McMaster out, Bolton in as National Security Adviser. TRANSCRIPT: 03/22/2018. The Rachel Maddow Show
Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
Date: March 22, 2018
Guest: Mark Landler, Adam Schiff
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour
How was your day? Fine, fine. How was yours? Nothing much doing. Not
much in the news. Kind of a quiet night.
The president fired his lead lawyer on the Russia scandal today. It seems
like kind of a late date for that, but maybe it was for a very specific
reason. He then unexpectedly threw $50 billion dollars of trade war
tariffs at China, and then the Dow Jones fell off a cliff and the market
dropped 742 points before closing.
The secretary of state said goodbye and left his job, the president then
hired yet another Fox News personality to join his Russia legal team, then
he hired another Fox News personality to become the new national security
adviser, which means he is firing the existing national security adviser
right now – which means just in the past three weeks, this president and
this White House have chewed up and spat out the communications director
who was reportedly the president single most trusted aide Hope Hicks, also
the president`s personal assistant, also his staff secretary, also his
chief economic adviser, also the deputy White House chief of staff, also
the deputy director of the FBI, and the aforementioned secretary of state
who will be replaced now by the person who is currently serving as director
of the CIA, which means there needs to be a new director of the CIA as
well. And now, tonight, the national security advisor is out too.
And so, yes – we`re going to need another wall soon. We actually figured
out a way to make this one slightly larger, like just by kind of taking
care of the margins, you know how you can make your term papers look
The churn at this White House is absolutely without historical precedent.
No administration has ever run people through the meat grinder like this
one has ever. We have never ever had this kind of turnover. But in
addition just the overall turnover, it really feels like something has
accelerated in the last three weeks something different is going on over
the last three weeks, particularly on the national security stuff, it just
feels like the break lines got cut we`re screaming down the road hoping to
hit something soft.
And there`s a lot to say about John Bolton former U.N. ambassador who`s
going to get H.R. McMaster`s job as national security adviser, and I say
he`s going to get the job, not that he`s, you know, nominated for the job
or he`s designated for the job. He`s going to get it because national
security adviser is not a Senate-confirmed position. There`s no process of
becoming national security adviser. The president just picks you, and he
gets to pick whoever he wants. That`s how we ended up with his first
national security adviser Mike Flynn, even though the Justice Department
was at the White House warning them about Flynn as a serious national
security risk within days of the inauguration.
So, he`s picking Bolton now, he`ll get Bolton. There`s – and there`s a
lot to say about John Bolton, we`re going to get to that in just a second
and we`ll talk with some people who know a little bit about what he`s been
like in government in the past, why his previous government appointments
have been so controversial and why this current appointment is freaking so
many people out tonight.
But before we start talking about John Bolton, also consider how General
H.R. McMaster is getting fired here as a national security adviser. I
mentioned that that Rex Tillerson, the fired secretary of state, had his
last day today. Well, Rex Tillerson gave his farewell remarks today at the
State Department and he walked off into the sunset. Today was his last
day. Today was the day he carried his stuff out of the State Department,
but he was fired last week. Remember, he was fired last Tuesday morning.
It`s a matter of record that this was the last thing Rex Tillerson did as
secretary of state before the president fired him. As his last act before
he was fired, Rex Tillerson put out this very strongly worded statement
condemning the government of Russia for that poisoning attack in the U.K.
That statement said in part, 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, England, 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 and we are
outraged that Russia appears to have again 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 with open disregard
for the sovereignty of other states and the life of their citizens. We
agree that those responsible, both those who committed this crime and those
who ordered it must face appropriately serious consequences.
That was the last statement put out by Rex Tillerson a secretary of state
Monday night last week. That same night, he also spoke to reporters and
made similarly strong remarks condemning Russia, the most strongly anti-
Russia comments he made in his time at secretary of state and within hours
of making those comments and releasing that statement, Rex Tillerson was
fired, next morning, Rex Tillerson was fired.
Well, that was last week. Now, the national security advisor has been
fired and it is a matter of record that we`ve also got the last public
remarks made by national security advisor H.R. McMaster before the
president fired him too.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
H.R. MCMASTER, OUTGOING 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 weapons.
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. 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: Those were the last public comments of national security adviser
H.R. McMaster. The headlines last Thursday night when he gave those
remarks, H.R. McMaster gives the Kremlin a double bird salute, strongest
anti-Russia comments he made in his tenure as a national security adviser.
By the following day, there was new urgent reporting that McMaster was
about to be fired and now, he`s out.
And it may be that it is a totally weird coincident – the coincidence that
that Tillerson`s last public comments before he was fired were his
strongest anti-Russia comments as secretary of state. And then days later,
McMaster`s last public comments before he was fired were his strongest
anti-Russia comments as national security advisor.
But both of those things have just happened in the span of less than a week
and a half, and in the context of the Russia investigation around this
president and in between these two firings, the president`s mysteriously
deferential and complimentary call with the Russian president, where he
ignored his national security advisor`s advice not to congratulate Putin on
his sham election this past weekend, ignored the advice that he must
condemn Russia for that poisoning attack, it may just be that all of these
things happen to be having happening at the same time, they may be all
unconnected. But this is all happening on a very compressed timeline, and
there is a real similarity between what happened with Tillerson`s firing
and with what just happened with McMaster`s firing.
And for whatever reason it just happened, we are now about to have our
third national security advisor in 14 months. It`s going to be John
Bolton. And John Bolton for years now has mostly just been known as
another Fox News personality.
But if you`ve heard him described today and tonight as former ambassador to
the United Nations, you should know that there`s an asterisk on that. He
did serve in that job but he served in it as a recess appointment. The
George W. Bush administration could never actually get him confirmed to
(BGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: John Bolton, derided by Senate Democrats today as the worst
possible choice to represent the United States before the United Nations.
JOHN BOLTON, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: There is no such thing as
the United Nations.
REPORTER: To prove their point, Democrats played portions of a 1994 speech
showing what they calls Bolton`s disdain for the U.N.
BOLTON: Again, the Secretariat Building in New York has 38 stories. If
you lost 10 stories today, it wouldn`t make a bit of difference.
THEN-SEN. BARBARA BOXER (D), CALIFORNIA: It`s hard for me to know why
you`d want to work at an institution that you said didn`t even exist.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: For all the controversies of the George W. Bush administration and
there were many, the George W. Bush administration trying to appoint John
Bolton to a Senate-confirmed position was a – was a bridge too far, even
for that administration.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOLTON: The point that I want to leave with you in this very brief
presentation is where I started, is there is no United Nations. There is
an international community that occasionally can be led by the only real
power left in the world and that`s the United States when it suits our
interests and when we can get others to go along.
Secretariat Building in New York has 38 stories. If you lost 10 stories
today, it wouldn`t make a bit of difference.
This kind of mindless creation of the United Nations as something different
than what it`s in the United States interest to do isn`t going to sell here
or anywhere else. The United States makes the U.N. work when it wants it
to work, and that is exactly the way it should be because the only question
– the only question for the United States is what`s in our national
interest? And if you don`t like that, I`m sorry, but that is the fact.
There is no such thing as the United Nations.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: So pointing that guy – appointing that guy to be the American
representative to the United Nations was a hard sell even for the George W.
Bush administration he came under fire for those views. Mr. Bolton also
came under fire for his temperament and more specifically his temper. A
woman who had worked with him years before told a public story of what
happened when she outlined concerns that she had about a program she was
working in overseas.
Quote: Mr. Bolton proceeded to chase me through the halls of the Russian
hotel, throwing things at me, shoving threatening letters under my door and
generally behaving like a madman for nearly two weeks while I waited fresh
direction from my company and from USAID, John Bolton hounded me in such an
appalling way that I eventually retreated to my hotel room and stayed
there. Mr. Bolton, of course, then routinely visited me there to pound on
the door and shout threats. As a further aside, he made unconscionable
comments about my weight, my wardrobe and with – my wardrobe and with a
couple of team leaders, my sexuality, hinting that I was a lesbian. For
the record, I`m not.
As a maligned whistleblower I`ve learned firsthand the lengths Mr. Bolton
will go to to accomplish any goal he sets for himself. Truth flew out the
window. Decency flew out the window. In his bid to smear me and promote
the interest of his client, he went straight for the low road and stayed
John Bolton put me through hell. He did everything he could to intimidate
malign and threatened not just me but anyone willing unwilling to go along
with his version of events. His behavior back in 1994 wasn`t just
unforgivable. It was pathological.
So, this is from John Bolton`s last effort to join national federal
I mean, there was so much talk at the time of Bolton`s nomination about his
alleged bullying that when “The Washington Post” did a feature on the issue
of bullying bosses, the lead of their feature was about the famous behavior
of John Bolton. Some of the objection to Bolton as potential U.N.
ambassador had to do with his temperament. Some of it had to do with this
policies, like saying it wouldn`t hurt the U.N. to have stories off the New
York building in which it`s headquartered.
But some of the objection him was about his temperament and his policies
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: In 2003, Bolton gave a now infamous speech, blasting North
Korea`s leader as a tyrannical dictator and life there as a hellish
nightmare. Bolton told the Senate that Hubbard approved his controversial
BOLTON: And the day of the speech after it was given, our ambassador in
South Korea said to me, thanks for that speech, John. It will help us a
lot out here.
REPORTER: But today, Hubbard tells NBC News Bolton has a selective memory
and that Bolton was tempestuous, once yelling at him and even hanging up on
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: In the end, John Bolton was not able to get confirmed by the
Senate during the George W. Bush administration. The president ended up
getting into that ambassador job with a recess appointment while the Senate
was out of session because that was the only way he could get him through.
And frankly, he was widely perceived to be a disaster in that role.
He blew off the U.N. Security Council mission to Sudan. He said that China
should get a permanent seat on the Human Rights Council, which sent the
U.S. State Department`s scrambling to overrule him, because that was his
own idea, not the U.S. government`s idea.
“The Economist” magazine at the time quoted an unnamed senior western
diplomat saying, quote: if Bolton left tomorrow, progress would be possible
on almost every front where it is now stalled. He has succeeded in putting
almost everyone`s backs up even among some of America`s closest allies.
John Bolton managed to carve out a particular place in Republican politics
and I – you know, I hesitate to say that anybody is really and truly
unique under the sun, but John Bolton has been almost a uniquely divisive
figure even inside Republican politics. During the Trump transition,
Bolton`s name like everybody else who works at Fox News, Bolton`s name was
floated as a possible deputy secretary of state, as a possibility for
sending to the Senate for confirmation to that job.
The response from Republicans in the Senate was basically, are you sure
about that? That John Bolton?
John Bolton did not get picked by Trump for that deputy secretary of state
job which would have required Senate confirmation. He didn`t get sent to
the Senate for confirmation.
Since then though, he`s continued to circle around this White House,
staying in conversation with the president offering advice on points of
foreign policy like Iran and like North Korea. At the end of February,
John Bolton published this opinion piece in “The Wall Street Journal”.
Quote: The legal case for striking North Korea first. First, his
conclusion reads, quote: in 1837, Britain unleashed pre-emptive “fire in
fury” against a wooden steamboat. It`s perfectly legitimate for the United
States to respond to the current necessity posed by North Korea`s nuclear
weapons by striking first.
So, as a public figure, he has been advocating that we should just go start
a nuclear war with North Korea now, just go get them now. If you`re
wondering tonight why your Twitter feed is filled with people who say they
are scared to death by this appointment of John Bolton to be national
security advisor with no Senate confirmation necessary, it probably has to
do with John Bolton saying things like that and with the reputation that
John Bolton has earned himself over the last couple of decades in
Joining us now is Mark Landler. He`s a White House correspondent for “The
New York Times”.
Mr. Landler, you and your colleagues broke this story about McMaster and
Bolton tonight. I know it`s been a really busy day for you. Thanks for
being here with us.
MARK LANDLER, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: It`s great to
be with you, Rachel.
MADDOW: What can you tell us about the surprise factor here? Obviously,
Mr. Bolton had been seen in and around the White House. There had been
reports about difficulties and differences of opinion, differences of style
between the president and his current national security adviser, Mr.
McMaster. Did all parties involved know that this was going to happen now?
LANDLER: Well, you know, like with many things involving President Trump,
the way it unfolded was kind of shocking, but the underlying reality was
not surprising. H.R. McMaster, as you said, has been on thin ice with the
president. For a long time, newspapers and television channels have
forecasted in his departure regularly.
So, the fact that he was leaving was not a surprise. The fact that this
happened in as sudden away as it did I think caught certainly John Bolton
off-guard. He acknowledged when he went on Fox TV which was barely an hour
after President Trump tweeted that the reality of this hadn`t really sunk
So, you know, this is a guy who`d been circling around the White House.
There been a lot of talk of him being on very short lists, but I don`t
think anyone expected it to unfold quite the abrupt way it did. And, you
know, that`s just in keeping with President Trump`s style of always keeping
people off-guard and always acting in this fairly impulsive way.
MADDOW: In your reporting tonight at “The Times”, you note that one of the
reasons the White House is at least suggesting that this might have
happened now is because the president is eager to fill out his national
security team before his meeting with North Korea`s Kim Jong-un. It`s –
because of Bolton`s publicly stated positions on North Korea, he`s on the
record saying diplomacy is a bad idea, it won`t work, it`s time to end the
North Korea regime, we should strike first, we should essentially just go
bomb them – how does him as national security adviser change the equation
for that meeting, for North Korea in general?
LANDLER: Well, you know, there`s an obvious contradiction in what the
president is doing here. He`s agreed to this, you know, highly risky
encounter with Kim Jong-un and yet to get ready for that encounter, he`s
put in place not one but two people who have expressed really hawkish views
on North Korea. As you say, John Bolton has talked about a pre-emptive
military strike, but Mike Pompeo prior to John Bolton`s joining the team,
was probably the most openly vocal about the need for regime change in
So, you now have the two principal foreign policy advisors of the president
are people who are on the record talking against engagement and for
military action so it`s going to be very interesting to watch how these two
men advise the president and help him get ready for this meeting.
MADDOW: Tillerson is out. McMaster is out very shortly thereafter. John
Kelly is reported is one of the people who the president has sort of I
think enjoyed publicly toying with as to whether or not he`s going to get
rid of him in terms of the influences on the president, the people who have
his ear who are most influential with him when it comes to national
security matters, the sort of odd figure in the midst of all those
departures and threatened departures is his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and
there`s been a lot of palace intrigue reporting as to how he fits in among
the national security adviser, National Security Council and the secretary
of state`s responsibilities.
He obviously is still standing here but without a full security clearance
and with a lot of publicly reported controversy about his role.
Do we have any sense about Mr. Kushner`s role at this point in the
administration going forward and whether he had anything to do with this
LANDLER: Well, you know, Jared Kushner as you say having lost his security
clearance doesn`t have access to some of the most sensitive intelligence
which would allow him to take part in you know the really most sense of
national security deliberations. He`s still involved in trying to put
together a Middle East peace plan and the White House I think still intends
to table that proposal at some point, despite very, very bad conditions in
the Middle East.
He`s involved in dealing with Mexico. He went down to Mexico recently and
I think he`s trying to work to smooth out a relationship that has obviously
been extremely contentious because of President Trump`s repeated promises
to build a wall so I think it`s going to be interesting to watch whether he
can carve out a place with very powerful new personalities in the mix.
Mike Pompeo is going to be aggressive. He has the president`s ear. He
gets along well with the president. John Bolton is an extremely outspoken
figure, someone who goes on television, writes regularly to advocate for
his views. These are arguably bigger personalities, stronger voices than
Jared Kushner was dealing with before. So, we`ll see how he fits in.
I`d only mentioned one more figure who I think is going to be crucial in
the coming weeks and that is the Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. Along with
Rex Tillerson and H.R. McMaster, Mattis was seen as a potential moderating
force on President Trump. Now you have to much more hawkish figures in the
other two roles of what had been this triumvirate, so it will be
interesting to see whether Jim Mattis finds himself isolated, you know,
figures out his role in this new – in this new landscape.
MADDOW: Yes. Jim Mattis is seen as particularly close to Rex Tillerson.
It was a sort of pointed logistical matter that Mr. Mattis, General Mattis
was on his way to Afghanistan when the Tillerson surprise firing came down
Mark Landler, White House correspondent on “The New York Times” –
congratulations on this scoop today. Thank you for joining us tonight. I
really appreciate it.
LANDLER: Thanks, Rachel. Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. Much more come tonight. We`re going to be talking
actually with a veteran of the National Security Council who knows John
Bolton and I think can give us a little more insight into why people are so
wigged out about this appointment of Bolton tonight.
Also, it is – should not be and we should not allow this new news to
undercut the other big shake-up at the White House today in the president`s
legal team, which is one that I think is very, very, very significant.
That`s ahead tonight. Stay with us.
MADDOW: At slate.com, their longtime national security correspondent is
the very good Fred Kaplan. If you were looking for a representative sample
of the response in the national security world to the breaking news tonight
that H.R. McMaster has been fired as national security advisor to be
replaced by former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton, well, Fred Kaplan`s take at
slate.com serves pretty well, I think.
Kaplan`s reaction to this news tonight is this, quote: it`s time to panic
now. John Bolton`s rise to power puts us on a path to war, and since Trump
appointed him while knowing Bolton`s views, it means Trump wants to be on
I saw that actually and wondered if Mr. Kaplan might be taking this sort of
worse than your average bear, but then I saw that his take was retweeted by
Mike McFaul, former U.S. ambassador to Russia and former senior director
for Russian and Eurasian affairs at the National Security Council, that got
Ambassador McFaul joins us now live.
Mr. McFaul, thank you very much for being here. It`s nice to see you.
MIKE MCFAUL, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO RUSSIA: Glad we`re reading the same
Twitter feed, Rachel.
MADDOW: Well, I have to – I have to ask you if a retweet in this instance
from you is an endorsement or not? Are you in panic mode about this
announcement for national security adviser?
MCFAUL: Well, I`m definitely concerned. Whether we need to panic is
another matter, and I want to underscore that I`m one of those people that
have supported some of Trump`s other administration official appointments
on the national security team, right? I was out in a way that I was
criticized by many for supporting, for instance, Secretary Mattis. I was a
big fan of HR. McMaster.
So, this is a different kind of appointment and I think Fred makes a really
important point. First, he has extreme views when it comes to Iran and
North Korea, and that he advocates the use of military force both for
disarmament and regime change. But the second point that Fred makes which
I totally agree with is unlike some of the other appointments, these views
are known, they are known by the president, so he is choosing this national
security adviser knowing what he believes in and what he believes in is
MADDOW: When John Bolton was appointed or nominated to be U.N. ambassador
during the George W. Bush administration, that was an immensely
controversial decision by President Bush and it ultimately resulted in Mr.
Bolton only being able to get that appointment as a recess appointment. He
couldn`t get through the Senate. There were concerns not only about his
hawkishness and his anti-U.N. views, which is awkward for U.N. ambassador.
MADDOW: But there are also concerns about his temperament and his temper
and his behavior toward his coworkers. One of the reasons I wanted to talk
to you about that tonight is just because you`ve served at the National
Security Council. National security adviser heads that body, and advises
the president in a very intimate way.
Do you have concerns about that as well for, Mr. Bolton?
MCFAUL: I do, because on the one – there`s the one set of concerns which
are about his views. But then second, the job of the national security
adviser is to bring together the interagency to kind of moderate the policy
debate to sit down there in the White House Situation Room and have the
secretary of defense on one side, secretary of state on the other side, the
vice president there and to have a free and fair deliberative process about
And there`s just nothing in his background that I know of so far that that
suggests that that is the kind of temperament that he has. And you don`t
need to take my word for it, he had this reputation among some very senior
people within the Bush administration themselves, right? Those are some of
his biggest critics. So, I don`t think he`s going to be very good at
running that process.
And he`s not supposed to have his own views as a national security adviser.
Remember he`s supposed to be the mediator of these different views. You
just need to start reading a few of his op-eds and is you know appearances
over on Fox to know that he has very strong views. And so, I don`t think
he`s a good fit for that particular job.
MADDOW: One last question for you. On the Russia factor here, it may
absolutely be a coincidence, it may just be that all these things are
happening in the world and in the White House at the same time, but I could
not help but notice but that the last thing, the last statement put out by
Rex Tillerson as secretary of state before he was fired was a very strong
statement about Russia and that poisoning in the U.K.
Similarly with Mr. McMaster, his last public comments as national security
advisor were strong criticism of Russia with regard to that incident. In
“The New York Times” reporting on McMaster`s firing tonight, they say that
the first public view of the tensions between President Trump and Mr.
McMaster were after General McMaster last month said at a security
conference in Munich, which you attended that the evidence of Russian
interference in the presidential election was beyond dispute. That was the
first time we saw the president take a shot at H.R. McMaster on Twitter and
then ultimately he fired him after these last remarks.
Do you – and I wanted to know what you make of that, whether you think
those things might just all just be coincidental and timing or whether
those things are related.
MCFAUL: I don`t know, obviously. I did note the pattern. And the real
question that I have in my mind is why is President Trump firing H.R.
McMaster at this time? Did he do something with respect to policy such on
Russia that they disagree with or is it just about just body language and
chemistry that the president talks about so much? He just didn`t like the
guy. He feels more comfortable with John Bolton.
We don`t know that, but we should know that because it is extraordinary
that he is replacing somebody that I have a lot of respect for, H.R.
McMaster after just a few months on the job, why is he doing that now? Is
it related to policy or personality? What does it mean for the future that
he`s chosen Bolton now? I guess, we`ll have to just wait and see, but I`m
nervous about it. I think it`s a bad choice.
MADDOW: Michael McFaul, former U.S. ambassador to Russia – thank you for
your time tonight. It`s a – it`s a big night. Thanks for making time to
be with us.
MCFAUL: Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: All right. Still more to come on this – on this crazy news
night. The other, other, other story with a claim to a headline of the
day. That`s next. Stay with us.
MADDOW: On July 24th, 1987, a young woman in Washington, D.C. filed a
police complaint against a sitting U.S. senator, against Senator Brock
Adams of Washington state. The woman was 24 years old at the time. Her
family had been friends with the senator for years.
But this young woman told police and her complaint that while she`d been
staying at the senators home, he drugged her and attacked her. She said he
gave her a glass of wine, which she believes had some sort of drug in it.
She told police she woke up without her clothes on with, the senator,
quote, fondling her.
So, she went to the police and filed a report and apparently the officer
who investigated this woman`s claims, he requested a warrant for the
senator`s arrest. But the senator was not arrested.
The U.S. attorney in D.C. at the time, the U.S. attorney overseeing this
case, a local prosecutor, said no, decided not to file charges. By the
time the public learned about this police report filed by this young woman,
that prosecutor has left office, but he took time to publicly defend his
decision to drop the case. He said publicly, quote: there was a unanimous
decision that this matter had no merit. He said it had absolutely no merit
There`s kind of an interesting decision not just that the U.S. attorney had
to decline to file charges in this case or to allow for an arrest warrant,
even though the officer investigating had asked for the warrant. It was
also interesting – it was an interesting decision that the prosecutor went
so far as to publicly undercut the accuser, to go public with these
assertions that she had no credibility and neither did this accusation,
that she had filed with the police but that`s what the prosecutor decided
And so, the accused senator, Brock Adams, Democrat of Washington state, he
got to stay in office. But the case kind of lingered in the back of
everybody`s mind and for whatever reason, that former U.S. attorney, that
prosecutor who decided not to go forward with the case, he decided he
wasn`t going to let go of the matter. In fact, years later, in 1991, that
same U.S. attorney was still speaking out about the case, still coming out
to say that these accusations had no merit, still defending the senator`s
The prosecutor went to a fundraiser for that senator and spoke on his
behalf. He brought up that case yet again. He told the crowd at the
senator`s fundraiser, quote: there was absolutely no merit whatsoever,
none, to that case.
The prosecutor at that fundraiser said, quote: this matter has gotten to a
point where it`s abundantly clear that it`s more than unfair what is
happening to the senator, even though that prosecutor refused to believe
any of it, and refused the police officers request for a warrant in that
case, the senator`s hometown newspaper decided they were going to
investigate the matter.
And three years later, as that senator was running for re-election, running
for another term in the Senate in the 1992, “The Seattle Times” went public
with the findings of their investigation, and this was the headline. Eight
more women accused Senator Adams, allegations of two decades of sexual
harassment abuse and a rape.
Among the eight women “The Seattle Times” interviewed was a former
Democratic Party activist who said she suspected that the senator had
drugged her too. Quote: as she objected she says, he forced her to the
couch and raped her. She says he left immediately but not before throwing
$200 on a table to pay her way to a Democratic function.
“The Seattle Times” also interviewed an accuser who said she was, quote,
given a drink by Senator Adams that appeared to be champagne to which a red
liquid had been added. “The Seattle Times” reported that the woman said
she then blacked out and regained consciousness later to find Senator Adams
removing her clothes. That report in “The Seattle Times”, that`s how Brock
Adams became a one-term senator from the state of Washington. He dropped
out of the race the day after that “Seattle Times” report was published.
And Patty Murray ran for and won his seat. Patty Murray still has that
seat. But, you know, the prosecutor – the prosecutor who a few years
earlier had decide to prosecute, decide to look into that initial case from
that initial police report in 1987, going so far as to publicly denounce
the accuser and bolster that senator, even fundraising for him on the basis
of that bad accusation made against him by that woman with no credibility,
that prosecutor had a next chapter in his life too. He went on to become a
TV personality, specifically on the Fox News Channel where his specialty
has been applying a vaguely legal sounding seriousness to his TV pundit
His real heyday was the Bill Clinton Monica Lewinsky scandal. In the first
month after the Lewinsky scandal was made public, he and his wife who was
also his law partner they were quoted on or appeared on television over
times in the span of one month and his claims about the Lewinsky scandal
again vaguely legal sounding, but also a little bit nutty. He claimed but
never provided any evidence that he and his wife and members of Congress
had had private detectives sicced on them by the president and his family.
He leaked to a newspaper word that a Secret Service agent had caught the
president and Monica Lewinsky in a compromising position, walked in on him
in flagrante. There`s no evidence that that ever happened.
Despite having said a lot of stuff that was not true, he definitely proved
his TV worth in that Lewinsky scandal and that earned him basically a
permanent place on Fox. And so now, he pops up whenever there`s another
scandal, particularly if it relates to a Clinton.
After the attack in Benghazi and Republicans were going after Secretary of
State Hillary Clinton, he said that he had access to secret evidence that
showed that the Benghazi attack was a giant cover-up and it would all soon
be revealed. During the Trump Clinton presidential election, he provided
great comfort to Trump supporters in the Trump campaign by insisting that
once again he had secret information that they didn`t need to worry that
there was any chance Hillary Clinton ruined the election because he knew
for a fact that she was going to be arrested any day now in the middle of a
By the time the election actually happened, he knew she was going to be in
jail, he knew. And he said it in a way that sounded very legal, even
though it didn`t turn out to be true.
His name is Joe diGenova and the president has just asked Mr. diGenova to
join his Russia legal defense team, apparently because he likes what he`s
been seeing of him on TV lately.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE DIGENOVA, FORMER U.S. PROSECUTOR: What you have now unfolding inside
the FBI and the Department of Justice under Obama is a brazen plot to do
two things to exonerate Hillary Clinton because of an animus toward Donald
Trump. And then if she lost, to frame the incoming president for either a
criminal act or impeachment.
Comey sold his soul to the devil. They conspired to exonerate, improperly
and politically, Hillary Clinton and also if she lost, to frame the
incoming president of the United States with a false crime.
Make no mistake about it, a group of FBI and DOJ people were trying to
frame Donald Trump of a falsely created crime.
It wasn`t the Russians who corrupted the presidential election. It was the
American officials at the Department of Justice and the FBI.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The person sitting next to Joe diGenova on that last clip there is
his wife and law partner. Her name is Victoria Toensing. We learned
tonight just as the McMaster and John Bolton news was breaking, that the
president is not just bringing on Joe diGenova to his Russia legal team,
he`s also hired Victoria Toensing.
So, he`s hired – the president has hired both husband and wife to now work
for the president on his Russia legal defense. Now, this does not appear
to have been the president`s decision alone. He appears to have been
supportive in this decision by his other as-seen-on-TV lawyer Jay Sekulow.
Now, Jay Sekulow himself was a slightly odd choice for the president`s
legal team. He comes from the televangelists wing of conservative activism
and direct mail fundraising, which means that he`s very well paid and very
well groomed and he`s used to talking on TV, but he`s not exactly a subject
matter expert on defending the president or on the Russia scandal.
Remember around the Trump Tower meeting controversy, a lot of discussion
about Russian sanctions in the Magnitsky Act, right? This is a central
idea to the whole scandal surrounding the president sanctions on Russia
because of the Magnitsky Act. Magnitsky. Magnitsky. Magnitsky Act, you
know it, right?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAY SEKULOW, TRUMP LAWYER: The discussions involved the Majinski (ph) Act.
What was discussed at the meeting actually ended up being more about the
Majinski Act. The same lawyer that has the Russia affiliation was down in
Washington pitching the Majinski Act repeal. The Majinski Act. The
discussion was about the Majinski Act. Could have been about the Majinski
Act. Again, the conversation was on the Majinski Act.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: There is no Majinski Act.
“Daily Beast” reports today that that lawyer Jay Sekulow was essentially
leading the president`s legal defense. He`s running its operations out of
the offices of his conservative activist group. He`s now been joined on
the president`s Russia legal team by his friends from the Fox News Channel,
this husband-and-wife Fox News TV lawyer team, just in case what president
– the president needs for his defense in the biggest national security
scandal to ever loom over any presidency is the Brock Adams/Benghazi/deep
state/locker up/Uranium One specialist, or two of them, or three of them.
As this shift came into focus today the president`s not made for TV lawyer
John Dowd quit today. If you want to know how not made for TV John Dowd
is, consider that the most famous piece of videotape involving him on TV is
him flipping off and swearing at a TV camera outside a case he just lost
for a Wall Street guy. Hello.
The departure of John Dowd today is the second time the president has fired
his top personal lawyer on the Russia scandal. The first lead lawyer he
fired was Marc Kasowitz. Remember him? Amid all this churn inside the
White House, there are now some reports that Marc Kasowitz might actually
be coming back, which would be amazing.
When Kasowitz was first appointed to lead the president`s Russia legal
team, the very first statement he put out in that capacity described
himself in the first line of that statement as the predisent`s personal
lawyer, literally, the first line of the first statement on the first day
he was the president`s lawyer, misspelled the word “president”.
Statement also contained this line which I`ve memorized. It is now
established that there the president was not being investigated for
colluding with thee or attempting to obstruct. What?
That there the problem if you don`t believe me, you should, he`s the
predisent`s lawyer. That in auspicious, incoherent start was followed
quickly by the news that for some reason, Mr. Kasowitz was going to try to
lead the president`s Russia legal defense without obtaining a security
clearance himself. No access to classified materials in a national
This led to questions about why Marc Kasowitz might not be able to get a
security clearance maybe, and that led to a bizarre incident in which Mark
Kasowitz, the president`s lead lawyer on this scandal started threatening
and swearing at random strangers who emailed him about his new job. Kind
of seemed like the stress was getting to him.
Frankly, it created stress even in the news media. How exactly do you
report that the president`s lawyer is randomly emailing strangers in the
middle of the night, saying watch your back, dude, rhymes with ditch.
One week after that happened, Marc Kasowitz was gone. And now, the guy who
replaced him, John Dowd, he`s gone, too. And maybe Kasowitz will keep
representing the president against various women who have accused him of
sexual harassment, defamation and related matters, which is what he`s been
doing since he left the Russia team. Maybe Marc Kasowitz will come back to
the Russia team, in which case that security clearance question about him
is going to become relevant all over again.
But it is also worth remembering that part of the reason the president has
not been able to put together an A-list or even B-list or C-list legal team
thus far on the Russia matter is reportedly because no top-drawer A-list
Republican lawyer in Washington, D.C. wants to work on a even a
presidential defense team if he or she has to do so alongside these hairdo
mix swearword lawyers that the president likes, these guys with the pinky
rings and the big air and the shoulder pads and the swearing and the
flipping people off and can`t spell don`t care.
I mean, that may be the president`s style but that`s not the style of most
really good lawyers who might put on an excellent defense for a U.S.
president charged with a very serious national security related crime.
So, John Dowd, president`s lead Russia lawyer out as of today. Two more
conspiracy theory TV lawyers are in instead and Mister watch your back F-
bomb guy may be back in the mix as well.
Gabe Sherman at “Vanity Fair” cites for sources tonight saying that what
set off this big shake-up and the president`s legal defense is the
president going through the roof about Robert Mueller`s latest actions.
Robert Mueller and his prosecutors in the special counsel`s office
subpoenaing Trump`s business records from the Trump Organization apparently
set the president off in this new tizzy of changes.
Maybe, this is the kind of team he thinks he needs to fight the fight with
Mueller`s prosecutors, but if we are being honest here, let`s get real.
What he`s putting together is not the kind of team you put together to
mount a legal defense for a president. Or in fact, to do any serious legal
work at all. It appears that that part is over.
What the president is putting together is the kind of team a guy like him
might put together to run a P.R. operation on TV explaining the president`s
actions. I mean, as hilarious as the president`s D-list lineup of lawyers
is starting to look, I`m pretty sure they`re not actually there to do legal
work. Him putting these people in place makes it seem like he is going to
try to end this by some other means and they are going to be the team that
explains it on Fox News.
MADDOW: On the same day that the president fired yet another national
security adviser and the lead lawyer on his Russia defense team and the Dow
dropped over 700 points on fears of a president inspired trade war with
China, NBC is also now reporting that the president is thinking not just a
firing his chief of staff John Kelly, but he`s thinking of firing him and
then not replacing him. The president has, quote, mused to close
associates about running the West Wing as he did his business empire,
essentially serving as his own chief of staff. It sounds like a great
idea. Why did any other president need a chief of staff anyway? They
could have all just been like Trump.
Tonight, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee had this
reaction. Quote: It`s hard to escape the disquieting conclusion that the
mass exodus of the adults from this administration is putting our nation`s
national security at risk. Ambassador Bolton`s hawkish and conspiratorial
thinking will only make matters dangerously worse.
Joining us now is that top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee,
Congressman Adam Schiff.
Congressman, thank you for being here tonight on a very busy evening.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), RANKING MEMBER, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE:
It`s good to be with you.
MADDOW: Let me just get your top-line reaction to this latest round of
churn at the top level of the administration.
SCHIFF: Well, I think Bolton is not only a bad choice it`s honestly
difficult to consider a worse choice. This is someone who`s likely to
exaggerate the dangerous impulses of the president towards belligerence,
his proclivity to act without thinking, and his is love of conspiracy
And I`ll you know just add one data point to what you were talking about
earlier, John Bolton once suggested on Fox News that the Russian hack of
the DNC was a false flag operation that had been conducted by the Obama
administration. So, you add that kind of thinking to Joe diGenova and you
have another big dose of unreality in the White House.
So, the Bolton appointment really scares me on Iran, on North Korea, on
feeding this kind of conspiracy thinking about the president. But the
firing of Dowd also ought to alarm all of us because it`s yet another
signal that he intends to have a much more aggressive approach to Bob
Mueller and we`re I think a step closer to a potential firing of Bob
MADDOW: I mentioned a moment ago that I look at the way the president has
changed his legal team with the addition of Mr. diGenova and Ms. Toensing,
his wife, with removal of John Dowd today and with the president`s recent
statements about the inquiry, and I feel like to me, the president is no
longer – no longer seems to be working on a legal strategy, seems more to
be looking at a legal communication strategy, or a PR strategy and that
therefore it seems to me like he thinks he may be able to end this in the
court of politics, rather than by going through legal processes.
It sounds to me from what you just said that you might share that worry.
SCHIFF: I do share that worry. I also share the concern that the
president`s world now is confined to watching Fox News, to believing what
he sees on Fox News, but also believing that Fox News isn`t the only
repository of talent to fill his administration.
And apart from his insular existence in the Oval Office, Fox is his whole
world. But these folks who are now joining the administration I think are
going to add a really dangerous new element and they just might persuade
him that the best approach to Bob Mueller is to try to shut it down, to
have a political strategy of communicating to Congress in the country why
he`s justified in shutting it down.
And that will bring on a real crisis in the country that will I think bring
us to a grinding halt. So, it`s a dangerous turn of events.
MADDOW: Congressman Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House
Intelligence Committee – appreciate your time tonight, sir. Thank you for
being with us.
SCHIFF: Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: So, we have one national security advisor out. We have one new
national security adviser in who seems to be scaring people a little bit if
tonight`s reactions that we`ve seen here are anything to go by. We have
Trump – the lead Trump lawyer in the Russia probe handing it as notice.
We have a new Trump lawyer from Fox TV appointed to the president`s Russia
Somebody pulled my leg, is this Friday? This kind of feels like a Friday.
I don`t know what`s going to happen tomorrow.
We`ll see you again tomorrow.
Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL.”
Good evening, Lawrence.
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