Bush casket flown from Houston via Air Force One. TRANSCRIPT: 12/3/18, The Rachel Maddow Show

Guests:
Marci Hamilton, Jon Erpenbach
Transcript:

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST:  And thanks to you at home for joining us this

hour.

 

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

Trump. 

 

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

money. 

 

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

times. 

 

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

everything. 

 

But in this case, he actually told Isikoff a thing.  I can hear the angels

singing.  Wow! 

 

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

of deconfliction. 

 

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

always. 

 

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

investigation itself. 

 

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

your Wheaties. 

 

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.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

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

pick. 

 

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,

Prince Andrew. 

 

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

turning 15. 

 

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

Trump`s cabinet. 

 

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 victims. 

 

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.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

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

hear. 

 

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

administration. 

 

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

victims. 

 

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

potential co-conspirators. 

 

HAMILTON:  Right. 

 

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

decency. 

 

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? 

 

MADDOW:  Yes.

 

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 –

 

HAMILTON:  Eventually. 

 

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. 

Appreciate it.

 

HAMILTON:  Thank you.  Appreciate it. 

 

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

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

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

Scott Walker.

 

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

voted. 

 

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. 

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

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

month`s elections. 

 

ERPENBACH:  Right.

 

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

Kaul. 

 

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

people. 

 

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

done.

 

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

us. 

 

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.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

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

me. 

 

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

 

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

 

Good evening, Lawrence. 

 

                                                                                                               

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