Body of President George H. W. Bush flown to Texas. TRANSCRIPT: 12/5/18, The Rachel Maddow Show

Guests:
Adam Schiff, Alex Isenstadt
Transcript:

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST:  That is ALL IN for this evening, a show I should

also mention, fueled tacos.

 

The great Rachel Maddow, “THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW” starts right now.

 

Good evening, Rachel.

 

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST:  Literally the least I could do.

 

HAYES:  Thank you. 

 

MADDOW:  It was – you guys deserved it.  Seeing you handle that filing

last night coming in in the middle of your hour, and everybody being like,

Chris, how come you don`t understand it instantly right now for anybody`s

had a chance to read it.

 

HAYES:  Reading it.

 

MADDOW:  You were really good.  Tacos well-deserved.

 

HAYES:  Thank you.

 

MADDOW:  All right.  Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.  I`ll

send you guys to you guys tacos at home if you ever have to do what Chris

Hayes had to do last night live on the air with no commercials when that

Flynn filing came out and he had to make sense of it instantly.  It was

such a blessing to me that I had that little bit of extra time while Chris

had to deal with it live.

 

Anyway, that`s how we pay each other here at 30 Rock.  We pay in trays of

tacos.

 

All right.  So there`s lots of gets you tonight.  This was an unexpectedly

new – unexpectedly busy news day, and I realized that I often say that it

was a very, very busy news day today.  The reason that was unexpected today

is because today was a different kind of day than we ever have in this

country and we knew in advance it was going to be like that. 

 

Today was a solemn day in the nation`s capitol, right?  All federal office

is closed.  Federal courthouse is closed.  Postal service was shut down

today.  Financial markets were all shut down today.

 

Today was a national day of mourning and we do not have very many of those

as a country.  Former president, former vice president, former CIA

director, World War II decorated pilot George Herbert Walker Bush had his

state funeral today in Washington.  The former president was eulogized by

among others his eldest son and namesake who, of course, succeeded him as

president. 

 

After lying in state in the capitol rotunda yesterday and overnight and

after today`s state funeral, this evening, the former president`s body has

been flown back to Texas.  He now lies in repose at St. Martin`s Episcopal

Church in Houston.  And once again tonight, it will be an overnight vigil

for him.  The public viewing at St. Martin`s Episcopal Church will go

through the overnight hours tonight it will end tomorrow at 6:00 a.m. local

time.

 

Today`s funeral for the former president in Washington was an official

state funeral but tomorrow will be his private funeral in Texas.  That

said, private does not mean small.  Apparently, there`s something like

1,200 invited guests for the private funeral tomorrow who will be there to

pay their respects in Houston.  That funeral in Houston will take place at

the same church where the former president lies in repose tonight, St.

Martin`s Episcopal.

 

And then after tomorrow`s private funeral at that church at 10:00 a.m.

local time, 11:00 a.m. Eastern, that`s the ceremony that we expect to take

about one hour.  Afterwards, the former president`s body will be

transported again this time by train to College Station, Texas, because

tomorrow afternoon he will be buried there on the grounds of his

presidential library at the campus of Texas A&M. 

 

So, there`s a private Bush family plot there well he where he will be

buried alongside his wife Barbara and alongside their daughter Robin who

died as an infant.  So, the nation`s business formally came to a halt today

to honor the late president.  But tomorrow with the private funeral and his

burial, tomorrow will be another somber day of remembrance as well. 

 

And as I say, today`s national day of mourning is a rare thing.  We just do

not stop like this as a country very often.  But despite this dramatic and

poignant pause to remember the late president, the news itself did not come

to a halt today.  I honestly expected today to be a very slow news day.  It

did not turn out to be one and some of that is happening outside

Washington.  Some of it is happening in federal and national news though.

 

We`ll start in Wisconsin – actually in Wisconsin and in North Carolina,

where there are two big stories that continue to unfold that sort of put

shivers down the proverbial spine of small-D democracy.  We`re going to

have more ahead tonight from Wisconsin on efforts by Republicans in that

state to cut the powers and the authorities of the governor and other

statewide elected officials, specifically because those positions were just

won by Democrats in the midterm elections.

 

This was seen as an act of unprecedented partisan radicalism when North

Carolina Republicans pulled the same stunt a couple of years ago.  But

apparently, they were writing a new playbook for what Republicans will now

do whenever they lose elections anywhere in the country.  We`re seeing it

in Wisconsin.  We`re seeing it in Michigan.  We`re seeing it now in other

states.  So, we will have more on that story ahead tonight this hour.

 

There`s also the increasingly insane controversy over what really does look

like a blatantly, even cinematically criminal scheme to really truly rigged

the election in North Carolina`s ninth congressional district on behalf of

the Republican candidate in that election, Mark Harris.  The scheme now

appears to be unraveling in public, subpoenas are flying.  The state and

the counties involved has started to produce all the original documentation

that really lays bare what seems to have happened here.  There now appears

to be you zero chance that the results of that congressional election will

be certified.

 

But, you know, ultimately, it is up to the House of Representatives itself. 

It`s up to Congress itself to decide whether and when to seat new members

of Congress when there`s a problem with an election or when there`s some

other major dispute as to whether or not a person actually belongs in the

Congress or not.  And in theory, Republicans are supposedly very fired up

about the grave threat of election fraud in this country, right?  I mean,

that`s the boogeyman they trot out to justify all their policy preferences

for making voting harder, for restricting access to voting in ways that

particularly target likely Democratic voters, especially racial minorities

and people who are poor or college students or immigrants.

 

But on this one, this thing in North Carolina, Republicans in Washington

have been remarkably silent and this what really does look like that rarest

of American electoral problems.  This really does look like an industrial-

strength ballot stealing, ballot stuffing professional operation that not

only helped Mark Harris appear to win that seat, it also looks like the

same operation run by the same people may have helped this guy Mark Harris

oust the incumbent Republican member of Congress who used to represent that

district back in the primary in May.  There was a different Republican who

held the seat, right?  He was ousted when he lost his own primary to this

guy Mark Harris.  It looks like the same kind of tactics, illegal tactics

may have been used by contractors working for Mark Harris in that primary

has worked for him in the general election which have now resulted in a

congressional seat that nobody knows what to do with.

 

This professional election-rigging operation in this one congressional

district of North Carolina not only screwed up this one congressional

election, it also appears to have cost a Republican incumbent congressman

his seat a few months.  But still, Republicans in Washington cannot come up

with a single word to say about it.  They have been fundamentally and

absolutely silent on this.  Isn`t this supposed to be your thing that you

worry about all the time?

 

Well, now, the incoming Democrats who are about to take control in the

House, they are starting to talk about holding hearings in Congress to

decide what`s going to happen to that seat and that race and the question

of whether anyone should be seated in the Congress to represent that North

Carolina district before this is all sorted out in the courts.  So, stay

tuned for more on that.  That story is still developing almost by the hour

at this point. 

 

But in the wake of last night`s sentencing statement from special counsel

Robert Mueller about Trump national security advisor Mike Flynn, the

sentencing statement which feature the special counsel praising Flynn`s

cooperation and recommending that Flynn`s serve no jail time, today in the

wake of that remarkable document which came out just before we got in the

air last night, today, we have had another couple of stories that would

seem to indicate that there are another few shoes that are going to drop

soon.  One concerns this person who appears to have been the first ever

person to get Donald Trump the presidential candidate to talk on the record

about U.S. sanctions against Russia and the fact that he wanted them

dropped. 

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  OK, let`s go.

 

MARIA BUTINA:  Sorry?

 

TRUMP:  Yes, ma`am.

 

BUTINA:  I`m from Russia.  So, my question will be about foreign politics. 

If you would be elected as the president, what will be your foreign

politics especially into the relationships with my country?  And do you

want to continue the politics of sanctions that are damaging of both

economy, or you have any other ideas?

 

TRUMP:  I believe I would get along very nicely with Putin, OK?  And I

mean, well, we have the strength.  I don`t think you`d need the sanctions. 

I think that we would get along very, very well.  I really believe that.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

MADDOW:  First time he ever talked about sanctions.

 

And we now know, of course, that at the time, Donald Trump presidential

candidate was advocating publicly that the U.S. should drop sanctions on

Russia, we now know that at the time, he was secretly negotiating with

Russia for a very large real estate deal in Moscow, that would be financed

by a sanction Russian state-run bank.  So, as a presidential candidate, we

know that Donald Trump was compromised by Russia.  He was secretly

negotiating with Russia, including secretly negotiating with Kremlin

officials about doing this deal.  He was concealing that fact from the

American people and for good reason, right?  That would have put quite a

spin on the fact that he was arguing against Russian sanctions if people

had known that he personally needed to get rid of those sanctions so he

could get his Trump Tower in Moscow with financing from a sanctioned

Russian bank.

 

The reason that deal was more than just a secret though, the reason that

was – the reason that created a sort of counterintelligence emergency

around Trump the candidate is because the Russian government knew that

Trump was lying about this to the American people and once they knew that

he was trying to cover this thing up, that they knew something about him,

they knew the truth about something, they could prove the truth about

something that he was trying to keep secret – well, then they can use that

as leverage over him, to pressure him into doing things that he wanted. 

 

That`s what compromise is.  He was compromised by the Russian government

during the campaign, we now know.  And one of the things of course that

they wanted that the Russian government wanted then and desperately wants

until now is for the U.S. government to drop sanctions on their country. 

 

And looking back at that first comment that Trump ever made about Russian

sanctions, it is now just remarkably striking that the person who first set

him up as a presidential candidate, who first asked him that question about

U.S. sanctions against Russia, who first prompted him to say that he wanted

those sanctions dropped, that person is a person who was now in federal

custody in Alexandria, Virginia, awaiting trial on charges that she was

secretly acting in this country has an agent of the Russian government. 

 

That`s the person who asked Trump that question at Las Vegas event in the

summer of 2015.  Her name is Maria Butina, and one of the other shoes that

we`ve been waiting to drop any day now is in her criminal case, a potential

plea deal maybe or some other resolution of the criminal case that is

pending against her. 

 

Again, she is in jail awaiting trial on federal charges of being a secret

Russian agent operating in this country.

 

Now, a couple of weeks ago, prosecutors filed this document with the

federal court that`s hearing the case against Maria Butina, explaining that

they were in negotiations with Butina`s lawyers regarding, quote, a

potential resolution of this matter.  Now, we had otherwise expected Butina

to be in court in Washington tomorrow for an important status update on her

case.  That has now been delayed because of these supposedly ongoing

negotiations between the prosecution and her defense lawyers about somehow

resolving her case.  We don`t have any idea what that ultimate resolution

might be if in fact they do resolve it.

 

I mean, obviously, the Justice Department has indicted her.  They`ve

arrested her.  They put her in jail.  They plan to put her on trial. 

 

It is possible that the resolution of this case will be some sort of plea

deal where she pleads guilty to something in exchange for lenient and other

ways.  That would raise the very interesting prospect of her potentially

becoming a cooperating witness for prosecutors in the Russia investigation. 

That`s very hard to imagine given that she`s charged as a secret agent of

the Russian government, but you never know. 

 

Some observers have even speculated that Maria Butina might possibly have

her case resolves as part of a spy swap of some kind with the Russian

government, and the Kremlin has taken a very keen interest in the Maria

Butina case.  They have done lots of publicity around it, lots of advocacy

around it.  They have been very, very active, both publicly advocating and

advocating with the U.S. government on her behalf. 

 

I don`t know what they`re offering the U.S. government on her behalf.  I

don`t know if the U.S. government is in the market for any sort of spy swap

with Russians at the moment, but it is not impossible to imagine that Maria

Butina`s case might be resolved with something dramatic like that.  So

we`ve been waiting to find out basically any day now what`s going to happen

to this accused Russian foreign agent now that federal prosecutors say they

are heading toward a resolution of her case. 

 

Well, while we have been waiting for that to happen, today, Betsy Woodruff

and Erin Banco at “The Daily Beast” have reported that enough a person in

her case, an American who is named in her case has been warned himself by

prosecutors that he might get charged in this case, too. 

 

He`s an American citizen.  His name is Paul Erickson.  He`s a longtime

Republican Party activist.  He`s also possibly the boyfriend of Maria

Butina, accused Russian agent, although it`s complicated. 

 

According to “The Daily Beast” today, Paul Erickson has received a target

letter from federal prosecutors in which prosecutors notify him quote that

they are considering bringing charges against him under Section 951 of the

U.S. Code, which is the law of barring people from secretly acting as

agents of foreign governments.  The letter also says the government may

bring a conspiracy charge against Erickson.

 

Now, according to “The Daily Beast”, again, this report just out today,

this target letter was sent to Paul Erickson a couple of months ago in

September.  But his lawyer has now shown it to these reporters and while a

target letter is not the same thing as an indictment, him receiving a

target letter indicates that prosecutors have been seriously considering

bringing charges against him, moving in some way toward charges against

him.  His case for also serving as a secret foreign agent working on behalf

of Russia and against the United States just like his ersatz girlfriend.

 

And, you know, this is not totally a surprise.  In the Justice Department`s

court filings for its charges against Maria Butina, this guy Paul Erickson

does turn up multiple times when the government is describing her alleged

crimes and how she went out this scheme to influence the U.S., to influence

the U.S. government the Republican Party and the conservative movement in

this country on behalf of Russia.  He`s described as person number one in

the court filings as best as we can tell. 

 

From her court filings, quote, during the course of her – prosecutors,

quote, during the course of her work, meaning Butina`s work as a covert

Russian agent, Butina regularly met and communicated with an unnamed

Russian official and U.S. person one, this guy Paul Erickson, quote, to

plan and develop the contours of the influence operation. 

 

There`s also this.  Quote, on October 4th, 2016, so a month before the

election, U.S. person one, Paul Ericson, sent an email to an acquaintance. 

Within the email, Erickson stated, unrelated to specific presidential

campaigns, I`ve been involved in securing a, all-caps, very private line of

communication between the Kremlin and key Republican Party leaders through

of all conduits the NRA.

 

So, again, U.S. Republican activist Paul Erickson is now reported as of

today to have received a target letter from U.S. federal prosecutors,

letting him know that federal prosecutors have moved toward considering

charges against him for operating as a secret agent of a foreign government

which appears to be the Russian government.  Now, a target letter isn`t the

same as an indictment, but if the government either has already charged

him, we don`t know about it publicly, but if they have already charged him

or if they`re planning on being those charges against Erickson, that will

be a very interesting new development in the Maria Butina case, which I`m -

- I`m interested in for a lot of reasons but in particular because of the

way it links back to the president and his first public comments about

Russian sanctions. 

 

But if Erickson either has been or is about to be charged, there`s also the

NRA piece of it.  This may finally throw some sunlight on this dark and

frankly sort of worrying question that has lingered since the campaign,

certainly since Maria Butina was charged as to whether or not the NRA, the

National Rifle Association may have been used to some sort of conduit for

Russian government influence, Russian secret communications or even

potentially Russian money in the operation by the Russian government to try

to swing the U.S. presidential election for Trump and against Clinton.

 

So, that dropped today with that important report in “The Daily Beast”

about Paul Erickson getting a targeting letter from federal prosecutors. 

In addition to that, the “Associated Press” also reported today that

federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York appear to have

sprung back into action on another element of the Russia scandal that

involves President Trump`s campaign chairman Paul Manafort.  Paul Manafort

who incidentally now lives in the same jail as Maria Butina, although he`s

on the boys side and he of course has been convicted of multiple felonies

while she is still awaiting trial.

 

According to the “Associated Press” today, quote: prosecutors are ramping

up their investigation into foreign lobbying by two major Washington firms

that did work for former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort.  Quote: In a

flurry of new activity, Justice Department prosecutors in the last several

weeks have begun interviewing witnesses and contacting lawyers to schedule

additional questioning related to the Podesta Group and Mercury Public

Affairs.

 

Now those are two firms that were implicitly accused in Manafort court

filings of essentially illegal lobbying, of knowingly getting paid to

represent the pro-Russia, Ukrainian government for Paul Manafort. 

Prosecutors have already cited evidence in court filings related to the

Manafort case that indicate that these firms lied about pretending they

didn`t know who they were working for.  The implication that prosecutors

already sketched out about these firms is that they knew full well that

they were lobbying for Ukraine, they did not want to register as lobbying

for Ukraine, and so they created these fig leaves, these pretenses that

made it seem like maybe they weren`t when they knew full well that`s what

they were doing.

 

According to the “Associated Press” today, again, federal prosecutors have

ramped back up this part of the investigation and they appear to be trying

to chase down this part of the case which was initially raised in

conjunction with Paul Manafort`s prosecution. 

 

So as I said, we got this fairly dramatic sentencing filing about Mike

Flynn, the president`s first national security adviser and how he fits into

the overall Russia scandal.  We got this last night.  In the immediate wake

of that today, we got a whole bunch of new indications about new elements

of this that may be unfolding now.

 

But there`s just one other piece of this that relates specifically to the

president himself and it was raised last night by the Flynn filing.  It`s

not received much attention today but I think you should know about this in

terms of expecting what might happen next.  I should also tell you,

Congressman Adam Schiff from the Intelligence Committee is going to be here

with us live in just a moment.  Do stay with us.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

MADDOW:  I swear this is not a stunt.  I swear I did not know this is going

to happen.  I did not plan this.  I swear.

 

But just in the past few minutes, just moments ago literally while I was

talking on the TV machine about the Maria Butina case and how we`re

expecting any day now to find out what`s going to happen to her case

because prosecutors and her defense lawyers told the court that they`ve

been working toward a resolution of her case of some kind, like is there

going to be – leading speculation – is there going to be a plea deal?  Is

she going to become a cooperating witness?  Could there be some sort of a

spy swap? 

 

What could be the resolution of the Maria Butina case?  She is in jail

awaiting charges right now or in jail charged awaiting trial right now, on

charges that she has been operating as a secret agent of the Russian

government in this country.  Literally while I was saying that, just

moments ago, we just got a new court filing in Maria Butina case in which -

- do we had?  Can we put it up? 

 

In which the judge in her case just the second has just scheduled a

telephone conference for the prosecution and the defense to join the judge

tomorrow at 11:00 a.m.  Again, this comes as prosecutors and defense

lawyers say they have been actively negotiating to resolve this case. 

Maybe they`re going to do it on the phone tomorrow, but that happened while

I was talking about it. 

 

Maybe the judge was watching.  She saw me start to talk about it and said,

oh, yes, we need to have – I doubt it.

 

All right.  One of the things that struck me last night about the Mike

Flynn sentencing document that we got from Mueller`s office last night is

that it is so almost unequivocally positive about Mike Flynn and the

cooperation that he has offered the special counsel`s office.  And, yes,

the special counsel`s office does describe Mike Flynn`s criminal behavior

and says that that behavior is serious. 

 

But when it comes to his interactions with the special counsel`s office

since Flynn pled guilty and agreed to cooperate, in this document, the

special counsel just could not be more uniformly and unequivocally

delighted when it comes to his performance, with how quickly he cooperated,

how completely the truthfulness of the information he provided, how helpful

it was for other investigations.  Even as they say he provided crucial

information that aided multiple investigations that are still ongoing,

investigations that can`t be disclosed to the public that are redacted in

these public facing filings that we got last night, they are still so happy

with the information they got from Mike Flynn that they don`t want to delay

his sentencing any longer even as these cases are still pending.  They want

the judge to put this matter to rest for good old Mike Flynn.  He has been

an ideal cooperator. 

 

This is not how the special counsel`s office usually talks about targets

and witnesses in this case, right?  I mean in terms of other people

associated with the Trump campaign, for example Trump campaign chair Paul

Manafort, in his case, the special counsel`s office told the court that man

apart with a terrible cooperator.  He had breached his cooperation

agreement.  He had lied.  They didn`t intend to keep their end of the

bargain anymore either and they`re going to lay out his lies and everything

bad he ever did in his life in a filing we expect by the end of the week.

 

In the case of George Papadopoulos, a Trump campaign advisor, the special

counsel`s office went out of its way to say that Papadopoulos did not

provide substantial assistance to them.  He did not provide useful

information and by the way he dragged his feet and was slow about

everything that he did offers so he wasn`t much help.

 

The contrast with their praise for what they got out of Flynn just could

not be more stark.  So here`s my question about Flynn and one of the

reasons that I wanted to talk to Congressman Adam Schiff from the

Intelligence Committee tonight: Why is Trump so consistently psyched about

Mike Flynn?  I mean, you know, Michael Cohen has also apparently become a

fulsome cooperator with the special counsel`s office. 

 

The president now can barely move his thumbs without tweeting something

disparaging and undermining about Michael Cohen, insulting him, right,

giving him derogatory nicknames, going so far as to publicly call on the

judge in the Cohen case to throw the book at Michael Cohen, give him the

maximum sentence, because Michael Cohen is cooperating and that`s terrible. 

You know, but not a peep about Mike Flynn, not at all since Flynn pled

guilty and became a cooperator more than a year ago.  And not even since

the nature of Flynn`s cooperation was made public, which is now more than

24 hours ago. 

 

And this extends a pretty remarkable streak by Donald Trump when it comes

to Mike Flynn and it has always seemed a little bit curious, but now, it

actually seems incredible, not incredible as in fantastic but incredible as

in not credible, as there must be something else going on here, there`s

more than meets the eye.  Why has Trump been so invested in defending and

only consistently praising and never criticizing Mike Flynn from the very

beginning?  Why is he gone so far out of his way to only have positive

things to say and do and only have things to offer Mike Flynn?

 

When President-elect Trump two days after the election went to the White

House to meet with then-President Barack Obama, we were told that President

Obama warned Trump about two specific things – he warned him that North

Korea would be a very serious national security matter, that he wouldn`t be

able to avoid dealing with.  And in addition to North Korea, multiple

sources reported that the other warning that Obama gave Trump was about

Mike Flynn and Obama told Trump specifically – don`t hire Mike Flynn for

anything sensitive or for anything particularly high-ranking, take my

advice, not that guy, that`s my one warning besides North Korea.

 

Nevertheless, Trump decided that he would name Mike Flynn as national

security adviser anyway.  Then during the transition, before Trump was

sworn in, Mike Flynn`s lawyers sent up another red flag.  They notified the

Trump transition that Flynn in fact was under federal investigation for

having secretly acted as an agent of a foreign power during the campaign,

as an agent of the Turkish government, even though he hadn`t declared

himself as such. 

 

So, he`s being considered for national security advisor his lawyers say

he`s the subject of an active federal criminal investigation. 

Nevertheless, despite that notification, Trump remained intent that he

would name Flynn his national security advisor.  Then also during the

transition, a minor crisis arose involving Mike Flynn and his devotion to

his son Mike Jr. 

 

Mike Flynn Jr. during the transition continued what had been a string of

embarrassing and offensive public behavior which led to questions about why

Mike Flynn Jr. was surfing in the Trump transition and why in fact the

Trump transition had applied for a security clearance for this kid.  The

head of the Trump transition was Vice President-elect Mike Pence, he

publicly denied that Mike Flynn`s son was any part of the transition.  It

turns out Mike Flynn son was, so that was an embarrassing thing to Vice

President-elect Pence to have been called out about. 

 

Reporters immediately called him on the fact that if Flynn Jr. wasn`t on

the transition, why was he emailing them all from an official Trump

transition email address?  So, that was fairly embarrassing during the

transition and specifically for Mike Pence who was supposedly running the

transition, he never was able to come up with an explanation for why Mike

Flynn`s son had been put up for a security clearance by the transition. 

Pence appeared to not even know that he was there. let alone that he`d been

put forward for something like that.

 

But nevertheless, even after that embarrassment, the administration still

went forward with plans to name Mike Flynn national security adviser.  Then

as soon as the administration started, four days after Trump was sworn in,

the red flags turned into giant waving red banners that occluded the view

from the house because they drape from the roof to the ground.  Four days

after Trump was sworn in, the Trump White House got that extraordinary

warning from the Justice Department that Flynn wasn`t just all these other

things they learned about and been told to worry about had problems with

when it come to him already.  Flynn in fact was compromised by the Russian

government.

 

And the clear implication of that dramatic unprecedented learning that the

national security adviser was compromised by a hostile foreign power the

clear implication of that warning was that they needed to get that guy out

of there, out of the White House immediately – a huge national security

risk.  They certainly needed to cut off his access to classified

information since the government of Russia had compromised him and the

implication of that is they could get anything out of him that they wanted. 

Don`t let him have access to any important classified information, my god.

 

Nevertheless, the Trump White House didn`t react at all.  Apparently, they

didn`t react privately.  They didn`t react publicly.  They kept him on

another 18 days, and they let him retain his access to highly classified

information.  No urgency to get him out of there whatsoever, no alarm, no

worries.

 

And then when the public reporting about this crisis continued and they

finally had to give in and allow him to resign, the president praised him

publicly and then the very next day, the president immediately went to the

FBI director and told the FBI director he needed to quash the FBI

investigation into Mike Flynn, told the FBI director that the FBI needed to

drop it with Mike Flynn. 

 

Thereafter, President Trump also went to the Director of National

Intelligence Dan Coates and reportedly told him too, he needed to intercede

with the FBI, quash the investigation into Mike Flynn.  Thereafter, one of

the president`s lawyers, John Dowd, reportedly they went to Mike Flynn and

offered him a presidential pardon.  Why?

 

I mean, what explains this elaborate routine of like, you know, back bends,

back flips, layout reverse ham springs?  I mean, they`re not just sticking

up for Mike Flynn, they`re insisting on Mike Flynn.  They`re insisting on

the necessity of Mike Flynn.  They`re making every excuse for Mike Flynn. 

 

It`s not three strikes, you`re out, it`s like three hundred and thirty

strikes you`re still in.  I mean, the president risked criminal exposure

himself by intervening with the FBI to try to get leniency, specifically

for Mike Flynn.  Why?  Out of loyalty because Mike Flynn had been involved

in the Trump campaign? 

 

You can tell that to Jeff Sessions if you think that`s a guarantee of

Trump`s lifelong loyalty towards you, right, once you start to get him in

trouble or otherwise – otherwise annoy him.  Tell that to Steve Bannon or

as Trump now calls him, sloppy Steve, who`s lost his mind.  Yes, he`s real

loyal to everybody who helped him in his campaign.

 

What is it about Mike Flynn specifically that has made Trump go to the ends

of the earth for him, that has kept Trump from ever talking sack about him

even now?  Honestly, don`t you things weird that a Trump still does not

talk smack about Mike Flynn not even now, not even after we learned that

Mike Flynn did 19 different interviews with the special counsel`s office

and left them so pleased with the information he had to offer that he`s

going to do no jail time himself and they just did a sentencing memo that

basically calls him a saint and says he`s awesome and they couldn`t have

done it without him?  Not a peep from Trump about that? 

 

I mean, the only other dude who Trump is so consistently positive about and

refuses to ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever criticize no matter the cost,

the only other person he treats like this is freaking Putin.  So, what does

that tell us about what has just gone down here with Mike Flynn in a

special counsel`s office and what is Flynn`s sentencing going to lead to

next? 

 

The person who is perhaps best situated to answer that question in the

country other than Mueller himself is Congressman Adam Schiff and he joins

us next.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

MADDOW:  Joining us now is Congressman Adam Schiff.  He is the top Democrat

on the intelligence committee in the House, starting in January.  He is

expected to be the committee`s chairman.

 

Congressman, thank you very much for being with us tonight.  Thanks for

making time.

 

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), RANKING MEMBER, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE:  You

bet.

 

MADDOW:  So, we`ve got a bunch of news in the past hours or so about the

Russia scandal and particularly about the legal maneuverings around that

scandal.  “Daily Beast” is now reporting that a Republican operative named

Paul Erickson, he`s tied to the Maria Butina case, he`s received a target

letter from federal prosecutors now saying that he may also be charged as

an agent of a foreign power. 

 

The “A.P.” is reporting that federal prosecutors are moving with speed now

against firms that may have been illegally lobbying for a foreign

government as part of Manafort`s operations in Ukraine. 

 

Also, we got the filing last night in the Michael Flynn case in which the

special counsel`s office praised his cooperation and recommended no jail

time for him. 

 

As somebody who`s got a pretty good grasp on the overall status of the

investigation and the scandal writ large, are all these things happening at

once coincidentally or do you think that we are entering into a new sort of

rapidly unfolding phase here? 

 

SCHIFF:  I don`t think it`s a coincidence and what I fear although I don`t

know this is the case is that the appointment of Whitaker may have

accelerated a lot of things that the special counsel would have preferred

to take into time.  I hope that`s not the case, but it wouldn`t surprise me

if that was at least part of the motivation.

 

But, you know, in terms of Flynn, I think one thing we need to remember is,

it`s not just that Mueller is recommending no jail time.  That`s a pretty

extraordinary you know himself.  This is a former national security adviser

lying about a national security matter and doing so in cahoots with the

Russians. 

 

But it`s also that when that plea was entered into, Mueller essentially

made the decision not to proceed on a whole range of other allegations

involving Flynn.  So, Flynn is getting effectively a recommendation no jail

time on any of the conduct he was involved in.  That would require very

substantial cooperation, and it appears that Mueller got it.

 

When you look at the cooperation agreement that Flynn signed it required

him to do essentially anything special counsel asked including wearing a

wire.  So, it certainly looks like the cooperation was very fulsome. 

Whether that is leading to some of these other developments right now, it`s

hard to say.

 

MADDOW:  You mentioned Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker there.  We

can tell from reading the special counsels regulations, the regulations

that create the concept of a special counsel within the Justice Department,

that somebody in Whitaker`s role as acting attorney general would be able

to influence major steps in the investigation, could potentially kibosh or

otherwise steer major steps in the investigation and we assume that things

that count as major steps would be like new indictments, any sort of public

report at the end of the investigation if something like that is going to

happen.

 

Are you suggesting that Whitaker`s influence here may have extended to what

just happened with Mike Flynn to the terms of the deal that were offered to

Mike Flynn, to the nature of this recommendation to the judge that Flynn

not go to jail?

 

SCHIFF:  I don`t know that it would have affected the terms that were being

offered to Mike Flynn, but it may have affected some of the timing.  It may

be part of the rush here.

 

Now, part of it may also be due to the fact that during that period before

the election, the special counsels effectively had to go dark in terms of

any new deals or prosecutions, but it also could be affected by the new

person at the top.

 

The other thing I would mention in terms of Flynn is one area where we know

that he can and must have offered cooperation to special counsel is, we

know that he told those in the transition team, including a very senior

transition official about his conversation about sanctions with the Russian

ambassador, which means that when the vice president went out and

misrepresented this to the country, there were other high-ranking people

who knew the vice president was misrepresenting it, unknowingly we assume,

but misrepresenting it.  They apparently did nothing or said nothing public

about it.  Mike Flynn can offer a lot of insights on who those people are,

what conversations went on.

 

And the final point I would make, Rachel, is there is a common denominator

about a lot of these issues and a lot of these characters you`re

mentioning.  As you played earlier, Maria Butina`s conversation with Donald

Trump in that interview was about sanctions.  Mike Flynn was lying about

his conversation with a Russian ambassador about sanctions, the meeting at

Trump Tower between Kushner and Manafort and Don Jr. that they later denied

happened and then admit it happen but said it was about adoptions, that was

about sanctions.  There`s been allegations about Mike Flynn and a nuclear

power deal that would involve removal of sanctions.

 

Time and time again, there`s a marriage of business interests, making money

and talk about sanctions.  Erik Prince and the Seychelles meeting with a

Russian banker.  Jared Kushner meeting with a Russian banker. 

 

There are a lot of bankers.  Aleksandr Torshin is part of that group, along

with Maria Butina and Paul Erickson, a lot of players with a deep interest

in doing away with Russian sanctions, including Donald Trump.

 

MADDOW:  Congressman Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House

Intelligence Committee – sir, I have always found it edifying to talk to

you about this matter, knowing now that you are about to become chairman of

the Intelligence Committee and hearing you talk about those kinds of

connections in those lines of inquiry, I feel fundamentally different about

it.  I feel edified, but I also feel like I`m getting prepped to finally

learn some answers to those questions.  Thank you for helping us

understand, sir.

 

SCHIFF:  Thank you.

 

MADDOW:  Thanks.

 

All right.  Much more to come tonight, stay with us.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

MADDOW:  This was unexpected.  From Politico.com this week, quote: The

House GOP campaign arm suffered a major hack during the election, exposing

thousands of sensitive emails to an outside intruder, according to three

senior party officials.  The email accounts of four senior aides at the

National Republican Congressional Committee were surveilled for several

months. 

 

The intrusion was detected in April by an NRCC vendor who alerted the

committee and its cybersecurity contractor, an internal investigation was

initiated and the FBI was alerted to the attack.  However, senior House

Republicans weren`t informed of the attack until “Politico” contacted the

NRCC on Monday with questions about the episode.  Rank-and-file House

Republicans weren`t told either.

 

So the campaign arm of the Republican Party that`s designed to elect and

reelect Republican members of Congress didn`t tell any Republican members

of Congress that this was happening?  Despite the fact being a total

secret, even from Republican lawmakers themselves, “Politico” reports that

the NRCC paid out hundreds of thousands of dollars to a prominent DC law

and also to a major PR firm to manage the response to the hack.

 

Why would you hire a PR firm to deal with the response to the hack when

nobody knows that the hack happened? 

 

Then there`s this, quote: Party officials would not say when the hack began

or who was behind it, although they privately believed it was a foreign

agent due to the nature of the attack.

 

I have a number of questions about this.  First and foremost, what was the

nature of the attack that leads the Republican Party`s House campaign arm

to believe that this attack out of them was of a foreign origin?  And what

is the nature of the attack?

 

One of the things that we can tell is that none of the information that was

stolen from the Republican Party during the election was ever released to

the public.  We would know if it was, we`d see it, but we never saw it. 

 

Republican Party officials also tell “Politico” that in addition to this

information not being released publicly are being used against the party in

any obvious way.  There were also no threats or blackmail attempts

associated with this stuff. 

 

So, what was done with this stolen information from the NRCC?  What about

the nature of this attack?  What about the nature of that indicates that

this was a foreign attack?

 

But then they believed it was a foreign attack.  OK, who was it?  I mean,

if this was Russia doing the hacking, that would be absolutely fascinating

because that would be the second time we know that Russia has stolen stuff

from the Republican Party and then sat on it and done nothing with it. 

 

U.S. intelligence agencies – remember this – they determined that during

the 2016 presidential campaign, yes, there was the big consequential DNC

attack that they made such hay of for months.  But in addition to that, the

Russians also collected material from unspecified Republican affiliated

targets.  The difference is that none of that material was ever

disseminated to hurt those Republican targets in the same way that the

Democrats stuff was. 

 

So what was it about, right?  Is the NRCC implying that they were hurt in

some way by this intrusion?  If so, how?  They believe this was a foreign

attacker.  If so, who? 

 

If the material wasn`t publicly released, it wasn`t used for ransom or

blackmail, it wasn`t used against House Republican candidates, what

happened to it?  I mean, is there any possibility that it was given to the

NRCC`s political opponents or to Democrats or to the press and we just

haven`t heard about it yet?  And why would the Republicans need to hire a

really big expensive PR firm to manage the response to this given that

their PR effort around this was to keep it entirely secret?

 

One of the reporters behind this strange and puzzling scoop joins us next. 

Stay with us.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

MADDOW:  Alex Isenstadt joins us now.  He broke the story at “Politico”

that during the campaign this year, the midterm election campaign, the

Republican Party`s campaign arm for House races was hit with a major

hacking attack, but they kept it a secret before Alex Isenstadt and John

Bresnahan`s reporting on this this week, nobody knew about this at all.

 

Mr. Isenstadt, congratulations on this scoop.  Thanks for joining us. 

 

ALEX ISENSTADT, REPORTER, POLITICO:  Yes.  Thanks for having me. 

 

MADDOW:  Do you have any sense why the NRCC thinks this was a foreign

attack? 

 

ISENSTADT:  So, when we started asking questions about this, we were told

basically they concluded the attack was of sort of a sophisticated nature,

and we haven`t really been able to firmly come to grips who exactly was

behind this, but we heard to names of a couple of countries including China

and Russia potentially. 

 

MADDOW:  Do we how the NRCC was compromised?  I mean, were there e-mails

just stolen and that was the end of it?  Was the NRCC damaged in anyway? 

 

ISENSTADT:  Basically, you had a situation where there were four of the top

officials basically had their e-mail accounts hacked.  They discovered in

April of this year.  And basically whoever it is who hacked them had months

and months of access to literally thousands of their e-mails. 

 

MADDOW:  Part of the thing that puzzled me about your reporting the news

they spent a ton of money reporting a PR firm and kept it secret.  Did they

expect some kind of dissemination of this material?  Was the PR firm hired

because they want today be ready to respond if this stuff ended up in the

public eye? 

 

ISENSTADT:  Yes, it`s a great question.  They spent hundreds of thousands

of dollars on a big name PR firm and a big name law firm.  And behind the

scenes while they – really while the committee was actually short on cash

to spend money on races, remember they were trying to save the House this

year, they were spending big bucks to help protect themselves on this

hacking matter. 

 

And it`s the best I can understand, they felt they need to protect

themselves should these e-mails be publicly disseminated.  They felt they

needed to have some kind of PR strategy in place once word of this hack got

out or once these emails got out.  And they felt they also had to deal with

it in a legal context. 

 

MADDOW:  Alex Isenstadt, political reporter at “Politico” – this is

remarkable scoop.  I can`t wait to hear sort of the rest of the story when

we figure it out.  Thank you for helping us understand.

 

ISENSTADT:  Thank you.

 

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

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

MADDOW:  Recapping our top story for tonight, remember that after today`s

state funeral in Washington, D.C., tomorrow will be the private funeral for

former President George H.W. Bush.  Private does not mean small.  There are

something like 1,200 invited guests who will be part of the private service

for George H.W. Bush tomorrow in Texas.  His body will then be brought to

College Station, Texas, by train. 

 

College Station is the site of the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library. 

And that is where he will be buried tomorrow in what will be a private

burial ceremony just with the Bush family.  So, today`s day of mourning and

state funeral to be followed by another very solemn day honoring the late

president tomorrow. 

 

But that does it for us tonight.  We will see you again tomorrow night.

 

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

 

Good evening, Lawrence. 

 

                                                                                                               

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