Pruitt faces scrutiny over security expenses. TRANSCRIPT: 04/24/2018. The Rachel Maddow Show
Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
Date: April 24, 2018
Guest: Ari Shapiro
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
All right. It was September 3rd, 2015, which is right before the Labor Day
weekend that year. Politically speaking, at that moment, Donald Trump was
a real problem for the Republican Party. Or at least he was a real worry
Like lots of other Republican household names, Donald Trump was running for
the Republican nomination for president by that point, and by that point,
September 2015, nobody in Republican politics actually thought he could win
their party`s presidential nomination. But by that time already, it was
clear that he had enough support that if he wanted to, he could potentially
really screw things up for the Republican Party.
The party was worried that if and when Donald Trump lost the Republican
primary, he didn`t get the nomination of the party for president, they were
worried he might still keep running anyway, he might become a spoiler. The
conventional wisdom in Republican politics at that time, September 2015,
was that even if Trump couldn`t win the nomination or the presidency, his
stint as a candidate for president thus far was going well enough that it
was really good for his celebrity status. It was probably good for his
business, and so he would keep going with his candidacy regardless.
So, Republicans were really worried about this worst case scenario where
Trump would not win the Republican primary but he`d stay in the race, and
he`d run as a third party or an independent candidate. And from that
position, he could also definitely never win the presidency, but he might
siphon off enough Republican votes to really screw up the general election
chances for whoever did eventually become the Republican nominee. That was
the worry. That was what was going on in that moment in Republican
electoral conventional wisdom.
Now, looking back on it from this distance, it`s a good big picture
reminder how good common wisdom can be at any one moment. Every aspect of
that was wrong. But at the time, September 2015, heading into that long
holiday weekend, that`s where the Republican Party was at. And over the
course of a few weeks as this problem, this worry was really starting to
solidify, Republicans had decided that the way their party was going to
solve this problem was with a loyalty pledge.
Do you, Republican candidates for president, have any objection to signing
a pledge that you will support and campaign for whoever gets the Republican
nomination this year, even if it is not you. Any of you have any
objections to that? Yes.
For a long time, even as all the other candidates were saying, no, no, they
had no objection to signing the pledge, there was one guy saying yes. He
would go along. He said that he wouldn`t go along with the Republican
Party in making this promise. Trump held out when all the rest of them
said they`d sign the pledge.
And that was a cause of great consternation, great gnashing of teeth in
Republican politics in the late summer. Trump was holding out. He was
refusing to take the pledge. That left open the possibility that he would
run as a spoiler third party candidate. That would be terrible for the
But then, September 3rd, 2015, it all gets resolved. The Trump campaign
summons everybody to Trump Tower in New York, to the atrium lobby of Trump
Tower, and they say it`s going to be a big, exciting announcement. Donald
Trump would, in fact, sign that pledge.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, THEN-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The best way for the
Republicans to win is if I win the nomination and go directly against
whoever they happen to put up, and for that reason, I have signed the
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: I have signed the pledge. So, this was this big celebratory
moment for candidate Trump and for the Republican Party. For the party,
it`s a load off their mind because they won`t face an independent spoiler
candidacy from Trump when he inevitably loses the primary. For Trump, he
clearly relishes being in a driver seat like that and getting all this
attention for this big decision, and having the crowd turn out and hyping
all the excitement of the moment, he turned it into this Trump Tower event.
But it was weird. At the end of that event, amid all the excitement of
this big, hyped moment, Trump decided to do something sort of inexplicable,
something that struck everybody as a little weird.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Thank you, everybody. Thank you. Thank you.
Hey, ladies and gentlemen, this is a very – an amazing man. He is, as you
know, right, the – speaker of the house of Indonesia. He`s here to see
me, Setya Novanto. One of the most powerful men and a great man and his
whole group is here to see me today, and we will do great things for the
United States, is that correct?
SETYA NOVANTO, INDONESIAN SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Yes.
TRUMP: Do they like me in Indonesia?
NOVANTO: Yes, I like you (ph). Thank you very much.
TRUMP: Speaker of the house in Indonesia. Thank you very much.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Do they like me in Indonesia? Yes, I like you. As you know,
everybody, this, of course, is – what`s your title?
This is sort of a weird moment. The thing was over, he says good-bye to
everybody, he walks away and everybody starts to, you know, break down and
the reporters there are going to go report to camera about what`s going on.
And then he starts the whole event again. This weird tacked on coda to the
signing the loyalty pledge event.
It was just a strange moment in the moment. It did solve the mystery of
who that guy was who looked a little confused to be in the middle of the
big loyalty pledge announcement. He was standing right behind Trump while
Trump was doing this thing and holding up the pledge that probably made no
sense for somebody who hadn`t been following every twist and turn in the
Republican presidential primary this year, but it turns out that guy
standing behind Trump looking confused while he made that announcement was
the Indonesian speaker of the house. Just an unusual cameo for that man in
the middle of our presidential politics.
Now, we have talked about that weird moment a couple of times on this show
before because it was so strange. From what we can figure out, we think
the reason the Indonesian speaker of the house was there in Trump Tower
that day is because of a business meeting. We think the Indonesian house
speaker was there not to talk to Trump about running for president. We
think he was there to talk to him about Donald Trump business interests in
Well, today, that same man from that weird cameo in the Republican
presidential primary, former Indonesian speaker of the house, Setya
Novanto, today he was sentenced to 15 years in prison in the biggest
corruption bust in modern Indonesian history. Quote: Novanto was convicted
of masterminding the theft of more than $170 million from a national
identity card program.
“The New York Times” calling this today one of the most high-profile
convictions in the history of this graft-plagued nation. The conviction is
expected 15-year prison term represents the downfall of one of Indonesia`s
most powerful men, and the climax of a long public corruption saga
involving this particular guy. As “The Times” puts it today, Setya had
been, quote, implicated in a number of corruption scandals over the years
but he had seemed untouchable. He had seemed untouchable, past tense, now
he`s been touched and he`s going to the pokey for 15 years so.
So, that groundbreaking prison sentence today is important for Indonesia.
Also turns out to be a nice sort of coda to the coda of that moment, a sort
of final epilogue for what was that all about. I mean, in that moment, if
we`d all had better foresight at the time, we might have recognized that
that moment with Setya Novanto would be a tone-setting moment for the Trump
administration, right, for a recurring problem in the Trump presidency. I
mean, if you think about what Trump was doing there, in that – I mean,
what was Trump doing in that moment, in the Trump Tower lobby, right? He
was doing something weird. An event was stopped and over and he restarted
it to do this thing. He restarted it to brag about the powerful nature of
this man who had come to see him on a business matter.
But he also sort of randomly and without needing to, he went out of his way
to give his own Donald Trump public endorsement to this man in front of the
assembled national press corps. I mean, it seems clear from the way he
handled that moment, he didn`t even know the guy`s name. You could see him
reading the guy`s name off a note card when he makes this announcement,
even reading it off the note card, he still gets the guy`s name wrong.
In such a circumstance, why would you call that person a great man, as he
did? He said, this is a great man. Why would you give that kind of
endorsement when you don`t even know the guy`s name well enough to read it
correctly off a piece of paper? Why make that sort of public endorsement
when you apparently really have no idea about even the very basic
background of this famously corrupt person who`s standing beside you.
But that was Trump as a candidate, and now we`ve got Trump as president.
Which brought us national security adviser Mike Flynn, who was the subject
of an FBI investigation led by a veteran counterespionage prosecutor even
before he started lying to the FBI his second day on the job at the White
House, so that did not work out with Mike Flynn.
He was not the only one for whom things did not work out. For a while, we
had a nominee for labor secretary until it turned out that his marriage had
been the subject of an Oprah Winfrey TV show episode back in the day about
white-collar wife beaters. So, that one didn`t work out. We got a head of
the Centers for Disease Control who turned out to be buying and trading
tobacco stocks while running the Centers for Disease Control. So, yes,
that one didn`t end up working out either.
I mean, remember for a hot minute, we had a nominee for army secretary who
had turned out had quite recently punched a guy out at a high-end horse
auction. There was a very unusual reason for that one not working out, but
I mean, there`s been a lot of them that just didn`t work out. Nobody asked
about the background stuff.
I mean, those ones – those are just off the top of my head. But this has
been a dominant pattern in the effort by President Trump to staff up the
federal government and his administration. Lot of folks have really not
worked out in the end because Trump gave his endorsement, made the pick,
said, yes, go for it, I want you, you`re the nominee, without him
apparently knowing anything about the basic background of the people that
he was choosing.
It`s happened again and again and again. It`s still happening. In today`s
news, it means yet more about Scott Pruitt at the EPA, whose ethics
scandals are now like a never-ending gross chocolate fountain of muck. The
most dramatic headlines on this story today, though, are about Ronny
Jackson. “The Washington Post” was first to report that when White House
physician Ronny Jackson was named as his nominee to lead the veterans
administration, the White House did no vetting of Ronny Jackson pursuant to
As “Washington Post” reporter Lisa Rein told us on the air last night,
Jackson never even interviewed for the job, but they nominated him anyway.
“The New York Times” today confirms that, saying, quote, the White House
did little or no vetting of Jackson`s background before announcing his
nomination on Twitter, Trump chose Dr. Jackson largely out of personal
Now, personal affinity is not nothing. Personal affinity makes the world
go round. I mean, when it comes to being a presidential appointee, the
president personally liking you is undoubtedly an asset, but it is not
everything. When Ronny Jackson was first nominated to lead the V.A., there
were immediate top line concerns about him not having the relevant
experience to take on a job quite like that.
I mean, the very night that his nomination was announced, I remember one
long-time Republican lobbyist telling Axios.com that his response to the
nomination could be summed up in two words, Harriet Miers. Harriet Miers
was by all accounts a lovely person. She was George W. Bush`s Supreme
Court nominee for one hot minute in 2005 because he liked her a lot. That
nomination collapsed very quickly and catastrophically when everybody
realized that the president liking a person is not enough to qualify that
person for a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court of the United
Now, it remains to be seen whether or not the Harriet Miers analogy is the
exact right one for Ronny Jackson. As of today, it seems like his
nomination to lead the V.A. may turn out worse than what happened to
Harriet Miers. At least at the end of her ordeal, everybody still thought
she was nice and doing OK at her current job and she went home to Texas and
has had a law career and continued on and everybody still likes her and she
still has a good reputation.
I mean, that same pattern might have been true up until about 24 hours ago
when it came to Ronny Jackson, but now, that part of the Ronny Jackson
scenario is starting to fall apart.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Dr. Jackson, can you say anything at all about these allegations
that have come out against you in the last few days?
DR. RONNY JACKSON, WHITE HOUSE PHYSICIAN: I`ll just say that I was looking
forward to the hearing tomorrow, kind of disappointed that it`s been
postponed, but I`m looking forward to getting it rescheduled and answering
REPORTER: You`ve seen the allegations, hostile work environment,
allegations about essentially drinking on the job, overprescribing
medications. Are you saying those are categorically untrue?
JACKSON: I`m saying I`m looking forward to the hearing so we can sit down
and I can explain everything to everyone and answer all the senators`
REPORTER: Was there an I.G. report about the allegations?
JACKSON: No, there was not.
REPORTER: How much vetting did the White House do before you were formally
announced as the nominee?
JACKSON: Thanks, guys. I appreciate it.
REPORTER: Sir, you`re definitely not withdrawing, you`re going to continue
this process, sir?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Dr. Ronny Jackson`s awkward interaction with reporters today,
obviously mostly dodging their questions. He did – if you listen closely,
though, he did give one direct answer to one of their questions.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Was there an I.G. report about the allegations?
JACKSON: No, there was not.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: It turns out there was an I.G. report about the allegations, which
was first reported today by “The Associated Press”. The I.G. report on
Jackson was in 2012. The navy medical inspector – navy medical inspector
general investigated what was basically a bad workplace environment for the
medical staff who were working under Jackson`s leadership at the White
Now, tonight, I need to tell you, the White House has mounted a sort of
strange effort to try to save Ronny Jackson`s nomination. In order to try
to save his nomination tonight, they have circulated positive evaluations
of Jackson by both President Obama and President Trump. This is
evaluations of his performance as a White House doctor.
But they also made a weird decision about that inspector general report
from 2012. First, a senior White House official told news organizations,
including NBC News, that Ronny Jackson has never even been the subject of
an inspector general review. Yes, he has. And we know that because the
“A.P.” reported it, but we also know it because shortly after those remarks
from a senior White House official, the White House itself actually
distributed the inspector general review that is about Ronny Jackson. They
said it doesn`t exist and then they gave it to reporters. That was weird.
So, now, we`ve got the inspector general report, and it`s not good. I
don`t know why they sent this around if they were trying to save Dr.
Jackson`s nomination. Just going to quote to you a little bit from this
inspector general report on him which was sent out by the White House
Quote, the medical inspector general command climate findings were based on
observations obtained from both officer and enlisted focus groups and 14
interviews of staff members conducted over a two-day period. Inspector
general climate finding one, lack of trust in leadership. Trust in the
organization is noted to be between two and three on a scale of one to 10.
There is a severe and pervasive lack of trust in the leadership that has
deteriorated to the point where staff walk on eggshells. The lack of trust
is largely attributed to the open division between Captain Kuhlman and
Captain Jackson. Ronny Jackson was Captain Jackson at that point. Now,
he`s one star Rear Admiral Ronny Jackson.
Quote: Both Captain Kuhlman and Captain Jackson complain about the other to
subordinates and seek alliances from them. The inspector general described
an opinion among White House medical unit staff that, quote, Captain
Jackson undermines Captain Kuhlman because he desires to be the physician
to the president and he`s less concerned about effectively leading the
White House medical unit. That`s finding one.
Finding two. Command climate. Overall unit morale on a scale of one to 10
is a two. Quote, when reviewing the most recent command climate survey
from 2010, one member states they personally witnessed Captain Kuhlman and
Captain Jackson scrutinizing the results of the survey, attempting to
attribute specific comments to staff members and dismiss their concern.
Stating, quote, they will be transferring soon. It should be noted there
were virtually no positive characterizations of the command climate during
the visit. Members stated they strongly supported the mission, were
exceptionally proud to be part of such an important mission, but they
believed the current atmosphere was toxic and not sustainable.
Page four of the report, quote, focus group comments. Some specific quotes
and comments from the focus groups concerning the command climate are
noted. Quote, worst command ever. Senior officers are not leading.
Quote, passive aggressive behavior is exhibited by leadership. Command
climate is terrible. The leaders are child-like.
Again, the leader in this case, who`s been reviewed, alongside this other
officer who he apparently could not get along with, I mean, this is Ronny
Jackson. And this was given to the reporters tonight by the White House,
as part of an effort to salvage Ronny Jackson`s nomination to lead the V.A.
I mean, this is an inspector general report into how he was doing running
the relatively small office of the White House medical unit.
I mean, we know from people who have served in the White House over
multiple administrations, we know from these positive evaluations that were
released by the White House tonight, alongside this I.G. report that
presidents and White House staff who were treated by Dr. Jackson in his
capacity as physician, they all liked him as a doctor. Should he be
something other than a doctor? Should he run a very large, complex
organization with a very complex leadership environment?
Well, this is a fairly devastating report about his capacity to lead an
organization of even modest size. The conclusion of this I.G. report from
2012 is that the White House should consider removing him from this job,
because of his leadership capacity. And the White House didn`t remove him,
and we know that multiple presidents have, again, liked him being their
doctor, both Obama and Trump recommended that he get navy promotions while
still serving as the White House doctor.
But this nomination to lead the Veterans Administration would be a very
different kind of job and a very different kind of promotion. The V.A. has
a budget of $185 billion. Billion. It has 360,000 employees. It treats 9
million veterans in terms of their health care. It`s one of the hardest
jobs in government.
However well people like Dr. Jackson as a doctor, the nomination to this
much larger stage has apparently brought people out of the woodwork in the
military to caution against it. Earlier this afternoon, CNN reported that
two former White House medical staff had come forward, both through the
Senate Veterans Affairs Committee and also to CNN, to allege questionable
behavior by Admiral Jackson at the White House, quote, including excessive
drinking and a toxic work environment under his leadership.
We`ve seen the vague outlines of these allegations over the past 24 hours,
and now, we`ve got inexplicably this I.G. report released by the White
House which is very unfavorable to Ronny Jackson. So, we`ve seen some of
these allegations. We`ve started to get some flesh on the bones as to what
the problem is with Jackson`s nomination specifically.
But then tonight on NPR, the top Democrat on the Veterans Committee,
Senator Jon Tester, finally agreed to spell it all out, to lay it all out
in a long and frankly jaw-dropping interview.
Did you hear this tonight? Hold on. We`ve got that coming up. Stay with
MADDOW: Over the course of last night and into today, there have been
increasingly serious allegations swirling about the president`s nominee to
head the Veterans Administration, the second largest agency in the entire
U.S. government. The nominee is White House physician Ronny Jackson and
until tonight, even though these allegations were swirling and there was
increasingly serious noises coming from senators who were considering his
nomination, until tonight, it was a little hard to put your finger on
exactly what Ronny Jackson was being accused of.
It was hard to know exactly what these allegations were, until a
breakthrough interview tonight when Montana Senator Jon Tester went on NPR
to do an interview with Ari Shapiro, where he finally just spelled it all
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
ARI SHAPIRO, NPR: And you also use the word repeatedly drunk on duty.
What can you tell us about that?
SEN. JON TESTER (D), MONTANA: Well, I mean, once again, it was on travel
and he is the physician for the president and in the previous
administration, we were told the stories were he was repeatedly drunk while
on duty where his main job was to take care of the most powerful man in the
world. That`s not acceptable.
SHAPIRO: I do want to ask more about where these allegations came from,
but first, the third accusation is that he oversaw a hostile work
environment. What is that phrase mean in this context?
TESTER: Well, I think it`s – I mean, some of the exact words that were
used by the folks who we talked to were abusive toward staff, very
explosive personality, belittles the folks underneath him, staff that he
oversaw, screamed toward staff, basically creating an environment where the
staff felt that they needed to walk on eggshells when around him.
SHAPIRO: So, we`re talking for the most part about verbal abuse?
TESTER: Yes, correct.
SHAPIRO: And did you hear that he was the instigator of that hostile worm
environment work environment or a participant in it.
TESTER: No, I think it was pretty clear that he was the person that was
creating the environment.
SHAPIRO: Let`s talk more about where these allegations come from. You
said more than 20 current and former military personnel who worked with
him, worked under him, are you confident that they are not politically
TESTER: Well, I mean, these are – these are military personnel that have
come forward, that are absolutely worried about the potential reaction that
Admiral Jackson could have on this because of his personality and previous
actions toward staff. And so, I will tell you that I think that we heard
the same story from enough people repeatedly that there`s a lot of smoke
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: Democratic Senator Jon Tester of Montana speaking on NPR with Ari
Two things here, on that allegation of drinking on the job, being drunk
while on duty, there`s two new instances of additional reporting on that
tonight in “The New York Times” and from CNN. Just as we were going to air
tonight, reporters Nicholas Fandos and Michael Shear posted this at the
“New York Times”.
Quote, members of Mr. Tester`s staff said they had been given several
credible accounts of Dr. Jackson being intoxicated during official White
House travel. In several cases, they said, he had apparently grabbed his
medical bag and was attempting to assert himself to show he was in charge.
On one trip during Barack Obama`s presidency, White House staff needed to
reach Dr. Jackson for medical reasons and found him passed out in his hotel
room after a night of drinking. Staff members took the medical supplies
they were looking for without waking Dr. Jackson.
Since then, CNN has also described another incident. Quote: During an
overseas trip in 2015, Rear Admiral Ronny Jackson, the White House
physician, was intoxicated and banged on the hotel room door of a female
employee according to four sources familiar with the allegation. The
incident became so noisy, says one source familiar with the allegation,
that the Secret Service stopped Jackson out of concern that he would wake
then-President Barack Obama.
Two sources who previously worked on the White House medical unit described
the same incident with one former staffer telling CNN it was, quote,
definitely inappropriate. At the time, the incident was reported up the
chain of command. It`s one of multiple drunken episodes involving Ronny
Jackson on overseas trips according to a source familiar. Members of the
Senate Veterans Committee have been working through all the allegations but
have not substantiated the claims with little documentation available to
corroborate them. Important point.
If the allegation about drinking on the job is substantiated, it will
become very important to Ronny Jackson`s nomination that he has talked to
senators, at least one senator specifically, about this allegation. He
told Kansas Senator Jerry Moran, unequivocally, that he never took a drink
on the job. Senator Moran told reporters today that he got that specific
assurance from Ronny Jackson. Jackson telling him that that definitely did
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
SEN. JERRY MORAN (R), KANSAS: The only specific allegation he mentioned
was that he has never had a drink while on duty.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: We`ve now got multiple detailed allegations of multiple sources of
drinking while on duty. If the drinking allegation is substantiated, that
will be a real problem, probably an insurmountable problem for Jackson`s
nomination that he said that to Senator Jerry Moran. It will be worse if
it`s part of a pattern.
I mean, Ronny Jackson also today told reporters there had never been an
inspector general report and allegations against him. We now know there
was an inspector general report of that kind in 2012, and it was pretty
For any nominee to any Senate confirmable position, it`s never a good idea
to lie to a senator who will be voting on whether or not to confirm you.
That`s usually fatal if you get caught lying to one of these senators. On
veterans issues, it`s maybe even more crucial than for other areas.
Leo Shane points out in “The Military Times” tonight not only do V.A.
nominees tend to get confirmed by overwhelming numbers, V.A. nominees
always get confirmed unanimously. There have been precisely zero no votes
against nominees to the Veterans Administration out of the Senate in the
past 30 years. That`s because there is a robust tradition of bipartisan
consensus on veterans issues, on this as an issue of policy.
But if we`re being honest, that zero no votes record for 30 years is also
because senators who work on veterans issues fully expect they will be
consulted ahead of time about who is getting put up for important jobs at
the V.A. They expect no surprises. They expect consensus picks. They
expect no controversy.
There was apparently no consultation with the Veterans Committees in
Congress about Ronny Jackson. There was apparently no vetting and no
interview for the job either. There is now bipartisan concern about his
experience and what`s emerged in his background since the rubber hit the
road on this nomination.
Frankly, there`s also now one more chapter ready to go for the book that
will eventually be written based on this administration about what can
possibly go wrong when you nominate someone for a big, gigantic, high-
profile important job without ever checking their background.
Joining us now is Ari Shapiro, who is the host of “All Things Considered”
on National Public Radio, who did this breakthrough interview tonight with
Senator Jon Tester, which finally shed some light on these allegations.
Mr. Shapiro, thank you very much for your time tonight.
ARI SHAPIRO, NPR HOST: Thank you for having me, Rachel.
MADDOW: So, what was notable to me about your interview was that it was
long and detailed and for the first time it really put meat on the bones in
terms of these serious allegations against Jackson. An important point,
though, Senator Tester is still telling you that these are all allegations
and none of them have been documented other than by corroboration from
other staffers who worked under Jackson.
SHAPIRO: That`s right. I asked him whether there was any real-time
documentation, any complaints to human resources or anything like that, and
he said everything they had was verbal complaints. He said that the
complaints came to them. They didn`t go out and seek these complaints.
He did say that they spoke to more than 20 current and former active duty
military personnel who worked alongside and underneath Dr. Jackson and, you
know, he said this is the reason that he and the chairman decided to
postpone the confirmation hearing was to continue looking into them.
MADDOW: So, to be clear, the White House medical office is staffed by
military – currently active duty military personnel, and Senator Tester is
tell you that this wasn`t the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee going out
and mounting an investigation.
SHAPIRO: That`s right.
MADDOW: That this was – that these were staffers who had worked with
Admiral Jackson who came forward on their own terms.
SHAPIRO: Yes, and as you heard, I said, well, could these staffers have
had a political motivation and he said he heard the same stories from
enough people that there seems to be a lot of smoke there.
MADDOW: Well, in terms of how this is going to play out, obviously, since
your interview, we`ve now seen “The New York Times” and CNN report details
on allegations of drinking on the job, “The New York Times” reporting that
on one overseas trip, Admiral Jackson was passed out drunk when they needed
him for a medical matter. CNN is reporting that he had an incident in
which he loudly knocked on somebody`s door in the middle of the night while
intoxicated to the point where the secret service intervened so as to not
wake up the president.
We`re getting more and more details on this, but it sounds like from your
interview and what we know about this situation, there may never be any
written documentation of these incidents. It sounds like there wasn`t a –
there wasn`t a practice of documenting these things and reporting them.
SHAPIRO: And it does sound like a lot of the complaints are about things
that took place during presidential travel. When I spoke to Senator
Tester, he said there were basically three buckets of complaints. One was
improperly prescribing drugs. He said it was mostly sleeping and waking up
pills, things like Ambien. The other side of complaints was drinking on
the job and both of those, he said, were primarily during presidential
The third set of complaints about hostile work environment seems to have
been overarching beyond just the president trips. But I really do think
that as senators continue to dig into this, that question of what happened
when the president traveled abroad is really going to be a focus.
MADDOW: One last question for you, Ari. In terms of the hostile work
environment, we`ve all now seen because the White House has released this
2012 inspector general investigation into the workplace environment at the
White House medical unit while Admiral Jackson was one of the leaders
there. These concerns about the hostile work environment, was it your
sense from talking to Senator Tester and NPR`s reporting on this, that the
concerns about the hostile work environment extended beyond that point in
time, post-2012, or are these all issues that were all related to things
that came up in that I.G. report five years ago?
SHAPIRO: It`s really hard to say. The only inspector general report that
we have is from 2012, and we know that Senator Tester and his staff have
heard from more than 20 people from multiple administrations, but I didn`t
get a clear sense of whether these problems continue to the present day or
whether this is something that was resolved with, say, personnel changes,
reprimands or other things that might have happened behind the scenes that
we just haven`t heard about yet, and I say yet because there are now so
many reporters digging into this and so many senators digging into this,
that it seems only a matter of time before this all comes out.
MADDOW: Ari Shapiro, the host of “All Things Considered” on National
Public Radio, really appreciates your time tonight, Mr. Shapiro. Thank you
SHAPIRO: Thank you for having me.
MADDOW: All right. We`ve got a lot more to get to tonight. Do stay with
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHEN COLBERT, COMEDIAN: We learned today that the FBI conducted a pre-
dawn raid of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort`s home using a
no-knock warrant. Yes. No-knock. No-knock.
It is the same kind of warrant Donald Trump used at the Miss Universe
dressing room. Just no-knock. Hello!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: You know what? We were all wrong. In the end, it`s going to turn
out we were wrong about a lot more than this, but today, we learned that we
have definitely been wrong about one part of the ongoing story of the
president`s campaign chair, Paul Manafort, facing felony counts and a
prosecution led by special counsel Robert Mueller.
We have been wrong. One of the first signs things were taking a really
serious turn for the president`s campaign was when we got word that the FBI
had raided Manafort`s home in Virginia last summer. The reporting at the
time, as you just saw Stephen Colbert talking about, was that the raid was
conducted in pre-dawn hours and FBI agents executed a no-knock warrant,
meaning they entered his house unannounced.
“Washington Post” was first to report in August last year that the search
warrant on Manafort`s home was executed in the pre-dawn hours. That same
day, ABC News went further, reporting that according to a source familiar
with the investigation, Manafort was awoken by a group of armed FBI agents
knocking on his bedroom door, as they executed the warrant. No, that`s not
his front door, his bedroom door.
CNN also reported it was a no-knock warrant. “The New York Times” reported
that Manafort was in bed when FBI agents picked the lock of his front door
and entered his home. Later, NBC news and lots of other media outlets also
reported on that no-knock warrant for Manafort`s house. I did it.
Basically, everybody else who reported on that said it the same way.
Turns out, it`s time for a no-knock mea culpa. In a late night filing from
special counsel Robert Mueller`s team last night, we got this. It`s on
page six of last night`s filing. Quote: The government executed the
warrant on July 26, 2017, the day after it was issued.
Look, footnote four. Best parts are always in the footnotes. Footnote
four says, quote, the warrant application had not sought permission to
enter without knocking. In issuing the warrant, the magistrate judge
authorized them to execute the warrant any day through August 8th, 2017,
and to conduct the search in the daytime from 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. The
government complied fully with those date and time conditions and Manafort
does not contend otherwise.
Not a no-knock warrant, and not a pre-dawn raid. I did look it up. And I
think on that day, on July 26, 2017, sunrise that day was 6:04 a.m., so
maybe they knocked between 6:00 and 6:04, so that technically makes it a
Regardless of whether the sun was up, should we even call it a raid if they
knocked and didn`t pick the lock or kick the door down? This is now
cleared up. Prosecutors are now saying and apparently Paul Manafort is not
contesting that the Manafort raid was not based on a no-knock warrant and
it wasn`t in the dead of night, even though that`s what everybody reported
in detail at the time, including me. I`m sorry.
And this is yet another reminder that whatever you think may be going on
with the Mueller investigation, any reporting to that effect is probably
not coming from people who are actually working on the Mueller
investigation. Special counsel`s office itself really doesn`t leak. And
when people talk to reporters about what the special counsel is supposedly
doing or what the special counsel has supposedly done, we now know they
often get it wrong.
When the special counsel`s office does speak, when they do have something
to say, they tend to do so on the record through public court filings, and
we saw that in this new filing from last night. And that brings us to the
next thing. We`ve also all apparently been getting wrong that we can also
now clear up.
MADDOW: There has been a ton of ink and a ton of breath exhausted over the
issue of whether the president is going to end the Russia investigation by
shutting down Robert Mueller and the special counsel`s office.
It turns out those two things may no longer be related, shutting down
Mueller and shutting down the investigation. We`ve now got a new filing
from Mueller`s prosecutors that show they have taken yet another step to
ensure the continued existence of their investigation even in the event
that the special counsel`s office gets somehow raptured to heaven and
disappeared by President Trump.
And this is a clear pattern now. They`re doing it again and again and
again. We saw it clearly in the Mueller team`s decision to refer the
Michael Cohen part of their investigation to the U.S. attorney`s office in
New York rather than pursuing it themselves.
It`s New York federal prosecutors who are running that investigation into
the president`s personal attorney now. If the special counsel`s office
goes away, the Michael Cohen investigation will not go away.
We saw the same principle at work when the special counsel`s office
declared in open court that it wasn`t their own decision to bring charges
against Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort. They explained in court that
the Justice Department`s tax division signed off on the tax-related charges
against Manafort and the national security division at DOJ signed off
So, separate and apart from the special counsel`s office, those charges
exist and have been approved elsewhere in the Justice Department. Making
the special counsel go away doesn`t make those charges go away.
We saw it also when Mueller`s team went out of their way to make the point
again in open court that somehow if magically Mueller was disappeared and
the special counsel`s office was no longer empanelled in these
investigations, the investigations would persist.
Quote: The senior assistant special counsel in charge of this prosecution
is a long-time career prosecutor with the internal authority to conduct
this prosecution, separate and aside from his role in the special counsel`s
office. They declared to the judge in that case.
Well, now, we`re seeing it again. One more step. Late last night, we got
new filings in the Paul Manafort case, and in these new filings, in a
couple of footnotes, all the best stuff is always in the footnote.
The government tells the court that the search warrants that were executed
on Paul Manafort`s home, in a storage unit he has in Virginia, those
warrants didn`t come from the special counsel`s office. Quote: The warrant
application makes clear that the agent who sought the warrant was assigned
at the time to the FBI`s international corruption squad and the warrant
application was reviewed by an assistant U.S. attorney in the eastern
district of Virginia.
So, when it comes to these warrants that led to these raids on Manafort,
those weren`t just out of the special counsel`s office. They were signed
off in the U.S. attorney`s office in the Eastern District of Virginia with
advice from the FBI`s international corruption squad. Again, totally
separate and apart from the special counsel`s office.
So, out of all the political anxiety around Robert Mueller potentially
being fired or what the president could do to try to make the special
counsel`s office go away, the special counsel`s team has already rooted
their investigation in all these other parts of the Justice Department and
law enforcement. So even if you chop down the special counsel`s office,
its roots will survive and presumably they will sprout new trees.
MADDOW: On this busy news night, to help us understand what`s going on, we
are very lucky to be joined by Joyce Vance, former U.S. attorney for the
Northern District of Alabama.
Joy, it`s great to have you here tonight. Thank you for being here.
JOYCE VANCE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY IN ALABAMA: Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: So, we got new filings last night from the special counsel`s
office that say once again that there are law enforcement offices that
aren`t part of the special counsel`s office that are involved in their
investigation. In this case, it`s the FBI`s international corruption unit
and a U.S. attorney`s office in Virginia who were part of – who got the
warrants against Paul Manafort that are now being fought over in court.
Is that significant in terms of the durability of that investigation, given
all the threats to Mueller`s office?
VANCE: You know, I think it is significant. The justice department, we
sometimes laugh and say that we`re the biggest, you know, law firm in the
country. We have offices every place.
And that really could matter in the Mueller investigation, because if you
say if he was somehow, you know, to disappear up into the ether without
warning, there would still be United States attorneys` offices that would
have jurisdiction to pursue already indicted cases. He`s received signoff
for charges brought in the area of tax from the tax division, in the area
of national security from the national security division, both of those
divisions have litigators, and Andrew Weissmann, one of Mueller`s chief
prosecutors, left the fraud section of the criminal division to go over to
the special counsel`s office and we`ve seen pleadings that indicate he
retains internal authority to bring prosecutions.
So, what this tells you is that if you have faith in the career people at
the department, and I do, it`s, you know, it`s just part of prosecutorial
DNA to make sure that righteous cases move forward, then you have to
believe that the good cases here will continue to progress whether Mueller
is in place or not.
MADDOW: And, Joyce, just as a practical matter, am I right in thinking
that just in terms of the logistics and a president`s ability to hire and
fire people, it`s actually kind of hard for a president to fire career
Justice Department officials, right? When it comes to a presidential
appointee, sure, the president`s decision holds, but with career folks,
it`s harder, isn`t it?
VANCE: It`s hard for anybody to fire career folks in government. You
know, you have to go through all sorts of progressive disciplinary
processes. The president can`t just say, let`s fire a career employee
tomorrow. It doesn`t work that way. Those people aren`t going any place.
MADDOW: Joyce, one last question for you about Jeff Sessions, the attorney
general reported today by “Bloomberg News” to be not recused from the
investigation into Michael Cohen. That clearly is being led out of the
Southern District of New York, federal prosecutors here in Manhattan.
Does that decision surprise you? Does that make sense to you? Do you
think it`s important?
VANCE: Well, it surprises me because at the end of the day, one of the
reasons for recusal is to avoid the appearance of impropriety, and given
how heavily the president pressured Attorney General Sessions over his
original decision to recuse from the Mueller investigation, this really
looks, in many ways, like pandering to the president, avoiding another
confrontation with the president. It may, at the end of the day, be a way
of preserving the investigation, but on its surface, it looks like the sort
of case that the attorney general should not have been involved in. It
does continue to have aspects of the president`s campaign that are still
being investigated, and so, it is troubling. We`ll have to see how it
plays out in real-time.
MADDOW: Right, if part of what`s going on with Cohen is potential campaign
finance violations, this is the campaign in question from which Sessions is
supposed to be recused.
Joyce Vance, former U.S. attorney in Alabama, thank you very much, Joyce.
Great to see you.
MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Two things for your calendar. Actually, one is coming up so
quickly, it`s more for your watch.
Polls are closing at 10:00 p.m. Eastern in that closely watched
congressional special election in Arizona tonight. Deeply red district,
but Republicans have nevertheless been fighting and spending hand over fist
to try to hold on to that seat. You`ll be able the get more on that with
Lawrence O`Donnell with polls closing momentito.
Looking ahead for tomorrow, though, you should also know that about 2:30
p.m. tomorrow on live TV, Attorney General Jeff Sessions is likely to get a
really hot grilling. He is appearing before a Senate subcommittee at a
time when a lot of things around Sessions are very controversial. This is
a budget hearing. It`s technically supposed to be routine and boring.
Things don`t work that way in our politics anymore.
So, if you have been missing – if you`ve been missing – Attorney General
Sessions and you`ve been looking forward to people getting to ask him
pointed questions, 2:30 tomorrow, that live coverage should be fascinating.
That does it for us tonight. We`ll see you again tomorrow.
Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL”.
Good evening, Lawrence.
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