MO Governor refuses to resign despite investigations. TRANSCRIPT: 04/20/2018. The Rachel Maddow Show
Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
Date: April 20, 2018
Guest: Eric Swalwell
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: And thanks to you at home for joining us this
hour. Happy Friday.
It`s a Friday. So, that means there`s lots going on.
In Missouri tonight, the sitting Republican governor of the great state of
Missouri, Eric Greitens, he has just been hit with new felony charges. The
first felony charges against Governor Greitens came a couple months ago in
conjunction with revelations about an extramarital affair and alleged
extortion by Greitens` related to that affair. Then came an extraordinary
bipartisan report from the Missouri legislature containing graphic
allegations of violence and sexual abuse by Greitens in the course of that
alleged affair. The Republican-dominated state legislature in Missouri has
been considering whether they may want to start impeachment proceedings
about Governor Greitens.
Now tonight, these new felony charges against the governor have just been
filed. And these new felony charges against him are actually not related
to the alleged affair. These new felony charges allege that he misused a
veteran`s charity that he ran basically to fund his campaign.
Missouri Governor Eric Greitens has steadfastly refused to concede anything
about any of the charges against him from the very beginning. He has
already refused calls for his resignation from the leaders of the House and
the Senate in his state, both of whom are Republican leaders. He has been
on the edge of the abyss for quite some time now. But these new felony
charges tonight represent one more hard shove toward him becoming airborne.
So, lots of eyes on Governor Eric Greitens of Missouri tonight in the wake
of these new charges.
Internationally, the news of the night is North Korea. North Korea
announcing that they will freeze their nuclear and long-range missile tests
for the time being and they plan to close one of their nuclear test sites.
Now, this news comes less than a week before Kim Jong-un is due to meet
with the president of South Korea next week on the border between those two
countries. It also follows by one day the installment of a brand-new
between the Korea`s telephone hotline. That was set up for these two
leaders yesterday. So, they could communicate directly with each other and
Now, today, they get the announcement of this freeze. North Korea is not
announcing it`s dismantling its program, only that it`s hitting the pause
button on testing for now. But in this case, the pause button is better
than the play button, which is where we were before. So, this next week
will be very interesting to see how that evolves ahead of these talks.
Here at home, “The Washington Post” has broken news about the fraying edges
of the nation`s justice department. According to this reporting in “The
Washington Post” tonight, quote: Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently
told the White House he might have to leave his job if President Trump
fires his deputy Rod Rosenstein who oversees the investigation into Russian
interference in the 2016 election. Sessions made his position known in a
phone call to White House counsel Don McGahn last weekend as Trump`s fury
at Rod Rosenstein peaked after the deputy attorney general approved the
FBI`s raid on the president`s personal attorney Michael Cohen. Of course,
because this is our live – this is our collective life now.
We also tonight learned in “The Washington Post,” we learned more about the
mean nicknames the president has given the top law enforcement officials in
the country. We get more detail on that.
Quote: People familiar with Jeff Sessions` thinking say he has said several
times that he would find it difficult to remain as attorney general if
Trump for no good reason fired Rosenstein. The veteran prosecutor in
Baltimore that Sessions chose to be his deputy. But Sessions has had
little ability to do anything about it given his own shaky standing with
Trump for recusing himself from the Russia investigation. Trump at times
has referred to Attorney General Sessions as Mr. Magoo and he has referred
to Deputy Attorney Rod Rosenstein as Mr. Peepers, a character from a 1950s
sitcom, whereupon in order to cover the news tonight I have to show you a
picture of Mr. Peepers from that 1950s sitcom. And now everybody laughs
about the mean nicknames the president is so good at coming up with when he
gets into the wallowing fun of humiliating people for his own pleasure.
The headline here is that the attorney general says he may resign in
protest if the president fires Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein as a
way of trying to kill the Russia investigation. And that is a capital S
scoop for “The Post” tonight.
Quote: Sessions` message to the White House which has not previously been
reported underscores the political firestorm that Trump would invite should
he attempt to remove the deputy attorney general, while Trump also has
railed against Sessions at times. The protest resignation of an attorney
general, which would be likely to incite other departures within the
administration, that would create a moment of profound crisis for the White
So, if Rosenstein gets fired, Sessions says he is out in protest. “The
Post” may be right that that would set off a string of resignations,
possible – totally possible. As I said, it`s Friday. So, surprise,
there`s a lot going on in the news. But, you know, from that “Post” story,
while we are on the subject of profound crisis in the White House, today
history played a rerun. And it turns out it`s one of my favorite episodes.
On June 17, 1972, at 2:30 in the morning, five men got busted breaking into
the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee in Washington, the
Watergate break-in, right? The next day, there was definitely news
coverage about that. It was interesting, right? Five guys all with ties
to Miami for some reason? What were these five guys doing in Washington
burglarizing that Democratic Party office?
This was from the first “Washington Post” story about that burglary, a
story by Alfred E. Lewis. Quote: There was no immediate explanation as to
why the five suspects would want to bug the Democratic National Committee
offices or whether or not they were working for any other individuals or
So, there was news coverage of that. It was of interest that there had
been this burglary. But it was kind of mild interest.
Certainly, nobody in the press was immediately jumping to conclusions about
this being the first signs of a gigantic political conspiracy that would
take down the sitting president, Richard Nixon. Which it did.
But it`s interesting. Somewhat lost to history, that the Democratic Party
actually did kind of go right there right away when the Watergate burglary
happened. The rest of the country didn`t see it that way, the press
certainly didn`t see it that way. But the DNC, the Democratic Party, they
went right to the end game immediately.
Watergate break-in was June 17th. On June 20th, a couple days later, the
DNC filed a civil lawsuit against the re-election campaign for President
Nixon, saying that that little burglary at the headquarters, that wasn`t
just a burglary. That wasn`t just a moment of intrigue. That was a dirty
trick by the president and the president should have to answer for it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lawrence O`Brien, chairman of the Democratic National
Committee, today filed suit for $1 million against the committee for the
re-election of the president and against five men arrested early Saturday
who were charged with breaking into the party`s national headquarters at
the Watergate in Washington.
Carl Stern has a report.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I wish to emphasize as national chairman of this party
the deadly seriousness with which we view this entire matter. I am pleased
to know that the FBI is investigating this case, but I am shocked to learn
that the White House through its official spokesman deems unworthy of
notice this blatant act of political espionage.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Famed criminal lawyer Edward Bennett Williams whose law
firm represents O`Brien will try to question the five intruders a week from
tomorrow and to take depositions even inside the committee to re-elect the
president and the White House. Two of the intruders had a name and phone
number of another ex-CIA agent who now works as a part-time consultant to
the White House.
O`Brien refused to link the committee and the White House directly to what
happened but he says he knows more than he`s telling and he says he feels
he is on the right track in suing the committee as a co-conspirator with
the five men.
Carl Stern, NBC News, Washington.
MADDOW: So, right after the Watergate burglary happened, right away, the
DNC filed a civil lawsuit against the committee to re-elect the president,
saying that wasn`t just some random assemblage of burglars. Their lawsuit
basically said, hey, President Nixon, you did this, your campaign did this,
you have to answer for it.
And, you know, you saw that very sober coverage the night that the lawsuit
was filed there on NBC News. Honestly, people thought there were a little
bit nuts for doing this and for saying that this was some conspiracy that
went all the way to Nixon. To people at the time, it really seemed over
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Democratic Party blames the Republicans for sending
five men to burglarize or bug its national headquarters. Accordingly, it
is suing for $1 million. If it works, if they win the suit, it will be a
new and quite novel way of raising political money, a device no one has
ever used before.
The Democrats are $9 million in debt and if they win, if they should
squeeze a million dollars out of the Republicans, that will be just 1/9 of
what they need to pay off their old campaign debts.
It is not clear why if the Democrats are intent on suing, why they didn`t
sue for the full amount they need, $9 million, and try to force the
Republicans to bail them out of debt. It is one way of getting even.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: People tell me all the time, oh, our era is so poisoned by
terrible cable news has gotten so snarky – you know what? David Brinkley
had a pretty good on-air snark in 1972. Like ooh, the Democrats brought
this cute little lawsuit obviously, it`s just to get them out of debt and
they`re saying it`s about that burglary, huh!
David Brinkley is saying there what everybody was thinking at the time.
This was a joke. The Democratic Party is going to lay a blame for that
burglary at the doorstep of the White House? Everybody thought it was a
joke. But they did it. They filed this lawsuit.
This was “The Washington Post” coverage the next day. Byline: Bob
Woodward. Headline: O`Brien sues GOP campaign lays blame for bugging on
White House. Democratic National Chairman Lawrence O`Brien apparently
seizing on the break-in and attempted bugging of party headquarters here as
a major campaign issue, attempted yesterday to lay responsibility for the
incident at the door of the White House. He said there`s a developing
clear line to the White House and cited what he called the potential
involvement of special counsel to the president, Charles Colson.
O`Brien made his remarks as the DNC filed a million-dollar lawsuit in the
U.S. district court here against the committee for the re-election of the
president, whose chief security agent, James McCord was one of the five men
arrested at the break-in at 2:30 a.m. on Saturday. President Nixon`s
campaign chair, former Attorney General John Mitchell, denied any party
responsibility for the break-in and called the lawsuit, quote, another
example of sheer demagoguery on the part of Mr. O`Brien.
Mr. Mitchell called O`Brien`s lawsuit a political stunt. It`s a stunt,
sheer demagoguery. That was the line from the president`s reelection
campaign and nobody in the press took it seriously.
But we now know that those wacky over-the-top Democrats were onto it. They
were right. I mean, the DNC chair said, we think there`s potential
involvement here by President Nixon special counsel Chuck Colson. Well,
Chuck Colson ended up serving time in federal prison for Watergate.
The DNC said, hey, look we`re suing the president`s re-election campaign
because the chief security agent for the campaign this guy, James McCord,
he was right there in the middle of it. Well, James McCord also ended up
going to prison for Watergate.
When the Democrats filed their lawsuit, the president`s campaign chair,
John Mitchell, comes out and calls it a political stunt, sheer demagoguery.
Well, John Mitchell, former attorney general of the United States, Nixon`s
campaign chair – yes, he ends up serving months in federal prison for
All of these guys dismissing it, are you kidding? That`s a crazy – all
those guys went to prison.
And it wasn`t that lawsuit by the DNC that put all those guys in prison,
but that lawsuit by the DNC was the Democratic Party`s way of planting a
flag on that break-in and saying, you know what, this is a really big deal
and it`s a political scandal, it`s not burglary. That was their way of
putting a flag in it saying this is going to end up going right to the
president, right to Richard Nixon, and nobody believed them when they
But that lawsuit itself was the way they chose to try to get to the bottom
of what was going on, but also to keep it in the public eye. For example,
when they found something new in their investigation into what happened
behind the Watergate burglary, one of their tactics was that they would
amend their lawsuit. They`d amend their complaint in this lawsuit. That
would result in a new filing showing up on the docket for that case that
would be publicly available, that would give reporters something else to
report about this scandal as it slowly, slowly, slowly widened out.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In politics today, the Democratic Party was in court,
strengthening its complaint that the committee to re-elect President Nixon
had engaged in political espionage. Tomorrow, the Democrats will file a
complaint which alleges that Maurice Stans, former secretary of commerce
and now finance chairman for President Nixon, financed the break-in at
Democratic Party headquarters. Stans says this is a scurrilous pack of
lies. The Democrats complaint will, say Stans, used $114,000 in Republican
campaign funds to establish a political espionage squad.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: A scurrilous pack of lies. This was the fall of 1972. The
Democrats had a new filing and their lawsuit they amended their complaint
so everybody got access to their amendment they`re signaling that they
thought they had found an even closer link between the burglary and
president Nixon on his campaign.
And indeed, Mr. Scurrilous pack of lies, Maurice Stans, the finance chair
for Nixon`s campaign did end up leaving guilty on multiple charges.
That was – that was late 1972, that little clip we just showed you there.
The public at that point still basically wasn`t all that interested in the
Watergate scandal. Good evidence of that fact is the fact that in November
1972, Nixon was getting reelected even while all the burglars were under
indictment, like people just didn`t care that much about Watergate.
The Democrats using this lawsuit to try to pry out new information in the
case, right? They got sworn depositions that help them establish the links
between the campaign and the burglary, they keep filing amendments to the
lawsuit to try to get people to cover it as an ongoing and widening
scandal. In part that lawsuit was just their way of trying to keep the
story alive, because they believed it was about the president.
Well, by the following year, by the spring of the following year, by 1973,
spring, that story would no longer need any helping along, no longer need
any kindling by the Democratic Party because by then the Watergate hearings
started and John Dean flipped as White House counsel and special prosecutor
got appointed and ultimately, the president would have to resign the office
and leave in disgrace.
But back in the slow days that lawsuit by the DNC even though everybody
thought it seemed hysterical and they first filed it, not only were the
Democrats right in their claims in that lawsuit, in the end, they actually
won that case. They had sued the committee to re-elect the president for
On the day that Richard Nixon left office in disgrace, the committee to re-
elect the president, his re-election committee quietly, sent the Democratic
Party a check for three-quarters of a million dollars. The Democrats were
right. They won that lawsuit and on the day Nixon left office, nobody
noticed, right, because people had other things on their minds. The
Democrats getting their check and being proved right that wasn`t exactly
the headline news of that day.
And I think because of that, the fact that the Democrats did this during
Watergate, it was sort of lost to history for a long while. It was dug up
just a few months ago though as a feature story on the hit slate.com
podcast “Slow Burn” by reporter Leon Neyfakh.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
LEON NEYFACK, SLOW BURN PODCAST: After the lawsuit was filed, Democratic
National Committee Chair Lawrence O`Brien did something hardly anyone was
willing to do at that early stage, he directly blamed the burglary on the
White House. O`Brien pointed out the irony of a president who had run as
tough on crime being involved in illegal campaign tactics. He said the
country was about to witness the ultimate test of this administration had
so piously committed itself to a new era of law and order just four years
O`Brien`s lawyer thought he should be careful accusing the president of
criminal activity, but the chairman of the DNC was not worried. I`ve
studied Nixon since the Kennedy campaign, he said. I have no doubt that
the trail will lead to the Oval Office if we can hang in there long enough.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: So, that was on the “Slow Burn” podcast just a couple months ago,
digging out that fascinating and mostly forgotten artifact from how the
Democrats bought their side of the fight in Watergate.
Well, now, today, surprise, that artifact from Watergate not only proved
itself to be dug up. Today, it reanimated and came back to life because,
look, today, the DNC, the Democratic Party today filed a forgotten
Watergate-style civil freaking lawsuit against the Trump campaign over the
Russia scandal. It`s about the way they were broken into in this scandal
just like DNC headquarters were broken into back in the summer of 1972.
Today, the DNC contends in this suit that although it was Russia who did
the hacking to break into DNC headquarters, they alleged that the Trump
campaign and people associated with the campaign were willing and active
partners for Russia in this crime.
And the list of defendants is long. The DNC is suing the Russian
Federation, which means Russia, the GRU, which is Russian military
intelligence, they`re suing the specific staff from the GRU who posed as
the hacker Guccifer 2.0, which was the hacker that took credit for the
hacking and robbery of the DNC.
They are bringing this suit against Aras and Emin Agalarov, excuse me,
Russian business associates of Trump who were behind setting up the Trump
Tower meeting during the campaign. They also brought this suit against
Joseph Mifsud, who`s the mysterious character who prosecutors say told
Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos that Russia had stolen Democratic
emails. The lawsuit has also brought against WikiLeaks and its founder
Julian Assange who packaged and distributed the stuff that Russia stole.
After them, there`s a whole bunch of familiar names. The Trump campaign,
Donald Trump Jr., Paul Manafort, Roger Stone, Jared Kushner. George
Papadopoulos, Rick Gates, also the last line there some unnamed John Doe`s
one through 10. These are named unknown Russian operatives who had been
part of the hacking scheme against the DNC.
So, in this lawsuit today, the Democrats are seeking monetary damages just
like the Democrats did in Watergate back in `72. They`re also seeking an
admission from the defendants that they participated in this conspiracy
and, of course, in order to justify this claim, the DNC has to spell out
what happened to them and why they believe they were the wronged party here
and so, we get a long prose, well-written narrative of what they say
It starts like this: in the run-up to the 2016 election, Russia mounted a
brazen attack on American democracy. The opening salvo was a cyber attack
on the DNC carried out on American soil. Russian intelligence services
hacked into the DNC`s computers, penetrated its phone systems and
exfiltrated tens of thousands of documents and emails.
Russia then used the stolen information to advance its own interests,
destabilizing the U.S. political environment, denigrating the Democratic
presidential nominee and supporting the campaign of Donald J. Trump whose
policies would benefit the Kremlin. In the Trump campaign, Russia found a
willing and active partner in this effort.
And then it goes on from there at length and in detail, spelling out that
Now, here`s the thing a lot of people who have been watching Robert Mueller
and the special counsel`s investigation very closely, a lot of people who -
- a lot of people who are close observers of the Mueller probe believe – I
sort of come to expect that at some point, Mueller will probably bring
indictments that relate to the hack of the DNC, and I don`t say that
because I have any insider information, I don`t.
But when Mueller indicted all those Russians a couple of months ago, that
wasn`t for the break-in at the DNC. That wasn`t for the DNC hack. That
indictment of all those Russians a couple of months ago that was for some
of the social media stuff that Russian intelligence did. The DNC hack,
breaking into Democratic Party`s computers and phone systems and stealing
stuff, that is much more obviously criminal activity under American law.
And so, since we already saw that other sort of more abstract indictment of
all those Russians, people have really been waiting for the other shoe to
drop and of an indictment over what happened to the DNC. That hasn`t
happened yet. Maybe it`ll never happen, but people have sort of been
expecting it. Who knows if that had happened already, maybe the Democrats
wouldn`t have gone ahead with this lawsuit, spelling out how they were
wronged by the attack on their computers and phone systems that stole all
But they have now done that. They have now filed this lawsuit and so now
we get their whole written narrative, their whole very specific timeline of
how they were attacked and when and what the Trump campaign did to make it
all work and to help disseminate the fruits of these Russian crimes.
Now that the DNC has filed this lawsuit, there`s the possibility if it goes
ahead that they could end up demanding documents from all these defendants.
They could demand depositions, sworn testimony from all these defendants.
And when you look at this list of defendants, that could be a fascinating
turn in this case, ahem, Don Jr., ahem.
But before we get there first, the judge in this case will have to decide
if this lawsuit goes ahead. That`ll be a very consequential decision that
judge has to make, a decision with very clear echoes in history, which
makes this almost more history than I can stand.
This is the bio of the judge to whom this case has been assigned. Look way
back in his resume there, way back when he was just a young legal pup. See
what it says there?
He served as an assistant special prosecutor, Watergate special prosecution
force, Department of Justice from 1973 to 1974. The judge they gave the
DNC lawsuit to today was a Watergate prosecutor.
In this news today, history isn`t even just rhyming anymore. History is
full-on plagiarizing at this point.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Democratic Party blames the Republicans for sending
five men to burglarize or bug its national headquarters. Accordingly, it
is suing for one million dollars.
(END IVDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: One million dollars. June 20 of 1972, National Democrats sued the
Richard Nixon re-election campaign for the Watergate break-in, which had
just happened three days earlier. At the time, the media scoffed and
leading Republicans called the charges scurrilous.
But the Democrats` charges in that lawsuit that that burglary was something
to do with Richard Nixon in his campaign, that was borne out. They were
right, and the Democratic Party ended up taking three quarters of a million
dollars off of Nixon`s campaign when they settled that suit on the day
Nixon left office in disgrace over that scandal. Well, today in federal
court, that cockamamie seeming at the time lawsuit that was eventually
borne out and won today, that lawsuit had a child. Today, the Democratic
Party sued the Trump campaign and the government of Russia and WikiLeaks
and all a bunch of key figures in Trump world for this latest break-in to
the Democratic Party, the hacking of Democratic Party servers and the theft
of Democratic documents during the campaign.
The new Trump campaign manager today responded with words straight out of
1972. They called it sham, bogus, corrupt, desperate, frivolous.
This is just day one. We have no idea how this Democratic lawsuit will
play out, but we can look at the consequences from the last time something
like this happened.
Joining us now is NBC News presidential historian Michael Beschloss.
Mr. Beschloss, this is my present to you.
MICHAEL BESCHLOSS, NBC NEWS PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Thank you.
MADDOW: I got you something for this – for this difficult week.
MADDOW: I`m amazed by this story. First of all, I`d like to ask you what
parts of this I screwed up. Did I get any of this wrong?
BESCHLOSS: No, you got it right, absolutely right. Everything old is new
once again. And you know, when David Brinkley dismissed that in that
broadcast, he was sitting about a hundred feet from where I am in the NBC
bureau in Washington.
MADDOW: When we think about lawsuits in politics, I mean, sometimes they
are scurrilous. Sometimes they are just used as political weapons.
Substantively, one of the things we always wonder about though is whether
lawsuits can be used to actually provide new factual evidence, can you get
depositions? Can you get discovery? Can you turn up documents or
communications that you otherwise wouldn`t get access to because of –
because of a lawsuit?
Was that a factor? Did the Democrats end up (AUDIO GAP) in `72 with this
BESCHLOSS: Oh, it was a total factor because, you know, as you were
saying, this was three this lawsuit came three days after the break-in, and
there was no real assurance that there would be a proper investigation.
You know, we now know there was a Senate Watergate committee led by a Sam
Ervin and, you know, two special prosecutors got in on the act. And
finally, the House Judiciary Committee voted impeachment.
But three days after the break in, there was no way of knowing that. So,
this was Larry O`Brien, the chairman, and the DNC`s way of saying we want
to make sure this is investigated because we think this wasn`t just a
break-in, we think this was connected not only of the Nixon campaign but
the Nixon White House.
MADDOW: And am I right looking back on that era, in remembering or at
least thinking about the time because I wasn`t born yet, that –
BESCHLOSS: Indeed. I was.
MADDOW: That – George McGovern, right, who was running against Nixon and
in `72, that other Democratic candidates for office hadn`t figured out a
way to talk about the Watergate scandal or maybe decided they didn`t want
to talk about the Watergate scandal in a way that resonated with people.
It wasn`t a major campaign issue that was working for individual Democratic
politicians, and that`s part of why the Democratic Party bringing on this
lawsuit sort of shocked people because it was not in keeping with what
people were hearing from Democratic electeds.
Is that – is that the way it went?
BESCHLOSS: Totally right. You know, I talked to George McGovern late in
life, and he said one of the greatest frustrations of his life was during
that fall `72 campaign. He was not able to talk about the offenses of
Watergate that he saw in a way that moved the electorate.
And sure enough after Nixon was elected in that big landslide in `72 that
you mentioned we now know from secret document and also from the Nixon
tapes he was working a hundred ten percent of the time to try to shut down
the investigations that were being discussed both by Congress and by DOJ.
MADDOW: Yes, and we also know from documents at the time that Nixon
actually was a little bit freaked out by the DNC lawsuit at the time even
as everybody around him was publicly dismissing it, partly, I`m guessing
because he knew they were on to something. It`s fascinating stuff.
BESCHLOSS: It is, absolutely.
MADDOW: Michael Beschloss, NBC News presidential historian, thank you, my
friend. I was so excited to talk to you about this. I really appreciate
you being here.
BESCHLOSS: Thank you. Me too. Be well this good weekend.
MADDOW: All right. Much more to get to. Busy Friday night. Stay with
MADDOW: Last night, former FBI Director James Comey was here for an hour
while I asked him a gazillion questions about things he said he was not
allowed to talk about. There were a few he was able to answer. But even
when he was not able to answer a question, sometimes that itself gave us
some news – something new and intriguing to consider.
Here`s one I wanted to bring your attention to. Last night, I asked Mr.
Comey about Paul Manafort who the government has admitted in open court.
Paul Manafort has been under investigation by the FBI as far back as 2014.
The FBI obviously knew that when Manafort unexpectedly became chairman of
the Donald Trump presidential campaign in 2016.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Is there some duty to warn? Is there any sort of – is there some
action that the FBI should take you`re not asked to do background checks on
people for political campaigns, but when you know what you know about these
folks, you know about ongoing investigations involving people in serious
matters, should something have been said?
JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: I don`t want to talk about those in
particular, but in general, it depends upon what the facts are that started
the investigation and what you`ve learned. The goal is always to disrupt
and defeat the adversaries` actions, so sometimes that means building a
criminal case and then locking up the person who`s been working with the
foreign power. Sometimes, it means going to the person and saying, hey, we
know you`re hooked up with them, knock that off.
Sometimes, it`s a – it is a laying in the weeds trying to develop sources
of information to get close to them. Lots of different techniques. Always
the goal is to defeat the adversaries` actions in an effort to influence
the United States.
MADDOW: Did anything like that happened in terms of Paul Manafort?
COMEY: Yes, I can`t answer that. I mean, I could, but I can`t.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: I could but I can`t. It`s becoming the story of my life.
I don`t – what he says you can`t – you can`t answer that. I mean,
there`s Director Comey saying that in some situations where someone is
suspected of working with a foreign power, the FBI, you know, has a number
of different techniques to try to defeat the adversary nations` actions.
You know, what were those if any in the case of Paul Manafort when he
became chairman of the Trump`s campaign – of the Trump campaign and the
FBI knew what they knew about him?
I mean, as of yesterday, we now know from Justice Department prosecutors
speaking in open court that Paul Manafort is being – was being
investigated for possibly being a back channel between the Trump campaign
and the Russian government. Well, what did the FBI do when Manafort took
over a presidential campaign in the United States? James Comey last night
left open the possibility that they did do something.
Likewise, when I asked Mr. Comey about Trump`s first national security
adviser Mike Flynn, after the FBI had interviewed Mike Flynn about his
contacts with Russians, after the Justice Department had warned to the
White House that Flynn was compromised by the Russians, they appeared to be
vulnerable to Russian blackmail. I asked Comey if after all that, during
the weeks that Flynn stayed on as national security adviser, whether the
FBI or any other intelligence agency took any measures to keep sensitive
information away from Flynn, to protect national security since he was
somebody who they believed to be compromised?
Again, Mr. Comey told me and I quote directly, I`m not permitted to answer
that. That`s interesting. The former director of the FBI says he cannot
answer whether his agency took any action with the Trump campaign, the
Trump transition or the Trump administration given what the FBI knew about
Paul Manafort and Mike Flynn who were under active investigation by the FBI
while they were involved in these roles. That is new and intriguing,
right? If, for instance, the FBI warned the Trump campaign about Paul
Manafort or warned Paul Manafort about what they were looking at him for,
that would add a whole new dimension to our understanding of what was
happening during the election.
So, that is one big thing we learned last night and I`ve got one more, too.
MADDOW: As we all remember quite acutely, just 11 days before the
presidential election in 2016, FBI Director James Comey sent a note to
Congress saying, hey, he was reopening the Hillary Clinton FBI
investigation. That letter more or less blew up the presidential race the
Hillary Clinton campaign believes that was like a comet flying down from
the heavens and smashing into their campaign.
Last night, I asked Director Comey about something that happened right
before he sent that note to Congress when Rudy Giuliani, at that time a top
adviser to the Trump campaign, he got on Fox News and he said some
surprises were coming that would really turn the race around in Trump`s
favor. That was two days before James Comey in fact announced the
reopening of the Clinton investigation. After Comey made that
announcement, Giuliani went back on TV and basically said, yes, that was
what he`d been hinting at. He`d had advance notice from FBI agents that
the investigation was going to get reopened.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Did Rudy Giuliani and therefore the Trump campaign have advance
notice from inside the FBI, from the New York field office or wherever,
that this announcement from you was coming?
COMEY: Not that I know of, but I saw that same publicity. And so, I
commissioned an investigation to see if we could understand whether people
were disclosing information out of the New York office or any other place
that resulted in Rudy`s report on Fox News and other leaks that we were
seeing in the media. I don`t know what the result of that was. I got
fired before it was finished, but I know I asked that it`d be investigated.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That answer from James Comey here last night has gotten a good bit
of attention in the wake of that interview. Mr. Comey telling us that Rudy
Giuliani`s comments during the campaign prompted him Comey to order an FBI
investigation into whether people inside the FBI were feeding the Trump
campaign non-public information about the Clinton investigation during the
campaign. James Comey confirming to us last night that he ordered an
investigation into that, but he said he doesn`t know what the result was of
that investigation he ordered because, of course, he got fired.
Well, we`re not percent sure what happened to that investigation, but we
think that what probably happened to it is that we think it got rolled into
a broader investigation by the Justice Department inspector general, an
inspector general investigation into the FBI and its activities related to
the 2016 election. We think that leak issue is part of what the inspector
general is due to report on very soon.
Mark Hosenball at “Reuters” reported yesterday that that inspector general
report will be issued next month, which means we may be able to get – we
may be about to get the results of the investigation James Comey talked
about so intriguingly last night, including the part about Rudy Giuliani,
right as Rudy Giuliani is becoming the president`s new lawyer on the Russia
Joining us now is Congressman Eric Swalwell. He`s a member of both the
Intelligence Committee and the Judiciary Committee.
Congressman, it`s nice to see this evening. Thanks for being with us.
REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D, CALIFORNIA: You too, Rachel. Thanks for having me
MADDOW: So, the Justice Department inspector general we believe is still
doing an investigation broadly speaking into the FBI`s various activities
related to the 2016 campaign. We surmise that that might involve – a look
at whether or not FBI agents were leaking non-public information to the
Trump campaign during the campaign. Do you think that the inspector
general is a credible investigator? Are you – do you think these will be
SWALWELL: I worry about that, Rachel, because what we`ve seen as recently
as today is now perhaps former Director Comey himself is under
investigation by the director general, because of what looks like
Republicans seeking the memos that he wrote, leaks that came out about
those memos immediately yesterday and now a report today that he may be
under investigation and, of course, we see a president who wants to direct
the FBI and the attorney general as to who he believes they should
investigate. So, I do fear that the inspector general could be untowardly
influenced by what they`re doing. But I`d like to see that report as soon
It – what is suggested to me is that there were a number of people on the
Trump campaign who had foreknowledge about hacks that were occurring
against Hillary Clinton, whether it was Roger Stone and, of course, what
was being reported out by Julian Assange then, of course, Rudy Giuliani
intimating in Fox News appearances that there was an investigation that was
about to be reopened. And so, it certainly looked like the fix was in from
all sorts of angles throughout that late fall of the 2016 campaign.
MADDOW: If something like that was going on during the campaign and Rudy
Giuliani was a recipient of that kind of information from inside the FBI
and was using it for the Trump campaigns benefit, is – does that pose an
issue for him becoming a leading member of the president`s legal team?
SWALWELL: Certainly, Rachel. Again, he would be just another individual
who, you know, it looks like was – you know, communicating with the Trump
campaign during – right before the election and in passing along perhaps
illicitly obtained information. This is an area that we tried to explore
in our investigation. Unfortunately, the Republicans on the House
Intelligence Committee showed no interest in being willing to subpoena the
documents, the communication logs, the travel logs the bank records for
situations like this, that we believed occurred because of what we saw in
press reporting and from other credible individuals.
So, hopefully, Bob Mueller will tell us, and hopefully with this new DNC
lawsuit, we may be able to find out. And remember, Bob Mueller can only
tell us what he can prove beyond a reasonable doubt. This DNC lawsuit will
be quite illuminating because they don`t have the same standard of proof.
It`s much lower in a civil lawsuit, so what we may learn through a
deposition may tell us a lot more about what was going on at the peak of
MADDOW: And, Congressman, I was – if you heard the top of the show, I`m
fascinated by that DNC lawsuit just as a tactic, also by its historical
echoes in terms of the DNC having done that during Watergate and it
actually having worked even though people forgot about it at the time.
One of the things that was reported about this Democratic Party lawsuit
today is that a lot of Democratic elected officials and serving members of
Congress were just as blindsided as the Republicans were and as the Trump
campaign was that this was coming, that this is not something that a lot of
people knew was in the works before it was sort of sprung on everybody
today when it was filed. Did you have advance notice that this lawsuit was
coming? Did you work on it in any way?
SWALWELL: No, I did not. And actually, I`m OK with that, because that
suggests to me that it`s a serious lawsuit. It`s not something just to
really drum up you know political talking points. It was something that,
you know, lawyers put together looking at the evidence, not asking for
other politicians to weigh in. And so, there should be a separation
between what we`re doing in Congress and what happened to the victim in
this case, the Democratic National Committee.
MADDOW: Congressman Eric Swalwell of California, thank you very much for
being here, sir.
SWALWELL: My pleasure.
MADDOW: Thanks a lot.
All right. We just got a little bit of breaking news that I`ve seen the
headline for but I have not absorbed it yet. I`m going to make sure I know
what I`m talking about before I tell it to you and I will do that right
after the commercial. Thank you, commercial.
MADDOW: So, I mentioned just before the break, there is some breaking
This has just come out in “The Washington Post”. One of the dominant
stories that we and I think the White House has been I`ve been coping with
and trying to understand over the past couple of weeks has been the FBI
raid on the Manhattan office home and hotel room of the president`s
personal attorney Michael Cohen. Since that raid last week, very dramatic
development in the whole legal saga surrounding the president, there`s been
a lot of reporting that among the things that FBI agents were looking for
when executing those search warrants was information related to payments
that were made to women, payments to pay them basically to not talk about
their alleged affairs with Donald Trump.
One of the things that has emerged since we`ve started to realize that that
may actually be a central legal concern for the president and for his
attorney is that there seems to have been a sort of pattern of collusion –
forgive me – between lawyers and at least two of those instances where
women were paid off, Michael Cohen was involved in the transaction on the
side of don`t talk about Trump. And the same guy in both instances was
involved on the other side of the deal, this guy named Keith Davidson. It
led to suspicions that there was some sort of pattern basically – or
possibly some sort of rigged system for these women who were coming forward
where they thought they were getting legal representation, but their lawyer
was sort of in cahoots with Michael Cohen to make sure that Trump got what
he needed and these women didn`t get much.
Both Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal have sued to get out of these
payment deals that were negotiated in part with these – this attorney
Keith Davidson supposedly on their side. Well, now, here`s the story
that`s just broken in “The Washington Post”. Quote: Keith Davidson, the
former attorney for two women who were paid to keep quiet about their
alleged affairs with Donald Trump is cooperating with federal authorities
who are investigating Trump attorney Michael Cohen Davidson has been asked
by prosecutors in the southern district of New York to provide electronic
According to his spokesman, quote, he has done so and will continue to
cooperate to the fullest extent possible under the law. When lawyers have
lawyers, it`s bad. When lawyers have lawyers who have spokesman – go
ahead and set yourself on fire.
We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: At 10:00 a.m. today, high school kids around the country walked
out of their classrooms to protest gun violence and demand policy changes
to stop it, the kids you see here are in D.C. Taking part in a second
round of nationwide walkout softer the mass shooting in Parkland, Florida,
killed 17 people in February. Unlike what happened with the walkout on the
one-month anniversary of that shooting in March, this time a lot of schools
did not give their blessing to kids to leave school grounds for this
These students staged a sit-in outside Speaker Paul Ryan`s office at the
U.S. capitol. You see them being handled there by U.S. Capitol police.
Back home in Paul Ryan`s district, a handful of kids walked out at George
S. Parker High School in Janesville, Wisconsin.
In Parkland, Florida, the kids were told yesterday they could face
disciplinary action if they walked out, but they did it anyway. Parkland
kids have continued grassroots organizing both at home and around the
country. Some of the Parkland survivors went to Colorado today for a day
of service and remembrance at Columbine high school.
Today marks 19 years since the Columbine massacre, which means some of the
kids who protested today I`ve never known a world before having an armed
gunman storm the school was an event you really needed to fear.
This movement of theirs is still going. They`re still marching, speaking,
now sometimes getting arrested for change. They are happy to have help
from grown-ups. Clearly, they are not waiting for permission from anyone.
That does it for us tonight. We will see again on Monday.
Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD” tonight with Ari Melber sitting in.
Good evening, Ari.
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