Strzok, last man standing. TRANSCRIPT: 08/13/2018. The Rachel Maddow Show
Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
Date: August 13, 2018
Guest: Jim Himes
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: And thanks to you at home for joining us for
the next hour.
There has never before been a time in U.S. history when you could start a
brief rundown of the day`s news with words anywhere close to the kinds of
words we use now to run down the news, right?
Today, on what stands as a fairly normal Monday for this administration,
today federal prosecutors, for example, rested their case against the
president`s campaign chair. As he nears end of the first of two criminal
trials in which he has been charged with multiple felonies.
Today, we were also treated to a tape recording of the president made
apparently without his knowledge or consent by a former White House senior
adviser who, over the past two days, has revealed that she also made
illicit recordings inside the Situation Room at the White House. She now
says she also recorded the president`s daughter and son-in-law, who are
both senior White House advisers, without their consent, they were
She said she was offered $15,000 a month after being fired from the White
House on a contract that essentially required no work from her but it would
include a nondisclosure, non-disparagement agreement that would preclude
her from talking about her time in the White House or her colleagues there.
She also says the president is mentally unfit for the job. She says he is
unaware of most of what happens in the White House now and she says she has
heard recordings of him using the “N” word in a work setting at his former
job on a TV show.
Every once in awhile, I just have to step back, right? As I said, this
registers as a fair to middling day for this administration, because
apparently our political seismographs don`t work anymore. And so, when
nobody tells us there`s an earthquake underway, and we just keep plodding
along through all the shaking and the falling rocks and the cracking
buildings, pretending this is just Monday.
Today, a federal judge appointed by the president ruled against a Russian
oligarch who was formally accused in another criminal indictment of having
financed and orchestrated some of the Russian government`s efforts to
interfere in the last election, to try to throw that election for Donald
Trump. This particular oligarch has not turned up in federal court since
he was charged earlier this year. But he had argued through lawyers that
the charges against him should be dismissed because the appointment of the
special counsel Robert Mueller was somehow unconstitutional or improper.
Well, today, in a 41-page ruling, this Trump-appointed federal judge in
Washington, D.C. dismissed that argument from the oligarch with dispatch.
So that case will go on. It will not be dismissed.
Everybody who has challenged the legal proceedings that have derived from
the Russia investigation thus far, by challenging the appointment of Robert
Mueller to lead the investigation and to bring charges when he discovers
crimes, every single one of those challenges has been turned back.
Manafort tried that argument in Washington, D.C. federal court. He lost.
Manafort tried that argument in federal court in Virginia, he lost. This
Russian oligarch and his company have now lost this argument, as well.
There`s also an associate of Trump campaign aide Roger Stone who has been
held in contempt of court for refusing to respond to a subpoena from Robert
Mueller, because he keeps trying on this same legal argument that somehow
there`s something wrong with the existence of Robert Mueller as a special
counsel. Again, he has already been held in contempt of court. Today, we
learned that that man is now going to appeal that all the way up to the
D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, which is one level below the U.S. Supreme
Court. He is trying again, burning through every possible legal avenue to
try to avoid testifying in the special counsel investigation.
Now, what that man might testify about – we really have no idea. But he
is going to the mat and beyond to try to avoid testifying. And it is
apparently this utterly unknown Roger Stone adjacent figure, this guy,
Andrew Miller, who is going to try to get the constitutionality of the
Russia investigation as close as possible to the Supreme Court with this
federal appeals court challenge he just filed this afternoon in the D.C.
So, again, like I said, not much doing, just Monday. A fairly typical day
in the ongoing careening bus crash of this particular iteration of the
American presidency into the American rule of law. Ka-boom.
But when the history of this time in U.S. history, when the history of this
moment in American citizenship is written, I think here`s what today`s
entry is going to be about on the big “Dateline” of 2018. Just over two
years ago, an urgent counter-intelligence investigation was begun that
related to the presidential election that year. Then-CIA Director John
Brennan has testified that foreign intelligence services had informed the
CIA about contacts and communications indicating some kind of Russian
involvement in the U.S. presidential election, and the possibility that
people associated with the Trump campaign were being informed about those
efforts or they were otherwise in contact with the Russian operation.
Now, the CIA, of course, doesn`t operate on U.S. soil. Counterintelligence
efforts involving other countries mounting operations here, that`s part of
the FBI`s counterintelligence bailiwick. So, the CIA and the FBI
coordinated their efforts to start looking into whatever was going on in
the summer of 2016. And it was, again, just over two years ago now that
the FBI itself received information that an adviser to the Trump campaign
had bragged to a foreign diplomat that the Russian government had hacked
Democratic Party e-mails. And that boast to that foreign diplomat happened
long before there was actually any public information circulating about the
Russian government hacking Democratic e-mails.
So, the FBI realized there was something to go with there. The CIA had
been advised by allied intelligence services that there was something else
to go on that seemed related. So, it`s just over two years ago, this
counter intelligence investigation begins. Are the Russians actually
running an intelligence operation to try to influence the choice of the
next American president? If so, is that candidate in on it?
That investigation started just over two years ago. Since then, of course,
the candidate in question has been elected president. And under him, since
he has been president, the director of the FBI leading the investigation
has been fired, turned into a political punching bag and removed rom
office. His top deputy, the number two official at the FBI, running the
day-to-day operations of the FBI and the investigation, he, too, has been
fired, turned into a political punching bag and removed from office.
Now, the head of the counterintelligence division at the FBI, the lead
agent on that investigation, now, today, he has also been fired. Turned
into a political punching bag and removed from office. The president has
also threatened all three of them with being prosecuted themselves.
Director, deputy director, head of the counterintelligence division, all
gone, all blown up, career-wise, right? All being threatened with being
And the Russia investigation continues to unspool, right? We`ve had the
national security adviser plead guilty and become a cooperating business.
We`ve had the president`s deputy campaign chair plead guilty and becoming a
We`ve had that Trump foreign policy adviser who piqued the interests of the
FBI with his inside info about the Russian hacking operations, right?
We`ve had him plead guilty, too, and become a cooperating witness. We`ll
actually have a little more on him coming up tonight, there`s been some
movement in his case.
We`ve got another Trump foreign policy adviser, formally named as an agent
of the Russian government in multiple foreign surveillance wiretap
applications. We`ve got the ongoing felony trial against the president`s
campaign chair. We`ve got pending felony criminal indictments against
multiple alleged Russian agents and Russian military intelligence officers.
We`ve got pitched legal battles now over the potential legal liability for
other people associated with the president and for potentially testimony
about them. The people like Roger Stone and Michael Cohen, the president`s
long-time attorney. But one by one, even as all of that fruit has been
borne from this investigation, one-by-one, the law enforcement and
counterintelligence leadership actually in charge of the investigation that
has led to all this thus far, one by one, they have been peeling them off
and destroying them and their careers.
The director, James Comey, the deputy director, Andy McCabe, with Peter
Strzok`s firing today, that adds the head of the FBI`s counterintelligence
division to the list. And I think there`s a couple different important
consequences of that. And the first one is frankly about the president`s
personal legal liability in this scandal.
Last June, after he was fired, FBI Director James Comey testified to
Congress that President Trump had improperly pressured him about the FBI`s
open investigation into Trump national security adviser Mike Flynn. Now,
at the time, Comey said he recognized the president`s request to him
concerning Flynn to be both improper and highly unusual. And so, according
to his FBI training, he knew what to do next.
He immediately wrote down what had happened in that conversation with the
president. He wrote in it memo. He wrote it right after that
conversation, he then shared the contents of the memo with senior FBI
So, essentially, they could corroborate what he had said at the time about
the interaction that he had just had.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: Who did you talk with about that?
Lifting the cloud, stopping the investigation back at the FBI, and what was
JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: Well, at the FBI, during one of the two
conversations, I`m not remembering exactly, I think the first, my chief of
staff was actually sitting in front of me and heard my end of the
conversation, because the president`s call was a surprise.
And I discussed the lifting the cloud and the request with the senior
leadership team who in – typically, and I think in all these
circumstances, was the deputy director, my chief of staff, the general
counsel, the deputy director`s chief counsel and, I think, in a number of
circumstances, the number three in the FBI, and a few of the conversations
included the head of the national security branch. So, that group of us
that lead the FBI when it comes to national security.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Who else could back me up on what happened there, right? And he
gives this big list. The deputy director, the chief of staff, general
counsel, deputy directors, chief counsel, head of the national security
branch, the FBI`s number three official, that would be the associate deputy
director of the FBI, right? If you don`t speak the language of job titles
in the FBI, just seems like a lot of similar-sounding adjectives, right?
Seems like kind of long and hard to remember list.
But those are very specific people, and Comey knows who he told. And he
was very clear about this. When questioned about it repeatedly, he was
Here`s who I told. Here`s who my corroborating witnesses are.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: Who are those senior leaders at the FBI
that you shared this conversation with?
COMEY: As I said in response to Senator Feinstein`s question, the deputy
director, my chief of staff, the general counsel, the deputy director`s
chief counsel, and then more often than not, the number three at the FBI,
who is the associate deputy director, and then quite often, the head of the
national security branch.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: So, to us, again, it just seems like a list of a lot of job titles
that don`t sound all that distinct, but when you compare it, it is
consistent. This is who he told. He knows exactly who it was, right?
In Comey`s telling, the president tried to interfere with the FBI
investigation of national security adviser Mike Flynn. The president
denies, he did any such thing. But Comey has backup, right?
Comey, with his FBI training, committed the president`s exact words, he
says, to writing, right after that conversation happened, and then he told
all these people – crucially, at the time, so they can corroborate what
Comey said, at the time, about what happened, right?
And these are not just job titles. There are specific people who had these
jobs at the time, right? Comey and the corroborating witnesses for Comey
and his account of what the president did.
Well, it`s taken them a little while to get all the way through this list,
but the only one still there is David Bowdich, the one at the bottom there.
He had been the number three official at the FBI, he had been the associate
FBI director. Now, he`s moved up to be number two, not number three at the
David Bowdich is apparently the one who personally directed today that
counterintelligence chief Peter Strzok be fired, even though the FBI`s
Office of Personnel Management had decided that Strzok should be kept on.
Bowdich, the FBI deputy director now, he`s the only one left for of all of
the corroborating witnesses for James Comey`s testimony – James Comey`s
testimony that the president leaned on him to shut down an open FBI
investigation into the national security adviser.
And with all of them, almost all of them all picked off now, who is going
to back up James Comey? If the president leaning on the FBI director about
that investigation is itself a matter of personal criminal liability for
the president when it comes to obstruction of justice, well, who is going
to back Comey up now? I mean, once you work your way through, all the
corroborating witnesses who might testify otherwise, well, then, of course,
you`re free to tell any story you want about what happened between the
president and the FBI director.
And if all the corroborating witnesses have been picked off and blown up,
who is left to say what happened there at all? Who is left to say
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUDY GIULIANI, ATTORNEY FOR PRESIDENT TRUMP: Flynn. The president says he
never told Comey that he should go easy on Flynn.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: I just want to be clear exactly what happened in
that conversation with Comey about Michael Flynn. What exactly did
President Trump say?
GIULIANI: There was no conversation about Michael Flynn.
TAPPER: So, you`re saying that President Trump and James Comey never
discussed Michael Flynn?
GIULIANI: That is what he will testify to if he`s asked that –
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That`s what he`s going to testify too, sure. I mean, who is going
to contradict him? It has taken them awhile to whittle down the list of
corroborating witnesses to almost nothing, but they`re getting there.
And so, as one of the last Comey corroborating witnesses is getting
publicly destroyed today, the president, this weekend, changed his public
stance once again to start saying, yes, that Comey conversation never
happened. I never talked to him about Flynn. Who is to say otherwise?
Who is left?
When they fired former FBI counterintelligence chief, Peter Strzok, today,
supposedly over his private text messages in which he expressed lots of
negative political opinions about President Trump and lots of other
politicians, too, they did so even though the inspector general noted that
there was never any action at the FBI to influence Donald Trump`s electoral
prospects or anyone else`s electoral prospects either, even though he was
better placed to do that than almost anyone else in the country.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PETER STRZOK, FBI AGENT: In the summer of 2016, I was one of a handful of
people who knew the details of Russian election interference and its
possible connection with members of the Trump campaign. This information
had the potential on derail and quite possibly defeat Mr. Trump, but the
thought of expressing that or exposing that information never crossed my
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: In firing Peter Strzok today, they have claimed their latest
senior FBI scalp. The latest senior person associated with the origins of
the Russia investigation.
Firing Peter Strzok may have consequences for any obstruction of justice
case against the president. If he was able to corroborate Comey`s
testimony about potential obstruction of justice involving the president
trying to lean on the FBI over their open investigation of Mike Flynn while
picking off those corroborating witnesses may have legal consequences.
At a personal matter, they also destroyed the career of the man who was
literally the senior person in the U.S. government in charge of
investigating foreign governments mounting intelligence operations against
the United States on U.S. soil. When it came to this Russian intelligence
operation, to mess with us in our own country, Peter Strzok was there from
the beginning. He was one of the only people on earth who has ever been in
a position to give testimony like this, and now he`s literally having to
set up a GoFundMe page to help with his own defense.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. SHEILA JACKSON LEE (D), TEXAS: During your June 2016 – excuse me,
June 2018 interview, I noticed some concern in your voice when recalling
the 2016 campaign season, specifically October 2016 and specifically as it
relates to the state of the Trump/Russia investigation. Why were you so
concerned about what was happening at that time?
STRZOK: Well, I think, trying to keep this at a level not talking about
open investigations –
LEE: Only your –
STRZOK: Yes, ma`am. So, the predicating information, the information we
had, which was alleging a Russian offer of assistance to a member of the
Trump campaign, it was of extraordinary significance. It was credible. It
was from a sensitive and credible source.
And as we looked at what that represented, the key time was obviously
coming into the election. And so for us, there was absolutely a need to,
one, this was a serious allegation, two, of extraordinary gravity, and
three, given the fact that the election was upon us and that, if, in fact,
then-candidate Trump were elected, this whether he or certainly more likely
members of his campaign were actively working with Russia, we need the get
to the bottom of it.
It could be that none of them were. It could be that some, or it could be
on a far worse scale. But the urgency to understand what was going on in
advance of the election and certainly in advance of any inauguration, I
can`t overstate the importance of that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: At the time of those happenings, that he was describing right
there, Peter Strzok was the number one official at the FBI in charge of
counterintelligence. Today, he was fired.
Joining us now is Congressman Jim Himes. He`s a Democrat from Connecticut.
He`s a member of the House Intelligence Committee.
Congressman, thanks very much for being with us. I really appreciate it.
REP. JIM HIMES (D), CONNECTICUT: Good evening, Rachel.
MADDOW: Good evening.
Peter Strzok has been a political punching bag for a year now, for a long
time. What do you make of his firing today? Was this an inevitability
once he became a political punching bag? His lawyer today is suggesting
that the reason he was removed was not because of FBI procedure but because
HIMES: Yes, no question about it, Rachel. I mean, look at the fact
pattern here. The internal disciplinary unit at the FBI recommended that
Peter Strzok be demoted and suspended for 60 days. That was set aside to
fire the man.
Remember back to the firing of Andrew McCabe, the night before he was to
qualify for his first pension, is fired. Remember that the president
admitted that he fired Jim Comey because of the Russia pressure, as he put
it. It is very clear that this president is engineering a fear campaign
within the FBI, saying anybody who is going to stand up against me, anybody
who might testify against me, their career will suffer.
And it`s a little hard to know exactly what`s happening, right? I don`t
know if this is Director Wray who is coordinating this, or the attorney
general, and it`s even possible to imagine that they are trying to appease
the president in order to keep them from firing Bob Mueller, or in order to
keep him in firing the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. But
whatever is happening, it is pretty clear that this is a performance that
has an audience of one, and that one individual sits in the Oval Office.
MADDOW: Now that we have seen the firing of Director Comey, the firing of
Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, the firing of the chief of the
counterintelligence division, Mr. Strzok, I mean, three usually makes a
pattern in the news. In terms of oversight of the Justice Department and
the FBI and the question of whether or not this pattern of dismissals and
pattern of sort of persecuting these FBI officials publicly, in addition to
taking these disciplinary actions towards them, is that the sort of thing
that you`d expect Congress to be looking into?
HIMES: Well, you would expect it, but, of course, the Congress, the place
that I work, is actually in league with the president in trying to damage
the credibility of the Department of Justice and trying to damage the
credibility of Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein, the FBI. You know,
we`ve now spent a year, as Democrats in the minority, trying to stand up
for these institutions that people like Mark Meadows and Jim Jordan and
remember, those two guys wanted to impeach the deputy attorney general
because he refuses to provide information on an ongoing investigation.
This is all part of a campaign pointed at doing two things. Number one,
and most importantly, trying to pre-but the Mueller investigation
conclusions, you know? And I must say, if you look at the polling, they`ve
sort of succeeded. Whatever Mueller comes out with, the president will
follow that up with a tweet saying, I told you so, it`s the 19 or whatever
the number is now, Democrats and angry Bob Mueller, in order to damage the
credibility of this investigation.
And, of course, to instill fear in the ranks of the FBI. That`s the only
way you can explain the override of the recommended punishment for Peter
Strzok, the only way you can explain McCabe being fired literally the
evening that he was about to get his full pension. It is – it is a
campaign of delegitimizing the organization and of trying to send a signal
to senior people that you better get onboard with this president.
MADDOW: What`s the cure? What`s the cure of that? If that is what`s
happening here, if it`s an effort to, as you say, pre-but the findings of
the Mueller investigation, ultimately, to delegitimize the FBI, to
delegitimize the rule of law and the justice process, particularly, when it
comes to this issue of counterintelligence and criminal liability, what`s
the – what`s the cure for that for us as a country?
HIMES: You know, in any – in any normal world, the cure would actually
be, as you sort of implied, the cure would be the Congress. The cure would
be Republicans in the Congress standing up and saying, hey, I get this
president is of my party, but I also know that the FBI and the Department
of Justice and the CIA and you name it is comprised of people who are
enormously talented and enormously patriotic, and I`m going to stand up and
say, no, Mr. President, you are not going to use, in order to sort of
defend your fantasies and your witch hunt beliefs, you are not going to
damage these institutions, which are so important to the safety and
national security of this country. That, of course, is not going to
And so, sadly, I think the answer, that it`s going to take us a long time.
You know, maybe we start next year, if the Democrats take control of the
House of Representatives, we will have the power of subpoena, we will be
able to look into these kinds of things. But it`s going to take some time
to re-establish the credibility of these institutions that was very
deliberately damaged by a president who – let`s just be blunt about it –
who is you know, here, we`re having this long conversation about, did Comey
tell the truth, the president is a serial liar. I know that sounds
partisan and political, but, look, you just need to look at half his tweets
to know that that is true, or half the statements he makes.
He does not care for the truth and he has thrown mud on an awful lot of
people who may have had, you know, poor judgment. Look, Strzok did some
things that deserve punishment. Jim Comey, I completely disagree with his
decision to talk about the Clinton investigation during the presidential
election. But not one of those individuals has ever been accused of being
MADDOW: Congressman Jim Himes, on the Intelligence Committee in the House
– sir, thank you for your time tonight. I appreciate you being here.
HIMES: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: All right. We got a lot more to get to, busy Monday night. Stay
MADDOW: Every summer, hackers from across the world descend upon Las Vegas
for a couple of big name hacking conventions. And every year, Las Vegas
braces for the mischief they`ve come to expect with these hackers who,
among other things, love to one up each other. So, when the hacking
convention is in town, the hotels will find their billing systems have been
hacked into, definitely the Wi-Fi networks have been hacked into.
During convention events, if anybody is negligently logged onto an insecure
network, their private log-in information will get hacked and then will get
posted on a big wall of sheep, splashed along one wall of the convention
center for everybody to see and feel embarrassed about. Prank city. And
hacking conventions are designed to make suckers into fools.
This past weekend in Las Vegas, at one of these hacker conventions, one
conventioneer successfully hacked into an exact replica of the Florida
secretary of state`s election Website. This hacker went in and changed the
vote totals for the 2016 election, giving himself over 1 billion votes in
the process, which is very hilarious, right? Also kind of scary, because
this was actually an exact replica of the secretary of state`s real
official election page that this guy hacked. Scary.
Even more scary when you learn the hacker who gave himself over a billion
votes in Florida, that hacker is 11 years old. Eleven-year-old Emmett
Brewer (ph) successfully hacked into this replica of the Florida secretary
of state`s Website and did change the vote totals for a recent election. I
should also tell you that he did it in under ten minutes.
This 11-year-old changed the names and the vote numbers that appeared
publicly on the secretary of state`s Website. He was not able to change
the actual voting total records maintained by the secretary of state`s
office, but honestly, if a real-life hacker were to do this, were to do
what this 11-year-old did this past weekend, again, in less than ten
minutes, on real election day, on the actual secretary of state election
result website while people are watching the results come in, that kind of
stunt in real life would certainly be enough to spur wide-ranging doubt
when it comes to trusting the outcome of an election. And that is
something Florida is already very much at risk of.
Last week, we covered this on the show last week, we`re going to stay on
this story. Senator Bill Nelson of Florida basically tried to pull the
fire alarm on this issue a little bit, he told reporters in his home state
of Florida that Russian hackers have already penetrated some Florida voting
registration systems, ahead of the 2018 midterm elections. Senator Nelson
said he and his fellow Florida senator, Republican Senator Marco Rubio, had
been asked by the top Republican and the top Democrat on the Intelligence
Committee, Senators Richard Burr and Mark Warner, they had been asked to
alert local officials in Florida to this fact. Although he said he
couldn`t elaborate on exactly what the threat was.
The response was swift. The Department of Homeland Security said they had
seen no new compromise by Russian actors. The Florida secretary of state
said he too had zero information to support those claims. Governor Rick
Scott of Florida is running against Bill Nelson for Senate. He quickly
came out and suggested that Senator Nelson was just making stuff up.
But the two Republicans who Nelson claimed also had knowledge of this,
Senator Burr and Senator Marco Rubio, neither one of them is denying what
Bill Nelson has said. And then, late on Friday night, the Florida
secretary of state suddenly started to appear to be taking these
allegations a little more seriously. The Florida secretary of state
initially responded by basically scoffing at the senator. But then late on
Friday, the secretary of state wrote a letter to the Homeland Security
Department and the FBI, asking to reaffirm their commitment to working with
Florida officials to share any knowledge of potential lets threats to
Florida`s voting systems.
Then, over the weekend, Senator Mark Warner, top Democrat on the
Intelligence Committee, he put out a statement basically backing Senator
Bill Nelson up directly, saying Senator Nelson was right to warn election
officials in his state about this, quote, very serious and ongoing threat
to our democracy. Quote: I urge officials at all levels of government to
heed the warning and work with DHS and the FBI to address the threat.
So, we don`t know yet how this gets worked out or if partisans in Florida
will stop treating this as something that is just going to be something
they fight about in terms of Bill Nelson`s in terms of Bill Nelson`s re-
election and they start treating it as something that needs to be protected
in terms of people turning out to vote. But, apparently, the Florida`s
secretary of state`s Website can be hacked by an 11-year-old in less than
ten minutes and Senator Nelson is standing by this very provocative claim
now underscored by other senators of both parties that, right now, ahead of
the midterms, Russian hackers are already inside Florida`s voting
registration systems with freedom to move about at will.
As I said, the story keeps evolving a little bit every day. The most
remarkable part of all of it to me is that there still appears to be a
tacit expectation that Florida counties need to really get on this. That
literally county election officials in Florida need to figure out whether
or not this is a credible threat and start working on it themselves, in
terms of how to defend against this hostile foreign power targeting local
counties in Florida to try to disrupt American democracy.
MADDOW: Exhibit 452. I have been waiting for it and waiting for it and
waiting for it. Ever since the prosecutors in the Paul Manafort trial
announced mid-trial that they were going to add to the list of evidence
they planned to present in their case, this 452 thing has been keeping me
up at night. The description of Exhibit 452 has made me think it might
have something to do with the allegation that Trump campaign chairman Paul
Manafort sold the promise of a job in the Trump administration essentially
for cash, in the form of $16 million in loans from a little bank in
Now, prosecutors allege that Paul Manafort promised the CEO of that bank, a
man named Steve Calk, promised him a job in the Trump administration in
exchange for those $16 million in loans. So, we thought that exhibit 452
might have something to do with spelling that out.
Well, now we have exhibit 452, as of tonight. It does not disappoint.
All right. It`s an e-mail – look – to Paul Manafort from Steven Calk.
Date, November 15, 2016, so right after the election. Subject: Stephen M.
Calk, candidate for secretary of the Army.
Hello, Paul. Will you please review the attached document prepared at your
request and advise what changes and improvements I should make? My goal is
to ensure you or my designated prosper – huh – has all of the information
they need to have me successfully chosen by the president-elect. My
designated prosper? I look forward to your response, Steve.
He then attaches to that e-mail what he says are his qualifications to be
the next secretary of the Army, including his passion, also his loyalty to
Donald Trump. He then attaches his resume and a nice professional head
shot. But then here, look at the last page, prospective roles in the Trump
administration, in rank order.
Number one, secretary of the army. Number two, deputy secretary of the
treasury. Number three, secretary of commerce.
Number four, secretary of HUD. Number five, deputy secretary of defense.
Number six, undersecretary of the treasury for housing.
Number seven, under secretary of the treasury for international affairs.
Number eight, deputy secretary of commerce. Do not call the man
He also took liberty of listing out his preferred ambassadorships if none
of those cabinet jobs would work out. First, he would like to be
ambassador to the United Kingdom, followed by France, Germany, Italy,
Spain, Japan, Ireland, Australia, China, United Nations, European Union,
Portugal, the Holy See, Luxembourg, Austria, Switzerland, Netherlands,
This guy runs a teeny, tiny little bank in Chicago, but he wants to be the
next ambassador to the U.N. – well, that`s his tenth choice. Also, can we
just look at the header on this page again? Just the top – the very top.
Perspective – perspective roles. Not prospective – rolls. This is like
a form of brioche. It is should be noted secretary of education is not on
his wish list. Nor was ambassador to spelling.
Steve Calk did not become the secretary of the army or the ambassador to
the U.K., nor did he get in any other top role if the government. He did,
however, feature rather prominently and surprisingly in the prosecution`s
final day of arguments in the Paul Manafort trial. That story is next.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: Ten days and 27 witnesses later, the prosecution today rested its
case against the president`s former campaign chair in his felony trial in
Virginia. We`ve presumably heard everything there is to here from the
prosecution side of the case. But there`s still a lot of mystery.
As soon as the prosecution rested this afternoon, the judge held a sealed
hearing on a sealed motion from the defense, and on a sealed response to
that motion filed by the prosecutors. We have no idea what that is about
at all. It`s all under seal.
Also, as the prosecution rests, on the eve of the defense picking up the
baton in this trial tomorrow, we still have no clue if the defense plans to
call any witnesses at all on behalf of Paul Manafort. Nobody seems to
think that Manafort himself is going to end up in the witness chair, but
will the defense really not call a single person to defend Paul Manafort in
this trial? As of this point, we have no idea.
Tonight, the defense did issue a last ditch motion, asking the judge to
dismiss all the charges against Manafort. All 18 of them. We`re told this
is actually fairly routine. It`s the defense`s last chance to try to get
the judge to end the trial and throw out the case before the jurors get a
chance to decide on a verdict. The judge will rule on that in the morning.
And then presuming he lets the case go ahead, depending on whether or not
the defense decides to put anyone on the stand, we will move onto closing
arguments. If the closing arguments happen tomorrow, it is conceivable.
It`s not at all likely, but it is theoretically conceivable we could have a
verdict by the end of the day tomorrow. I doubt it, but technically maybe.
Just in case, don`t make any plans. I plan to stay bolted to this stool
until further notice. For my money, though, there is – there`s one last
thing that stands out, as an intriguing mystery in this trial. Why did the
prosecution choose as the big finale of their case, the bank fraud that
Paul Manafort allegedly committed with this little bank in Chicago called
the Federal Savings Bank?
That`s where Manafort apparently offered the CEO of the bank a job to run
the U.S. Army or maybe a cabinet secretary job. Manafort allegedly made
offers like that to the bank CEO right around the time that that same CEO
was intervening to make sure that Manafort got really big loans from that
And on that front, we learned a few things today. We got testimony that
the bank`s CEO did personally intervene to green light those loans, even
after the bank`s president said no. So, Manafort`s guy came in and
overruled the objections against the Manafort loans from the other senior
leadership at the bank, to make sure the loans would go forward.
We also learned through testimony today that the $16 million that bank
loaned to Paul Manafort – those were the two largest loans if the history
of that bank. And we learned today that they were not great loans. The
bank has lost $11.8 million on those loans already. And technically we
learned today the loans are still outstanding, because the rest hasn`t been
On Friday afternoon, prosecutors told the judge that they viewed that bank
CEO as a co-conspirator with Paul Manafort in a scheme to defraud his own
bank. Prosecutors also told the judge that the bank`s CEO has, quote,
other criminal liability, although they didn`t understand what they –
didn`t explain what they meant by that. But thus far, throughout the
trial, that bank CEO is nowhere to be found. Paul Manafort is not charged
with selling cabinet secretary job offers in exchange for cash.
The two employees that did testify, including one today, only did so after
they were granted immunity so they wouldn`t themselves be prosecuted. So,
how does this all fit together? How does this thing about Trump
administration jobs fit into the larger case concerning the president`s
Are there more criminal charges related to this thing somewhere that we
don`t know about? And why did prosecutors finish their case with this?
What are jurors likely to make of this? Why is this the big finale?
Joining us now is Daniel Goldman, former assistant U.S. attorney in the
Southern District of New York. He`s our eyes and ears at the Manafort
Mr. Goldman, thank you very much for being here.
DANIEL GOLDMAN, FORMER ASSISTANT ATTORNEY FOR SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW
YORK: Thanks very much for having me, Rachel.
MADDOW: Do you – big picture, do you have a sense of why this is the sort
of prosecutor`s finale? Why they have ended with this?
GOLDMAN: I think two reasons.
One is a simple chronological reason, which is that this charge comes last
in time of all the charges in case. So, as the prosecutors are sort of
painting the picture of Paul Manafort`s finances, he makes a boat-load of
money when he`s working for Ukraine up until 2014, that cash cow dries up,
but he still needs more money to satisfy his lifestyle. And so, he then
starts to lie to obtain loans based on using his homes as collateral, in
the 2016 time period.
The other reason is just simply that this is a little bit messier. It`s a
little bit murkier. You have immunized witnesses from the bank, and you
have, as you pointed out, this whole Stephen Calk morass, which really can
cut both ways here.
So, it seems more that they want to paint a picture early on of Paul
Manafort as a straight-up liar, which he did on his tax returns, he did on
the financial bank account records, and that now at the end, as the jury
understands him and his lies, it puts everything in context for this
complicated bank fraud.
MADDOW: Should we expect, or is it even important, relative to the
Manafort trial, should we expect that there might be other criminal charges
that are brought in conjunction with this sort of offer of Trump
administration jobs in exchange for cash? As you mentioned, we`ve got two
of these witnesses testifying with an agreement to provide them immunity in
exchange for their testimony. We`ve got prosecutors telling the judge in a
bench conference on Friday that the CEO, the bank CEO in this case, does
have criminal liability and they consider him to be a co-conspirator.
Do you think there will be an offshoot criminal case that relates to this
GOLDMAN: I think there could be, but I – my view, and this is all
speculation since we don`t note a lot about what the evidence is, my view
is probably not. The prosecutor after mentioning that he could be an
indicted co-conspirator, in this case, kind of walked back from that
assertion and ultimately didn`t try to introduce the evidence that would
rely on him being an unindicted co-conspirator. And we don`t know what
even the other investigation unrelated to bank fraud is.
But the pay to play issue, as you point out, is something that I think
we`ve discussed with Michael Cohen, as well, which is the law is just very
difficult on that, and a quid pro quo for someone who is not a government
official and does not have an official role and can do an official act just
makes it very difficult to charge criminally.
MADDOW: One last question for you, Dan, just briefly, if you were betting,
would you bet that the defense was going to put any witnesses on the stand
or do you think they weren`t – going to put zero witnesses up there?
GOLDMAN: I`m betting they will not.
MADDOW: I`m starting to, as well.
Daniel Goldman, former assistant U.S. attorney in southern district of New
York, I really appreciate you being here, thank you.
GOLDMAN: Thank you.
MADDOW: Al right, more ahead here tonight. Stay with us.
MADDOW: I`m going to give you one more mystery, which is sort of an
invitation for somebody who knows the answer to this to leak it to me,
All right. Here`s the mystery. With the dust starting to settle on the
first felony trial of the president`s campaign chairman, the president`s
deputy campaign chairman, Rick Gates, will definitely be remembered as the
star witness, right? Rick Gates is cooperating with special counsel Robert
Mueller. He was the most interesting part of the Manafort trial thus far.
How long Rick Gates ultimately spending behind bars himself will be
directly contingent on how helpful he is to prosecutors, both in the
Manafort case and in other matters. We don`t know how long Gates will
ultimately spend behind bars, if a judge does send him to prison. Frankly,
at this point, we don`t even know when Rick Gates will be sentenced. It
doesn`t have a date yet.
It`s not the case for George Papadopoulos. George Papadopoulos was
announced as a Donald Trump foreign policy adviser during the campaign.
Like Rick Gates, Papadopoulos is cooperating with special counsel Robert
Mueller. Last October, as part of a plea deal, Papadopoulos pled guilty to
lying to the FBI.
But unlike Rick Gates, Papadopoulos does have a sentencing date. He is due
to be sentenced on September 7th, which is the Friday after Labor Day.
Special counsel`s office has until this Friday, the end of this week, to
file with the court their recommendation for punishment. Basically, to
tell the judge in Papadopoulos` case, how long they think he should spend
But a funny thing happened today. Today, special counsel Robert Mueller
requested, and was granted, a protective order, quote, restricting the use,
dissemination and disposition of discovery materials, meaning evidence,
which the defendant has requested in advance of his sentencing. Protective
I mean, here`s what I want to know. Why, five days before Mueller`s
prosecutors make their recommendation for punishment for George
Papadopoulos, why today was a giant legal cone of silence dropped on top of
all the evidence in his case?
Why did that happen and why now?
If you know, tell me, www.sendittorachel.com. If I find out by hook or by
crook, I will tell you next.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: Programming note: tomorrow, there are a whole bunch of primaries,
Wisconsin, Minnesota, Connecticut, Vermont.
In Wisconsin, there are eight Democrats running for the chance to try to
oust Wisconsin`s Republican Governor Scott Walker.
In Vermont, Christine Hallquist, former CEO of Vermont electric co-op,
looks like she may be poised to become the first openly transgender person
nominated for governor by a major party.
In Minnesota, Democratic Congressman Tim Walz is hoping to become the
Democratic nominee for governor against Republican front runner and former
governor, Tim Pawlenty. There is a whole bunch of super juicy primaries
tomorrow, which you should definitely plan to participate in as a voter if
you live in those states and you should plan to watch with us here as the
votes come in tomorrow night.
That does it for us tonight. See you again then.
Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL”.
Good evening, Lawrence.
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