Manafort defense rests. TRANSCRIPT: 08/14/2018. The Rachel Maddow Show
Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
Date: August 14, 2018
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Did you say the wrath of THE RACHEL MADDOW
ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST: I started to, but I didn`t.
MADDOW: In general, I have very little wrath, but whenever it is
expressed, it is always towards fishing equipment, never towards my beloved
VELSHI: You have a great show, Rachel.
MADDOW: As long as you need to. Thank you, my friend.
And thanks to you at home for joining us at this hour.
All right. Well, the federal criminal trial of the president`s campaign
chair is going to go to the jury tomorrow. The defense and the prosecution
have rested their respective sides of the case, closing arguments will be
The judge in this case likes to keep the closing arguments from both sighs
sides to one single day in the court room. And so, because of that, we
have every reason to believe the prosecution will start their closing
arguments on time. It will go an hour and a half to two hours depending on
how long the prosecutor is able to convince the judge that he should be
allowed to go on.
And then after the prosecution, there will be the closing argument from the
defense and then the jury will get it. And, of course, there is absolutely
no way to tell how long the jury will deliberate on Paul Manafort`s fate.
If the president`s campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, is convicted, we
should keep in mind that that would probably mean that this particular
criminal case against Manafort would keep going. Paul Manafort of course
would have the right to appeal if he is convicted.
Also, and I think it`s now increasingly important to start keeping this in
mind just as a national matter the rule of law because of the nature of
this case, because of who Paul Manafort is, because of who he was on the
Trump campaign, it is also possible that at any point in the process from
here on out, the process from here on out, the president himself could
decide to intervene in this case, could decide he is going to issue Paul
Manafort a pardon. If that happens, that`s actually the only eventuality
that might happen next in this case that could affect the next federal
criminal trial against Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. I mean, if
he`s pardoned by the president which, of course, could happen at any
moment, all bets are off in terms of what happens.
But provided he is not pardoned, whether Paul Manafort is acquitted or
convicted by the jury that will deliberate his fate tomorrow, he is due to
start a second criminal felony trial in Washington, D.C. in just a few
weeks. That`s next month. That next trial will be before a different
judge in a different courthouse in a different place with a different jury.
It may even have some different lawyers arguing on one or both sides.
But now, we are coming to the end of the first trial. We are looking ahead
towards that second trial. It is striking that prosecutors from Robert
Mueller`s office, the special counsel`s office, they have steered this
first Manafort case to be much more about the Trump campaign than we
thought it was going to be at the outset. That may affect the president`s
thinking about whether or not he wants to try to intervene in these cases,
to spring Paul Manafort by pardoning him.
This first federal criminal trial of Paul Manafort in the Eastern District
of Virginia had its last witnesses on the stand related to something having
to do with the Trump campaign. They had their last motions argued in court
today related to something having to do with the Trump campaign, and the
last batch of physical evidence the prosecution introduced in court was
again about this one part of the Manafort case in Virginia that is related
to the Trump for president campaign. And we knew at the outset of
Manafort`s trial that there might be some mention of this stuff during the
Manafort trial. We definitely didn`t know that this was where the whole
Manafort trial was going to end up at the end.
Remember, the first little piece of it we got to see is when Trump deputy
campaign chair Rick Gates was on the stand as a witness for the prosecution
against Paul Manafort. Prosecutors introduced this e-mail from Paul
Manafort to Rick Gates. It`s from November 24, 2016, right after the
In that e-mail, Manafort says to Rick Gates, quote: Rick, we need to
discuss Steve Calk for secretary of the Army. I hear the list is being
considered this weekend, Paul.
Steve Calk, of course, was the bank CEO whose little bank in Chicago gave
inexplicably giant loans to Paul Manafort between Election Day and
inauguration day. We learned during the course of Manafort`s trial that
those loans were actually the biggest loans ever made by this little bank
and the bank has apparently lost nearly $12 million on those loans thus
Steve Calk reportedly overruled overt objections from other people who
worked at the bank who were opposed to giving Paul Manafort these loans,
but Calk was the bank CEO and major shareholder and he intervened
personally to make sure that Manafort would get account money. So, that
came up a little bit while Gates was on the stand. Paul Manafort writing
to Rick Gates saying, hey, we`ve got to consider this guy for secretary of
But now, we`ve got this. This is also from the trial. More evidence
introduced by the prosecution. This is another e-mail exchange involving
Paul Manafort. It`s also right after the election. A few days after the
e-mail to Rick Gates. This is November 30th, 2016.
And this piece of evidence shows that Manafort sent on to Jared Kushner
during the presidential transition his recommendation that Steve Calk, this
little bank CEO from Chicago, should be considered for secretary of the
army or for any one of several other high profile or cabinet level jobs in
the new administration.
So, Manafort sends over to Kushner that recommendation about this bank CEO
at 3:00 in the afternoon on Wednesday, November 30th. That night by
dinnertime, Jared Kushner sends back his response. And Jared Kushner`s
response to Paul Manafort is two words: on it!
So, it`s not every day you get, you know, concrete black and white evidence
that a successful presidential campaign was doling out senior job prospects
for the new administration to people who literally gave millions of dollars
in cash to the campaign chairman. This is kind of a historic moment for us
as Americans, right? It`s nice to be here with you for this moment.
Remember where you were when you learned?
But there`s a few consequences from this evidence that prosecutors
introduced and that we expect they may walk the jury through in their
closing argues tomorrow. First of all, there is the question of whether
there is going to be any criminal liability specifically associated with
this scheme. There was a bench conference between the lawyers and the
judge on Friday in which prosecutors describe this bank CEO as a, quote,
co-conspirator. That`s the word they used with the judge.
Prosecutors also described the bank CEO as having some other kind of
criminal liability that they didn`t elaborate on. But that bank CEO has
been an unusual absence in the courtroom, right? There`s been a lot of
detail, a lot of evidence introduced in this case now about the Trump
campaign apparently trying to sell off high ranking job offers but Steve
Calk himself has not appeared as a witness in the courtroom. We`ve got all
these e-mails and discussions related to him but he hasn`t been there.
Among other things, that might imply he hasn`t made a deal with prosecutors
that might have resulted in immunity for his own prosecution in exchange
for his testimony at least in the Manafort case. So, that`s one big
question mark here. It`s one thing that remains to be explained about this
part of what was exposed in the Manafort case.
Secondly, there`s also the question as to how you this all relates to the
overall criminal charges that Paul Manafort is facing, that the jury is
going to start deliberating tomorrow. Today was the day when Paul
Manafort`s defense actually team tried to make sort of a virtue out of this
scheme for Paul Manafort. Some of this happened in open court today. I
will read to you a piece from the court transcript today where the judge
basically throws a lightning bolt in the courtroom at that argument.
But basically what Manafort`s lawyers tried to do at the very end of this
case was they tried to – tried to say, tried to argue to the court that
this bank CEO Steve Calk, he wanted a Trump administration job so badly, he
would have approved any loan from his bank for Paul Manafort no matter how
big a loan it was and no matter how ridiculous the paperwork that Manafort
submitted to supposedly apply for the loan. No matter what Manafort had
offered, no matter what Manafort had asked for, this guy was going to give
it to him because he wanted that job.
That`s the argument being made by Manafort`s defense. Basically arguing
that the bribery scheme selling high profile job offers in the federal
government, that bribery scheme was so effective, it rendered the bank
fraud moot, right? So, we`re good.
Yes, Paul Manafort sort of broke into the bank vault but the bank president
would have opened the door for him and let him take whatever he wanted.
Dude thought he was going to be secretary of the army. Do you realize how
cool that is? He would get to run the whole army.
That was the defense argument. So you`ll see how that worked out in court
today in a second. I`ve got that bit from the transcript.
But there is I think one last big consequence of this for us just as
Americans watching this dramatic trial unfold involving the president`s
campaign chair. While that president is still in office, right? And it`s
not necessarily about the exact charges that Manafort might face. It`s not
about the exact tactics his defense team is trying. It`s this bigger
question about us as a country and as citizens in our government. This
weird turn in the Manafort trial has now shown this interesting light on
what grounds the Trump administration actually considered people for high
ranking positions in the federal government when they were setting up the
This is a live issue for us as a country in a lot of different ways. The
president literally today started publicly deriding as a, quote, “dog” and
as a crazed low life his former White House senior adviser Omarosa
Manigault Newman. And, you know, it`s this interesting tabloidy spectacle
for the president to be talking a former White House official those kinds
of names for him to be attacking her the way that he is.
But in those attacks, the president implicitly raises some very serious
concerns about who gets into the White House, right? About his own
ability, his own – his administration`s own ability to hire people for
senior jobs in the federal government including the White House. I mean,
when the president calls his former senior White House adviser a crazed low
life today, it`s as if he has no idea how that crazed low life got hired
into the White House to be his senior White House adviser in the first
Yes, who hired her, big guy?
I mean to, that same point, how exactly did this bank CEO from this bank in
Chicago get to the point where Jared Kushner was, quote, “on it” to see
that he was considered to be secretary of the U.S. Army? I mean, we talked
a little bit about the prosecution`s evidence on that point last night.
Prosecutors submitted this item into evidence, document number 452. In
which the bank`s CEO Steve Calk gave Manafort what amounted to his job
obligation to join the Trump organization. It was his statement of
qualifications. It was his full list of all the jobs he wanted to be
considered for in the Trump administration.
The list of jobs he wanted to be considered for was titled by Steve Calk,
quote, perspective rolls in the Trump administration, not prospective but
perspective, not roles, r-o-l-e-s, as in jobs, but rolls r-o-l-l-s like
dinner rolls or somersaults. Perspective rolls.
But reading through this again today, marveling at the jobs that Steve Calk
really thought he would be up for – secretary of commerce, deputy
secretary of defense, secretary of the army – these are the jobs he
thought he would be up for because, hey, he was the guy who`d given Paul
Manafort a lot of money. I mean, what strikes about the fact that – what
strikes about the fact that Manafort the former campaign chair was selling
this guy and in fact had installed this guy on a formal economic advisory
commission advising Trump and he was telling Rick Gates who was working for
the Trump transition and Trump inauguration that this guy needed to be
considered for the running the army and he was stove-piping this
recommendation to Jared Kushner and Jared Kushner said he was on it, what
strikes you when you look at the way this guy represented himself as being
interested in all these jobs and qualified for all these jobs is that it`s
sort of nuts to think that this guy would have been remotely considered to
be qualified for or considered for any of these jobs.
I mean, beyond just the misspellings at the top of the page, you just – I
mean, Mr. Calk`s competence, character, commitment and loyalty mark him as
someone who will uniquely serve in the roll, misspelled again, r-o-l-l, the
roll, the somersault, of the secretary of the army for the Trump
administration to great effect. What? Mr. Calk has developed his
expertise in a variety of cutting edge frameworks associated with strategic
and innovation planning and implementation. Excuse me?
Mr. Calk possesses a deep reservoir of competence. He has verifiable
acumen. His financial acumen – somebody looked up a new word, financial
acumen, academic proficiency and national reputation is without equal in
the area of financial management, budgeting analysis, and planning.
Yes, I`m sure there`s nobody equal in national reputation when it comes to
budgeting and financial management, nobody equal in terms of their national
reputation to this guy who runs this tiny bank in Chicago that gave
gigantic cash loans to Paul Manafort between the election and inauguration,
loans that didn`t get paid back. He is without peer in terms of his
national reputation for budgeting. What?
It`s nuts, right? But something about his interactions with Paul Manafort
and Trump team made him think he had this job in the bag. “The Wall Street
Journal” has previously reported that after the inauguration, Steve Calk
actually called the Pentagon and asked to speak to people at the army about
what he needed to know to get up to speed for his new job.
Well, we also now know from this new evidence introduced by prosecutors
that apparently he was not only prepared to take up this job himself and
looking to the army to start his briefings because he figured he would be
secretary of the Army, he was also offering other jobs to other people who
he thought he would bring on to work for him.
Quote: Mr. Calk himself says, talking about himself in the third person,
quote, he has already identified highly experienced candidates for all key
positions reporting to the secretary of the army and can have that team on
boarded within 30 days of confirmation. All on boarded. Clearly, this is
Look at the title of this thing, look at the title. The title is
literally: Qualification memorandum on behalf of Steven calk articulating
his qualifications. Yes, quality qualifications I`m sure.
So, again, there`s there is list of perspective rolls, all the jobs he
wants in rank order in the Trump administration. Elsewhere in the
document, he misspells the word roll in the same way again. But look at
this, just a few lines down in the next paragraph, after he misspells the
role again, he actually gets the word correct. See the first word in the
He misspells the word role everywhere else in the document, but in this one
paragraph, he gets it correct. And weirdly, this whole paragraph in his
sort of resume qualifications, this whole paragraph is cogent. It`s the
only paragraph that is cogent, and that sounds like it wasn`t reverse
translated by machine from a couple other languages.
Because this is one paragraph stands out as the only normal paragraph in
his Steve Calk`s application to be secretary of the army, or a number of
cabinet officials, we actually Googled this paragraph and it turns out this
part of Steve Calk`s qualification memorandum was just copied directly word
for word from Wikipedia, which is why it makes sense as opposed to
everything else he wrote.
Just cut and pasted from the role and responsibilities, r-o-l-e. Role and
responsibilities of the secretary of the army. That`s the Wikipedia page
from 2016, which we have screen shot on the bottom there, and there`s the
paragraph from Steve Calk on top which is exactly the same.
If you want – we posted them on the screen in case you want to clip and
save that and post it on your refrigerator as a reminder of how exactly the
Trump administration was on it considering people for jobs like running the
U.S. Army during the presidential transition, when the only time they made
sense and stopped misspelling even very basic single syllable words was
when they were copying and pasting directly from Wikipedia like freshmen.
Actually freshmen are nice. They don`t deserve that, I`m sorry. It`s
before you get in trouble and you realize you can`t do that, right, you`ll
So as the Manafort case goes to the jury, the big question is how the jury
will decide Manafort`s fate, right? But there are other mysteries this
case opened along the way. There are still elements of this case, for
example, that are under seal. The judge held a closed hearing without any
spectators is allowed in the courtroom yesterday afternoon and again for
two hours this morning. We have no idea what that was about or why that
portion of the trial has been sealed.
Informed speculation from people who know how these trials tend to go
suggested there might be an issue that the defense raised about something
going wrong with the jury. After Manafort`s defense team rested without
calling any witnesses the defense team gave a short statement to the press.
One of Manafort`s defense lawyers said, quote: Mr. Manafort just rested his
case. He did so because he and his legal team believe the government has
not met its burden of proof. It`s basically just a short statement from
the lawyer saying here`s what you should read into the fact we didn`t call
any witnesses up to the stand to stand up for Paul Manafort.
But after he made that statement, reporters kind of chased the defense
lawyer once he walked away from the microphone to try to ask him follow-up
questions, including one from NBC`s Julia Ainsley that pointedly did not
get a response. So, this is a reporter`s audio recording of that exchange.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
REPORTER: What do you say to those who say this makes your client look
DOWNING: Well, we live in the United States of America. You`re presumed
innocent until proven guilty. And we believe the government cannot meet
REPORTER: Is there a problem with the jury in this case?
REPORTER: Are you confident going into closing arguments tomorrow?
DOWNING: We are very confident. Thank you.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: So three clear questions there. He answered the first one, skips
the second one and answers the third one. The one he skipped is from Julia
Ainsley. Mr. Downing, is there a problem with the jury in this case?
Paul Manafort`s defense lawyer Kevin Downing paused, looked right at Julia
Ainsley when she asked that question, kept looking at her and said nothing
So, whether there`s something going on with the jury, whether that`s the
defense`s contention that there`s something wrong with the jury, whether
that`s the cause of all the sealed motions and sealed hearings we`ve had at
the very end of Manafort`s trial, we don`t yet know. We will apparently
find out sooner rather than later, though. The judge said in open court
all of those motions and all of those transcripts of these closed hearings
will be unsealed when the trial ends.
So, we will eventually find out. As I mentioned though, Manafort`s defense
lawyer basically tried to explain to reporters it today why no witnesses
were called to stand up for Paul Manafort on the defense side of the case.
In court today, that included a certain lengthy, at least a fulsome
description of why Paul Manafort wasn`t standing up on his own behalf to
testify as a witness in his own defense. And here`s how that went in court
The judge: Now, we turn to the fact that the government has rested and now
it is my obligation to ask the defendant, Mr. Downing, does the defendant
wish to offer any evidence? Mr. Downing, the defense lawyer, the defendant
rests, Your Honor. The judge: All right. Now, the defendant is not
required to present any evidence. All of this is being done out of the
hearing of the jury.
But I do – I do have to question voir dire the defendant to ensure it is
his decision that he does not wish to testify. Does he wish to testify?
Mr. Downing: He does not.
The judge: Mr. Manafort would you come to the podium, please, sir? I need
to confirm, Mr. Manafort, that you understand that you have an absolute
right to testify before this jury.
You also have an absolute right to remain silent before this jury. If you
remain silent, then the court will instruct the jury they may draw no
inference from your silence. Indeed, if you elect to remain silent, I will
instruct the jury that when the jury retires to deliberate on its verdict,
the jury cannot even discuss the fact that you have not testified because
your right to remain silent is absolute under the Constitution and you may
not be penalized for exercising that right.
Now, I`ll end by saying again, you do have the right to testify. Have you
discussed this matter with your counsel? Paul Manafort: I have, Your
The judge: And are you fully satisfied with the advice and counsel you have
received from your lawyers? Paul Manafort: I am, Your Honor.
The judge: And have you decided whether you wish to testify? Paul
Manafort: I have decided.
The judge: Do you wish to testify? Paul Manafort: No, sir.
The Judge: You may be seated. Paul Manafort: Thank you.
The judge says: All right. That brings us end of the evidence in this
That`s the end of the evidence. All the evidence is in. There`s not going
to be any more witnesses, none for the prosecution, none for the defense,
including the defendant himself.
I mentioned, though, that the defense made one last effort today related to
the Trump campaign to this guy who wanted to be secretary of the army and
apparently thought he would be and was hiring up to get ready to take the
job. Last night, Paul Manafort`s defense team filed last minute motion to
acquit, basically a last ditch move to try to get the judge to throw out
the whole case and acquit Paul Manafort on all charges, instead of letting
jury decide his fate. Now, in particular, in this motion to acquit, they
singled out all this stuff with this bank CEO from the little bank in
Chicago as part of the strongest part of their argument that Manafort
should be acquitted and it shouldn`t even go to the jury.
Well, here`s how that went today in open court. The Judge: All right, I`ll
hear argument now on the rule 29 motion on which I`ve received briefs from
both sides. You should have that this mind in your argument. Go ahead.
You may proceed.
Manafort`s defense lawyer: Your Honor, we obviously have made a motion to
dismiss, well, rule 29 motion as to all the counts in the indictment, but
specifically briefed the counts in the indictment that relates to the
lending arrangements entered into with the Federal Savings Bank. We`ve
highlighted that, Your Honor, because we think the evidence at this point
has not demonstrated that any statements made to the bank were material to
its decision to lend. And that is an element of the offense that the
government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt.
So, this is the defense saying, yes, Paul Manafort may have given
fraudulent or fake or bad information to the bank as part of the
application process to get those loans, but that didn`t matter. He was
going to get those loans anyway. He was offering this dude amazing jobs in
the Trump administration in exchange for the money. So, it doesn`t matter
what fraudulent information he tried to pass off on the bank.
So, the defense offers that in court today. They argued it back and forth
for some time.
Then the judge says this, the judge says, quote: All right. I have
reviewed that. In the end, I think the defendant makes a significant
argument about materiality, but in the end I think materiality is an issue
for the jury. They`re going to decide whether it was material. That`s the
way it should be.
It`s a jury issue. And that`s true for all the other counts, not just the
counts we`re discussing which is the Federal Savings Bank but the other
counts beyond. The tax counts and everything else, those are all jury
issues. They the jury will be instructed and they will have to make a
So, the motion for judgment of acquittal pursuant to rule 29 is denied.
Now at this point, I think probably what happened is reporters got up and
ran out of the courtroom to go file their stories. He`s not going to be
acquitted. It`s going to go to the jury, because the next line in the
transcript is the judge saying, we have this bit? Yes.
The judge says, next line: Now, let me confirm that the – then there`s an
em dash. Then he says: Anyone else needs to leave the courtroom? And the
response in the room according to court transcription is laughter.
So, last ditch effort to acquit Paul Manafort on all charges before the
whole thing went to the jury, that failed, rejected in total. The effort
to make it a good thing that Paul Manafort was bribing the bank CEO with
Trump administration job offers, that appears to have not gone over with
the judge either. At least he thinks the jury should hear about that
But as of tomorrow, we will have closing arguments and then we`ll be
waiting on a verdict. And that alongside that verdict, we`ll be looking
to, you know, clean up all the other stuff that came up over the course of
this trial. What was sealed that may or may not have had something to do
with the jury? What was sealed that may or may not have to do with Rick
Gates and his involvement in other active ongoing cases being investigated
by Robert Mueller?
Any potential criminal liability or other repercussions related to the
evidence that the Trump campaign tried to sell cabinet seats and Pentagon
positions in the new administration in exchange for cash? I mean, Jared
Kushner says he was on it. Did he know what it really was?
And there are more loose ends here in terms of stuff that was opened up
during this trial, including a big one exposed today by the “Associated
Press.” We will have more on that coming up tonight.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: So, here`s the big fight and then the awkward moment at the end.
What they`re fighting about is the instructions to the jury and this
particular fight is about things that the judge has said in the courtroom
during the course of the trial, stuff he said about comments about the case
that he made in front of the jury, or questions that the judge made himself
to various witnesses. They are fighting about that.
The judge: You want it eliminated? Mr. Asonye, the prosecutor: Well, we
want it revise revised, Your Honor. And we`re handing up –
The judge: You are giving me a brief now? Mr. Asonye: I am. But, Your
Honor, it`s actually attached to it, to the brief at the back of it. It
should be the proposed instruction.
The Judge: Did you submit this brief prior to today? Mr. Asonye: No, we
have not, Your Honor. But we think that as the brief actually suggests
that this proposed instruction is actually a more accurate statement of
fourth circuit law on the court`s comments of questioning of witnesses.
The judge: well, it leaves out the fact that the law of the United States
permits a federal judge to comment to the jury on the evidence in the case.
That`s still the law of the land. But in any event, I don`t need to say
that. I don`t care that much.
And what`s your objection to this one. The only thing it leaves out is
that I have the right as the judge to comment on the evidence.
And then the judge says, well, I`ll tell you another reason I don`t like
it, Mr. Asonye. The diction is wrong. You are expressly to understand –
well, at least it didn`t split the infinitive. That`s not the way I speak
or anyone speaks. Mr. Asonye: And I`m sure Your Honor will say it however
Your Honor feels.
The judge said: All right. Suppose I change number 11 to say that such
comments, let`s see, permits a federal judge to comment to the jury on the
evidence in the case. Do you think I made any such comments? And then the
transcript reflects laughter. The judge said: Do you think I made any such
Mr. Asonye, the prosecutor, is having a back and forth with here, doesn`t
respond. He just stands there. And there is awkward laughter in the
Then from another part of the courtroom, from the prosecutor`s table, the
other prosecutor then waits a bit and stands up and speaks from the back of
the courtroom. It`s Greg Andres. And he says to the judge: Yes, Your
Honor, yes, you did. Which prompts more laughter in the courtroom.
The judge says: Do you remember one? Mr. Andres says: Yes, I can remember
several. I know that when Mr. Gates was testifying, he testified that Mr.
Manafort was very careful about his money and Your Honor said, well,
obviously not when you stole money from him. That was one that was
particularly noteworthy. But there are others, Your Honor.
To which the judge says: That really hurt the government, didn`t it? Mr.
Andres says: Well, I –
And then the judge says: Never mind. Never mind. And then the transcript
reflects a pause in the proceedings.
The judge is like, have I ever done that? The one prosecutor goes, gulp.
The other one in the back of the room goes, yes, your honor, yes, you did.
When? Oh, that really hurt you?
There has been all these wringing of hands and legal fighting over this
judge in the Manafort case inserting himself in dramatic fashion into the
trial. That devolved today in the final day of wrangling before the case
goes to the jury tomorrow, devolved into the judge I think having a sort of
sarcastic outburst. This never mind, never mind outburst at the
At least that`s how it reads. Was it like that exactly in person?
Joining us now is Josh Gerstein, senior reporter at “Politico” who has been
in the courtroom for the trial and was there for this today.
Josh, thank you very much for being here. It`s nice to see you.
JOSH GERSTEIN, SENIOR REPORTER, POLITICO: Hey, Rachel. Good to see you.
MADDOW: So, that was the way the transcript read in part about this fight
with the judge. They are fighting about the instructions that are going to
be given to the jury and specifically how the jury should consider things
that the judge might have piped up about himself during the trial?
GERSTEIN: Right, and you are quite right to detect it. Sometimes it`s
hard in the transcript. There was a lot of sarcasm going back and forth
and both sides in this case, I mean, not the prosecution and the defense,
but the prosecution and the judge were really laying it out there. It just
seemed like they have either lost patience with each other, or at this
point, the trial is close enough to being over that there is not much point
in censoring yourself at this juncture.
MADDOW: As this is ending with unexpected fireworks like that, which is
sort of the way it started as well. I feel like there some dangling
mysteries that I think we will ultimately get some answers to, right?
There`s been some closed hearings. There`s been some sealed conferences at
the bench where lawyers and the judge all talked amongst themselves and the
white noise machine playing so spectators couldn`t hear it.
MADDOW: There`s something seems to still be unresolved in terms of sealed
motions back and forth. A lot of people are speculating it has to do with
the jury. There was definitely a sealed conversation having to do with
Rick Gates offering evidence that might be used by the special counsel and
What do you feel like of all of these things that have been raised, this
sort of mysteries that have been raised during the trial, should we have an
expectation that these things will get cleared up, that we`ll ultimately
know how all these things were?
GERSTEIN: Oh, yes, I think the judge was pretty clear about that, that
that information will come out. It`s not clear if he means the moment
there`s a verdict or perhaps later in the legal process. The secrecy over
the last few days I have to say has been striking and unusual. You know,
that court in particular has that reputation as the Rocket Docket and the
observers who can only see the public portion of the trial that the rocket
sort of went off course or petered out over the last few days because
things were not progressing nearly as quickly as they normally do.
And I agree with the other folks that you were quoting earlier referring
to, who said it did seem like there`s some issue related to the jury.
There was movement to and from the jury room and it seems like the defense
had a minimum is trying to preserve objection for appeal, perhaps the judge
refused to dismiss a juror who might have potentially shown bias and the
defense really wants to be on the record making clear that they are
objecting strenuously to this, so that if it is an issue on appeal, they
have the record and they can present it to the Fourth Circuit, which would
be the appeals court that takes this up.
MADDOW: And, Josh, as someone who is an astute observer of proceedings
like this, obviously this is not just anybody on trial. This is the
president`s campaign chairman. We know he is about to start another
criminal trial once this one is done. There`s been a lot of news,
attention and even discussion by the judge in the courthouse as to whether
or not Paul Manafort might factor into larger investigations involving the
As you watched this unfold, what – have you seen anything that has given
you any indication of how we should think of a presidential pardon here or
some other effort by the president to intervene some way in Paul Manafort`s
GERSTEIN: Well, I do think there was enough evidence about the Trump
campaign and now as of last night about the first family with this
reference to Jared Kushner being drawn into the effort to try to get Steve
caulk a job in the army secretary position, that any mention of the
campaign or the first family or the White House, I think it starts to push
buttons over there at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. And even the decision by
the defense not to really mount a defense that includes evidence or
witnesses and just to go with some general strategy that may be to blame
this all on Rick Gates suggests that they don`t want to get down in the
weeds here and get dirty and maybe they think somebody is going to swoop in
and save them, and there`s only one person I can really think of who can do
MADDOW: Josh Gerstein, senior White House reporter for politico.com –
really appreciate your time tonight.
GERSTEIN: Sure, Rachel.
MADDOW: Closing arguments should be exciting tomorrow. Thanks, Josh.
All right. Much more to get to here tonight, including this being election
night in four states. Stay with us.
MADDOW: As the jury gets the Paul Manafort case tomorrow and we watch the
closing arguments tomorrow and start to wait on the jury to happened in
their verdict, I mentioned that there were a few other things that have
been raised in the trial, many for the first time, that essentially we are
left to wonder if and how they will get tied up now that they`ve been
described in open court. One of those is highlighted today by the
“Associated Press” in a story that has kind of a remarkable lead. Ready?
From the “A.P.” today, Jeff Horowitz. Donald Trump`s inaugural committee
pushed back hard last summer on questions about whether the unprecedented
$107 million budget for the Trump inauguration was fraught with cost
overruns and misspending. A top inauguration official assured the A.P.
last summer that spending had been both restrained and monitored. Well, in
court last week, that same official, Rick Gates, acknowledged that he
personally may have pocketed some of the inaugural committee`s money.
Gates admitted to Manafort`s lawyers in open court that he, quote, possibly
wrongfully submitted personal expenses to the inaugural committee for
reimbursement, though only a footnote to Gates` disclosures about tax
fraud, extramarital affairs and embezzlement, the admission raises
questions about how well the Trump inaugural committee tracked its own
spending. It`s not clear how much money Gates might have pocketed or
whether his testimony will prompt the committee to review its spending.
When Paul Manafort left the Trump campaign, his deputy, Rick Gates, stayed
on. Gates stayed through the duration of the campaign for the transition
and was a senior official on the Trump inauguration which was wildly
mismatched in terms of the amount of money they raised and the amount of
money they appear to have spent.
What happened to some of that money? Rick Gates said he might have stolen
some of it. Who follows this up? Shouldn`t the inaugural committee itself
at least tell us they are being looking into it? Is this potentially
another criminal matter here?
Watch this space.
MADDOW: It is primary night tonight, we are watching returns roll in.
But I need to tell you that one of last week`s primaries just ended tonight
as well. We finally have a winner in last week`s Republican gubernatorial
primary in Kansas. The margin was so thin that nobody was conceding, as we
were looking for provisional ballots. But tonight, just in the last hour,
the current governor of Kansas, Jeff Colyer, has conceded the race to his
challenger, Kris Kobach, who`s the controversial Kansas secretary of state.
Kobach had only a couple hundred more votes.
We`re going to talk to Steve Kornacki momentarily about that upset in
Kansas, why that happened tonight, why Democrats might actually be psyched
that the Republican primary worked out this way.
Aside from that Kansas result, though, polls have just closed this hour in
Minnesota. Among the front-runners in the race for governor in Minnesota
is Congressman Tim Walz, who`s been a member of the House for six terms.
He`s got national visibility as a leader on veteran`s issues. The
Republican front runner for governor is also a former Minnesota governor,
Other big race getting national attention in Minnesota is the race for the
state`s attorney general. Congressman Keith Ellison, who`s got a big
national profile. He`s the deputy chairman of the national Democratic
Party, he`s running against four Democratic opponents to be state A.G. in
Over the weekend, the congressman was accused of domestic abuse by a former
girlfriend. The woman`s son further alleged that there is video evidence
of the alleged abuse. The congressman vigorously denies the allegations.
He said over the weekend, quote: This video does not exist because I never
behaved in this way, and any characterization otherwise is false.
DNC said today that they`re reviewing the allegations made against
Congressman Ellison, but he is a very popular politician at home and
tonight, his electoral fate is in the hands of Minnesota voters.
Joining us now is the great Steve Kornacki, MSNBC national political
Steve, it`s a very exciting night in lots of states.
STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it is.
In Minnesota right now, sort of as you`re setting up here, ground zero.
Let`s take you through what we know.
You mentioned the Democratic primary for governor, Tim Walz, Democratic
congressman from the southern start of the state, a little more rural.
These are relatively early returns, but we are starting to get some numbers
in here. A bit of surprise perhaps, Walz is out in front.
You see Erin Murphy, she is the officially endorsed candidate of the State
Democratic Farm Labor Party. She is running behind the most encouraging
news I think for Walz in these numbers, as a lot of this is coming from
sort of around the Twin Cities, not necessarily from his district. He
seems to be holding his own close to Minneapolis, St. Paul, the suburban
area, without a lot from his district coming in right now.
You know, there were concerns about Walz from an electability standpoint in
this Democratic primary just because his voting record in that district,
especially on gun issues, may be to the right of the Democratic Party.
Also, we`ve seen female candidates doing so well in Democratic primaries.
You add these two together, you`re close to 60 percent, but Walz here sort
of on his own. The only male there among these major candidates right now
running out in front. We will see how that goes.
The bigger surprise right now when you talk about governor`s races in
Minnesota, though, it`s what`s happening early on the Republican side. We
all know this name. Tim Pawlenty, former two-term Republican governor, ran
for president on the Republican side back in 2012, being challenged by Jeff
A comeback attempt for Tim Pawlenty. Jeff Johnson, he was the Republican
candidate for governor in 2014. He`s tried to run to Pawlenty`s right.
Early returns – I`m sorry we don`t have the live numbers but in the early
returns Johnson right now running about ten points ahead of Pawlenty. I
should tell you it looks like Johnson`s base, Hennepin County, is
accounting for a lot of the votes so far. But even outside of that base,
he is early on running ahead of Pawlenty.
MADDOW: Wait, wait. Ten points ahead running in the early results?
KORNACKI: In the early results, again, disproportionately, we`re talking
about Johnson`s base here, Hennepin County, that`s a part of that. You get
outside of that it looks like he`s running about five points ahead. But
yes, this would be – he was the Republican nominee in 2014. It`s been a
while since Pawlenty`s been active.
MADDOW: Yes, wow.
KORNACKI: We`ve seen that sort of anti-establishment thing. So we`ll keep
an eye on that. And you set it up too as well there.
In the attorney general`s race, these are early numbers. Keith Ellison, a
number of opponents. But Keith Ellison you see basically, you know, better
than 3-1 over his nearest opponent right now on the Democratic side.
There`s talk here about a quarter of the vote certainly based on 2016,
about a quarter of the vote in Minnesota comes in early, maybe a little bit
more here. There was talk that maybe that late-breaking news would affect
the same-day vote. But even if this is disproportionately early, that is a
lot to make up for any of these other Democratic candidates.
MADDOW: Steve Kornacki, one of the other things we are watching tonight is
actually a result from a primary that was last week. The Kansas
Can you hold on for one second and I can ask you some questions about that
when we come back?
MADDOW: I`ll be right back with MSNBC`s political genius Steve Kornacki,
right after this.
MADDOW: When Kansas is very controversial Republican Governor Sam
Brownback left office to take a job in the Trump administration, that
elevated his Lieutenant Governor Jeff Colyer to the governor`s seat. Last
week, Colyer had a primary to try to hold on to that seat.
It was too close to call. It`s been a very ugly week of fighting about
that too close to call race all week long. But tonight, Jeff Colyer sort
of unexpectedly conceded.
MSNBC`s Steve Kornacki`s still with us. I was surprise that this happened
tonight. It seemed like it was still too close to call. But this
obviously has big implications in Kansas.
KORNACKI: This is the outcome Democrats were hoping for in Kansas. Within
the state, they think this gives them a shot at winning the governorship.
Nationally, they think hey, if Kobach is the face of the Republican Party
nationally, they think that`s something that will help them nationally.
There will be a backlash against that potentially.
But let`s look within Kansas. Kobach now as the Republican nominee will
square off against Laura Kelly, the Democratic candidate. The theory the
Democrats have is there are suburbs right around Kansas City, Johnson
County, Kansas, in particular, like a quarter of all votes in the giant
state of Kansas will come out of this one county, bedroom communities right
outside KC traditional Republican voters. They say those voters would be
unnerved by Kobach.
There is some polling evidence to back up that theory. This was a poll
that came out just before the primary, and it tested two different
Republican nominees here, Colyer and Kobach against Kelly. Check this out.
Here`s what it found.
Colyer, the incumbent governor, was running 10 points ahead of Laura Kelly.
You see Greg Orman running as an independent. That`s a name you might
remember from 2014.
But the bottom line, Republicans with Colyer were up 10 in this poll.
Substitute Kobach in for Colyer, and look at that, all of a sudden, Kelly,
the Democrat goes up by one. Down ten for the Democrats, up one.
Democrats say that`s the difference of having Kobach.
And then they say, hey, look, you get a midterm year in a climate
favorable, maybe that would help too.
MADDOW: Amazing. Kind of a Todd Akin situation is what Democrats are
looking at there.
Steve Kornacki, thank you very much, my friend.
MADDOW: Much appreciated.
We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: One good thing I`m always happy to be able to tell you on election
night, including big primary nights like tonight, which is keep watching.
We`ll be covering this stuff as the votes come in over the course of the
evening. Polls are closed, but all these races still yet to be decided
including a lot with national implications.
Stay with us through the evening tonight.
I will see you again tomorrow.
Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL”.
Good evening, Lawrence.
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