Bush casket flown from Houston via Air Force One. TRANSCRIPT: 12/3/18, The Rachel Maddow Show
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: And thanks to you at home for joining us this
It has been a remarkable day of solemn pump and circumstance in Washington,
D.C. today, as former President George H.W. Bush is celebrated and honored
in the nation`s capitol. His body today was brought from a funeral home in
Houston, Texas, by motorcade to a Texas Air National Guard Base. There was
a solemn departure ceremony there, before his casket was flown from Texas
to Joint Base Andrews, which is just outside of Washington, D.C.
We just don`t see spectacles like this in U.S. politics very often because
there are not very many circumstances that are treated with this degree of
ceremony in our culture, this degree of ceremony and civic reverence for a
past president. Today that included a full artillery salute as the former
president`s casket arrived at the U.S. capitol. And now, tonight, he will
lay in state under the rotunda of the U.S. Capitol.
Now, this will be overnight tonight and all through tomorrow and then
overnight tomorrow night until Wednesday morning. And on Wednesday
morning, he will be brought from the rotunda to the National Cathedral
whereupon there will be a state funeral to honor him. So, we will have
more on some of those plans coming up later on tonight and over the course
of this hour. But you should know while we were on the air this evening
and through the night tonight, overnight and into tomorrow morning, there
will be members of the public attending and paying their respects as his
casket sits in the rotunda of the U.S. Capitol. Again, updates on that
throughout this hour as we continue to watch that solemn scene.
Late on Friday night, after we finished our show here, there was a
midnight-ish court filing from lawyers representing President Trump`s
former attorney and a long-time former Trump Organization executive,
Michael Cohen. You might have read press reports about this over the
weekend or today. I will just tell you that of all the court filings we
have seen in all of the court cases associated with the Russia
investigation and the special counsel`s investigation, this filing from
midnight on Friday night filed by Michael Cohen`s lawyers arguing for
lenience in his sentencing, this is like the best overlap we have yet seen
in a single document between the circle that`s marked important stuff from
the Mueller investigation and a nearby circle marked really weird stuff
related to the Mueller investigation.
This is a place where important and weird overlapped. This is really
important but really weird document all at the same time. What`s strange
about it is the almost surreal effort by Cohen`s lawyers to portray Cohen
as a saint-like figure who has devoted himself humbly toward helping others
and the less fortunate throughout his life.
I mean, I know that defense lawyers are supposed to do that, but in this
case, this is the guy who told that reporter from “The Daily Beast” what
I`m going to do to you is going to be f`ing disgusting, right? This is
that same guy. But that is just some of the background music for this
filing which does make it a little bit hard to take.
That said, there is a lot of really interesting, and I think important
information in this document. The filing describes Michael Cohen as a more
than willing cooperator with a great number of investigations that are
potentially affecting this president and his administration, including some
investigations, I`m not sure we knew existed before this filing. In this
sentencing memo that Cohen`s lawyers have filed, they spell out that he`s
had seven different interviews with prosecutors from Mueller`s office, from
the special counsel`s office.
He`s had two separate interviews with investigators from the U.S.
attorney`s office in the Southern District of New York. The filing also
says somewhat cryptically that in conjunction with those meetings with
SDNY, Cohen has, quote, responded to questions concerning an ongoing
investigation. We don`t know what that ongoing investigation is in SDNY.
The filing also says that Cohen has met with the New York attorney
general`s office. This is the state attorney general`s office. And again
the filing makes some news here when it says that Cohen has met with the
A.G.`s office in conjunction with a lawsuit that office has brought against
Trump`s charity, against the Trump foundation. That is something that we
knew about, that lawsuit.
But on top of that, he also provided the New York attorney general with
documents concerning a separate open inquiry. What is this separate open
inquiry from the New York A.G.`s office? We do not know.
In addition to that, Michael Cohen has also met and provided cooperation to
– met with and provided cooperation to the New York State Department of
Taxation and Finance. And again, we do not know exactly what that is
about, but Cohen and his lawyers say in this new filing that he`s
cooperated personally and he`s provided information requested by that New
York state agency, which of course is capable of bringing criminal charges.
So, Michael Cohen is helping prosecutors a lot. We knew that. We knew
that Michael Cohen was definitely working with the special counsel`s
office, that he was more than enthusiastic about his cooperation when it
came to matters pertaining to the president, but now we know that Michael
Cohen is helping all these different kinds of prosecutors with all these
different cases, including some that we`ve never seen reference to before
in public documents. So that`s new.
And from the White House perspective, there are also two pieces of
information in the Cohen filing that are potentially quite worrying for the
president and for the White House. First, you`ll remember that what Cohen
pled guilty to last week is lying to Congress – lying to Congress in order
to cover up certain aspects of the Trump Tower Moscow deal that President
Trump and his business were secretly working on through a large portion of
the 2016 presidential campaign.
In this new filing, Cohen and his lawyers now say that the White House and
Trump`s legal counsel knew what he, Michael Cohen, was up to when it came
to his congressional testimony, which he now admits was a lie. Quote, in
the weeks during which his then counsel prepared his written response to
the congressional committees, Michael remained in close and regular contact
with the – with White House based staff and legal counsel to President
So, this doesn`t say explicitly that President Trump or people working in
the White House told Michael Cohen to lie to Congress, but if he was
closely consulting with them about his testimony and then what he submitted
as his written testimony was a bunch of lies to benefit President Trump,
well, honestly, that is not much of a leap. The other thing that is
potentially worrying for the White House here is that when Michael Cohen
admitted last week that he had been in direct contact with the Kremlin
about this real estate deal, that was not only a public correction to lies
that Michael Cohen had previously stated about the Trump Tower Moscow
project, it was also a revelation that this secret real estate deal the
president was working on in Russia and lying about during the campaign, it
did involve direct communications between his business and high-level
Russian government personnel.
In this new filing, Michael Cohen says he, quote, kept client 1 apprised of
these communications. And what that would seem to indicate is that not
only did then candidate Donald Trump keep this Russian business deal secret
throughout the campaign, he was kept apprised of the fact that those secret
business dealings in Russia also included direct contact with the Kremlin
to try to get Trump Tower Moscow built. That`s the implication of what
Michael Cohen has just filed with the court in New York.
And if Trump knew that the Kremlin was directly involved in his pending
secret real estate deal, that`s the sort of thing a presidential candidate
might be expected to mention while he`s in the middle of praising the
Kremlin as a presidential candidate and praising the Russian president
personally. While the Russian president and his office in the Kremlin were
actively working with his business at that moment to try to make him some
But again, this is a filing from Michael Cohen`s lawyers in the Russia
scandal. It`s a little weird, but it`s also potentially important. We`re
expecting to get a filing related to Cohen from the other side, from
prosecutors in the special counsel`s office, and we`re expected to get that
by the end of this week. So we`ve got the filing from Cohen, we`re going
to get the filing from prosecutors related to Cohen. That will happen, we
think, by Friday.
But that`s not all. This is going to be a busy and potentially very, very
interesting week in the news when it comes to the investigation of the
president and his campaign and when it comes to special counsel Robert
Mueller. NBC News has learned tonight that there is going to be a new
public facing document tomorrow from the special counsel`s office in the
case of Mike Flynn, the president`s former national security advisor, who
secretly talked to Russia about sanctions during the transition and then
lied to the FBI about it.
He has pled guilty to lying to the FBI. He`s been cooperating with
prosecutors. I think he has had his sentencing now put off five separate
But Robert Mueller and his prosecutors, they say they are now ready finally
to move ahead with sentencing Mike Flynn. And NBC News reports tonight
that the sentencing document about Flynn that`s expected from Mueller`s
office tomorrow, which will explain what`s been going on with Mike Flynn
for this past year, NBC reports tonight that that will be a public facing
document. It`s possible that pieces of it may be redacted or that exhibits
attached to it might be filed under seal, but at least the main document
related to Flynn explaining his role in this case, that is something that
will be filed tomorrow not under seal.
According to NBC`s reporting tonight, that will be filed in a way that we,
the public, will be able to see it. I am very interested in seeing that
document. But wait, there`s more. Because Michael Isikoff reports at
Yahoo! News tonight that we, the public, are also going to get to see what
Mueller`s office is filing with the court this week about Trump campaign
chairman Paul Manafort.
One of the huge stories in the Russia investigation last week, of course,
was the collapse of the cooperation agreement between Paul Manafort, the
president`s campaign chair, and prosecutors at the special counsel`s
office. When Mueller`s team told the court last week that Manafort had
breached his cooperation agreement, he lied to them, he had committed
additional crimes even after he pled guilty and agreed to cooperate, at the
time they made that announcement to the court, Mueller`s team promised that
they would soon inform the court in writing and in detail about the
specifics of Paul Manafort`s lies and his additional crimes.
Well, Michael Isikoff reports at Yahoo News tonight that that document will
be filed no later than Friday of this week and it too will not be filed
under seal. It will be a public facing document.
Here`s Michael Isikoff reporting tonight at Yahoo News. Quote: There has
been much speculation that Mueller might file his memo in Manafort`s case
under seal in order to prevent public disclosure of the additional crimes
his office believes Manafort committed when he allegedly lied to
prosecutors and broke a plea deal after agreeing to cooperate. But Peter
Carr, spokesman for the special counsel, confirmed to Yahoo News today that
the Manafort memo, quote, will be public, although he added there could be
some portions that are redacted or filed as a sealed addendum.
I have to tell you, part of the Isikoff scoop here is that he actually got
the spokesman for the special counsel`s office to say a word, to make a
comment of any kind. Peter Carr is the spokesman for Robert Mueller`s
office. I`m sure he is a very highfaluting person with very high level
skills. But right now, from the outside observer`s perspective, Peter Carr
has the easiest job on earth. His job is to sit silently while wearing a
sign draped loosey around his face, which covers his mouth and the sign
says, no comment in calligraphy. That`s all he does, no comment on
But in this case, he actually told Isikoff a thing. I can hear the angels
Again, Peter Carr telling Isikoff that the Mueller filing, long-awaited
Mueller filing will be public facing. And Isikoff actually also has an
additional scoop in the same piece tonight. He says that Mueller`s office
met today with congressional investigators in the latest – in what has
been an ongoing series of discussions that loosely fall under the heading
I mean, technically, congressional investigations and the investigation
lead by the special counsel`s office, they`re separate matters and they can
proceed totally independent of one another. In reality, congressional
investigators often, not always, but often, they want to take care to make
sure they`re not doing anything that`s going to mess with Mueller, that`s
going to mess with this active criminal counterintelligence investigation
that`s being run by Mueller`s team. I mean, I say it`s often but not
Sometimes, House Republicans in particular have enjoyed messing with that
investigation as much as they possibly can. But the norm is that they
should try not to. And when they`re trying not to interfere with that
ongoing investigation, they have these deconfliction discussions to say,
hey, you know, if we go after these witnesses, if we pursue these
particularly lines of inquiry and these types of evidence and testimony,
will we be screwing up what you are doing at the Justice Department?
So they have these discussions, and they have been happening in an ongoing
way. What Michael Isikoff reports tonight at Yahoo News is that one
congressional investigator was, quote, surprised to learn at this meeting
with Mueller`s office today that Mueller is no longer worried about
anything congressional committees might pursue or turn up. Quote, Mueller
today talked to congressional investigators as part of an ongoing
discussion about whether new subpoenas for testimony by House and Senate
committees might interfere with Mueller`s investigation. The response,
which surprised one investigator, was that it would not, at least in
matters relating to alleged obstruction by the White House in the Russia
All right. Now, this is a single source speaking to reporter Michael
Isikoff, but Michael Isikoff is a careful and excellent investigative
reporter. He`s one of the best investigative reporters this country has
ever produced. And so, I fully believe that there is a reason he put this
single source attribution comment in his piece.
And if what Michael Isikoff is reporting here is correct, this is a big
freak deal, right? This is intriguing. According to this new reporting
from Isikoff, there`s nothing any congressional committee might do on the
issue of obstruction of justice that might get in the way of what Mueller
is doing now. Because Mueller is done with everything he might want to do
related to obstruction of justice? Or Mueller isn`t pursuing anything on
obstruction of justice? I mean that`s – you know, woe if true as they
say. That`s remarkable. In this case there`s a lot of potential
obstruction of justice.
And you will remember that in the impeachment articles against both
President Bill Clinton and President Richard Nixon, obstruction of justice
was front and center in terms of what presidents were held accountable for
when charged with high crimes and misdemeanor. So, this is very intriguing
reporting tonight from both NBC News and Michael Isikoff, which raises a
lot of interesting questions as to what`s going on with this investigation
into the president. But it also means you`re definitely going to have a
very busy week in the news.
There`s a lot of these documents that are going to be filed, some of which
look like they`re going to be red hot and seriously informative in terms of
what`s going on with the special counsel`s investigation right now. We had
thought heading into this week, knowing that all of these court filing
deadlines were coming up that maybe all those documents or some of those
documents would be filed under seal. It seems like at least the bulk of
them are going to be public facing. So, it`s going to be a big week. Eat
But one of the things we want to highlight tonight on the show, just to let
you know this is coming, is another legal matter but it is a totally
unrelated, totally separate legal matter. This one is going to start to
unfold in a courtroom tomorrow in Florida. For all the federal court drama
that we have followed with the Trump administration scandals, right,
Russia-related and otherwise, one of the challenges for us in reporting on
these legal dramas on TV is that all of this stuff has been happening in
federal court. And there`s no cameras in federal court.
So, we get occasionally an audio recording of an oral argument. When we`re
lucky we get courtroom transcripts of what happens in the court, right?
And poor you have to sit through me reading them out loud and being a bad
actor with the transcripts.
But there`s no cameras in court. And so, conveying the court drama is not
a reporting challenge, but it means you have to do it in a specific way.
What is about to start unfolding tomorrow in a state court in Florida,
though, is a case in which there will be cameras in court. I think that`s
going to end up being very important, because this is a case that is and
probably should be an absolute nightmare for the Trump administration, and
in particular, for one Trump cabinet secretary. That case starts tomorrow
and we`ve got that story, next.
MADDOW: Alex Acosta is a cabinet secretary in the Trump administration.
He`s not the most famous Trump administration official by any stretch of
the imagination. But he`s an important one.
Alex Acosta, secretary of labor. He became secretary of labor in the Trump
administration under sort of unusual circumstances. Trump was sworn in on
January 20th of last year. You`ll recall that only about three weeks later
on February 14th, national security advisor Mike Flynn resigned in what was
a huge scandal at the time and actually a pretty big mystery at the time.
We`re still experiencing the repercussions of that scandal around Mike
Flynn and the circumstances of his resignation and what ultimately became
his guilty felony plea and his cooperation deal with prosecutors. As I
mentioned a few moments ago, we are expecting a considerable leap in the
drama on the Mike Flynn case. In fact tomorrow, when we`re expecting a
sentencing memo from the special counsel`s office related to Mike Flynn.
But back in February of last year when the dust was still rising from the
shock Mike Flynn resignation and everybody trying to figure out how serious
this was and what it meant, in the midst of that fury, the day after the
Flynn resignation on February 15th last year, a man named Andy Puzder took
advantage of a fortunate news environment and quietly withdrew his name
from consideration to be secretary of labor. He had been Trump`s first
He didn`t get the job because, among other things, Puzder faced serious
allegations of physical abuse by his ex-wife. That led to this surreal
paragraph in “The New York Times” story reporting that he was pulling his
name and Trump would need a new nominee for labor secretary. Quote:
Records from Puzder`s 1988 divorce resurfaced, spousal abuse accusations,
that made some Republican senators uncomfortable. Puzder`s ex-wife had
recanted those accusations, but senators from both parties privately
screened a videotape from the Oprah Winfrey show which featured her laying
out the charges while in disguise.
So, the day after Flynn resigns, Puzder quietly pulls his name from
consideration. Soon after the Trump administration announces they`ve got a
new candidate. Instead of Andy Puzder, they`re going pick this guy Alex
Acosta to be labor secretary.
Alex Acosta had been a U.S. attorney in Miami. He was appointed to that
job by President George W. Bush. I will say as an aside, it was totally
seen as like an inside baseball who cares kind of scandal during the George
W. Bush administration.
But you know what? The chickens come home to roost. With Matthew Whitaker
now as acting attorney general, who George Bush – George W. Bush appointed
to be U.S. attorney in Iowa, despite everything about Matthew Whitaker.
And now with Alex Acosta, who was also appointed by George W. Bush to be a
U.S. attorney, in his case in Miami and now with what Alex Acosta has
gotten himself into, there is a reason why the George W. Bush unqualified
political hack U.S. attorney scandal was a gigantic scandal at the time.
The public never cared all that much about it, but what George W. Bush did
with U.S. attorney appointments is still coming home to roost even today,
because those jobs tend to be stepping stones to bigger jobs. And when you
put people in those jobs, who should never be in those kind of jobs, when
they use them as stepping stones to higher office, in higher office,
sometimes the explosions are bigger and worse and more traumatic than if
they had been weed out by a real vetting process that was supposed to pick
qualified people who had the important character and background for an
important job like federal prosecutor. I digress.
During Alex Acosta`s tenure as U.S. attorney in South Florida, after he was
appointed by George W. Bush, he became famous in that job for his
absolutely scandalous role in one very high profile, very horrific case –
the most high profile child rape case in modern American history. It
involves a very, very, very rich man named Jeffrey Epstein. Epstein ended
up being a very special kind of defendant in this case. Not just because
of the nature of his crimes and not just because of his huge fortune but
because of the powerful and high profile figures he surrounded himself
with, both at the time of his alleged crimes and also when it came to
putting together a defense team to get him off the hook.
He`s associated with some of the highest profile lawyers in the country,
people like Ken Starr and Alan Dershowitz, and Jay Lefkowitz. He counted
among his friends people including the current President Donald Trump, and
the former president, Bill Clinton, a member of the British royal family,
But in 2005, this very powerful, very well-connected gazillionaire, in
2005, Palm Beach police opened an investigation into him because a 15-year-
old girl told her parents that she had been sexually assaulted by him in
his home in Palm Beach. This is a guy in his 50s. She`s 15.
The parents brought the case to the attention of the local police and the
local police opened a police investigation. Ultimately, the local police
ended up handing over what they found in their investigation to the FBI.
They turned over evidence that they collected about Epstein allegedly
running what appeared to be an epic criminal operation to molest and rape
very large numbers of underage girls.
So, the initial investigation is conducted by the police in Palm Beach,
Florida. They refer it to the FBI. The FBI ends up identifying dozens of
underage girls as Epstein`s alleged victims. FBI documents that were just
recently unsealed show that the FBI investigation ended up going far beyond
South Florida, to look into more allegations of rape and molestation in New
York and New Mexico and across the country.
Several days ago, “The Miami Herald” published a staggering report in which
they compiled all of the known and investigatory documents about this case.
In the process, they found even more of Jeffrey Epstein`s alleged victims.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We were underage. We were little girls.
MICHELLE LICATA, 30, VICTIM: I was 16.
VIRGINIA ROBERTSON, 35, VICTIM: I was 16.
COURTNEY WILD, 31, VICTIM: I started going to him when I was 14, 15 – 14
JENA-LISA JONES, 30, VICTIM: If you think at 14, $200, that`s a lot of
money at 14 years old. I mean, that`s a lot of money now.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She was like, oh, you know, do you need to make any
extra money? I`m like yes. She`s like, OK, I can give you $200 with this
older guy in Palm Beach. He gets a lot of massages from girls.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: On June 30th, 2008, Jeffrey Epstein, a Palm Beach
multimillionaire hedge fund manager, received what might have been the most
lenient plea deal for a serial sex offender in U.S. history. “The Miami
Herald” identified over 60 of his victims, just young middle and high
school schools at the time of the abuse. More than a decade later, several
of them are talking for the first time about how they were molested by
Epstein and believe they were betrayed by the very prosecutors who were
supposed to hold Epstein accountable.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: This is remarkable new reporting from Julie K. Brown, who`s a
reporter at “The Miami Herald.” And when “The Herald” says there in that
video that they prepared to accompany this print reporting, when they say
the victims believe they were betrayed by the prosecutors in the Epstein
case, who they`re talking about there at the end of the line is Alex
Acosta, who was the U.S. attorney in Miami at the time. He is now in
And the betrayal here is about the deal that Jeffrey Epstein got from Alex
Acosta. Once police and the FBI got on to his case about what he was doing
with these dozens, maybe hundreds of underage girls, those investigations
into Jeffrey Epstein ultimately led to a 53-page draft federal indictment
that was prepared against him. The federal charges he would have been
facing in that indictment would have accused him of an interstate commerce
conspiracy – interstate commerce makes it federal, right? – to recruit
underage girls for sex.
And those charges had the potential to put Jeffrey Epstein in federal
prison for the rest of his life. But that is nowhere near what happened to
Jeffrey Epstein. Instead, Alex Acosta, who`s the top federal prosecutor in
Southern Florida, the U.S. attorney in Miami, he struck a deal with
Epstein`s attorneys. The deal was a non-prosecution agreement in which
Jeffrey Epstein would receive immunity from all federal criminal charges.
That immunity would also extend to any potential co-conspirators in terms
of any other people who were involved in this child molestation and child
rape scheme. Again, remember, dozens if not hundreds of victims. That
deal between Alex Acosta and Jeffrey Epstein shut down the ongoing FBI
investigation because Acosta offered him immunity from all federal crimes.
Remember, at that point that FBI investigation was active across the
country, was busily identifying more victims, looking into the question of
whether there were potentially more abusers beyond just Epstein himself.
But then this non-prosecution agreement was arrived at between Alex Acosta
and Epstein`s lawyers. And when they did it, there was no notification to
The FBI had identified three dozen victims. Alex Acosta`s deal was never
presented to them. None of the victims knew that Acosta was shutting down
the entire federal investigation into Jeffrey Epstein. The non-prosecution
agreement was kept sealed until after it was approved and done.
Ultimately, Jeffrey Epstein, as part of the deal, agreed to plead to two
state level prostitution charges. I guess they thought it mattered that he
paid the girls. And he served 13 months in a county jail. But even that
was set up special for him.
According to “The Miami Herald” this week, quote, unlike other convicted
sex offenders, Jeffrey Epstein didn`t face the rough justice that child sex
offenders do in Florida state prisons. Instead of being sent to state
prison, Epstein was housed in a private wing of the Palm Beach County jail.
Rather than having him sit in a cell most of the day, the Palm Beach County
sheriff`s office allowed Jeffrey Epstein work release privileges, which
enabled him to leave the jail six days a week for 12 hours a day to go to a
comfortable office that Epstein set up for himself in West Palm Beach.
This was granted despite explicit sheriff`s department rules stating that
sex offenders don`t qualify at all for work release.
Alex Acosta was the federal prosecutor who approved that deal for Jeffrey
Epstein. Donald Trump then nominated Alex Acosta to his cabinet. And this
issue did come up with Acosta`s confirmation hearing. Senators Dianne
Feinstein of California and Tim Kaine of Virginia and others, they pressed
him on it, but he was approved anyway. It`s a Republican-led Senate.
And there is ongoing legal wrangling in this case. In particular, there`s
a very interesting case that`s pending in the courts right now in which two
of Epstein`s alleged victims are suing. They`re saying that Acosta making
that deal with Epstein was actually illegal because of something called the
Crime Victims Rights Act. The Crime Victims Rights Act gives victims the
right to have notice of court proceedings involving their crime. In this
case, the victims were not allowed to know.
Crime Victims Rights Act is also supposed to guarantee the victims the
opportunity to appear at sentencing. They were not allowed to appear at
his sentencing because they didn`t know about it. They didn`t know the
federal case was shutting down, right? Again, that case is still pending.
But there is another case that relates to this tragedy and this – I could
call it a lot of things. There`s another case that`s about to cause some
waves. This other case derives from a legal fight between Jeffrey Epstein
and a former state prosecutor who ended up representing some of Jeffrey
Epstein`s alleged victims. There have been lawsuits that have flown both
ways, between Epstein and this former state prosecutor who now represents
some of the victims.
But in the latest iteration of that fight, starting tomorrow in circuit
court, state court in Palm Beach County, Florida, court proceedings are
going to begin. The thing to know here is that for the first time ever,
multiple alleged victims of Jeffrey Epstein will finally for the first time
be allowed to have their day in court. They will finally be allowed to
speak to what they went through.
And again, that trial starts tomorrow. Already in advance of that
proceeding, which will be televised, several Democratic members of Congress
are calling for an inspector general investigation at the Justice
Department into the terms of the deal that Alex Acosta gave Jeffrey Epstein
when Acosta was the U.S. attorney in that case. But you should also know,
of course, that those Democratic members of Congress are members of the
incoming majority in the House of Representatives which means they
themselves will be able to pursue this if they so choose once the new
Congress is sworn in next month.
But again, these court proceedings in Florida tomorrow will be televised
and Alex Acosta is not the most famous member of Trump`s cabinet today.
Tomorrow that may be different.
More ahead. Stay with us.
MADDOW: “The Miami Herald” deserves congratulations for its fairly epic
new reporting on Trump`s labor secretary, Alex Acosta, and specifically on
the deal that he struck when he was a U.S. attorney with a very rich, very
well-connected, very prolific serial sex offender. Despite local police
uncovering allegations of straight-up child rape and the FBI identifying
dozens of victims, Alex Acosta struck a no prosecution agreement in the
Jeffrey Epstein case in Florida. He struck a deal with Epstein that made
Epstein immune from prosecution for federal crimes.
A law professor who studies cases like this compared the arrangement to the
efforts by the Catholic Church to protect abusive priests. Professor Marci
Hamilton told “The Miami Herald” for this expose this week, quote: The real
crime with the Catholic priests was the way they covered it up and shielded
the priests. The orchestration of power by men is only protected as long
as everybody agrees to keep it secret. This is a story the world needs to
Joining us now is Professor Marci Hamilton of the University of
Pennsylvania. She`s a leading advocate for reforming the laws around sex
crimes involving children.
Professor Hamilton, thank you so much for being here. I really appreciate
you coming up.
MARCI HAMILTON, UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA LAW PROFESSOR, EXPERT ON SEXUAL
ABUSE CRIMES: Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: First of all, I have to say, I don`t cover cases like this very
often, just because we don`t do a lot of crime reporting. In this case,
this ends up being a crime story of national significance because it does
involve a cabinet secretary among other things, also because of the nature
of Epstein`s alleged crimes.
Because of that, I just want to ask you if there`s anything that I
explained about the story thus far that seemed wrong or that struck you as
sort of not the right way to look at it?
EPSTEIN: No, I think it was exactly the way to look at it, because
basically, this failure to protect children is a political problem across
the culture. It`s just looking like it`s one story now in the Trump
MADDOW: “The Miami Herald” as part of their reporting, again, it`s just a
remarkable expose, they are describing e-mails that show Jeffrey Epstein,
his legal team, and Alex Acosta, who was then the U.S. attorney,
coordinating their efforts specifically to keep this no prosecution deal
for Epstein, to keep it a secret not only from the press but from the
Can you talk a little bit about the significance of that?
HAMILTON: This is outrageous that the victims themselves were not even
part of the negotiation process. The arrogance of both Epstein and Acosta
in this situation is overwhelming. These women were sexually abused as
children, one after the other, dozens of them. Acosta knew there were
dozens of them.
MADDOW: The FBI named dozens of them.
HAMILTON: Right. And still – and what the FBI knew for certain is if
there were dozens, there were probably hundreds. And so, the fact that
they were able to then ignore that and go forward with some kind of deal
among businessmen that we`re going to protect all these powerful men is
exactly what`s wrong with our society. This is why children get abused.
MADDOW: In terms of the alleged – so we`ve got the evidence of alleged
victims, which the FBI was continuing to work on. They had three dozen in
the prepared documents that we know about. We know they were continuing to
investigate. We believe that what they were also continuing to investigate
was potential co-conspirators, whether there were other people involved in
either enabling the scheme for Epstein`s benefit or whether there were
other men who are involved in similar kinds of abuse.
Part of the deal that Acosta made offered immunity from federal prosecution
in conjunction with these crimes to Epstein and also to any of his
MADDOW: That strikes me as bananas. I mean, I`m not a lawyer, but I read
a lot of legal – I mean, his potential co-conspirators are also immunized?
HAMILTON: This is powerful men making sure that each of them protects
their reputation. Regardless of who`s hurt, regardless of the dozens of
children that had been sexually abused, they all knew the score. They knew
he was doing it. They knew he was doing it in many locations, and they
knew there were other men involved, there was no question about that.
And they still quashed it. Why? Because it`s about powerful men in
powerful positions. It is literally no different from the Catholic Church
scandal. It`s just not clergy.
MADDOW: Should the Crime Victims Rights Act or any other federal
legislation that`s designed to address problems like this in the process,
should this have been prevented by something like that?
HAMILTON: Well, this should have been prevented by just normal human
MADDOW: Fair enough. Granted.
HAMILTON: The Victims Right Act should have prevented them from going to a
deal without telling these women. If they had been told, you can be
certain that at least some of them would have had lawyers that came into
the system and said have you lost your mind?
HAMILTON: This is not right. But instead it all went under the radar. He
was incarcerated on a work release program under the radar. This is a
classic example of how our culture makes children and women`s problems
irrelevant while protecting men.
MADDOW: Tomorrow, several of Epstein`s victims are expected to take the
stand in this case in Palm Beach County. The way you`re describing this
makes me feel more strongly that this may be a very important tipping point
just hearing those women speak for themselves.
HAMILTON: I think it`s important for this story. I think it`s also
important for all the victims in the United States to know their voice
matters and this is going to tell them that again.
MADDOW: And even if you don`t get accountability, up front you may –
MADDOW: – end up getting it down the road.
Marci Hamilton is the professor of the University of Pennsylvania. She`s
the founder and CEO of Child USA. Thank you so much for coming in.
HAMILTON: Thank you. Appreciate it.
MADDOW: Much more to get to tonight. Stay with us.
MADDOW: In Wisconsin, Democrats did really, really well in the midterm
elections. Democrats won all the big statewide races. They didn`t just
win the U.S. Senate race in Wisconsin. They won all of the states, though.
Secretary of state, state treasurer, attorney general. Top of the ticket,
Democrat Tony Evers won as well. He beat two-term Republican Governor
Along the way, Wisconsin Democrats won a majority of votes for the state
assembly, state legislature. They won by a margin of eight points. But
that`s what the Wisconsin Democrats had snagged, because of the way
Republicans in Wisconsin have gerrymandered the districts in the state,
even though the Democrats got more votes in assembly, they got a ton more.
They won by eight points in terms of votes for assembly states. But still,
Republicans won most of the seats.
Look at that. Republicans got 45 percent of state assembly, that earned 64
percent of the seats. Nice work if you can get it. That means come
January, instead of Democrats having complete control of Wisconsin state
government, the Republicans will still control the state legislature. But
a Democrat will now serve as governor.
And so, now, in the brief span between the election and the time this
Democrat is about to take over as governor, Wisconsin Republicans are doing
everything they can think of to take away power from the governorship, from
the incoming Democratic administration. And Wisconsin Republicans are
doing this openly and with haste. They want to make the new attorney
general report to them instead of reporting to the Democratic governor.
They want to make it harder for the Democratic governor to issue rules,
also having learned their election from the last election – excuse me,
having learned their lesson from the last election, Wisconsin Republicans
want to dial back early voting. That was a problem. A lot of people
They also want to move important elections to unexpected times that might
result in lower turnout, but also cost the state nearly $7 million extra to
implement. No expense spared.
Wisconsin Republicans are using this lame duck session to all of a sudden
do everything they can at any cost to strip power from the Democrats who
just beat them really badly in the elections in November. They`re trying
to make sure that Democrats don`t gain any more ground and don`t have any
power that the Republicans can keep them from having to use.
This is the new Republican playbook in the states. It`s playing out right
now in Wisconsin and a hearing that has continued into the night tonight at
the Wisconsin state capitol. We`re going to have a live report in just a
moment. Stay with us.
MADDOW: This was the scene in the capitol of Wisconsin today when on short
notice protesters started to convene chanting “protect our vote, protect
our vote.” Outside the chambers of the state legislator. That`s because
after Democrats beat Republicans pretty much across the board in Wisconsin
elections a few weeks ago, today, Republicans in the state legislator held
an hours long hearing to strip power from the incoming Democratic governor
and Democratic administration.
Joining us now is Jon Erpenbach, Wisconsin state senator.
Senator Erpenbach, it is nice to see you again. Thank you very much for
being with us tonight.
JON ERPENBACH (D), WISCONSIN STATE SENATOR: Good to see you, too.
MADDOW: So, what`s the latest? I know you just left the state capitol so
you could join us on the program tonight. I don`t want to keep you long,
but I also want to know what`s going on there.
ERPENBACH: Well, we still have our committee hearing going on, and we`re
hearing public testimony right now. And pretty much everybody that`s
showing up is obviously opposed to the legislation that we`re taking a look
at tonight. And at some point tonight, we`re not sure when it`s going to
be, we`ll have a vote in the committee and then at some point tomorrow,
we`ll head to the Senate floor and have another vote. So, we`ll see what
happens. A lot coming up.
MADDOW: All of these measures as far as I can tell are things that the
Republicans in the state legislator never considered, never thought about,
never introduced, never worked on until the Democratic sweep in last
MADDOW: Were any of these things on the table before the Democrats did so
well in these elections and Republicans realized they were going to have a
new Democratic administration to deal with?
ERPENBACH: No, not at all and that`s because Scott Walker was governor for
the past eight years so they never talked about this stuff. So, as a
result, we have the people of Wisconsin vote to elect Tony Evers and
elections have consequences and we all know that. And we`re not
necessarily seeing a palace coup here, but we`re certainly seeing a fit.
And what the leadership on the Republican side in the legislature, but the
Senate and assembly, what they`re trying to do right now is not only
consolidate power but actually take power away not only from the incoming
governor, Tony Evers, but our incoming attorney general, Democrat Josh
And it`s really frustrating, because again, what people in Wisconsin wanted
is they wanted balance. That`s why Democrats won at the top of the ticket.
So, now, we have a Democratic governor and a Republican legislature, and
the idea is we`re supposed to work together, but the Republicans apparently
didn`t get that message.
MADDOW: Senator, do you think it`s possible anything they`re doing here is
illegal? I mean, the reason this is national story tonight is not just
because Wisconsin is part of the United States and we love Wisconsin and
your government. It`s because this is striking thing, to see a party
losing its full grip on power and using its remaining power to essentially
strip the ability of the other party to govern in the way that they were
able to govern. It seems like a fundamentally un-democratic thing.
Are there legal questions here, too?
ERPENBACH: There are legal questions and according to lawyers that we have
checked with, a lot of this probably will be challenged in court. Some of
them probably will be found unconstitutional. But then it gets back to the
idea of you have a governor who`s a Democrat who was elected on a statewide
ballot by over a million people. And you have a state representative and a
state senator who lead the assembly in a Senate elected by less than 60,000
So, as a result they`re trying to grab as much power as they possibly can,
which will make it more difficult for incoming Governor Evers who
campaigned on, by the way, let`s work across the aisle, let`s all work
together and let`s move Wisconsin forward. They`re going to make it more
hard for them to do it. But in the end, I still think he`s going to try
and find a way to work with the other side of the aisle to get some stuff
MADDOW: Jon Erpenbach, Wisconsin state senator who has stepped away from
this ongoing debate tonight to give us an update. Senator, I really
appreciate it. I know you got to get back to work. Thanks for being with
ERPENBACH: All right. Good to see you.
MADDOW: Good to see you, too.
It`ll be an interesting question whether Scott Walker signs these bills
when it comes to his desk, right? That will be Scott Walker saying, oh,
all of these powers that I`ve enjoyed as governor, my Democratic successor
definitely shouldn`t have those, and then he`s going to try to run for
president again, right, saying that`s his legacy in Wisconsin, stripping
power from his successor because his successor is a Democrat. Really?
Watch this space. We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: I leave you tonight with three impending things to watch for.
Georgia`s secretary of state runoff election is tomorrow. Secretary of
state runs elections. You know how well Georgia elections went this year.
Runoff for secretary of state in Georgia tomorrow.
Also tomorrow we`re expecting a very interesting sentencing memo in the
case of Mike Flynn, Trump`s first national security advisor. That will
come from Robert Mueller`s office tomorrow. That`s a court deadline and so
they won`t miss it.
And number three, over the past couple of months I have come to know our
former Vice President Spiro Agnew very well in my first ever and probably
only ever podcast series which is called “Bag Man”. Tonight, right now,
the final episode has just posted. Episode seven of seven, the final
installment of this little mini series, it is live right now,
MSNBC.com/bagman. All seven episodes are there for free. It almost killed
That does it for us tonight. We`ll see you again tomorrow.
Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL”.
Good evening, Lawrence.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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Copyright 2018 ASC Services II Media, LLC. All materials herein are
protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced,
distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the
prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter
or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the