Trump holds rally in Indiana. TRANSCRIPT: 08/30/2018. The Rachel Maddow Show

Guests:
Abigail Spanberger, Jeff Horwitz
Transcript:

Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
Date: August 30, 2018
Guest: Abigail Spanberger, Jeff Horwitz

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: And thanks to you at home for joining thus
hour.

Pop quiz. Ready? American history pop quiz.

Who was the head of the Republican Party at the height of the Watergate
crisis? Who was the head of the Republican Party when Nixon resigned?

Poppy Bush. George H.W. Bush was the chairman of the Republican national
committee from early 1973 until just after Nixon resigned in the fall of
1974. And when he was head of the Republican Party, in the summer of `73,
right after White House counsel John Dean started testifying about Nixon
before the Senate Watergate committee, right after Dean had started
basically spilling the beans on not only the crime but the cover-up and the
Nixon enemies list and all the rest of it.

That summer, July 1973, Republican National Committee Chairman George Bush
set out on a listening tour. He traveled to four states to assess the mood
of the Republican Party when it came to Watergate. How were the party
faithful feeling about Watergate? How was the party coping? How was this
playing outside Washington?

We know that did he this and we know what the results of the listening tour
were because George Bush wrote this memo about it. Date, July 2nd, 1973.
Memorandum to General Alexander Haig, Haig was White House chief of staff,
right? From George Bush. You see the initials there next to it, GB.

Dear Al, I prepared the attached mood of the party memo for the president.
And then he gives the bottom line. Quote: We`re in fair shape. I expect
when we get by those witnesses dragged in by Dean, we`ll be doing OK. All
best.

And then indeed there`s this two-page memo that is attached. And the two-
page memo is addressed to both General Haig, the chief of staff, and to
President Nixon himself. It`s listed as confidential, but no action
required.

Here`s what Poppy Bush says. Quote: I have just returned from a four-state
visit. See attached schedule, to show types of events. With the exception
of the students at the University of Washington, the other meetings were
party and press meetings. The press questions he said were 85 percent
about Watergate.”

And it wasn`t just the press with that fixation. Quote, Poppy Bush says:
The party people asked me almost exclusively about Watergate. But he then
goes on to describe the overall findings and his listening tour.

Quote: I would summarize the mood as follows: A, the press. He describes
them as skeptical. And here, keep in mind, he`s talking about the press
that he has encountered on this four-state listening tour outside the
beltway, and these four states to which he has traveled.

He says the press out there in the country is, quote, more civil than
Washington, D.C. and New York press conferences. For the most part,
willing to entertain the thesis that party is not the loser out of the
scandal, meaning that the Republican Party as a whole is not being
tarnished too much by the Watergate scandal.

B. George Bush then assesses the mood of the students with whom he met.
Quote: Unwilling to accept at all my conviction that president is
uninvolved in Watergate. Quote, reasonable acceptance of the thesis that
party should not suffer because of Watergate. Civil in attitude. Good
questions.

And then, finally, he gives his assessment of the mood of the party people.
So this is the chairman of the Republican Party at the time, 1973, talking
about the base. Talking about how the Republican Party faithful out there
in the country, how they`re feeling about this Washington scandal. This
Watergate scandal, as John Dean is testifying and as the scandal is really
starting to consume official Washington.

According to George Bush, Republican Party chairman, summer of `73, in his
assessment, the party people have a, quote, almost unanimous desire to
believe that the president is telling the truth. Abhorrence of enemies
list, the enemies list that John Dean had testified about, quote, immense
frustration about CRP, that`s the committee to re-elect the president
beater known as CREP.

All that money sitting there and its continued existence. Remember, this
memo was written in the summer of 1973 after the `72 election. So, Nixon
had already been reelected. He is saying the party faithful are frustrated
that the committee to the re-elect the president still exists with all that
money sitting in it, especially if it`s going to turn out to be a slush
fund related to the Watergate scandal.

According to Poppy Bush, the party people, quote, also feels the press is
playing up Watergate too much. He says the party people have, quote,
unanimous distrust of John Dean but some uncertainty as to his testimony.
The party people, quote, generally want the president to hold a press
conference or speak out. They generally do not feel the president should
appear before the Senate committee.

And then he gives his summary. Quote – so this is George Bush, then head
of the Republican Party, right, explaining he`s got this personal
conviction that the president was uninvolved in Watergate even if people
don`t believe him about that. Here was his conclusion for President Nixon
and the White House chief of staff that summer in this confidential memo.

Quote: The party people need shoring up. They want to believe in the
president. They are hurt and embarrassed by Watergate. They feel betrayed
by Watergate. But when told we will overcome based on the president`s
record and party`s principles, they react enthusiastically.

The party people need shoring up.

Tonight, after another difficult day in his own summer of escalating
scandal, the current president of the United States definitely set out to
shore up the party people. Tonight, the president is in Indiana holding
what the White House described as a make America great again rally,
promoting support for a Republican candidate who is trying to unseat
Democratic Senator Joe Donnelly in Indiana.

Much like President Nixon in the summer of 1973, the whole country knows
and the Republican Party itself knows that a crucial factor in how this is
all going to work out for the president and for the party is the level of
support and enthusiasm and trust that the president continues to inspire
from the Republican base, from the party people, right, who George Bush set
out to survey in the summer 45 years ago. And both with Nixon 45 years ago
and with President Trump tonight, everybody looking at this presidential
scandal in a clear-eyed way knows that there`s a connection between the
amount of support the president can continue to count on from the party
faithful, there`s a connection between that and the extent of his own legal
jeopardy.

Yes, the president appears sort of proverbially bullet proof in terms of
whether or not this scandal will dent his standing with the members of the
Republican base who love him the most. But everybody knows, from American
history, even from the history of this president, that you can only take so
much before even the party faithful start to wither a little bit in their
support of and confidence and trust in the president. And that end up
being absolutely crucial as to his ultimate fate and to what happens to the
fate of the president and his party together, right?

And the president`s legal jeopardy, the extent of the president`s legal
troubles, the extent to which he was drawn into the scandal personally,
1973, that was not yet clear for Nixon either, right? John Dean was just
starting his testimony. The Republican Party chairman was still telling
everybody he was absolutely convinced that Nixon had no personal
involvement in the crime or the cover-up, which he absolutely did.

There`s that level of uncertainty today, as well about how much the
president is going to be personally implicated in the scandals that
continue to surround him. Today, “The New York Times” broke out another
story about this president`s apparent personal involvement in the scandal
that has started ensnaring his campaign aides and his business associates,
including those who are now flipping against him, a la John Dean.

The president`s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, pled guilty last week to
eight felony federal charges and in so doing in court under oath, the
president`s personal lawyer implicated the president himself in two of the
felonies to which Mr. Cohen pled guilty both of which were campaign finance
charges. Both of those felonies involved a tabloid company American Media
and its flagship publication, “National Enquirer.”

Well, today, “The New York Times” reports that the president and Michael
Cohen, beyond the two hush money payments already implicated in Cohen`s
felony pleadings, “The Times” reports that Cohen and Trump also made an
effort to buy up all of the dirt and information that the “National
Enquirer” and its parent company had stockpiled on Donald Trump as a public
figure dating all the way back to the 1980s.

You might remember last week “The Associated Press” reported the American
media kept a physical safe, a vault in which everybody knew they
safeguarded all their sensitive information about celebrities and public
figures that they had obtained but not yet published including information
about Donald Trump.

Well, today`s revelation from “The New York Times” is essentially that the
president at least tried during the campaign to buy the contents of that
safe. Again, two hush money payments related to that company and paid out
during the campaign have already resulted in felony charges for the
president`s personal lawyer, felony charges in which the president himself
has been named as a co-conspirator, right? The president`s lawyer has said
under oath that the person who directed the commission of those felonies
was the president.

The president`s business is also apparently implicated in the commission of
those felonies according to the information filed in court alongside
Michael Cohen`s guilty plea.

If that part of this alleged criminal enterprise involving the president
now also turns out to involve a greatly expanded universe of derogatory
information about the president, that the campaign may have been
trafficking or trying to buy for purpose of influencing the election, well,
who knows where that`s going to go?

But when things came to an end in the Watergate scandal, it was because of
a Supreme Court ruling. A unanimous ruing from the United States Supreme
Court which ordered the president to comply with a court ordered subpoena
to turn over the White House tapes. That`s what resulted in the public
release of those White House tapes. It was the public release of those
tapes which really broke the dam in terms of Republican support for Nixon,
realizing that he would likely be impeached and removed from office
including by many votes from members of his own party in Congress,
President Nixon then resigned.

That case at the Supreme Court that led to that outcome is legendary
because it had such profound consequences. But as a matter of law, that
Supreme Court ruling is not seen as controversial, right? It was a
unanimous ruling for one, including for judges who`ve been appointed by
President Nixon. Since Watergate, that ruling has been seen as a bedrock
of modern jurisprudence that problems in America, even U.S. presidents
can`t break the law or defy the law with impunity.

There`s a lot of rulings very well-known because they`re the source of
controversy. U.S. v. Nixon is very well-known but not because it`s the
source of a controversy. It`s not a controversial ruling.

That said, President Trump`s Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh has very
unusually suggested publicly that, quote, maybe U.S. v. Nixon was wrongly
decided.

And now, today, Democrats in the Senate have announced one of the witnesses
they will call to testify next week at the confirmation hearings for Brett
Kavanaugh will be Richard Nixon`s old White House counsel John Dean, who
came clean with the Senate Watergate committee and told them all about the
crime and all about the cover up and that ultimately resulted in the
dominos starting to fall that resulted in the end of the presidency.

John Dean is going to testify against Brett Kavanaugh. Specifically, we
expect on the issue of executive power and Kavanaugh deriding the result of
U.S. versus Nixon. I mean, if this White House right now is at all trying
to swim its way out of the comparisons of this president`s scandals and
Watergate, and indeed, the unfavorable comparison of this White House to
the Nixon White House in the Watergate era, it turns out they`re swimming
against very, very strong, very fast historical currents here.

So, we`re going – we`re going to have more coverage on that tonight
including, we`ll have an interview tonight with the reporter who first
broke the news about the “National Enquirer” and its safe full of
compromising information, including on the president.

But I also want to give you an update on a story that was strange when we
talked about it on last night`s show for the first time. It is a story
that has since gotten a good deal stranger today.

As you know, one of the main determinants of what`s going to happen next in
American political history and with this presidency is the fate of the U.S.
Congress, and what`s going to happen with the midterm elections that are
now just a couple months away, 68 days away, to be exact. It will be a
seriously uphill battle for them to do so. But the Democratic Party is
putting absolutely everything it`s got into an effort to take back control
of the House of Representatives.

In order to do that, they`re going to need to take a couple of dozen seats
that are currently held by Republicans and they`ll need to flip those seats
Democratic. And every competitive district is different all around the
country, right? Every state, every locality has its own issues, its own
personalities, its own dynamics to contend with. So, there`s all sorts of
different approaches, as many different approaches as there are different
congressional districts at stake this fall in terms of how Democrats are
approaching, trying to win individual seats and thereby contribute to
flipping the House.

But there is a theme that you can see, even from a distance in the
Democratic effort. And whether it`s a deliberate effort on the Democratic
Party`s part or not, it so happens that there are a ton of Democrats
running this year trying to flip competitive seats who are Democrats with
military backgrounds, intelligence backgrounds, law enforcement background.
There`s just a ton of Democratic candidates this year in lots of crucial
districts where the Democratic candidate has national security
qualifications on his or her resume.

We know that in part because the Democratic Party is keeping a list of
those types of candidates. Scrolling by, this is the list of Democratic
congressional candidates this year by name and by the state and
congressional district in which they`re running. That formed the
distribution list to which the Democratic Party sent a letter this week
warning all these Democratic candidates that because of their national
security background, because they may have qualified for security
clearances, either currently or in the past, they should be on the lookout
for potentially being doxed by the Republican Party or by the Trump
administration. This is that letter from the Democratic Party to these
candidates which I referenced the existence of last night. We`ve now
obtained the letter.

Quote: Dear friends and future colleague, it has come to our attention that
the congressional leadership fund, a super PAC with connections to House
Speaker Paul Ryan, has somehow obtained and is distributing an unredacted
questionnaire for national security positions. An SF-86 form from one of
our candidates, Abigail Spanberger, a former CIA officer and law
enforcement agent.

Quote: We are unaware of any way that this unredacted form could have been
obtained legally. As an individual who has served our federal government
either in the military or in a national security capacity, you likely know
that an SF86 is the most comprehensive document anyone seeking a security
clearance with the federal government must complete. In this case, the
document the Paul Ryan super PAC circulated was not redacted and contained
sensitive, private information including the candidate`s Social Security
number and full medical history.

I write you today in the likelihood that you also filled out an SF86 in
your service to our country and to warn you of this super PAC`s disturbing
behavior in this case. The letter goes on for a while. It concludes with
a warning to these Democratic candidates who have national security
backgrounds that they need to be particularly vigilant about their
security, reminds these candidates that they can avail themselves of a
senior team specifically dedicated to cyber security from the Democratic
Party if these candidates feel like they have need of it.

So, here`s the Democratic Party. A couple months out from the election,
saying to all its candidates who have national security background, hey,
watch out. New threat that applies specifically to you. It`s a remarkable
story.

We first learned that this candidate Abigail Spanberger`s security
application had been obtained by a Republican opposition research group and
then by Paul Ryan`s PAC, thanks to this is “New York Times” article which
broke late on Tuesday night. Abigail Spanberger was a CIA case officer for
years working primarily on counterterrorism issues. Before her CIA career,
she also worked as a federal agent on the law enforcement side of the U.S.
postal service.

What has been clear from the beginning of this scandal since it first broke
is that Abigail Spanberger`s security application really has been
circulated by this Paul Ryan super PAC, and they really have been using it
against her in her congressional campaign despite the fact that it`s not
legal for them to have it. What has not been clear until today is how they
got it in the first place.

Candidate Abigail Spanberger wrote to the group a couple of days ago and
put it in blunt terms. Quote: It has come to my leadership that the
Congressional Leadership Fund, this PAC, has somehow retained a full
unredacted copy of at least one of my SF86 documents and has disseminated
this document for political purposes. In fact, I have clear evidence that
your group has provided this to at least one news outlet. I`m not aware of
any legal way that your group could have this document.

Well, that concern was echoed today in a new letter signed by over 200
national security personnel. People with experience at the CIA and
military and National Security Council and elsewhere. They released this
letter to the director of Office of Personnel Management and director of
national intelligence. It says, quote: Neither we nor national security
law experts we`ve consulted are familiar with any previous case of an SF86
being released in full to include Social Security number and medical
history. We have yet to hear an adequate explanation as to why Ms.
Spanberger`s sensitive personal information was released and subsequently
made public by Paul Ryan`s political action committee.

Quote: Each year, thousands of aspiring public servants file the same
document hoping to serve to their country just as we did. They must be
confident that their information will be handled securely and never
released pursuant to a political agenda.

Well, her security application is being used now for a political agenda
against her. We still don`t know why this incredibly sensitive document
was released to a Republican oppo research firm. As noted as far as we can
tell, it is a totally unprecedented breach.

As of today, though, we do know how that oppo research firm and Paul Ryan`s
PAC did obtain it. The U.S. Postal Service put out a statement today
admitting they did it. They said it was an accident. They`re apologizing
for it.

Quote: The Postal Service deeply regrets our mistake in inappropriately
releasing Ms. Spanberger`s official personnel file to a third party which
occurred because of human error. We take full responsibility for this
unfortunate error and we have taken immediate steps to ensure this will not
happen again. The Postal Service intends to change our process for
handling requests for personnel file information to provide further
protection against its inadvertent release and to ensure that such requests
are properly handled in the future.

Quote: We are continuing our review – get this – but we believe the issue
began in June 2018 and that only a small number of additional requests for
information from personnel files were improperly processed. Oh, there is
more?

So, security clearance applications are among the most sensitive personal
documents that the government safeguards about federal officials. They are
not subject to Freedom of Information Act requests particularly against
firm who`s want to use them against people running for office. But in this
case, the U.S. Postal Service for some reason handed over this candidate`s
full unredacted file in response to a FOIA request from this Republican
oppo research group.

The Postal Service now says they`re very sorry. But oh, by the way, it
wasn`t just her. A small number of additional requests for information
from personnel files were improperly processed. Beyond this one, others
were improperly processed.

Paul Ryan`s super PAC is not just active in the field against this one
congressional candidate, Abigail Spanberger, who is running to try to
replace Dave Brat in Virginia. Paul Ryan`s PAC is operating all over the
country trying to pick up Democrats who pose a threat to Republican-held
seats.

Well, how many more requests like this did they make against how much other
candidates with national security backgrounds? The agency that did this
thus far is not saying how many other people they did this to. So, it
definitely happened to Spanberger but who else did it happen to as well?

From “The Daily Beast” today, quote: The agency is not answering questions
about how many federal officials had their personnel files processed and
whether those files were released and to whom. So, we don`t know who else
this happened to.

But even in just this one instance that we know about, we`re also
confronted with the fact that the Republicans here, the super PAC
controlled by the House Speaker Paul Ryan, they obtained this had document
they never should have obtained, let alone circulated. They circulated it.
They`re apparently completely unrepentant about that. Their justification
for using this document to try to hurt Spanberger`s candidacy is that it
was maybe sent to them mistakenly, but it was sent to them so too bad.

This is like if you went to the ATM, you popped in your ATM card, you
withdrew 20 bucks from your account and after you got your 20 bucks out of
your account, the ATM started beeping crazily and just spit you out 20,000
bucks all from somebody else`s account. Right?

Do you just expect to be able to put that in your pocket and walk off?
Score. I asked for it fair and square. I didn`t – well, it`s mine now.

I mean, in this case, we`re not talking about money. We`re talking about
sensitive national security information. But it does seem astonishing is
that apparently the plan is that they`re just going to keep using it. Keep
using it. Why not? Who`s going to stop them?

Joining us now is Abigail Spanberger, Democratic nominee for Virginia`s 7th
congressional district running to try to unseat Republican Congressman Dave
Brat.

Ms. Spanberger, thank you very much for being here tonight. I appreciate
your time.

ABIGAIL SPANBERGER, FORMER CIA OFFICER: Thank you for having me on,
Rachel.

MADDOW: So we`ve seen this story unfold over just a quick few days. What
do you think of the current explanation we`ve got now that the release of
this very sensitive document from your time applying as a federal law
enforcement officer and a CIA officer, it was always released just as an
accident?

SPANBERGER: Well, that is – that is the explanation that they`ve given.
And, frankly, it doesn`t remove or change the fact that my document was
released in violation of the Privacy Act and that it was given to this
research firm and that it was later then circulated and provided to
journalists. So, I`m incredibly disappointed that this human error, which
was resulted in a violation of law so profoundly impacted me but I am
really glad it came to light because I want to ensure this doesn`t happen
to other people in the future.

MADDOW: As far as you know in terms of the response from the
administration thus far, have they notified any of the other people who may
have been subject to the same kind of breach? They made reference today in
their formal statement about this matter that there may be others whose
personnel files with who knows what`s in them, may have also been breached.
Do we know if they`ve made further contact with other people who might have
suffered what you did?

SPANBERGER: I do not know that, no.

MADDOW: OK. I just want to ask you about a matter of timing here. So,
the conservative PAC, the Republican groups that obtain the information,
they apparently got this paperwork by accident through a Freedom of
Information Act request that should not have been responded to the way it
was.

As far as I understand it from the “New York Times” reporting, a firm hired
by you to help essentially prepare for your own campaign also filed a
Freedom of Information Act request for your own records months and months
ago at the end of last year, and as far as I`m told, the firm working for
you that filed that same request for your information still hasn`t gotten
anything but this Republican group appears to have had a zip, zip, very
quick, less than a month turnaround in terms of how quickly they got their
information.

SPANBERGER: That`s correct. It is typical for campaigns to file research
requests for themselves. So, we hire a firm to research me. And they did
submit Freedom of Information Act requests back in September of 2017 and as
of right now, we have not received any information either from CIA or from
the U.S. postal service related to my time as a federal agent or a case
officer with the CIA.

MADDOW: So, you asked for this information on yourself. You`re waiting
nine months now and you still haven`t gotten anything. We know from the
timing as explained by this Republican group that they got a response
including your unredacted security clearance application, they got it –
they had it in hand within three weeks of them first making a request.

That timing seems nuts. I don`t know if you have any explanation or any
suspicions about that.

SPANBERGER: I don`t have an explanation for it. I would echo your
sentiments. You know, as you noted in the opening, a FOIA request wouldn`t
typically or wouldn`t result in receiving an SF86 which is the national
security questionnaire and certainly not an unredacted one, which as you
mentioned included my full medical history, my Social Security number,
every place I`ve lived, every roommate I`ve ever had, basically, all the
information you entrust to the federal government when you ask in exchange
they provide with you a security clearance and trust with you state
secrets.

MADDOW: Last question for you here, you are part of a – what appears to
be a real wave of Democratic candidates running this year, particularly
first time candidates who do have a national security background, people of
law enforcement, military, intelligence, diplomatic, foreign service
background. I wonder if you think that`s a coincidence or if there is
something about our politics in this moment this year at this time with
Democrats opportunities that effort to take back the House which would
really change Washington fundamentally I think right now, is it a
coincidence? There are so many with the background you have that are all
running right now. Or you think it`s sort of – do you think it`s a moment
for the Democratic Party right now we should see as a national trend?

SPANBERGER: I think it is a national trend. When you look at the fact
that we did have a super PAC that was pushing out my personal information,
my Social Security number, my medical information, you know, in attempts to
have a personal gain, it speaks to how broken our system is, it speaks to
what is wrong with our political system and I think there are so many of us
who have served in various ways in the military and intelligence community,
in law enforcement, who are driven to serve the mission of protecting this
country and upholding the Constitution and this situation is just
emblematic of how bad things are in politics.

You know, you expect to be hit with a couple of attack ads here or there I
suppose, but this is just beyond the pale and what it does and what it
signals to anyone who might currently be in federal service who has filled
out an SF86, a national security questionnaire, you know, I think there`s
probably people around the country taking pause of what might happen with
the information they thought was safe. And so, so many of us who are
running were running because we want to stand up what`s right and we want
to get this country back on track and be part of change, of changing not
just the tone of the conversation in Washington, but really standing up for
the principles of just right and wrong, and the fact that this information
was put out in violation of law either by human error or otherwise, you
know, that was the first mistake.

But then the second mistake is that an organization would know that they
received this in error in violation of the law and would continue to push
it out. And so, you know, for those of us who are running, we`re running
because we want to stand up for what`s right and bring our voices to
Congress, and I`m excited to be part of this wave because I think this is
just one more example of the fact that people want to focus on service to
country and mission of upholding the Constitution, that`s exactly what we
need in Washington at this time.

MADDOW: Abigail Spanberger, former CIA officer, Democrat running for
Congress in Virginia, 7th district – thanks very much for joining us
tonight. I`m sorry this happened to you, but thank you for allowing it to
come to light so we can put out the radar at the possibility it may happen
to others, as well. Thank you.

SPANBERGER: Absolutely. Thank you.

MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: One more thing about that congressional candidate we just hosted
here on the show, Abigail Spanberger. She`s that ex-CIA officer, whose
security clearance information was mysteriously sent out by the Trump
administration to a Republican opposition research firm and since then it
has been circulated by Paul Ryan`s PAC. As I mentioned in that interview,
she is running in Virginia in a race where she is trying to unseat Tea
party Republican Dave Brat.

You might remember Dave Brat as a national figure because Dave Brat
unseated Eric Cantor. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor used to be the
congressman there. Dave Brat beat him in a primary there.

Now, that seat, Virginia 7th district, it has been seen as a safe
Republican seat for a long time. That district has been held by a
Republican since 1971. But times are changing.

“The Cook Political Report” for this year lists that race as a toss-up, in
part because Abigail Spanberger is a strong candidate for the Dems but also
because Dave Brat isn`t that popular as an incumbent Republican member of
Congress. And Virginia Republicans in general are not having the easiest
time of it in the Trump era of the Republican Party.

Elections last year in Virginia, the state elected a Democratic governor, a
Democratic lieutenant governor, Democratic attorney general, and there was
a huge swing toward the Democrats in the state legislature, as well. Well,
now, today, more help for the Democrats` hopes of flipping red
congressional seats in Virginia. More help for Democrats today, courtesy
of the president of the United States.

Much to everybody`s surprise today, the president announced without warning
that he is canceling an otherwise automatic, across the board pay increase
for almost 2 million federal workers. Where do a lot of federal workers
live? It`s a cost of living allowance. A 2.1 percent raise that was due
to go into effect for civilian federal employees in January, including lots
and lots of them all over the country but lots of them in particular in
places like Virginia.

The president just stabbed the pocket book of something close to 150,000
voters in Virginia who also happen to be federal employees. Virginia
Republican Congresswoman Barbara Comstock is probably the most endangered
incumbent Republican member of Congress in the whole country. She`s
fighting for her life trying to hang on to her seat against a strong
challenger, Democratic State Senator Jennifer Wexton is her challenger.

That race is currently listed by “The Cook Political Report” as lean
Democratic despite the fact it has an incumbent Republican serving there
now. In reaction to the president`s announcement about this pay rise,
Congresswoman Comstock put out this statement saying she strongly opposes
eliminating the pay raise for civilian federal employees and will work with
my colleagues to have the pay raise included in our appropriations.

The same sound really coming from Congressman Scott Taylor. He`s another
Virginia Republican who`s got some scandals of his own and he is facing a
tough re-election fight against a Democratic business woman, former Navy
vet named Elaine Luria. He came out immediately against the president`s
proposal today.

Quote: The administration`s announcement to freeze cost of living
adjustment for federal and locality pay areas is completely unnecessary and
a disappointment for the 30,000 federal employees in the area, meaning in
my district, who are way overdue for a pay increase. Taylor says, quote: I
oppose this decision and will lead an effort to reverse its effect.

This president`s fate probably depends on who holds Congress after the
November elections. This president has said he intends to do everything he
can to help get Republicans elected to the House all over the country.
Well, now, he`s got at least these House Republicans in Virginia, having to
started running against him on this thing he inexplicably did today.

As for Abigail Spanberger, her opponent, Republican Congressman Dave Brat,
so far he hasn`t said anything about this at all. Crickets so far. We`ll
see how long that lasts.

Much more ahead tonight. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: “The New York Times” reports today that shortly before the 2016
election, Donald Trump and his personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, had a plan
to not just have the “National Enquirer” buy the silence of a woman who
claimed to have had an affair with Mr. Trump. A transaction for which
Michael Cohen has now pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations, but
according to “The Times”, they also had a plan to buy all the damaging
stories that publication had buried on Donald Trump`s behalf, going back
several decades.

“The Enquirer`s” Trump files were described at the times as, quote, mostly
older “National Enquirer” stories about Mr. Trump`s marital woes and
lawsuits, related story notes, and lists of sensitive sources, some tips
about alleged affairs and also minutiae like allegations of unscrupulous
golfing.

What is scrupulous golfing though really when you think about it? I kid, I
kid. Don`t be mad.

We learned last week that the “Enquirer`s” parent company AMI had kept all
those materials on Trump and other people in a safe. But according to the
“A.P.”, an executive from the company removed the essential I have the
items in the weeks between the election and the inauguration. The current
whereabouts of those documents and materials are unknown.

Well, that executive supposedly moved the stuff, he`s now been given
immunity by federal prosecutors, as has AMI chairman and Trump friend David
Pecker.

When the reporter who broke that story about the safe, Jeff Horwitz of “The
Associated Press” came on our show last week, he kind of intimated that
there might be another important component to the story that hadn`t yet
been told. Well, now that hint of more to come has paid off in reporting
and that`s next.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: So, this is new from “The Associated Press”.

Quote: “The National Enquirer” has long explained its support for Donald
Trump as a business decision, based on the president`s popularity among its
readers. But private financial documents and circulation figures obtained
by “The A.P.” show that the tabloid`s business was declining even as it
published stories attacking Trump`s political foes and prosecutors claimed
helping suppress stories about his alleged sexual affairs.

According to “The A.P.” today, the “Enquirer`s” parent company AMI lost $72
million last year and the “Enquirer`s” average weekly circulation fell by
18 percent. And yes, times are tough in the publishing business but that
drop is bigger than anything else that American Media owns. And as further
explained by “The A.P.”, before the “National Enquirer” lost 18 percent
circulation this year, it lost 15 percent circulation the year before that
which was during the election.

So, their finances aren`t what they seem and the supposed business
decisions they were making about their coverage of Donald Trump appeared to
have not made much sense as business decisions. And now, two of their top
executives have been granted immunity by prosecutors. What`s going on?

Joining us now is Jeff Horwitz, reporter at “The Associated Press” who
first broke the news about the AMI safe containing its buried and salacious
information that it had not published and now has broken this news about
AMI`s finances.

Mr. Horwitz, thanks very much for being here.

JEFF HORWITZ, REPORTER, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS: Glad to be back.

MADDOW: So, when we spoke a if you days ago about your last scoop about
the safe, you suggested that it might be interesting or it might help us
sort of fill in our understanding of what`s going on here to have a better
understanding about AMI`s financial situation, basically how it`s running
as a business. Now that you`ve obtained this information saying that
things appear to be sort of dire there, how does that help you understand
what`s going on with that company and how it relates to the president?

HORWITZ: Well, unfortunately, it leaves me with a pretty big mystery
still, which is why AMI would be spending its fairly tight money, $150,000
on Karen McDougal, allegedly, to basically do something that won`t boost
the circulation and didn`t even sell all that well to readers. Now, I will
have to say that coverage attacking Hillary Clinton may have added some
value to the “National Enquirer”, but it doesn`t look like going sort of
whole hog on Donald Trump in support really did much for the publication at
all.

And so, at that point, you have to ask a question about one, why David
Pecker and Dylan Howard, who were sort of the top figures at AMI, why they
did that, but two, why their owner, which is a hedge fund in New Jersey,
would have allowed them to do it.

MADDOW: In terms of David Pecker and Dylan Howard, those executives that
you mentioned, it has been reported that they are cooperating, at least to
some extent with prosecutors. Obviously, AMI was implicated in the
criminal information that was described by prosecutors when Michael Cohen
pled guilty to two felonies related to some of these hush money payments
and AMI seems to have been involved as an entity in those payments.

Do we have any clearer sense of why these executives might have been
offered immunity, the extent of their cooperation, or whether or not the
company itself might potentially have some legal jeopardy here beyond just
these executives themselves?

HORWITZ: Yes. So, companies can`t be granted immunity and we are unaware
of any reason to think that AMI would be out of the woods here. But with
the executives themselves, I mean, these were the two guys that were
directly interacting with both Trump and the campaign. I`m sorry, with
both Michael Cohen and the campaign from everything from sort of clearing
pictures and discussing stories that content they`d like to see run in the
“National Enquirer” to obviously discussion of Stormy Daniels and Karen
McDougal and how to handle those situations.

So, those guys would have known a great deal about both the “National
Enquirer`s” historical relationship with the president, which as you and
“The Times”, those stories, it goes way back, and also the happenings in
the 2016 campaign.

MADDOW: Jeff Horwitz, reporter at “The A.P.” who has been a bit of a scoop
machine on this story, which is obviously still continuing to evolve at
very high stakes. Jeff, thank you for being here. Congratulations on your
latest.

HORWITZ: Thanks.

MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: In the days immediately following Hurricane Katrina, hitting New
Orleans, then President George W. Bush took one of many, many, many public
missteps to come.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIENT: Right now, the immediate concern is to
save lives and get food and medicine to people so we can stabilize the
situation. Again, I want to thank you all – and, Brownie, you are doing a
heck of a job. The FEMA director working 24 hours –

(APPLAUSE)

They`re working 24 hours a day.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Hurricane Katrina was a total disaster. And not just a natural
one, but a manmade one, too, thanks in part to a sluggish, incompetent,
inadequate poorly planned, poorly managed response by the George W. Bush
administration and the federal government more broadly. The botched
handling of Hurricane Katrina cost over 1,800 Americans their lives.

Heck of a job FEMA Director Michael Brown was soon out. And President
George W. Bush was haunted until the end of the presidency by that line,
Brownie, you`re doing a heck of a job. Really? Was he?

I mean, one lesson to be gained from this is don`t be so quick to pat
yourself on the back, right? What about when you start patting yourself on
the back way, way after the fact, after it`s crystal clear how badly you
did.

This week, Puerto Rico announced that it has had to raise the death toll
associated with Hurricane Maria from 64 deaths, which had been the previous
death toll, to now 2,975 lives lost. Almost the exact same number of
Americans who were killed in the 9/11 attacks. Over 1,000 more Americans
killed in Puerto Rico and Hurricane Maria than were killed on the gulf in
Katrina.

But for some reason, these facts about what went wrong and the response to
Hurricane Maria and how wrong it went have not made their way to the oval
office or maybe they just took a wrong turn on their way to the president`s
head.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPORTER: Mr. President, on Puerto Rico, do you still believe that the
federal government`s response to the hurricanes last year –

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Yes, I think Puerto Rico –
I think we did a fantastic job in Puerto Rico.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Fantastic job. Fantastic job on the day after Puerto Rico had to
up its death toll from the storm to 2,975 Americans killed. Fantastic job.

That has to go down in the annals in Michael Brown, heck of a job. Doesn`t
it? Doesn`t it?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: Last year in early November, they said it would definitely be over
by Thanksgiving. Then, on Thanksgiving, when it became clear that it
wasn`t over, the president`s lawyers amended their deadline and said, oh,
we were wrong about Thanksgiving. OK, it will be over by the end of the
year.

Then at the end of the year, when it wasn`t over, they said, oh, missed it
by that much. We were close. Actually, we now understand it will all be
over at the end of January.

End of January arrives. It arrives and leaves. It is still not over.

Then by May of this year, six months after the Trump lawyers original
deadline by which they said the whole thing would be done, turned out the
special counsel`s investigation of the president and his campaign still was
not over. So, Rudy Giuliani, the president`s new lawyer then apparently
decided it was time to lay down the law, to end this thing once and for
all. He proclaimed that September 1st would be the actual end. September
1st would be the end of the Robert Mueller investigation of the president.

As you may have noticed, September 1st is quickly approaching, day after
tomorrow quickly. And while, sure, the Mueller investigation could end
then, the president`s lawyers` track record on these things is quite
literally a complete failure on every front.

Do these blown deadlines eventually annoy the president, though? Find out
on Saturday. Watch this space.

That does it for us tonight. We`ll see you again tomorrow.

Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL”.

Good evening, Lawrence.


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