Rick Gates testifies against Trump campaign chairman. TRANSCRIPT: 08/06/2018. The Rachel Maddow Show
Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
Date: August 6, 2018
Guest: Lee Gelernt
NICOLLE WALLACE, MSNBC HOST: And thanks to you at home for joining us for
the next hour.
Here`s the good news: Rachel has the night off, but she will be back here
tomorrow, I promise you.
We are in the dog days of summer now, but in the dead of winter, on
February 22nd, Rick Gates, Donald Trump`s former deputy campaign chairman,
the number two person on Donald Trump`s presidential campaign, had a very,
very bad day. That`s because on February 22nd, special counsel Robert
Mueller slapped Rick Gates with 23 new felony charges. That was on top of
the eight felony charges he was already facing, an avalanche of charges.
If Robert Mueller was trying to get Rick Gates to blink, it worked. The
very next day, February 23rd, Rick Gates made all 31 of his charges
disappear when he cut a deal with special counsel Robert Mueller. At the
time, Gates wrote a letter to his family and friends calling it a, quote,
gut-wrenching decision. But in exchange for making those 31 charges going
away, Gates pleaded guilty to two new felony charges, lying to the FBI and
conspiracy to defraud the United States, charges that are nothing to sneeze
Now, under the sentencing guidelines, those two charges carry a maximum
prison sentence of 10 years. When you factor in things like Rick Gates not
having a prior record, he could be facing four to six years. And for
comparison`s sake, the cooperation agreement that former national security
adviser Mike Flynn got from Mueller puts Flynn`s risk of jail time at 0 to
6 months. So, Gates did not get Flynn`s sweetheart deal.
But Rick Gates does have one get out of jail free card. The court could
choose to give him no jail time at all, or something like probation, but
that all depends on whether Rick Gates plays by Mueller`s rules, which is a
pretty good incentive for Rick Gates to spill everything he knows. Rick
Gates knows a lot, and not just about Paul Manafort.
Paul Manafort and Rick Gates were the top two officials running the Trump
campaign, campaign chairman and deputy campaign chairman. They were at the
center stage at the Republican National Convention. Rick Gates traveled
with Donald Trump on the campaign trail. When Paul Manafort got pushed out
in August of 2016, Rick Gates stayed. He was there through the election
Rick Gates was the second-highest ranking official on Donald Trump`s
inaugural committee. He probably heard Rick Gates referred to as
Manafort`s right hand man, or Manafort`s deputy, but that doesn`t do Rick
Gates justice. Rick Gates knows a lot about Paul Manafort. He might know
more about Donald Trump.
Rick Gates was right there when Paul Manafort was in a mad scramble for
cash right before Manafort suddenly and inexplicably offered his services
to Donald Trump for free, and Rick Gates stayed inside Trump world long
after Manafort hit the exits. Meaning Rick Gates, arguably, knows a whole
lot about the central question of what really went down between the Trump
campaign and Russia, which explains why eyewitness accounts from inside the
Manafort trial made it sound like a high noon showdown when Rick Gates took
the stand. Rick Gates sitting just 20 feet from Paul Manafort, taking
pains not to make eye contact with his former mentor, Gates staring
This was the first time we heard from Mueller`s star witness and it did not
disappoint. The prosecutors asking Gates, quote: did you commit crimes
with Mr. Manafort? Gates responded yes, later confessing to embezzling
hundreds of thousands of dollars. And in case – in a case where Paul
Manafort`s attorneys would like the jury and court watchers to see this as
a trial just about bank statements and tax returns and secret overseas
accounts, in a case where we`ve been told you won`t hear the words Trump or
Russia or the word oligarch, that one`s been banned, make no mistake,
Russia showed up in court today in a very big way.
Joining me now is Josh Gerstein, senior reporter at “Politico”. He`s been
covering the Manafort case since the beginning and been in the courtroom
every day of the trial.
Josh, take us through these dramatic points that are coming out in press
accounts about Rick Gates, about the dynamic between Gates and Manafort and
about the larger picture that`s being filled in through press accounts
about Gates is an eyewitness to much more than Manafort`s crimes.
JOSH GERSTEIN, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, POLITICO: Well, there was more
evidence about the Russia issue as you hinted out in the lead in, Nicolle,
than I had expected today. I thought we`d be hearing pretty much just
about the tax issues, the failure to report foreign bank accounts and
things along those lines, the bank frauds that are the focus of this trial.
But we did hear some of the things about Russia, about loans, about $10
million that Manafort owed to Oleg Deripaska, a Russian oligarch. So, we
could see the Russia message and the Russia theme seeping in at the edges.
But what everybody was on edge for today and what everybody was looking for
was the interaction between these two men. Gates was sort of a protege of
Manafort. Gates worked for him for a decade, had known him, you know, in a
more distant way for almost 30 years. And, you know, Gates tried to keep a
lid on any of those tensions today, as you say.
When he came in the courtroom, he made a point of not looking at Manafort.
He looked at the jury and then he began responding to the prosecutor`s
questions, always turning back to the jury as he answered those questions.
But there were points at which he did look towards the defense table.
You have to remember, the way the courtroom is set up, the prosecutor is
only one human away from Manafort. Manafort`s lead lawyer today, Kevin
Downing, was sitting between Manafort and the prosecutor asking questions,
Greg Andres. So, Manafort had to be there in Gates` peripheral vision.
WALLACE: Take us through some of the emotions that went through this room.
Was Gates – and did the jury pick up on any of that, was Gates acting
fearful of what he was testifying to? Did Manafort seem angry? Were there
any family members with any outbursts or emotions that they displayed in
GERSTEIN: I didn`t see any outbursts. You know, Manafort seemed very
serious. At times, he had his arms folded. He looked, perhaps upset or
disappointed, but his emotions were pretty much in check.
Gates, you know, he seemed, I think, a bit nervous, but he was very matter
of fact in the way he delivered his testimony. There weren`t a lot of
lengthy explanatory kind of sentences from Gates. A lot of it was
delivered in yes or no answers, as we were hearing earlier, questions,
like, did there come a time when you were working for Mr. Manafort that you
became involved in criminal activity?
And that was the first big moment when Gates said yes in answer to that
question. And began to describe how Manafort had directed him to transfer
money from offshore accounts to pay personal expenses of Manafort`s and to
become involved in these efforts to get Manafort loans.
We hear one thing after another listed and as I say, a very plain, kind of
matter of fact fashion, although what did seem awkward was the fact there
was a certain part of the courtroom that Gates didn`t seem to want to look
WALLACE: The Manafort part of the courtroom.
WALLACE: Let me ask you how they deal with explaining to a jury that
someone is a cooperating witness, that they`ve already pleaded guilty to
committing some crimes. Does that change or could you detect any change in
any of the body language from the jury? Did they seem to – to listen less
intently or did they – did they lean in as this was someone who had traded
How does that go over in a jury?
GERSTEIN: So, I was watching the jury as they were describing, or, as I
said, as the prosecutors were leading Gates through a description of his
deal with the government, and the jurors were watching that very intensely.
I saw a number of them taking notes on the different provisions of the plea
deal and I was struck by the fact that the prosecution seemed to want to
get Gates` baggage out of the way as quickly as possible.
After his educational background and his time working with Manafort was
laid out by the prosecutor, the very next thing they got into was his plea
agreement with the government and there was more discussion later on of the
same basic theme, especially this issue about embezzlement. Prosecutors
seemed to want to get that out on the table very early. Folks may remember
the defense brought this up in their opening argument, that Gates had
apparently stolen money from Manafort, or from Manafort`s firm, and the
prosecution definitely wanted that laid out before we quit court today.
They wanted that out on the table and brought that out before they sort of
went through chronologically the different crimes that this pair may have
been involved in.
So, they were clearly trying to immunize him or inoculate him for the
counterattack from the defense that is definitely coming.
WALLACE: I think Rudy Giuliani called it hanging a lantern around your
problems, and obviously, that doesn`t – that`s not limited to – a tactic
limited to one side or the other.
WALLACE: Josh Gerstein, who was covering the Manafort case for “Politico”
– thank you for covering it for us.
GERSTEIN: Thanks, Nicolle.
WALLACE: We`re grateful to have you.
Now, let`s bring in our legal power panel. Barbara McQuade, former U.S.
attorney of Michigan`s Eastern District, who was also in court today. And
Chuck Rosenberg, former U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia,
and a former senior FBI official.
First of all, Josh just reported, Barbara, that Russia was front and center
in some of the testimony from Gates today. What is the larger picture look
like and how does Gates help us understand not just the Manafort piece, but
the Trump campaign piece and inaugural piece and everything that happened
afterward until the point where Gates sort of left the scene after he was
indicted alongside his former mentor, Paul Manafort?
BARBARA MCQUADE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Well, one of the pieces of evidence
that the prosecution was trying to get in today and the judge was being a
little bit difficult about how much detail he would allow them to go into
was when Paul Manafort and Rick Gates were working in Ukraine, they were
working with these oligarchs, people like Oleg Deripaska, because they were
making enormous, enormous campaign contributions, much more than we see in
this country, they don`t have the kinds of rules we have in this country,
because in exchange, they were expecting to get huge parts of the economy
when they were done from these elected officials. Someone was going to
control the energy sector and somebody else was going to control the steel
So, the stakes are very high for people who are involved in political
operations, and so, that`s why Paul Manafort was receiving so much money,
which he then stored in these bank accounts. And so, you wonder to what
extent that influence came over to this country, as well, and that Paul
Manafort may have imported that practice or to what extent these oligarchs
are seeking influence in this country.
WALLACE: Chuck, I understand that Gates is an important and significant
witness in the Manafort trial, but his deal requires him to cooperate with
everything and anything that Robert Mueller is investigating. So, what
other investigative threads could Gates be useful to, and what would you
surmise he`s being used for by the special counsel?
CHUCK ROSENBERG, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY, EASTERN DISTRICT OF VIRGINIA:
Right. So, great question, Nicolle. I imagine because of his role in the
campaign that they are asking him lots and lots of questions about contacts
with Russia and the roles not just of the president, but of other people,
Roger Stone, Jared Kushner, Donald Trump Jr.
Look, this is a guy who was around the campaign for months and months, who
traveled with the president, who was there for conversations, who may have
read e-mails, who may have listened in on phone calls. And so, he`s not
just important for Manafort. You`re exactly right.
In fact, the government could probably convict Manafort without Gates,
right? This is largely a document case. Manafort – I`m sorry, Gates put
some meat on the bone, but he is going to be important to Mueller and his
team in lots of other ways.
WALLACE: This is what I found curious about subjects Gates having to go
through, as Josh just said, revealing what he got the deal for, having to
say in court today that he committed crimes, that he embezzled money from
Manafort. It seemed obvious that he is maybe apart of this, but are they
telegraphing anything, the names you just ticked off, Kushner, Donald
Trump, Jr., Roger Stone, they are all at that intersection of potential
collusion, potential conspiracy around that Trump Tower meeting that the
president tweeted about on Sunday.
ROSENBERG: Yes, that`s exactly right, Nicolle. You know, first of all, I
wanted to make a point about the stuff that the government did today with
Mr. Gates on the stand. They have a constitutional obligation to turn over
to the defendant and to his lawyers every bad thing that Mr. Gates had
And so, what the government always does when they`re putting on a
cooperator is adduce themselves upfront in the first all those bad things.
You know, they draw the sting, essentially.
To your question, though – right, so, there`s a whole bunch of people who
are at that intersection of conspiracy or collusion or whatever synonym you
want to use, but perhaps other crimes – financial fraud, bank fraud, tax
fraud. And Gates had a view of that, a perch, if you will, to see it in a
way a lot of other people might not have been able to. He was at the
center of this for quite awhile.
Does he know everything? Of course not. But was he around these people,
these actors while they were committing crimes? Well, he was certainly
around Manafort when he was committing crimes. And so, he`s a valuable
witness to the governor.
WALLACE: Barbara, I don`t ever want to put Steve Bannon in the same
category, in the same conversation as you, but I`m struck by something he
said in “Fire and Fury,” about you get these guys, and I think he meant the
Trump family, and maybe even the president, was to go after money
laundering. He said the line for Mueller goes straight – I think he
talked about how Andrew Weissmann, some of these guys, were money
laundering guys. They prosecuted the Enron case. You go through Manafort,
through Kushner and that`s how you get Trump.
Is Bannon`s – you know, was he a canary in the mine potentially to how you
could use Manafort, you could use some of the foundations being laid in
this trial to get to other people in the Trump orbit? Is that why you
think the president is acting out?
MCQUADE: It`s hard to know why the president is acting out, but I do think
that is –
WALLACE: That`s true.
MCQUADE: I do think that is a very valid theory. I think it`s been widely
reported that president Trump accepted a lot of money, investment from
Russian businessmen when he was having a hard time getting loans from other
sources, that a lot of his real estate was bought with catch from Russia
Russians. And so, when you think about all the things that Paul Manafort
is doing, he`s learning how money is flowing out of Russia.
You know, when Russia went from the Soviet Union and came out of that,
there was a lot of money up for grabs that went into the hands of these
oligarchs who then tried to get it out of the country and needed a place to
park it. And so, a lot of that money came into this country, possibly even
through to Donald Trump.
And so, yes, I think that is certainly an avenue of investigation that
Robert Mueller is likely to pursue and as Chuck said, Rick Gates is someone
who likely knows a lot about that and so, having him as a cooperator has a
lot of value, not just what he can do in this case, but what he can do for
the overall investigation.
WALLACE: You guys have a lot of value to us.
Thank you, Barbara McQuade, former U.S. attorney. Thank you for your time
Chuck, we`re going to make you stick around a little longer. I have a few
more questions I`m going to ask you about later.
Rachel has a mantra for this show for covering the Trump White House.
Watch what they do, not what they say. Unless what they say comes with
potential legal liabilities. That story is next.
Stay with us.
WALLACE: On July 9th of last year, “The New York Times” came out with a
bombshell scoop, reporting for the very first time the president`s son Don
Jr. had met with a Russian lawyer at Trump Tower after, quote, being
promised damaging information on Hillary Clinton. Three days later, the
confirmation for the president`s nominee to lead to FBI got underway.
And that`s how Christopher Wray found himself in the uncomfortable position
of having to weigh in on the propriety of that meeting.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Let me ask you this, if I got a
call from somebody saying the Russian government wants to help Lindsey
Graham got re-elected, they`ve got dirt on Lindsey Graham`s opponent,
should I take that meeting?
CHRISTOPHER WRAY, FBI DIRECTOR: Well, Senator, I would think you`d want to
consult with some good legal advisers before did you that.
GRAHAM: So, the answer is, should I call the FBI?
WRAY: I think it would be wise to let the FBI –
GRAHAM: You`re going to be the director of the FBI, pal. So, here`s what
I want to tell every politician. If you get a call from somebody
suggesting that a foreign government wants to help you by disparaging your
opponent, tell us all to call the FBI.
WRAY: To the members of this committee, any threat or effort to interfere
with our elections from any nation state or any non-state actor is the kind
of thing the FBI would want to know.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: I miss that guy. That Lindsey Graham.
Of course, we all know Don Jr. did not do that. His response to a meeting
pitched to him as containing very high level and sensitive information as
part of, quote, Russia and its government support for Mr. Trump was to
accept the meeting and bring along his brother and law and the chairman of
Now, the president`s acknowledgement in a weekend tweet that his eldest son
did in fact take that meeting with Russians in order to get information on
an opponent has many believing the president has increased his own legal
jeopardy by admitting the true purpose of that Trump Tower meeting. And it
stands in stark contrast to the initial statement that he dictated last
year explaining that the meeting had been primarily about adoptions.
The president now claims that the meeting was, quote, totally legal. Done
all the time in politics, which fits into the president`s and his allies`
latest talking point that collusion is not a crime.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP`S ATTORNEY: I`ve been sitting here looking
in the federal code trying to find collusion as a crime.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s not.
GIULIANI: Collusion is not a crime.
CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), FORMER NEW JERSEY GOVERNOR: Collusion is not a crime.
GIULIANI: I don`t even know if it is a crime, colluding about Russians.
You start analyzing the crime, the hacking is the crime.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The question is, how would it be illegal? I mean, the
real question is would a meeting of that nature constitute a violation, the
meeting itself constitute a violation of the law?
The question is, what statute or law or rule or regulations has been
violated? Nobody`s pointed to one.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: So, of course, accepting something of value from a foreign
government in the context of a campaign is actually illegal and it appears
the president is aware of this. His tweet this weekend came in reaction to
this story in “The Washington Post.” “The Post” reporting that, quote,
Trump has expressed to confidantes lingering unease about how some in his
orbit, including his eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., aren`t ensnared in the
Russia probe. Quote, as one adviser described the president`s thinking, he
does not believe his son purposefully broke the law, but is fearful
nonetheless that Trump Jr. inadvertently may have wandered into legal
Joining now is Ashley Parker, White House reporter with “The Washington
Post” whose byline is on that tremendous reporting.
I love all your stories and my favorite part of all them is – I think this
is when Trump reaches for his device, to start banging out his tweet.
Based on interviews with 3,900 White House – but I think it was 16 or 18
sources. Take us through what they reported about the president.
ASHLEY PARKER, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Sure, so, the
key thing that we reported, that we heard from them that seemed to be what
the president was responding to in that tweet was his unease about Don
Jr.`s possible culpability in all this. And again, he doesn`t believe his
son purposely broke the law. He thinks he may have sort of inadvertently
done something –
WALLACE: He stumbled into conspiracy to collude with a foreign adversary.
PARKER: Exactly. Done something bad, or even in the most charitable, les
nefarious explanation is that he feels guilty in a way that his son is
caught up in all of this in a way he feels probably correctly his son would
not be were he not his son and, of course, had he not taken that meeting.
WALLACE: Right. Well, and – he – there are people he can talk to if he
feels guilty about that. But he responded. I mean, your reporting got so
far under his skin, that he responded in a tweet attacking the story and
then I saw, he retweeted out. This is the story the president is annoyed
But this seems to be, if you step back, this simmer that you describe, the
blowing of the lid, which is how you describe him and other flash points in
his presidency, really started with the Thursday morning tweet about
sessions ordering him to stop the Mueller probe and I heard that he was
talking about firing Jeff Sessions again that morning on the phone with
Take us through this slow boil and where they go now.
PARKER: So, what was so interesting to us is there`s very much a private
and a public Donald Trump. And we all sort of see both of them. And so,
privately, as we reported, he was brooding, he was upset with Sessions.
He`s been increasing sort of the number of falsehoods he`s been telling.
He`s been naming Mueller now publicly by name, which is something he didn`t
do before. And we even sort of looked back at his tweets and he`s been
using the phrase witch hunt to describe the Russia probe almost twice as
much in the past two months as he was previously.
So, it`s really getting under his skin. And part of this is, you know, his
former campaign chairman is standing trials. He`s watching that on a
nonstop loop on cable news and he cannot stand the fact that when they`re
talking about Paul Manafort, there`s another name he hears.
That name is true, and he thinks they`re doing this to spite him, you know,
trying to embarrass Manafort, bring all the stuff for Manafort to embarrass
him. He thinks it`s sort of a white-collar crime and it wouldn`t be
treated this way were it not for Manafort`s connection to him, which on the
one hand is correct.
WALLACE: But it seems to me that these spears are all pointing in towards
the Oval Office. You`ve got the Cohen legal shenanigans, of Cohen now
trying to get some sort of deal with the Southern District. You`ve got not
just the Manafort trial, but the Gates testimony. As we talked about with
Barbara and Chuck, Gates is a cooperating witness for anything that Bob
Mueller is investigating. So, it`s not just what Gates says in the
Manafort trial that he`s going to see him be annoyed by.
What is sort of the central – Trump`s bad behavior is often animated by
fear. What`s the central fear?
PARKER: That`s the great question. And people that are close to him say
they don`t know what they don`t know, what we don`t know. But part of it
is the president has made a decision. He truly believes and I`m not saying
this is correct, but he truly believes that he did nothing wrong. This is
getting reinforced now by Rudy Giuliani.
There were other lawyers around him previously who were giving him a
different set of advice. That`s not what Giuliani is telling him. So, on
the one hand, Trump believes that his biggest risk is not necessarily from
Mueller, but may come from possible impeachment, if Democrats take the
And so, there is an element where he believes that this is a public
relations battle and that he needs to discredit Mueller in case the
investigation finds anything, but even if it doesn`t. And sort of lay the
groundwork that as he likes to say, this is a witch hunt, collusion is not
a crime, and he did nothing wrong.
But again, I have to say, we don`t know what we don`t know. We don`t know
what maybe didn`t happen on the campaign, but happened when Michael Cohen
worked for him, all those decades and now that Michael Cohen has flipped.
That`s a risk, for instance.
WALLACE: I have to say, there was a sea change in the things that people
close to him, and you talk to many more of them than I do, there was a sea
change in what they thought about the president`s potential guilt on the
question of collusion. They always thought, he`s too incompetent to have
colluded with Russia, he couldn`t even collude between the plane and the
headquarters, but obstruction, a little – you know, he sort of was a
family business, he could have done something wrong there.
But after Helsinki, there was a sea change in what people thought the
president could be hiding or protecting against on the question of
PARKER: I think that`s true. I think there`s also a concern after
Helsinki that, again, it`s not just maybe his family business, but that he
may be getting himself in more trouble as he tries to fight this publicly.
Remember, there`s the collusion and there`s the obstruction of justice and
there is definitely a sense that the tweets are not helpful. These public
statements are not helpful. The moods in public and private utterances are
WALLACE: Talking about firing your attorney general –
PARKER: Not helpful.
WALLACE: Not helpful.
All right. Ashley Parker, congrats on the reporting. It`s fantastic.
PARKER: Thank you.
WALLACE: Great to have you up here in New York.
Air Force One is surprising in a lot of ways. I spent a lot of time on it.
It was a privilege. It can feed 100 people at a time. Really, really good
It can project against an electromagnetic attack. It has an operating
room. But there was something even more jarring aboard air force one this
That story is next.
WALLACE: Hope Hicks is back in the news. The one-time model who started
in PR for Ivanka Trump`s clothing line and within five years landed a job
as President Trump`s White House communications director has re-emerged six
months after resigning that post.
On Saturday, Hicks was spotted getting onto Air Force One, just before it
took off for the president`s rally in Ohio. And there she is, actually in
the plane with the president. But President Trump may want to get some
legal advice before he swaps stories with Hope, because about two months
before she resigned, Hope Hicks met with Robert Mueller, reportedly more
Hope Hicks, you will remember, was also onboard Air Force once when
President Trump was putting together his public statement about the now
infamous Trump Tower meeting. Ms. Hicks was reportedly right by the
president`s side for that project, texting back and forth with his son,
Donald Trump Jr. Now, today, a source close to the Trump legal effort
tells me that the president`s conduct since the Trump Tower meeting, his
involvement in the crafting of a false statement about that meeting and
conversations he`s had with White House aides about it point to an
increasing likelihood that the president could be vulnerable to charges of
witness tampering and obstruction of justice.
It also brings back into focus the ongoing legal jeopardy facing all of the
individuals who have testified to Robert Mueller and his team about the
crafting of the original false statement and any conversations they may
have had with the president about their testimony. With this in mind, what
do we think Hope Hicks and the president talked about? And do you think
anybody wanted to download afterward?
Joining me now to help me answer that question is Frank Figliuzzi,
assistant – former assistant director for counterintelligence during
Robert Mueller`s tenure as FBI director. And back with us again, because
we can never get enough of this man, is former U.S. Attorney Chuck
Let me start with you, Frank, because we started this conversation at 4:00,
shortly after I heard this reporting close to the Trump legal effort that
the president, even if he ended up having nothing to do with the original
meeting with the Russians, all of his conduct since then, all of his
involvement in dictating the false statement to the press, all of the
conversations that have been widely reported by “The New York Times” that
he`s had with White House aides about their interactions with Mueller`s
investigators, that all of those incidents could leave him very vulnerable
to charges of witness tampering and obstruction of justice.
FRANK FIGLIUZZI, NBC NEWS NATIONAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, and we
continue to see this unexplainable behavior, Nicolle, between what is right
from a legal, strategic standpoint, which would be to not talk or be in the
same room or airplane with Hope Hicks, and then the strategy, perhaps, of
public perception, which is to tell the public, look, I`m thumbing my nose
to all of this legalese and Bob Mueller. If I want to invite Hope Hicks on
Air Force One, I`m going to do it, she`s with me, she`s on my team.
The problem with this dichotomy between what you should do legally and what
you should do for public perception is he`s going down the wrong path with
this. So, he`s subjected himself to yet more questioning by Bob Mueller,
if that ever happens, and he`s putting Hope Hicks into a box where she`s
likely to be re-interviewed, perhaps for hours again, about what transpired
on that airplane, whether the president or his aides are attempting to
tamper with her and her testimony, it`s all a very bad idea.
WALLACE: And, Chuck Rosenberg, we know that lies were told if we could
adopt the language that politicians take on in scandals like this, there
was one in the White House in which I worked where Scooter Libby was
ultimately charged with obstruction of justice and perjury, and that`s
often what trips up aides. And it was positive to me today that it`s
possible that somebody involved in crafting that false statement repeated
that lie when they went in to meet with Robert Mueller and it`s possible
that one of the people that was called in and questioned about that is
already in some legal jeopardy, and for the president to talk to anybody
that was called in and questioned about that is not smart.
ROSENBERG: No, it`s not smart. And Frank is exactly right. Look, if
you`re a defense attorney, the first thing you tell your client is, don`t
talk to anybody, anybody, who might be a witness in this case. And if you
need to pass something to another person, another witness, do it through
me, your lawyer. All right? We can talk lawyer to lawyer without
obstructing justice or tampering with witnesses. But you cannot talk
witness to witness.
At the very least, it looks bad. More than that, Nicolle, it could be
actual witness tampering. Imagine the president saying, hey, what`s your
recollection of happened on Air Force One or, how did you describe this to
Bob Mueller, did he ask you about it and what else did he ask you? And so,
to the extent that Mr. Trump and his team are concerned that this is taking
too long, my advice to them would be to stop creating more evidence.
WALLACE: And, Frank, we already had some evidence. I mean, there was
somebody who was part of the PR side of this, Mark Corallo. He quit around
this flash point of the crafting of a false statement. He quit over
concerns that obstruction of justice was an area that they were all wading
Do you think there`s any chance that Hope Hicks was onboard Air Force One
as someone who`s already a cooperating witness in the Mueller
FIGLIUZZI: Wow. I think it`s a minimal chance, Nicolle. I`m not sure the
strategy would be to insert someone into Air Force One who is going to go
up against the president of the United States who is represented by
counsel, probably highly unlikely.
So, we`ve got a woman here who`s got her whole career and life in front of
her. Her judgment, so far, has been – as far as we know, has been rather
poor. And she`s got a choice to make. She can either establish a legacy
of associating herself with a president who is likely to face serious,
serious charges, if not impeachment or otherwise, or she can be her own
person and do the right thing.
And we`re not seeing that happen yet. In fact, we`re seeing quite the
WALLACE: And a corroborating witness, Chuck, includes everyone who has
gone in and cooperated and answered questions from special counsel Robert
Mueller and all his investigators. So, that, at this point, does include a
pretty wide group of current White House aides. We know the White House
counsel Don McGahn is technically a cooperating witness. Sean Spicer went
in. Josh Raffel, former spokesman to Jared – I mean, there are a lot of
people cooperating at witnesses in the Mueller probe.
Where do you put their risks at this point? Either being drawn in. We
know that the president is now being investigated under this beefed up
post-Enron witness tampering law and we know that he continues to be a
subject of obstruction of justice questions.
Where do you think the interaction with all these witnesses ranks on a risk
scale for the president?
ROSENBERG: Well, it makes it more risky for the witnesses. It makes it
more risky for the president.
But let me just draw a distinction between a cooperating witness, Nicolle,
and a truthful witness. I think Frank`s point is a very important one that
I want to underscore it. I also agree that Hope Hicks is a very unlikely,
you know, wired up or going in as a government agent, if you will, trying
to elicit admissions from the president.
That doesn`t mean she`s not a truthful witness. And the more the president
talks to her, the more the government and the Mueller team is going to want
to know what he said.
All these people you just described are very likely truthful witnesses,
right? They don`t want to risk their own, you know, fortune, their own
liberty, right, their own freedom, to lie on behalf of another person. And
so, as the president continues to reach out, he`s increasing his own risk,
and as long as the people to whom he`s reaching out tell the truth when
they`re questioned about it, they should be OK.
Of course, like Mr. Gates and Mr. Manafort, if they have committed
underlying crimes, they have a separate problem.
WALLACE: Just like Mike Flynn, too, right?
ROSENBERG: That`s exactly right.
WALLACE: Frank Figliuzzi, former FBI assistant director for
counterintelligence, Chuck Rosenberg, former U.S. attorney – thank you
both so much for spending some time with us.
Still ahead tonight, Democrats are trying to pull off something that has
not been done since the 1980s, and they may just do it.
Stay with us. We`ll be right back.
WALLACE: Tomorrow is an important election day in the great state of Ohio.
Ohio does not usually hold major elections in August, but tomorrow is a
special election to till fill an open seat in Congress. The seat sits in a
reliably Republican district. Donald Trump won the Ohio 12th by more than
In normal times, this seat would be a lock for Republicans. In normal
times, we would probably not even be talking about this race on the
national news. These, of course, are not normal times.
For months, the Democrat in this race, Danny O`Connor, has been chipping
away at his opponent`s steadily lead in the polls. And now, on the eve of
the election, he has erased that lead entirely. This is the latest poll
out of the Ohio 12th. The Democrat running in this deep red pocket of Ohio
is now beating his Republican opponent in the polls by one point.
Now, one point is, of course, not a slam dunk, it doesn`t guarantee
Democrats a win, but it`s a heck of a lot closer than Democrats ever
expected they would get in a district that has not sent a Democrat to
Congress since the `80s. Turning the Ohio 12th into a tossup is the
political equivalent of a double rainbow. And so now that they have
Republicans sweating in their own backyard, now that they`re within reach
of the political upset of the year in Ohio, what can this race tell us
about the Democrats chances in the midterms this November and whether they
have a shot at taking back the House?
Joining us now is Robert Costa, national political reporter with “The
Robert, it`s great to have you with us tonight.
Let me ask you, there`s a tendency in politics when you`re on the right
side of a poll like that, to overread the national implications and when
you`re on the wrong side, to downplay the national implications. Which
side is making the more credible argument?
ROBERT COSTA, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well,
Nicolle, you never want to read too much into an August campaign. People
are on vacation. Voter turnout may not be as engaged as it`s going to be
in the November midterm elections.
But President Trump waded into this race, appearing at a rally on Saturday
in the Columbus area, and so, you have this in some respect being a
referendum on President Trump because the Republican candidate has embraced
the president and you have the Democrat, Danny O`Connor, running against
the Democratic leadership in Washington, running very much like other
candidates across the country this year. This is – if not a microcosm for
the country, at least a microcosm for the Midwest.
WALLACE: And does this race have Republicans – I mean, I don`t know that
it`s possible, and I`m sure that Republicans will say anything these days,
but in the good old days when I was a Republican, we used to acknowledge
publicly that you could not win the White House without winning Ohio.
Do people acknowledge how nerve-wracking it is to have a district like this
in a part of a state that you must win to send a Republican to the White
House that this is an ominous sign for the Republicans?
COSTA: They feel like they have an impossible choice. Talking to
Republican consultants in and outside of Ohio, they say, you can`t win in
some areas with President Trump because of the way he may anger women
voters, college educated voters, suburban voters that may have given him a
chance in 2016 but have since distanced themselves from President Trump,
but you can`t win without President Trump, they say, because he enthuses
the Republican base.
So, you see so many Republicans like the Senate Senator Troy Balderson
trying to thread the needle, talk about the tax cut, not really talk about
immigration in the same hard line way as President Trump with the “build
the wall” rhetoric, but still talking about immigration, because they want
the Trump voter to come out.
It`s going to be a balancing act that some Republicans can handle and some
Republicans cannot this year. This is a major test to see if a normal
mainstream state senator type like Balderson can pull it off.
WALLACE: So, the “Cook Political Report” has identified 60 house districts
that are more Democratic than the Ohio 12th. Not a good sign for
What are the Democrats doing right in those districts? Are they
nationalizing the contest? Are they nationalizing the Republican Party?
Or what are they doing that has that many races that are even more
favorable to them looking so promising?
COSTA: When you listen to Danny O`Connor, the Democrat in Ohio, or you
listen to other Democratic candidates like him who are, let`s say, between
the ages of 30 and 50, projecting themselves as a new generation of the
Democratic Party, they`re actually not talking about the headline headlines
we`re writing about at “The Washington Post”, the Russian investigation,
many of President Trump`s controversies.
They`re trying, and sometimes not that well, but trying to talk about the
economy, talk about health care, core Democratic issues, because they know
if they have any shot at a real wave, not just a little bit of a ripple
this November, they have to activate core Democratic voters. But they`re
finding their own tensions from time to time, the leftward pole of the
Democratic Party in some primaries.
But for the most part, Democratic candidates are running on health care and
the economy, not so much talking about Bob Mueller and President Trump or
really even immigration, as a major issue. They want to really just rouse
those central Democratic issues.
WALLACE: And we heard Donald Trump talking about a red wave. I don`t hear
any political consultants warning about that.
Robert Costa, “Washington Post” national political reporter, always
grateful to have you and your insight.
COSTA: Thank you.
WALLACE: We have a lot more to get to tonight, including what we are still
learning about a critical failure of the Trump administration. That story
is next. Stay with us.
WALLACE: It`s been 11 days since the court-ordered deadline for the Trump
administration to reunite the children it forcibly took away from their
parents at the southern border. And still, between 500 and 600 children
remain separated tonight. The ACLU has been fighting in court to force the
Trump administration to reunite all of these families.
If you want to know how the Trump administration is faring in that court
battle, consider that late last week, the administration suggested in a
court filing that the ACLU should actually take the lead in locating the
remaining parents whom the government separated from their children and
On Friday, the federal judge overseeing the case took the government to
task, noting that as of Friday, only 12 or 13 of the around 500 parents
haven be located. The judge called that unacceptable. Even worse, it
appeared that there`s no plan in place for the government to find the rest
of the parents.
Quote: Many of these parents were removed from the country without their
All of this is the result of the government`s separation and then inability
and failure to track and reunite. And the reality is that for every parent
who is not located, there will be a permanently orphaned child, and that is
100 percent the responsibility of the administration.
Reporters who have been covering the chaos around the Trump
administration`s zero tolerance immigrant policy have raised this specter
before, of permanently separated families, of children forcibly taken from
their parents and never returned. But it seems so much more real now, as
the Trump administration, even under federal court order, fails to take
even the most basic steps towards fixing this human rights catastrophe of
their own creation.
Joining us now is Lee Gelernt, the ACLU attorney who has been arguing this
Thank you for joining us.
And help me understand this. They now welcome your help and your capacity
and your expertise, but the federal government hasn`t turned over the files
or the personal information about all the parents they deported without
their children, is that right?
LEE GELERNT, ACLU ATTORNEY: That`s exactly right. I mean, so, what we
said is, look, it the government`s responsibility, the court made clear, of
course, it`s the government`s responsibility, but they tried to wash their
hands and say, you do it.
Well, that`s not right. They need to take steps to find the parents. But
we are more than willing to help, and we want to help, but how can we help
without any information?
Now it turns out that the government has been sitting on potentially many,
many phone numbers. We could have been calling these parents for the last
weeks or months and they`re not turning over the information.
And they have – the judge basically said, what are you doing? Get a plan,
turn over information so the ACLU can try and help you. They can`t help
you without the information, but you, the government, also need to take
steps to find these parents.
It was stunning, the position the government took.
WALLACE: And how does it actually work? Because I`m guessing someone that
comes into this country and is fleeing circumstances so dire that they
bring their young children, in some cases, young infants, to this country -
- I`m guessing they don`t leave with a forwarding address or a doorman
building or a working cell phone. I mean, what is, under the best case
scenario, how do you find a mom or a dad who left their infant or their
young child in basically a detention center in America?
GELERNT: Right, that`s exactly right. It`s a difficult task. But there
are pieces of information that we can use and so, for example, a lot of the
parents have been talking to their children from abroad.
The government has those phone numbers. We`ve been begging for those phone
numbers. They have not turned over those phone numbers.
There may be addresses, the government`s turned over addresses for some,
they say they don`t have addresses for all, but even those addresses
sometimes just say, here`s the city where they might be. So, we`re asking
for any piece of information that might help us. For example, many of the
parents are in Guatemala and speak an indigenous language. Certain
languages are only spoken in certain regions.
We want to know – and the government knows what language the individuals
spoke when they came here. We want to know that. We want to know their
consular ID numbers in those countries. Any piece of information, if they
have a phone number for a close relative. We want to know that, anything
to help us.
We`re organizing groups on the ground in Central America. But they can`t
just simply drive around the country aimlessly. We need pieces of
And the government should also say what they`re going to do. For example,
they could be running PSAs in these countries in print, on the radio, maybe
television, saying if you were deported without your kid, call this
hotline. The government`s come forward with no plan and is also telling us
they`ll get us the information about the parents when they get it to us.
That`s not good enough.
WALLACE: And this isn`t just a story about the cruelty of the Trump
administration policy. There are now children who are going days upon days
upon days without their parents. Are you worried about long-term impacts
on these children?
GELERNT: You`re exactly right about that. The medical community as filed
affidavits on our case and come out overwhelmingly to say, look, these
children are going to be permanently, permanently traumatized and every day
that goes by, it gets worse. When I talked to one of the families which
finally been reunited, a 4 and 10-year-old boy have been, the mother told
me that younger child – a 4-year-old just keeps asking her, are they going
to take me away again?
That`s exactly what we`re doing to these children. You create a sense of
vulnerability in them that may never leave them. It`s horrible.
WALLACE: It is horrible.
Lee Gelernt, we`re grateful for the work you are doing, deputy director of
the ACLU immigrants rights project, a lead attorney on this case. Thank
you for spending time with us tonight.
GELERNT: Thank you.
WALLACE: Still ahead, I have something very important to tell regular
viewers of this program, it`s good news. Stay with us.
(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)
WALLACE: Wow, that was the scene outside the White House gates tonight
where Broadway actors past and present belted out show tunes to protest
this president, capping off a busy news day that`s just the start of a very
busy news week.
The biggest event of all is happening right here tomorrow night at 9:00
Eastern. My friend Rachel Maddow will be back from vacation. How did we
all get through the Maddow 2018 summer break? I don`t know how I did.
I`ll be back in my suite watching her in the anchor chair.
Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL”.
Good evening, Lawrence.
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