that was all she wrote for the Nixon administration.
New special prosecutor maintained the insistence on getting the actual
tapes. The courts agreed. Nixon had to hand them over and that was the
In “The Washington Post” tonight, reporter Carol Leonnig has the scoop that
President Trump`s lawyers in the Russia investigation have just sent over
to special counsel Robert Mueller`s office some written summaries of their
Quote, President Trump`s attorneys have provided the special counsel`s
office with written descriptions that chronicle key moments under
investigation by the special counsel. Quote, the written materials
provided to Mueller`s office includes summaries of internal White House
memos and contemporaneous correspondence about events Mueller is
investigating, including the ouster of national security adviser Mike Flynn
and FBI director James Comey. Quote, the records do not include Trump`s
personal version of events, but they provide a narrative of the White House
view. Trump`s lawyers hope this evidence eliminates the need to ask the
president about some of these episodes.
Raise your hand if you think this is going to make this whole problem for
the White House go away. Raise your hand if you think Robert Mueller and
his prosecutors will not just be delighted, they`ll be absolutely satisfied
to receive written narrative vignettes from the White House Russia lawyers
providing their perspective on these matters that are under investigation.
I mean, give him credit. How many other options do they have?
The reason the president`s lawyers are trying to do this is obvious to the
point of being emphatic. As Carol Leonnig puts it in her scoop tonight at
the post, quote, Trump`s legal team shared the documents in an effort to
limit any session between the president and the special counsel. The
decision to share materials with Mueller`s team is part of an effort by
Trump`s lawyers to minimize his exposure to the special counsel.
This latest gambit to write some stuff up for the special counsel`s
prosecutors is, quote, in hopes of curtailing the scoop of a presidential
interview. I bet.
The president`s lawyers are clearly paddling as fast as they can here, but
they`re only going to be able to steer this thing for so long. You will
recall that the president`s lawyers previously assured him that the Mueller
investigation would be wrapped up by Thanksgiving, as in Thanksgiving last
year. When we rolled straight through Thanksgiving and that wasn`t true,
they patiently it would definitely be done by Christmas. Then they said it
would be done by the now year.
When that didn`t happen either, January 8th is when the president`s lawyers
first floated the idea that instead of the president answering questions
from special prosecutor, instead, the president would just sign an
affidavit affirming that he is innocent of all charges.
See, the legal force of that would be that he would sign it. He would put
his name on it. So therefore, that`s all you need, right? That`s an
assurance of innocence.
The president`s lawyer suggested the sworn affidavit from the president
asserting his innocence should be enough to satisfy the special counsel.
If that wouldn`t be satisfying enough that, they also suggested, well, how
about the special counsel could submit questions in writing, and then the
president`s lawyers could write-up some answers and send those back? That
unsurprisingly also did not make the special counsel go away.
Just a week and a half ago, they came up with another gambit they offered
to have the president do a very limited interview with Mueller`s team where
he wouldn`t have to answer any detailed questions at all. He could just
speak to any general questions they might have. OK. And in exchange for
that generous offer from the president`s lawyers, the special counsel would
agree for his part that he would give up the whole thing in 60 days. He`d
end the whole investigation within 60 days.
So, that gambit week and a half ago, that apparently did not go anywhere
either. So, now, tonight the president`s lawyers have apparently tried
this written vignette gambit. We`ll see how that goes. It does seem like
they are sort of running out of options and ridiculous compromises to
One White House adviser concedes to Carol Leonnig tonight at “The
Washington Post” that the Trump lawyers believe they are moving into
crunchtime on the Mueller investigation.
Last week, “The New York Times” reported that the Trump organization,
President Trump`s business has received a subpoena from the Mueller
investigation. The president himself has already betrayed to reporters
that he would – well, that this is a sensitive subject for him. He had
previously said to “The Times” that any investigation into his business and
his business finances is something he would see as a violation by the
We also now know that Mueller`s investigators have sent to the president`s
Russia lawyers the first round of topics and questions they intend to
discuss with the president in his interview. And you know, maybe the
president`s lawyers are right and Mueller`s prosecutors will be fully
satisfied with just getting written descriptions of events from the
perspective of White House lawyers in response to those queries. But that
would be a surprise if they were OK with that.
Last week, “The New York Times” was also first to report that a new lawyer
would be joining the president`s roster in the Russia scandal at this late
date. “The Times” reported that veteran Washington lawyer Emmet T. Flood
was in discussions to join the president`s team. The president himself
vehemently denied that report saying not just that he wasn`t hiring Emmet
T. Flood, but that he wasn`t hiring anybody.
The president said, quote: The failing “New York Times” purposely wrote a
false story stating that I`m unhappy with my legal team on the Russia case
and I`m going to add another lawyer to help out. Wrong! I am very happy
with my lawyer, John Dowd, Ty Cobb and Jay Sekulow. They are doing a great
The failing “New York Times”, wrong to report that I want a new lawyer from
my Russia team.
Today, the White House confirmed that in fact, the president is adding a
new lawyer to his Russia team. We`re actually going to have a little more
on him coming up later on in the show tonight.
So, this does sort of feel like crunch time. At least, it feels like a lot
of cages are being rattled all at once. I mean, the president last week
fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. And coincidentally or not, that
firing came Tuesday morning, just hours after Tillerson made his first ever
sharply critical comments about Russia. The White House has pushed a false
timeline of Tillerson`s firing to make it appear that he was fired sometime
before his Russia comments, going so far as to also fire the number four
official at the State Department who put out an accurate statement about
when in fact Tillerson was fired, which was hours after his Russia remarks.
CNN also reports that embassies around the world and other State Department
officials were ordered explicitly to not retweet or acknowledge that true
statement about when exactly Tillerson was fired. So something rattled
them there. Then late on Friday night, just after I got off the air like
30 seconds after I got off the air, the deputy director of the FBI was
fired, Andrew McCabe.
Now, if there was any doubt whether that firing was related to the Russia
scandal, the president`s lawyer, John Dowd cleared that up the following
morning, Saturday morning when he released a statement to “The Daily
Beast”, saying that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein should follow
the example set by the McCabe firing. And he should, quote, bring an end
to the alleged Russia collusion investigation.
So, McCabe`s own statement about his firing on Friday night certainly
contended that this is related to Russia. He contends in the lengthy
statement that he issued Friday night that his ouster is an effort to
discredit him as a witness to the firing of FBI Director James Comey, which
all sides agree is one of the key areas of focus in the investigation by
So, I mean, it does sort of feel like we`re in crunchtime. It feels like
the White House is rattled and it feels like they are taking increasingly
erratic action. And now in the midst of that, the president`s lawyers and
Mueller`s lawyers going head to head, the firings in at least one of those
cases, a false cover story about the firing being advanced by the White
House, this hard turn by the president and his lead Russia lawyer this
weekend to start attacking Robert Mueller and the special counsel`s office
In the cacophony of this crunchtime, now today there is a new thing that is
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: It has to be the deep digging and what we want to know is what
is the expertise of the deep digging that you can do to make sure that the
people know the true identity and secrets of the people?
ALEXANDER NIX, CAMBRIDGE ANALYTICA CEO: Oh, we do a lot more than that. I
mean deep digging is interesting but you know equally effective can be just
to go and speak to the incumbents and to offer them a deal that`s too good
to be true, and make sure that that`s video recorded, you know, these sorts
of tactics are very effective instantly having video evidence of
corruption, putting it on the Internet, these sorts of things.
REPORTER: And the operative you will use for this is who?
NIX: Well, someone known to us.
REPORTER: OK, so it is somebody, you won`t use a Sri Lankan person, no,
because there`s issue.
NIX: No. No, no, we`ll have a wealthy developer come in, somebody posing
as a wealthy developer.
MARK TURNBULL: I`m a master of disguise.
NIX: Yes. They will offer a large amount of money to the candidate, to
finance his campaign in exchange for land, for instance. We`ll have the
whole thing recorded on cameras. We`ll blank out the face of our guy and
we post it on the Internet.
REPORTER: So, on Facebook or YouTube, or something like this?
NIX: Send some girls around to the candidate`s house. We have lots of
history of things.
REPORTER: For example, you`re saying when you`re using the girls to
introduce to the local fellow and you`re using the girls for this, like the
seduction, they`re not local girls? Not Sri Lankan girls?
NIX: I wouldn`t have thought so. No. We`ll bring some – I mean, it was
just an idea, I`m just saying, we could bring some Ukrainians in on holiday
with us, you know? You know what I`m saying?
REPORTER: Yes, they are very beautiful Ukrainian girls.
NIX: They are very beautiful. I find that works very well.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: They are very beautiful. I find the Ukrainian girls trick works
very, very well.
The English gentleman on the right side of your screen for most of the tape
explaining that tactic is the CEO of Cambridge Analytica.
Cambridge Analytica is famous for being the data firm for Trump campaign.
They`re basically a British firm that opened up a U.S. shell company with
money from Republican mega donor Robert Mercer.
One of the easiest things to forget about the presidential election cycle
is who was affiliated with who before Trump started winning everything. In
this past presidential election cycle, Robert Mercer and his web of
companies and donations, they didn`t initially support Trump. He initially
supported Ted Cruz in the primary.
That`s why there are funny clips you can still get on YouTube of Kellyanne
Conway criticizing Trump in the 2016 race. That`s because Kellyanne Conway
was associated with the Mercer family and their web of entities and
donations, and they were not initially for Trump. They were for Ted Cruz.
When it became clear, though, that Ted Cruz was going to lose to Donald
Trump, the whole Mercer operation switched allegiance. This happened
around the time when it came time for Paul Manafort to fade book into the
background because of his shady seeming relationships with pro-Russian
oligarchs and political factions in the former Soviet Union. At that time,
you know, Ted Cruz took his fight to the convention but then Trump was
triumphant. Manafort gets ousted. The Mercers stepped in to the Trump
They installed Kellyanne Conway and Steve Bannon at the top of the Trump
campaign. They also brought on board Cambridge Analytica, which the
Mercers funded, which Steve Bannon helped found, and where he served as
It`s interesting, though. Just a few months before that happened, in
December 2015, “The Guardian” newspaper in Britain had reported that
Cambridge Analytica`s work for the Ted Cruz campaign appeared to have
something sort of rotten at the center of it. Cambridge Analytica was
supporting Ted Cruz, and they appeared to be using millions of Facebook
profiles that had effectively been stolen off of Facebook without the
users` consent. It was sort of a minor, slightly arcane campaign
controversy at the time.
Facebook wasn`t too bothered by the reporting or its implications. They
took quite a few months until late 2016 before they apparently even
bothered anybody about it. A new whistle blower who is the former research
director at Cambridge Analytica, he`s now come forward to “The New York
Times,” to “The Guardian” and “Observer” newspapers in Britain and
Britain`s Channel 4, saying he was contacted in August 2016 – August 2016,
so right before the 2016 election – contacted august 2016 by Facebook when
they sent him a notification telling him that he and Cambridge Analytica
needed to delete all that data. He and other Cambridge Analytica sources
now say that Cambridge Analytica didn`t delete that data and it didn`t much
matter, because Facebook never checked to see if they did.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTOPHER WYLIE, CAMBRIDGE ANALYTICA WHISTLEBLOWER: What Cambridge
Analytica does is works on creating a web of disinformation online so that
people start going down the rabbit hole of clicking on blogs, Websites, et
cetera, that make them think that certain things are happening that may not
be. Cambridge Analytica was meeting with Corey Lewandowski in 2015 before
Trump had even announced, and offering the services that I`m talking about
Cambridge Analytica was founded on misappropriated data of at least 50
million Facebook users. And I want to bring attention to that so that
people understand that their data is being used improperly by this company
that has also been, you know, in talks with Russian oil companies that was
using a psychologist who is going back and forth between London and Russia,
who is also working on projects that were funded by Russian funds in Russia
on profiling people and their personalities.
So, I think it`s really important for Americans to know what this company
has been doing with their data. And it`s really important I think to find
out was this data used to help elect Donald Trump.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That`s the former research director at Cambridge Analytica. His
name is Chris Wylie, speaking on the “Today” show this morning.
He made a reference to a Russian oil company. That`s about this company,
Lukoil. They`re second largest oil company in Russia. The have turned up
in the past in Russian influence operations overseas.
One famous example is in the Czech Republic, with a pro-Russian president
in the Czech Republic, a key adviser to that pro-Russian president found
himself in financial trouble because of illegal matter, and this random
Russian oil company Lukoil stepped into rescue him basically, to pay his
So, Lukoil is a private company but has been deployed as an instrument of
the Kremlin, and they are sanctioned by U.S. law because of it.
One of the things that the Cambridge Analytica`s former research director,
Christopher Wylie, is saying and providing documentation of now is that he
says in 2014 and 2015, Cambridge Analytica met with executives from Lukoil
specifically to give them detailed briefings on how data was used to target
Quote, Christopher Wylie, who helped found Cambridge Analytica and develop
the company`s voter profiling technology, said Lukoil showed interest how
they used date to that target their messaging to American voters.
Quote, I remember being super confused, said Mr. Wiley, who took part in
one of the Lukoil meetings. I kept asking Alexander Nix, the head of the
Cambridge Analytica, can you explain to me what they want? I don`t
understand why Lukoil wants to know about political targeting in American.
We`re sending them stuff about political targeting. They come and ask more
about political targeting.
As to the way that Cambridge Analytica got access to their core data, the
personal and private data of at least 50 million Facebook users, which is
what this whistle-blower says their whole political operation was based on
– well, according to “The Guardian” and “Observer”, they obtained that
information by partnering with a professor at Cambridge University in
England. He was able to obtain that kind of data from Facebook, supposedly
for academic purposes. But he then apparently made a business deal with
Cambridge Analytica where he handed it on to them, for them to use it in
According to “The Guardian”, quote, while that professor was helping turn
Facebook profiles into a political tool, he was also an associate professor
at St. Petersburg State University in Russia, taking Russian government
grants to fund other research into social media. Online posts showed
Professor Kogan lecturing in Russia. One talk was called new methods of
communication as an effective political instrument.
So, Cambridge Analytica does presentations in 2014 and 2015 for a Russian
oil company that has been known to do political work for the Kremlin around
the world. They give that oil company information about how to target and
influence American voters and how that works. Why does a Russian oil
company need that kind of information? We then learned that Cambridge
Analytica obtains the core data that was the basis of their business and
all their political work from a Russian researcher who was working at
Cambridge, but is also simultaneously doing work for the Russian
We know from separate reporting that during the campaign while the Trump
campaign was paying Cambridge Analytica nearly $6 million for its data
service, Cambridge Analytica was in touch with WikiLeaks. WikiLeaks was
busy distributing e-mails that had been stolen by Russian government
hackers to try to inflict maximum political harm on Hillary Clinton.
Cambridge Analytica contacted them to see if they could basically help them
out with that.
Well, now, a whistle blower is deeply involved in the data operations of
that company has come forward and handed over to Britain`s national crime
agency cybercrime unit a dossier of e-mails, invoices, contracts, and bank
transfers from his time at the company. He says he`s basically driven by
The British prime minister says she supports an investigation into the
company. The information commissioner in the U.K., which is sort of the
prosecutor on privacy issues, says she is now seeking a warrant to get
their databases and their servers. The European Union also says they are
interested in starting an investigation here. At least one state attorney
general, Democrat Maura Healey in Massachusetts, says she too is
potentially looking at this as a criminal matter here in the United States.
The president and his legal team have thus far come up with one legal
argument to prove that there was no conspiracy or collaboration between the
Russia effort to help elect Donald Trump and Donald Trump`s campaign effort
trying to do the same thing. So far, their legal argument is them saying
in all capital letters with exclamation points at the end, no collusion, no
collusion, no collusion.
And I know it feels like everything is sort of happening all at once, but
we are about to find out if that complex legal argument from them has met
its match. Crunchtime indeed.
Senator Amy Klobuchar joins us next. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARK TURNBULL, CAMBRIDGE ANALYTICA POLITICAL GLOBAL MANAGING DIRECTOR: We
put information into the bloodstream of the Internet, and then watch it
grow. It has to happen without anyone thinking that`s propaganda because
the moment you think that`s propaganda, the next question is who`s put that
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: We started today with a deluge of reports about the Trump
campaign`s data firm. Cambridge Analytica, they got 6 million bucks from
the campaign while Donald Trump was running for president. In 2014,
Cambridge Analytica used a purported academic research scheme to harvest
complicated, extensive personal data from tens of millions of Americans who
didn`t know they were handing that kind of information over.
According to a new whistleblower who was head of research at the company,
that stolen data on 50 million Americans was basically the core of their
data business. A bipartisan pair of senators on the Judiciary Committee,
Democrat Amy Klobuchar and Republican John Kennedy, now say they want tech
CEOs, including Facebook`s Mark Zuckerberg up on Capitol Hill, answering
questions directly about this stuff.
The Republican chair of the Judiciary Committee wrote back to Senators
Klobuchar and Kennedy saying that he would take their request under
advisement, which I think means maybe. It possibly even means perhaps.
Joining us now is Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota.
Senator Klobuchar, thank you for your time tonight.
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D), MINNESOTA: Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: So, what concerns you most in these revelations about Facebook and
KLOBUCHAR: Well, of course, it`s the sanctity of our elections and our
democracy. We actually have an election less than 300 days away. We have
to make sure our election infrastructure is safe. I think we`re going to
get some money for the states in this budget. I`ve been working really
hard on that, so they can get back up paper ballots, things like that.
And the second is what you`ve been talking about so well for the first few
minutes of this show and that is this propaganda and things that are coming
into people`s Facebook pages and their data where in fact we`ve learned
now, things that they thought were safe weren`t safe. Fifty million people
in America have now had their data basically breached – and I know they
don`t like that we`re breached, but the last time I checked, if someone
broke into my apartment with a crowbar, it would be same as if the
apartment manager give them a key and let them in and let them take stuff.
And in this case, they have taken their Facebook friends, they have taken
their addresses, things like that and then we find out that they gave it
basically, we believe, to a campaign and there are all kinds of potential
legal violations here. The first and foremost is Cambridge Analytica
itself and how that works with the Trump campaign and is that truly the
value, a couple million dollars compared to what I think someone said maybe
$100 million in value. That`s a potential major election violation.
Then you have Facebook itself in 2011 signed a consent degree with the FTC
because of privacy issues and said they paid $40,000 for each individual
violation. So, this is just the beginning of what I consider a focus on
what we need to focus on and that is the privacy of the data and that means
new rules of the road and they better be ready for it because they can`t
operate like the Wild West, and then the second thing is how we protect
elections and make sure the people that did this are held responsible.
MADDOW: Do you feel like the tech companies here are more the scene of the
crime or more the get away driver? I feel like they want to posit
themselves here as sort of – not necessarily innocent bystanders but
people who comported themselves with – according to the rules that they
set forth for their users and certainly according with the law and if
people use their platforms for nefarious purposes, that`s too bad but it
doesn`t really have anything to do with them.
KLOBUCHAR: You know, these are some of the most brilliant companies in
America run by brilliant people with a lot of really smart things they have
done. We love putting up the clips from your shows, recipes, you name it.
But it`s gotten so much more than that.
And I think someone said they have basically built a product with no alarm
system and no locks on the windows and big surprise the bad guys got in.
So, when you have a company that`s worth like 500 billion, I think you have
to take the some of that money – they`re going to have to put it big time
into protecting the security of the data and I think some rules have to be
set in place by Congress. We have to stop pretending that this is just
about cat videos. This got to the core of our democracy with a foreign
country actually buying ads in rubles and then also sending out propaganda
and targeting innocent Americans who didn`t know that their profiles and
their data and their friends had been stolen.
MADDOW: Senator Amy Klobuchar, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee,
I live in hope with that little note that you got from Senator Grassley
today saying he was taking this under advisement. Please let us know –
KLOBUCHAR: We want to get it then.
MADDOW: Yes, let us know. Let us know. Thank you, Senator.
KLOBUCHAR: Thank you.
MADDOW: Much appreciated.
What the senator said there about the value of Facebook and it does get
people`s attention when you call for the CEOs, not just lower level
executives, but the CEOs of Facebook and Google and Twitter to come forward
and answer this stuff in the stock market today.
In the stock market today, the hit to Facebook on this in light of the
scandal was massive. Facebook lost tens of billions of dollars in
valuation today with the hit their stock took on this scandal.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: When James Comey was director of the FBI, and he believed that the
president of the United States was directing him to shut down the Russia
investigation into the president`s own campaign, Mr. Comey documented the
president`s behavior and his requests in their conversations.
After he was fired, Comey testified to Congress that he wrote down what
happened between him and the president in detail, and crucially, he also
told other senior leadership at the FBI exactly what had happened. He
listed several senior officials he told at the time about what was
happening. Those are therefore people who can provide corroborating
evidence of what the president did in his conversations with James Comey.
Ever since James Comey listed those officials, we`ve been watching one by
one as those corroborating witnesses have been attacked and sidelined by
the president and his allies. There was Jim Rybicki who was chief of staff
both under Comey and his successor Chris Wray. Earlier this year, Chris
Wray announced that Rybicki was out. That followed Republicans in Congress
taking shots at Rybicki, trying to construe him as a partisan.
Also, the general counsel of the FBI, James Baker who remains at the FBI
for now, but he has mysteriously been reassigned to a job nobody can
describe with responsibilities no one can name. The president has also
been taking shots at Jim Baker publicly. And, of course, there is Andrew
McCabe, deputy director of the FBI who the president publicly denounced for
months and who is getting retired out of the FBI at the ripe old age of 49
until Attorney General Jeff Sessions fired him late Friday night, 26 hours
short of his retirement.
Now, for months, we`ve been reporting this, that the clearing out of
Comey`s inner circle really looks like a coordinated concerted attempt to
discredit not just James Comey, but also the witnesses who could
corroborate Comey`s account of his interactions with President Trump. All
the time that we`ve been reporting this, none of those witnesses themselves
has ever spoken publicly about this. None of them has ever confirmed that
what this looks like from the outside is also what it looks like and feels
like from the inside. Until now.
There is this blistering statement that was just released by Andrew McCabe
after he was fired on Friday night. It says in part, quote, here is the
reality. I am being singled out and treated this way because of the role I
played, the actions I took and the events I witnessed in the aftermath of
the firing of James Comey. The release of this report was accelerated only
after my testimony to the House Intelligence Committee revealed that I
would corroborate former Director Comey`s account of his discussions with
Helpfully underscoring that point, President Trump responded to that
statement by unleashing an avalanche of tweets attacking Andrew McCabe and
James Comey and Robert Mueller, and then his Russia lawyer John Dowd called
for the special counsel investigation to be shut down. And you know, the
litany of unfortunate career events that have followed people who are
witnesses to Comey`s side of the firing of the FBI director story, it`s a
All sides agree that the special counsel is focused on this question of why
the FBI director was fired, and was that a potential obstruction of
justice? We`re getting new details about that tonight, and we have
somebody very, very smart here to talk with us about that.
MADDOW: Joining us now, I`m very pleased to say is Neal Katyal. He is a
former U.S. acting solicitor general.
Neal, thank you very much for being here tonight.
NEAL KATYAL, FORMER U.S. ACTING SOLICITOR GENERAL: Thank you. A pleasure.
MADDOW: I appreciate you being here in person.
I want to talk with you about the Andrew McCabe firing. This happened late
on Friday night. Obviously, there was some drama as to the timing.
Twenty-six hours later Mr. McCabe would have qualified for his pension.
There is a question whether that will be a major financial hit for him in
addition to him being fired.
What`s your top-line reaction to that firing, and how important do you
think it is?
KATYAL: Horrible decision by the president of the United States. I mean,
presidents are always tempted to weigh in on criminal investigations or
disciplinary procedures. But they don`t.
You know, there is a red line that they don`t want to cross. And for a
very simple reason there is a process in place to discipline. And, you
know, that requires extensive review, thoroughness, investigation and
secrecy. And the president has none of those facts. But yet, months ago,
he called for McCabe`s firing.
And it`s no surprise that someone like Sessions, who is not exactly someone
with a spine, you know, is going to listen to that and then say oh, I`m
going to fire McCabe.
MADDOW: You know, on the involvement of Sessions here, obviously, this was
the attorney general`s decision, not the president`s decision directly,
although it`s colored by the fact that the president not only called for
McCabe to be fired, but singled out the fact that he was going to qualify
for his pension by a specific date.
But then there is the matter of the attorney general`s recusal. The
attorney general is reportedly recused not just from the Russia
investigation, but from all matters related to any investigations stemming
from the 2016 campaign or related to Hillary Clinton`s e-mails or the
MADDOW: The basis of this action against Andrew McCabe was reportedly
related to investigations that pertained to Hillary Clinton. So how can
the attorney general have taken this action?
KATYAL: It`s astounding to me. I mean, it`s a bogus recusal then,
because, you know, the fundamental idea when you recuse at the Justice
Department, you know, I worked on those rules, is that you have some
conflict of interest. Something that says you can`t investigate. There is
an appearance of impropriety.
Now, if you can discipline the folks who are investigating, you know, that
is effectively doing the same thing. Remember who McCabe. McCabe is the
deputy director of the FBI who`s running part of the investigation. He is
also a witness in the investigation on Trump. If you ask yourself in my
fair city of Washington, D.C., who had the most to gain from the firing of
Andrew McCabe, there is one person who would come to your mind, and that is
MADDOW: When – you mentioned McCabe as a witness to the Comey firing,
that has been some of the – that`s sort of the original drama here on –
not the issue of collusion, but the issue of obstruction of justice. If
the president tried to pressure James Comey into getting rid of the Russia
investigation, to laying off Mike Flynn, if he then fired James Comey
because he wanted relief from the pressure of the Russia investigation, all
of which there is evidence for, there is this matter of how Comey
documented those interactions with the president.
Andrew McCabe is one of the people privy to those contemporaneous remarks
by James Comey that`s showing him the memo and talking to him about what
happened. Other season your FBI officials who were in that same boat also
appeared to have sort of fallen off cliffs in terms of their career.
Is there reason to worry that systematically the corroborating witnesses
are being sort of taken out?
KATYAL: Totally. And, you know, the most outstanding thing about this –
we`re talking about not just corroborating witnesses at some ordinary
criminal investigation, but an investigation into the president of the
United States, and what he`s doing is systematically trying to pick them
off, you know –
MADDOW: You think he is.
KATYAL: Oh, I don`t think there`s any doubt that that`s what is going on
when you have a president who months ahead of time calls for McCabe`s
firing. I mean, this isn`t like he waited for the report, you know, read
it thoroughly and investigated, asked questions the way any normal
president would. This is someone who rushed to judgment and you have to
ask yourself, boy, is there self-interest going on or something else?
MADDOW: Let me ask you, this is a legal matter that I`m pretty sure there
is an obvious answer to, I just don`t know it because I`m not a lawyer.
And that is about interviewing with an investigation, intimidating or
tampering with witnesses. If these FBI officials including Andrew McCabe
are important witnesses for the question of obstruction of justice that may
potentially be pursued as a criminal matter by the special counsel.
When the president picks public fights with those witnesses, he doesn`t
just potentially maneuver to have them fired by also insults them, berates
them, makes sure they are publicly humiliated. That is – it seems to me
it operates just on its own, on its face, just a mean thing to do. But
also, doesn`t that establish that there some – there ought to be,
reasonably, some personal animus between those witnesses and president,
those under cutting their ability in a court of law to testify against the
president without people thinking they`re doing it for their own personal -
KATYAL: Well, that`s exactly right, which is why in general, you know, as
a criminal defense lawyer, you would tell one of your clients, please don`t
talk to any witness under any circumstance, don`t fire them, don`t talk to
them, move out of their orbit entirely to – precisely to avoid these
accusations. And yes, he`s done it – Donald Trump has done it openly.
MADDOW: Comey, McCabe, Baker, he`s done it with all of them.
KATYAL: Exactly, and doing it in secret or public doesn`t matter.
Obstruction of justice is obstruction of justice and what we have right now
is a pretty scary record of the president engaging in what looks like
obstruction of justice.
MADDOW: How does that get policed? Is that sort of effort to sort of
clear the testimony of a witness like that to undercut a witness`s
credibility? Is that itself obstruction of justice? Is that itself a
KATYAL: Well, undercutting a criminal witness`s credibility is not. So,
you know, you testify against me and I have reason to show that you had
some credibility problem, no problem. But if you`re manufacturing that
credibility gap on your own by firing someone, creating a conflict where
one didn`t exist before, yes, that`s starting to look really dubious,
really and again, we`re talking about not an ordinary individual but the
president of the United States charged with taking care that Constitution
and laws be executed faithfully, and what looks like is nothing like that.
MADDOW: Neal Katyal is a former U.S. acting solicitor general – Neal,
great to have you here in person. Thank you for coming in. I really
All right. Much more ahead tonight. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Here`s a heads up on something that is sort of an uncomfortable
subject but you should know this is going on.
On March 6th, so a couple weeks ago, we learned in “The New York Times”
that a man named George Nader was a new cooperating witness for the special
counsel investigation. George Nader is the opposite of a household work.
“The Times” reported that he was an adviser to the leader of the United Air
of Emirates. And that special counsel Robert Mueller was investigating the
possible elicit flow of money from the United Arab Emirates into President
Trump`s political operation and Mr. Nader is now cooperating with that
Nader was also reportedly present at a couple of intriguing meetings during
the transition that Trump campaign folks had initially tried to keep
secret. One meeting in the Seychelles Islands, and another one in Trump
Tower in December of 2016. So, George Nader couple of weeks ago were all
introduced to him as a new character in this little soap opera we all live
At a time, little else was known about him or his past. But a couple of
days after that initial report in “The New York Times,” we learned from
“The Atlantic” magazine that in 1985, this same George Nader had been
indicted on charges of importing obscene material featuring nude, underage
boys engaged in sexual acts, a 1985 indictment of child porn.
A week later, “The Associated Press” reported that in 2003, George Nader
had also served time in prison in the Czech Republic for sexually abusing
young boys. The day after that, a Pew report was published, “Newsweek”,
“Politico”, and “The Washington Post” all reported that in 1991, so in
between the `85 indictments and the 2003 jail in the Czech Republic, 1991,
Nader was convicted in Virginia for transporting child porn into this
Now, the documents related to this 1991 conviction had been under seal for
years. But then suddenly, on Thursday, those records were unsealed and
that`s how all those reporters were able to write stories about them. Now,
it`s not unusual for prosecutors to have cooperating witnesses with a
criminal history. If there was a rule against that, prosecutors would have
very few people to rely on to build their cases.
But one of George Nader`s lawyers keeps saying there`s something going on
here that maybe something trying – something about trying to stop his
client from continuing to cooperate with the special counsel, with Robert
Mueller. Nader`s lawyer is calling it, quote, an orchestrated, disgusting
scheme by those who are trying to intimidate Mr. Nader into silence.
So, that is intriguing. And the criminal charges are what they were. But
why is all this press coming out about them now, right? We can`t know for
sure where it`s all coming from, why it`s all coming out now, including
previously sealed court documents.
But there`s one interesting thing here that`s worth pointing out. It
involves that 1985 indictment against George Nader, these were charges that
were later dropped. A court ruled that a search warrant used to obtain
evidence from Nader`s how was not properly obtained.
The prosecutor at the time who tried and failed to bring that case, who
brought those charges and couldn`t get a conviction in that 1985 case, his
name was Joseph diGenova. He was the U.S. attorney for the District of
Columbia at the time. And guess who just got hired as Trump`s new Russia
lawyer in the Russia probe? Joseph diGenova the same guy, the guy who
tried but ultimately failed to convict Gorge Nader on those obscenity
charges all the way back in 1985.
So, he`s coming back into the public eye of being brought on at the White
House, just as the public is learning all of these deep bury details about
George Nader`s criminal past. George Nader, Robert Mueller`s latest
I don`t know if it is coincidence that both of these things are coming to
light at the same time. While the president and his lawyers make this hard
turn against Robert Mueller and the special counsel`s office, it is a
little bit weird these two things are happening that diGenova`s life is
coming into – his life is coming to light in these two different ways at
the same time.
But pay attention if George Nader`s criminal history starts to become less
of a weird side story about this cooperating witness and instead starts
fuel the White House`s new offense against the special counsel
investigation, you`ll be able see these two data points as part of the
explanation of why.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: In Washington, D.C., cherry blossoms are a huge deal. When they
bloom in the spring, more than a million tourists pour into the capital to
see them. There`s endless events to celebrate Kite Festival, road race,
lots of performances.
So, for organizers, to change any part of the festivities is a major
effort. But this year, that is what`s happening. The opening ceremony for
the official cherry blossom festival is scheduled for this Saturday, this
Saturday the 24th.
Saturday is also, though, the March for Our Lives, the anti-gun violence
rally organized by the survivors of last month`s school shooting in
Now, there`s always demonstrations in Washington. But this one is turning
out to be a big one. Organizers are now expecting hundreds of thousands of
people to show up for that, and alongside the opening of the cherry blossom
festival, that would make for way too many people in the same place at the
So, the cherry blossom ceremony was moved to Sunday. A spokesperson for
the National Park Service telling us tonight, quote: The opening ceremony
of the National Cherry Blossom Festival was changed not to accommodate the
March for Our Lives, but rather because of concern that guests would have
difficulty reaching the venue due to its location on Pennsylvania Avenue.
Half a million people massing less than a mile away from the White House to
protest the president`s gun policies. The will happen Saturday and cherry
blossoms the next day. Actually, it should be a very nice weekend in
That does it for us tonight. We will see you again tomorrow.
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