Nearly one year after Dems won. TRANSCRIPT: 11/27/2018, The Rachel Maddow Show.
Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
Date: November 27, 2018
Guest: Adam Schiff
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: That is “ALL IN” for this evening.
“THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW” starts right now with Rachel.
Good evening, Rachel. I didn`t know if you were in tonight and I see you
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Look, it`s me. Or it`s somebody hiding behind
an incredibly life like mask of me.
MADDOW: Not to give you an existential crisis or anything.
Did you say five million?
HAYES: We have five million downloads of the show, yes.
MADDOW: That`s freaking fantastic.
HAYES: I`m pretty psyche about it. It`s really been gratifying.
MADDOW: I`m telling you, you are really good at being on TV, but you`re
also really good at that other thing you do. You`ve got a knack.
HAYES: Thank you.
MADDOW: Well done, my friend. Thanks.
And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. It is good to be back
So, there is a lot going on in the news right now. We`ve changed up the
order of our show like 17 times just in the last hour and a half.
One of the things we are watching tonight, which is not necessarily on the
national radar in a big way yet, but it`s turning out that a very
controversial Trump judicial nominee may be hitting some turbulence
tonight, and that is interesting on its own terms. It may also be sort of
a sign about partisan turbulence to come in Washington in this lame duck
period before a lot of things are going to change in January.
This is a Trump nominee for a federal judgeship. He`s seen as a sort of
poster child for racial discrimination in voting rights. Nevertheless, he
was previously seen as a shoo-in because of Republican control of the
Senate, but tonight, it is a developing story that it looks like they may
be yanking his nomination for lack of support.
So, that is an interesting developing story. We`re going to have more on
that ahead tonight.
We`re also getting the final races called from the midterm elections in
terms of the House. And with these final races now shoring up, it`s
starting to look like the size of the Democratic Party`s win in Congress
not only exceeded expectations, it may have been an historic record. We`ll
have more on that coming up as well.
In terms of the midterm elections in the U.S. Senate, though, the very last
U.S. Senate race is wrapping up tonight as we speak. And we are going to
be covering this over the course of this hour. I will tell you, as we`re
starting to watch these results come in the U.S. Senate race in Mississippi
tonight, if you need further civic inspiration about your importance as a
citizen or what a big deal your one lone personal vote could be, I want you
to also know that today in the great state of Alaska, the state division of
elections certified the results of this year`s midterm elections in that
state in Alaska.
One of the races that was certified today by the state is for a state
legislative district, so a state house district. I think it`s in
Fairbanks. It`s house district 1. And I believe we can put up on the
screen the results of that state legislative race in Alaska as certified by
the state today.
The Republican Bart Lebon got 2,661 votes. The Democrat, Kathryn Dodge,
got 2,661 votes. Not a typo. The official state certified results in that
House seat in Alaska, it`s an exact tie.
And that tied race is for a seat in the state legislature. And the state
legislature is also tied. So not only would the shift of a single vote
determine who wins that seat, the shift of a single vote could also
determine which party controls the entire legislature.
I love this story out of Alaska so much, right? When they realized the
Democrat and the Republican were tied, in the initial count, they did a
machine recount of the ballots. It turns out it`s tied. After that, they
did a recount by hand. After the hand recount turns out, yes, it`s tied.
And then today it was certified as a tie.
But here is the incredible drama in this one. This is from “The Anchorage
Daily News” today. So after the initial results shows a tie and the
machine recount shows a tie and the hand recount shows a tie, and it
becomes clear that this tie means that the whole legislature is tied, after
all of that, they found a vote. What? They found one vote.
Quote, a single ballot remains uncounted. Quote, that ballot was found in
a gray secrecy sleeve on election night and was deposited in a ballot box
normally used for absentee or questioned ballots.
In conjunction with this story, “The Alaska Daily News” published this
picture of the state review board considering this tied race in trying to
figure out how to do a complete count of this race. I think in this
picture in the foreground there, do you see the little hand holding that
ballot? I think they`re showing us the one lonely ballot here that they
can`t decide what to do with.
You can see what it says there, from Fairbanks precinct number 6. This
ballot was found loose with the questioned ballot materials, there was no
questioned ballot envelope to account for this – I think this might be the
actual one ballot in question.
“Alaska Daily News” reports that this one loose mysterious ballot is a vote
for the Democrat in the race, but because of the weird circumstances under
which this one ballot was found, they still don`t exactly know how or if
they`re going to count it, according to “The Daily News”, even though the
vote has been counted and recounted and recounted again, and now certified.
That single ballot, which could decide the whole thing, is still legally
considered to be on the bubble because of the strange circumstances in
which it was found. It`s as yet uncounted, quote, pending further legal
So, that one House race and partisan control of that state legislature look
likes it come downs to a tie, or maybe that one ballot. And they`re not –
if that doesn`t inspire you to vote and that your vote could matter, I
don`t know what could inspire you except for maybe the news that this is
actually the second time this year that this has happened.
At the beginning of this year in January, the exact same thing happened in
Virginia. Republicans had had a big majority in the House of Delegates in
Virginia, but Democrats had a really big year in the off-year elections,
the 2017 elections, in Virginia. Democrats swept all the statewide races
and they made up all this ground in the legislature.
Ultimately, the question of which party would control the legislature came
down to the last race that wasn`t called in Virginia. It was the 94th
House district. They counted and recounted and double checked and made
sure, and it turned out that race was an absolute tie. The exact same
number of votes cast for the Republican and for the Democrat – and the
control of the state legislature riding on whether the Democrat or the
And the way they decided that one in Virginia was by drawing straws. They
pulled a piece of paper out of a bowl in a ceremony that would have been
way more fun if they had cut cards or flipped a coin or something.
But, you know, if the news gods of civic participation do this to you,
right, do this to your country twice in a year, right, where it`s not just
your local representative but your representation in your state is decided
by a margin of zero votes, and ultimately has to come down to maybe the
luck of the draw, because it`s that close, or maybe one ballot that was put
in the wrong box and nobody knows whether or not to count it, if you get
that happening in your country twice in one year, those are signs from the
news god heavens that your voter registration matters and your efforts to
vote matter, and it may all come down to you.
So, tonight, at the bottom of the screen, you can see we are running this
live ticker as we get in the vote and watch the results of the last U.S.
Senate race from this year`s elections. We`re watching this unfold in
Mississippi. It`s a runoff between incumbent Republican Senator Cindy
Hyde-Smith and upstart Democrat Mike Espy, a former cabinet official in the
Clinton administration and a former Mississippi congressman.
This, of course, is bright red deeply Republican Mississippi. Cindy Hyde-
Smith should win this in a walk. She should not even have to contest this
race given the partisan balance of the state. She has made it a contest
herself in part with her own stumbles, but Mike Espy has also made it a
race by running a pretty good campaign.
So, polls closed just over an hour ago. Joining us now with the latest is
Steve Kornacki, who tells us that things are looking interesting in the
Steve, Mississippi Senate races are not supposed to be interesting.
STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I think
interesting is the right word because the picture is still sort of starting
to come into focus. If you look at the aggregate vote, what`s been counted
so far, that looks on the surface like oh, hey, what`s the story here?
Hyde-Smith has a 12-point advantage.
The reason why I say this is interesting right now, two things. Number
one, it`s only 9 percent of the vote in, disproportionately, we really
don`t have much from the delta. These are places, heavily black areas
where Mike Espy is expecting to get – I give you an example. Here is one
county where we actually have results coming in. Espy is running at 89
percent right in Coahoma County, so when we get more in from the delta,
we`re going to find out more about two questions.
Number one, is black turnout, how high it is relative to the rest of the
state? And also, is he actually improving? You know, Obama got 74 percent
in this county in 2012, kind of the high watermark for a Democrat in
Mississippi. Again, early, it may be disproportionately friendly to Espy,
the precincts in right there. But, obviously, running at 89 percent there.
The reason I`m saying this comes down to this county early on we`ve been
looking at. Seventy-eight percent of the vote is now in, in Desoto County.
What is Desoto County? This is one of the largest counties in Mississippi.
It`s a very Republican county. This is the suburbs of Memphis.
Now, to give you a sense here how Desoto normally votes in an election.
Hillary Clinton got 31 percent of the vote here in 2016. Barack Obama in
2012, he got 33 percent. In 2008, he got 31 percent.
Now the benchmark statewide is Mike Espy needs to do six points better
statewide than Barack Obama did in 2012. Barack Obama in 2012 got 44
percent statewide in Mississippi. If Espy can do six points better than
that, he is at 50 percent.
You see in this large county, suburban county, why we stress this one too,
because Democrats said if they were going to have a chance in Mississippi,
they need surge a surge of black turnout, overwhelming black support for
Mike Espy, and they need white suburbanites wherever they can find them in
Mississippi to switch over and vote for Espy. So, sitting at 44 percent in
Desoto County with about 20 percent of the vote to come in there, I think
it`s a very interesting moment here.
Does that number – there it`s interesting. We just went to 85 percent and
dropped back to 43, because I was about to say 44 is a pretty good
benchmark the previous way in Desoto. If Espy can jump up to 45 or 46, I
think we got a very interesting statewide story. It f it goes down to 43,
42, maybe not as much.
So, we`re seeing at 85 percent in Desoto. That`s why it`s interesting,
because this is one of those places where it`s big, it`s suburban, and he`s
outperforming what you normally see a Democrat do there in Mississippi
MADDOW: And, Steve, what you`re looking at in terms of early returns, are
we able to tell anything yet in terms of absolute numbers in turnout, in
terms of how each side is happy about the numbers they`re seeing turnout?
In a runoff election, obviously, it`s hard.
KORNACKI: Yes. No, I want to be able to compare. When we start getting
counties in from the delta, heavily black areas where Democrats are talking
turnout, I want to look at that. I want to look at Hinds County, the
biggest county in the state. Jackson, heavily Democrat. You expect Espy
to be getting 70, 75 percent of the vote here.
This we probably expect to come in late. I want to be able to compare that
to some of the rural Republican counties. So, we can`t do that yet. So,
again, I`m looking to see if it`s updated.
Ten percent of the vote is in. I think disproportionately from some
Republican areas, the completed counties we`ve gotten. I mean, here is
another one. Espy running at 55 percent.
This is Vicksburg on the Mississippi River here. You can see just compare
to it 2012. Obama got 50 percent here. Espy getting 55 tonight. This is
a completed county. This is the only one where we got 100 percent
reporting right now, and Espy is running 5 points better with 100 percent
in there than Obama did in 2012. He needs six points on average statewide.
MADDOW: That`s fascinating. Steve Kornacki, thank you, my friend. Please
peep if there are any changes we need to know about while we continue our
broadcast this hour.
KORNACKI: You got it.
MADDOW: All right. To the other major story we`ve been watching unfold
over the course of this afternoon into this evening. As you know, on the
morning after the midterm elections, President Trump fired Attorney General
Jeff Sessions and installed in his place a man named Matt Whitaker to be
acting attorney general. Given Whitaker`s previous record of highly
critical statements about Robert Mueller and the Russia investigation, and
Mr. Whitaker`s otherwise thin and sort of troubled resume that by no
stretch of the imagination would make him a contender to be the attorney
general of the United States in any other circumstances, because of all
that, it`s been widely suspected since that appointment was first announced
that the whole reason Whitaker was installed at justice was to quash the
Mueller investigation behind the scenes.
With Mueller now reporting to Matt Whitaker, the regulations that govern
the special counsel`s office essentially say that Mueller has to run by
Whitaker any major decisions about the investigation, including the
decision to bring new indictments, stick a pin in that. Also, any decision
to make any sort of public report or any other major steps.
Since Whitaker was appointed, we have in fact seen no new indictments from
Mueller and his team. Now, if you`re worried about the importance and the
integrity of the Mueller investigation, if you`re worried about the
possibility that it might be shut down behind the scenes given the
importance of what that investigation is actually looking into, it`s a
little unsettling to recognize that if Matt Whitaker is basically
throttling the Mueller investigation within the Justice Department, if he
is blocking new indictments, say, we wouldn`t necessarily have any way to
I mean, if Mueller`s team goes to the grand jury and gets the grand jury to
issue an indictment, and then Mueller brings to it the Justice Department
to Whitaker to whom he reports for Whitaker to sign off on it and Whitaker
says nope, I`ll take that and he stuffs into it a desk drawer, how would we
know? It`s not like anybody has to make an announcement about that. How
would we know if that`s what has been happening ever since Matt Whitaker
arrived three weeks ago tomorrow?
That`s why it is all the more interesting that tonight, we are getting a
first look at what might be Robert Mueller`s notebook, his sort of working
file, because tonight NBC News has obtained a draft criminal information,
which is the kind – it`s basically an indictment when you agree to plead
instead of having a trial. Also, a draft plea agreement, also a draft
statement of the offense. All these documents appear to have been created
by the special counsel`s office, although we have no way of verifying that
The documents were reportedly created by Robert Mueller`s office and sent
by Mueller to a man named Jerome Corsi, a long-time conservative activist
and writer who has been getting a lot of press recently for telling anyone
and everyone that he believes he is about to be indicted by Mueller.
Now, I`m not – I will declare my bias. I am not inclined to believe
anything that Jerome Corsi says at face value. After all, he is one of the
world`s leading proponents of the fabulous conspiracy theory that President
Barack Obama was secretly foreign and not born in this country. He was
therefore secretly never really president, says Jerome Corsi. Because of
that past and everything else he is known for, Jerome Corsi says thing is
no evidence to me that thing exists or is worth writing down, just as a
general mathematical principle.
But what NBC News has now obtained are apparently court documents that were
prepared about Mr. Corsi by the special counsel`s office to show him the
way in which he was going to be criminally charged and the plea deal he
could choose to sign on to if he wished in order to avoid more serious
charges or potentially even any jail time.
So these are the documents. They were obtained by NBC News reporter Anna
Schecter tonight who is a superstar. Because we`ve got these documents, I
can tell you, this is a draft of the charge, the criminal charge that the
special counsel`s office was offering Jerome Corsi as to one count he could
plead guilty to avoid any further criminal exposure. The draft shows that
they were considering bringing these charges in U.S. district courts, a
federal court in Washington, D.C., you see there on the left, United States
of America versus Jerome Corsi, defendant.
The charge here would be one count of false statement. Quote, on September
10th, 2018, defendant Jerome Corsi did willfully and knowingly make
materially false, fictitious and fraudulent statements in the matter within
the jurisdiction of the executive branch of the government of the United
States. To wit, the defendant falsely state and represented to the special
counsel`s office, including special agents of the FBI that he denied an
associate`s request to get in touch with an organization that he understood
to be in possession of stolen e-mails and other documents pertaining to the
2016 U.S. presidential election.
The associate – excuse me. Corsi also denied that the associate never
asked him to have another person try to get in touch with the organization
and that he did not provide the associate with any information about what
materials the organization possessed or what it might do with those
So, again, those are the false statements as outlined in this potential
criminal charge. This is from the draft criminal information that
apparently was provided to Jerome Corsi from the special counsel`s office.
Again, a draft, not filed with the court, but given to Corsi. Here what`s
we want to charge you with. Here what`s your plea agreement would look
If you want to boil down all the nonspecific noun there`s that make it sort
of hard to read out loud, what this charge says is that Jerome Corsi lied
to the special counsel`s office and he lied to the FBI when they questioned
him about his contact with WikiLeaks. WikiLeaks had started to brag that
they had information that had been hacked from Hillary Clinton and
Democratic sources. Roger Stone, who was associated with the Trump
campaign, although he never formally had a staff position on the campaign
as far as we know, special counsel`s office says that Roger Stone told his
friend Jerome Corsi that he needed to get in touch with WikiLeaks about
those stolen Clinton documents.
When the special counsel`s office asked Jerome Corsi about that, what
they`re saying now in this draft charge is that Corsi lied to them when he
told them that he turned Roger Stone down. He said, no, no, I won`t get in
touch with WikiLeaks that would get us all in trouble. Special counsel`s
office is saying in fact that is not at all the way it went down. Corsi
lied to them.
We get more detail in this document which is the draft statement of the
offense which has also been sent to Jerome Corsi, which was also obtained
by NBC reporter Anna Schecter tonight. So I can tell you what it says
here. And I will tell you, thanks to NBC News reporting about the context
of this case, I`m able to swap in some of the specific identifying
information that will make this make more sense as I read it.
So just so you know, the code here is organization 1. That`s WikiLeaks.
Person 1, that`s Roger Stone. Et cetera.
Quote: On or about September 6, 2018, the defendant Jerome Corsi was
interviewed voluntarily by the special counsel`s office including Justice
Department prosecutors and agents of the FBI. At the time of the
interview, the special counsel`s office was investigating the Russian
government`s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election,
including, A, the theft of campaign-related e-mails and other documents by
the Russian government`s main intelligence directorate GRU. Also, B, the
GRU`s provision of certain of those documents to WikiLeaks for public
release in order to expand the GRU`s interference in the 2016 presidential
election campaign. Also, C, the nature of any connections between
individuals associated with the presidential campaign of Donald Trump and
the Russian government, or WikiLeaks.
Quote, Corsi was represented by counsel during the interview. At the
outset of the interview, Corsi was warned that intentionally making false
statements to the investigators was a violation of federal law. Corsi said
that he understood.
Quote: During the interview, Corsi said in the summer of 2016, an
associate, Roger Stone, who Corsi understood to be in regular contact with
senior members of the Trump campaign, including then candidate Donald J.
Trump asked Corsi to get in touch with WikiLeaks about materials it
possessed relevant to the presidential campaign that had not already been
released. Corsi thereafter and knowingly made – excuse me.
Corsi thereafter and knowingly and intentionally made the following
materially false statements during the interview. Corsi said he declined
the request from Stone and made clear to Stone that trying to contact
WikiLeaks could be subject to investigation. Corsi also stated that Stone
never asked Corsi to have another person try to get in contact with
WikiLeaks and that Corsi told Stone that they should just wait until
WikiLeaks released any materials.
Special counsel`s office is saying in this statement to the offense that
all of those statements were from injury Corsi. Quote: Corsi further
stated that after the initial request from Stone, Corsi did not know what
Stone did with respect to WikiLeaks and he never provided Stone with any
information regarding WikiLeaks, including what materials WikiLeaks possess
or what WikiLeaks might do with those materials.
And now here is the money. Quote, in truth and in fact and as Corsi well
knew, after Stone asked Corsi to get in touch with WikiLeaks, Corsi did not
decline the request, as he stated in the interview. Instead, he contacted
an individual who resided in London, England, a guy who we know is Ted
Malloch to pass on Stone`s request to learn about materials in WikiLeaks`
possession that could be relevant to the presidential campaign. Corsi
thereafter told Stone that WikiLeaks possessed information that would be
damaging to then candidate Hillary Clinton and that WikiLeaks planned to
release damaging information in October 2016.
So, we just got all of that tonight. Draft court documents, apparently
prepared by the special counsel`s office and sent to Jerome Corsi basically
to let him know what he will be, might be, could be charged with in terms
of lying to investigators. Prosecutors also included this draft plea offer
which Corsi – in which Corsi would agree to plead guilty to that one count
of false statements and in exchange they would agree not to prosecute him
for other false statements he made to the special counsel`s office and to
the grand jury. They would also agree to not prosecute him for obstruction
of justice or perjury either before the special counsel`s investigation or
the grand jury or congressional committees.
They would also promise in this plea agreement that Corsi, if he went
along, prosecutors would support any recommendation to the court that he
receive only a sentence of probation. They`d support a recommendation that
he never had to spend a day in jail. Nevertheless, Corsi now tells NBC
News that he is rejecting this plea offer.
But the fact that we`ve got these draft documents gives us all sorts of new
information about what the special counsel apparently knows, including now,
we`ve got the documented fact from them that after Russian military
intelligence hacked the Democrats during the election to try to help Trump
win, Roger Stone, who is associated with the Trump campaign directed this
guy Jerome Corsi to go to WikiLeaks and find out what they had stolen.
This guy Jerome Corsi dispatched a guy he knew in London to go do that.
Julian Assange, of course, lives in an embassy in London.
About a week after Corsi forwarded this request from Stone that somebody
should go meet with Julian Assange, Corsi, in fact, reported back to Roger
Stone that WikiLeaks had lots of information that was going to be damaging
to Hillary Clinton, and oh, by the way, it will all start to come out in
October, which it did. And the special counsel`s got all that dead to
So, again, this is not a document that has been filed in court as far as we
know. This has just been sent to Jerome Corsi, which is interesting.
We`ll see what happens here. This appears to indicate that the special
counsel`s office has found at least one bright link between the Trump
campaign and what Russia did to mess with the election to benefit Trump.
Congressman Adam Schiff is going to join us in just a moment to talk what
this means and the prospect that this indictment of Jerome Corsi has been
prepared, but it hasn`t been filed in court. Could that conceivably mean
that it`s being blocked by Trump`s new loyalist appointee at the Justice
So we are watching this story develop. Tonight, just within the last hour,
“The Washington Post” reports that the White House is very upset that
President Trump`s name appears in this draft court filing, and they`ve
lodged some sort of protest with the Justice Department about that. Again,
this story continues to develop. Well will have Congressman Adam Schiff,
incoming chair of intelligence here in just a bit to talk that.
And actually, since we got on the air, a little bit more breaking news from
this same story on what Paul Manafort has been telling the Trump White
House. “The New York Times” just within the last – within less than an
hour has just broken the news of what may have led prosecutors to yank Paul
Manafort`s plea agreement. His communications with the White House
apparently going way out of bounds in an effort to help Trump fight this
We`ll have that story for you coming up. Stay with us.
MADDOW: After you have a few days off, you`re a little logy, a little
slow, don`t necessarily have everything firing all at once. So, naturally,
as we`re racing toward show time tonight, all of these gigantic stories
break all at once, including a series of bombshells about the president`s
campaign chairman, Paul Manafort.
Already, we had as of last night the special counsel`s office saying that
Manafort broke his cooperation deal with prosecutors by lying to them after
he pled guilty and agreed to cooperate.
Now, tonight, “The New York Times” reports more of what happened after
Manafort made that cooperation deal with Mueller`s prosecutors, the one
that appears to have gone so badly wrong. I`ll read you the lead here.
This is just posted by “The New York Times.”
Quote: A lawyer for Paul Manafort repeatedly briefed President Trump`s
lawyers on his client`s discussions with federal investigators after Mr.
Manafort agreed to cooperate with the special counsel. That`s according to
one of Mr. Trump`s lawyers and two other people familiar with the
conversations. The arrangement was highly unusual and it inflamed tensions
with Mr. Mueller`s office when prosecutors discovered it after Manafort
began cooperating two months ago.
Quote: Some legal experts speculated that it was a bid by Mr. Manafort for
a presidential pardon, even as he worked with the special counsel in hopes
of a lighter sentence.
So, we started yesterday with the news that, you know, prosecutors say
Manafort broke their plea agreement. He lied to them so they`re rescinding
the deal. Now, we get the news that Paul Manafort while he was supposedly
cooperating with prosecutors at the same time, he was feeding information
to the president about the investigation, including about his discussions
with prosecutors and what prosecutors were asking him about when he was
supposedly cooperating with them.
First off, wow. Secondly, is that legal? Can you do that?
Joining us now is Barbara McQuade, former U.S. attorney from the Eastern
district of Michigan.
Barb, thank you so much for being here. There has been a lot of news on
this subject in the last few days. Thank you for helping us through it.
BARBARA MCQUADE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Oh, you bet.
MADDOW: So, this is described in “The New York Times” as something
unusual. Mr. Manafort had pled guilty. He had a cooperation agreement
with prosecutors. We know from yesterday`s court filing that prosecutor
says he blew it. He lied to them. He committed crimes after this deal by
lying to them. He`s thereby released from the deal and his sentencing
should go ahead.
Now, “The Times” is reporting that while he was supposedly cooperating, he
was secretly feeding information to other people who were actively part of
this investigation, including the president.
Is that also a violation of the plea agreement?
MCQUADE: You know, it`s not technically contemplated by the plea agreement
because I can`t tell you how unusual this is. I don`t know that I have
ever seen this happen. I think this is even potentially an act of
obstruction of justice.
So, if it goes that far, then it would be, because he is prohibited from
engaging in other crimes. But I don`t know that it would be even
contemplated that he would be then feeding information to the other side.
A couple of things that ordinarily prevent this. When someone switches
sides, you refer to it as flipping because you now assume that they are all
in. The agreement says you will cooperate truthfully, fully, completely in
all – and be forthcoming with all information. Some prosecutors refer to
it as joining Team USA.
So the idea that you would be double dealing and sharing information with
other subjects of an investigation is really highly unusual. And the other
thing is to the extent a lawyer was involved in the joint defense agreement
where they`re sharing information, usually, that lawyer says we have to
withdraw once my client decides to cooperate because we recognize that our
interests may diverge. And so, ethically, typically, the lawyer
understands that he needs to be out of that picture as well.
So, incredibly unusual, and I think that it`s quite possible if information
is being fed in either direction that there could be an investigation for
obstruction of justice here.
MADDOW: Are you suggesting the lawyer himself or herself who is involved
in conveying this information to the president and the president`s legal
team, that lawyer could him or herself be in trouble for this?
MCQUADE: I think so. If the lawyer is sharing information that`s
sensitive to the investigation that he`s learning from his client based on
the questions that he`s being asked and then reporting back to people who
are themselves within the scope of the investigation, I think one could
argue that that`s an effort to interfere with the investigation or
similarly if people on the Trump camp are feeding information back and
instructing Manafort not to answer certain questions or to lie about
certain things, I think that could be obstruction as well.
So, you know, certainly, facts would need to be learned about this before
you could make such an allegation, but it is incredibly unusual and I can
understand why Mueller`s team would have been very angry to find out about
this, and to the extent they found out Manafort was lying to them, to sever
MADDOW: Barb, I have an overactive imagination and I read too many spy
novels. So when I read this story tonight, I immediately went to like the
melodramatic explanation for this, which is Paul Manafort faced two trials
– one in Virginia and one in Washington, D.C., and the point at which he
pled guilty was in between those two trials.
So he got creamed in the first trial. He got convicted of multiple
felonies. He was to be start trial in the second jurisdiction. And in the
spy movie, you know, political thriller version of this that runs in my
head instantly, somebody from the White House or the White House directly
comes to Paul Manafort and says, Paul, you put up a good fight. We know
you thought you`d do great here, but you`re getting creamed and you`re
going get killed in court.
So here`s what you do. We know you wanted to be a good soldier and not
flip, and you criticized Rick Gates when he flip and all that, we know
you`re loyal. We know that`s a very important thing for you, but flip. Go
ahead and flip, plea guilty, agree to cooperate.
If you just become our mole, if you just tell us everything that you can
learn from that position, don`t worry about it. We`ll hook you up with a
pardon. You`re already screwed. You`re already convicted. Do this now
and that`s your way out. This is the way that you can prove your worth to
That`s, again, I`m imagining that that`s the way this could have gone in a
very dramatic version of this.
If anything like that happened, would that itself be a criminal conspiracy
of any kind?
MCQUADE: Again, I think it could be. It depends on the facts. The part
that sounds borderline illegal is the part where you said, go in and be our
mole. If the purpose was to gather information about what`s going on in
the investigation and share it back with others who are potential subjects
of the investigation so that they can take steps to ensure that the
investigation does not come to fruition, I think that could amount to
obstruction of justice.
If anything happened what you described, I don`t know that it would be as
overt as that. I don`t know that they need to say things quite so
explicitly. It might have been a musical mutual understanding.
Remember, there was that report that John Dowd had had conversations with
the White House or with Manafort`s lawyers about a potential pardon down
MCQUADE: And so maybe there were discussions that would give them each
enough of an idea about what was happening implicitly without having to
have that explicit conversation.
MADDOW: Barbara McQuade, former U.S. attorney from Michigan, thank you so
much for being with us, Barb. Much appreciated.
MCQUADE: Thanks, Rachel. My pleasure.
MADDOW: All right. Much more to get to. A very busy night. For one
thing, we are waiting results from Mississippi Senate runoff. The
congressman who will soon lead the House Intelligence Committee joins us
Lots to get to. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Last night, I scared the dog when I got the news on my phone that
the Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort had had his plea deal yanked.
Prosecutors and special counsel`s office said he repeatedly lied to them
after he pled guilty and supposedly started cooperating.
I was at home because I had the night off. I was on the couch with the
dog. I sort of – this is what I do in my time off. I sort of idly
checked the court docket, saw the filing. I yelped, scared the dog, like
scared the dog in a way that stuck.
He jumped off the coach. He would not talk to me for the whole rest of the
night until breakfast time this morning.
Then this morning, we woke up to this report from “The Guardian” newspaper
which the dog didn`t care about at all. This report that Paul Manafort met
with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on at least three occasions at the
Ecuadoran embassy in London where Assange lives now, including a meeting in
March 2016 right as Manafort was taking over the Trump campaign.
I should note right now that “The Guardian” is the only outlet that has
this story. NBC News has not confirmed it. Paul Manafort tonight is
strenuously denying it. Julian Assange and WikiLeaks are also denying that
any meetings occurred, for whatever that`s worth.
If it`s true, of course, the implications are explosive, right? Assange is
the one who released the documents stolen by Russian intelligence to help
Trump win the election. If Trump`s campaign chair was meeting with him
right before he did that, that`s really bad, in terms of the Trump campaign
being shown to have colluded with Russia.
That said, as I mentioned, Manafort is strenuously contesting this
reporting from “The Guardian”, saying, quote, this story is totally false
and deliberately libelous. I have never met Julian Assange or anyone
connect with him.
We`re now watching for a couple of different things. First of all,
Mueller`s office says they`re going to release a detailed sentencing that
will set forth the nature of Manafort`s crimes and lies. Who among us is
not interested in seeing something like that, even if it does scare the
We actually called the judge`s chambers in D.C. today to ask when we should
expect to see that document from the special counsel`s office. We asked if
we should expect to see it before or after the judge sets a firm sentencing
date for Manafort, which both sides are now asking her to do.
We didn`t receive a clear answer from the judge`s chambers. They just told
us to keep an eye on the docket, which we always do. But Mueller, clearly,
says that he intends to release this detailed evidence of Manafort`s lies
and crimes in a detailed sentencing filing of some kind.
So, provided that document is going to be public and not filed under seal,
one major question is why is Mueller planning to do that? Should this be
seen as routine for this type of case to the extent there is this type of
case? Or is Mueller choosing this upcoming court filing essentially as a
vehicle to release to the public information about the Russia scandal and
Manafort that might otherwise not see the light of day? If, for example,
it`s otherwise going to be blocked by Trump`s new acting attorney general,
Could that be a factor here? Is Mueller planning on using these court
filings to give the public information about what evidence they have
collected and what happened in that presidential election? Also, why was
NBC News able to obtain these draft court documents from Mueller`s office
tonight showing what appeared to be draft charges and a draft plea
agreement for a Trump campaign hanger on named Jerome Corsi?
I have never seen a draft indictment made public before. Why was this one
made public? And with “The New York Times” just moments ago breaking the
news that Mueller – excuse me, that Manafort may have lost his plea
agreement because prosecutors found out that once he was supposed to be
cooperating with them, he was actually secretly feeding information to the
White House about the special counsel`s office and their investigation and
their lines of inquiry.
With all of these stories now breaking all at once, how much reason is
there to worry here about this very important national security
investigation potentially being messed with? And if it is being messed
with, can the Democrats in Congress do anything about it now, now that
they`re taking over the House?
The soon-to-be chairman of the House Intelligence Committee joins us next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), RANKING MEMBER, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: You
don`t mess around with Bob Mueller. The worst thing you can do when you`re
facing serious felony charges I think is refuse to cooperate, but even
worse than that is agreeing to cooperate and then lying because you`re
going to get caught. You`re going to face all of the punishment and then
And so, this is I think very serious business. You don`t mess around with
the special counsel.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Joining us now is Adam Schiff, who`s the top Democrat on the
Intelligence Committee in the House of Representatives.
Congressman, thank you so much for making time for us tonight. Really
appreciate you being here.
SCHIFF: You bet.
MADDOW: So, “The New York Times” has just reported tonight that Paul
Manafort funneled information to the White House, to the president`s legal
team during the time he was supposed to be cooperating with the special
counsel`s office after he entered into this plea agreement with them.
What`s your reaction to that news? Do you see this as a serious matter?
SCHIFF: It`s a very serious matter, and I think Barbara is exactly right.
It represents an effort to essentially double deal by Paul Manafort to
pretend that he is cooperating with prosecutors but at the same time betray
the government, betray the prosecution by sharing information with the
president`s legal defense team. I wonder whether one of the lies that Paul
Manafort told the Mueller team was that he wasn`t talking, wasn`t sharing
information with the president`s legal team.
But, certainly, I would have to think that the Mueller prosecutors would
feel that as a complete betrayal of a cooperation agreement, and it also
appears to be how Giuliani and others have been obtaining information about
what the special counsel is doing when the special counsel has made such an
effort to keep a tight ship.
I will say this, though, not only it is going to infuriate the special
counsel`s office, but it will also infuriate the judge. I mean, judges
don`t like having defendants that are lying to the government because
they`re also through the government, through that lying to the government,
they`re lying to the court. They`re trying to take advantage of the court.
So I think that Mr. Manafort miscalculated once before when he attempted to
suborn witnesses or tamper with witness, and I think he just committed a
another very serious blunder.
MADDOW: If this turns out to have been not Manafort`s own idea entirely,
if this turns out to have been an effort organized by the White House or
the president`s legal team to try to compromise the investigation, to try
to get inside information from the investigation to advantage their own
legal defense for the president, would you expect that to become a matter
of investigation for your Intelligence Committee or for other committees in
SCHIFF: Absolutely. I mean, the first role I think for the Congress in
all of this is to try to protect the independence of the Justice Department
and the integrity of Bob Mueller`s investigation. That means learning,
finding out, exposing whether there is any interference, any political
interference by the president or his team in any way, shape or form, and if
so, exposing it.
And then there is a whole series of potential consequence. It would add to
a growing body of evidence that the president is involved in trying to
obstruct justice. That might mean the special counsel in his report makes
those findings or recommends prosecution, either, you know, during the
presidency or when the president leaves office. It obviously would be
something the House would have to consider in terms of whether it rose to
the level of a high crime or misdemeanor.
But it also may mean that this is merely information that is going to be
provided to voters so that in 2020, they can decide whether they want a
president who is willing to obstruct justice. But there are a lot of
potential consequences that can flow from it and I think our ultimate
obligation is to expose any interference in this investigation.
MADDOW: You`re also a former prosecutor yourself, sir. NBC News tonight
obtained draft charges and a draft plea agreement that were apparently sent
by the special counsel`s office to Jerome Corsi. Mr. Corsi has chosen to
share those documents with reporters. He`s also said that he has rejected
this proposed plea agreement.
I don`t necessarily believe everything that Mr. Corsi says, but it is
unusual to see these documents. We can`t directly verify them, but they
appear to be work of the special counsel`s office.
I just wanted to get your reaction to that. I feel like it`s very unusual
to see what is in effect a draft indictment, to see any court documents in
any legal proceeding.
SCHIFF: Well, it is. But, you know, what I imagine what would have taken
place here is the special counsel would have presented this packet to Corsi
and his lawyers so that he could be sure, OK, this is what I`m prepared to
plead guilty to, this is what the cooperation agreement will say. This is
what I`m admitting. So, it wouldn`t be unusual to provide that in detail.
It would be very unusual for them to make it public like this.
And it does beg the question why is all of this happening all of a sudden?
Why is it all happening now that Manafort is attempting to double deal?
That Corsi looks like he is attempting to double deal.
Is any of this related to the appointment of Whitaker? Has that changed
the calculus of these witnesses who were willing to cooperate? Do they now
feel that they`re going to get a pardon? And if they do, why do they feel
they are going to get a pardon?
We are obviously going to have to explore all of that. I will say one
other thing that leapt out to me about the statement of offense, and that
is the discussion that Corsi and Roger Stone had after our committee
interviewed Mr. Stone. There is a lot of material that I think needs to be
shared with the special counsel because as more and more of these facts
come to the surface, it looks increasingly likely that witnesses committed
perjury before our committee, and that`s something the special counsel
needs to consider as well.
MADDOW: Yes, and in the plea agreement, one of the things they offer to
not prosecute him for if he pleads guilty to that charge of false
statements is anything related to perjury to a congressional committee,
with Mr. Corsi saying he`s rejecting that agreement, that means he`s
rejecting protection from prosecution for perjuring himself before your
committee and others.
MADDOW: Congressman Adam Schiff, top Democrat on the House Intelligence
Committee, I really appreciate you being here tonight, sir. Thanks. It`s
busy news night.
SCHIFF: Thank you.
MADDOW: All right, thanks.
More ahead. Stay with us.
MADDOW: A little bit of breaking news. This is the Senate`s to do list
today. They made some headway on it, but they did not get to an important
and controversial thing. And this was expected.
They didn`t get to the nomination of Thomas Farr for federal judgeship in
North Carolina. Maybe they`ll get to it tomorrow. Maybe it was just a
scheduling thing, but there might be trouble brewing with this nomination,
because it`s not at all obvious that Thomas Farr is going to have the votes
to get confirmed.
Republican Senator Jeff Flake has said he will not vote to confirm any
judicial nominations until the Senate votes on legislation that would
protect special counsel Robert Mueller. There were reports today that
Republicans might be considering allowing a vote on legislation to protect
Mueller, specifically to get Flake`s vote for these judicial nominees.
But late in the day, the Republican leader in the Senate, Mitch McConnell,
made clear that, no, he`s not going to do that. He`s going to continue to
block any legislation protecting Mueller from coming to the floor even if
it costs Jeff Flake`s vote. So that means for Thomas Farr and all other
judicial nominees, it`s a no vote from Jeff Flake. And Thomas Farr`s case
that means he can`t afford to lose one more Republican senator.
Thomas Farr is exactly the kind of nomination, though, that might
reasonably pose a problem for Republican Senator Tim Scott. Republican
senators mostly stick together like a bag of iron filings near a strong
magnet. But over the summer, Tim Scott sunk a Trump judicial nominee named
Ryan Bounds when it turned out that Bounds had written a bunch of racist
articles when he was in college. Mitch McConnell had to withdraw the
nomination from the Senate floor after Tim Scott found that that Trump
nominee with that kind of problem in his past was just maybe too much.
Well, Senator Scott is not saying what he`s going to do this time with
Thomas Farr, but Thomas Farr has a history on the same issue that is a
bigger deal than articles in a college newspaper. When Thomas Farr was a
campaign counsel for Jesse Helms in 1990, the Helms campaign blasted out
125,000 postcards to black households in North Carolina. The postcards
were scary by design. They warned sternly about how strict the residency
requirements were if you wanted to vote and how voter fraud is punishable
It was a clear attempt to intimidate black voters. Thomas Farr and Jesse
Helms got busted for that. The Justice Department filed a civil complaint
against the Helms campaign in order to settle that lawsuit and an official
from the Helms campaign had to sign a consent decree. The official that
signed that consent decree for the Helms campaign was Thomas Farr. Thomas
Farr then went on to a long prolific career in North Carolina, developing
and implementing some of the most racially-specific voter suppressive
techniques ever seen in this country.
And that guy is now sweating it as he waits to see if he can get the votes
he needs to be confirmed. Maybe the Senate not getting around to Thomas
Farr today was no big deal. Maybe they`ll get to it tomorrow. But there
is a lot of pressure on this Farr nomination and it is tonight looking a
lot wobblier than it did this time yesterday. So watch this space.
That does it for us tonight. We will see you again tomorrow.
Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL”.
Good evening, Lawrence.
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