John Bolton presided over anti-Muslim think tank. TRANSCRIPT: 04/23/2018. The Rachel Maddow Show

Lisa Rein, David Irvine

Date: April 23, 2018
Guest: Lisa Rein, David Irvine

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST, “ALL IN”: You can listen to this show, these
words in your ears as a podcast wherever you are. Don`t forget to hit
subscribe while you`re there.

That is “ALL IN” for this evening. THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right

Good evening, Rachel.


HAYES: In your ears, my voice in your ears, on the subway, in the car,
wherever you are.

MADDOW: That`s a phrase that`s almost never used in any context, but I
think it`s perfectly –

HAYES: Slightly gross, but hey, it`s the truth.

MADDOW: Not gross at all. Thank you, my dear.

And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.

It has been a remarkable day of news. There`s some late breaking political
news tonight out of Washington that sounds like it is a surprise to the
White House. We`re going to be getting to that with some of the – with
one of the reporters who broke that story tonight.

The big positive news for the White House today concerned its nominee for
secretary of state, Mike Pompeo. There is big negative news out tonight
about the presidential nominee to head up the Veterans Administration.
That V.A. nomination looks like it is on the rocks, and indefinitely
delayed at this point.

Again, that news is just breaking as we`re going to air. We`re going to be
getting into detail on that story with one of the reporters who broke that
story coming up.

Of course, the news that dominated today`s headlines and everybody`s focus
all day today was out of Toronto. Terrible news today out of Toronto.
Early this afternoon, we had those images of the crime scene on that
downtown street where it was clear that many people had been hit and at
least hurt by a white van that appeared to have been deliberately driven
into pedestrians at speed, on a sunny day, on a busy street, in the heart
of downtown Toronto.

Witnesses said the van was speeding down the sidewalk, going about 40 miles
an hour and it went for blocks and blocks and blocks, for more than half a
mile. For hours after the incident happened, we did not have confirmation
from local authorities about the extent of the injuries or the number of
people who were hurt or killed. That delay, I think, made it all the more
of a shock when police finally announced that ten people were killed in
this incident today. Another 15 injured. Ten dead makes this one of the
worst mass killings in Canadian history.

The man who appears to have been at the wheel of the vehicle was arrested
about a mile from where all those people were killed and video that we
believe shows what happened right before he was arrested. The man is
confronted by police officers and he appears to say to police, repeatedly,
kill me, kill me, kill me, shoot me in the head.

The police did not oblige him that. He was taken into custody alive. We
know his name. We know his age, but we know nothing thus far about what
motivated the attack.

On days like this, of course, what is in the front of the mind are other
times that we have seen events that looked like this. We have seen
vehicles used as deliberate weapons of mass murder over the past couple of
years, in a bunch of different countries, national holiday fireworks
display in Nice in France last summer, on London Bridge last summer in
London, England, on a major pedestrian thoroughfare in Barcelona, and, of
course, on a bike path in Manhattan, on the west side of Manhattan in

And all of those instances, the attackers driving the vehicles turned out
to have links to Islamic terrorist groups or at least to be inspired by
that ideology. In this instance, today in Toronto, again, we do not yet
know the motivations of this attacker, if he had any, but he himself did
survive it and police have him. So, we will let you know more as we learn
more over the course of this evening. That`s basically the extent of what
we know thus far.

As I mentioned, in Washington tonight, there has been some drama over the
course of the day into this evening. The first drama resolved in the White
House`s favor. It surrounded the nomination of ex-Republican congressman,
now CIA Director Mike Pompeo. He was the president`s pick to be the next
secretary of state after Rex Tillerson was fired over Twitter.

Up until the last minute, Mike Pompeo was set to become the first ever
secretary of state nominee to get voted down by the foreign relations
committee in the Senate. Pompeo, however, was saved that indignity at the
last moment when, you guessed it, Senator Rand Paul, once again, decided
that while he likes all the attention he gets for saying he`ll be a no vote
on an important Republican priority, ultimately, he wouldn`t vote no at
all, not if it actually has real world consequences.

Senator Rand Paul has made a profession of this in Washington over and over
and over again. Senator Rand Paul, as soon as you hear about this pattern,
you don`t even have to hear his name before you know it`s him. He pledges
to do a maverick thing for what he declares is a principled reason and
everybody in Washington writes about what a principled maverick he is and
how unafraid he is to defy his party. But then, in the end, he never
actually defies his party.

Not when it comes to vote, not when it comes to actually taking an action.
Not if it might actually mean something.

So, if you were swayed by all those headlines that Rand Paul has been
rolling around in for months, he`ll do whatever it takes to stop Mike
Pompeo, then don`t feel about falling for it. You are not alone. Rand
Paul is very good at this particular trick.

We will have more on that story ahead tonight, including an expert view on
why the nominee to replace Mike Pompeo as head of the CIA might be another
nomination that`s in actual jeopardy.

And as I mentioned, there`s new reporting which is just breaking as we`re
getting on the air tonight about why the V.A. nomination might also be dead
in the water. Newly reported information tonight from multiple news
sources about V.A. nominee Ronny Jackson, who is currently the White House
physician. He was a very surprised pick to say the least when the
president fired his previous V.A. secretary and it came time to pick a new
one. New serious concerns raised by presidents in both parties tonight
about Admiral Ronny Jackson and this nomination. Looks like that
nomination will be delayed if not entirely put off. We will have more on
that ahead.

But we`re going to start tonight with the French president visiting
Washington today. President Emmanuel Macron and President Trump, they`ve
had some awkward moments. I still find it almost impossible to watch the
excruciating footage of the terrible death grip walking handshake contest
where they each tried to prove possession of the bigger, stronger, longer,
grabbier, pokier handshake. It was like watching an arm wrestling contest
where you win not by forcing the other dude`s arm down. You win by giving
the other guy cooties or at least the lilies. Very, very awkward.

There was also president Trump`s previous trip to France, which had its own
specific kind of awkwardness. President Trump so enthralled with the
military parade he witnessed on that trip that he immediately came home and
starting demanding that we hold a military parade for him in Washington
too. I mean, that`s awkward on its face, but it was also awkward because
the president, by all accounts, was unable to shake his fixation on this
military display even in, like, obviously inappropriate settings.

For example, when the president came back from France to Washington, after
watching that parade, it was right in the middle of Republicans in Congress
losing their bid to kill Obamacare. In the middle of that loss, while this
thing is falling apart in Congress, the president held a last-minute
meeting with Republican members of Congress in which he reportedly couldn`t
even focus on what was going on with health care. He couldn`t focus on the
legislature because he was still so transfixed by that military parade that
he had just seen on his trip to France.

The president, quote, implored them to hurry up and get the bill to his
desk, but it was Paris and the flag-waving festivities he had witnessed
alongside French President Emmanuel Macron that occupied much of his
attention during the conversation. In an interview, Republican Senator
Steve Daines described the group`s conversation at the White House as
loose. Quote: The president talked about France and Bastille Day and then
they lost the health care vote.

Two months later, President Trump again met with French President Emmanuel
Macron. They met on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in New York
and he was still obsessed with the same thing.


greatest parades I`ve ever seen. It was two hours on the button and it was
military might, and I think a tremendous thing for trance and for the
spirit of trance, but when you see that and you see all the victories, it
was a tremendous thing, and to a large extent, because of what I witnessed,
we may do something like that on July 4th in Washington down Pennsylvania


I don`t know. We`re going to have to try and top it. But we got a lot of
planes going over and we had a lot of military might, and it was really a
beautiful thing to see. So, it was a beautiful day.

It was really so well done, but I came back and one of my early calls were,
I think we`re going to have to start looking at that ourselves. So, we`re
actually thinking about Fourth of July, Pennsylvania Avenue, having a
really great parade to show our military strength.


MADDOW: Can I just tell you? I cut and edited that tape myself, like we
went through the transcript. Like, I could have shown you twice that much
tape of him going on and on and on and on about the parade. This is months
after he`d seen it. The president was quite taken with this.

Now, the president has thus far not been able to get his compete with the
French military parade, not yet, but honestly, when France decided to
invite President Trump to see a parade, they had his number in terms of how
to get inside his head. He has been obsessed ever since. Well, tomorrow,
now that President Macron is visiting Washington, President Macron and
President Trump will get a chance to review the troops on the White House
lawn, so it`s possible that will scratch that itch a little bit for
President Trump. It seems likely to me that the president will talk once
again about how much he loved that parade and wants one of his own.

That review of the troops will precede the first state dinner of the Trump
presidency tomorrow night. President Trump has decided that this state
dinner will be the first one in modern history to include precisely one
member of the opposite political party, one Democrat is invited, Democrat
John Bel Edwards, the governor of Louisiana. He will also invite zero
press to this state dinner. No journalists.

Which is an awkward thing to do to the leader of another major democracy,
right? Invite them to a gala event in their honor, which makes history for
its groundbreaking partisanship and hostility to the freedom of the press.

There`s one other thing to know here about this trip. Because Mike
Pompeo`s nomination is still in process, all of this stuff about this visit
is happening while there is no secretary of state. Rex Tillerson`s been
gone for a while now. There`s no replacement for him yet.

Who`s providing diplomatic advice to the president on the occasion of this
state visit, this first state dinner of the Trump presidency? And this
already awkward relationship with this important ally who has already
displayed the capacity to ring this president like a bell whenever he feels
like it.

As far as we know, his chief adviser on these matters now, at least for the
time being, appears to be this man, whose current gig has just started as
President Trump`s third and newest national security adviser. But today,
NBC News has an eye-opening report on John Bolton`s immediate past gig
before he took the national security adviser job. He was the chairman of
something called the Gatestone Institute.

Well, if the French president and his advisers who are with him on this
trip, if they wanted to take the measure of this presidency, not just
President Trump himself but who has the president`s ear on national
security, especially with no secretary of state in place, the French
president and his advisers might have Googled some of the work carried out
at this Gatestone incident – excuse me, Gatestone Institute while John
Bolton was running the place.

If so, they would have found articles like these. Headline, Emmanuel
Macron, useful idiot of Islamism. Quote, France on the verge of total

Quote, Europe`s childless leaders sleepwalking us to disaster, in which
Emmanuel Macron is singled out for not having kids. Quote, as Europe`s
leaders have no children, they seem to have no reason to worry about the
future of their continent. Oh.

Also, France`s Macron submits to the Arab world. This is John Bolton`s
Gatestone Institute which he was running up until the time he became
national security adviser three weeks ago. This is the stuff that John
Bolton has been selling for years which is what it is but what does it mean
to the French president who`s visiting our president who has picked this
guy to be the top national security official in the White House. Macron,
president of the elites and the Islamists.

It`s not just France. John Bolton`s organization has a line like this for
everyone. Germany seems to be an area of particular focus.

Germany, infectious diseases spreading as migrants settle in. Germany,
migrant rape crisis sowing terror and destruction, women and children
sacrificed. Here`s one in the U.K., is the United Kingdom an Islamist
colony? Obama`s traditional Muslim bias against Christians.

Here`s another great headline from John Bolton`s Gatestone incident.
Quote, Europe, the great white death. That means exactly what you think it

Until he took his job as national security adviser three weeks ago, John
Bolton was running this organization. That was proclaiming that white
people are on the way to being extinguished because of immigration. The
great white death.

Arguments like these that open societies are dangerous and democracy is a
failure and white people are going to die out unless they turn against the
nonwhite people among them, these are favorite arguments of a lot of
different extremist movements in our own country, but they`re also favorite
arguments about the west in Russian propaganda. And so, John Bolton`s
Gatestone incident has been a favorite source for Russian state-run media
outlets like RT and Sputnik. They`ve also found themselves
enthusiastically promoted online by Russian bots, including accounts
controlled by the Internet Research Agency, which is the Russian
organization that was recently indicted by Robert Mueller for its role in
the pro-Trump Russian attack on our 2016 presidential election.

NBC News documents today that John Bolton`s Gatestone group has been
funded, well-funded, by Robert and Rebecca Mercer, the top Trump donors who
also funded Breitbart and Cambridge Analytica. They also, of course, were
the main funders behind John Bolton`s super PAC, before he went to the
White House, a super PAC which has reportedly created ongoing concerns
about Bolton`s conflicts of interest in his new role as national security

NBC reporting that those conflict of interest meetings with White House
lawyers have continued since he has started the job, but he has started the
job. He is national security adviser now, which is amazing to a lot of
Americans because of who John Bolton is. But it is hard to fathom how that
may be received by foreign leaders like the one visiting today. Useful
idiot of Islamism.

Here`s one last thing to watch when it comes to John Bolton. He has only
been on the job for three weeks now, but since he has been there, the
people who had previously been charged with national security issues at the
White House, they`ve been dropping like flies. I`m going to have to use
the wall here for a second.

Ready? Ready? Take your Dramamine. We`re moving.

Since John Bolton arrived, in the past three weeks, we have seen the
departure of the spokesman for the National Security Council. He announced
that he was resigning when Bolton came on board, but it later emerged that
he didn`t have a choice. He was told resign today or be fired. The next
we were told about the – the next we were about the departure of the White
House homeland security adviser, that was Tom Bossert, that`s a very senior
national security role, he`s out too.

Then next, it was a very highly regarded deputy national security adviser
over here, this would be the – one of several who have already departed.
That`s Nadia Schadlow. She wrote the current national security strategy.
She was pushed out once Bolton arrived as well.

Soon to be followed by yet another deputy national security adviser.
That`s Rick Waddell. He`s also a major general in the U.S. Army.

Then we got the surprise departure of the White House cyber security
adviser who left his job at the White House and went back to the National
Security Administration.

Now, tonight, we have learned about another senior national security
departure from the Trump White House, the chief of staff to the National
Security Council, Keith Kellogg, is also leaving that gig, although he too
will be getting a soft landing. He will be moving to the staff of Vice
President Mike Pence.

You might remember Mike Pence last week made a move to try to hire a
national security adviser for himself who he would share with the staff of
U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley. The president himself reportedly kyboshed
that idea. So, instead, Mike Pence will take Keith Kellogg off the
National Security Council where he had been serving as chief of staff and
that`s fine and good.

But that is a lot of departures suddenly from the national security staff.
It wasn`t just national security adviser H.R. McMaster. It`s all these
other people in senior national security jobs that have gone suddenly in
the past three weeks, at least a half dozen of them.

John “Great White Death” Bolton has really cleaned the place out quickly,
but it`s worth noting that he hasn`t replaced these people. We`ve had word
thus far about John Bolton hiring one person since he started. Someone he
brought over from the White House personnel office. But that`s it. All of
those – these new folks are out since Bolton started just three weeks ago.

And actually, while we`ve got the wall here, there is one more change
involving the wall that you should know about. It concerns a guy – do we
have him up here somewhere? This guy. Oh, look, it`s gone. We killed the
wall. Oh, it`s back.


Control room just got in my ear and said, no idea.

Anyway, intelligence director at the National Security Council, that guy
was fired months ago as the intelligence director at the National Security
Council. That was a guy that was fired after he reportedly helped
Republican Congressman Devin Nunes pull off that weird stunt at the White
House that got Nunes investigated for mishandling classified material.
This was the stunt where Devin Nunes tried to say that he had the proof
that President Obama really had wiretapped Trump Tower. Remember that?

The congressman said he had to rush to the White House to tell President
Trump what he had found.

Well, President Obama did not wiretap Trump Tower and whatever Congressman
Nunes had, he reportedly got from the White House in the first place, so he
didn`t need to rush it back in there after he just took it from them. The
stuff that he got from the White House, he got, reportedly, from a young
guy who Mike Flynn had installed on the National Security Council. In the
wake of that mishegoss, that guy who Flynn had installed who helped out
Devin Nunes with that stunt, that guy got fired from the National Security

However, according to a report from “Bloomberg News”, that guy, his name is
Ezra Cohen-Watnick, he`s now back in government service. Specifically,
he`s now been hired on at the Justice Department to work in Attorney
General Jeff Sessions` office as Jeff Sessions` national security adviser.
He was reportedly hired for that job because, quote, President Donald Trump
personally ordered the Department of Justice to hire him.

Now, we don`t know why the president wants this guy at the Justice
Department, but the Democratic leader of the Senate had an idea about it.
Chuck Schumer`s spokesman told Bloomberg, quote: Given Ezra Cohen-Watnick`s
reported role in helping Congressman Nunes turn the House Intelligence
Committee investigation into a partisan breeding ground for conspiracy
theories, Mr. Cohen-Watnick`s new position with the attorney general at
such a sensitive is deeply troubling. Mr. Cohen-Watnick`s must not come
anywhere near the Mueller investigation and Democrats will watch like a
hawk to ensure that is the case.

So, this guy fired from the White House before for his involvement with
what really looked like an effort to monkey wrench the Russia
investigation, we don`t know why President Trump has ordered him to be
hired again by the Trump administration and specifically ordered that he be
given a job in the office of Attorney General Jeff Sessions. We don`t know
why the president himself would personally reach down and issue an order to
put that particular guy in that particular place.

But as of today, Ezra Cohen-Watnick has reportedly just finished his first
week on the job, now at the Department of Justice.

There`s been so much turmoil and turnover in the administration, it
continues tonight. But it`s been happening long for enough that people
previously cast out are starting to get recycled into new, even more
controversial jobs. Heads up on this one.


MADDOW: I mentioned at the top of the show, there is some new breaking
news tonight about the president`s nominee to lead the V.A. White House
physician Ronny Jackson. Admiral Jackson was a surprise pick in the first
place, because the V.A. is the second largest agency in the entire
government. It`s a very difficult agency to run in the best of times.
Admiral Jackson is never known to have run any large organization, even
though people seem to like him as the White House doctor.

But the president picked him for the V.A. job. Admiral Jackson`s
confirmation hearing was scheduled to take place the day after tomorrow,
but now, tonight, looks like that`s off.

“Axios” was first to report over the weekend about rumblings that there
might be a problem. “Axios” reporting that senators from both parties and
senior White House officials were growing increasingly concerned about the
prospects of Ronny Jackson being confirmed and not just because of his lack
of leadership experience. “Axios” reported that, quote, specific concerns
about Jackson`s professional conduct in the Navy had been taken to the
ranking Democrat on the Veterans Committee, Jon Tester.

Quote: A source briefed on the situation told “Axios” that the White House
is looking into these complaints to see if they are legitimate or simply
politically motivated slurs on his character.

What are these concerns and complaints exactly? Nobody`s really spelling
it out, but tonight, CNN and “Politico” are both out with new reports
confirming what “Axios” first reported over the weekend, that lawmakers of
both parties have raised concerns. And, again, we`re not getting
specifics, but the way CNN puts it is, quote, committee members have been
told about allegations related to improper conduct in various stages of his
career. According to CNN, quote: None of the senators would publicly
detail the specifics of the allegations. also reporting that
these concerns, again, unspecified concerns, may lead to a delay in
Jackson`s nomination moving ahead.

Well now, tonight, two days before his confirmation hearing is supposed to
happen, we have breaking news from the “Washington Post.” Senate to
postpone confirmation hearing for Ronny Jackson to head Veterans Affairs.
“The Washington Post” is reporting that the decision to postpone the
hearing was made, quote, after top Republicans and Democrats raised
concerns about his qualifications and oversight of the White House medical
staff. “The Washington Post” reporting that the White House and other
administration officials have been told about this decision to postpone the
confirmation hearing, but we are still trying to figure out what these
concerns are.

Joining us now is reporter Lisa Rein. She`s part of the team that broke
this story tonight in “The Washington Post”.

Ms. Rein, thanks very much for joining us on short notice. I really
appreciate it.

LISA REIN, REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST (via telephone): My pleasure,

MADDOW: First, let me ask you. I`m actually not sure how you pronounce
your last name, Rhine (ph) or Rheen (ph).

REIN: Oh, it`s Rhine, just like the river.

MADDOW: Yes, excellent. I just lost my whole graphic showing the
departures of everybody from the White House and the senior administration
since the start of the Trump presidency, so me getting something like that
wrong seemed like the obvious next step tonight. So thank you for that.

So, the scoop here, obviously, is that there – you`re reporting that
confirmation hearing for Ronny Jackson is going to be postponed. Have they
picked a new date to postpone it to or is this an indefinite postponement?

REIN: Right, so, actually, the Senate lawmakers are not actually talking
tonight and they`ve pretty much shut down, but our sources at the White
House and within V.A. itself are telling us that the senators have told the
White House that they`re not holding the hearing on Wednesday. We know

So, what we really don`t know is whether this hearing is going to be
indefinitely postponed, which really would mean that Admiral Jackson`s
nomination would pretty much be dead in the water. I don`t think there`s a
decision on that. You know, this was – Admiral Jackson was kind of an odd
choice from the start, so this came about because the president fired David
Shulkin, who was former executive who was – an Obama era holdover who was
his V.A. secretary for about 13, 14 months and then all of a sudden, on
Twitter, you know, he announced that the White House physician, Ronny
Jackson, was his nominee.

And it was – this was a surprise to many people in the White House and,
you know, also to top senior officials who had expressed concern that
while, you know, Admiral Jackson is a very affable person who knows how to
read a room really well, who is very personable and, you know, just a
friendly, smart guy from Texas, that, you know, what does he know about
running V.A., and you know, previously, there have been people running the
agency who have been chosen just because they were either doctors or, you
know, former corporate executives who had run large organizations. So,
this was a switch.

And, you know, what`s gone on now is that a few of the senators on the
Veterans Affairs Committee have received allegations about the admiral and
his oversight of the White House medical office, which is a fairly small
office of maybe 20, 30 people, mostly active duty, you know, doctors and
nurses. And there really are no other details, and this – but the
concerns are so serious that, you know, the senators on both sides of the
aisle decided that they really needed to postpone this while they do the
vetting that, you know, some of them have said privately the White House
didn`t do for them.

MADDOW: Yes. And that`s – I mean, obviously the concern is that about we
don`t know the details are. You know, the “Axios” describes concerns about
Jackson`s professional conduct in the Navy. CNN tonight described
allegations related to improper conduct in various stages of his career.
You at the “Washington Post” have reported there were concerns about his
classifications and – excuse me, concerns about his oversight of the White
House medical staff as you just explained.

If senators are hearing about these concerns, presumably the White House
could have also heard about these concerns when they decided they were
going to put him forward for this nomination. Does it seem like maybe the
White House didn`t do basic – didn`t do the same amount of vetting that
senators have been able to do?

REIN: Right. I think that`s pretty clear. Now, you could certainly
argue, and you know, we were told that his FBI background check did not
turn up any of these kinds of concerns, but management issues are, you
know, things that don`t often show up in a background check, which is, you
know, really more sort of hewing to criminal issues and other issues. But
it is very true that President Trump goes with his gut.

And, you know, we were also told a few weeks ago when this all happened
that Admiral Jackson was not even formally interviewed for the job but that
the president really kept saying to him, you would be great at this, you
would be great at this.

And, you know, admittedly, it is not that easy to find someone to run V.A.
It is a troubled agency. You know, it`s got so many stakeholders. You`ve
got veterans groups on the left, on the right. You`ve got real people
you`re serving every day, you know, in veterans hospitals. And, you know,
it`s not a job that everyone wants.

And we also were told in the beginning that it wasn`t a job that Ronny
Jackson wanted, but he grew to decide that this was something he really,
really wanted to do. But there were concerns from the start from members
of Congress, on the Senate committee.

Well, there are two issues. So, one is just his lack of management
experience. And Republicans, while they didn`t say they didn`t support
him, you know, up until just a day or two ago, it was hard to find a
Republican on that committee who would say, I fully support Ronny Jackson
and this is a different story than we`ve gotten with Mike Pompeo, the
nominee to be – the CIA director nominee to run the State Department.

The other issue is something that you have raised a few times on your show,
Rachel, and this is a big concern of Democrats, and it has to do with
outsourcing health care from the V.A. to private doctors. And you can use
the word privatization, but whatever it is, it is a huge concern for
Democrats, and that, I believe, was really still remains – the Democrats`
concern, you know, what would Dr. Jackson`s view be of how much care
veterans should get in what they call in the community.

And so, this was a huge issue for them, both because they felt – they
still feel that if you take money outside of V.A. and you give it to the
private sector, you`re kind of dismantling the V.A. itself. This has been
a very politicizing and very controversial issue.

MADDOW: “Washington Post” reporter Lisa Rein, thank you for joining us on
such short notice tonight for this scoop that you and your colleagues have
at “The Post.” Really happy to have you here. Thank you.

REIN: Our pleasure.

MADDOW: Lisa Rein, Josh Dawsey, and Sun Moon Kim are the reporters on this
“Washington Post” scoop tonight that even as the White House appears to
score a win with Mike Pompeo`s secretary of state nomination tonight, it
looks like the V.A. nomination of Admiral Ronny Jackson is on ice.

I will tell you just before we leave this subject for a second, there is a
report out from CBS News while we have been on the air. This is not
confirmed by NBC News. This is CBS news alone.

But what they are reporting in terms of the actual allegations, what they
say the allegations are that are being reviewed about Admiral Jackson, I`m
quoting CBS, quote, include a hostile work environment, excessive drinking
on the job, and improperly dispensing meds. Again, those are the only
details we`ve had reported about what the concerns are about Ronny Jackson.
That`s CBS News reporting. We have not confirmed it, but this is a fast-
moving story tonight.

We`ll be right back.


MADDOW: So we`re continuing to follow this breaking news tonight from the
“Washington Post” concerning the president`s nominee to head the V.A.,
White House physician Dr. Ronny Jackson. Jackson`s confirmation hearing
had been scheduled for the day after tomorrow, as – according to “The
Post,” as of tonight, it is being postponed and we don`t have a new date.

This comes amid reports that Republicans and Democrats have raised concerns
about his qualifications and his oversight of the White House medical
staff. Now, that sounds vague, I know. CBS News is reporting, just in the
past couple of minutes, that the concerns about Dr. Jackson, quote,
including a hostile work environment, excessive drinking on the job, and
improperly dispensing meds. That sounds serious.

That is CBS News reporting that tonight. I need to tell you that is not
confirmed by NBC News.

In terms of the president`s other cabinet picks, the Senate is now expected
this week to confirm Mike Pompeo as the next secretary of state, replacing
Rex Tillerson. Mr. Pompeo`s nomination passed out of committee today with
a little bit of Rand Paul infused drama. Senator Paul had insisted that on
Mike Pompeo, he`d be a no, no, no, no, no way vote, right to the bitter
end, no way, no how, he`d do anything to stop it.

Naturally, Rand Paul ended up voting yes for Mike Pompeo today, which
pretty much ends the drama over Pompeo`s nomination.

But the confirmation of the president`s pick to replace Mike Pompeo as head
of the CIA, that is another one that may not go smoothly. Gina Haspel is
the nominee. Her confirmation hearing is two weeks away. But her reported
involvement in the CIA`s torture program during the George W. Bush
administration is turning into a really serious issue for her nomination,
and it`s not Democrats who are the only ones raising concerns here.

Today, senators received this letter signed by over 100 retired military
leaders, senior ones, 109 retired generals and admirals, saying that they
too are concerned about Gina Haspel`s nomination. That is the sort of
thing that tends to get senators` attention.

Joining us now is one of the retired generals who signed this letter sent
to the Senate today, Brigadier General David Irvine.

General Irvine, thank you so much for giving us some of your time tonight.
It`s a pleasure to have you, sir.

BRIG. GEN. DAVID IRVINE, U.S. ARMY (RETIRED): Thank you for having me.

MADDOW: Why did you sign this letter and what are your concerns?

IRVINE: Well, we have a number of concerns about this nomination. And
probably the biggest is that torture, and let`s be clear that the CIA has
denied for years that it ever tortured anyone, however, the definition of
torture is pretty plain and pretty clear. It`s the infliction of severe
mental or physical pain on an individual or the threat of imminent death or
the use of any procedure that profoundly disrupts the senses or
personality. And it`s very clear that the program of enhanced
interrogation, so-called, that the CIA developed and implemented around the
world at secret black sites violated federal law and international law,
because that was torture.

And Ms. Haspel played some significant role in the management of that
program and in the direct supervision of one of those black sites in
Thailand. And we feel very strongly that this is a nomination which, if
confirmed, would do incalculable damage to the position of moral leadership
the United States needs to exercise around the world.

MADDOW: Do you feel – on that last point that you`re making in terms of
the danger to America`s moral leadership, is it essentially your argument
here, and tell me if I`ve got this wrong, that regardless of what else we
should know about Gina Haspel`s career, regardless of her other
qualifications, there`s essentially symbolic damage done, there`s
leadership damage done to us as a country by just the elevation of her with
this on her record. Essentially, even, in that case, even the nomination
of her to lead the CIA would have done that kind of harm to this country.

IRVINE: Absolutely. Napoleon was quite a strategist and he observed that
the moral is to the physical as three is to one. And the message that this
nomination sends, not only around the world, but to the CIA itself, and to
the American people, is pretty serious. This resonates in a particular way
for military officers, because the irony of the Haspel nomination is very,
very curious.

We expect young men and women, 18 and 19 years old, who are infantrymen and
women in the armed services to have the moral capacity to recognize an
illegal order and to resist it and if they make the wrong call and don`t
resist it, they can be tried and convicted under the Uniform Code of
Military Justice. So far, there has really been no one at the CIA who has
been held to account for its torture policies, and the message that this
sends is one which I think was best expressed by John Kiriakou, who was a
CIA officer who went on the air in 2007 and publicly identified the program
for what it was and named an interrogator.

He was charged. He was convicted and served two years in prison for that
act. He`s the only one that I can recall who has been held to account.
Those who implemented and managed the program have been promoted, have been
recognized, have been decorated, and we are saying, go ahead, torture,
ignore the law, ignore the morality, ignore the consequences to the
country, and its national security, and you can even cover up the evidence
and that`s OK.

MADDOW: General David Irvine is one of 109 retired generals and admirals
who signed this letter today opposing Gina Haspel`s nomination to be CIA
director – General Irvine, it`s an honor to have you on the show tonight,
sir. Thank you very much for being with us.

IRVINE: Thank you.

MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.


MADDOW: This is your president with his toaster oven cranked all the way
up to freak-out. And I know, I know, I try not to look myself, but all of
this is how the president has responded over the last couple of days to the
release of James Comey`s memos. Memos describing conversations that the
former FBI director says he had with the president and with other people in
the administration. It has occasioned quite a response from the president.

It is also apparently occasioned the president to lie about something that
is provably untrue and that is very related to very specific allegations
against him that he doesn`t want to talk about. And that story`s next.
Stay with us.


MADDOW: Last week, the memos that James Comey wrote about his White House
interactions before he was fired were all released to the public with only
minor redactions, thanks to congressional pressure on the Justice
Department to let those things out. That really big news did not make
really big news. I mean, the president freaked out on Twitter about it for
a number of days running but the public response, the press response was
more of a shrug, right? Seen it all before. Almost literally.

That`s because you had seen it all before. There was not a lot of news in
James Comey`s memos, which is the point. His notes hewed so closely to
what he had previously told investigators and members of Congress that they
seemed boring, but they did also prove the main point, which is that his
story hasn`t changed one whit, right? That`s your news.

The president has been calling James Comey a liar, but James Comey`s
testimony really is bolstered by his notes. Those memos match basically
exactly what he told Congress and what he said publicly and what he put in
his book. His story has been consistent. What he said the first time is
what he has still said every time since, which is what it looks like when a
person is telling a true story.

If you`re counting on James Comey seeming like someone who is just making
stuff up, the release of these memos proving his consistent memory over
time, it might be an occasion to freak out, because he has kept the story
straight from the very beginning.

That said, we did get one piece of new news from the Comey memos. It was
actually new. In the memo from Comey that`s dated February 8, 2017, he
writes about a meeting that he had at the White House with the president`s
then chief of staff Reince Priebus. They were apparently talking about the
Christopher Steele dossier and in Comey`s memo, he makes this note that he
told Reince Priebus, quote, much of the dossier was consistent with and
corroborative of other intelligence and the incoming president need to know
the rest was out there. So, that`s new.

The person leading the Russia investigation before he was fired by the
president says he told the White House chief of staff that much of the
dossier was not only consistent with other information gathered by
intelligence agencies, it was corroborated by that information. That was
on February 8th, right, less than a month into the new administration.
Much of the dossier was consistent with and corroborative of other
intelligence. And the incoming president need to know the rest of it was
out there.

Now, the rest of it that was out there, we think that line in Comey`s memo
may be a reference to a specific part of the Steele dossier that is as yet
publicly uncorroborated but it`s the allegation that Mr. Trump had a
special time of his own with prostitutes at Moscow`s Ritz Carlton Hotel
during a 2013 trip to Moscow.

In his memos, Comey says Trump appeared fixated on that subject, raising
the topic over and over again in their face to face encounters. At a White
House dinner, January 27th, Comey says the president says he had spoken to
people who had been on the Miss Universe trip with him. They reminded him
he didn`t stay overnight in Russia for that.

Then, during a meeting in the Oval Office, February 8th, quote, the
president explained, as he did at our dinner, that he hadn`t stayed
overnight in Russia during the Miss Universe trip. This appears not to be
a true claim by the president. Flight records obtained by Bloomberg news
confirmed that Trump landed in Moscow the morning of Friday, November 8th,
2013. He then departed Sunday, November 10, in the early morning hours,
confirming that while Mr. Trump did not spend a full Saturday night, the
night after the miss universe pageant, he did spend the previous night. He
spent Friday night in Moscow at the Ritz Carlton Hotel, which is reportedly
the same day that he was offered the five Russian women to visit him in his
hotel room. Of course he didn`t want that.

In November last year, NBC News reported that Trump`s long-time body guard,
Keith Schiller, testified to Congress that on the day of their arrival in
Moscow, a Russian offered to send five women to Trump`s Moscow hotel room.
Schiller told members of the House Intelligence Committee that he laughed
at the offer and said, we don`t do that type of stuff. According to Keith
Schiller, he and Trump laughed about the offer on their way back to the
hotel room that night. He then testified that he stood outside Trump`s
hotel room for a while and then he went to bed.

One source telling NBC News Schiller testified that he couldn`t say for
sure what happened during the remainder of the night. How should we think
about this revelation?

Joining us now is Julia Ainsley, NBC national security and justice

Julia, let me ask you about this new news. I don`t know how to fit this
all together but in terms of NBC`s understanding of the timeline here, it
sounds like the president`s assertion that he wasn`t overnight in Moscow
just isn`t the case.

the case and obviously that was already an assertion that was undermined by
Keith Schiller, his personal bodyguard, who stood outside that hotel room.
He knew Mr. Trump was in there before he was the president, 2013, and this
is a really critical time because it`s not just part of the dossier, which
is also important, but it`s the beginning of the Trump/Russia relationship.
And this matters when you`re trying to look at the entire investigation and
zoom out on the relationship between this president and anything with the
Russians would call kompromat that they could then hang over the president.
His wanting to pick every piece of this dossier apart and say it is
uncorroborated, but people in the intelligence community will tell you that
there can be pieces of raw information that are correct and pieces that are

And in this case, they have evidence to believe that what Mr. Trump is
saying, what he told Comey – what President Trump is saying to Comey, that
his head never hit a pillow that night is incorrect, that in fact he was
there, which, of course, leads us to wonder, was this other more salacious
detail correct, and what other parts of this overall dossier, which would
be incredibly damning for Trump and his campaign and his administration
might also be correct? It really sort of undermines this lynchpin that
Trump has built around to try to de-obstruct the Mueller investigation. It
takes away that alibi, Rachel.

MADDOW: And, briefly, Julia, do we know if Mr. Schiller has spoken with
Mr. Mueller?

AINSLEY: No, in fact, he is one of those names on the list that we believe
is still not spoken with Mueller, although Mueller has a way of bringing
people in backdoors we don`t know about, but it has not been reported. Of
course, we do know that sometimes, people who are really central to the
investigation who may know a lot of information are saved until a little
bit later. For example, Cohen, the personal lawyer of Donald Trump was not
interviewed or brought into this until recently.

So, maybe Schiller is next. We`ll be paying attention to that.

MADDOW: NBC News national security reporter Julia Ainsley – Julia, thank
you very, very much.

AINSLEY: Thank you.

MADDOW: All right. That does it for us tonight. We`ll see you again


Good evening, Lawrence.



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