Trump under fire over family separations. TRANSCRIPTS: 08/03/2018. The Rachel Maddow Show
Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
Date: August 3, 2018
Guest: David Fahrenthold
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Have a great weekend.
And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. As he mentioned,
Rachel has the night off.
But we have a lot of interesting stuff to get to tonight. There is so much
happening in the news. A blistering critique came through today of the
Trump administration`s attempts to reunite of the families separated along
the border. Chris was just reporting on this. A court order does require
it. And we will be joined tonight by reporter Jacob Soboroff to explain
what set that federal judge off today.
Meanwhile, Donald Trump is back at his own golf club in New Jersey. He`s
going to stay there for two more weeks. We learned that from Rudy
Giuliani, who now claims that Trump will, once and for all announce whether
he`s doing that much-discussed interview with special counsel Robert
Mueller, who himself was busy wrapping the first week of the trial with
Trump campaign chairman, Paul Manafort.
That`s not only the only legal news. Remember all that drama over the
first publication to ever release the first Trump/Russia dossier? It was
the website “BuzzFeed”. They made the choice. Lawsuits ensued.
Well, late today, I don`t know if you heard about this yet, but it`s
potentially significant. News broke there is a judge who`s going to green-
light fascinating fact finding in this case. “BuzzFeed” will be able to
pursue legally James Comey and other key federal officials to depose them
under oath, all of this to address some of the questions we`ve all been
wondering, like, how did that dossier make its way not only into the
federal government and the FBI, but when exactly did President Barack Obama
learn about its explosive contents and the allegations about a man who
would replace him, Donald Trump?
And so, we begin looking at this Steele dossier right now. All of this, of
course, comes from when the FBI announced that it was releasing some
records between the agency and Christopher Steele, the author. Seventy-one
pages come out, and the former British intelligence officer is actually not
referred to technically by his name, but by the letters CHS – confidential
Now, the trove of documents detail reports of payments to Steele, mostly
redacted. You can see there, that`s a lot of white space. There are two
exceptions. The final page is information from a document, from February
2016. Of course, that`s long before the Russia probe began. It says
Steele was, quote, verbally admonished by the FBI and that Steele
acknowledged the admonishment and even signed a document noting it.
Now, from this excerpt, which obviously is tantalizing, we don`t have the
wider context of why. The other item comes from page two of these new
documents. It concerns the FBI`s decision to terminate its relationship
with Steele. Guess when? Just days before the 2016 election.
Now, this document says Steele had confirmed his relationship with the FBI
to an outside party, and that he was a source for a, quote, online article.
In addition to revealing his relationship with the FBI, Steele also
revealed information that he had provided to the bureau. So take it
together, because this is pivotal stuff.
On November 1st, one week before the election, Steele informed by his FBI
handler the nature of the relationship between the FBI and Steele would
change completely. And that it was unlikely the FBI would continue a
relationship with him. That article was published online, on October 31st.
It was written by someone who has broken a lot of news in this story, who
I`m sure you`ve seen, if you watch Rachel, you`ve seen him talk to Rachel.
It`s David Corn, the “Mother Jones” Washington bureau chief. He also
interviewed Steele for the story. The headline right there, a veteran spy
has given the FBI information alleging a Russian operation to cultivate
Donald Trump. That was before the election.
It was the first media account to reveal the existence of the memos that
now, of course, have become a big deal. They are known as the Steele
dossier. They allege, among other things, that the Trump campaign had
organized collusion with the Kremlin.
Quote: This is something of huge significance, way above party politics,
that intelligence officer told Corn, that would be Steele. Quote, I think
Trump`s own party should be aware of this stuff, as well. The official
confirmation of the FBI investigation into the Trump campaign`s contacts
with Russia was not confirmed for many more months. It`s even easy to
forget that, because it`s the kind of big information that`s the center of
American politics, so we all talk about it. People who don`t even follow
the news know about it.
But let`s be clear. It was not until March 2017, many months later, that`s
after the inauguration, after the election, when FBI Director James Comey
went down to the Hill, where he was testifying and said, yes, there was an
open probe. By that time, the FBI had also initiated a separate but
related investigation and that has now been broken much into public view,
much more, because the break came with this very curious indictment of a
woman named Maria Butina.
Now, she was suspected as an unregistered agent of the Russian government.
That she was trying to mount this covert influence operation through a
conservative group, a gun rights group in the U.S. Tonight, the same
reporter who had the breakthrough scoop about the Steele dossier has a new
and obviously provocative question. Did alleged Russian spy, Maria Butina,
cause a leadership shake up at the NRA?
Now, the back story here is an FBI dive, prior to the fact of Trump
becoming president, into Russian attempts to influence the NRA, which
itself is a weird story. Now, that counterintelligence investigation
focused on a man who also has become more well-known, one of these
oligarchs. His name, Aleksandr Torshin.
He`s a Russian banker. He was a politician there, and he is a Putin ally.
Her protege is Maria Butina and she founded a gun rights group in Russia
called the Right to Bear Arms.
So, you have a Putin-connected oligarch attached to a gun rights platform.
And that is very odd.
Steven Hall, the former chief of Russian operations for the CIA, explains
it thusly: The idea of a private gun ownership is anathema to Putin. So
the question is why? Why was a pro-gun campaign being hatched by a leader
in Putin`s own party? The answer put forward here, that Putin was reaching
out to attract the NRA, specifically over to Russia.
This is part of what the Justice Department alleges. And again, the case
is only beginning, but what they allege was a covert influence operation.
Torshin cultivating ties with the NRA, all the way back in 2010. He and
Butina become NRA members, which is weird.
They begin attending the NRA yearly conferences in the U.S., which are
about domestic politics. They meet with top NRA officials. They cultivate
these friendships. The pictures tell the story.
In fact, two times, they got senior NRA officials to go to Russia, all
expenses paid, of course. 2013, the president of the NRA, which if you
follow politics, you know is a big job and something of a conservative star
among people who care a lot about gun rights, which is a lot of people in
America. His name there, you see him, is David Keene.
He goes to Moscow, the NRA president introduced by, guess who, Maria
Butina. And then they declare no two people were more alike than Russians
and Americans, so they had to work together.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID KEENE, NRA PRESIDENT: Maria, thank you very much. It`s a great
honor for me to be here today, partly because over the course of the last
three years, I`ve hosted your Senator Aleksandr Torshin in a National Rifle
Association annual meeting in Washington.
The NRA has 5 million members. We work with everyone in the United States
and, of course, here in Russia. There are no more people that are more
alike than Americans and Russians. We are hunters, we are shooters, we do
all the things. We value the same kinds of things and we need to work
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: There are no more peoples more alike than Americans and Russians.
I mean, it`s fine if you want to bring people together with commonality,
but that`s not usually what you hear from conservative political operatives
in America, certainly not back then, 2013.
Fast forward to December 2015, the middle of what is, of course, the pre-
presidential campaign season, Keene as well as other NRA leaders include
future NRA president Pete Brownell, and they head back to Russia. This is
their second visit. They go to Moscow.
Butina facilitating a meeting with a CEO of a private Russian gun
manufacturer, which produces a sniper rifle identified by the Pentagon not
for domestic use or hunting, but actually as a threat to American soldiers.
The NRA leader is treated to a tour of that facility and a chance to shoot
some guns on sight.
The NRA reportedly spent $30 million to support Trump in 2016. And on the
one hand, they do typically support Republican nominees. But here`s what
you need to know. That was triple the amount they spent on behalf of Mitt
Romney just four years prior. And then in January, you get this report in
“McClatchy”, the FBI investigating whether the FBI used this relationship
with the NRA to illegally funnel foreign cash into the gun rights
organization as part of an effort to support Trump.
So, ever since Maria Butina was arrested and charged with her conspiracy on
behalf of Russia, the NRA has consistently declined to comment to all kinds
of sources and all kinds of publications on this association with what is
now an indicted Russian spy facing those allegations.
Now, journalist David Corn is raising this question about whether the
arrest of Butina caused a leadership shake up shortly after at the NRA.
Corn writing that on May 7th, the NRA released a curious press release,
declaring Oliver North, who has his own history as a key player in the Iran
Contra scandal, but is also a standing NRA board member, was now, quote,
poised to become the new president. This changing of the guard and how it
happened was odd, he writes. Earlier that day, Peter Brownell then
finishing his first term as NRA had announced he would not seek a second
For 15 years, the NRA leadership followed a pretty specific pattern. We`re
getting deep into the bylines. But an officer elected by the board to
serve two consecutive annual terms as executive vice president, and two as
first vice president, and finally two as president.
But the Brownell to North transition broke this process and precedent,
puzzling many NRA watchers. It even puzzled the incoming president of the
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Colonel North, what`s your reaction to being elected as
president of the National Rifle Association?
LT. COL. OLIVER NORTH, NRA PRESIDENT ELECT: Well, it`s an unexpected
privilege. I`m grateful for the unanimous support of the board. I did not
expect that this was going to be happening at this annual meeting, but as
soon as I get everything in order in my family, because this was very
sudden, I`ll be back to take that gavel.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Those kind of on-camera interviews are useful. May have sounded
like a basic question, but we learned from Oliver North`s own mouth, this
was unexpected. This was sudden, he was getting ready to adjust at the
And then you have a true state secret that was unknown, at least to the
public at that time. Two weeks earlier in April, FBI agents clad in their
tactical gear were raiding Butina`s apartment where they arrested her.
Now, we know that from these reports. And Corn asks, did that FBI
investigation of Butina lead to NRA President Peter Brownell`s decision to,
in the words of Oliver North, suddenly step down?
He had, of course, after all, interacted with Butina in Moscow three years
earlier, and the NRA could easily shed light on this. We would love to
bring you their side of the story. Any comment, anything vague, anything.
But they are declining to comment tonight.
Same for Brownell. Corn reports he`s not taking calls.
I`m joined now by the reporter at the center of the action, David Corn,
Washington bureau chief for Mother Jones.
David, we always learn a lot from you. I appreciate you joining me this
DAVID CORN, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, MOTHER JONES: Thanks for having me on
MELBER: Heading into the weekend. You have a lot on this story. As you
know, Rachel has been on many pieces of this story for quite some time.
MELBER: What has advanced through what`s happened with the NRA? And let
me start with the biggest question. I don`t need to save it. Reading
between the lines of your reporting, are you saying you have reason to
believe there is another indictment coming pursuant to the NRA case?
CORN: I`m not saying that. I don`t know that and I don`t make any
predictions on what the Mueller investigation is going to be or the Butina
investigation, which is separate. We keep being surprised.
And the big picture here, Ari, is that we keep learning new things, things
that we didn`t know a week ago, six months ago. So on all of these
investigations involving Michael Cohen, Trump/Russia, and, of course, the
NRA investigation. But it was, as you noted, it was very puzzling when the
NRA went through this leadership change.
I remember getting the press release and it was weirdly put. Oliver North
is poised to become NRA president. Not that he`s been chosen NRA
president, but he`s poised to become NRA president. And as he put it, it
was news to me, and no one could really explain how this very hierarchical
organization, that had very strict rules of succession in terms of its
leadership would all of a sudden pluck a guy out who didn`t see it coming
and make him president of the NRA when he wasn`t prepared to be.
And then only recently with the Butina case, did we learn about this FBI
raid. And remember, her partner, romantically and politically, was a guy
named Paul Erickson, who was an NRA activist. And he had been working with
her to infiltrate, penetrate, make connections with people in the NRA and
other conservative groups.
So, if she were raided, as she was, one would expect him to know about it
and word to start filtering out. Which could have caused a tremendous
panic within the NRA and might have – and might have led to anyone being
connected with Butina, to be scared, I`m not sure about an indictment, but
to be scared of being caught up –
MELBER: Certainly exposure.
And Peter Brownell was very much involved, having gone, you know, on trips
that Butina organized and having been one of the NRA highest officials that
she had cultivated.
MELBER: When you look at the NRA, which has a lot of seasoned political
professionals, people may disagree with their views on gun rights and
access to guns, but these are people who have been around Washington, made
it to the top of one of the most powerful organizations around. How can
one benignly or positively explain the complete idiocy or ignorance that
would be required to think that an authoritarian country would have a
vibrant, private gun rights movement?
CORN: You know, there`s so much puzzling about this. In the book I did
with Michael Isikoff, “Russian Roulette,” we wrote about the Butina case
before it became a criminal case, and we noted that she had shown up at NRA
events and other conservative events like CPAC, the annual get-together,
and was really trying to make friends with some of the leading officials.
In fact, one fellow, you know, who said, by his own admission, he`s in his
60s, doesn`t have a lot of hair, has a little bit of a paunch, said, I`m
not used to young, attractive women coming up to me and saying, will you be
my Facebook friend? Can I Snapchat with you? And he thought there was
something odd and weird that Butina and this Russian legislator named
Aleksandr Torshin kept showing up, and that the NRA that he was apart of
was embracing this pair of Boris and Natasha.
And so, there were some people who thought this was odd. But certainly if
you watch that video of David Keene, if you watch the video that was made
of Peter Brownell in 2015, these guys are really having a good time.
They`re getting off making these Russian connections and seemed oblivious
MELBER: So you`re saying there was some suspicion about a Snapchat honey
CORN: Yes. I think – I mean, I think some people saw it that way. But
it`s clear at the time and it was clear in the 2016 campaign that whoever
was masterminding this, whether it was Torshin or somebody else, they had a
pretty good insight into American politics. If you want to work your way
into, you know, influencing Republicans and conservatives who are now, you
know, controlling all arms of government, do it through the NRA. And they
MELBER: Right. What decade Warren Zivon say? Bring lawyers, guns, and
CORN: Yes, the you-know-what has hit the fan.
MELBER: Family show. Family show, David!
CORN: But I give them credit. I think –
MELBER: You`re saying –
CORN: It was done out in the open.
MELBER: You`re getting at the fact that they were quite adept at
infiltrating specifically the conservative wing of American politics in the
way they did it. And that gives, of course, insight into what they`re
accused of with regard to the Trump campaign, with J.D. Gordon, a Trump
adviser who sits at the nexus of guns and Trump. It`s so much fascinating
stuff, that the final question I have for you we haven`t even gotten to,
which is the way you continue to figure in this.
In your report and the people have known for a long time, your name and
reporting came up in the very controversial debates over the wiretapping of
Carter Page and whether your material was underlying material for that
unlawful wiretap. Today, we see in the little parts, and I shared this
with viewers at the top, the little parts that we do glean from what`s come
out with Steele is the FBI assertion that they stopped working with him,
because of what he told you and what you published.
Your response, sir?
CORN: Well, I think we knew that already. We certainly reported that in
the book, Michael Isikoff and myself. So, it`s not a surprise. It
And you know, the point I would make is that when I talked to Christopher
Steele in the very end of October, 2016, he was talking to me very
reluctantly. He was scared. The material that he had found, connections,
allegations between the – of interactions between Trump and the Russian
government frightened him as a veteran counterintelligence officer. And he
had taken his material to the FBI, had been working with them, but he felt
this information needed to get out in some way before the election, that
the American public had to be told this.
So, he –
MELBER: Had the FBI – David, had the FBI publicly confirmed that on the
CORN: No, not at all.
MELBER: So why now?
CORN: In fact, they were doing everything –
MELBER: Do you know why now?
CORN: Excuse me?
MELBER: Do you know why now?
CORN: Well, the reason is, the conventional reason, that it was a
counterintelligence operation that was ongoing and Jim Comey and others
have explained that they don`t make that information public, even when
members of Congress ask.
Now, Steele`s position was that he thought there was enough connections,
enough to worry about without knowing the full picture that the FBI should
have worked harder, you know, at least the U.S. government, someone in the
U.S. government, to make more of that available to the public before they
cast votes on November 8th.
So that`s why he talked to me. When he did that, the FBI said, OK, you`re
now too much of your own, you know, of a lone wolf doing this on your own.
And we don`t want to work with you anymore.
So, but I think he knew that this would get him in trouble with the bureau.
But he thought it was important that the public knew something about this.
MELBER: It`s fascinating and it`s a story that obviously has gotten deeper
and you`ve been there from the start. I do appreciate your time tonight,
CORN: Well, always good to be with you. You know that.
MELBER: Thank you, David.
CORN: We turn now to more news on this potential legal quandary for the
president. I`m going to be joined in just a moment by the Pulitzer prize-
winning reporter who`s actually tracked Donald Trump`s business dealings as
closely as just about any reporter.
Now, looking at those legal questions, this reporter began this day with a
scoop of his own about a notable spike in revenue at Donald Trump`s New
York hotel. After two years of sagging revenue, that hotel suddenly gets
13 percent more in the first quarter. The hotel`s general manager says the
spike was from, quote, a last-minute visit to New York by the crowned
prince of Saudi Arabia. Those hotel stays by the prince`s entourage was
enough to boost revenue for the entire quarter.
Now, it`s not clear from the Trump Organization or the Saudis whether they
paid for those rooms. The question here is whether the president is
violating what is known as the emoluments clause, a constitutional bar on
taking payments from foreign governments and the issue of whether they`re
meant to curry favor. Last week, of course, a case got a green light for a
lawsuit against the president over this very allegation.
Now, after “The Washington Post” published this story about the spike in
revenue, the attorney general of New York announced her state also probing
the same question. Is the president violating this ban?
Joining me now is David Fahrenthold, political reporter for “The Washington
What`s most important here?
DAVID FAHRENTHOLD, POLITICAL REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: The big
picture we`re seeing here is that we really don`t know, even 18 months into
the Trump presidency, we don`t really know even the basics about what
foreign governments are spending money at the president`s properties. What
foreign governments are actually using Trump`s businesses to pay Donald
Trump, who then is overseeing U.S. relationships with those countries.
This letter from the GM at the Trump Hotel in New York indicating this big
group of Saudis came in and it boosted their revenue for the whole quarter.
You know, that`s just an indication of what`s possibly out there that we
don`t know about.
MELBER: You obtained this letter, but it was sort of put out by the Trump
business side themselves. They put themselves on blast. Was that out of -
- you know why they did that?
FAHRENTHOLD: No. I mean, this letter was meant for investors in the Trump
Hotel in New York. So the Trump hotel is owned – the individual hotel
rooms are owned by outside investors. And so, this letter was meant for
them, to sort of reassure them.
As we said in the story, it had been a couple of bad years at that hotel.
2016 and 2017, the numbers had gone down. This was the general manager
saying, hey, things are looking up again. This quarter has been good. And
I`ll explain why.
Basically saying, you know, I`m working for you. I`m trying to make the
situation better. Here`s how we did it this time.
MELBER: Do you think we should infer something negative about the Trump
Organization`s refusal to provide actual accounting of what they`re
FAHRENTHOLD: I mean, I don`t really know what we can infer from it. The
thing you can tell from the way they`ve reacted to these questions is that
the Trump Organization is a private business. And it has always been a
very private business. It had always kept as many details about its
operation as it could secret.
And so, even now that Donald Trump is in the White House, the Trump
Organization, which is still owned by him, still seems to see itself in the
same light, we`re a private business, we do what we want, you know, to the
degree that there are legal requirements for us to disclose things about
our business, we`ll do it. But we won`t go beyond that.
You know, the idea that there might be some sort of need for transparency
above and beyond what the law requires, to be sure that the president
wasn`t sort of conflicted between his business interests and the public
interests, they don`t see that. They haven`t responded to that at all.
And so, we only know about his business dealings with foreign governments
kind of through media reports, through dribs and drabs here and there.
MELBER: Right, and through as often what you have been able to obtain by
old-fashioned shoe leather reporting.
David Fahrenthold with “The Washington Post,” thank you so much.
FAHRENTHOLD: Thank you.
MELBER: We have a lot more in this show. We will be right back.
MELBER: Paul Manafort faced more tough witnesses today. Trials always
come down to evidence, to physical and testimonial evidence. Now, if
you`ve seen Rachel`s coverage of the Paul Manafort situation, you know
there`s very strong physical evidence against Manafort – the receipts, the
wire transfers, the ledgers.
Today, the case focused more on the unpredictable piece, this testimonial
evidence, people who implicate Manafort, but have also been given immunity
for their testimony. Now, Judge Ellis, who`s been tough on lawyers in his
court, ruled for Mueller that five witnesses do get immunity, but their
names would be released before they even took the stand. That`s even if
they never take the stand.
And today for the first time, one of them, Cindy Laporta, testified. She
is one of Paul Manafort`s accountants. And in light of what she has
confessed to on the stand, well, it`s quite clear why she wanted that
immunity deal that the judge approved. Remember, yesterday`s revelation
from what Manafort`s longtime bookkeeper testifying that he went into
something of a financial turmoil in 2015.
That was before he offered his volunteer services to Trump. And today, it
was Manafort`s longtime accountant backing up that same story, testifying
Manafort`s income dropped conspicuously after 2014, and that despite
repeatedly asking Manafort if he or his family had any foreign accounts,
Manafort would say “no.” Now, this is around the time of the day when Paul
Manafort`s wife, Kathleen, left the courtroom. Reports are that she was
dabbing her eyes and she was visibly upset.
And it`s what happened next, when Cindy Laporta, the first within to
testify with immunity took the stand. And this could be, if you look back
at this trial, everything that happens before the trial is speculation.
When we look at what`s actually going on this week, this could be the
Laporta alleging that in September of 2015, this was when Manafort was in
financial trouble, she gave him an estimate of the taxes he owed, and she
was told Manafort couldn`t pay it. Quote, Rick – that`s Rick Gates, who`s
also expected to testify – said it was too high. Manafort didn`t have the
Manafort`s solution, Laporta testified, was to inflate the amount of a loan
which would then reduce on paper his reported income, and thus his income
tax, and in turn, what he owed the government. In other words, tax fraud,
tax evasion. Which, as a professional involved in this business, Cindy
Laporta did understand.
So then you have Mueller`s prosecutor ask, what was your understanding at
the time of whether that was appropriate? Laporta replies, it`s not
appropriate. And she confessed she went along with it and helped Manafort
falsify those critical documents.
I could have refused to file the tax return. That would have exposed the
firm, Laporta is imploring to the risk of litigation. I could have called
Manafort and Gates liars. But Manafort was a longtime client of the firm.
I didn`t want to do that either. She added, quote, I very much regret it.
And that is immunity witness number one. There are four more people who
have immunity who are ready to testify, plus the star witness, Rick Gates.
We turn now to our in-house experts. Josh Gerstein is senior White House
reporter for “Politico” and an analyst with us, and Joyce Vance, a former
federal prosecutor, as well as an MSNBC analyst. They both kept a close
eye on the case.
Josh, you were in the courtroom today. How damaging was Cindy Laporta`s
testimony and could you glean at all from the mood of the jury or the faces
that she was hurt at all by the fact that she was in on the bad things she
was talking about?
JOSH GERSTEIN, SENOR WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, POLITICO: I didn`t get a sense
that she was hurt. I mean, they knew that she had immunity. But she did
seem like she was someone who was along for the ride here.
Unlike even Gates, she didn`t have any direct financial interests in these
offenses that were being alleged. She was just accused of, essentially,
having accepted what her clients wanted her to do, rather than resisting
But I thought, Ari, this was by far the most damaging day yet for Manafort
in the trial. I felt like some of the other evidence earlier in the case
about the tax issues that he was spending way too much and transferring
money in from overseas, it`s still a little murky, you know if his tax
returns were off, how much were they off? By $100,000. Is that a lot on
$1 million? Does that amount to fraud? I don`t know.
But the stuff we heard about today seemed like very specific transactions,
not only tax fraud, but a lot of very damaging evidence on bank fraud also
came in through Cindy Laporta today, where she was specifically involved in
apparently forged documents being turned over the banks. And it just
sounded like the kind of conduct that is very intentional and very hard to
MELBER: It`s fascinating, coming from you, having been there every day in
Because, Joyce, I think Josh is referring to something that prosecutors
know well, which is that lawyers and accountants and definitely judges love
paper evidence. But normal people respond to stories. And Cindy Laporta
told a story today. That she was under pressure, that this was wrong, but
she went along with Paul Manafort`s alleged crimes.
Do you think that kind of story is critical to Mueller winning this case?
JOYCE VANCE, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: It`s the perfect sort of
compliment to the documentary evidence, to all of the paper that the jury
is seeing. And it`s not a problem if the evidence feels a little bit murky
at this stage, because the prosecution`s job right now is to put facts and
testimony in front of jury. And then in their closing argument, they`ll
get to assemble all of those facts and do a cohesive story that will be
used to convince the jury of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
The story, the sort of almost human interest that they hear today from
Laporta, I think is helpful in getting the jury through to that point.
MELBER: Josh, on the idea of hiding the foreign accounts, how damning was
that? Because, taken together, it seems to go to Manafort`s deliberate
criminal intent. That`s the way Mueller is playing it forward.
But again, trials have two sides and I think we can definitely expect
Manafort`s defense counsel, when it`s their turn to say, after this entire
probe, all of this attention is on whether he said or correctly remembered
all of this foreign stuff, even if he got it wrong, how big a deal is that?
GERSTEIN: Well, you know, they did say that in addition to sending the
typical questionnaire that goes out to clients about whether they have
foreign bank accounts that the accountant said, well, we e-mailed them
specifically and said, we want to ask you again, do you have foreign
accounts? Do you have signature authority over them? And Manafort or
Gates in various instances wrote back “no”.
I think that that`s problematic, but I do think it could be explained away
potentially as an oversight or some confusion about what counts as
signature authority. That`s what the defense seems to be arguing. I do
think, again, that the bank fraud testimony that came in cases where at one
point, there was a $1.5 million loan outstanding, and it was a problem when
getting another loan.
And suddenly, there was an eight-month backdated document available saying
that loan had been forgiven and it was on stationary that seemed to be kind
of shady and a signature that seemed shady, that kind of testimony, I just
think is very, very damaging. And as you know, Ari, bank fraud, those
counts carry a 30-year maximum penalty on each one. The law takes that
very, very seriously. And I think there`s real trouble on the bank fraud
charges for Manafort.
MELBER: Right. You see real risk there, as you say, this was the best day
of the case.
Final word to you, Joyce. When you look at what they`re going to do when
the – when Manafort`s team gets in the ring, so much of this coverage is
what looks bad for him. Could you give us any wisdom on what they`ll try
to do to rebut what Josh says has been a tough day?
VANCE: They don`t have much of a rebuttal opportunity here. Their best
argument, the argument that they suggested that they would use in their
opening statement is that it wasn`t Manafort, it was Gates. But there was
testimony from witness after witness yesterday and today, indicating that
Manafort was the person who provided them with final details.
Manafort saw and reviewed every document before it was signed and filed.
It will be virtually impossible for them to make that argument. And
they`ll be stuck, as so many defendants are, simply with arguing that the
government didn`t present enough evidence to meet its burden of proof and
that it`s not enough for the jury to think that the defendant might be
guilty, that the jury should, in essence, hold the government responsible
for proving guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. It doesn`t look like the
government is going to have a lot of trouble here, though.
MELBER: Right. And that the best they can do is say, if you have any
doubt, whether maybe Rick Gates was actually secretly pulling the strings
or any doubt whether Paul Manafort was actually confused, then maybe
through it all away. And I think that speaks to why it`s been such a
methodical case for Mueller`s team.
My special thanks to Joyce and Josh. We greatly appreciate it.
I will tell you, still ahead, goats can eat your trash. They can trim your
grass. They can even help you exercise and nail your perfect yoga
position, the downward dog.
We are going to explain how goats fit into some very important
developments. Look at the one on the back. That is – that`s some serious
yoga posing there. That`s when we`re right back.
MELBER: As promised, let`s talk goat, a word that could mean many things.
On the Internet, to say someone is the GOAT is to say they`re the greatest,
specifically the G-O-A-T, an acronym for “the greatest of all time”. If
someone texts you a goat emoji like this, that may be what they`re saying
Then there are actual goats, the kind that roam around many communities
across America. They eat leaves, grass, and plants. And that`s the story
out of Boise, Idaho, today, where over a hundred goats broke free from
their day job, yes, goats can have jobs, and they are deployed to do
munching on a – well, a planned basis.
There`s a company that rents them out to eat up weeds. That company had to
send out a truck to go get all of these goats. Then they sent two trucks.
Ultimately, there was some flag work to try to corral those goats, you see,
and get them all back into their goat transportation systems.
Which does suggest why that organic solution to overgrown weeds can seem
like more work than it might be worth. Why not just have electric
weedwhackers around? It takes perseverance to chase down your moving goat
system. It takes patience. It clearly takes diligence and energy.
And some ask, is it worth it? Is this the best we can do? It`s hard to
track down all these goats. I know what you may be thinking as you watch
the news, what are we even talking about? But perhaps these goats are an
allegory for vigilance about facts in our Trump era and how some people are
using energy and diligence to fight assault on the facts and their slow
progress could even put them in the running for, yes, GOAT of fact
The greatest of all time, my apologies, but we wanted to at least show you
the goat videos. And that story is worthwhile and it`s coming up.
MELBER: For weeks, ACLU lawyers have been pushing the Trump administration
to hand over basic contact information for the families of the migrant kids
who have been separated throughout this process, specifically trying to
help parents find their kids.
Last night, they told the government, instead of addresses from moms and
dads, what they have received from the Trump administration is just
vagaries about the parents` whereabouts, which could be anywhere from a
detention facility to being abroad. Of the 572 children in custody, 410
have parents who are not in the U.S., likely because they were deported by
The Trump administration is now saying this. The ACLU should use their
resources and network of law firms and volunteers to make contact with
those parents abroad. The Trump administration, of course, are the ones
who deported or separated all of these people.
Now they want someone else, I guess, the ACLU, to clean it up. How`s that
playing in court? Not well. This is the new story. The judge tonight
overseeing those court-ordered reunifications says this new Trump effort is
Quote: Many of these parents were removed from the country without their
child. All of this is a result of the government`s, the Trump
administration, failure to reunite. The reality is for every parent who is
not located, there will be a permanently orphaned child and that is 100
percent the responsibility of the Trump administration.
I`m joined by MSNBC correspondent, Jacob Soboroff, who has reported
extensively on this story for years now, before the separation policy
kicked in, and before this period of litigation ensued.
Number one, your view of what was a smackdown of this idea that the ACLU
should clean up Trump`s mess.
JACOB SOBOROFF, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: That`s exactly what it was. I mean,
it was a smackdown, a clap back from the judge. And I was in court a week
ago tonight, down in San Diego, when the judge said he was going to order
both of these parties to come up with a plan to reunite the remaining kids;
2,551 was the overall number. 572 is the number of kids that still, months
later, haven`t been reunited with their parents, Ari.
And the judge was flabbergasted. He just said, there is no plan. Nobody
came up with a plan. I ordered you last week to come up with a plan. The
administration submitted, in this paperwork, this court filing last night,
Thursday night, a plan that basically said, you know what, if the ACLU
really wants to do it that badly, you guys should take the lead and we`ll
be the supporting role here.
MELBER: Right, it`s remarkably cynical. You would expect it from other
parts of the administration in rhetoric, to go to a judge and say it is
pretty wild. It`s as if somebody complained that, say, inmates are not
being fed meals in prison and the response of the government is, fine, you
You come to the jails and feed them. It doesn`t even make sense.
SOBOROFF: Just logically, you`re the Trump administration. You are the
ones that put into place this systemic policy to separate all these kids,
that had never been done before, to take them away from their parents, to
do this as a deterrence policy that nobody else would come into this
country illegally. A strategy we know doesn`t make sense.
And then when the thing doesn`t work out, just lake there was no plan in
the beginning to put it into place and that`s why it was such a disaster,
they just decided, you know what, we`re not really going to come up with a
plan anyways to undo this and we`ll ask somebody else to do it.
MELBER: Right. So there`s a lot of mess there. I do want to hit one
positive part that I`m curious about your view, because you`ve been
covering this so closely. You mentioned the filings, I mean, we have this,
right? This is a government filing.
The 572 number is what the Trump administration coughed up under pressure.
And so while much of this was a complete unforced humanitarian crisis
because of Trump`s orders, what do you think of the fact that over these
weeks, we see the court system working, we see the accountability and the
pressure on, we see the majority of the families reunited under the
combination of public advocacy, public scrutiny, and judges and courts
forcing their hand.
SOBOROFF: It`s an extraordinary thing, and an inspiring thing, quite
frankly, for me, making the journey down there, being inside these
detention centers and seeing the children in cages, knowing that talking
about this stuff, the public pressure not only to get the president of the
United States to sign that executive order and stop the policy, but to go
into the court, without this judge.
Lee Gelernt said to Chris Hayes in the last hour, there are probably 5,000
children that were separated instead of 2,551. The judge not only stopped
the separations. But in the first day, he`s over 1,800 kids are placed
with the family or a sponsor and the remaining 572, he is forcing the
government to go out there, put a point person in place and reunite the
rest of these folks.
MELBER: Right. And you`ve been so close to it, I think that`s important.
It`s not to say this is making things better. It`s making them less
terrible for people but for the people affected, less terrible is something
the court system is achieving and that`s important.
Jacob Soboroff, again, thank you for all your contributions to the story.
Still ahead tonight, a lot of paper but not a lot of time. We`ll explain
MELBER: Here is a pivotal period on the calendar. Some time in September,
that is when Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley wants to hold a
confirmation hearing for Brett Kavanaugh, a pivotal Trump pick. He`s asked
the National Archives for everything it has from Kavanaugh in all three-
years he served in the White House counsel`s office for Bush and wants it
by August 15th and he got his answer and it is no.
The answer officially, quote: We currently expect to be able to complete
this review by the end of October 2018, which is, golly, pretty close to
the midterms. The National Archives says it potentially over 900,000 pages
of documents to produce just from the Republicans` request.
This is a key space to watch.
MELBER: Now, we turn to something that is important around here, fact
checking. Donald Trump made a giant claim in his first speech to Congress.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: According to data provided
by the Department of Justice, the vast majority of individuals convicts of
terrorism and terrorism related offenses since 9/11 came here from outside
of our country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Sounds important, if true. Well, the editor of “Lawfare”, Ben
Wittes, who`s also an MSNBC contributor, noticed it didn`t sound like
something the DOJ would have produced. So, his team debunked the core of
that claim. It appeared they distorted separate data from the national
security division of the Justice Department.
But they couldn`t rule out that maybe some other part of the DOJ had a role
in it. So, Wittes kept pressing for the data he claimed was his source.
Finally, this week, he got an answer.
Quote: There are no such records in Justice Department files. In fact, he
notes not a single e-mail, not a report, nothing. No responsive records
located, the DOJ said.
And Wittes says that means the president stood up and made a representation
to Congress about immigrants that wasn`t true and attributed it to the
Justice Department data which doesn`t exist. This is a governing problem.
Democrats in Congress now pressing the administration on the issue of how
this happened and who was involved so they can prevent it.
The wider context is that this forced fact-checking comes as the president
calls the press the enemy of the people and is in a fight with “The New
York Times” editor-in-chief this week and the United Nations over his
attacks in the free press.
The DOJ data reveals a separate prong of Donald Trump`s strategy that
should be exposed. Undercut the factual press and advance lies that
purport to be their own government-backed facts. If this all sounds
exhausting, it may be supposed to be exhausting.
Ben Wittes wouldn`t be exhausted. He used federal transparency laws to
expose the lie and make Trump`s own Justice Department confirm it. Just
like “The Washington Post” continues to check the president in year two,
counting up the lies just like it did in year one.
There are other options here. A final thought tonight is that maybe some
politicians want you to pick the other option. They want you to be
exhausted. They want you to feel like nothing matters, so you drop out of
the debate. But this is no time to tune in and drop out. This is a time
for game on.
And that does it for us tonight. If you want the find me on Monday, you
can always find “THE BEAT” at 6:00 p.m. Eastern. I will joined by the
creator of the famous Internet video, “honey badger don`t care”. “Honey
badger don`t care”. Have you ever seen this one?
There was a giant legal right copyright fight over it. And we have the
news and the exclusive, maybe because no one else wants it, but we do have
it on Monday.
I have run a little bit over on time, but I want to hand the baton over to
Katy Tur who is filling in, I`m told, on “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE
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