Trump threatens Syria strikes. TRANSCRIPT: 04/11/2018. The Rachel Maddow Show
Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
Date: April 11, 2018
Guest: Robert Costa
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: And thanks to you at home for joining us this
hour. Happy to have you with us.
Where do you want to start tonight? The prospect that we`re about to shoot
more missiles at Syria right after the president said he wanted us to have
nothing to do with the war in Syria anymore? We could start there.
There`s also the fact that the president literally said today, get ready,
Russia. That`s a quote. Get ready, Russia – as he was apparently
preparing his plans to shoot missiles into Syria where Russia is the major
organized military power on the ground.
The president says, get ready Russia, as in here, they come you guys ready?
Got everything moved out of the way. Do you need any more time? You good
to go? This enough notice?
Get ready, Russia. So we can start there tonight.
We could start tonight with the x-rated report about alleged sexual abuse
and violence by Missouri`s Republican governor that report just released
tonight by the Missouri state legislature and that governor still believes
there is no need for him to step down. We can start there.
We could start with yet more senior officials leaving the Trump
administration or we could start with the previously fired senior White
House official who`s now been brought back and installed on the president`s
orders at the Justice Department. We could start there.
We could we could start with the next new scoop that we`ve got on the
Mueller investigation following our report last night on Dana Boente and
James Comey. There is a lot going on, my fine-feathered friends. I`m very
glad that you`re here. There`s a lot to get through.
Oh, and also the speaker of the house, third in line to the presidency,
resigned today or at least he announced that he is leaving. He will not be
running for reelection.
Ho-hum, normal Wednesday. These are Wednesdays in our life now.
The Republican Party has held the House of Representatives since the
beginning of 2011. They won the chamber in the 2010 midterms, the big tea
party wave. That was one of the biggest partisan swings in the House in
modern American history. The Republicans picked up 63 seats in that first
midterm after President Obama was elected in the 2010 midterms.
And when you when you want a majority, even if it`s just a small majority,
you, of course, get to take control of all the committees in the House.
You don`t just get the leadership of the House writ large. All the
committees that had previously been shared by Democrats, those Democratic
chairs had to hand over their gavels to new Republican chairs. And when
that sort of a transition happens, it is a feeding frenzy in Washington.
It is power-play writ large. There`s lots of jockeying among members of
Congress for the best jobs.
Often the chairmanships are won by senior members of the House. People
who`ve been around for a long time and have made a lot of friends and doled
out a lot of favors they have a lot of chips to cash in with their
But when the Republicans took over the house with that big, big win in
2011, 2010 midterms, they`re all getting sworn in in 2011, the Republican
member of Congress who managed to snag the best chairmanship of all, the
chairmanship of the Budget Committee, the best gig in Congress. The person
who would be responsible for crafting the Republicans economic alternative
to President Obama`s proposals.
That guy was a pretty young guy, just 40 years old at the time, not one of
these old lions of Congress who`d been you know raising money for all his
or her colleagues for decades, is this 40-year-old guy who got that plum
job not because he`d been around forever and had lots of favors to trade,
but because he was seen as such a quality guy. He was seen as such an up-
and-comer, and specifically he had a really detailed, really specific plan.
He said that he had the plan for the Republican Party to finally get
American debt and deficits under control, because he knew how to do it.
You put him in charge, he would do it. His reason for living was to cut
the debt. It was what he dreamed about, it was what he lived for, it was
his life`s work, it was all he cared about it was definitely one thing that
he knew how to do better than anybody else, and he had dreamy blue eyes and
he looked awesome alongside blown up charts and graphs.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI, SPEKER OF THE HOUSE: The facts are very, very clear.
The United States is heading toward a debt crisis. The only solutions will
be truly painful for us all.
That doesn`t have to be our future. The way we respond to this challenge
will ultimately define our generation. We can choose a path to prosperity.
Let`s take a look at how we can do it.
Our debt as a share of the economy is already too high, but look at where
it`s going. These are actually pretty conservative estimates.
Here`s what would happen under our proposed budget, what we`re calling the
path to prosperity. As you can see, we won`t come anywhere close to the
tipping point and we`ll pay off the debt over time.
REPORTER: The House Republicans` budget man called for dramatic cuts and
RYAN: We put the nation on the path to actually pay off our national debt.
REPORTER: Forty-one-year-old Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan is going big.
Compared to the White House budget laid out in February, the Republican
plan over the next decade would cut government spending by $6 trillion,
reduced the federal deficit by $4.4 trillion, compared to the president`s
budget according to the Congressional Budget Office.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Budget chairman, Congressman Paul Ryan, champion of
urgent deep cuts, a 40-year old congressional rebel with a cause. And Jon
Karl spent the day with him.
REPORTER: He`s been given more power over the federal budget than anybody
in Congress. Paul Ryan, the Republican with the budget ax.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Twenty-three million.
REPORTER: He`s a little like the guy in the movie “Dave”, the accidental
president who sets out to fix the budget line-by-line.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That`s another 47 million, so this is good. We`re
REPORTER: But in the movie, Dave only has to find $650 million in savings.
Ryan wants to cut several trillion over the next 10 years.
I mean, how do you go in here and how do you find the kind of savings you
want to find? And how do you – how do you –
RYAN: I`ve been raising these things since I was 22 years old. You
literally go through it line by line, direct loans, this is perfect. So,
direct loans, lesson on new spending on autopilot that has no congressional
oversight and it gave the illusion that they were cutting spending.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That`s the Paul Ryan party trick that he does with reporters.
U.S. budget to any page, I`ll find you wasteful spending to cut on any
page. Oh look, look at this one. You know, you thought you`re burping the
alphabet routine was good, right, for that thing you do at the chewing
tobacco lid, no, no, no. Try opening the budget, boom, I`d kill that.
I mean, yes, there were party poopers out there who pointed out that in
that example and that televised interview, that one random thing Paul Ryan
happened to pull out of the budget at random as an example of wasteful
spending, that thing it`s actually something that saved the U.S. government
billions and billions and billions of dollars, so cutting it would cost
billions of dollars.
But still, the idea that he had some sort of budget magic that he was
budget magic personified, it was so exciting you just didn`t want to reveal
how the trick was done or that it didn`t work. You just wanted to believe
in the magic, the beltway really wanted to believe in the magic, however
you felt about Paul Ryan`s actual grasp of actual numbers.
By the very next year that plan of his that he had unveiled was such
orthodoxy for Republicans and he was seen as such a serious policy guy by
the mainstream press that the following year, 2012, Republicans basically
by consensus chose Paul Ryan as their vice presidential candidate to run
with Mitt Romney because, yes, dreamy blue eyes and youthful fitness looks
great alongside Mitt Romney, but also policy, right? He had that very,
very serious plan. He was the policy guy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In choosing Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan as his
running mate, Mitt Romney has instantly remade his presidential campaign.
Congressman Ryan, the energetic chairman of the House Budget Committee, is
the Republican master of all aspects of federal spending and he comes
complete with his own detailed conservative fiscal plan to remake the role
of the federal government in everything from Medicare and Medicaid to tax
policy and agriculture subsidies.
In naming Congressman Ryan, Governor Romney has transformed the
presidential campaign into an ideological battle,.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Ideological battle because Republicans have picked – they called
him the Republican master of all aspects of federal spending.
There`s a conservative activist named Grover Norquist who`s an anti-tax
crusader. He said at the time that Republicans didn`t actually even need
Mitt Romney as a presidential candidate, didn`t matter who was at the top
of the ticket. All they needed was that magic plan from the Republican
master of all aspects of federal spending, Paul Ryan.
Grover Norquist said at the time, quote, we want the Ryan budget. Pick a
Republican with enough working digits to handle a pen to become president
of the United States.
All we want is Paul Ryan`s magic plan.
Well, Paul Ryan did not become vice president in that campaign that he and
Mitt Romney lost in 2012. But while Mitt Romney sort of disappeared for a
while. it`s now trying to just make his political comeback now, Paul Ryan
kept rolling and he ended up becoming speaker of the House in 2015. And
again, the prevailing view was this meant that the Republican Party would
now be led by Mr. Policy, by the most capable, most devoted policy wonk in
all the land, the man whose reason for living was to reduce deficits and
the debt and, boy, does he know how to do it.
Once he was speaker, Paul Ryan started releasing these odd but sort of
exciting videos about himself as speaker at the time that they made people
think that maybe he was running for president in 2016, or maybe he just
liked having videos of himself out there with story music and the sound of
people applauding him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RYAN: How reassuring it would be if we actually fix the tax code, with
patients in charge of their health care, grow our economy, strengthen our
military, lifted people out of poverty and pay down our debt. The cynics
will scoff. They`ll say it`s not possible.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Scoffing cynics too don`t believe we will pay down our debt.
Don`t you know that Paul Ryan has been working on this since he was 22? He
has the plan. He`s going to bring down the debt. He`s going to do all
those things, the debt will disappear.
This is – this is who Paul Ryan is in American politics, and he`s an
important figure in American politics. But this is the founding mythology
of Paul Ryan over his 20 years in Congress. And at the beginning of last
year, his party finally took control of the White House and the Senate and
the House where he is charge, and he has a huge majority in the House, he
can do what he wants.
And with that full control, they have enacted some of Paul Ryan`s policies
that he has been campaigning for for 20 years. He`s finally seen his
fiscal plans come into existence.
Two days ago, we got the mathematical fiscal assessment of the result of
those policies the deficit is now going to shoot past a trillion dollars by
2020. As a share of the American economy, the deficit is going to reach
levels not seen since the economic collapse of 2008. Before that, the last
time deficits were this big was World War II, because we were paying for a
world war at the time, the debt is going to rise $13 trillion in the next
That report from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, that came out
two days ago. Then this was this morning.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RYAN: Today, I am announcing that this year will be my last one as a
member of the House. To be clear I am not resigning. I intend to full my
serve term as I was elected to do, but I will be retiring in January,
leaving this majority in good hands with it what I believe is a very bright
I have accomplished much of what I came here to do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Which part?
You may or may not care about the debt and deficit. Some people care a lot
about it, some people don`t care about it at all. But getting rid of the
debt and the deficit, that is the origin story of why Paul Ryan exists in
American politics, and why he`s third in line to the presidency. After the
president and the vice president, it`s him. It`s why he was put in charge
of the budget for the Republicans and why they ran him for vice-president
with Mitt Romney and why they made him speaker of the House. He will get
rid of the debt.
And then what he did with the power that they gave him once he got to enact
his magic plan is that he`s going to add $13 trillion to the debt, and Paul
Ryan apparently looked at that report that came out on Monday afternoon and
thought, well, my work here is done. I`ve pretty much done what I`ve.
I mean, again, you may or may not care about that as a policy issue, but
the – I think it`s – this is a – if we`re never going to look at this if
we`re ever going to look at this, this is the time, the beltway myth of
Paul Ryan which we have all been living through over the course of his
political ascendance these past few years, the beltway myth of Paul Ryan is
the opposite of what Paul Ryan did, which should make us examine our myths.
Whatever you think of Congressman Ryan, Speaker Ryan, whether you bought
into the myth in the first place or not, it is inescapably true that he did
the opposite. He failed at achieving the goals that he set for himself
from day one and that everybody cheered him on as being capable of
achieving as a Republican Party leader. He did the opposite and now, he`s
leaving, saying he`s pretty much done with what he wanted to do.
He will be the second Republican house speaker to quit in the space of
three years. His predecessor, John Boehner, stepped down in October 2015.
John Boehner supposed Congress life has seemed kind of awesome actually.
From what we know about it, it has mostly been him golfing and giving
occasional interviews about how relieved he is to not be in terrible
Congress anymore, he has occasionally sent out dispatches from his R.V. on
the open road. He wears shorts when he drives. It`s been kind of a low-
profile retirement for the last Republican speaker of the house who quit.
But today turned out to be a really awkward day for everybody in the
Beltway media to suddenly turn around and say, hey, I wonder what John
Boehner is up to right now. We`re having another House speaker quit, what
happened to the last one? Today ended up being a very awkward day for
everybody to suddenly start wondering about John Boehner again because
early this morning hours before anybody knew that Paul Ryan was going to
announce that he too was leaving, John Boehner announced very early on
Twitter today that he was joining the board of a weed company, like a
marijuana company. John Boehner, former Republican speaker the house,
chose this morning to come out of the closet as a brand-new proponent of
Quote: I am joining the board of acreage holdings because my thinking on
cannabis has evolved.
OK. I mean, we all know John Boehner as a proud cigarettes and red wine
guy. This is new. When John Boehner shared his evolution, his marijuana
evolution in that tweet before 7:00 a.m. this morning, I`m sure he didn`t
think it was going to be part of every single story about the biggest news
in American politics today. But there you have it something for Paul Ryan
to look forward to now that he`s retiring to spend more time probably
becoming a lobbyist. I mean, I would pay money to see them high together.
At some point, that will probably happen.
But it is – it is no mystery why Paul Ryan might have wanting – what
might be wanted to get out of the way of the November elections this year.
That tea party wave in 2010, in the first election after Obama was elected
president, that was the wave election that made Paul Ryan budget chair.
That was very big.
Some of the people who watch these kind of trends for a living, they think
this year could bring a Democratic wave that is even bigger than what we
saw in 2010. Even if you don`t believe that hype and it is still a long
way out before the election, it`s already clear that it`s going to be at
least a sort of rough year for Republicans. An election after election
over the last few months from state legislative seats to governorships even
to the U.S. Senate, Democrats have been doing way better than they did in
2016, or in some cases better than they done in many election cycles going
back many years.
Democrats have won upset victories in traditionally conservative places,
hello, Alabama. There have been a number of instances where Democrats have
still lost in very conservative places, but the percentage swing toward
Democrats in those elections has nevertheless been huge. Just yesterday,
we kind of had a couple of specials, a Democrat won a Florida Senate race,
state Senate race. She won her race by a 50-point margin, and yes, that`s
a Democratic district in Florida, so maybe not surprising that a Democrat
won. But Hillary Clinton crushed that district in 2016, Hillary Clinton
won that district by points this is a point swing further toward the
Democrats in that race yesterday, a 50-point margin.
Also yesterday, there was another special in Iowa. In Iowa, a Republican
won a state Senate seat in a very red district, but that Republican won by
14 fewer points than Trump had won that district in 2016. So, it`s a 14-
point swing and Democrats direction even in just – even in a race they
could still hold on to.
These kind of swings are real and we have been seeing them for well over a
year now and if they persist even at a fraction of what we`re seeing now,
they will make it very hard for Republicans this November, not to mention
the fact that every Republican America will be running with Donald Trump as
their party standard bearer, maybe Paul Ryan could have been the standard
bearer before he quit but it`s going to be Donald Trump and that will
doubtless help some Republicans in some places that really love Donald
At the rate things are going right now though, it is hard to imagine what
amount and what manner of scandal and legal peril may be hanging over Trump
and his administration by the time voters are actually going to the polls
and voting in November. We just learned today that as of last week, the
Russia Legal Defense Fund for the Trump campaign staffers and Trump
administration staffers is open for business and taking donations. So
maybe that could be kind of a joint election message, maybe that could be
like, hey, vote for me or if you don`t have time to go out and vote, please
could you contribute to the Russia legal defense?
Happy election season, GOP. We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: So, we had booked Bob Costa, national political reporter at “The
Washington Post” tonight as soon as we learn that Speaker of the House Paul
Ryan was resigning. Bob Costa is one of the best sourced reporters in
Washington particularly on Capitol Hill and among House Republicans, and
he`s often been able to read tea leaves better than anybody else when there
are sort of leadership changes happening in big political schisms afoot
among Republicans in Washington.
So, we booked Robert Costa to talk about that because of the Paul Ryan
story, and then right before we got on the air, look at what Robert Costa
just broke at “The Washington Post”. Do we have this to put it up there
yeah this has just gone up at the Washington Post website a new scoop from
Mr. Costa. Quote: Bannon pitches White House on plan to cripple Mueller,
to cripple Mueller probe and protect Trump.
This has just been posted by Robert Costa at “The Washington Post”.
According to this new report, he says that Steve Bannon now stood as White
House chief strategist last summer, but he`s remained in touch with some
members of President Trump circle. He`s now pitching a new plan to the
West Wing, to West Wing aides and congressional allies to cripple the
federal probe into Russian interference in the elections.
According to Mr. Costa`s reporting tonight, Bannon`s first proposed step is
to fire Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein who oversees the Mueller
investigation. Second step is that the White House should cease its
cooperation with Mueller, reversing the policy of Trumps legal team to
allow staff members to sit for interviews.
This is – this is unusual. I guess this would be step three or maybe this
is part of step two. Bannon is telling people that the president should
assert executive privilege in such a way that he should argue that
Mueller`s interviews with White House officials over the past year, the
ones that have already happened should now be seen as null and void
executive privilege should be quote exerted immediately and retroactively.
That`s Bannon`s plan.
Also, one final step, Ty Cobb the president`s rush a lawyer who actually
works for the White House, Ty Cobb, quote, should be fired immediately,
So, those are the steps. Fire Rosenstein, retroactively assert executive
privilege and try to nullify all of the interviews that already exist and
fire Ty Cobb too – new reporting from Robert Costa, national political
reporter at “The Washington Post”. He`s also the moderator of “Washington
Mr. Costa, congratulations on the scoop. Thank you for being here.
ROBERT COSTA, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Great to
be with you, Rachel.
MADDOW: So, let me ask you first about what you just posted at “The
Washington Post”. Is there any sense that Bannon is pitching this through
you because he believes that`s his best hope of getting this acted on, or
is it your sense that this is a plan that is actively being considered?
COSTA: As a reporter, I actually came to Bannon. I`d been hearing from
White House sources that he was back in the mix and he had seemed to be
over in Europe preaching his brand of politics for the last few months
after his political operation here pretty much fizzled, and he has been
talking to people that the president needs to fire Rod Rosenstein, the
deputy attorney general, and he`s been meeting just this week on Tuesday
night with White House officials, different White House aides privately,
having phone conversations conference calls, that sort of thing.
MADDOW: You say in your piece, legal experts are dubious about Bannon`s
idea that the White House could suddenly claim executive privilege on
interviews that were given voluntarily by officials and be able to exclude
them from an investigation. Is there – were you able to sense from Mr.
Bannon or from anybody else familiar with his plans why he believes that
this is even a viable prospect for him to suggest?
COSTA: It`s really a political play as much as a legal strategy he`s
recommending and it`s important to note Mr. Bannon is not an attorney. But
what you`re seeing from Bannon is someone who`s trying to play to the
president`s frustration with his legal team, the legal team Ty Cobb and
John Dowd before he resigned we`re urging cooperation.
Bannon thinks that`s the biggest mistake the president has made. He should
never have cooperated with the Mueller probe, and he`s urging people inside
of the White House and close to the president to mount a more aggressive
campaign and reshuffle the legal team and just stop cooperating after
you`ve reshuffle the Justice Department.
MADDOW: Isn`t it strange though that Bannon of all people – I mean, Mr.
Bannon, one of the ways he made headlines was by describing Trump`s earlier
decision to fire James Comey as – I can`t remember the exact phrase, but
there`s something about it being one of the worst political decisions in
modern history, describing the firing of Comey as a terrible decision that
might have doomed Trump`s presidency.
Now, he`s suggesting essentially the equivalent firing Rosenstein, in order
to try to eliminate the special counsel`s investigation. That would seem
to be quite an evolution just by Mr. Bannon himself.
COSTA: It`s a total reversal for Bannon. He was the one who criticized
Jared Kushner and others for firing FBI Director James Comey last year.
Now, he`s the one urging political warfare.
But that`s where we`re at with this presidency, a president who has a very
limited legal team and now, it`s outside advisors working their way
through, even though Bannon burned his whole relationship with the White
House with that “Fire and Fury” book, even Bannon is coming back,
whispering to people inside of the West Wing about what to do next.
MADDOW: Robert, let me also ask you about the huge news in Washington
today that we all woke up to, that Speaker Ryan is leaving. He`s not going
to be running for re-election.
Obviously, there had been previous reporting that had hinted at this, the
speaker`s office had denied it. People have been saying that his
retirement was coming.
Do you have any sense of how tied this announcement was, this decision was
to Speaker Ryan`s expectations for Democrats having a good midterm election
and potentially taking back the House this November?
COSTA: Well, Rachel you explained it so well. I mean, when you were in
your winning losing seats in southwestern Pennsylvania and in Alabama, that
pretty much tells you long with polls and what to expect on the horizon.
But the deeper question facing House Republicans I spoke to today is what -
- who`s going to be their champion? On the tax cut, Ryan was the person
who was going to sell it. The president hasn`t been out there repeatedly
selling the tax cut.
And without their leader and Ryan, who`s really there to bring together
that traditional Republican Party? But the Republican Party is so broken.
There`s that surface Republican Party the speaker was talking about today,
harkening back to Ronald Reagan and Jack Kemp. But those deficits you
talked about those deficit with a motivating factor supposedly for the Tea
But a decade later what really lingers on, not concerned about the deficit
in the Republican Party. Its grievance politics, fury with the
MADDOW: Robert Costa, national political reporter at “The Washington
Post”, moderator of “Washington Week” and as usual proving himself to be a
scoop machine. Bob, it`s nice to see you. Thank you very much for being
here. Much appreciated.
COSTA: Thank you.
MADDOW: I will say, in terms of who`s going to replace Paul Ryan, a lot of
discussion about that in Washington, when John Boehner stepped down, as the
last Republican House speaker to step down, everybody thought that the guy
who would step into those shoes was be Kevin McCarthy, the congressman from
California. It once again looks like that in the wake of Paul Ryan leaving
but something happened when Boehner left and the Republicans decided they
weren`t going to go with McCarthy, they skipped him and put Ryan in there
McCarthy`s again set to be there, set to be the next in line. It will –
nobody`s really told the story of how come McCarthy didn`t get it last time
around when Boehner stepped down. We`ll see if that plays itself again for
a second time now that he`s got a second chance at it.
All right. Stay with us.
MADDOW: OK. So, last night we broke a little bit of news about the Russia
investigation the Justice Department the FBI specifically we obtained some
new documents that allowed us to break two new pieces of news. First is
that we got some handwritten notes from a law enforcement official named
Dana Boente, and those handwritten notes appear to corroborate even down to
some of the exact phrases what FBI Director James Comey told Congress about
his interactions with President Trump before the president fired Comey last
Comey told Congress for example that President Trump had asked him to,
quote, lift the cloud of the Russia investigation. Boente`s notes that we
obtained appear to show Comey describing that to Boente in exactly the same
way, when he phoned Boente right after he`d spoken to the president in
order to make sure there would be a record of what the president had said
So, that`s one example. Comey telling Congress the president said he
wanted to lift the cloud and then him telling Boente the same thing that
the president said he wanted to lift the cloud. Comey also told Congress
that the president had said to him that this Russia business was
interfering in his ability to run the country as president. These notes we
obtained appear to show that Comey told Dana Boente the exact same thing.
Comey also told Congress that the president had asked him to make a public
statement that the president wasn`t personally being investigated by the
FBI. Comey appears to have recounted that same presidential request the
same way to Dana Boente. Comey also told Congress that that he – that
James Comey had asked the attorney general to make sure the president never
again spoke to him alone one-on-one about matters like this. Comey
conveyed the same description of that same conversation to Dan Boente.
And from these notes we got, it appears he used almost the exact same word-
So, the reason all of that matters, the reason those matching phrases,
those matching descriptions of those conversations, the reason that`s
important is because the president is potentially in legal jeopardy for
firing James Comey if that firing was an effort by the president to
obstruct justice. Now, how do prosecutors determine if an action like that
was an effort to obstruct justice? They look at why it was done.
And so, all these pre-firing conversations and interactions between James
Comey and the president, they may end up being part of any legal case
against the president, if those interactions show what the president
thought of Comey, what he wanted from Comey, what might have motivated him
to fire James Comey. That`s why Comey testified about those interactions
with the president in detail under oath to Congress last year. Honestly,
that`s also why there`s so much anticipation about Comey`s book coming out
What happened between Comey and the president before the president fired
him is really important to the question of whether the president might be
criminally charged or otherwise liable for obstruction of justice in this
And the president, of course, disputes Comey`s account of those
interactions. He has repeatedly denounced James Comey as a liar. He has
directly denied Comey`s descriptions of his interactions with the
Comey`s defense against that is that – well, there might not have been
tape recordings of his the interactions with the president but he has
basically the next best thing he said that he has copious notes taken at
the time by himself but also by other senior law enforcement officials who
Comey briefed at the time immediately following these interactions he had
with the president. Multiple senior law enforcement officials who
incidentally are trained to take detailed notes for just this kind of
reason for evidence.
So, these handwritten notes from Dana Boente which we obtained, these are
the first time that we the public have ever seen any of those
contemporaneous notes, and they do appear to backup Comey`s version of what
happened between him and the president, sometimes word for word.
So, that was the first big piece of news we were able to break. The other
big piece of news was that we also obtained this letter in which Dana
Boente explains to the Justice Department that he`s been asked to sit for
an interview with Mueller`s prosecutors. And Dana Boente of course is not
just any other witness for this investigation. As U.S. attorney in the
Eastern District of Virginia, Dana Boente personally signed off on
subpoenas and otherwise led the initial grand jury investigations into
Trump national security advisor Mike Flynn and Trump`s campaign chair Paul
When Dana Boente was acting attorney general and acting deputy attorney
general, he actually served stints overseeing the whole Russia
investigation all of it. When he was acting chief of the national security
division at the Justice Department, Boente personally approved some of the
most serious criminal charges that were brought against Manafort.
Mueller asking Dana Boente to come in as a witness is not just a run-of-
the-mill turn in the investigation. He is not a normal witness. But we
were able to report last night that Boente has been asked by Mueller to
come in and do an interview.
Well, then today, Matt Zapotosky at “The Washington Post” was able to push
this further, because Zapotosky today confirmed that not only has Mueller
asked Dana Boente to testify, the interview has in fact taken place.
Zapotosky was also able to separately confirm the authenticity of these
handwritten notes we reported on. According to “The Washington Post” they
are Dana Boente`s handwritten notes, and he was able to confirm that these
handwritten notes from Dana Boente have been handed over to the Mueller
Now, I mentioned last night that in addition to those couple of pieces of
news we were able to get to last night, we might have more to report in
coming days. Well, hello, it`s coming days and here`s something new that
we can report tonight, and this will – I think we can actually put right
up there on the whole screen, the whole thing.
Can we put it up? Could we have it there? Yes, there you go. And we`ve
only done a couple of little reductions here we`ve redacted mostly
basically just email addresses from people here because we don`t need to be
publicizing their email addresses.
Quote, from Scott Schools. Scott Schools is the top career official at the
Justice Department. Date: Friday morning, May 26th, 2017. And then the
two field there you see it`s to a long and interesting list of people at
the Department of Justice. You can stick a pin in that list. We`ll come
back to that distribution list in just a second.
The subject line here says preservation notice. And then the letter from
Scott Schools to his colleagues at the DOJ, it says this, “all”, as in dear
all. We have received requests that we identify and preserve any documents
related to the removal of former FBI Director Comey and any documents
related to the investigation of Russian activities to interfere with the
The documents and responsive materials covered by the request include but
are not limited to, I love this, both in draft and final form, all emails,
voicemails, documents, photos, text messages, instant messages, electronic,
handwritten and/or hard copy records, databases, telephone records,
correspondence, transcripts, audio recordings, analyses, briefings
assessments, banner entries, user agreements, audit records, metadata,
storage devices, notes, memoranda, diary and calorie entries – excuse me
calorie entries – calendar entries, visitor logs, meeting attendance
records, meeting room reservations, meeting agendas, badge records, records
of entry or exit to any building room or security facility, safe access
records, video surveillance of public and non-public areas and access logs
including of classified information.
Also, smoke signals if you have any of those, any removed tattoos you`d
like to submit for laser analysis, x-rays from the time you broke your
thumb at the company softball game. Also, your children`s report cards
dating back to birth, and their sonograms. I`m serious, right? They`re
going to need it all, preservation notice.
It ends by saying, quote, to the extent any of you or your staffs have
relevant documents, please identify and preserve them, so we can then
evaluate whether and how to provide them to the requesters. Now, the
requesters we can surmise are probably the special counsel`s office, Robert
Mueller and his prosecutors, because the date on this thing, May 26, that`s
nine days after Mueller was named a special counsel.
This means less than a week and a half after taking over the Russia
investigation, Mueller and his team demanded all of this stuff from all of
these people at the Justice Department.
Now, go back to the distribution list, Jody Hunt is on the distribution
list, at the time chief of staff to Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Sarah
Isgur Flores, the main spokesperson for the Justice Department both then
Sam Ramer, at the time, he was head of the Office of Legislative Affairs at
the Justice Department, which many was in charge of managing the
relationship between the Justice Department and Congress. Mr. Ramer has
since gone on I believe to work in the White House counsel`s office.
James Rybicki who had been chief of staff at the FBI under Comey, he was
another one of the people Comey reportedly briefed on his interactions with
the president. Rybicki ended up leaving the bureau earlier this year, sort
of pushed out apparently in January.
James Crowell, we believe is somebody who was working in the deputy
attorney general`s office, in the Rod Rosenstein office at the time that
this was sent.
And, of course, also on the list, Dana Boente, whose copy of the memo this
appears to be. Boente apparently was included on this list both in his
capacity as the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia and in
his capacity running the National Security Division of Justice Department
at the time. And I think actually this is Dana Boente`s marginalia there,
saying something about him bringing his notes on this matter into Scott
Schools even before this memo went out.
So, this document is never previously been reported. Part of what is
important here is that all of this stuff that all of these top people the
Justice Department are now supposed to find and preserve and hand over in a
Mueller, all of this stuff has to do not just with the Russia
investigation, which has already been underway, but they`re being directed
here that they`re also supposed to turn over all this stuff about what was
then a brand-spanking-new investigation into the president firing FBI
Director James Comey.
This memo went out on May 26th. Comey was only fired a couple weeks before
that. So, this memo goes out May 26th to all these people at Justice,
telling them to hand over all this stuff about Russia and about the firing
of Comey. This is nine days after Mueller was named special counsel and
again this is – this is new. This is previously unreported.
This shows the scale of the request for documents and communications, even
within the Justice Department for people who may have ended up being
witnesses to a potential crime that took place within the administration,
when the president fired his FBI director for reasons that remain in
dispute and under criminal investigation. It just gives you a sense of the
massive amount of stuff that Mueller and his team are hunting through in
this investigation. Not incidentally, this previously unreported retention
notice that we have just broken here tonight, this also shows you the
massive amount of stuff that has been collected by that investigation that
will need to be preserved and protected somehow as evidence, if in fact the
president ends up coming for the special counsel`s office.
MADDOW: If you think it seems weird that the president of the United
States would address an adversarial country on Twitter warning, get ready,
the missiles are coming, you are not alone after the president actually did
say that online today even people inside the White House and in allied
governments who might work with the U.S. on a Syrian military strategy were
reportedly confused, citing multiple American and Western officials, CNN
reported this afternoon that that tweet from the president, quote, caught
most of Trump`s aides off-guard. It also came before an agreement had been
reached between key U.S. allies about what to do in Syria.
U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis saying, quote, we are still assessing
the intelligence, ourselves and our allies, we`re still working on this.
But nevertheless, the president, apparently all on his own, decided this
morning to warn Russia to, quote, get ready because military strikes are
coming in Syria.
Russia is Bashar al-Assad`s biggest ally. The president publicly warning
Russia to get ready ahead of this military action.
There is some evidence that Russia is getting ready. “The New York Times”
cites military analysts tonight reporting, quote, with American strike
intentions so clearly forecast by Mr. Trump, the Syrian government has
moved key aircraft to a Russian base in Syria and it`s taking pains to
secure important weapon systems.
There are also reports tonight that Russia may have moved battleships out
of the Syrian port city of Tartus.
Quote: Get ready, Russia.
Thanks for the warning.
Joining us now is Courtney Kube, NBC News national security and military
reporter. Courtney, it`s great to see you. Thank you for your time
COURTNEY KUBE, NBC NEWS NATIONAL SCURITY AND MILITARY REPORTER: Thank you.
MADDOW: So, it has been almost exactly one year since the last U.S.
missile strike against Syria ordered by the president. Are you expecting
in terms of your reporting tonight that they`re going to do something
similar to that again?
KUBE: I think we will see something broader. So, I should start by saying
the decision hasn`t been made yet. We`re told that there is a decision-
making meeting that hasn`t quite happened at the White House yet.
But there are options that are on the table for President Trump and they
include two that are – what I would call broader than what we saw last
April. That was really more of a pinprick strike. It was something that
was more to send a message to Bashar Assad that the U.S. knew where the
chemical weapons strike came from and was trying to stop them from doing it
Well, if, in fact, this strike that happened last weekend was by the Syrian
regime which it seems it was – all indications are that it was. Then, the
death strike last April did not stop it. So, it looks like this will be
broader. The question is, just how far will it go? Will it actually
target Iranian or Russian military that are there in the country?
That seems a little unlikely it seems more likely that it would be multiple
targets that the U.S. will strike. But as you mentioned, you know,
President, Trump he`s really boxed himself into a corner here with this
tweet today, by saying that missiles are coming, smart missiles are coming.
So, there has to be some sort of a response now, Rachel.
MADDOW: And some sort of response that includes that kind of – that kind
of weaponry. I mean, if he`s – if he wants the tweet to be seen as an
Courtney, looking back at that strike a year ago and the way you`re
describing it, does the does the Pentagon – does the White House view what
they did a year ago as effective? Do they – do they – I know they look
back at it and see as a polling success domestically for the president, but
what if they think their own lesson was from that action last year?
KUBE: So, operationally on the ground, it really had no practical impact.
It damaged some aircraft, but it pocked up the runway, and several days
later, there were aircraft already taking off from that same – that was a
base called Shayrat Airfield in Syria. So, I – while it didn`t actually
stop, it seems Bashar al Assad from using what may be another nerve agent,
what people forget is that from last April until today, there have been
potentially dozens there are reports of the Assad regime using chlorine
gas, weaponized chlorine gas against his own people numerous times since
then and now.
So, it certainly has not stopped that. What it did though was send a
message it stopped any kind of follow-on attacks in the immediate aftermath
of the strike last April, and it didn`t draw the United States deeper into
this larger civil war. That was something that was that there was a lot of
concern about at the time, that this was something that was meant to send a
message – it did, but it just didn`t deter.
I think what now U.S. military planners are talking about is something that
goes a step further that might actually hopefully deter Bashar al Assad
from continuing to attack his people with these chemical agents.
Another thing that people forget though is, you know, while it may seem –
it may actually stop him from doing anything with chemicals, he`s
continuing to attack his people with barrel bombs. He`s continuing to blow
up civilians and kill them every single day and there that is nothing no
indication that any of that is going to stop anytime soon, Rachel.
MADDOW: Right. And then the president`s response to that continuation of
the war has been recently to say that he wants to get out of Syria and he
wants the United States to be disentangled even further than we have been.
Courtney Kube, NBC News national security and military reporter, thanks for
giving us the latest, Courtney. It`s nice to see you.
KUBE: Thanks, Rachel. You too.
MADDOW: Again underscoring what Courtney said at the top there, that the
decision hasn`t actually been made. We`re all anticipating that the White
House will likely do something if in part just because of the making good
in the president`s public statements. But according to Courtney tonight a
decision meeting needs to happen in the White House in that meeting has not
We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: One thing to give you a heads up about for tomorrow morning. The
confirmation hearing is going to happen tomorrow morning for Mike Pompeo,
President Trump`s controversial CIA chief who he has tapped to take over
for his controversial Secretary of State Rex Tillerson who he fired. The
Pompeo confirmation hearing should actually be – maybe – I`m not going to
say fireworks. I`m going to say it might be slightly heated. You may want
to put that on your docket tomorrow morning.
We`ll see you again tomorrow.
Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL.”
Good evening, Lawrence.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
Copy: Content and programming copyright 2018 MSNBC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Copyright 2018 ASC Services II Media, LLC. All materials herein are
protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced,
distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the
prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter
or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the