Trump signs $1.3 trillion spending bill. TRANSCRIPT: 03/23/2018. The Rachel Maddow Show

Guests:
Shawn Boburg, Colin Kahl
Transcript:

THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
March 23, 2018
Guest: Shawn Boburg, Colin Kahl

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
Happy Friday.

This is one of those Fridays when not only is today the capstone to what
has been a sort of insane week of news, but you can count on the fact that
it`s not over. This is not the kind of week that ends on Friday night.
You can count on the fact that there`s going to be a lot of news over this
upcoming weekend as well. We shall not rest!

So, it`s not over. It`s particularly good to have you with us here
tonight. There`s a lot going on.

You know, we use the word bravery when someone is willing to step forward
and do the hard thing, do the dangerous thing because despite the risks,
it`s the right thing to do. When people you know put themselves out there,
when they put themselves on the line in order to do what they think must be
done, we tend to call that bravery.

I don`t know exactly what you call it when somebody goes out and does the
hard thing, does the dangerous thing because they think it`s something that
needs to be done. They believe it`s necessary for the good of the country.
I don`t know what you call it when a person does that thing but they do it
in secret, under a cloak of anonymity. What do you call it when somebody
does the brave seeming thing but they go out of their way to make sure that
nobody can find out it was them who did it? Right?

It`s still bravery but it`s like – it`s like the cat burglary subset of
bravery. I don`t know what you call it. It`s like – you know, when
everybody steps forward and says I am Sparta. It`s like the opposite of
that. It wasn`t me. It wasn`t me. Not me, instead of people volunteering
themselves and putting themselves out there putting themselves in the line,
somebody does the right thing but nobody`s willing to admit it was them.

I don`t know what you call that, but that just happened on Russia
sanctions. It`s weird. You will notice that we are not having a federal
government shutdown tonight, mazel tov! That`s because once again, they
were able to get a big federal government spending bill passed and signed
at the very, very, very last minute, thus averting what would otherwise
have been a government shutdown tonight. And it`s a big long bill, and
there`s a ton of stuff in it.

But there`s one section in this bill that nobody in Congress, nobody in
either House of Congress and nobody in either party in Congress, nobody
will admit that they wrote it.

Quote: in a five page section titled countering Russian influence and
aggression, this big spending bill that got caught – that got passed into
law today has a bunch of new specific prohibitions on American taxpayer
dollars going to Russia. The bill adds $250 million to the Countering
Russian Influence Fund in our own government. It directs a bunch of money
toward supporting democracy programs in Russia, including online freedom,
Internet freedom in Russia. It authorizes significant new sanctions
against Russia, and it, quote, bans the use of federal funds for entering
into new contracts or new agreements to provide federal assistance to the
Russian federation.

And this is not just something that has been proposed. This was signed
into law today by the president. But nobody knows who put it in the bill.

Andrew Desiderio (ph) wrote this up for “The Daily Beast”. Literally they
did a supra headline over this headline that was shh, as in don`t tell
anybody this happened. Quote: The origin of the Russia measures in the
spending bill remain a mystery. Lawmakers are unsure as to who exactly
inserted these measures into the spending bill.

I am not Sparta. Nobody here is Sparta. None of us did this. Definitely
wasn`t us. Every – I mean, this is some very specific kind of bravery
that we`re going to need a new word for, but this anonymous gambit in
Congress appears to have worked. We got new Russia sanctions today, thanks
to anonymous someone. It worked.

I mean, for a minute, it looked like it wasn`t going to work. The
president woke everybody up this morning with a random curveball on this
matter. White House and cabinet officials have spent days talking about
how the president was definitely going to sign this, how much he was in
favor of it, what a big win it was for him and the president said this
morning, nope, I`m going to veto it. He then – he didn`t veto it, he
ended up signing it at this strange event that he announced would be a
press conference, but it wasn`t a press conference.

And so, because he signed it, we didn`t get a government shutdown.
Government is funded for a while and, surprise, we just got a bunch of new
Russia sanctions written in the law. And I don`t know who did that and
neither do you, and who knows if we`ll ever find out who did that.

But it`s not hard to recognize the reason for the secrecy on that, right?
I mean, when the history of this moment in this administration is written
the record will show that the last public remarks from Secretary of State
Rex Tillerson before he was fired, and the last public remarks from H.R.
McMaster, national security adviser, before he was fired, in both of those
cases, the last public thing they said as government officials before the
president fired them and removed them from those posts, in both of their
cases, the last thing they said were comments that were very critical of
Russia.

Now, tonight, CNN reports that beyond his public remarks criticizing Russia
as his last public comments, the last action H.R. McMaster took as national
security advisor in the White House before he was fired was that he oversaw
a National Security Council process that resulted in a recommendation to
the president that the United States should expel Russian diplomats from
the U.S. once again, this time because of the Russian nerve agent
assassination attempt that was carried out in Great Britain a few weeks
ago.

National security adviser H.R. McMaster reportedly oversaw that process at
the National Security Council. He and the National Security Council
recommended to the president that he expel Russian diplomats on Wednesday,
and then Trump fired him on Thursday.

And now, raise your hand if you think that President Trump is going to
follow that recommendation and expel Russian diplomats from the United
States as punishment for the nerve agent poisoning that he was too afraid
to bring up person-to-person when he spoke to Vladimir Putin last week.
You think he`s going to kick out their diplomats?

I mean, even if he doesn`t follow that recommendation from the National
Security Council, even if he doesn`t do that, past experience suggests he
won`t, he nevertheless is going to have to implement these new sanctions
and these new funding restrictions on – against Russia and that`s because
some anonymous member of Congress put on a ski mask and pried open the
window and snuck it into the bill and then got away without anybody ever
figuring out who did it. Courage!

So, things are weird even more than usual. It`s been sort of a helter-
skelter news cycle. Politico.com`s major headline for today was Trump aids
are at their wit`s end. Andrew Restuccio (ph) at “Politico” reports that
in the middle of President Trump threatening that he was going to veto the
spending bill and shut down the government, reporters were calling the
White House to find out if the president really meant this, if he was
serious whether this was – it was really going to happen. White House
officials had no idea what to tell reporters because apparently they were
completely blindsided by the president`s behavior today.

Quote: asked Friday whether Trump was serious about vetoing the bill, one
White House official said simply, who knows? That`s a White House
official. Who knows?

We also learned today that part of the surprise of the McMaster firing last
night was that White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and other senior White
House officials were hard at work planning an announcement that not only
was H.R. McMaster going to be fired, but a whole bunch of other officials
were going to be fired as well, including multiple cabinet officials. Part
of the surprise last night was that they were planning on announcing all of
those firings all at once when all of a sudden, the president got on
Twitter and fired McMaster.

It`s not enough that makes you feel better or worse about stability at the
uppermost levels of the American government, it was a shock to everybody
that the national security advisor was fired but only because a whole bunch
of other people at senior levels of the administration were also supposed
to be fired at the same time. And those other people haven`t been fired
yet. So, we`re apparently still waiting for those firings to happen? Do
those shoes still drop?

I mean, even among White House sources, there is now open speculation that
the firing of McMaster last night and the announced hiring of John Bolton
was timed by the president to distract from one particular interview that
aired last night on CNN, an interview in which woman named Karen McDougal
discussed in detail what she says was a serious ten-month long extramarital
affair with the president, which she said was capped off during the
presidential campaign by what she describes as a hush money deal that was
facilitated by one of the president`s friends. She says it was both a
significant campaign finance violation by the Trump campaign and it was
illegal fraud by the president`s personal lawyer Michael Cohen acting on
the president`s behalf.

So that interview was last night in the 8:00 o`clock hour Eastern Time.
CNN telegraphed all day long that that interview would be airing in the
8:00 o`clock hour. Ninety minutes before its airtime is when the president
announced he was firing the national security adviser. That timing
reportedly a surprise both to the national security adviser and to the guy
who he announced would be getting the job next.

And if the speculation even from within the White House is correct that
that is what drove that timing an effort to distract from that interview
last night, if the speculation is true that the national security adviser
to the president of the United States was fired to distract from Karen
McDougal`s interview last night then heaven help us for whatever this
president and this White House are going to do to distract us this weekend,
because the Stormy Daniels interview is due to air on Sunday night on “60
Minutes”.

If you fire the national security advisor to distract from the first
interview, what do you do to distract from the second one? In the “you
have to buy me tacos” RACHEL MADDOW SHOW staff betting pool on the subject,
my pick is Mike Flynn early pardon. Mike Flynn pardon on early Sunday
afternoon. I do really love tacos. It does not mean I`m rooting for that
outcome. It just means I`m expecting me we`ll get.

My – that`s where I`ve got a square, Mike Flynn pardon and my timing early
Sunday afternoon. We`ll see.

The Dow dropped another 424 points today, after plunging 724 points
yesterday. This latest plunge appears to be due to the president`s
actions, appears to be due to the president`s new economic attacks on
China. China now saying that it will retaliate by launching its own
economic attacks on U.S. manufacturers and farmers who export key products
that China`s singling out for retaliation, things like pork and apples and
steel pipe.

Well, the business reporting is that China is girding for a full-scale
trade war with the United States now due to the president`s actions. If
so, we`ll be able to look back at today as the initial volleys of that war.
Over the course of this week, the Dow Jones has dropped more than 1,400
points.

Now, I mentioned that this weekend is expected to be newsier than usual,
that`s in part because of the Stormy Daniels interview that is scheduled
for Sunday night on “60 Minutes”. It`s also because of the expectation
that the president or the White House might do something weird or dramatic
to try to distract from that interview on Sunday night.

But it is also expected to be a very newsy weekend because tomorrow is
likely to be a really big freaking march in Washington, D.C. and also
around the country. The march is against gun violence. The biggest march
will be in Washington. They`re expecting hundreds of thousands of people.
But more than 800 marches are scheduled around the country and even around
the world in solidarity with all the folks that are going to D.C. and in
solidarity with the Parkland, Florida, school shooting survivors that
appear to have kicked off this moment in our national discourse.

On the occasion of the march, “The Boston Globe” newspaper has just done
something very interesting. They`ve just done this wrap-around front page
op-ed. And I think this is very interesting. In keeping with the way the
kids who survived the Parkland, Florida, shooting have re centered the
debate on guns and made things seem possible that even six weeks ago
wouldn`t even be worth considering, this wrap-around in “The Globe” also
makes a case for basically not just recalibrating the debate, but
recalibrating what we consider to be central information for our national
debate about guns and gun violence.

And the fact that it`s “The Boston Globe” doing it specifically is
important because what they`re arguing is that Massachusetts should be seen
as America`s gun violence success story and that should be central to how
we think about approaching gun violence as a country. Massachusetts has
the lowest gun death rate in the country. Three and a half gun deaths per
100,000 people, which is still a lot but it`s less than the rest of the
United States. If the rest of the country emulated Massachusetts and was
able to bring their gun violence rates down to what Massachusetts has done,
that would save 27,000 American lives per year, 27,000 people wouldn`t die
if other states were able to do what Massachusetts has done with their gun
violence rate. So, it`s an – it`s an interesting approach.

“The Globe” with this op-ed section is basically trying to put at the
center of the debate what Massachusetts has done right, the kinds of
policies that are in place in Massachusetts that have resulted in this best
outcome in the whole country, so other states and the federal government
should maybe think about copying it as a best-case scenario, as a best
practices example. And on the occasion of tomorrow`s march, whether or not
you are participating in D.C. or in your home state or in your home state,
or whether or not you know anybody who`s going to this thing, I think
intellectually, it is helpful to approach the challenge being posed by
these Parkland survivors from a base of information, from within a framing
that isn`t necessarily just something that is defined by the NRA.

The NRA has been such a driving force in terms of how we talk about guns in
this country that they`ve shaped the terms on which we think about it. But
think about it from the perspective of Massachusetts` success on this
subject instead. I mean, as “The Globe” notes in their wraparound op-ed
tomorrow, 78 percent of American adults don`t own a gun. Statistically
speaking, it is way more normal in America to not own a gun than it is to
own one.

Seventy-eight percent of American adults don`t own a gun. Half of all guns
nationwide are owned by just 3 percent of Americans. And even among
American gun owners, overwhelmingly, most American gun owners support
fairly serious reforms on gun policy designed to reduce gun violence. And
I think that`s why people are going to be surprised by the number of people
who actually turn out in the streets tomorrow, the number of people are
going to turn out in D.C., and the number of people that are going to turn
out in these hundreds of events all around the country.

And there have already been some small changes. There were modest gun
reforms already signed into law in the very NRA friendly state of Florida,
which is where the Parkland shooting happened. In the big spending bill
that the president got all weird about but then ultimately signed today,
there is a provision in that bill to basically undo the prohibition that
has stopped the Centers for Disease Control from even study and gun
violence that enforced ignorant provision in U.S. law is it the most
important thing in terms of gun safety reform, but it is something. And
people have been complaining about it and talking about the idiocy of that
law for a very long time, but nobody was able to change it before now. It
has just changed.

The president has decided that the part of this he wants to work on is bump
stocks. Bump stocks are an aftermarket accessory you can attach to your
semi-automatic rifle to make it fire faster. The Justice Department will
now be pursuing regulations to effectively ban or at least more strictly
regulate those accessories.

So, the NRA would have you believe that any new gun regulation, any gun
safety reform is the end of the American Constitution and therefore
impossible for us to imagine, impossible to even hope for, right? But
we`re about to find out what is possible if you stop just listening to them
and start listening to literally everybody else who is affected by gun
violence in this country. And tomorrow is a big part of that.

And on that subject, a sort of strange thing has emerged concerning John
Bolton, the man who President Trump announced yesterday as the new national
security adviser. Since that announcement, reporter Tim Mak at NPR has
turned up a strange video, this video from featuring John Bolton.

Could we actually drop the lower third on the screen? The little – thank
you.

I want to play a tiny bit of this, but I – you have to see the subtitles
on the screen while he`s talking. Look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN BOLTON, INCOMING NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Thank you for this
opportunity to address the Russian people on the 20th anniversary of the
adoption of the Russian constitution. Today, you`re engaged in a historic
debate about the possible expansion of your freedoms. Should the Russian
people have the right to bear arms?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: So, you see that the subtitles there are in Russian. NPR first to
report today on what they`re calling John Bolton`s curious appearance in a
Russian gun rights video. This video is from 2013. John Bolton is
associated with the NRA. At one point at least, he was a member of the NRA
international affairs subcommittee, according to NPR.

And in 2013, he appeared in this video that was directed to a Russian
audience. It wasn`t just a generic video supporting the concept of gun
rights in Russia. It was the video made on behalf of a Russian group called
the Right to Bear Arms. And the Right to Bear Arms was founded by a
Russian politician named Alexander Torshin.

Torshin has spent several years cultivating strong and sort of sketchy ties
with the NRA here in the United States, including while he served as deputy
speaker of the Russian parliament. He`s also associated with Russia`s
internal security services.

And according to reporting by McClatchy several weeks ago, the FBI is
reportedly investigating whether this Russian politician Alexander Torshin
and his group the Right to Bear Arms somehow illegally funneled Russian
money into the Trump campaign in 2016, using the NRA as their conduit.

Now, as you know, we`ve already had one Trump national security adviser end
up in the middle of an FBI investigation into Russian influence in the
Trump campaign in 2016. That didn`t end well. Now, it appears we`ve got
another, and it`s not just the gun thing. He may find himself in the
middle of that investigation not just on the NRA Russia money side of it,
but also because of this.

This is an ad that John Bolton made for his super PAC. It`s imaginatively
named the John Bolton super PAC. According to new reporting in “The New
York Times” today, between the spring 2014 and fall of 2016, John Bolton`s
super PAC received $5 million from Robert Mercer. He`s the biggest of all
the Trump donors. He`s also the funder behind lots of Steve Bannon
projects, including Breitbart News and the very controversial data firm
Cambridge Analytica.

Bolton got $5 million from Mercer. What did he spend that $5 million on?
Well, more than a million dollars of it, he shoveled back to Robert Mercer.
He shoveled back to Cambridge Analytica. He used Mercer`s money to hire
Cambridge Analytica, which is also funded by Robert Mercer, who`s taking
money from Mercer and spending that another Mercer-funded identity.

The reason Cambridge Analytica is so controversial right now, the reason
they fired their CEO this week and they`ve come under investigation in the
U.K. and in the E.U. and they start – sparked an FTC investigation of
Facebook in this country is because of new revelations from a Cambridge
Analytica whistleblower who says that the firm – the firm used illicitly
acquired Facebook data from tens of millions of Americans to run the core
business of their operations.

In the case of John Bolton`s super PAC, Cambridge Analytica reportedly used
that illicitly acquired American Facebook data to make ads for candidates
who John Bolton`s support it, but they also appear to have use John
Bolton`s PAC as a way to try to get more Americans data off of Facebook.

“The Times” reviewed the agenda of a 2014 meeting where the company
explained, quote, in boldface text, that the company wanted to use Bolton`s
voter contact lists to direct people toward the Facebook app that would be
the Facebook app that Cambridge Analytica used to rip off personal data
from million Americans who never consented to their Facebook stuff being
used in that way.

Well, “The Associated Press” now reports that special counsel Robert
Mueller is scrutinizing Cambridge Analytica and it`s connection to the
Donald Trump campaign.

So, this is the third Donald Trump national security adviser now. Whatever
you thought of Mike Flynn, whatever you have thought of H.R. McMaster and
his tenure as Trump`s national security adviser, now that McMaster is out,
you should know that the new guy Trump is appointed to replace him is going
to start that job with potential entanglements in two different FBI
inquiries – one into the NRA and whether the NRA was a conduit for Russian
money into the Trump campaign, and one into Cambridge Analytica and what
its role was during the Trump campaign, including potentially its
relationship to the Russian attack.

Being national security adviser is a really hard job. Being national
security adviser while potentially being personally linked to two ongoing
FBI counterintelligence investigations, that`s not just going to be hard,
that`s going to be awkward. But there`s a lot more to get to tonight about
John Bolton.

There`s also a rip-roaring news story that just posted at “The Washington
Post” involving an attempt at a ten thousand dollar secret political payoff
secretly recorded phone calls that we`ve got and we will play for you, and
a sad sick horse in Alabama, I kid you not.

It`s Friday. Friday nights are always weird now.

Stay with us tonight. Lots to come.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: I`m a dog person. I didn`t grow up that way but now I have a dog,
like central thing in my life.

One thing I`ve learned about having a dog is that if the dog needs to take
medicine, the dog needs to take a pill, you can`t just talk the dog under
taking the pill. You have to hide the pill in something awesome. And I
know some people do with peanut butter, I`m sort of partial to burying the
pill in cheese or maybe a little sausage or something.

Today, I earned that if you`re a horse person instead of a dog person, when
you have this same problem of needing your animal to take medicine, it`s a
bigger problem than it is with the dog. You can`t solve it with a little
bit of cheese or a little bit of sausage because horses are big and the
amount of medicine they have to take is often very big too. So, you need
to take more drastic measures.

I learned this today because of Steve Bannon. I learned this today from a
recording of a phone call that was released by “The Washington Post”.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

GARY LANTRIP: What`s up, brother?

EDDIE SEXTON: Hanging out. Trying to be de-stressed.

LANTRIP: I got (INAUDIBLE)

SEXTON: I`m actually about to crush up 13 giant pills and try to give
them, trying to make a horse eat them with molasses.

He`s got a bunch of swelling, so I got antibiotics. Just crush them up
with a sledgehammer and you pour molasses them and put it in sweet feed.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MADDOW: Crush up the pills with the sledgehammer, pour molasses on and put
it in the sweet feed, bingo. I had no idea. Sledgehammer.

That phone call is between a lawyer in Alabama named Eddie Sexton who has a
horse with some swelling, and an acquaintance of his named Gary Lantrip.
Their conversation happened this past November, November 2017, in the midst
of that astounding special U.S. Senate election in Alabama, the one that
was so astounding, Alabama ended up electing a Democrat to the United
States Senate.

This conversation about the horse pills on the sledgehammer, it took place
just a few days after a woman had gone public with the eyebrow-raising
accusation that the Republican candidate in that Senate race, Roy Moore,
had initiated a sexual encounter with her when she was 14 years old, and he
was 32. That taped conversation between Eddie Sexton, the horse guy, and
Gary Lantrip, the reason this recording was released by “The Washington
Post” tonight is because that conversation concerns a fairly jaw-dropping
new storyline in the Roy Moore scandal, which involves former White House
chief strategist Steve Bannon.

The reason you need to know about the horse cure that lawyer Eddie Sexton
is describing at the beginning of that call is that throughout this taped
phone call that lays out the whole plot, so central to the story,
throughout the call, you will hear the very loud sound of Eddie Sexton
crushing up horse pills with a sledgehammer. So, you`ll hear them talking
about this whole plot but then the bang, bang, bang through the call,
that`s the sledge-hammering of the pills.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

SEXTON: I was depressed though I didn`t get to meet Bannon. I thought
didn`t he used to do that, the late night thing or something?

LANTRIP: Exactly, and you can meet him one day, you know, we met him, met
him north of Washington, D.C. last week.

SEXTON: I want to meet – I want to meet a real conspiracy theory guy.

LANTRIP: Huh?

SEXTON: I want to meet a real conspiracy theory guy.

LANTRIP: Well, you can really met him whenever and that`s fine.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MADDOW: You can really meet him whatever, that`s fine.

What they`re talking about there is the prospect of meeting up with Steve
Bannon. Now, at the time of that phone call, Bannon was no longer in the
White House but he was still the editor-in-chief of “Breitbart News”.
Bannon and Breitbart News were huge national boosters of the Roy Moore
Senate candidacy in Alabama. They`d helped him beat the establishment
candidate, the incumbent Luther Strange in the Republican primary.

But then when it came to the general election and more spacing all of these
accusations, right, well this is the story that`s laid out tonight in “The
Washington Post” by reporter Shawn Boburg and Dalton Bennett.

Leigh Corfman, a woman who made the accusation against Roy Moore, she went
public with her story in early November. She turned to Eddie Sexton, a
childhood friend, to be her lawyer, to help her manage the media scrutiny
that was sure to follow her going public with this accusation. A couple of
days after the story became public, Eddie Sexton`s longtime friend, Gary
Lantrip, the guy we just heard him talking to on the phone there, he`s a
Roy Moore supporter, he got in touch with Eddie and asked him to meet up.

Eddie brought along his business part – and he brought along his business
partner Bert Davi. Quote: Davi mentioned that he knew Steve Bannon. Davi
said the “Breitbart” executive wanted to talk about whether Leigh Corfman`s
lawyer, Eddie Sexton, would say publicly that he didn`t believe the
accusations from Leigh Corfman. Sexton says Gary Lantrip or Mr. Davi told
him that he could collect $10,000 and possibly more if he did that.

Eddie Sexton said he was disturbed by the offer but also intrigued by the
prospect of meeting Steve Bannon. So, they agreed to meet again later that
day. At that meeting, Eddie Sexton said, quote, he said Lantrip told him
that they had the money for him, but then other people entered the picture.
Quote: Matt Boyle, the Washington bureau chief of “Breitbart News” soon
join them, Sexton said. Minutes later, the Jerusalem bureau chief of
“Breitbart Jerusalem”, Aaron Klein, also joined them.

On the table was a notebook he said open to a page that contained the
handwritten statement that Mr. Sexton was expected to sign, the one
disavowing this accusation from his client. He said they started
discussing the possibility of issuing a statement undermining Leigh
Corfman`s credibility.

Eddie Sexton said he told them he didn`t see any way he could make a
statement disparaging his client. He would lose his law license if he did.
And besides that he hadn`t even asked Leigh Corfman about the details of
her allegations against Roy Moore, said I don`t know how y`all or anybody
would ever believe me, Eddie Sexton says he told them.

And Matt and Aaron, those are the “Breitbart” guys, kind of tell me, well,
that`s not really the point of whether or not anybody believes you. It`s
just, you know, getting other information out there.

The statement which Eddie Sexton provided “The Post”, statement they wanted
him to sign, said this, it`s handwritten as you can see: After reviewing
the allegations, after taking Leigh Corfman as my client, I believe there`s
not sufficient evidence to back them up and that the case strains
credulity. I decided that since I would have difficulty representing a
client that I don`t believe I have – that I don`t believe in, I have to
recuse myself from this case. I hope Leigh the best.

So, that`s the statement Eddie Sexton says they wrote for him and tried to
get him to sign, offered him 10 grand to sign it. Eddie Sexton never
signed that statement, but later that day, he recorded a phone call with
his buddy Gary Lantrip.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

SEXTON: I mean, have y`all – have they already paid y`all money?

LANTRIP: No, just what I`m about to give you.

We got the 10 dollars. We got that, but it don`t matter.

SEXTON: Yes, I don`t know why they want to do it, because really, they
ain`t no – it just – it`s stupid. He`s going to have so many things
come out.

LANTRIP: Yes. What they`re saying all they want to do is cloud something.
So, yu know, the first one come out, I`ll be a little bit to cloud, the
second one come out, they clouded it, and they said, if they clouded the
two of them that is all they need, I don`t care how many comes out.

SEXTON: Well, I was depressed though, I didn`t get to meet Bannon. I
thought didn`t he used to do that, the late night thing or something?

LANTRIP: Exactly, and you can meet him one day, you know, we met him, met
him north of Washington, D.C. last week.

SEXTON: I want to meet – I want to meet a real conspiracy theory guy.

LANTRIP: Huh?

SEXTON: I want to meet a real conspiracy theory guy.

LANTRIP: Well, you can really met him whenever and that`s fine.

We got some chance to do something, make us a little quick little bitty,
you know, nothing for us, so it don`t matter to us and them, on down the
line, we could go to D.C. and blah blah blah blah

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MADDOW: Make a little bit little bitty make a little money now, it`s the
implication there and then down the line, we go to D.C. and that`s when
we`ll make it.

“Washington Post” spoke to both Gary Lantrip and Bert Davi for this story.
They acknowledged trying to get the lawyer, trying to get Eddie Sexton to
make this statement undercutting his client`s accusation against Roy Moore.
They acknowledged arranging a meeting between the lawyer and the two
“Breitbart” reporters, but they wouldn`t directly answer questions about
whether any money was offered.

“The Post” also tracked down video events evidence of Gary Lantrip and Bert
Davi at a Roy Moore fundraiser in D.C. on November 1st. It was hosted by
Senator Rand Paul. Steve Bannon was also present at that fundraiser. “The
Post” also published this video of Gary Lantrip and Bert Davi appearing to
basically be Roy Moore`s wingman at an event in Jackson, Alabama, later
that month.

In a statement to “The Washington Post” yesterday, Roy Moore said that Gary
Lantrip and Bert Davi had attended rallies, but the campaign wasn`t
involved in any effort to pay the lawyer. Quote: I nor anyone else in the
campaign offered anyone money to say something untrue, nor did I or anybody
else authorize someone else to do such a thing.

Spokesman for Steve Bannon said that Mr. Bannon could not be reached for
comment on this matter. It`s an incredible story.

Shawn Boburg is the reporter who broke this story and he joins us next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: “Washington Post” has just published a remarkable story tonight
about Roy Moore, the Republican candidate for Senate in Alabama last year
who was dogged in the final weeks of that campaign by accusations that he
pursued or initiated sexual encounters with girls when they were teenagers,
as young as 14, and he was in his 30s.

A lawyer for one of the women who accused Moore says that during the
campaign, he was approached by two Moore supporters and by reporters from
“Breitbart News”. He says he was offered $10,000 and a chance to hang out
with recently ousted White House official Steve Bannon if he would drop his
client and publicly say that her allegations against Roy Moore were a lie.

The lawyer also has recordings of his phone calls to back up his story.

Incredible reporting from “The Washington Post” tonight led by
investigative reporter Shawn Boburg.

Mr. Boburg, thank you very much for being with us. Congratulations on a
truly bizarre scoop.

SHAWN BOBURG, REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Thanks for having me.

MADDOW: Why is the story coming out now?

BOBURG: The lawyer Eddie Sexton was reluctant to talk about this for
months. He considered going public before the election, but he spoke with
Leigh Corfman and he told us that she preferred that – that nothing that
he did be perceived as an effort to influence the results of the election.
And there were also some other complications.

These two men happened to be his clients in a small civil case and so, he
had some concerns about whether he wanted to go public. Another factor was
that Gary Lantrip, the man you hear on the tape, is a longtime friend who
he`s known for decades, which also explains why they spoke so frankly.

MADDOW: And if there weren`t money involved in this, if this were some
guys who knew each other and some of them supported Roy Moore and one of
them represented this woman who was making very damaging allegations
against Roy Moore, and they were trying to – they were trying to talk each
other out of this or trying to talk each other into playing a specific role
around this that took some negotiation, that would be itself be an
interesting human drama in Alabama in the middle of the story.

But there`s this $10,000 that this figure that surfaces in your story, how
much were you able to tell about the reality of that offer? Was $10,000
secured? Was it available to be paid? Do we know who put that money up if
we believe the money was really there?

That would seem to make it a much more serious matter, potentially a
criminal matter.

BOBURG: That`s a huge question, and I can tell you that Eddie Sexton in
the recent interviews we did with him over the course of many weeks,
extensive interviews, truly believes that his friend Gary Lantrip was
offering and was prepared to give him $10,000. A huge unanswered question,
of course, is, where would this money have come from?

An interesting fact here is that Gary Lantrip and Bert Davi, the two men
that approached Eddie Sexton, have never donated as far as we could tell to
any election in Alabama or federally. So these are two men who are –
don`t customarily reach into their own pockets to help a campaign and have
not been politically active.

So, it does raise the question why money was brought up in this context, in
this particular case.

MADDOW: And the other thing they were offering was a chance to spend time
with Steve Bannon. Actually with the implication that maybe even some work
– some paid work might derive from a contact with Steven Bannon. Is there
any reason to believe that these guys actually knew Steve Bennett or had
contact with him?

BOBURG: Well, so, when you listen to this tape, you could easily dismiss
this as a guy who`s just puffery, a guy who`s boasting but doesn`t really
have these connections. One of the things that we were surprised to find
after we listened to the tape and brought the – you know, a reasonable
amount of skepticism to it was that these videos surfaced where both Gary
Lantrip and Bert Devi attended functions and campaign events with Bannon
and the candidate Roy Moore.

We also were surprised when we went to interview Gary Lantrip and Bert Davi
that both of them spoke about Bert Davi`s close relationship with Steve
Bannon and although they wouldn`t explain the origin of that relationship
or its nature, they were both very comfortable talking about Bert`s
relationship with Steve Bannon.

MADDOW: Incredible stuff.

“Washington Post” investigative reporter Shawn Boburg who I feel like I
just want to follow you around because you keep stumbling on really
interesting, unexpected stories wherever you`re reporting – thank you for
helping us understand this, Shawn. Congratulations on the scoop.

BOBURG: Thank you.

MADDOW: All right. Much more to come tonight. What a weird day.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: Over three weeks ago now, on March 1st, Nicolle Wallace here at
MSNBC was first to report that H.R. McMaster was soon to be out as national
security advisor. He`d be out by the end of the month.

That reporting got a big response and it sparked a lot of speculation about
who might get McMasters job if Nicolle Wallace was right and he was getting
fired. You might remember from this show, there was one response online
that we singled out here because it frankly hit like a thunderbolt.

Quote: if Bolton replaces McMaster and I`ve heard Kelly likes Bolton, we`re
all going to die.

That was from Colin Kahl, who`s the former national security adviser to
Vice President Joe Biden. Well, now that that`s actually happened, now
that McMaster is not just out but John Bolton is in to replace him, Mr.
Kahl isn`t saying, OK, we`re all dead now. But he is still being pretty
freaking stark.

This is what he`s just written for “Foreign Policy”, which has the headline
as you see: John Bolton is a national security threat. Mr. Kahl is now
making a very considered, sober, well-thought-out argument but just like
that initial tweet, it`s about as serious as a heart attack.

Joining us now is Colin Kahl. He`s a senior fellow at Stanford and former
national security adviser to the vice president.

Colin, thank you very much for joining us tonight. I appreciate your time.

COLIN KAHL, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR TO VP JOE BIDEN: Great to be
with you.

MADDOW: So, you alarmed me because I respect your expertise and I think of
you as a non-hyperbolic person, and you were setting off an early alarm
that John Bolton would be not just worrying but a terrifying choice. Why
did you single him out?

KAHL: Well, I mean the tweet you mentioned was I guess a little bit of
black humor and a dark a dark moment, but no, I think there are genuine
concerns about Bolton, especially because there seems to basically be kind
of a Bolton playbook that goes back frankly to the Iraq war and that
playbook goes kind of something like this: take a threat, hype it, based it
on questionable intelligence, define it as imminent and existential, say
that diplomacy is a fool`s errand, especially with rogue regimes, and then
claim that the only answer is military action, including preventive
military action and regime change.

And that was the play that Bolton supported in the Bush administration
towards Iraq and it`s the play that he supports towards North Korea and
Iran today.

MADDOW: He has explicitly argued both in his many appearances on Fox News
and in op-eds that the United States should not just take a harder line
toward Iran and North Korea but that we would be perfectly justified in his
phrase, with starting wars with both of them, with unilaterally moving head
even without the support of our allies to just bomb them and try to end the
regimes in those countries by starting wars.

How do you know in John Bolton or in any one whether a person is making an
argument like that from the safety of an op-ed writer`s position and
whether somebody actually having the influence to bring an end like that
about might be more cautious? How can you tell?

KAHL: Well, I mean, in this particular case, I think we have a track
record of him making the same arguments inside government when he worked
for the Bush administration, first as an undersecretary at the State
Department and then as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, and then
he`s consistently made it out of government. And it`s the exact same
arguments he`s making today about North Korea and Iran, he was making about
the entire axis of evil as George Bush called him back in 2002, with Iraq,
Iran and North Korea.

And so, look, the concern and I think that a lot of analysts have is we`re
entering an extraordinarily sensitive two months with both North Korea and
Iran. We have Trump, you know, apparently going to meet Kim Jong-un by the
end of May. Bolton will be his national security adviser in the context of
that summit, and he`s already pessimistic about diplomacy and believes
basically the summit should only happen so that we can get on with the
bombing as soon as possible.

And then on Iran, the president also has to decide in mid-May whether to
waive the nuclear-related sanctions associated with the nuclear deal and
Trump threatened in January that he wouldn`t do that again unless Europe
and Congress fixed the agreement and John Bolton doesn`t think the
agreement is fixable and just thinks Trump should get out of it.

So, you know, coming in May, in about six weeks essentially, we could have
a train wreck on two pretty big national security issues.

MADDOW: Colin Kahl, former senior fellow – excuse me, senior fellow at
Stanford University and former national security adviser to Vice President
Biden. I wanted to talk to you because of your stark take on this. I
don`t feel any better, but I am better informed. Thank you for being with
us. I appreciate it.

KAHL: Thanks.

MADDOW: To underscore what Mr. Kahl just said there about Bolton wanting
that summit to happen just so he can get it out of the way and get on with
the bombing as soon as possible, he`s paraphrasing there, but that is
actually the argument that John Bolton has made about President Trump
meeting Kim Jong-un, that it`s a good idea so that these pointless
negotiations will be over as soon as possible and we can stop talking and
move on to what he really wants to do, seriously.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: You knew we couldn`t get through the night without it. We have
just had what I think amounts to a late Friday night news dump from the
White House. This has just happened.

You might remember last summer, in July, President Trump tweeted that he
was going to ban transgender troops from the military. The administration
got sued over that attempted policy change. A judge blocked it. With the
ban not effect, the first new openly trans recruit just signed up a couple
of weeks ago.

Well, now, tonight, just moments ago, not a tweet but a White House memo
announcing what looks like a new attempt by President Trump to kick
transgender service members out of the military.

This news is super fresh. We are still trying to figure out what it means
but it appears they are going at this late at night on a Friday. This new
policy appears to try to the allow some transgender service members to be
grandfathered in, but it looks like it also restricts access to medical and
ability to sign up for military service in the first place.

So, it`s a tweak to the first policy announced by tweet, just announced by
the president, they just put out this memo. This – I`m sure this will be
in court before I finish with this commercial break.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: Tomorrow`s going to be a really big day. The kids from parkland,
Florida who survived one of the worst school shootings last month and have
been on a tear ever since against gun violence, those kids and others like
him are leading what`s expected to be a huge march in D.C. tomorrow,
hundreds of other satellite marches planned in support all around the
country.

MSNBC, you should know, is going to be live all day tomorrow and into the
night with special coverage of what is expected to be a very big moment in
American politics. Our politics, particularly on this issue, can seem
stuck sometimes, but this part finally does seem to be on the move.

Again, full coverage live all day tomorrow and into tomorrow night here on
MSNBC.

That does it for us tonight.

Now, it`s time for THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL.

Good evening, Lawrence.


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