Body of President George H. W. Bush flown to Texas. TRANSCRIPT: 12/5/18, The Rachel Maddow Show
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
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
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
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.
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
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
(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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), RANKING MEMBER, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: You
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
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
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
SCHIFF: Thank you.
All right. Much more to come tonight, stay with us.
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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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