Rep. Chris Collins charged with insider trading. TRANSCRIPT: 08/08/2018. The Rachel Maddow Show
Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
Date: August 8, 2018
Guest: Gene Rossi, Jerry Zremski
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: And thanks to you at home for joining us this
You know, if you wanted to hold a pageant to decide the president’s
favorite member of Congress, I don’t think any of us knows who the final
winner would be. It might depend on whether the president insisted on some
sort of swimsuit contest or something even scarier.
But without any argument at all, I think almost all of us who paid any
attention to the news in this era, we could all name at least a couple of
the pageant finalists were this contest to happen. One of the finalists
would undoubtedly be the member of Congress who started off today being
taken into custody at the offices of the FBI in lower Manhattan.
Chris Collins is a Republican congressman from New York. He’s from
Buffalo. He was the first member of Congress to endorse Donald Trump’s
presidential campaign all the way back in February, 2016.
We know that is the kind of thing that really matters to this president.
Congressman Collins has since been among the most faithful visible Trump
loyalists in Washington. But now, he’s been arrested in an alleged scheme
that also resulted in the arrest of his son today, as well as the father of
his son’s fiancee.
But the Chris Collins alleged insider trading scandal which burst into view
today with the unsealing of his indictment, that scandal is one that
touches is several other serving Republican members of Congress and also
disgraced Health Secretary Tom Price who was the first Trump cabinet
secretary to resign in scandal. I mean, we have had our fair share of
political scandals and public corruption indictments as a country. That is
a history that includes today’s date on the calendar in 1974, when
President Richard Nixon resigned the presidency in the wake of the
Watergate scandal. That was this day, 1974.
But even so, even with that rich history under our belts, it really is
something when you wake up to the news of a sitting member of Congress
being indicted by federal prosecutors and the site of a sitting member of
Congress being hauled before a federal judge for criminal arraignment.
So, we will have more ahead tonight on Trump ally Republican Congressman
Chris Collins turning himself in and being indicted and arraigned on
federal criminal charges today, including, we will be talking to the
intrepid local reporter at the Buffalo News, who first broke the story that
turned into this scandal and who himself, the reporter, gets a cameo role
in today’s indictment of the congressman he first exposed. So, that is all
– that’s all coming up tonight.
But, we have gotten an exclusive story that we’ve got break ourselves
tonight before we get to Chris Collins and the other stuff that happened
today. And our exclusive tonight concerns another Republican in Congress
who would definitely make the finals in our hypothetical pageant to choose
the members of Congress who is the president’s favorite.
Before Donald Trump was elected, California Republican Congressman Devin
Nunes was important but he was a low profile member of Congress, low
profile to the extent that nobody really recognized him on sight.
Definitely nobody knew how to pronounce his last name. But even though
congressman Nunes was a relatively anonymous member of Congress he had a
big important job. He’s the head of the Intelligence Committee which is a
very big deal.
Well, since Trump was elected, Devin Nunes, Trump’s supporter, a senior
member of the Trump transition, he has turned that important job of leading
the Intelligence Committee into a full-time crusade to try to derail the
Russia investigation by any means necessary and to defend Trump in that
investigation at almost any cost. Congressman Nunes has pressured the
Justice Department and FBI into making unprecedented disclosures of law
enforcement sensitive material and classified information that’s actively
being used in ongoing open investigations. Congressman Nunes got himself
investigated by the Ethics Committee for himself engineering an elaborate
stunt from information that he received from Trump allies in the White
House and then he called a press conference to announce that he was going
back up to the Trump White House to deliver to them this shocking
classified information that in fact they had just given him.
The man has been acrobatic to the point of contortion in his efforts to
make the Russia investigation go away, and to turn the investigation of
that attack into itself a bigger scandal than the attack in the first
place. The president has been very appreciative of congressman Nunes’
efforts in this area. A great American hero. A true American patriot,
Devin Nunes deserves everyone’s support. Vote for Devin Nunes.
Well, tonight, we have some news about Devin Nunes. One of the Republican
members of Congress who had an unexpectedly tough time in a primary last
night is a senior member of the Republican House leadership from Washington
state. Congresswoman Cathy McMorris-Rodgers. Tonight, we have obtained an
audiotape that was made at one of her final fund raisers before last
night’s difficult primary.
Now, we obtained this from a progressive group called “Fuse Washington.”
Someone from that group paid to attend this Cathy McMorris-Rodgers fund-
raiser and made this recording at this event. This fund-raiser was held
last week. It was held on Monday of last week. It was a closed press
Because of that, what happened at this fund-raiser has not been reported
anywhere simply because reporters were explicitly not allowed in when this
thing happened last week. But tonight, we have obtained the tape of what
happened at that fund-raiser. And on that tape, you will hear Congressman
Cathy McMorris-Rodgers a little bit. You will mostly hear the Republican
chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Congressman Devin Nunes, who
was her guest at that fund-raiser, trying to raise funds for her for her
At this event, Congressman Nunes somewhat radically veers from the script
where he’s supposed to be raising money for Cathy McMorris-Rodgers and
encouraging Cathy McMorris-Rodgers’ supporters to be enthusiastic about her
candidacy, he veers from that script as you will hear and he instead makes
lengthy and controversial remarks about the Trump White House and
specifically about the Russia investigation.
Now, these are not the kinds of things Devin Nunes usually says in public.
Again, this was an event that was closed press. It was held behind closed
doors for these Republican donors only.
So, these remarks from Devin Nunes were never supposed to be public as far
as he and Cathy McMorris-Rodgers knew. Presumably they thought they would
never become public. But we have now obtained them.
We believe these remarks are newsworthy. We believe they are in fact
revelatory in several instances. So, I’m going to make those remarks
public right now.
So, here goes. We’ll sort of go smaller to medium-sized to big here.
First thing to know about the way congressman Devin Nunes talks behind
closed doors when he thinks there will be no press coverage of what he says
is that for all of his very public, very fulsome expressions of fealty and
support for President Trump, turns out when he’s speaking behind closed
doors, he’s willing to say he’s actually a little embarrassed by President
Trump that, the president’s statements sometimes make him cringe.
So, this is the first clip from Devin Nunes. This is in the context of
Congressman Nunes criticizing the Russian investigation and specifically
talking about the recent news the president’s statements on Twitter might
be cited as evidence in that investigation.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
REP. DEVIN NUNES (R), CALIFORNIA: They know it’s ridiculous to go after
the president for obstruction of justice. But if they tell a lie often
enough and they put it out there and they say, oh, we’re looking at the
tweets, because you know you got a mixed bag on the tweets, right?
Sometimes we love the president’s tweets and sometimes we cringe on the
president’s tweets, but they’re trying to make a political – this is all
political as to hwy that story ran in the “New York Times” on tweets.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: Congressman Devin Nunes, sometimes we cringe on the president’s
tweets. Substantively, who could possibly take issue with that, right?
In real political terms, though, the president probably will take issue
with that, especially given the way the president has used Twitter
specifically to hype up support for Congressman Devin Nunes. Nunes, we now
know, tells donors behind closed doors at private events that the
president’s tweets make him cringe.
More substantively, though, the White House will also want to know while
the congressman has been the single lead antagonist of the Russia
investigation in Congress, while Congressman Nunes has done more than any
other congressional Republican to try to monkey wrench the Robert Mueller
investigation and the FBI and Justice Department more broadly in order to
protect President Trump and his campaign, turns out even Congressman Nunes
behind closed doors is willing to concede that if anyone in the United
States had anything to do with the release of e-mails and documents that
were stolen during a campaign, that unequivocally would be a criminal act.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
NUNES: Now if somebody thinks that my campaign or Cathy’s campaign is
colluding with the Chinese, or you name the country, hey, could happen, it
would be a very bad thing if Cathy was getting secrets from the Portuguese,
let’s say, just because I’m Portuguese, my family was. So Cathy was
getting secret information from the Portuguese. You know, may or may not
But ultimately let’s say the Portuguese came and brought her some stolen
emails. And she decided to release those. OK, now we have a problem,
right? Because somebody stole the emails, gave `em to Cathy, Cathy
released `em. Well, if that’s the case, then that’s criminal.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That’s criminal.
Now, just in case it’s not clear here, the reference to the Portuguese
here, you hear a chuckle here, it’s not because Congressman Nunes is saying
Portugal did anything wrong. The congressman himself is of Portuguese
descent. He’s explaining here that he’s using Portugal as a hypothetical
example of a country interfering in our election. That’s why you get the
Portugal and Portuguese references here. Can we re-rack and play the last
part of that again?
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
NUNES: Ultimately let’s say the Portuguese came and brought her some
stolen emails. And she decided to release those. OK, now we have a
problem, right? Because somebody stole the emails, gave `em to Cathy,
Cathy released `em. Well, if that’s the case, then that’s criminal.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: If that’s the case, then that’s criminal. Again, substantively it
is hard to argue with the idea that it is bluntly criminal for anybody to
have been involved in the dissemination of stolen e-mails as part of a
political campaign. Substantively, we agree, right?
But with federal prosecutors now claiming in a federal indict that
WikiLeaks and DCLeaks and Guccifer 2.0 were the means by which stolen e-
mails were actually disseminated during the presidential election and with
lots of still accruing evidence that people associated with the Trump
campaign and the president’s family and the president himself helped in
that dissemination during the campaign, it cannot help that the lead
opponent of the Russia investigation privately concedes when he thinks
nobody is recording him that sort of activity, if proven, that would
definitely be criminal.
Now, we have a problem, right? Because if somebody stole the e-mails, gave
them to Cathy, Cathy released them, if that’s the case, that’s criminal.
How does that line up with the Trump campaign and what they did with
WikiLeaks and Guccifer 2.0 and DCLeaks?
MADDOW: All right. There’s twos other statements at this closed door
event that will make a little bit of news here. This next one includes
audio cameo from the member of Congress whose fund-raiser Devin Nunes was
speaking at. Again, Cathy McMorris-Rodgers is the number four Republican
in House leadership. She’s from Washington state.
This fund-raiser we obtained this audio is from Spokane, Washington, held
on behalf of Cathy McMorris-Rodgers’ re-election campaign. This fund-
raiser, as I said, was last week, last Monday. The primary for which she
was getting Devin Nunes’ help to raise money is actually a primary that was
held last night. You should know for context that that primary went very
badly for Cathy McMorris-Rodgers. Look how close it was.
This is jungle primary so the top two finishers will go to a runoff in the
general election in November. But when you are a long-time incumbent in
the district and you’re in the number 4 leadership position in all of
Congress, you’re not supposed to squeak into your primary runoff with less
than a single percentage-point lead over your Democratic challenger. Given
those results last night, Republican Cathy McMorris-Rodgers looks like
she’s in real danger of losing her seat this fall.
Well, now, when her constituents decide whether or not they’re going to
return her to Washington, they will also have this is to chew on in
addition to everything else they already know about our long-time member of
Congress. Here, for the first time ever, is Congressman Devin Nunes. The
tape you will hear is Congressman Nunes responding to a question from the
audience at this fund-raiser.
The question is about the Justice Department official who oversees the
Robert Mueller investigation, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. You
might recall right before they left for summer recess a couple weeks ago, a
few hard line/fringe pro-Trump Republican members of Congress actually
introduced impeachment proceedings against Deputy Attorney General Rod
Rosenstein. That was greeted with sort of slack-jawed stares by most of
mainstream – most of the mainstream beltway press and most mainstream
The Republican leadership in the House led by House Speaker Paul Ryan
quickly made clear once those articles of impeachment were introduced that,
really, the impeachment of Rod Rosenstein was a fringe interest, not
actually a Republican congressional priority. Yes, there might be a few
fringe members pursuing it but that’s not something that’s going anywhere.
Paul Ryan basically immediately made clear after those articles of
impeachment were introduced, the Republican leadership is not on board with
that kind of crazy stunt.
Now, we know that at a closed door private fund-raiser last week,
Congresswoman Cathy McMorris-Rodgers is part of the leadership. She’s a
member of the top leadership of the House, you will hear her chiming in and
appearing to agree with Devin Nunes, as Nunes explains to a closed door
group of Republican donors that actually there is a live House Republican
plan to impeach Rod Rosenstein. They just don’t want it to seem like
they’re pursuing it now. They’re waiting for two important things to
happen first and then their plan is to go ahead.
So, here’s that tape. You will mostly here Congressman Devin Nunes here.
There are two other voices here. You’ll here at the top an audience member
asking the question that starts the whole discussion. At one point in this
middle of Devin Nunes’ response, you will hear a woman’s voice
interjecting, that is the chair of the House Republican Conference, the
number four Republican and House leadership, newly embattled Republican
Congressman Cathy McMorris-Rodgers.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
AUDIENCE MEMBER: But also, on things that came up in the House on
Rosenstein impeachment thing. And it appears from an outsider that the
Republicans were not supported.
NUNES: Yes, well, so it’s a bit complicated, right? And I say that
because you have to, so we only have so many months left, right? So if we
actually vote to impeach, OK, what that does is that triggers the Senate
then has to take it up.
Well, and you have to decide what you want right now because the Senate
only has so much time. Do you want them to drop everything and not confirm
the Supreme Court justice, the new Supreme Court justice?
So, that’s part of why, I don’t think you have, you’re not getting from,
and I’ve said publicly Rosenstein deserves to be impeached. I mean, so, I
don’t think you’re going to get any argument from most of our colleagues.
The question is the timing of it right before the election.”
REP. MCMORRIS RODGERS (R), WASHINGTON: Also, the Senate has to start –
NUNES: The Senate would have to start, the Senate would have to drop
everything they’re doing and start to, and start with impeachment on
Rosenstein. And then take the risk of not getting Kavanaugh confirmed.
So, it’s not a matter that any of us like Rosenstein. It’s a matter of –
it’s a matter of timing.”
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: It’s a matter of timing. This again is audio that was recorded at
a closed door closed press private fund-raiser for Cathy McMorris-Rodgers
last week. McMorris-Rodgers facing an unexpectedly difficult fight to hold
on to her seat in Congress. She only won last night by 1 percent of the
Can we put – do we just have that transcript to put up for a second,
Right. There have been these public statements by the Republican
leadership in Congress that they’re not pursuing this crazy idea of
impeaching Rod Rosenstein. But despite those public statements, here’s
Cathy McMorris-Rodgers appearing to agree that in fact, they are going to
pursue impeaching Rod Rosenstein once the election is over and once they
have got the new Supreme Court justice installed.
Now, impeaching Rod Rosenstein, of course, that has nothing to do with Rod
Rosenstein. What it is, is the only option, the one option the Republican
Congress has to really force the end of the Mueller investigation. If they
impeach and forcibly remove from office the man who oversees the Mueller
investigation, that is how they could arrange the installation of somebody
else who could be put in place in that same job who would shut the
It’s really the only thing congressional Republicans could do to stop the
Mueller investigation. It’s their emergency brake. It’s an extreme, even
a crazy option and it has been seen that way. It’s been seen as extreme if
not crazy thus far in Washington, at least in public statements by House
Republican leadership in Washington.
But here’s evidence from this audio that the House leadership is secretly
on board with this plan, but for after the election. And they want to
specifically sequence it so it happens once President Trump’s nominee is
safely installed on the Supreme Court. And that may be just about wanting
the Supreme Court nomination fight to take precedence over everything else.
It may also mean they’re expecting the impeachment of Rod Rosenstein to
precipitate some kind of constitutional crisis for which they want to make
sure they’ve got the new Trump justice already ensconced on the high court.
All right. Here’s one last one. Congressman Devin Nunes leads the
Intelligence Committee. As I said, that’s a really big deal. It’s big
Cathy McMorris-Rodgers helps lead the whole Republican Caucus in Congress.
At this closed door private fund raiser for Congresswoman McMorris-Rodgers
last week, Devin Nunes spelled out in quite blunt terms how he views his
role in Congress when it comes to the Russian investigation and how he sees
the responsibility of all Republicans in Congress when it comes to the
Russia investigation, specifically why he sees it as so important for them
to keep their majority so they keep control of Congress in the elections
This is just the last clip here, one more piece of tape from this fund-
raiser. Here we go.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
NUNES: So therein lies, so it’s like your classic Catch-22 situation where
we were at a – this puts us in such a tough spot. If Sessions won’t
unrecuse and Mueller won’t clear the president, we’re the only ones. Which
is really the danger.
That’s why I keep, and thank you for saying it, by the way, I mean, we have
to keep all these seats. We have to keep the majority. If we do not keep
the majority, all of this goes away.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: We’re the only ones, that’s the danger. Can we just put – again,
just put up the transcript of that again. Thank you.
If sessions won’t unrecuse and Mueller won’t clear the president, we’re the
only ones. If we do not keep the majority, all of this goes away. So,
behind closed doors when they don’t think there’s any recording of what
they’re saying, they’ve been told there’s no press, they’ve disallowed the
press from being there, it’s a private Republicans only closed fund-raiser,
the case they’re making is that they either need to stop the investigation
of the president, they need to stop the Russia investigation or keep using
the power of Congress to impede that investigation, or else, right? Or
quote all of this goes away.
That’s why they want to keep the majority. That’s the stakes for them
keeping the majority. They’re using the majority to impede the
investigation. If they lose the majority the investigation might go
forward, and then, quote, all of this goes away.
So, again, we obtained this audio from a progressive group called “Fuse
Washington,” someone from that group paid to attend this fund-raiser and
made this recording. We, of course, asked Congressman Devin Nunes for
comment. He has thus far not responded. We hope he will.
We asked Congresswoman Cathy McMorris-Rodgers for comment. This was her
fund-raiser after all. Her office has not yet commented either. Although
we hope that they will.
We will let you know if we hear back. We will post all this audio and
these transcripts online tonight.
Stay with us tonight. More to come.
MADDOW: Prosecutors pressing the case against the president’s complain
chairman Paul Manafort say they will rest their case in the Eastern
District of Virginia the day after tomorrow. Between now and then though,
it looks like things are going to go fast or they’re planning on having
long days. They say they plan to get through eight more witnesses over the
course of the next two days.
Now, if that’s true, that means none of the rest of the witnesses will be
on the stand anywhere as near as long as the star witness thus far. The
Trump deputy campaign chairman, Rick Gates, who finally wrapped up three
days of testimony today.
Now, I admittedly I am not a lawyer and so I may not just be getting this.
Here is something that happened with Rick Gates today towards the end of
his testimony that I really don’t understand. This is Paul Manafort’s
defense attorney asking Rick Gates about the old 31-count indictment
against gates that got dropped by prosecutors once Gates decided to flip
and cooperate with the prosecution in their case against Paul Manafort.
I don’t understand this at all. But here’s how it goes. Manafort’s
lawyer, question: That indictment has been dismissed? Gates: it has.
Question: Are there circumstances under which that indictment can be
brought again? Gates: there are. Question: What are they? Gates: If I
fail to them tell the truth here today, the special counsel could claim
abridge of the plea agreement and they can indict me on those charges.
Question: and if you were indicted on that, how much time would you be
facing? Gates: A significant amount. Question: A hundred years by your
account? Gates: yes.
A hundred years. See, I imagine if I were on the jury, that might make me
think that Rick Gates is going to be really super duper absolutely
positively committed, unbelieve – Supercalifragilisticexpialidociously
committed to telling the complete truth, right? Because we’ve just spelled
out in court that the price of him lying would be him going to jail for 100
This seems like the kind of questioning you would pursue in court in front
of the jury if you wanted to make sure the jury would definitely believe
that everything Rick Gates said was true, because the consequences of him
lying were so terrible.
Instead, though, this is the line of questioning we got from Manafort’s
side, from Manafort’s defense lawyers. They’re supposedly trying to make
the jury think Gates is as unbelievable as possible, that he’s a lying liar
who lies, right?
I don’t get it. They really kept going with this today. Hammer and tongs.
Manafort’s attorney, quote: as you sit here today, Mr. Gates, do you have
any doubt in your mind if you lied that the special counsel’s office would
rip up your plea agreement? Gates: no doubt at all.
Why would you have that conversation in front of the jury? Why is this a
good strategy for the defense? Why keep clearly laying out how high the
stakes are for gates if he does lie, he can go to jail for a century?
I mean, the Manafort defense has simultaneously tried to make Gates look as
bad as possible for the jury, up to and including the jury hears that he’s
had multiple extramarital affairs. But they simultaneously also keep
telling the jury that Gates has this huge incentives to definitely not lie
in his testimony in this case because that would be so terrible for him.
How does that work? Why do you tell the jury you definitely can’t believe
this liar and also tell the injury this guy definitely isn’t lying to you
now? Do not get. I don’t understand it.
Joining us now is Gene Rossi. He’s a former prosecutor with the Eastern
District of Virginia. He not only tried cases like this in this court, he
tried cases like this before this specific judge. And Gene Rossi has been
ringside at the Paul Manafort trial all this week.
Mr. Rossi, thank you very much for being here.
GENE ROSSI, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Good to see you. Good to see you.
MADDOW: Nice to have you here.
Am I being dense? Is there something clear about that legal strategy?
ROSSI: And here’s why. When a defendant pleads guilty and becomes a
cooperator, in their plea agreement, they have the maximum penalties and
they also have the number of counts and they also say that those counts
would be consecutive. If the defense hasn’t brought that out, I am sure on
redirect the prosecutors would have brought it out. In fact, I think in
the case today the prosecutors did bring it out. So –
MADDOW: So, the jury knows what’s in the plea agreement. They know that
he can’t lie. They know that he would go to jail for 100 years.
ROSSI: Absolutely. And as a matter of fact, most jury gets the plea
agreement. I’m sure it’s an exhibit, I think it is.
So, when I was a prosecutor a lot of years, I would put that plea agreement
in and I would front in my direct exam which I don’t think the prosecutors
did that as much as the defense did, and in redirect, I would front, you’re
facing 100 years. You’re facing five counts.
What in your mind will happen if you lie? The plea agreement will be
ripped up and I could face 100 years.
MADDOW: Which tells the jury this guy is not going to lie.
MADDOW: So, it’s weird for the defense to be pursuing that while
simultaneously trying to undermine the credibility of Rick Gates.
ROSSI: Well, not really.
ROSSI: If I’m a defense attorney, which I am now, I’m going to ask that
witness, OK, you’re facing 100 years. You know the only way to get a
reduction in sentence, a 5K or rule 35, those are the vehicles, you know
the only way is to tell the prosecutors what they want to hear.
ROSSI: To lie to them, to dupe them. That’s the only strategy.
MADDOW: Oh, they’re suggesting that he lied to the prosecutors in order to
get his deal?
MADDOW: Boy, are they doing that backwards.
ROSSI: Well – this is what you have to do and it is done every – every
criminal trial I had, the defense attorney would get up there and say,
you’re facing 100 years, you’re facing a mandatory minimum of 25 years.
ROSSI: You will do anything to get a reduction in sentence. You will lie
about anybody to get a reduction. That’s really the best you can do.
MADDOW: I’ve been reading all this through the transcripts and following
all the reporting from this.
Sitting in the courtroom, especially with your experience in the Eastern
District of Virginia, how do you feel – what do you think about the
strength of the case? This is tax fraud, bank fraud. We’ve seen, somewhat
surprising approaches, at least from a Lehman’s perspective on both sides.
How do you as an observer, somebody experienced in this field in this
courtroom think both sides are doing?
ROSSI: In my career, I had 30 tax trials, civil and criminal. And here’s
my analysis. The case against Paul Manafort, if the government rested
today, is very powerful.
ROSSI: And in my opinion, there’s a high likelihood Paul Manafort will be
found guilty of 10 counts, five for the tax returns. And all they have to
show is under oath, which a tax return is, and two material falsehoods,
income not reported and the FBAR, Foreign Bank Account Report. Those are
the 10 counts against Paul Manafort.
There is absolutely no way that the jury is going to ignore the mound of
documents that suggest and point towards Mr. Manafort failing to report $30
million in income over many years.
MADDOW: And that evidence, as presented by the prosecution, at this point,
is uncontroverted, the jury is not going to have any doubt?
ROSSI: Let me tell you this. I sat through Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.
The defense attorneys are phenomenal attorneys. They’re all from the tax
division of DOJ, former.
I worked with Tom Zendley (ph), I know Jay Nanovatti (ph). I know Kevin
Downey. I worked for the tax division. They are doing a fabulous job.
But trials are like poker. You are dealt cards and you have to do the best
they can. And they are doing the best they can, it’s just the cards they
have are horrible. He didn’t file an FBAR when he knew he had to, and he
lied to people.
And I want to say this. Every criminal tax trial has to have a theme.
Here’s the theme of this trial – greed, lies and manipulation. And you
have this, no pun intended, card analogy in spades. It’s unbelievable.
So, I think it’s a very strong case. I could be shocked if something
happens in the next few days. But the government could rest today. They
could have rested probably yesterday.
MADDOW: And you think he’d still be convicted?
ROSSI: Absolutely, on those counts.
MADDOW: Gene Rossi, former prosecutor at the Eastern District of Virginia,
there’s another element of this actually which is your connection to this
case which I’m going to ask you about when we come back.
ROSSI: And I can’t wait.
MADDOW: Hold your breath.
We’ll be right back with Gene Rossi right after this. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Joining us once again is Gene Rossi. He’s a former prosecutor in
the Eastern District of Virginia.
Gene, I know you have another connection to this case. You represent one
of the five witnesses –
MADDOW: – who the government said could be called to testify against
Manafort in exchange for immunity. Your client is Connor O’Brien. As far
as I understand it, he worked with Cindy Laporta, one – only one of the
five people on than list who has actually been called thus far.
Now, the government said these were just potential witnesses but I guess
your client was prepared to testify because he was on the list. He had
gone through the process of getting an immunity agreement. What does it
say to you your client was not called to testify in the end?
ROSSI: Very simple. They didn’t need him. My client had just a little
bit sliver of the overall affair, scheme that they had. They had
(INAUDIBLE) testify. They had Heather (INAUDIBLE) testify, Cindy Laporta,
Rick Gates actually helped, too. They did not need my client.
He had a very – he’s a great kid and I’m so happy he didn’t have to
MADDOW: So, in the case of Cindy Laporta, she too had an immunity deal.
MADDOW: She’s not therefore in legal jeopardy for what she testified to in
court which was –
ROSSI: If she tells the truth.
MADDOW: – helping Paul Manafort with his tax returns. She said she
regrets it. She got use immunity for that testimony in court so they can’t
prosecutor her on that.
But we learned yesterday she has nevertheless been fired. She nevertheless
lost her job. Immunity deals usually involve copping to some sort of
Is your client having to worry about that kind of stuff too? The other
clients on this list?
ROSSI: I can’t comment on that.
MADDOW: OK. Let me ask you about one other connection that you have in
this courtroom. Judge Ellis –
ROSSI: That’s what I thought you were going to start with. That’s why I
MADDOW: You’ve tried cases before him.
MADDOW: Is he always like this?
ROSSI: Let me just tell you this. I appeared in front of Judge Ellis for
20 years. I had seven trials and hundreds of hearings. I lost count of
the number of hearings.
And what you’re seeing from Judge Ellis is what I saw the first time I
appeared in front of him in 1997. He is what he is, and he’s never going
MADDOW: It seems like he’s really ragging on the prosecutors.
MADDOW: But he’s not going after the defense. Is that his M.O. as well or
is that unusual and specific to this case?
ROSSI: It’s not unusual because my seven trials, there were times he was
ragging on me, and, you know, it’s part of the process.
Here’s what I want to give advice to anybody who appears before Judge
Ellis. Do not take it personally. That is the way he rolls. He is a
brilliant jurist. He likes to get involved in the case, in questioning and
And the thing I like about Judge Ellis, he is a perfectionist. He has made
hundreds if not thousands of attorneys better, including me, because he is
MADDOW: Is he always harder on the prosecution than on the defense?
ROSSI: Not always.
MADDOW: In this case, do you think he is notably harder on the
ROSSIS: I think in this case, yes.
ROSSI: But not – I wouldn’t say notably. Last week, he was pretty tough
on the prosecutors.
ROSSI: Yesterday and today, I have noticed that Mr. Andres who is doing a
MADDOW: The prosecutor, right.
ROSSI: And the other two prosecutors, Uso and Brandon, OK? I know those
two very well. He’s getting a little warm with Andres.
ROSSI: And it’s because they now realize – they have almost an
understanding. And you got to understand, Judge Ellis does this in every
single case, no matter how big or how small.
MADDOW: Just that every single case doesn’t get this kind of national
attention for all the reasons this is. But that’s why we need your
Gene Rossi, former prosecutor of the Eastern District of Virginia – thank
you, my friend.
ROSSI: Thank you.
MADDOW: Really good to have you here.
ROSSI: Thank you so much.
MADDOW: All right. Much more to come tonight. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Today, a Trump enthusiast Republican congressman from Buffalo, New
York, suddenly became very nationally famous when that sitting congressman
and early Donald Trump devotee Chris Collins was arrested, indicted and
arraigned for insider trading and lying to federal agents.
Our next guest is so close to this remarkable story today that our next
guest is actually mentioned in the indictment that was unsealed as Chris
Collins was taken into custody today.
He’s mentioned and not as one of the many unnamed co-conspirators in the
indictment. That guest joins us next. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Before former Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price was
booted out of office, in a taxpayer spending and luxury travel scandal,
before all that, Tom Price had a stock scandal that arguably was an even
bigger deal. When Tom Price was a congressman from Georgia, he bought tens
of thousands of dollars in stock in a company called Innate
And he bought that stock at a discounted rate. It was a big sticking point
at his confirmation hearings. He testified he didn’t get a special price
on that stock.
In fact, he did. He was one of fewer than 20 U.S. investors who were
offered that sweet deal. He admitted that he first heard about that
company from another colleague down the hall.
Congressman Chris Collins is a Republican from Upstate New York, from
Buffalo. He’s also one of the largest shareholders in that Australian
pharmaceutical company and he sat on the board of directors of that company
which itself is an unusual thing for a sitting member of Congress let alone
one on a committee that oversees health care companies.
After Congressman Collins allegedly tried to get his colleagues like Tom
Price to invest in that company, House ethics investigators started looking
into you Chris Collins and his ties to that company last year. Well,
today, this long brewing scandal culminated with Congressman Chris Collins
getting arrested on federal insider trading charges and for lying to
federal agents. That’s him spot shadows there at federal court in New York
Today probably felt like the longest day of Congressman Chris Collins life.
But it also must have felt like a long time coming for the local reporters
at Congressman Collins’ hometown paper, the “Buffalo News” who have frankly
been on the story from before the beginning.
Jerry Zremski is the Washington bureau chief for “Buffalo News”. He’s the
reporter who first broke the story there was a House ethics investigation
into Congressman Collins and his ties to the company way back before any of
it had taken the turn to being an alleged crime. Buffalo News stayed on
the story even when the congressman repeatedly publicly attacked them, all
up until this criminal indictment today.
Mr. Zremski, I imagine this has felt a long time coming. Thanks for being
JERRY ZREMSKI, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, THE BUFFALO NEWS: Thank you very
MADDOW: How did this evolve from the first stories that “Buffalo News” ran
on this matter to where it ended up today?
ZREMSKI: It was a long, long trail that we ended up following. It all
started as you mentioned with the investigation into Tom Price and his
stock trades and how they related to Chris Collins. But really the big
break in the story I think was one that went largely unnoticed. It was
late in June last year when, all of a sudden, one Wednesday night, Innate
Immunotherapeutics introduces this press release saying, hey, we’ve got
this great news from the FDA. We’re going to be able to do clinical trials
in the U.S.
And then a couple days later, there’s a sudden hold on the stock trading.
And that seemed very, very suspicious. And then only a couple of days
later, the following week, the following Monday night, we find out why
there was a hold. The clinical trials of their much touted drug to
supposedly cure multiple sclerosis failed completely.
So, the company’s only product was essentially worthless and so was the
MADDOW: And that’s an unusual dynamic to have this hyping press release
saying things are going great right before things actually cratered.
ZREMSKI: Exactly. I did a story where I talked to people in Australia
involved in the investment industry and also people in Buffalo. And they
both looked at this as what’s called a pump and dump scheme, where you tout
the price of the stock and then everything goes quiet for a day or two
while the insiders sell. And then the bad news comes out.
MADDOW: So the investors in the know will get the best possible price for
their stock while they are selling it off, while the rest of the dupes in
the public who don’t know it are about to take a bath.
ZREMSKI: One interesting though is that the indictment doesn’t address the
first part of that, that highly touted optimistic press release, that’s not
in there. But the second part of this long delay and the insiders dumping
the stock, yes, that’s in there.
MADDOW: Now, one of the other things that’s in the indictment I think is a
reference to you. There is part of what’s alleged in the scheme is that
Congressman Collins’ office released a statement to a reporter, who I think
ZREMSKI: That is me.
MADDOW: Essentially saying that, hey, when my family sold off this stock
as the stock cratered and dropped by 92 percent in value, you shouldn’t see
that as any – essentially giving you a statement exonerating the family of
any wrongdoing for having done that, making it seem like they actually got
hit very hard just like members of the public did who might have held this
Is that essentially the way that you feature in the indictment and what did
you make of that statement when he actually got it the from Collins’
ZREMSKI: Well, that’s pretty much the way it was, is in terms of how it
happened, I asked the questions about the family. And the family’s
investment, what happened with that, did they sell, et cetera? And I got
this very straightforward statement which said there was nothing suspicious
here, that everyone had taken a loss, et cetera.
And it clearly turned out not to be true, that statement turned out not to
be true. Of course, when I was reading the indictment this morning, I read
that and said, oh, that sounds like a very familiar little press release,
come to think of it.
MADDOW: Congressman Collins has been reportedly overheard near the floor
of the House bragging about how many millionaires he made in Buffalo back
home by talking people into investing into this company. He’s also tried
to raise funds politically by attacking the “Buffalo News”, by attacking
you and your paper for having pursued this story.
How do you think this will play at home for him? He says he’s going to run
ZREMSKI: That’s a very, very interesting question. The thing he really
has going for him is that he is representing one of the most Republican
districts, probably the most Republican district in New York state.
ZREMSKI: So, there are a certain percentage of people in his district who
are simply going to believe him, who are going to think this is another
attempt by the press and the evil FBI to go after Republicans again and
will vote on partisan lines. I think discerning voters may think about
this a little bit more. But it’s really going to be a struggle, I think,
for any Democrat to win in that district just because of the partisan lean
of the district.
MADDOW: This is one of those speaking indictments written for a public
audience. To the extent it gets circulated and people read this for
themselves, it’s a pretty powerful case.
Jerry Zremski, Washington bureau chief for “Buffalo News,” I know it has
not been fun to be the target of the congressman’s ire for pursuing the
story, back home especially. But congratulations on being out ahead of
this and it’s – boy, is this turning into a big deal. Congratulations.
ZREMSKI: Thank you. I appreciate it. OK.
MADDOW: Subscribe to your local paper. We’ll be right back.
MADDOW: The story we broke at the top of the show tonight was of audio
recordings and audiotape previously undisclosed that was made at a
Republican fundraiser last week in which Congressman Devin Nunes, the head
of the Intelligence Committee, and Cathy McMorris-Rodgers, number four
Republican in the House, discussed some surprise plans among congressional
Republicans both the Mueller investigation and for Supreme Court nominee
I mentioned at the top of the show, we will post those audio clips and the
transcripts of those remarks online. They are now posted online.
That does it for us tonight. We will see you again tomorrow.
Now, it’s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O’DONNELL”.
Good evening, Lawrence.
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