Trump renews attacks on Mueller investigation. TRANSCRIPT: 11/15/18, The Rachel Maddow Show


RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST:  On time, zero, zero, zero, zero, zero. 


CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST:  Zero, zero, zero, I made sure to do it tonight.


MADDOW:  That was amazing.  I have a cast of characters here ready to jump

into the frame if need be. 


Thank you, my friend. 


HAYES:  All right, good night. 


MADDOW:  And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. 


It`s a busy news night.  Very happy to have you here. 


We`re going to start tonight with a puzzle.  Do not worry.  It`s a really

easy one.  You are definitely going to figure out the answer right away

before we even get to the first commercial. 


In October of last year, October 17th, there was a confirmation hearing in

Washington for a sort of high profile Trump judicial nominee, somebody who

the Trump administration had picked to be a new high-ranking federal judge,

a guy named Greg Katsas.  He had been a Supreme Court clerk for Clarence

Thomas.  He had worked in the George W. Bush Justice Department.  He had

worked at the big Republican law firm Jones Day. 


When the Trump administration started, Greg Katsas moved into the White

House, to the White House counsel`s office.  He worked as a deputy in that

office under Don McGahn who also worked in the George W. Bush

administration, who also worked at that Republican law firm, Jones Day. 


Gregory Katsas was not particularly more controversial than any other Trump

nominated judge.  If you squint, he kind of look likes all of them, but

with his kind of resume and the kinds of connections that he had and his

100 percent hard-line conservative record, he really was the kind of guy

that Republicans in the Trump administration have been living to put on the

courts.  And in this case, the reason Katsas` nomination was little more

high profile than most is they wanted him for a particularly important

court.  They wanted to put Katsas on the federal appeals court that sits in

Washington, D.C. 


There is federal appeals courts all around the country in all the different

geographic circuits.  But the one that sits in D.C. is sometimes called the

second highest court in the land because that appeals court that sits in

D.C., that`s the one that hears lots and lots of federal policy issues and

national security issues and conceivably, that is the appeals court that

would also hear issues related to the president`s own personal legal

troubles if it ever came that. 


So, lots of Supreme Court justices come directly to the Supreme Court from

the D.C. Appeals Court.  D.C. Appeals Court hears a whole lot of very

significant and high profile cases.  Appointments to that court are seen as

being more important than appointments to other courts because of the kinds

of cases that go to that particular court. 


At Gregory Katsas` confirmation hearings back in October, senators felt the

need to ask him what he worked on during his time in the Trump White House. 

They wanted to get him on the record on all the stuff that he had worked on

for Trump during his confirmation process, in part so that once he ended up

on that really important appeals court, there would be a clear black and

white congressional record of all the issues where Katsas would have to

recuse himself as a judge, right?  As a judge, you can`t rule on stuff if

you had a hand in creating that thing at some earlier point in your career. 


So at Katsas` confirmation hearing, they needed to know what he`d done for

Trump.  And they asked him, you know, did you work on the Muslim ban? 

Turns out he worked on the Muslim ban.  Did you work on the controversial

and ultimately sort of fake voter commission fraud that was set up and

collapsed at the White House?  Yes, apparently he did some work on that as



How about the Mueller investigation, the Russia investigation, did you do

any work on that, sir?  White House counsel`s office where Greg Katsas

worked for Trump, they, of course, had a significant role dealing with the

demands of the Russia investigation.  So, senators asked him, Republican

and Democratic senators asked him if he ever worked on that stuff in the

Trump White House. 


Republican Senator Mike Lee just asked Greg Katsas bluntly if he had been

part of that investigation. 




SEN. MIKE LEE (R), UTAH:  Have you been interviewed by the special counsel

or has the special counsel asked for the opportunity to interview you? 


GREG KATSAS, FEDERAL JUDGE NOMINEE:  I have not been interviewed by the

special counsel nor have I been asked to be interviewed. 




MADDOW:  Good to have that on record.  This judicial nominee says he

basically wasn`t a target of the Mueller investigation.  He hasn`t been

called to be a witness in that investigation.  They haven`t asked to

interview him.  That`s good to know. 


Then Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein asked the sort of next obvious

question.  OK, you were not personally questioned in the investigation, but

did you work on the issue at all in Trump`s White House in the White House

counsel`s office?  Did the Russia investigation, the Mueller investigation

come up in the course of your time working for Trump? 


And here`s what he said. 




SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: Intelligence committees, possibility

– the White House counsel`s office in January 2017, have you worked or

advised on any matters related to special counsel Mueller`s investigation

into Russian interference in the 2016 election? 


KATSAS:  I have given legal advice on a few discrete legal questions

arising out of the investigation.  I have no knowledge of any underlying

facts regarding Russian interference. 


FEINSTEIN:  Can you tell what those legal questions were? 


KATSAS:  I`m sorry, I cannot. 


FEINSTEIN:  And why can you not? 


KATSAS:  This goes back –


FEINSTEIN:  Are you asserting grounds of privilege?  And what are those



KATSAS:  I am saying that the executive branch needs confidentiality in

order for the president to receive confidential advice, in order for

lawyers to provide confidential advice. 




MADDOW:  So this man is being nominated to the appeals court in D.C.  He

says under oath, no, I myself haven`t been questioned by Mueller, but yes,

in the White House, I worked on this investigation.  No, I don`t want the

say which parts of it I worked on.  The president is entitled to

confidential legal advice on a matter like this. 


But at that point, senators are kind of like, OK, so you worked on it, but

you won`t say what?  Come on, man, right?  Tell us.  This is important. 


This stuff could end up before you as a judge, particularly given the

specific court you`re to be a judge on.  We need to know if you`re going to

have to recuse.  We want you on the record now about whether you`re going

to recuse when these issues inevitably end up in your court. 


So then another senator, another Democrat Richard Blumenthal decides he`s

going to push on this, and he is going to do it point by point.  So, this

guy`s not going to say which part of the Russia investigation he worked on

for Trump?  Well, let`s ask him piece by piece, specific point by specific

point.  We`ll try to get a yes or no question, a yes or no answer from him

on each piece of it, and then maybe we can puzzle it all together and

figure out what he worked on, even if just by process of elimination. 


Did you work on the James Comey firing, Mr. Katsas?  Did you work on the

Paul Manafort part of the scandal, Mr. Katsas?  Did you work on the White

House handling over documents that were demanded by the special counsel`s

office?  Come on, man, what was it?  What exactly did you do? 


So, Blumenthal walks him through point by point.  So, it`s this process of

elimination puzzle to fight fig out exactly what the guy worked on.  And it

basically becomes this very, very nervous, very tense sort of game of hide-





SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), CONNECTICUT:  Have you been involved at all in

advising the president on the firing of James Comey as director of the FBI? 


KATSAS:  I was not. 


BLUMENTHAL:  Have you been involved in any discussions involving dealings

with Paul Manafort or his role in the campaign or subsequently in the

special counsel`s investigation involving him? 


KATSAS:  I was not. 


BLUMENTHAL:  Have you been involved in any discussions within the White

House relating to the special counsel`s work? 


KATSAS:  Relating to the special counsel`s work, yes, as I testified

earlier, I have given legal advice on a few discrete questions presented by

the special counsel`s work, but I do not have knowledge of the underlying

facts that the special counsel is investigating. 


BLUMENTHAL:  Would you tell the committee what issues you have been

involved in advising on, without giving the content of your advice? 


KATSAS:  No, I`m sorry.  I cannot do that, both because that would

inevitably tend to reveal the substance of the advice. 




MADDOW:  You can see this kind of escalating tension here, right?  This

kind of crescendo of visible nervousness as Senator Blumenthal gets him to

deny or confirm his work on various parts of the Russia investigation for

the Trump White House, stuff that he did or didn`t give Trump advice on

with regard to the Russia – as this goes on, you can sort of physically

sense the impact of these questions.  You can see the impact as Blumenthal

keeps getting more and more specific. 


What did you do, man?  What did you work on? 




BLUMENTHAL:  Have you ever advised any official in the White House to

provide or withhold documents? 


KATSAS:  Documents.  I`m just trying – just running the tape here.  Not

that I can recall. 


BLUMENTHAL:  Would you recuse yourself from litigation involving the

special counsel, for example, litigation that would involve criminal

proceedings or production of documents or any other discovery issues

involving the special counsel where his request or demands for documents or

testimony might be contested? 


KATSAS:  To the extent that the case touched upon – the specific case

before me would touch upon anything I worked on in the White House, yes, I



BLUMENTHAL:  Well, let me just say very emphatically –


KATSAS:  Right. 


BLUMENTHAL:  – since you are unable or unwilling to say exactly what the

advice relating the special counsel`s activities touched upon, my strong

suggestion is that you would have to recuse yourself to any and all matters

involving special counsel. 


KATSAS:  Perhaps.  Perhaps.  The question would be – so the first question

would be did I work on the matter.  And as I told you with regard to your

case, any matter that I worked on very easy open and shut recuse. 




MADDOW:  Yes, I worked on the Russia investigation.  No, not on firing

Comey, no, not on Manafort.  Yes, on some other stuff, but I don`t want to

say what it was.  Maybe it was the documents I talked to them.  I`m just

running the tape here. 


I don`t know if anything – if there was anything I touched on I – I would

recuse – I would definitely, I don`t – I don`t want to say. 


That was October.  Those were conference confirmation hearing.  Gregory

Katsas was confirmed.  He is now on the U.S. Court of Appeals in D.C. on

that supposed second highest court in the land.


And now, today something appears to be going on in that court, and this is

something we`ve been keeping an eye on for a couple of week news.  Our

suspicions appear to be sort of bearing out.  We`re not allowed to see

overtly what is happening in this case because all the briefs related to

this case are under seal.  All the hearings they have had so far in this

case and the next hearing they`re expected to have on this case have all

been closed-door hearings, and apparently will continue to be closed door



We are not even allowed to see who the people are involved in this case. 

We are not allowed to know who the parties are in this case.  All we`re

allowed to see is that it pertains to a grand jury in Washington, D.C. 


The break in our understanding of this case came from when reporters from

CNN, who are basically staking out the federal courthouse in D.C., they saw

lawyers from Robert Mueller`s office, from special counsel`s office

entering and leaving sealed court hearings in one federal courtroom and

going in and out of the clerk`s office at that courthouse, dealing with

filings related to this secret sealed case.  It is something that`s been

happening in federal court in D.C.  It`s closed door hearing only.  It is

sealed filings only. 


When there have been conflicts and decisions and then appeals between

Mueller and whoever is on the other side of this case, those conflicts have

very quickly escalated out of the district court in D.C. up to that second

highest court in the land, up to the D.C. appeals court, where matters

related to this secret case have been on a miraculously expedited calendar. 

These matters essentially have been heard instantly, and they have been

prioritized over all sorts of other important national significance cases

in that court. 


What is this matter that the special counsel`s office is litigating and who

are they litigating against and why is it being treated like this?  We

cannot report it directly.  We don`t know exactly what it is.  We can`t see

any of the materials from the case, but it definitely involves Mueller. 


And the one judge on that court on that appeals court who has recused

himself on this issue and is not sitting in on any aspect of this case is

the old “I`m replaying the tape here” guy.  It`s Greg Katsas, it`s one

Trump appointee on that D.C. Appeals Court.  And he did, after all of that

badgering at his confirmation hearing, after all of the efforts to pin him

down, he did after all pledge to senators that he would recuse himself from

anything he had worked on in the Trump White House, including specifically

anything that he had worked on in the Russia investigation, although he

would not say exactly what that was. 


Remember, he said he didn`t work on the Manafort part of the Russia

investigation.  He didn`t work on the James Comey being fired part of that

investigation, but he did work on some other stuff that involved him

advising the president about Mueller`s probe.  And for whatever reason, he

is the one judge who is recused now from this mystery case that today was

the occasion for a roughly 30-page-long brief just getting filed by the

mystery lawyers.  There is the lawyers from Mueller`s team on one side. 

There is mystery lawyers on the other side representing whoever this

mystery person is who is in a big secret fight with the special counsel

over a matter that relates to Mueller`s grand jury, and we do not yet know

what it is. 


There is obviously a lot going on right now in the news, right?  Another

couple of races called today in the midterms today. 


The Democratic Party is up to I now believe 36 pickups in the House of

Representatives.  They appear to have flipped 36 Republican seats and

counting.  That`s exactly the kind of Democratic wave that Democrats were

hoping for and Republicans were saying would never happen in this midterm

election.  There are about a half dozen more seats that are yet to be

called, but Democrats are already up to 36 confirmed flips. 


In the Florida recount, the senator and governor`s race there`s, that went

legally crazy there today.  The state refusing to accept the vote totals

from one big county`s recount because the vote totals arrived two minutes

after today`s official deadline because the county was having trouble

wrangling with the state`s official website for submitting this stuff.  And

whether or not you want to be a stickler for coming in within two minutes

of the deadline, what that means is the state today decided to purposely

count what is known to be an inaccurate vote tally from one county while

these major statewide races are within a hair`s breath in terms of who is

going to win.  So, we`ll have more on that coming up.  That`s a fast

developing story at this point. 


Inside the administration, inside the White House, I don`t know if it`s a

reaction to the Democratic Party`s big gains in last week`s elections, but

things do seem wobbly and emotional.  Inside the White House, the president

had this terrible trip abroad this weekend, skipping the commemoration of

American troop deaths in World War I which was ostensibly the whole point

of his whole trip.  It`s the reason he went there, but then he skipped the

commemoration because it was raining. 


He has since reportedly been railing against other people in the White

House because he is looking for somebody else to blame for that decision,

because apparently the president did not realize it would look bad that he

canceled the commemoration of American war dead because he was afraid of

being out in the rain.  Immediately upon him returning home from what is –

has been a very embarrassing trip, the office of the president`s wife, the

first lady was allowed to publicly fire the deputy national security

adviser, which is still almost too bizarre to put in any framework

whatsoever other than to just point at it and open your mouth and say, my

god, what the heck was that? 


The election nightmare for this White House, which does appear to have

rattled this White House, it appears to not be ending any time soon. 

Republicans hope and expect to add another U.S. senator to their majority

in the Senate when Mississippi holds its Senate recount ten days from now. 

You would think that would be a shoo-in for the Republicans.  They wouldn`t

need to worry about it, right? 


But their Republican candidate in that race started off this week by musing

publicly about attending public hangings, aka lynchings in Mississippi. 

Now, she is on tape musing about how she sure would like to make it harder

for liberals to be able to vote in Mississippi, including at some specific

schools, if you know what I mean. 


Her response since that tape came out tonight has been to call it a joke. 

Obviously, just a joke.  But Republican Cindy Hyde-Smith is running against

an African American Democrat named Mike Espy who is running a good campaign

in Mississippi. 


This election is a runoff.  It happens in less than two weeks.  The

Republican Party should not have to spend a dime to elect a Republican in

the state of Mississippi, but you know what?  They already lost an Alabama

Senate seat in the Trump era by running a candidate just like this. 


Now, down in Mississippi, they`re having to spend money there too.  And

that is a story that is sort of yet to unwind and is definitely worth



There is just a lot going on.  But there really does seem to be something

up right now when it comes to the existential scandal that has faced this

administration from the very beginning.  At the start, you recall, it was

an FBI investigation, a counterintelligence and criminal investigation

started during the 2016 presidential campaign looking at this hostile,

foreign military intelligence operation to monkey wrench our election, and

the crucial question of whether or not one of the two candidates in that

election, Mr. Trump was in on that foreign military intelligence operation,

whether he was aware of it, whether he played a part in it. 


The FBI started that investigation during the campaign.  It was not

publicly reported before Americans voted in that election, but it came to

be known soon thereafter, and when President Trump found out about the FBI

running that investigation into what Russia did and the possible

involvement of him and his campaign, the president fired the head of the

FBI.  He fired James Comey. 


And presidents of course are allowed to fire the FBI director or any other

presidential appointee, but they`re not allowed to do it for the corrupt

purpose of stopping or diverting an ongoing investigation that the

president feels threatened by.  I mean, when President Trump fired Comey,

his White House did go through the motions of creating a pretext, right? 

Creating a cover story for him for why he lad to fire Comey. 


The president stuck by that for about five minutes, then he quickly

abandoned it.  He told visiting Russian officials in the Oval Office that

firing James Comey would relieve a great deal of pressure on him over the

FBI`s Russia investigation.  The president also, of course, famously did an

interview with Lester Holt for NBC news in which Mr. Holt asked President

Trump about firing James Comey. 


He didn`t ask him anything about Russia.  Russia was not part of the

question.  But the president just volunteered, just blurted out that when

he had fired Comey, in fact what had been on his mind were his own

objections to the Russia investigation.  He volunteered that the firing was

intended to affect the investigation.  He basically volunteered that that

firing was obstruction of justice. 


And those circumstances around the firing of FBI Director James Comey and

what the president blurted out and admitted about why he did it, that is

how what started off as an FBI investigation into the Russia matter ended

up becoming an investigation run by the special counsel`s office, looking

both at what Russia did and also related crimes, including potential

efforts to obstruct the investigation into what Russia did and whether

Trump helped.


Well, now we have just had the next iteration of that same pattern.  A few

hours after last week`s election, the president fires the attorney general

and then tries to pull off this unprecedented maneuver of bypassing Rod

Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, who had been overseeing the

Mueller investigation, instead putting this new guy in charge who is

literally a cable news pundit whose job was arguing against the Mueller



Matthew Whitaker`s appointment of acting attorney general of the United

States has proved to be legally problematic.  It`s also proved to be just

an embarrassment for all sorts of reasons related to Matthew Whitaker, and

we`ll have more on that at another time.  But there remains this core issue

that like with the Comey firing, there is this core issue, this core

question, was this guy installed specifically to mess with the ongoing

investigation into the president, right? 


Again, the principle here is simple.  The president can certainly replace

anyone in his cabinet.  There is nothing wrong with that in the abstract. 

But you can`t do that sort of thing for the corrupt purpose of diverting or

stymieing or getting some sort of advantage over an ongoing criminal

investigation that the president fears might hurt him. 


But now today, like he did with the Comey firing, the president has simply

and bluntly volunteered that that`s in fact what he did, that that`s in

fact what he was thinking about when he installed this new guy at justice. 

Conservative website called “The Daily Caller” just interviewed President

Trump and then released a full transcript of their conversation with him. 

You remember in the Lester Holt interview, after Trump fired Comey, Lester

Holt didn`t ask Trump about the Russia investigation, just asked him about

firing Comey. 


Trump volunteered to him hey, you know, I was thinking about Russia when I

did that.  Trump just did the exact same thing about putting Matthew

Whitaker in to replace Attorney General Jeff Session.  This was the

question from “The Daily Caller”. 


They said, quote, could you tell us where your thinking is currently on the

attorney general position?  I know you`re happy with Matthew Whitaker.  Do

you have any names?  Chris Christie? 


The president responds: Matthew Whitaker is a very respected man.  He`s –

and he`s very importantly, he is respected within the Department of

Justice, just somebody that is very respected.  I knew him only as he

pertained, you know, he was with Jeff Sessions. 


And, you know, look, as far as I`m concerned, this is an investigation that

should have never been brought.  It should never have been had.  It is

something that should have never been brought.  It is an illegal

investigation, and you know, it`s very interesting, because when you talk

about not Senate-confirmed, well, Mueller is not Senate confirmed. 


Nobody was asking about Mueller.  Nobody was asking about the Russia

investigation.  In fact, you were asked about Chris Christie and whether or

not you were thinking down the road about who might ultimately get this

position after Matt Whitaker.  But nevertheless, the president volunteered

his response that, yes, he put Whitaker in there.  And you know what?  The

Mueller investigation, that`s a problem. 


So that was – that was late last night they released that transcript after

we were off the air last night.  Then this morning, the president started

making online statements, started tweeting in all capital letters about the

Mueller investigation.  It`s the first time he has done that in a few

weeks.  He hasn`t done that since September. 


And, in general, try not to care too much about the things the president

says online.  It`s very rarely a means of him conveying factual information

to the American peoples.  I usually think it`s designed to be provocative

and it can therefore be ignored. 


But in this case, what the president posted online this morning, after

volunteering to “The Daily Caller” last night that he installed Matthew

Whitaker at the Justice Department because of the terrible Mueller

investigation that`s illegal and never should have been started, right

after that, this morning, it is worth noting that this is what the

president post beyond line: 7:14 a.m., quote, the inner workings of the

Mueller investigation are a total mess.  They have found no collusion and

have gone absolutely nuts.  They are screaming and shouting a people,

horribly threatening them to come up with the answers they want.  They are

a disgrace to our nation. 


Hold on right now.  The inner workings of the Mueller investigation did you

say?  How do you know about that? 


As I mentioned, the president has not tweeted about Mueller for a few

months now, but he has never before tweeted about having access to the

inner workings of the Mueller investigation.  He has never said anything

like that before until today, one week after Robert Mueller`s investigation

stopped reporting to Rod Rosenstein at the Justice Department and started

instead reporting to this guy, Trump`s new hand-picked pundit who he now

admits was installed at the Justice Department because of the president`s

objections to Mueller`s investigation. 


So, in the space of 24 hours, the president has admitted that the reason he

replaced the attorney general is because of his objections to the Mueller

investigation.  Now he is bragging with his new person in place in charge

of the Mueller investigation, he has new access to the inner works of that

investigation that he never had before. 


Now best case scenario here, it is possible, of course, that the president

is just lying.  It`s also possible, though, that the president has just

once again openly confessed to obstruction of justice, and using a

political appointment to skew, and in this case spy on an investigation

that pose as real threat to him. 


Senator Lindsey Graham today met with Matt Whitaker.  He came out of that

meeting saying that Whitaker told him he has no intention of recusing from

overseeing the special counsel`s office.  There is now reason to seriously

question whether in his new role as acting attorney general, Matt Whitaker

is already feeding inside information about the investigation to the White

House and to the president. 


In federal court right now, some unknown defendant who is being treated

with incredible deference by the federal court system appears to have

entered into a hard fought end game secret negotiation with Mueller`s team

as to whether or not he or she must I guess testify or hand over whatever

Mueller is demanding.  For now all of those proceedings are under seal. 

For what it`s worth, we now know that the one judge on that court who was

appointed by Trump and who worked for the Trump White House and who pledged

to recuse from matters related to what he work Monday in the Trump White

House which we know included the Russia investigation, he has recused from

that case and he is the only judge who has done so. 


We know that the president this week since he returned from his disastrous

overseas trip, he has been having long meetings, hours-long daily meetings

with his personal lawyers related to the Mueller investigation.  They say

they have specifically been meeting on the question of collusion between

his campaign and Russia.  And in the middle of all of, this we have the

president bragging that he now has access to inside information about

what`s going on inside the investigation. 


In other words, this is probably the moment we`ve been waiting for.  I

mean, his is what presidential historians like Michael Beschloss have been

telling us is probably barreling down the tracks at us, a second Saturday

Night Massacre, which of course became the beginning of the end for

President Nixon in Watergate.  


When a president tries to control the Justice Department in order to make

an investigation that dooms him go away by corruptly influencing the course

of the investigation, that`s usually the end. 


Michael Beschloss joins us next. 




MADDOW:  Ii just said we were going to have Michael Beschloss here.  I mean

that, but we have a little bit of breaking news first.  We just got this

new filing that is news that actually fits exactly what we`ve been talking

about, but this is brand-new.  This is a new filing from Robert Mueller`s

office, from the special counsel`s office tonight in the Paul Manafort



It was nine weeks ago, I think nine weeks ago tomorrow that the Trump

campaign chair Paul Manafort plead guilty and agreed to start cooperating

with prosecutors from Mueller`s office.  We had been expecting Mueller`s

team and Manafort`s lawyers to file tomorrow a joint status report to the

court updating the judge in Manafort`s case on basically how it`s going

with Manafort cooperating, when prosecutors might be done with him

cooperating, when they`re willing to essentially hand him over to the judge

so the judge can move on to sentencing him for his crimes. 


And again, that joint status report was due tomorrow, but they have just

filed early tonight.  And here`s the part that makes the ominous music

start up in your head and that makes us put the red banner on the bottom of

the screen.  In this new report they just filed, Mueller`s prosecutors have

just asked the judge to please give them ten days before they tell the

judge what`s up with Manafort`s case right now. 


Ten days?  That is very strange.  They say they`re not going to make

tomorrow`s deadline.  They would like a ten-day extension.  That is



Here is exactly how they say it, quote, at the hearing on September 14th,

2018, the court ordered the parties to submit a joint status report on

November 16th, 2018, which would be tomorrow.  The parties have been

meeting since the hearing date.  The parties believe a brief extension of

the status report date until December 26th, 2018, will allow them to

provide the court with a report that will be of great assistance in the

court`s management of this matter. 


Actually, it`s greater assistance, not great assistance.  That will be of

greater assistance in the court`s management of this matter. 


Paul Manafort has been cooperating with Mueller`s team for the last nine

weeks.  What`s going to happen in the next ten days that will give the

court a better picture of how helpful Paul Manafort has been?  Something`s

going to happen between now and ten days from now that will allow them to

be of greater assistance in the court`s management of this matter?  What`s

going to happen in the next ten days? 


There is a palpable sense right now with the president firing the attorney

general hours after the election, bragging today that he did that because

of his own objections to the Mueller investigation, the president bragging

today that since he installed his own new guy at the Justice Department

replacing his attorney general, he has new inside information on the inner

workings of Mueller`s probe. 


With the president meeting for hours with his Russia lawyers day after day

this week and cancelling many other major events in order to make time for

that, with seal proceedings related to the special counsel`s office

unfolding in a D.C. courtroom, with mysterious extensions like this one

tonight for cooperators like Paul Manafort and Rick Gates who ran the Trump

campaign, there is a palpable sense right now that this is the – this is

the time we have been expecting.  This is the thing for which we have all

been reading up on our history. 


NBC presidential historian Michael Beschloss is on deck right when we need

him.  That`s next.




MADDOW:  Joining us now is Michael Beschloss, NBC News presidential

historian.  He is the author of the excellent new book “Presidents of War.”


Mr. Beschloss, thank you for making time to be here tonight.  I know you

had to go through hither and yon and lots of weather to be here. 




MADDOW:  Yes, exactly.


The reason I really wanted to talk to you tonight despite all of those

hardships is a couple of reasons.  One of the reasons is something I`m not

great at, but I know you really are, and that is looking at presidents as

people, seeing them as human beings and recognizing the significance that

might have on historical reports.  We`re having a lot of reporting right

now about the president essentially being in emotional trouble, the

president being in an acute, highly emotional state, being very angry,

being uncontrollable, people around him being afraid to be near him.  


And I know that`s been reported about other presidents at times of stress

in the past.  But how do you contextualize reporting like that? 


BESCHLOSS:  Well, I think you have to see – we`ve seen that face and we`ve

seen the way he has been behaving this week and the amount of time which he

has been spending publicly on duty, which is not very much.  So, you have

to assume this is a president who is filled with rage it seems, especially

when you read these tweets, and also maybe a lot of depression, and perhaps

this is a reaction to – I`m speculating here – but if Matt Whitaker has

gone to find out what Robert Mueller has been doing and what he`s got and

what he`s about to do and communicated that back to the president, which

seems to be the main reason why Trump would have appointed someone as

unqualified as Matt Whitaker as acting attorney general, then Donald Trump

may now be tonight confronted with what his life may look like the next

couple months, and it may not be a very pleasing sight. 


MADDOW:  So that`s a totally different take on what the president was I

think sort of bragging about today with this online outburst this morning. 

I say it was an outburst, because of its emotional tone, all capital

letters and some intemperate language, but the president was essentially

bragging that he has access to the inner workings of the Mueller

investigation now. 




MADDOW:  And he said a lot of things about the Mueller investigation. 


BESCHLOSS:  Can you imagine him bragging it out loud?  I mean, it is just

like the Lester Holt thing.  I mean, why would he think this is remotely in

his interests to say something like that? 


MADDOW:  Well, that`s how I have been seeing it, that the president appears

to be volunteering the motivation, the corrupt intent behind this personnel

move was obstruction of justice. 


BESCHLOSS:  Right.  It`s like wearing a sign. 


MADDOW:  Yes.  And now, he is bragging about how he is reaping the benefits

of it, who he is obstructing the investigation, or at least he is getting

inside information to it, which he shouldn`t be getting.  But you`re saying

that we might also see a consequence of that if Whitaker is conveying true

information to the president about the status of the investigation, what

the president may be learning may be scary to him. 


BESCHLOSS:  I think it could be scary to him.  And remember what he wrote

in the tweet just this morning about destroying innocent lives.  Those may

be lives of people around him.  I`m speculating here again, but maybe even

members of his family, and that suggests that he has to be beginning to

think about what he`s going to do. 


You know, you and I have talked for months, over a year about the time when

the Mueller investigation might be stopped involuntarily.  And we could be

nearing that moment. 


MADDOW:  The historical example that we`ve all got top of mind when we

think of a president trying to basically throttle the Justice Department in

order to stop an investigation that could hurt him.  The investigation –

or the historical event that comes the mind always is the Saturday night





MADDOW:  Where Nixon ordered the firing of the special prosecutor, the

attorney general, and the deputy attorney general.  In turn each refused

and resigned in protest.  When presidents try to pervert the course of

justice, when they try to obstruct, whether it`s that example or others,

does the Justice Department usually squeal?  Or does the Justice Department

sometimes go along with it? 


BESCHLOSS:  Well, there are inspectors general and there are people in the

Justice Department who will object to it, but usually you got career people

who know that this is not the way that it`s supposed to happen, and they

get their back up. 


For instance, Nixon appointed when J. Edgar Hoover died in the spring of

1972, as FBI director, acting, a guy named Patrick Gray, who is basically

an old political hack, who had been a supporter of Nixon`s back since the

1950s.  It reminds me a little bit of Whitaker because Nixon wanted someone

who`s the head of the FBI who would pull FBI files of journalists who

criticized him and tell him what was going on with investigations of his



And the good thing for history is that a year later when he came up to be

confirmed, Patrick Gray was, it was discovered that Gray was so stupid that

he had abided by a demand from the Nixon White House to destroy

incriminating Watergate documents, which if you want to get confirmed, was

not too intelligent, and the nomination was pull, and after that Nixon was

forced to take a permanent FBI director who was a professional.  So you

have to assume, you have to pray that the system corrects itself. 


MADDOW:  So, even when you can get people in place who will do the kind of

stuff that a corrupt president wants in circumstance like this, the system

tends to catch them? 


BESCHLOSS:  There are an awful lot of people who will blow the whistle. 

Let`s hope if this happens, let`s hope that that happens, we will see that

whistle blowing. 


MADDOW:  Michael Beschloss, NBC News presidential historian, the author

most recently of “Presidents of War” which is really good, and is chockfull

of stuff you thought you knew about you but you really don`t and he will

prove it to you when you read this book, Michael, thank you very much. 

Great to have you. 


BESCHLOSS:  Thank you very much.  Really appreciate it.


MADDOW:  All right.  Much more to get to tonight.  Stay with us.




MADDOW:  Hey.  So I said we would have an update for you on what`s still

going on with ongoing election results.  Since I said that moments ago,

even a little more news has broken on that front.  Tonight, Democrats have

picked up another seat in Congress.  Just within the past hour, “A.P.”,

“Associated Press” has called another California congressional race.  “The

Associated Press” now says that Democratic challenger Katie Porter has

turfed out incumbent Republican Congresswoman Mimi Walters. 


Now I am saying specifically that “The Associated Press” has called this

race.  NBC News has not yet called this race.  We will let you know if that

changes.  But the “A.P.” is now projecting this as the final result. 


In the great state of Maine, you may have also heard today that Democratic

candidate Jared Golden has unseated Republican incumbent Bruce Poliquin. 

The call in Maine, this call in Maine, gave Democrats a gain of 35 seats in

House, the most since the aftermath of Watergate.  Again, if that

California Katie Porter race ends up to be called in the end, that will

bring that number up to 36. 


Beyond the continued pileup of Democratic wins, all eyes tonight remain on

Georgia and Florida.  The Georgia`s governor`s race, Stacey Abrams, is

trying to get enough votes to force a runoff election against the former

secretary of state, Republican Brian Kemp, who has been a very

controversial steward of this election in which he has himself been a



Last night, a judge in Georgia ruled that Georgia officials have to count

absentee ballots if voters forgot to fill in their birth date.  So with

that judge ruling, there will be more counting and more waiting ahead in

Florida.  Meanwhile, in Georgia – in Florida, we`re sort of running out of

adjectives to describe what`s going on there.  We`ve been seeing headlines

all day that made it seem like Broward County would make the 3:00 p.m.

deadline today for a statewide machine recount of votes, 3:00 p.m. deadline



It turns out Broward County missed the deadline by two minutes, reportedly

because of the person from Broward submitting the data was unfamiliar with

the state`s website.  It took an extra couple of minutes.  Palm Beach

County missed the deadline because their machines overheating. 

Hillsborough County decided not to submit new results at all after the

power went and then the recount showed a drop of 846 votes from the first

time through.  Alligator ate your ballot, what does that mean?


The state instead is going to use whatever those counties submitted to the

state on Saturday alongside recounted totals from all the other counties in

the state.  Whatever they end up counting, right now, the governor`s race

looks more out of reach for Democrat Andrew Gillum than would the Florida

Senate race would for Democrat Bill Nelson. 


Tonight, the Republican in the governor`s race, Ron DeSantis, declared

victory over Andrew Gillum.  He called himself the governor-elect.  Andrew

Gillum is not conceding tonight.  He continues to say that every vote needs

to be counted and there`s more votes to count.


In the Florida Senate race, we are going it looks like to a second recount. 

There was a machine recount almost all the counties finished today.  But

Rick Scott, after that recount after that machine recount, he appears to

lead Democratic Bill Nelson by less than 13,000 votes, and that is

definitely close enough for there to be yet another statewide recount, this

time not a machine recount.  This time, it`ll be ballots being counted by



So, election officials will be looking for ballots that the machines might

have trouble reading because voters skipped a race or chose more than one

candidate in the race or some other problem.  Lawyers for Bill Nelson`s

campaign tell us tonight that they are filing a motion, a new motion in

state court asking that all the votes in at least one county, Palm Beach

County should be recounted by hand.  All the votes, not just anything spit

out or marked as trouble.  I mean, that would be over 580,000 ballots in

that one county. 


That hearing is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.  I don`t know how long it

takes to count 580,000 ballots by hand, but if you`ve been holding your

breath for the end of Florida Senate race, you should rethink your



We`ll be right back. 




MADDOW:  For a full week now, thousands of Californians have been living in

shelters or with family and friends because they`ve had to flee their homes

to escape what is now the deadliest fire in California history.  As of

tonight, officials in California say the Camp Fire, as it`s called in Butte

County, California, has killed at least 63 people.  That death toll

continues to rise.  We have continued to see that death toll rise day after



Alongside the death toll rising, it has been particularly worrying to see

the number of missing persons climb as well, higher and higher as each day

goes by.  As of right now survivors looking for neighbors and loved ones. 

They`re now going off a list of 631 missing people. 


That one fire in Butte County has burned through 140,000 acres thus far. 

Firefighters have only been able to contain that blaze to about 40 percent

this far.  Smoke from the enormous fire has led to air quality problems

across big parts of Northern California, even quite far from the site of

the flames. 


For example, schools in the good-sized city of Oakland, California, are

going to be shutdown tomorrow because of terrible air quality.  I`ve never

seen purple air quality alerts in the San Francisco Bay Area before. 


There are two other major fires blazing in southern California as well. 

Three people have been killed in the southern part of the state. 


I should tell you that tonight, the president apparently plans to visit the

day after tomorrow, on Saturday, to meet with survivors.  That ought to

seem like normal news on a night like tonight.




MADDOW:  Before we grow – before we grow.  Before we go and before we

grow, can we put up a screwy graphic a minute ago that I just want to

explain what that was?  Can we put up that Maine graphic again? 


I was talking about this race was polled by NBC News for the Democrat Jared

Golden defeating Bruce Poliquin, the Republican incumbent congressman in

Maine second district.  The reason it looks like Golden has less votes but

he got is because Maine uses ranked choice voting, which means Maine voters

picked their first, second, and third choices when they go to vote. 


And if neither candidate gets 50 percent on the first round of voting, then

what they do is go see who other people voted for.  Were there other people

who voted for the Green Party candidate or libertarian candidate?  Who`d

they pick second?  Those second choice votes then get retabulated for the

top two contenders. 


And it was that rank choice voting process after neither of the major party

candidates got to 50 percent, which resulted ultimately in the Democrat in

that race unseating the Republican incumbent.  Our graphic looks screwy

because we all had the first round of voting on the screen.  Sorry. 


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




Good evening, Lawrence. 







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