Nancy Pelosi reaches deal. TRANSCRIPT: 12/13/2018, The Rachel Maddow Show.
Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
Date: December 13, 2018
Guest: Rebecca Davis O`Brien, Jerry Nadler
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: That is “ALL IN” for this evening.
“THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW” starts right now.
Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: I would pay that kind of money to see that kind
of interview at even more length with everybody who declares.
HAYES: That`s what I want to do. I mean, we were literally talking about
that today that I want to do that with – anyone who is watching who is
going to run for president, come on and we`ll do that, or we can do longer.
MADDOW: Seriously. It`s the truth questionnaire, but it`s the Chris Hayes
questionnaire. I`ve learned a lot. That was fascinating. Well done.
Thanks, my friend.
Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. So, this is turning out to
be one of those news cycles this week. It`s hard to keep up, not just with
the pace of new developments as they`re happening, but also, it`s hard to
keep up with a realistic sense of the weight and importance and even the
historic nature of each of these successive developments, because so many
of them have happened in such quick succession.
In the past week or so, we have seen at least one news development per day
that alone would be the biggest scandal to hit any other president in at
least a year if not an entire term in office. We`ve been having them daily
for more than a week now, and they just keep coming. I mean, as yesterday,
the president`s long-time personal lawyer was just sentenced to three years
in federal prison. Then immediately following his sentencing, prosecutors
almost simultaneously unsealed what amounts to basically a cooperation
agreement that they entered into with a company that made illegal payments
to benefit the president`s campaign in an arrangement that was worked out
overtly between that company and the president`s campaign.
The president`s own company appears to have been used to cover up another
illegal campaign payment with falsified records and accounts. There are a
handful of executives within the president`s company would seem to have had
the authority within the company to commit that kind of what looks lucky
accounting fraud or potentially tax fraud in terms of writing checks,
directing disbursements, creating misleading accounting entries. One of
those handful of executives who might have had that authority has now been
granted immunity by prosecutors in exchange for cooperation with them in
their ongoing inquiries.
All of the other executives at the president`s company who could
conceivably been involved at that level with that potential crime, all of
the others would appear to be members of the president`s family, or,
indeed, the president himself. So that`s like the last 24 hours. And that
would be kind of enough drama for one president total, right? That would
be enough drama and presidential scandal and potential legal liability for
the president to out-shadow the worst thing that happened in the presidency
of most American presidents.
But that was just yesterday. That`s just what happened yesterday while at
the same time this president also has his campaign chairman, his deputy
campaign chairman and his national security adviser, all either in jail or
out of jail, but awaiting sentencing right now, awaiting sentencing on
felony charges, right? And on top of everything that`s happening right
now, the president has that that he has to think about every day as well.
And then today, today happened. Including this dramatic turn of events in
federal court today in Washington, D.C. Quote, the judge, all right, Mr.
Kenerson for the prosecution and Mr. Driscoll for the defense, do either of
you have any questions as to the defendant`s competence to plead at this
time? Mr. Driscoll for the defense: no, your honor. Mr. Kenerson for the
prosecution: no, your honor.
The judge: Based on answers that have been provided in open court as well
as counsel and the court`s own observation of Ms. Butina, I find that the
defendant Maria Butina is fully competent and capable of entering an
informed plea. Ms. Butina, please listen carefully to my questions and let
me know if there is anything you don`t understand. You have been indicted
by a grand jury on one count of conspiracy to act as an agent of a foreign
government and one count of being an agent of a foreign government.
The judge goes on. This is a case in which there have been a lot of sealed
proceedings and sealed motions and things we the public haven`t been
allowed to see. But today, this was open court in Washington, D.C., as a
30-year-old Russian woman named Maria Butina elected to change her plea
from not guilty to guilty after she was charged by federal prosecutors with
acting in this country as a secret agent of the Russian government as part
of an influence operation, to influence U.S. politics and specifically the
Republican Party in ways that would benefit the interests of the Russian
The judge, quote: Now, Ms. Butina, your lawyer and the prosecutors have
given me a document called the statement of offense that describes what the
government would be prepared to prove at trial about your criminal conduct.
This is an important document. That`s your signature on December 8th? The
defendant, Maria Butina: That is correct.
The judge: And by signing it, you are agreeing this is correct and true and
this is what you did? I have to make sure of that, because if we come back
for sentencing, you can`t say, well, I just signed it, but I didn`t really
do paragraph three or paragraph four, because you signed it. So, I have to
make sure that you understand it. Have you read the statement of offense
and discussed it fully with your lawyers? The defendant, Maria Butina:
The judge: is that your signature on the last page acknowledging you have
read and fully understand? The defendant: Yes, your honor. The judge:
Does the statement of offense truly and accurately describe what you did in
this case? The defendant: yes.
The judge: Ms. Butina, beginning no later than in and around 2015, and
possibly earlier, continuing until around 2018 in the District of Columbia
and elsewhere, did you with others knowingly combine, conspire, confederate
and agree together and with each other to commit an offense against the
United States. The defendant, Maria Butina: yes.
Ms. Butina, do you understand the charges against you? The defendant: yes.
Ms. Butina, do you understand this plea resulted between your lawyer and
the government? Yes. Did your lawyer keep you apprised at all stages of
the negotiation? Yes, your honor.
And was the decision whether to accept this plea made by you? Yes, your
honor. Do you have a copy of the plea agreement? Yes.
And the judge says: And it`s long, single-spaced and contains a lot of
complicated terms. Have you read it carefully? Maria Butina: Yes.
The judge: Do you understand it? Butina: Yes. Have you gone over it with
your lawyers? Yes. Have you had enough time to discuss it with your
Is that what you agreed to? The defendant: yes. Do you have any confusion
or questions about this agreement that you would like to ask me or that you
would like to ask your lawyers about? The defendant: no. The judge: are
you entering this plea voluntarily and of your own free will because you
are guilty? The defendant: yes.
The judge: is there anything that you do not understand about your plea in
this case? The defendant: no. Is there anything you want ask me or your
lawyer before you plea? No.
Are you now ready to say whether you want to plead guilty or go to trial on
the charges in this case? The defendant: Yes. The judge: what do you want
to do? The defendant: guilty.
That`s what she said. She just shouted out guilty. The judge: Finally,
are you pleading guilty because you are guilty? The defendant: yes.
The judge: you may have a seat, Ms. Butina. I am satisfied that Ms. Butina
is a fully competent and capable – excuse me. I`m satisfied that Ms.
Butina is fully competent and capable of making a decision today, that she
understands the nature and charges of the plea, that the plea is guilty
knowing and voluntarily, that she is acting of her own free will and
pleading guilty and that there is an actual factual basis containing each
of the essential elements of the offense for her plea.
And aside from the loud, awkward blurt of the word “guilty,” that was a by
the book, but still absolutely shocking court proceeding today in federal
court in Washington. I mean, with this, today, Maria Butina becomes the
first Russian national convicted for seeking to influence U.S. politics
around the time of the election in 2016. She had not – excuse me, she had
previously pled not guilty after she was arrested in July. She was charged
with operating as an agent of the Russian government in this country. She
initially pled not guilty. What
is perhaps most remarkable about this U-turn in her case now, though, not
that she has change her mind and change her plea from not guilty to guilty.
The thing that is most remarkable about her plea today is the cooperation
agreement that she has entered into with prosecutors, in exchange for the
U.S. attorney`s office in D.C. dropping one of the two felony charges that
was pending against her, Butina has agreed to cooperate. And this is –
this is from that sing-spaced plea deal that the judge warned her she
needed to read very carefully in it court.
Quote: Your client agrees to cooperate with the office of the United
State`s attorney for the District of Columbia, on the following terms and
conditions. Your client shall cooperate fully, truthfully, completely and
forthrightly with this office and other state and local law enforcement
authorities identified by this office in any and all matters to which the
office deems relevant.
Your client`s cooperation may include but will not necessarily be limited
to answering questions, providing sworn written statements, taking
government administered polygraph examinations, and participating in covert
law enforcement activities. Since she was already charged as a secret
agent, presumably covert activities will not be a mystifying concept for
this particular defendant.
But with this cooperation agreement, she is pledging if asked, she will
engage in such activities for the U.S. government now, which is quite a
turn of events, right? If as prosecutors have alleged she was basically
sent to this country in order to run a covert influence operation directed
by Russian government officials, her decision, which she herself announced
in open court today, her decision that she will now become a cooperate with
the FBI and with U.S. federal prosecutors, I mean, this part of the movie
probably has a darker more ominous soundtrack in the Russian language movie
than it does in the English language movie that we`re all watching from
I mean for us, this is like oh, look, another flipper. For them, it`s like
you`re cooperating with who now? On what now? You are agreeing that you
will participate in covert law enforcement activities for the United
Yes. And then at the end of all of it, she gets deported back to Russia.
According to Section 12 of the plea agreement, which happens on just the
next page. It`s just a remarkable turn of events.
But there are few interesting things about this case in terms of how it
fits into the larger picture that we don`t totally understand yet, but that
may end up being important by the time we get to the end of this movie in
either language. First of all, as I mentioned, this court proceeding in
the Butina case today, it happened in federal court in Washington, D.C. and
that`s a court where we`ve seen a lot of activity related to the special
counsel`s office. But Robert Mueller and his special counsel`s office were
not involved in the Butina case at all. This was handled today, as it has
been from the beginning, by regular federal prosecutors associated with the
U.S. attorney`s office in D.C.
As “The New York Times” described it today, the Butina case has stemmed,
quote, from what officials described as a broader counterintelligence
investigation by the Justice Department and the FBI that predated the 2016
election and is separate from the work being done by the special counsel.
So, does that make you feel better or worse about your country? Does that
make you feel better or worse about this scandal, right? I mean, this
means that if “The New York Times” is right, and the inference we can draw
from the fact that the special counsel doesn`t appear to be involved in the
Butina prosecution, if the inference from that is right, that means that
additional to everything that`s being investigated by the special counsel,
that means there is a whole separate criminal and counterintelligence case
about a whole another variety of secret Russian influence on the Republican
Party around the 2020 San Francisco campaign.
So this was like a spare. But now that Maria Butina has changed her plea
to guilty, and we can see not only her cooperation agreement and plea deal,
but also the statement of offense where prosecutors lay out their case for
what she plead to. One of the surprises in these court testimonies about
her case tonight is that the most serious and sort of worrying evidence
that prosecutors are presenting in this case against her is stuff that is
not just about her. The most serious and arguably the most worrying stuff
in the government`s case against Maria Butina, which we have now seen laid
out in documents, the most serious stuff also seems to have involved her
American boyfriend, who is a Republican activist named Paul Erickson.
As we`ve been talking about on the show for a few days now, “The Daily
Beast” was first to report last week that Paul Erickson himself received a
target letter from federal prosecutors a few months ago, informing him that
they were considering bringing federal charges against him that matched the
charges against Maria Butina. Prosecutors told this American guy, this
Republican activist Paul Erickson that they were considering charging him
as an agent of the Russian government operating in this country. That`s
one thing if you are a Russian who is operating as an agent of the Russian
government. But if you`re an American operating as an agent of the Russian
Now getting a target letter isn`t the same thing as being indicted. Paul
Erickson, as far as we know, he hasn`t been charged. He may never be
charged. But the filings in the Butina case really don`t make it seem like
Paul Erickson is believed to have been a bystander or even a mere accessory
to the scheme that she has plead guilty to. In the narrative the
prosecutors are laying out in the Butina case, Paul Erickson is absolutely
a main character, directly involved in the foreign influence operation that
Maria Butina just plead to.
In a statement that accompanies her plea agreement today, the person that
is described as U.S. person 1 is this American Republican activist Paul
Erickson. And they give him top billing right alongside her right from the
start when it comes to describing the commission of this criminal scheme.
Quote, Maria Butina is a citizen of the Russian federation. U.S. person 1
is a United States citizen. Beginning no later than March of 2015, Butina
and a U.S. person 1, Paul Erickson, agreed and conspired with a Russian
government official and at least one other person for Butina to act in the
United States under the direction of the Russian official. That Russian
official is referred to throughout this statement of he is widely
understood to be Aleksandr Torshin, who`s a former senior official in the
Russian government, a ranking member of Vladimir Putin`s political party,
and until quite recently, the deputy central banker in Russia.
Sometime in the last couple of weeks though, Aleksandr Torshin suddenly
retire and disappeared, out of the blue retired, no sign it was coming,
boop, he is gone. One-sentence statement from the central bank. The only
signs of life from him since, since he was suddenly and unexpectedly
disappeared from his position at the Russian central bank, the only signs
of life we`ve had of him since then are some of his more recent musings on
Twitter in which he appears to be randomly gushing on line about how
delicious the food is in Kyrgyzstan.
I`m relying on Google translate there. But who am I to hold it against him
if he believes that Kyrgyzstan is generally a tasty country? Don`t hold me
That`s Google translate. But I think that`s what he is saying. Water is
But that`s Aleksandr Torshin. He is Russian official 1. U.S. person 1 is
Paul Erickson. And so knowing that, we can sort of get a pretty distinct
and pretty hairy plot line here out of the Butina court documents. Quote,
with Paul Erickson`s assistance and subject to the direction of this
Russian official Aleksandr Torshin, Butina sought to establish unofficial
lines of communication with Americans having power and influence over U.S.
politics. Butina sought to use those unofficial lines of communication for
the benefit of the Russian federation.
Now from the original court filings where Maria Butina was first charged,
we have the text of an e-mail that Paul Erickson sent to an acquaintance
just one month before the 2016 election. That e-mail said, quote, have I
been involved in securing a very private line of communication between the
Kremlin and key Republican Party leaders through, of all conduits, the NRA.
Again, this is a month before the 2016 election. Why would Republican
Party leaders need an all caps very private line of communication to the
Kremlin? Why would Republican Party leaders need that through the NRA or
through anybody else? I mean, that`s kind of the $64,000 question right
But here is the Republican activist who`s bragging that he had set that up
for the Republican Party leaders who would need this secret line of
communication to the Kremlin. Shortly after the Trump inauguration, Maria
Butina used her contacts in the Russian government to bring over a
delegation of Russians to attend the national prayer breakfast in
Washington, D.C. She and Paul Erickson, according to prosecutors, then
overtly discussed the fact that all of these Russians were coming over to
Washington right after Trump`s inauguration for this prayer breakfast
event, quote, to establish a back channel of communication. It like
they`re saying the quiet part outloud.
Well, in the new court filings in Butina case today, prosecutors also
revealed that this American Republican activist Paul Erickson, he also
bragged in an e-mail to somebody else that he was going to monitor the
American reaction to all these Russians who were coming over here for the
prayer breakfast. He would convey that information about how these
Russians were received over here. He would convey that information
directly to the office of Vladimir Putin.
From today`s filing, quote: Butina e-mailed the list of delegation invitees
to Paul Erickson. Butina explained that the people on the list had been
handpicked by Torshin and me and they were coming to establish a back
channel of communication. Later, Erickson son e-mailed another person
copying Butina to say this, quote, reaction to the delegation`s presence in
America will be relayed directly to the Russian president and foreign
It is astonishing that an accused Russian agent has agreed to flip and
become a cooperating witness as prosecutors investigate Russia`s
interference in our 2016 election, right? That happened today. That is
astonishing. Now they`re flipping Russians too, right?
But in some ways, it is even more amazing that prosecutors say that as part
of her scheme, it was an American guy over here who was guaranteeing direct
access to Vladimir Putin when it came time to report become on how this
Russian influence operation was panning out over here right as Trump was
So, again, as far as we know, this American Republican activist who really
is the star of the Maria Butina statement of the offense today in court,
and not in a good way, as far as we know, he has not been charged. But
prosecutors are spelling out a lot about him here that makes it hard not to
wonder, you know, what he`s up to tonight, and what he`s expecting for his
next few days in the news.
And if that`s not enough, then tonight we got this new scoop from “The Wall
Street Journal.” This is brand-new from “The Wall Street Journal.” and to
the Trump administration and the president, this late-breaking headline
from “The Wall Street Journal” tonight has to feel like they were already
playing tennis against like Roger Federer, right?
They`re already playing tennis against a guy who was pretty good. But then
that guy got a second tennis racket in the other arm and turns out he is
ambidextrous. Turns out he is an octopus. And each one of those arms has
a racket, and he`s good with all of them. And oh, god, don`t say racket.
That`s the one thing they`re not getting charged with yet.
But, I mean, this is the lead from “The Wall Street Journal” tonight.
Trump inauguration spending under criminal investigation by federal
prosecutors. Probe looking into whether committee misspent funds and top
donors gave money in exchange for access to the administration.
Quote: Federal prosecutors are investigating whether President Trump`s 2017
inaugural committee misspent some of the record $107 million it raised from
donations. The criminal probe by the Manhattan U.S. attorneys office,
which is at its early stages, it`s also examining whether some of the top
donors gave money for access for policy concessions or to influence
official administration positions.
Giving money in exchange for political favors could run afoul of federal
corruption laws. Diverting funds from the organization could also violate
federal law. The investigation partly arises out of materials seized in
the federal probe of former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen`s business dealings.
So what a day, right? What a moment that we`re all living through. Just
to draw the bottom line here, the president`s campaign chairman and deputy
campaign chairman and national security adviser have also plead guilty to
felonies, and they`re all either in jail or awaiting sentencing for felony
The president`s lawyer is going to prison. The president`s business is in
the crosshairs for throws one of the felonies for which his lawyer is now
going to children. His adult children are now on the hook for that
specifically or directly. His inaugural committee is now under federal
And this is all separate and parrot from the special counsel`s
investigation which continues to aggressively investigate whether he and
his campaign conspired with Russia to rig the presidential election. And
oh by the way, in that one, they`re now starting to flip actual Russians to
get to the bill of that.
How was your day? I mean, I don`t know who you know or how old they are,
but nobody else has ever lived through a moment in the American presidency
like this. We`re the first.
We`ll be right back with one of “The Wall Street Journal” reporters who
broke tonight`s scoop. That`s next.
MADDOW: It was going to be squeaky, squeaky, squeaky clean. That`s what
the head of the Donald Trump inaugural committee told the “Associated
Press” more than a year ago. Quote: A full and clean external audit has
been conducted and completed of the inaugural committee`s finances.
Really? Is that so?
And then the “Associated Press” asked to see that squeaky clean audit.
Quote, the Trump inaugural committee would not share a copy of the audit
with “A.P.” or even say who performed it.
Just trust us. There is obviously nothing going on that`s funky with our
finances. We can prove it. We did a whole audit. It was a super clean
audit. We came out perfect.
But it`s also secret, and you have to trust us that it happened and we`re
not going to tell you who did it. See? Are we good? Are we square?
That was June of 2017. Since then, the “Associated Press” has tried to get
their hands on that mystery audit of Trump`s inaugural finances. We on
this show have tried repeatedly in a whole bunch of different ways to track
it down too, but no dice. And you know, part of the reason we were so
interested is because it was clear from the very, very, very beginning that
there was something funky about the Trump inauguration and the money that
was raised for it and spent on it.
And this picture I know causes a lot of people a lot of agita. This
picture makes the president crazy. It became part of the first ridiculous
scandal of this new administration on its first half day when the president
told government officials they needed to lie about the size of the crowd at
his inauguration compared to the size of the crowd at the Obama
inauguration from 2009.
But that picture and that truth about the inauguration for Mr. Trump, that
is also part of the very clear evidence that something was wrong with the
money part of the Trump inaugural, because Obama`s inauguration in 2009
really was way bigger. And I don`t mean that in an ad hominem way. It was
just a historic thing.
And because it was so big, that inauguration for Obama in 2009, it was a
previous – it hit a previously unimaginable fundraising and spending
record. When Obama was inaugurated for the first time, that was the
largest presidential inauguration in history for obvious reasons. The
event was just huge, the cost was huge, $43 million they raised and spent
for that inauguration. That was a record by a mile.
Now in contrast, the Trump inauguration, I do not say this to be mean, but
the Trump inauguration was a comparatively small affair, and there
comparatively wasn`t that much to it. It was baton twirlers and tractors
and a DJ who dances while he plays the drums. It was not like 2009.
But somehow, somehow the Trump inauguration ended up more than doubling the
amount of money that was raised and spent as compared to the gigantic Obama
inauguration eight years earlier, which is nuts. And honestly, the bottom
line for us from the very beginning just felt like, well, it may be a good
idea to figure out what happened to all that money, because they didn`t
spend it on the tractor bleachers.
The Trump inaugural committee did start saying they did great in their
audit, but nobody has ever seen the supposed audit. When we look looking
for the audit, along the way we did manage to find the treasurer of the
Trump inaugural committee. His name is Doug Ammerman.
And we figured, you know, there was some higher profile people associated
with the inauguration. The head of the inaugural committee was Tom
Barrack, long time friend of the president, zillionaire on his own right.
The deputy chair of the inauguration was Rick Gates who is now a felon,
currently awaiting sentencing.
But we figured the treasurer, lower profile guy that he would know what
happened to all the money they raised and spent. We tried to get ahold of
the treasurer to ask him questions. We never, ever, ever heard back.
And then we figure out he himself was a weird choice to be the treasurer of
a presidential inaugural committee since the only other thing he has ever
been famous for in his life was an once being named as an unindicted
conspirator in a major criminal tax evasion case involving his former
employer. That was his qualification.
We never found the Trump inauguration audit though. To this day, that full
and total accounting remains a mystery. Now, however, according to a scoop
tonight in “The Wall Street Journal,” there is a new and different kind of
accounting going on. This is the headline tonight in the journal.
Quote, Trump inauguration spending under criminal investigation by federal
Joining us now is Rebecca O`Brien. She is reporter for “The Wall Street
Journal,” one of the reporters behind this scoop tonight.
Ms. O`Brien, it`s great to have you here. You guys have been doing great
work. You`ve had a lot of scoops lately. Congratulations.
REBECCA DAVIS O`BRIEN, REPORTER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: Thanks so much.
Thanks so much.
MADDOW: So we`ve been interested in this inaugural funding story for a
long time on this show for some of the reasons that I explained there. And
there has been previous reporting, six months or so ago, about federal
investigators looking into the possibility that foreign money might have
gotten into Trump`s inaugural funds. That came up, for example, in the
indictment of Sam Patton, one of the lower profile indictments in which he
was accused of setting up American straw purchasers so that a foreigner
could actually spend a bunch of money and go to the Trump inauguration.
But what you guys are talking here is a federal investigation not into the
money coming into the inauguration necessarily, but the spending.
O`BRIEN: Right. I think what we`re looking at is beyond the role of
potential foreign influence or foreign money coming into the inaugural.
It`s looking – this investigation, which to be clear is in its very early
stages as we understand it is looking at money in, but also money out.
And the money in isn`t just foreign. It`s also looking at who – whether
individuals or entities give money in the expectation of receiving some
sort of special benefit from the administration. And the money out is
looking at, you know, as you said, there has been great reporting out there
about the murkiness of what happened to this more than $100 million that
was spent on the – ostensibly on the inaugural.
O`BRIEN: That`s right. We don`t know it. It`s a big trick here. The tax
returns say they spent it on this, and they don`t say that much.
But it`s trying to get to the bottom of that. There is a lot of qualifiers
there. But –
MADDOW: On the issue of spending money, donating money to the inauguration
with the expectation that you`ll be treated favorably by the government in
some policy context, or the terms of some kind of favor, I feel that`s the
open secret of inaugural donations anyway, that most people don`t give to
an inauguration out of the goodness of their heart. Corporations and rich
people presumably all do that us because they want to curry in an abstract
sense some sort of favor.
Is it your understanding that this investigation looking at acute
allegations of real quid pro quo that there were real favors traded in
exchange for donations?
DAVIS: You know, I`m not sure about that. To be sure, there`s certainly
money and politics, Democrats do it, Republicans do it, and –
DAVIS: Exactly. And this office and other federal prosecutors and state
prosecutors look into this kind of stuff all the time. Sometimes they
don`t turn up anything. It`s hard the make cases about money and politics
for reasons we discussed. It`s all over the place.
MADDOW: But you described this is a fairly new investigation at the
Southern District of New York?
DAVIS: I think new, early stages. It`s one of these things from my
understanding it`s receiving different kinds of evidence from different –
from different places, and make it`s all starting to coalesce into
something that will look like an investigation.
MADDOW: Some of the evidence that you describe in your piece tonight is
very intriguing. I`m just going to read to you from your own reporting.
In April raids of Michael Cohen`s homes and hotel room, FBI agents obtained
a recorded conversation between Mr. Cohen and Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, a
former adviser to the first lady who worked on inaugural events. In the
recording, Ms. Wolkoff expressed concern about how the inaugural committee
was spending money. This is according to a person familiar with the Cohen
“The Wall Street Journal” could not determine when the conversation between
Mr. Cohen and Ms. Wolkoff took place or when it was recorded. So, that –
at least that piece of the evidence seems like it`s sort of adjacent to the
Cohen prosecution, and maybe that might explain some of the timing as Cohen
as now moved on to his sentencing.
DAVIS: Right. We know that they seized the raids took place in April, and
it took some time for the review to take place. So the prosecutors didn`t
get it for a while. But yes, this is an important – potentially important
piece of evidence that was taken.
MADDOW: I have to also ask you just as a matter of personal obsession,
have you been able to get a peek at that full and clean external audit that
they say exists and shows that they were perfectly squeaky clean?
DAVIS: I think the story would be longer if I had.
MADDOW: Yes. Well, they would be clean completely exonerated obviously.
DAVIS: Well, I mean, time will tell.
MADDOW: Time will tell. Thank you. Well, Rebecca O`Brien, reporter for
“The Wall Street Journal” – again, you and your colleagues at “The
Journal” have reason to take a victory lap this week. The AIM reporting
that you guys did at “The Journal” was born out in court documents today
almost as if it was “The Wall Street Journal” story just written by the
Southern District of New York. You`re well ahead of that story and so many
other angles in this scandal. Congratulations.
DAVIS: Thanks so much. I appreciate it.
MADDOW: Lots more to get to. Stay with us.
MADDOW: After weeks and weeks, maybe months, OK, let`s just admit, it`s
been years, of breathless, iterative, reductive reporting on how much
trouble Nancy Pelosi is in, how Nancy Pelosi definitely can`t be speaker
again, how Nancy Pelosi is in so much – Nancy Pelosi is on her way. A
group of rebel Democrats are going to take out Nancy – after barrels of
ink spilled on that story, perhaps we can please wipe that up now and
acknowledge what that was all about.
Because now, after going through that once again, we now have the
unofficial but basically definitive word that hey, Nancy Pelosi has the
votes she needs to become speaker when the Democrats take control of the
House early next year. Surprise! Now that she has the votes to become
speaker, which honestly was never in doubt, that vote will not happen until
In terms of who the Democrats will put in charge of the House committees
which right now feels like one of the most important imaginable things in
American politics, the House Democratic Steering Committee has already made
its recommendations for most of the chairs for most of the committees, but
we still don`t know the final date for the full caucus vote. Nancy
Pelosi`s office tells us tonight that the chairs will likely be chosen
before they actually vote formally on her.
In terms of the really big high profile committees and the committees that
might have a high profile to play when it comes to the various scandals
swirling around this president, we are, of course, expecting that the House
Intelligence Committee will be led by Congressman Adam Schiff of
California. Financial Services Committee, it will be Congresswoman Maxine
Waters who drives the president absolutely crazy. And on Judiciary, which
is important for a whole slew of reasons, the incoming chairman of
judiciary is our next guest.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: We`re joined in studio now by Congressman Jerry Nadler of New
York. He is the top Democrat and will be the incoming chairman on the
Judiciary Committee in the House.
Sir, thank you very much for being here.
REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY), RANKING MEMBER, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Thank you.
MADDOW: There is a whole bunch of things that I want to talk to you about,
but I actually have to talk to you about some breaking news that we`ve just
received, and I know you`ve seen the headline since it just broke.
Do we have the full screen of this? Can we put this up on the screen
please? This was just posted in “The Washington Post.” You see the
headline there: 7-year-old might grant girl taken into border patrol
custody dies of dehydration and exhaustion. A 7-year-old girl from
Guatemala died of dehydration and shock after she was taken into border
patrol custody last week for crossing from Mexico into the United States
along a remote span of the New Mexico desert.
According to Customs and Border Patrol records, the girl and her father
were taken into custody about 10:00 p.m. December 6th, south of Lordsburg,
New Mexico. More than eight hours later, the child began having seizures.
At 6:25 a.m. emergency responders arrived soon after. They measured her
temperature at 105.7 degrees.
According to a statement from Customs and Border Patrol, she reportedly had
not eaten or consumed water for several days. This is an announcement
tonight from Customs and Border Patrol.
I just have to get your reaction to this, sir.
NADLER: My reaction is obviously outrage. Number one, you know in no
particular order, why are we learning of this now from “The Washington
Post”? Number two, how can you run a detention facility and not take a
look at the kids who you know have been walking across a desert and how
they`re doing, give them water when they come in.
This is part of the absolute insensitivity to migrants, to people seeking
asylum on the part this administration. We`re going to have Secretary
Nielsen before the Judiciary Committee next Thursday. We`re certainly
going to ask her about this.
What measures are taken to make sure that when people arrived in custody,
they`re not going to die, especially the children.
When you take 7-year-olds who you know have been walking across the border,
walking across a desert, you don`t check them, you don`t take their
temperature? You don`t give them water to drink? For eight hours?
MADDOW: There is obviously an issue across multiple policies, multiple
policies in this area of just increased hostility towards immigrants of all
kinds and in all sorts of circumstances. In this case, that would seem to
hit in excess with the sheer issue of competence. Once you have taken
somebody into U.S. federal government custody for any reason in any
circumstances, those people become the responsibility of the U.S. federal
NADLER: It`s more than competence. It`s total disregard. You don`t give
a damn. That`s what this shows.
MADDOW: You said that Secretary Nielsen will be called to answer for this.
When the Democrats take control of the House soon, and you as expected
become chair of the Judiciary Committee, obviously, you have all sorts of
leverage that you never had before. But with the Senate still under
Republican control, with the administration still under the control of a
Republican White House, how do you strategize as to how to be most
effective, especially on an acute accountability issue like this when you
may not have any sympathy across the aisle?
NADLER: Well, there are a number of things you can do. You can subpoena
witnesses. You can get the secretary in front of you. You can demand
answers to questions. You can condition appropriations on proper conduct,
on proper policies, on just getting the information.
So, there are all kinds of things you can do. It takes two houses to pass
an appropriation. There are lots of things you can do.
And we`re going to have to – in our committee, the Judiciary Committee,
and in the House generally, we have to do two things. We have to hold this
administration accountable. We have to – which the Republicans in
Congress have absolutely refused to do.
And at the same time, we have to pass legislation to do the things we
promised we would do, to lower health care costs, to put people – to raise
people`s paychecks by an infrastructure bill by rebuilding America, all
sorts of things we have promised, voting rights, you name it. And we can
do more than one thing at a time.
MADDOW: When you say – you mention the issue of appropriations need to
get through both houses. Do you think on the issue of treatment of
immigrants, especially again with this breaking news tonight about a 7-
year-old girl dying of dehydration and exhaustion in U.S. federal custody,
border patrol custody, do you think that there is an appropriations fix,
that there is a way to deny funding to the administration for some of the
policies they`ve pursued that have been the most dangerous or egregious in
NADLER: I`m not an expert on that, but I think there are. There are ways
of using appropriations and denying funds to various things or conditioning
funds and putting mandates into appropriations bills, yes.
MADDOW: I want to ask you about some of the things that have happened
within the past week. It`s been almost every day there has been an almost
unimaginable new reveal in terms of the scandals that are attending this
president and the legal trouble that he and his administration and maybe
even some of his business associates may be in.
Today, Maria Butina plead guilty to being – to conspiracy to act as an
agent of the Russian government in this country, and one of the things that
struck me in terms of the prosecutors` assertions in her case is about the
NRA. There have been questions raised as to whether or not the NRA
illegally coordinated with the Trump campaign and its spending during the
campaign. There have been questions raised as to whether the NRA might
have been used as a funnel for foreign money into the campaign in 2016.
Butina also describes a meeting she brought NRA officials to Moscow in
December of 2015, had them meet with Russian government officials and just
quoting from court documents today, after their visit, Butina sent Russian
government officials in Russian translated to saying we should let them
express their gratitude now, we will put pressure on them quietly later.
Given the role of the NRA in U.S. politics, if senior NRA officials
participated in this kind of Russian operation, is that itself a concern
separate and apart from the influence they might have had in the election?
NADLER: By national security, certainly, it could be national security but
it also could be obstruction of justice. And it`s part of a larger
pattern, a total culture of corruption.
We now know that the Trump campaign was involved in all sorts of illegal
actions, you know, about Michael Cohen`s actions, all these different
things and this all has to be investigated by the special counsel, by the
Congress as part of our oversight responsibility.
And the essential question comes back to what they asked in Watergate, what
did the president know and when did they know it? There`s a pattern here
of the president being surrounded by crooks. By people who are now
convicted or pleading guilty, an extraordinary number of people around him
have admitted to crimes. That raises all sorts of questions we have to get
to the bottom of on behalf of the American people – at the same time that
we`re delivering results for the American people on the substantive issues
that they want, whether it`s health care or the economy, et cetera.
MADDOW: If the president himself is implicated as prosecutors have
suggested in the felonies to which Michael Cohen has pled and for which
he`ll now go to prison, is that something that you believe the Congress
would take up on its face, that you would take the information that has
been presented by prosecutors and pursue it in terms of criminal
NADLER: Well, at some point, we have to wait to a larger extent to see
what the Mueller investigation reveals. What`s very clear is that Mueller
investigation knows more than we do.
NADLER: But we will use our subpoena power to find out a lot of things,
too. We don`t want to step on them, but we will find out a lot of things.
And at some point, we`ll have to make decisions. But that`s down the road.
MADDOW: Congressman Jerry Nadler of New York, top Democrat, incoming
chairman on the Judiciary Committee in the House, thank you, sir.
NADLER: Thank you.
NADLER: We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Tomorrow will be the opening of yet another little compartment on
what is turning out to be the worst Advent calendar ever in U.S. politics.
Tomorrow is going to be another one.
Lawyers for former national security adviser Mike Flynn told a judge this
week that Flynn should get zero jail time despite the fact he pled guilty
to lying to the FBI. And they`re saying he should get zero jail time in
part to his extensive cooperation to the special counsel`s office. But
they also say that General Flynn, you know, he wasn`t warned by FBI agents
ahead of them interviewing him, he wasn`t warned that if he lied to them,
there would be penalties associated with that. They`re implying that he
was basically ambushed by FBI agents who he thought were nice guys. It`s
sort of a gambit from Flynn`s defense team.
Well, tomorrow, if Robert Mueller`s team wants to respond to any of that or
contest any of that, the deadline for them to do so is 3:00 p.m. Eastern.
We expected that filing would be public. The judge in this case has also
set a deadline of 3:00 tomorrow for both sides to turn over records related
to the FBI interview of Flynn.
We don`t expect that those ones will be public-facing, but as with an
Advent calendar behind every little calendar entry, there`s sometimes a
surprise. You never know.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: Thank you for being with us tonight. As I mentioned just before
the break, we do expect that tomorrow`s going to be another doozy. We`ll
see you again tomorrow night.
Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL,” where Ali
Velshi is in for Lawrence tonight.
Good evening, Ali.
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