Rosenstein plans to leave Justice Department. TRANSCRIPT: 1/9/19, The Rachel Maddow Show.

Guests:
Adam Schiff, Devlin Barrett
Transcript:

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST:  Good evening, Chris.  Thanks, my friend.  Much

appreciated. 

 

Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour as well.  Can I have this,

please?  Thank you very much.  Sometimes things arrive late. 

 

The government may be shut down, but we have just learned tonight from

reporter Carol Leonnig in “The Washington Post” that the Trump White House

has just hired 17 new lawyers to help them handle the fallout of the

Mueller investigation and any potential fallout from Democrats taking over

the investigative committees in Congress, and that is not like me rounding

up to the nearest 17 to come up with a ridiculously large sounding number. 

What “The Washington Post” is reporting tonight is that they have literally

just hired 17 new lawyers for the president at the White House. 

 

Here is the headline in this late-breaking story.  Quote: A beefed-up White

House legal team prepares aggressive defense of Trump`s executive privilege

as investigations loom large. 

 

Here is the lead: A beefed up White House legal team is gearing up to

prevent President Trump`s confidential discussions with top advisers from

being disclosed to House Democratic investigators and revealed in the

special counsel`s long-awaited report, setting the stage for a potential

clash between the branches of government.

 

Quote: The strategy to strongly assert the president`s executive privilege

on both fronts is being developed under newly arrived White House counsel

Pat Cipollone, who has hired 17 lawyers in recent weeks to help in the

effort. 

 

In preparation for these looming legal battles, Cipollone has been beefing

up the White House counsel`s office since his arrival in December. 

Cipollone has increased the staff to roughly 35 lawyers and aims to further

bolster the ranks up to 40 in coming weeks. 

 

You know, until now, it has been a sort of weird dichotomy in this

presidency.  I think it`s the sort of thing that historians when they look

back at this presidency, they will end up noting this.  And that is that

President Trump, of course, has been at the center of the most serious

presidential scandals probably in U.S. history.  He`s facing the most

serious investigations of any president ever.  He is probably facing the

most serious legal jeopardy of any president in U.S. history. 

 

But at the same time, his legal defense has been a crazy quilt.  I mean,

there`s his long-time personal lawyer who has both flipped against him and

is now awaiting the start of his federal prison term.  There are the

unusual hires, the unusual choices he made for his initial counsel to

handle the Russia investigation.  They both flamed out, but not before

distinguishing themselves by having loud conversations about very sensitive

aspects of the president`s legal defense at an outdoor table at a

Washington restaurant while they were seated next to a reporter from “The

New York Times” who promptly reported everything they said. 

 

The president has also had a man named Rudy Giuliani working as part of his

legal team, and I`m not going to say anything about that.  He has also had

a Fox News talk radio lawyer guy representing him whose previous legal

experience was mostly like Ten Commandments monuments. 

 

And whatever you think of that roster, for a president facing such serious

legal problems, like the ones President Trump is facing, it has been a

weird thing that his legal representation has not been like A-list folks,

or even B-list.  It`s been like a grab bag.  They`re the white elephant

lawyers who were otherwise available. 

 

It`s been a strange mismatch between the presidential legal jeopardy here

and the presidential legal defense.  Up until now.  Now that would seem to

be changing, if in fact the new White House counsel really has just added

17 new lawyers to the White House counsel`s office within the past couple

of weeks, and none of them are people who are also planning on continuing

their talk radio shows while they do this gig. 

 

It is awkward, though, that that hiring of 17 new lawyers for the

president, that maps neatly on to this government shutdown, which is now in

its 19th day.  You may have seen today the Coast Guard just published a

handy guide for its personnel during the shutdown, a new guard for

personnel titled managing your finances during a furlough.  The five-page

tip sheet advises Coast Guard personnel that they should, quote, be

creative to find supplemental income during the furlough period. 

 

Quote, here are a few ideas for adding income.  Quote, have a garage sale,

offer to watch children, walk pets, or house sit.  Turn your hobby into

income.  Wouldn`t that depend on your hobby? 

 

Quote, become a mystery shopper.  Retailers are desperate to check how

their in-store customer service is, and will employee you to shop and rate

their service. 

 

It`s one of a handful of tips for Coast Guard personnel.  This is coast

guard advice to their personnel for how to try to piece it together as the

shutdown grinds on.  The FDA, which oversees the safety of 80 percent of

the U.S. food supply, the FDA has also now announced that they have

suspended all routine inspections of domestic food processing facilities. 

Oh. 

 

According to an interview, the FDA commissioner just did with “The

Washington Post,” the FDA is now looking to try to figure out some way they

might be able to get some inspectors back on the job, maybe next week,

despite the shutdown, if only so they can start looking at the really high

risk stuff, like seafood and soft cheeses and vegetables, food that has

posed particular risks in terms of food borne illnesses in this country. 

Yes.  Why do we need the government inspectors?  Those are just bean

counters, right? 

 

I mean, as we have reported over the course of the shutdown, the U.S.

judiciary system, the federal court system is due to be out of money the

day after tomorrow, whereupon individual courts and judges will have to

start triaging, making decisions themselves about what`s going to happen

with U.S. federal justice from here on out.  But while that is all

happening, the White House counsel`s office has just hired 17 new lawyers

to deal with the president`s scandals. 

 

Carol Leonnig`s article in “The Post” tonight suggests that some of the

urgency there leading to the hiring of 17 new lawyers may be due to

expectations that the special counsel`s office, its investigation, the

Mueller investigation may be heading into its final act.  Quote: There is a

growing sense that the special counsel`s closely held investigation could

come to culmination soon.  Some Trump advisers think Mueller could deliver

the confidential report explaining his findings to senior Justice

Department officials next month. 

 

Quote: Under the rules authorizing the special counsel, the attorney

general can then decide whether to share the report or parts of it with

Congress and the public.  Some House leaders have vowed to immediately seek

to obtain a copy of Mueller`s findings.  White House advisers say the White

House would resist the release of any details describing confidential and

sensitive communications between the president and his senior aides.  And

apparently they have hired this fleet of a dozen and a half new lawyers and

counting in order to try to support that expected strategy. 

 

I`ll – just between us, I will tell you I personally have been

aggressively agnostic when it comes to any expectations about the overall

scope of the Mueller investigation or its timing or what Mueller plans to

do in terms of some sort of report or not.  I am agnostic on those matters. 

I think that I don`t know. 

 

But you should know that NBC News tonight has another separate piece of

reporting that really bolsters those expectations about Mueller that are

being described in “The Washington Post” tonight, those expectations that

Mueller may be heading toward his big reveal.  We all woke up this morning

to the headlines in multiple news sources.  ABC News was first, but a

number of news organizations quickly got the story, that Deputy Attorney

Rod Rosenstein is planning to leave the Justice Department, and that is a

big freakin` deal. 

 

Rod Rosenstein is, of course, a key figure in the Mueller investigation,

into everything else that a deputy attorney general does.  Deputy attorney

general essentially runs the Justice Department.  But on the Russia

investigation in particular, Rosenstein`s been key, because Attorney

General Jeff Sessions was recused from everything having to do with the

Russia investigation.  It was Rosenstein who appointed Robert Mueller to be

special counsel in the first place. 

 

And Rosenstein has since played a day-to-day role, apparently through to

the present day in overseeing Mueller`s work.  That day-to-day oversight

rule by Rosenstein has reportedly persisted in recent weeks, even while new

Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker has been at the Justice Department. 

At least nominally he has been in charge. 

 

The new prospect in all these headlines today that Rosenstein is about to

leave, that of course has very serious implications for oversight of the

Mueller investigation at a crucial time.  But this is what NBC News`s Pete

Williams is reporting tonight about Rosenstein`s plans, and this is

potentially really important. 

 

According to Pete Williams and Allen Smith at NBC News, quote: A source

close to Rosenstein says he intends to stay on until Mueller submits a

report to the Justice Department on the Russian meddling investigation. 

The source said that would mean Rosenstein would remain until early March. 

That would imply that Mueller`s report will be out and done by early March. 

Quote, several legal sources have said that they expect the Mueller team to

submit its report by mid- to late February, although they say that timeline

could change based on unforeseen investigative developments. 

 

So that was the story at NBCnews.com earlier from Pete Williams.  Pete

Williams tonight has updated the story to add more detail about these

expectations, and I can share some of that reporting with you now. 

According to NBC News` Pete Williams tonight, a source close to Rosenstein

says that Rosenstein`s intention is to stay until Mueller winds down the

bulk of the investigative and courtroom work in the Russia investigation. 

According to this single source close to Rosenstein, quote, that could be

mid- to late February. 

 

Several weeks later, Mueller would present his report to the Justice

Department.  Multiple sources are also telling NBC News that Mueller is

near the end of his investigation and will soon begin paring down staff. 

 

Again, that is reporting tonight from NBC News.  It`s obviously important

both in terms of what`s going to happen with Deputy Attorney General Rod

Rosenstein, how long he`s going to stay at the Justice Department, how that

departure may be keyed to what`s going on in the Mueller investigation. 

That`s also very important reporting when it comes to the Mueller

investigation itself.  So, we`ll have more on that coming up a little bit

later on this hour. 

 

But meanwhile, here is something that you should watch for first thing

tomorrow.  Despite the ongoing and now critical government shutdown,

Congress is going to be in session tomorrow, and the secretary of the

treasury, Steven Mnuchin, is going to be at the House tomorrow.  He is

going to be briefing members of Congress, members of the house on the

decision made by his department just before Christmas to drop sanctions on

companies controlled by this guy, a Russian oligarch close to Vladimir

Putin who was sanctioned specifically because of Russia`s interference in

the U.S. presidential election in 2016. 

 

His name is Oleg Deripaska.  He is subject to U.S. sanctions.  He is banned

from entering the United States.  Awkwardly, he also has a history of doing

a lot of business with President Trump`s now convicted felon campaign

chairman Paul Manafort.  “The Associated Press” reported soon after Trump`s

inauguration that Manafort had entered into a contract with Deripaska in

which he would be paid $10 million a year to promote the interest of

Vladimir Putin`s government around the world. 

 

“The Washington Post” and “The Atlantic” magazine also both reported on

Manafort`s private communications during the time he was running the Trump

campaign, including Manafort reportedly offering through his right-hand man

in business, Konstantin Kilimnik, who U.S. federal prosecutors have twice

described in court filings as being linked to Russian intelligence. 

According to communications obtain and published by “The Washington Post”

and “The Atlantic” magazine, Manafort, during the time he was running

Trump`s presidential campaign, offered Deripaska, quote, private briefings

on the presidential campaign at Deripaska`s convenience. 

 

Kilimnik was Manafort`s business partner.  He appears to have been the go-

between between Manafort and this Russian oligarch, Oleg Deripaska who is

now sanctioned.  Kilimnik himself is believed by the FBI to be associated

with Russian intelligence. 

 

Well, on December 19th, last month right before Christmas, the Trump

administration, Treasury Department and the Trump administration announced

that they were going to relax sanctions on Oleg Deripaska`s companies.  And

you know, there was always going to be blowback against that because of the

reason Deripaska was sanctioned in the first place, and also because of

Deripaska`s troubling links to the Trump campaign at the time that Russia

was interfering in the U.S. election. 

 

But when they announced the relaxation of the Deripaska sanctions right

before Christmas, one neat trick that Steven Mnuchin and the Treasury

Department played with that timing is because of that timing, they made

sure there would be almost no opportunity for Congress to object to that

decision, to potentially force the reversal of that sanctions decision. 

Under U.S. law, Congress has 30 days after the announcement of a sanctions

decision like this to express its objections and to block the

administration`s decision. 

 

By announcing it on December 19th, which is what they did, right before

Christmas and right before a now indefinite government shutdown, by doing

it on December 19th, the Trump administration ensured there wouldn`t be all

that many working days in Washington before that 30-day window closed,

after which Congress would be powerless to stop or reverse this decision. 

 

Well, as we reported last night, seven Democratic chairmen of House

committees nevertheless have objected now.  They wrote to Steven Mnuchin

yesterday.  They demanded that he appear before the house to explain

treasury`s decision to relax these sanctions.  That`s why Mnuchin will be

at the house tomorrow.  He`ll be giving a classified briefing to interested

members of Congress about that decision to relax sanctions on this Russian

oligarch. 

 

And I know what you`re thinking.  I know you`re thinking yes, sure, Maddow,

I know.  But that`s just the Democratic-controlled House.  What can they do

on this? 

 

Actually, in this case, this one potentially could be a bipartisan and

bicameral thing.  And I say that not as sort of a naive hope.  I say that

because of recent history.  Republicans in both the House and the Senate,

they have actually been willing to defy Trump on the issue of Russian

sanctions, even if they haven`t been able to find an independent bone in

their body on any other subject.  They have done this.  I mean, Trump

objected vehemently in 2017 when Congress first voted to create this

structure for Russian sanctions, which allows Congress to object and

reverse the administration`s decisions on these sorts of things within 30

days. 

 

The White House complained about it.  They said they didn`t want it.  But

at the time, Congress, both houses of Congress, Democrats and Republicans

were sufficiently freaked out by the Trump administration on this issue

that they voted absolutely overwhelmingly to defy the president

specifically on this issue of Russian sanctions.  That vote in 2017 was 98-

2 in the Senate.  It was 419-3 in the House. 

 

So, yes, we are going to see Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin dragged

before the House tomorrow to try to explain what they just did by lifting

these Russian sanctions.  And yes, the house is now controlled by

Democrats, but that doesn`t mean that the Republican-controlled Senate

might not object to the lifting of these sanctions as well.  Don`t laugh. 

It has happened before, and it has happened specifically on this issue. 

 

And, in fact, we just got a statement from the banking committee in the

Senate on this issue suggesting that this really is something that might

get some bipartisan objections.  Here is the statement.  Quote: Bipartisan

staff of the Senate banking committee – bipartisan staff – are formally

reviewing treasury`s decision to lift sanctions on three firms that were

sanctioned for being owned or controlled by Russian oligarch Oleg

Deripaska.  The decision raises key questions that the administration must

answer. 

 

We go ahead and posted the full statement we`ve got from the Democratic

spokesperson on the Banking Committee tonight.  You can see it at our

website at maddowblog.com.  But the key insight here is that it`s

bipartisan.  That both the Democratic staff and the Republican staff on the

banking committee in the Senate are working on this question of whether or

not those sanctions really ought to have been reversed for Oleg Deripaska`s

companies. 

 

So that is now a live and interesting question.  We have almost – right,

there is almost never any suspense as to whether or not something will

happen on a bipartisan basis.  It never does.  But this is a live question,

which may defy some of the partisan nonsense we have seen on every other

issue.  Is it really shady that the Trump administration is trying to lift

sanctions on Oleg Deripaska`s business empire right now given Oleg

Deripaska`s relationship to Russian interference in our election and the

larger scandal that relates to the Trump administration therein. 

 

If it is shady that the Trump administration is trying to lift these

sanctions now, could this actually be something where both halves of

Congress and both parties act, like they did before on Russian sanctions,

to brush back the Trump administration on this issue.  Live question, and

we`re going to have more on that coming up tonight as well. 

 

And that relates, of course, to the new revelations about Trump campaign

chairman Paul Manafort.  As we learned yesterday, Manafort`s defense team

inadvertently disclosed information in a court filing yesterday that was

supposed to be redacted, but apparently Manafort`s lawyers don`t know how

to use that part of the software that prevents people from reading the text

behind the black boxes.  Part of what we accidentally learned because of

those bad redactions yesterday is that prosecutors in the special counsel`s

office have alleged that Manafort shared polling data from the 2016

campaign with his business associate Konstantin Kilimnik.  And again,

Kilimnik has twice been described in court filings as having links to

Russian intelligence in the view of the FBI.

 

Kilimnik himself has now been indicted in the Russia scandal.  He has not,

however, been arrested or brought into a U.S. court.  He is believed to

have fled to Russia to avoid U.S. justice, which means we may never see him

in this country again.  There is also very few known photos of him.  This

is almost one of the only ones we`ve got.  He is just not a person who you

have seen on television. 

 

But it`s interesting.  In April of last year, Radio Free Europe was able to

track down Konstantin Kilimnik, and they were able to conduct a brief

interview with him, in part about his relationship with Trump campaign

chair Paul Manafort.  It`s an audio interview.  It took place in a sort of

noisy cafe, but we`ve got the audio of it.  And so you can hear how

Konstantin Kilimnik in this interview describes Paul Manafort and what Paul

Manafort was good at in his work. 

 

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

 

KONSTANTIN KILIMNIK, MANAFORT ASSOCIATE:  I can say this on the record. 

Manafort is a guy who can merge strategy and messages into something that

will work for victory.  I mean, he has done before this all across the

world, and he has done it really – which is very skillful.  I mean,

honestly, I`ve seen him work in different countries, and he really just

does, you know, takes very seriously his polling and, you know, he can

stand, you know, two weeks going through the data, and he`ll come with the

best strategy you can ever have, and he`ll put it on the table of the

candidate. 

 

(END AUDIO CLIP)

 

MADDOW:  Takes very seriously his polling.  He will spend weeks going

through the data.  Again, that is the voice of Konstantin Kilimnik, who is

believed to have fled to Russia.  He has been indicted in the Mueller

investigation.  He is assessed by the FBI to be actively linked to Russian

intelligence. 

 

For years he worked alongside Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, and in

that interview, Kilimnik is describing what he sees as sort of Paul

Manafort`s secret sauce, the thing that Paul Manafort was best at as a

political consultant, the biggest strength he brought to all of his work in

all the different countries where he did it.  Polling. 

 

As Kilimnik said, he, quote, takes very seriously his polling.  Well, in

that oops, we forgot to really redact it court filing yesterday, we learn

that prosecutors from the special counsel`s office are alleging that

Manafort sent his beloved polling data, the core of what he does, he sent

that data to Konstantin Kilimnik, who, again, is linked to Russian

intelligence, and he sent him that data during Trump`s presidential

campaign.

 

Late last night, “The New York Times” added more details to the story,

including detail on the timing of the data transfer and its nature. 

According to “The Times,” Manafort transferred this data from the Trump

campaign to Kilimnik in the spring of 2016.  “The Times” further reports

that it was both Manafort and Rick Gates who were involved in transferring

that data.  And “The Times” says that the transfer involved not just public

polling data, but also private polling data that was internal to the

campaign, which of course is among the most highly prized data any campaign

has. 

 

Why would you give data like that to someone in another country in the

middle of the campaign?  Why would you give data like that to a guy who is

linked to Russian intelligence? 

 

As Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff told ABC News today, quote:

The question is why?  Why would Russians be interested in polling data on

an American campaign?  Why would that be of value?  How would the Russians

make use of that?  And, of course, why did Manafort lie about it? 

 

Last night, “The New York Times” reported that the Russian intelligence guy

Kilimnik, he passed on that polling data that he got from Manafort.  “The

Times” initially reported that he sent it to Oleg Deripaska, the guy whose

sanctions will be the subject of the big showdown with the Treasury

Department tomorrow in Congress when Steven Mnuchin has to come to Capitol

Hill. 

 

Interestingly, though, “The Times” later corrected its story to say

Kilimnik didn`t give that polling data to Deripaska.  That was a mistake in

“The Times`” initial reporting.  They corrected their story to say he had

actually passed it on instead to two Ukrainian oligarchs who are also known

to have funded Manafort`s pro Russia political work in Ukraine. 

 

Well, what did those guys want with internal polling data from an American

presidential campaign?  I mean, I should mention that one of those two

oligarchs who reportedly received that polling data from Manafort, he

appears to be the same guy who was described in the indictment of Sam

Patten.  Sam Patten pled guilty a few months ago to working as an

unregistered foreign agent.  He admitted in his plea deal, in his

cooperation deal, that he had illegally funneled foreign money into Trump`s

inauguration.  It was money apparently from this oligarch guy to whom

Manafort sent internal campaign polling data in the spring of 2016. 

 

So, it`s a small world, right?  These guys all seem to be interconnected. 

But basic question, why would anybody in Russia want internal polling data

from one of the campaigns in a U.S. presidential election?  Why would a

campaign chairman running one of those campaigns send it to them?  What did

he think they would do with it?  Why did he think that data would be of

value to them?  I mean, why was any of this happening? 

 

On a basic level, why did a presidential candidate hire a campaign chairman

whose most recent decades of work were all working for pro-Putin Russian

oligarchs and political figures in the former Soviet Union?  A guy whose

right-hand man in all of that work was widely assessed to be linked to

Russian intelligence?  Out of all the Republican political operatives in

the world, why do you pick that guy?  Why during the campaign was that

campaign chairman offering private briefings to one pro-Putin Russian

oligarch right after he allegedly sent internal campaign polling data to

two others? 

 

Bloomberg News further reports today that yet another one of these

oligarchs may have set up a front company to send Paul Manafort money after

he got indicted.  Why was Paul Manafort running a presidential campaign in

the first place given who Paul Manafort had become?  And if these new

allegations that we have just learned about, about Paul Manafort, these new

ones we`ve just found out about through this poorly redacted document, if

these new allegations are true, that means this same Trump campaign

chairman was sending this internal data from the campaign to Russian

intelligence and to Russian government-linked sources at the same time that

Russian military intelligence was running a massive effort to target U.S.

voters to swing the election toward Donald Trump. 

 

U.S. polling data from inside the campaign of one of the two major party

candidates for president could certainly have been helpful in targeting

exactly those efforts, right?  And as I said, I`m agnostic as to what`s

going on with Robert Mueller.  I have no idea whether or not the Mueller

investigation is entering its ninth inning or if it`s just rounding the

ninth hole on an 18-hole golf course, or some other numerological sports

metaphor that makes it sound like any of us have specific information about

what he`s doing and what he`s going to do when we really do not.

 

A court filing this week really did show Mueller believes the Trump

campaign was sending valuable internal campaign data to Russia for some

reason while Russia was interfering in the election.  Are we likely to get

definitive word from prosecutors as to what they were doing that for and

what Russia did with the data?  And are we likely to find out either

through the Mueller investigation or through Congress where Democrats now

hold the reins, are we likely to find out if that information transfer was

a one-way street?  Was it just the Trump campaign giving internal documents

about the campaign to Russia?  Or did the information transfer go both

ways?  Did Russia help out the Trump campaign secretly behind the scenes

too? 

 

The new chair of the House Intelligence Committee will join us live here

next.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

MADDOW:  I`m very pleased to say that joining us tonight for the first time

since he has been named chairman of the Intelligence Committee is Adam

Schiff, Democratic congressman of California. 

 

Mr. Chairman, congratulations, and thank you very much for being with us

tonight. 

 

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), CHAIRMAN, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE:  Thank

you.  It`s good to be with you. 

 

MADDOW:  So I have a lot to ask you about.  So I`ll warn you right now. 

 

First of all, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is going to be in the House

tomorrow, answering questions about why he has signed off on relaxing

Russia`s sanctions against companies owned by Oleg Deripaska.  He is, of

course, a sanctioned oligarch and one to whom the Trump campaign chair

reportedly offered private briefings during the middle of the presidential

campaign.  I know you are one of the committee chairs in the House who

requested this briefing from Secretary Mnuchin. 

 

What are you expecting from that tomorrow? 

 

SCHIFF:  Well, I`d like to know why.  Why is this effort being made to

accommodate Oleg Deripaska, this oligarch close to Putin.  The deal itself

still gives Deripaska enormous control over these companies.  I think a 45

percent or 43 percent share in this aluminum company.  It`s a pretty sweet

deal for Deripaska and for these companies. 

 

Why are we bending over backwards to accommodate them only about nine

months after the imposition of these sanctions.  Something just doesn`t

smell right about this transaction.  I`d also like to know whether the

Treasury Department and the people that enforce these sanctions were of one

mind about this, or whether there was internal dissent or opposition to

this decision, because it just doesn`t quite add up to me. 

 

MADDOW:  In terms of that type of process that you`re describing there, if

there was dissent in the Treasury Department, are you as chairman of the

intelligence committee, are you and your colleagues allowed access to those

internal negotiations, that internal process and the records thereof from

the Treasury Department as part of your oversight responsibilities? 

 

SCHIFF:  Well, we`re certainly going to try to find out tomorrow whether

there was uniform opinion about this or whether the treasury officials that

in fact pushed for these sanctions to be imposed not just on Deripaska, but

on his companies somehow changed their minds or whether they continue to

think that those sanctions are warranted.  Deripaska is of course not the

only Russian oligarch whose been sanctioned.  There are a great many

others, and a great many of them are likewise in charge of very large

companies and have very large holdings. 

 

Why are we treating this particular oligarch differently?  I just don`t

understand the rationale. 

 

MADDOW:  I also want to ask you, sir, about the reports concerning Paul

Manafort and these allegations from the special counsel`s office which we

learned about through a strange process yesterday, these sort of miffed or

muffed reactions that Manafort`s lawyers tried to impose on a court filing

but screwed it up.  But given their mistake, we have learned that the

special counsel`s believes that Manafort was sending internal polling data

overseas to a Russian intelligence source and to a pair of oligarchs during

the campaign. 

 

Am I right that your committee was unaware of that until we all learned it

yesterday because of that screwed up court filing? 

 

SCHIFF:  Yes, you`re absolutely right.  We had wanted to bring Manafort in

earlier, and at the time he became a person of interest to the Mueller

investigation, and that opportunity was foreclosed.  We had hoped

thereafter to get access to him once he was cooperating, but obviously his

cooperation is far less than complete or candid. 

 

But we`re also interested in bringing Mr. Gates before the committee, and

it`s certainly clear from these pleadings that he has relevance – or these

reports, that he has relevant information as well.  What I find so striking

about all of this, and you`re asking the right questions, why would the

Russians want this data, what use would they make of it, but you look at

this in the context of what is going on at the time, the Russians are

embarked on this massive media campaign to tilt the election in Trump`s

favor.  You`ve got Manafort trying to get money or get debt relief from

these oligarchs like Deripaska that he has owed money or owes money to,

offering data on the campaign. 

 

You`ve got at the same time this lawyer that we learned more about,

Veselnitskaya, who was indicted this week setting up this meeting in Trump

Tower, having this close relationship with the Russian government, offering

dirt, the president`s son saying they would love to get that dirt, and the

president seeking this deal in Trump Tower and seeking Kremlin help to put

it together while lying about it to the American people. 

 

All of that is going on in a matter of the same months.  It is a situation

rife with conflict, a hornet`s nest of compromise, and it`s no wonder that

the special counsel is concerned about this, as we are. 

 

MADDOW:  Congressman, Mr. Chairman, those – that list of things that you

just described, now that you are chairman of the Intelligence Committee,

there are a number of questions that I have about how the division of labor

works and how you understand the division of labor between yourself and

your committee and Robert Mueller and the special counsel`s office and the

Justice Department more broadly.  If you can stick around with us for just

one more segment, I`d love to talk with you in a little bit more detail. 

 

Can you stay with us? 

 

SCHIFF:  Certainly, of course. 

 

MADDOW:  Congressman Adam Schiff, chair of the intelligence committee,

stays with us.  We`ll be right back.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

MADDOW:  We`re back now with Congressman Adam Schiff, who is now officially

in charge of the intelligence committee in the White House. 

 

Mr. Chairman, thank you for sticking with us.  Much appreciated. 

 

SCHIFF:  You bet. 

 

MADDOW:  Now that you have taken the chairmanship, do you have any clearer

view on what the special counsel is and isn`t looking at?  Just

specifically so your work in Congress doesn`t conflict with that

investigation?  I wanted to ask you about in particular, because I know you

told “The L.A. Times” recently that you believe Mueller may not be looking

into the question of money laundering as it pertains to this scandal, so

your committee may have to do that part of it. 

 

Can you talk about that a little bit? 

 

SCHIFF:  Sure.  And we only have limited visibility into what the special

counsel is doing.  We are going to make a much greater effort to deconflict

than was possible before we were running the committee. 

 

But the president, as you know, has tried to draw a red line around his

finances and prevent the Justice Department and the special counsel from

examining them.  And we saw the perils of that when we learned more about

this Trump Tower Moscow deal.  When we were misled, when Michael Cohen

didn`t testify truthfully before us about how long that attempted business

transaction went on. 

 

That was something that could compromise the president.  They were on the

other side of that transaction.  They could have exposed the fact that the

president sought the help of the Kremlin even while he was denying it

during the presidential campaign to make that deal go through. 

 

The same is true if the Russians were laundering money through the Trump

organization.  They could expose that at any time.  The president, if they

were engaged in that conduct, would know the Russians possessed that kind

of compromise, and we simply don`t know whether this is something Mueller

has been allowed to investigate by the deputy attorney general. 

 

So, I think that our responsibility in the Congress is twofold.  We need to

make sure there is no compromise over the president of the United States,

but we also need to make sure that at the end of the day, the public gets a

full accounting of just what took place.  And here`s an important

responsibility also because the acting attorney general, Matt Whitaker, may

not allow the Congress to see the full Mueller report.  And if he is

replaced by Bill Barr, who believes that the president can`t commit

obstruction of justice, he may not let the Congress see evidence of

obstruction of justice.  And we nonetheless need to know whether our

president has been acting unlawfully, and we need to be able to tell the

country exactly what took place. 

 

MADDOW:  Are you concerned about these reports today that Deputy Attorney

General Rod Rosenstein is planning to leave? 

 

SCHIFF:  I`m very concerned about it because if he does leave, either when

the new attorney general comes on board or at the time that the report is

finished, if Bill Barr is confirmed, that may mean that the new attorney

general, who has a very hostile view of this investigation, indeed, that`s

why he was nominated in the first place after that job application

essentially where he outlined how flawed the Mueller investigation was, he

may take a dim view of sharing information with Congress and the American

people. 

 

I think rod Rosenstein would fight to make that happen.  He has vigorously

protected the independence of the investigation, so I do have great

concerns about his leaving and what will be left in his wake. 

 

MADDOW:  And just briefly, sir, do you have any insight into how close

Mueller is to finishing?  Some very provocative reporting from NBC News`

Pete Williams on that day bolstered by some reporting in “The Washington

Post” from Carol Leonnig.  Both of those stories suggesting tonight there

is at least a widespread belief by people close to the investigation that,

A, is ending, and B, there will be a report from Mueller. 

 

Do you share that impression or do you have any information you can share

with us about that? 

 

SCHIFF:  I think it`s very hard to say.  And even if people had a good

source for that speculation or more than speculation, it may not prove to

be accurate.  All we really do know is that the grand jury was extended for

another six months.  I don`t think that would be done if there wasn`t at

least some potential of future indictments. 

 

Of course, those indictments and the criminal cases that they would

represent would take time to prosecute.  But more than that, we saw a

ruling in the Supreme Court. 

 

How long will it take for Bob Mueller to get the documents now that were

called for in that litigation?  Will the special counsel persevere in

trying to depose the president about obstruction of justice or has now been

foreclosed by Whitaker and Barr if he is confirmed.  Those questions are

still open questions, and a lot of those answers will determine just how

long this investigation may run. 

 

MADDOW:  Congressman Adam Schiff, the new chairman of the House

Intelligence Committee.  Thank you for this time with us tonight, sir.  I

know that you`ve always been busy, but you`re getting busier now.  Thanks

for being here. 

 

SCHIFF:  Thank you. 

 

MADDOW:  All right.  Much more ahead tonight.  Stay with us.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

MADDOW:  There has been lots of breaking and developing news tonight,

including while we`ve been on the air.  I opened the show with breaking

news from “The Washington Post” that the White House has just added 17 new

lawyers in the past couple of weeks to help the president respond to his

various scandals and the anticipated legal wrangling around them. 

 

Now there is more breaking news, also from “The Washington Post.”  This is

just posted. 

 

Quote: GOP senators promise A.G. nominee William Barr will not touch

Mueller`s probe. 

 

Will not touch Mueller`s probe.  That`s awkward phrasing, but you know what

they mean. 

 

Quote: Top Senate Republicans emerged from meetings with William P. Barr,

insisting that if confirmed, he would not hinder Robert Mueller`s

investigation of the Trump campaign`s Russia ties, despite previous

statements blasting the probe for looking into whether President Trump

attempted to obstruct justice. 

 

Also in this new piece, “The Post” is reporting that two different

Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee are saying that Barr is

refusing to meet with them due to the ongoing government shutdown. 

 

So, Republican senators are making promises based on their meetings with

William Barr, saying that he won`t mess with the Mueller investigation, but

if Democrats want to check that themselves, the Democrats are not being

allowed to meet with Barr themselves because of the shutdown.  This news

has just crossed in the past few minutes. 

 

Joining us now is Devlin Barrett, national security reporter for “The

Washington Post” who broke this story. 

 

Mr. Barrett, it`s nice to have you with us tonight.  Thank you for being

here. 

 

DEVLIN BARRETT, NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST:  Thanks

for having me. 

 

MADDOW:  So that strikes me.  I highlighted that dichotomy in your piece

because it strikes me as odd that Republican senators would be asking

meetings, seemingly substantive meetings with this A.G. nominee, so much so

that they`re able to give assurances about stuff he`ll work on and stuff he

won`t, but Democratic senators are not being allowed to meet with him? 

 

BARRETT:  Right.  So the Democratic senators say that they are being told

that the nominee simply doesn`t have time to meet with them because of the

shutdown.  And frankly, the Justice Department is saying, well, we`re happy

to meet with them as soon as we can work it into the schedule. 

 

So there is a little bit of contradictory information going on, but I think

what it all points to, really, is the jockeying and posturing ahead of the

Barr confirmation hearing next week, which I think is going to be fairly

intense and it`s going to be fairly pointed in terms of tries to get Barr

to publicly commit, not privately, but publicly commit to certain

conditions regarding the Mueller investigation. 

 

MADDOW:  And to that exact point, are these assurances from Republican

senators after they`ve been taking these meetings with Barr, are they

assuring that Barr will give a formal assurance that he will not be

involved in the Mueller investigation, that he will, in fact, recuse or

give some other sort of assurance that may be seen as binding in his

confirmation hearings, or are they just saying the this is not something

he`s going to handle formally but you shouldn`t worry about it, we promise

he`ll be good? 

 

BARRETT:  Even by the version of Lindsey Graham, the incoming Republican

chairman of the committee says, Barr is not promising not to touch the

Mueller investigation.  He`s promising not to stop the Mueller

investigation.  That`s a pretty key distinction.  And I think a lot depends

on how you view the word promise. 

 

You know, what`s been described to me is that Barr has no intention of

giving the committee any iron clad promises about what he will or won`t do

until he`s been read in to the investigation.  But also that he is fairly

comfortable telling the committee and the Congress that he will do the

right thing and that he is not interested in just coming in and shutting

down the Mueller investigation without having a very clear reason for doing

so. 

 

MADDOW:  Devlin, I have to ask you about one other element of this.  There

is reporting today from “The Washington Post,” NBC News and other sources

that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein may be planning to leave, he

may be pegging his leaving both potentially to the end of the Mueller

investigation but also to the arrival of William Barr. 

 

Do we have any further clarification tonight as that reporting has

developed in terms of Rosenstein`s plans? 

 

BARRETT:  Well, look, I think what`s been described to us certainly is that

Rosenstein has the intention of creating a smooth transition once Barr is

confirmed, assuming he`s confirmed as the attorney general.  Sort of the

unknown factor in all this, though, is no one is really quite certain when

a final Mueller report is going to surface, and if that were to surface

around this time, I think, frankly, that could change Rosenstein`s

calculation.  And, frankly, it could change Barr`s calculation, because,

frankly, one of the things we know is that Barr wants his own people there

and that would include the deputy attorney general job. 

 

So, it`s not that surprising to think that Rosenstein would leave soon, but

there`s two things happening possibly around the same time and I think

those two things may change the calculus for Rod Rosenstein as this goes

forward. 

 

MADDOW:  A live and still developing issue in other words.  It`s

fascinating stuff.  Very consequential. 

 

Devlin Barrett, “Washington Post” national security reporter, thanks for

being with us tonight.  It`s great to have you here. 

 

BARRETT:  Thank you. 

 

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

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

MADDOW:  With the government shutdown rounding out its 19th day today,

Democrats are introducing four more bills to try to start opening up the

government piece by piece.  And this is separate and apart from any fight

that the president may want over building a wall on the southern border. 

 

Today, the Democratic controlled House passed a bill to open up the

Treasury Department and the IRS.  Every Democrat who voted on this today

voted yes.  So did eight Republicans who crossed the aisle.  That`s one

more Republican defection than the last time the House voted on Democratic

legislation to re-open the government. 

 

Tomorrow, the Democratic House will vote on more bills to open more

agencies.  Tomorrow will be the Interior Department and Agriculture

Department.  Then on Friday, they`ll have another vote to re-open Housing

and Urban Developments. 

 

They`ve already passed bills to re-open the whole government.  Now they`re

trying it agency by agency.  These bills are all expected to pass the House

but they`re not likely to go anywhere else.  Republican Senate leader Mitch

McConnell still says he will not take up any legislation to re-open the

government in the Senate if he thinks the president won`t sign that

legislation. 

 

On Saturday, unless anything in this dynamic changes, this will become the

longest government shutdown in U.S. history.  There`s no reason to think

that this is going to stop any time soon, not the way this is proceeding. 

This could be awhile.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

MADDOW:  Quick personal privilege.  I want to mention one quick thing

before I sign off tonight.  And it is a thank you to everybody who has

listened to “Bag Man,” that little podcast that we made about Nixon`s Vice

President Spiro Agnew and how he got caught for being a crook and how the

Justice Department forced him to resign as vice president because of that. 

 

I`m saying thank you today because today we officially hit 10 million

downloads for the podcast.  That we made about Nixon`s Vice President Spiro

Agnew and how he got caught for being a crook and how the Justice

Department forced him to resign as vice president because of that.  I`m

saying thank you today because today we officially hit 10 million downloads

for the podcast.  What?  Which I could not have seen coming from a million

miles away. 

 

So thank you.  I am totally bewildered by the number being that big.  Thank

you.

 

“Bag Man” is still up.  You can still listen to it for free at

MSNBC.com/bagman, but I just wanted to say thanks to everybody who listened

to it already. 

 

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

 

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

 

Good evening, Lawrence. 

 

                                                                                                               

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