Rosenstein plans to leave Justice Department. TRANSCRIPT: 1/9/19, The Rachel Maddow Show.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thanks, my friend. Much
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
(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
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
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
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
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
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
The new chair of the House Intelligence Committee will join us live here
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
Quote: GOP senators promise A.G. nominee William Barr will not touch
Will not touch Mueller`s probe. That`s awkward phrasing, but you know what
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
So thank you. I am totally bewildered by the number being that big. Thank
“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.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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Copyright 2019 ASC Services II Media, LLC. All materials herein are
protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced,
distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the
prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter
or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the