Interview with Chuck Schumer. TRANSCRIPT: 1/15/19, The Rachel Maddow Show.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
Senator Chuck Schumer, the leader of the Democrats in the U.S. Senate, is
going to be joining us live here in just a moment. I`m very happy to have
him here, especially on such a big day.
A typical day in the news cycle, I tend to – I think it`s sort of akin to
the weather on any given day. There is like a naturally occurring range of
things that might happen on any given day, at any given time of year,
depending on where you live, right? Depending on the general constraints
of the climate in which you are operating.
So, news days are sort of like that, you know? Some days the sun shines,
some days it snows, sometimes there is black ice, or there`s debilitating
storms that brings everything to a halt. News days are like the weather.
Today was a stormy day in the news cycle, which is something we are getting
used to in this political climate that surrounds this – this unsettling
presidency. But today, today was not just like a normal stormy day in the
news in the Trump era. Today was like a whole bunch of storms stacked up
one after the other, plus there were ten earthquakes. There is an
externality to what we usually think of as the realm of things that can
affect the news cycle in any one day.
Today was just nuts. It started very late last night, actually, with “New
York Times” reporting that President Trump repeatedly within the last year
has told administration officials that he wants to destroy NATO. That he
wants to pull the United States out of NATO, the North American Treaty
Alliance – the North Atlantic Treaty Alliance, which is the most important
western military alliance on earth and it has been for 70 years.
And whether or not you think you care about NATO, I think “The Times”
actually deserves credit for hopefully putting the importance of that kind
of a decision really clearly in frame. Let me just quote from some of “The
Quote: There are few things that President Vladimir Putin of Russia desires
more than the weakening of NATO. The military alliance among the United
States, Europe and Canada that has deterred Soviet and Russian aggression
for 70 years. Senior administration officials now tell “The New York
Times” that several times over the course of 2018, President Trump
suggested a move tantamount to destroying NATO. He suggested the
withdrawal of the United States from NATO.
Michele Flournoy, who was an under secretary of defense during the Obama
administration, she`s a widely respected national security official, she
would be a top tier candidate to be secretary of defense during any
Democratic administration and even some Republican ones. Michele Flournoy
is then quoted in this piece by “The Times” saying that a move to withdraw
the U.S. from NATO, quote, would be one of the most damaging things that
any president could do to U.S. interests. She continues, quote, it would
destroy 70-plus years of painstaking work across multiple administrations,
Republican and Democratic, to create perhaps the most powerful and
advantageous alliance in U.S. history. Quote, and it would be the wildest
success that Vladimir Putin could dream of.
“The Times” continues, quote, after Russia annexed Crimea in 2014, American
national security officials believe that Russia has largely focused on
undermining solidarity between the U.S. and Europe. Its goal has been to
upend NATO. Russian actions toward achieving that goal have included,
quote, Russia`s meddling in America`s elections and Russia`s efforts to
prevent former satellite states joining the NATO alliance. Quote, with a
weakened NATO, American officials say, Putin would have more freedom to
behave as he wishes, setting up Russia as a counterweight to Europe and the
Senior Trump administration officials discussing president`s behavior with
“The Times” on the condition of anonymity. They tell the paper that an
American withdrawal from NATO would accomplish all that Putin has been
trying to put in motion. Quote, essentially doing the Russian leader`s
hardest and most critical work for him.
So that was, like, midnight last night from “The New York Times,” and we
don`t know who these senior administration officials are who are talking to
“The New York Times” about what the president has been reportedly trying to
do on this front. It is possible, of course, that these are senior Trump
administration officials who were concerned about these actions and these
statements by the president last year, but they didn`t feel the need to go
to the press about them then, maybe because Defense Secretary Jim Mattis
was in place then. I mean, there`s been some noise, right, that Mattis was
preventing Trump from taking the worst and most reckless of his pro-Russia
steps in national security and foreign policy.
And, again, I do not mean to suggest that I know who these sources are from
“The Times” report, but you can tell from the substance and tone that these
are very senior people who are somehow try trying to pull a fire alarm here
and the timing, I think, has to be part of our understanding for why these
administration officials are now coming forward and anonymously giving this
information to “The Times.” The reporters on this piece are Julian Barnes
and Helene Cooper, and they put a sort of flashing red arrow on the timing
here in their report. They say, quote, now, the president`s repeatedly
stated desire to withdraw from NATO is raising new worries among national
security officials amid growing concern about Mr. Trump`s efforts to keep
his meetings with President Putin secret from even his own aides.
So I guess, like, that`s the progression. It`s one thing to be a senior
official in the Trump administration and to be worried or upset by the
prospect that the president wants to give away the store, right? That he
wants to dismember NATO. He wants to give Russia every item on its most
fantastical international wish list, even the ones that would previously
have been dismissed as unthinkable in this country under any leadership.
It`s one thing to be opposed to that or be worried about the president`s
But maybe you think that somebody like Jim Mattis at the Pentagon is
stopping Trump from doing the worst of all those things, and so, maybe you
don`t need to say anything to anybody about it. But it`s apparently still
another thing to realize that once Jim Mattis is gone, he`s not there as a
governor anymore, and now, we find out there`s really no way to know if the
president is making these decisions and trying to take these actions
specifically because Russia`s president has been telling him directly face-
to-face and person-to-person that this is what he needs to do. Because now
we`ve learned that there`s no record of the conversations between Trump and
Putin, and it`s because Trump has ensured that there are no records of
I guess that maybe is the trip wire, right? Oh, we don`t know whether or
not Putin has just been telling him directly to do this stuff and he`s
saying, yes, sir, how high do you want me to jump? Maybe that`s the trip
wire when you swallow your pride and decide you`re going to talk to “The
New York Times,” maybe it`s time to try to set off the alarm. I mean, it
was just this weekend that Greg Miller at “The Washington Post” reported
that Trump has confiscated and destroyed his own interpreter`s notes from
his meetings with Putin and had gone to great lengths to prevent other
people in his administration from finding out any details about what he and
Putin had talked about in multiple meetings.
I mean, it may not be a coincidence that just two days after that report,
“The New York Times” gets anonymous senior Trump administration officials
coming to them, telling them that Trump has been trying to achieve Putin`s
most important and most treasured goal, the destruction of NATO, the most
unimaginable thing in U.S. foreign policy. I mean, short of us dissolving
ourselves, us dissolving NATO is the most fantastical dream Russia might
imagine for itself, and Trump`s trying to do it? And Putin, of course, is
sitting pretty in a couple of different ways at this point, right?
I mean, first of all, and apparently after some very careful and risky
investment on his part, Putin now has a president of the United States who
performs back flips on demand. I mean, honestly, what else could they make
him do? What else could they conceivably want from him other than, what,
shutting down the U.S. government?
I mean, as President Trump appears to have adopted every top tier Russian
objective in foreign policy at least as his own administration`s position,
but on top of that, the Kremlin has to be further delighted this week,
right now, that this same U.S. president who does tricks on command also
keeps giving Russia even more leverage over him all the time. I mean,
think about it, think about that report from “The Washington Post,” what
the practical implications are of that from Russia`s perspective, from
Putin`s perspective. I mean, Trump may have taken, you know, confiscated
and destroyed his own American interpreter`s notes from his Putin meetings,
but there`s no reason to think that Putin did the same thing, right? I
mean, he took notes, too. There`s a guy taking notes right there next to
I mean, whether or not it`s the Russian government`s notes on this meeting
between Putin and Trump, or whether they recorded those meetings as some
senior foreign officials suggested that Russia had a habit of doing.
Whether it`s just notes or recordings or whatever, Russia and Vladimir
Putin know the truth about what happened in those one-on-one meetings
between Trump and Putin. And if they didn`t know it before, now thanks to
“The Washington Post,” Russia knows the truth of what happened in those
one-on-one meetings between Trump and Putin, that`s something that the
American president, that Trump has desperately been trying to keep from
public view and even from the view of other officials in his own
So, Russia now knows that whatever happened in those meetings, Trump is
desperate to keep it secret. And they undoubtedly have a record of the
truth of what happened in those meetings. That`s like – that`s like
blackmail in a bottle, right?
Think about it. Whatever happened between Trump and Putin in those
meetings, Russia knows. Russia has a record of it. And now they`ve got
that to wield against him, in case they ever need to give his leash another
And then on top of that today, just in case the U.S. and Europe were not
back on their heels enough with what appears increasingly to be the capture
of the U.S. president by a foreign adversary and him wiring NATO, Russia`s
greatest adversary on earth, to explode of its own accord. I mean, today
on top of that, the British government edged to the precipice and started
to fall off in a freefall that appears increasingly destined to take much
of organized Western Europe with it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Order. Order.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The ayes to the right, 202. The noes to the left, 432.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The ayes to the right, 202. The noes – order. The
ayes to the right, 202. The noes to the left, 432.
So, the noes have it. The noes have it. Unlock. On a point – indeed,
point of order. Prime Minister?
THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker, the House has spoken and the government will listen. It is
clear that the house does not support this deal, but tonight`s vote tells
us about what it does support. Nothing about how –
JEREMY CORBYN, LABOUR PARTY LEADER: The results of tonight`s vote is the
greatest defeat for a government since the 1920s in this house. This is a
catastrophic defeat for this government.
She cannot seriously believe that after two years of failure, she is
capable of negotiating a good deal for the people of this country. The
most important issue facing us is that the government has lost the
confidence of this house and this country. I therefore, Mr. Speaker,
inform you I have now tabled a motion of no confidence in this government.
And I`m pleased – I am pleased that motion will be debated tomorrow. So
this house can give its verdict on the sheer incompetence of this
government and pass that motion of no confidence in the government.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The failure tonight in the British House of Commons on the Brexit
vote, that means that British Prime Minister Theresa May is not empowered
by her government to negotiate terms under which the U.K. will try to leave
the European Union. Great Britain, of course, is our closest overseas
ally. This is not a normal disagreement within the government in Great
Britain. Their politics and government right now appear to be in a mix of,
as I said, free-fall and also chaos.
There will be a no confidence vote tomorrow, at which point we will learn
the fate of Theresa May as prime minister. We will also learn something
more, something about how exactly Great Britain is going to be hacked out
of the cornerstone role that it has played in Western Europe forever and in
unified Europe since the early 1970s.
So this is sort of bigger than the day`s weather, right? I mean, just
unimaginably important news about Europe and about NATO shooting themselves
today, and they are not firing blanks. These are the kinds of sort of
proverbial earthquakes I`m talking about in today`s news, things that are
bigger than any one new development or one new scandal or poll or
But it is against that big world-changing roiling backdrop that the U.S.
Senate today tried to confirm a new U.S. attorney general, and it is
against that same roiling backdrop today that something sort of bright and
unexpected happened in the United States Senate, alongside the confirmation
hearings for the man who would be the new attorney general. In terms of
the attorney general hearings, in terms of the William Barr nomination,
we`re going to speaking live with Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota in
just a few minutes. She is on the committee that grilled William Barr
today. We will get her take on how things are going with that nomination.
If you caught any of the hearing today or the news about the hearing, you
know that William Barr was questioned repeatedly more than any other about
– questioned repeatedly and more frequently than on any other topic about
whether or not he`ll respect the independence of the special counsel`s
investigation into Russia`s interference in our 2016 election. And, of
course, the related question of whether Americans were confederates in that
operation. William Barr handled those questions about the Mueller
investigation today. For the most part he handled them by – by saying
nice-sounding, noncontroversial sounding things.
But bottom line, he also didn`t answer any of the hard questions about it.
Watch him wiggle out of every single one of these.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D), MINNESOTA, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Will you commit to
make public all of the report`s conclusions, the Mueller report, even if
some of the evidence supporting those conclusions can`t be made public?
WILLIAM BARR, ATTORNEY GENERAL NOMINEE: You know, that certainly is my
goal and intent.
REP. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), CONNECTICUT, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Will you
commit that you will explain to us any changes or deletions that you make
to the special counsel report that`s submitted to you in whatever you
present to us?
BARR: I will commit to providing as much information as I can, consistent
with the regulations.
KLOBUCHAR: You said that a president deliberately impairing the integrity
or availability of evidence would be an obstruction, is that correct?
KLOBUCHAR: OK. And so, what if a president told a witness not to
cooperate with an investigation or hinted at a pardon?
BARR: You know, I`d have to know the specific – I`d have to know the
SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D), CALIFORNIA, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Would it be
appropriate to go against the advice of career ethics officials that have
recommended recusal? And can you give an example of under what situation
or scenario you would go against their recommendation that you recuse
BARR: Well, there are different – there are different kinds of recusals.
Some are mandated, for example, if you have a financial interest, but there
are others that are judgment calls.
HARRIS: Let`s imagine it`s a judgment call and the judgment by the career
ethics officials in the agency are that you recuse yourself.
BARR: Then –
HARRIS: Under what scenario would you not follow their recommendation?
BARR: If I disagreed with it.
HARRIS: And what would the basis of that disagreement be?
BARR: I came to a different judgment.
HARRIS: On what basis?
BARR: The facts.
HARRIS: Such as?
BARR: Such as whatever facts are relevant to the recusal.
HARRIS: Under what scenario would you imagine that you would not follow
the recommendation of the career ethics officials in the Department of
Justice to recuse yourself from the Mueller investigation?
BARR: If I disagreed with them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: I think that William Barr believes that he has enough votes to be
confirmed as attorney general no matter what he says in these confirmation
hearings, so that`s why I think he feels confident rejecting these efforts
by various Democratic senators to try to pin him down on exactly what his
designs are for the Mueller investigation and what he believes the
president ought to be allowed to get away with when it comes to that
investigation. Again, we`ll be talking about that with Senator Amy
Klobuchar in just a few minutes.
But as I mentioned right at the top here, Senator Chuck Schumer is also
going to be here, the top Democrat in the Senate. I`m very happy to have
him here live on this very big and important day. We`re going to talk to
him about William Barr. We`re going to talk to him as well about the
ongoing shutdown. We`re on day 25 of the longest shutdown in U.S. history.
But the other reason I specifically wanted to talk to Senator Schumer
tonight is because of something unexpected he was able to pull off late
this afternoon in the U.S. Senate. Let me show you something. Today, we
got a new court filing from the special counsel`s office from Mueller`s
prosecutors, laying out for a federal judge in Washington, D.C. the
evidentiary basis of the claims from the special counsel that President
Trump`s campaign chairman Paul Manafort lied to them during the course of
his supposed cooperation with prosecutors after he pled guilty to multiple
This is that filing, which landed on my desk today. You can see the size
of it. Landed on my desk today with a sort of remarkable thud. Turns out,
though, happy days, it does not take very long to read because the first
part of it is this part, see, it`s a little thinner.
This is a narrative from an FBI agent who works at the special counsel`s
office and it is a narrative, so theoretically we should be able to read
it, but all the good parts of it are redacted. I mean, here`s the typical
page. This is from page 19 of the declaration of the FBI agent.
It says Manafort was asked in the grand jury, redacted. Manafort explained
that he had not told, redacted. Manafort was then asked what? Redacted.
After a lunch break, comma, Manafort, redacted.
Oh, now I see, right? So this technically is a narrative declaration from
an FBI agent explaining all the things that Manafort has done wrong in
terms of lying to prosecutors but the whole thing is like that.
They also attached to that declaration, 406 factual exhibits laying out
their evidence that Manafort told them all these lies. So that`s the other
big, fat part of it. This is the declaration, these are the exhibits. And
again when this landed on my desk today, I was like, holy guacamole, how am
I going to get through this exhibit in time for show time given everything
else that`s going on in the world with all these giant news earthquakes?
Watch this magic trick. Turns out you can pull off all of this, all of it
because every single one of these pages is either a black box or just the
word “redacted.” Absolutely nothing. And the vast majority of the filing,
it`s all completely blacked out.
The few remaining pages, the last thin remaining pages that remain in the
stack is basically a handful of bank records, a whole bunch of pages of big
black box the with nothing on them but a bank letterhead and a date. It`s
page after page it looked like that. There are a couple of pages where
Manafort lays out – prosecutors lay out what Manafort offered them in
terms of his proffer, his initial cooperation proposal, but most of that
has already appeared in other court filings.
So, what`s important about this big fat unreadable Manafort court filing
today? It`s really big and fat and it`s unreadable. And so, the takeaway
here from this criminal case involving the president`s campaign chair is
that, boy, there is still a lot blacked out, still a lot that we don`t know
about the criminal case against the president`s campaign chairman. Boy, is
this still a live issue in the courts.
And one of the as-yet unexplained threads in this criminal case is the
allegation from prosecutors that the president`s campaign chairman was
sharing internal polling data from the Trump campaign with a guy who is
associated with Russian intelligence, who had also served as Manafort`s
intermediary with a Russian oligarch named Oleg Deripaska. For some
reason, that same oligarch, Oleg Deripaska, was also offered private
briefings on the campaign by Manafort during the time that Manafort was
running the Trump campaign.
Deripaska had an extensive prior business and political relationship with
Manafort. He`s had extensive financial dealings with him. At one point,
federal prosecutors have said it may appears Manafort owed Deripaska as
much as $10 million.
And while this case against Manafort continues, as it does today with all
these redacted unreadable filings, that Deripaska thing is still dangling.
We still don`t know how central Oleg Deripaska is or may have been to the
Russian interference effort that appears to have bought President Vladimir
Putin his very own pet U.S. president.
Today in the United States Senate, Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer
introduced a measure that would block the Trump administration from
dropping sanctions on companies associated with Oleg Deripaska. And I
know, I know, nobody thinks anything is possible in Congress or the Senate
when it comes to constraining this president in terms of whatever has been
going on between him and Russia.
But sanctions on Russia, sanctions on Russia specifically for interfering
in our election, those actually are a thing that the Republicans have
sometimes been willing to speak up on, that Republicans have sometimes been
willing to defy President Trump about. And I have been hitting this for
the past few days and I know that nobody has believed me, but honest to
goodness, today, Senator Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader in the
Senate, he put forward a bill to stop the Trump administration from
dropping those sanctions on Oleg Deripaska right now.
And he did it, he got the votes, he got all the Democrats and he got 11
Republican senators of all different ideological stripes to break ranks
with Mitch McConnell and vote to keep those sanctions in place. This was a
procedural vote today. It is not over. We will talk with Senator Schumer
about what lays ahead.
But the vote was 57-42, would have been 58-42 had Senator Kirsten
Gillibrand had not been on “The Colbert Report” at the time declaring that
she is running for president. Presumably, she`ll be back tomorrow and will
cast her vote with the rest of the Democrats and those at least breakaway
11 Republican senators.
Last night, we talked about this sanctions thing that Schumer just did
today as a sort of test vote for the country, a test vote for whether or
not elected Republicans might have some hidden depth. They might feel some
compunction when it comes to this president and the scariest things about
his relationship with Russia. Today, 11 Republican senators broke ranks on
I am telling you, do not lose faith. Just because the ground is shaking,
do not lose faith. Anything is possible.
Chuck Schumer joins us next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), SENATE MINORITY LEADER: Putin`s Russia
continues to run rampant over international norms, meddle in democratic
elections, destabilize the world. Russia has violated the sovereignty of
Ukraine, interfered in our elections, the Brexit vote, propped up the
brutal Assad regime and implicated nerve agent attacks on the soil of our
And yet, the Trump administration proposes reducing sanctions on Putin and
his cronies. Show me the behavior from Vladimir Putin that warrants such
relief. I can`t think of any. I`ll bet 90 percent of all Americans can`t
think of any.
So, let me be clear, a vote against this resolution, a vote to not allow us
to proceed is a vote to go easy on President Putin and his oligarchs.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: We knew that Senator Chuck Schumer of New York had a plan to try
to block the Trump administration from dropping sanctions against companies
connected with this Putin ally, Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, who`s been
sanctioned in this country over Russia`s interference in our elections. We
also knew that Schumer could force a vote on this matter using a tiny
little provision written into the sanctions bill that allows the minority
leader, in this case the Democratic leader, to put something like this up
for a vote even if the Republican majority doesn`t want to vote on it.
What we didn`t know today is how the vote would go once Schumer forced it.
The resolution only needed a simple majority to pass today, and it passed
comfortably. It passed 57-42, 11 Republicans broke ranks with Majority
Leader Mitch McConnell and voted with Senator Schumer and Democrats on
this. They voted to keep sanctions in place against the wishes of the
Now, it`s not done yet. The next hurdle will be we think tomorrow and that
will be a 60-vote hurdle, not a 50-vote hurdle. So, this is definitely not
all done. But this vote today is already a bipartisan rebuke of the Trump
administration`s decision to drop those Russian sanctions.
Joining us now is Senator Chuck Schumer, leader of the Democrats in the
Sir, thank you very much for your time tonight. It`s nice to have you
SCHUMER: Thank you, Rachel. Always good to be on.
MADDOW: So, let me first get your reactions to how this went today on the
sanctions vote. I was really interested to see a very heterogeneous group
of 11 Republicans, some moderate, some very hard-line conservatives who
sort of cross ranks to join you today.
SCHUMER: Yes, we were pleasantly surprised that so many Republicans joined
us and now we`re only two votes away from telling Vladimir Putin he can`t
run the show here in the United States, no matter what the Trump
You know, Rachel, on the floor today, Leader McConnell said today Putin is
a thug. Well, I believe that. But if you believe that, if our Republican
friends believe that, they should be voting with us, not just the 11 but
more, McConnell himself.
We cannot let Putin go just free here after all the bad things he`s done.
And one other thing that compounds this, this loosening of sanctions
against Putin – against Deripaska`s companies comes right on the heels of
it being revealed the special prosecutor has new evidence of the
relationship between Manafort and Putin. Deripaska and Manafort have a
close relationship. Deripaska and Kilimnik, the fellow who was at the
hotel meeting with Jared and Manafort and the others has a close
relationship. The timing is not coincidental.
So, to make a strong stand here is really, really important.
MADDOW: Do you think that you`ve got another potential, another couple of
Republican votes that might get you to the 60-vote threshold tomorrow?
SCHUMER: Well, I know that there were a whole bunch of Republicans who
wanted to vote yes and McConnell and some of his leadership put a lot of
pressure on them to vote no, but now that I think they have seen that 11
others have voted this way, yes, I think we have a real shot.
MADDOW: You know, the timing on this is remarkable. As you say, in the
context of the Mueller investigation, we do have a lot of dangling threads
when it comes to Deripaska, his involvement in the Manafort case, the
question of whether or not Deripaska is an important of Manafort and the
core question of whether there was collusion between the Trump campaign and
We`ve also had a couple of really disturbing revelations in the open source
press in the past couple days, “The New York Times” reporting that the FBI
opened a counterintelligence investigation into whether the president was
working for the Russian government as president. “The Washington Post”
reporting this weekend that the president went so far to confiscate the
notes from his own translator when speaking with Vladimir Putin. “The
Times” last night reporting that the president has told administration
officials over the past year that he wants to withdraw the U.S. from NATO,
which, of course, is Putin`s greatest dream.
Are those – are those sort of creating a new climate in terms of the way
both Democrats and Republicans are thinking about the urgency of this
situation when it comes to the president and Russia?
SCHUMER: Well, I think it is creating a new climate. There is just so
much and it all seems to be woven into a web related to Putin`s
manipulation of our own government, into Trump`s acquiescence and
bootlicking of whatever Putin seems to want, and in terms of the Mueller
investigation because of the ties between Putin, Deripaska, Manafort and
So, all of this seems to be parts of one large piece and it is changing
people`s minds here in Washington. I think that`s absolutely right.
MADDOW: And, Senator, to that end, do you think that the issue of the
Mueller investigation is being handled adequately, is being handled in a
way that reassures you at all, when it comes to the nomination of William
Barr to be the next attorney general?
SCHUMER: Well, I have a lot of faith in Mueller. I don`t have much faith
in Barr. I`ve come out against him getting this job. Why? Because when
you have a president like Donald Trump who has so little respect for the
rule of law, so little respect for the Justice Department as a rule of law
body and seems to want to manipulate justice to help him and hurt his
friends, you need an attorney general who unequivocally will state certain
things and Barr fudged them all. It sounded nice what he said, but there
are a lot of loopholes in it.
So, for instance, he says he`s for openness and he`s for transparency. He
didn`t answer the question directly, will you allow the entire Mueller
report to be made public to the Congress and to the American public? Or
when he says, I believe Mueller should go forward – well, that`s not
enough with a Trump presidency.
You have to ask him and get a yes answer. Will you not interfere in any
way with the Mueller investigation?
So I`m worried about Barr. I think Trump didn`t choose him just because
he`s, you know, a fine lawyer. I think he chose him because of his views
on presidential power, and I think that given who Trump is, that Barr,
unless Barr unequivocally with no loopholes answers the questions I just
mentioned, he shouldn`t be attorney general. I`ll vote against him.
MADDOW: Senator Schumer, I have one other – one of the questions I want
to ask you, which is about the shutdown. Can you stick with us a moment
and we`ll come back and talk about that?
MADDOW: The shutdown is about to enter day 26. Chuck Schumer is the
leader of the Democrats in the Senate, intimately involved in this fight.
Stay with us. We`ll be back with Senator Schumer right after this.
MADDOW: Joining us once again is Senator Chuck Schumer. He`s the leader
of the Democrats in the Senate.
Senator, thank you very much for being with us.
MADDOW: I wanted to ask you where things stand with the shutdown.
Obviously, we`re heading out of day 25 and to day 26. This is by far the
longest government shutdown in history. The pain is real already for
federal government workers and it is starting to have a ripple effect
across lots of different sectors of the country and our economy.
Do you have any sense of how this is going to end? If you are betting on
how this would end, how would you bet?
SCHUMER: Well, I`ll tell you this, the harm that`s being done to people is
just awful, in so many different ways. People can`t get their medicines
who are sick because of FDA and even DEA restrictions. I met a fire
dispatcher who`s kicked out of his own home he`s rented because he was
going to move into a house where he had not signed up for a mortgage but he
can`t get approval for the mortgage.
Story after story after story, it`s mounting. And what we`re finding is
our Republican colleagues are feeling the heat. I think we made it clear
that this is a Trump shutdown. The American people by a 2-3-1 margin blame
Trump and not the Democrats.
What`s very interesting here is even some Republicans who are for the wall
don`t want the government shutdown over the wall. A Quinnipiac poll, very
interesting, 39 percent of Republicans, that`s high, said Trump shouldn`t
shut down the government over the wall.
So, Republicans are feeling the heat. Trump some, but he seems impervious
to people`s pain, which is disgusting. But our Republican colleagues in
the Senate, more and more of them are beginning to scramble.
If enough of them do and put pressure on McConnell to bring the six bills
that the House passed to the floor, we can get the government open.
I think Trump thought that we Democrats would crack. We`ve been united.
You saw today that even those moderate Democrats who are invited to the
White House, justifiably, correctly, said no because they don`t want to be
window dressing. We seen Trump stomp out of meetings because he`s not
getting what he wants.
And the public is so strongly on our side our view is that Republicans are
soon going to be putting enough pressure on Trump to either go around him
or force him to change. We have to stay strong. So far, so good.
MADDOW: In terms of going around him, you mean passing spending bills by a
veto proof majority.
SCHUMER: Well, certainly sending them to him and challenging him to veto
and maybe even by a veto-proof majority. As you may remember, the bill to
reopen the government for 30 days passed the Senate unanimously when
McConnell put it on the floor. Ryan who was then speaker wouldn`t put it
on the floor because Trump said no, but all the Republicans supported that.
So, yes, I think there is a chance that we could get a veto-proof majority
on a simple resolution to reopen the government.
And our argument is simple: open the government. Three words to Trump,
McConnell and the Republicans: open the government. Then, we can debate
They have a different view than we do. We`re all for border security, but
don`t hold millions of Americans who are feeling real pain hostage.
MADDOW: Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader in the United States Senate -
- sir, I know you are very busy especially on days like this. Thanks for
making time for us.
SCHUMER: Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: All right. Much more to get to tonight, including Amy Klobuchar
who joins us live, coming up next.
Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D), MINNESOTA, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: OK. So what if a
president told a witness not to cooperate with an investigation or hinted
at a pardon?
WILLIAM BARR, ATTORNEY GENERAL NOMINEE: I`d have to know the specifics.
I`d have to know the specific facts.
KLOBUCHAR: OK. And you wrote on page one that if a president knowingly
destroys or alters evidence, that would be obstruction.
So what if a president drafted a misleading statement to conceal the
purpose of a meeting? Would that be obstruction?
BARR: Again, you know, I`d have to know – I`d have to know the specifics.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: How about if I asked you a question? Would that be a question? I
don`t know, I`d have to know the specifics of whether or not you asked me a
question if that would be a question.
Fresh off her questioning of President Trump`s new attorney general
nominee, William Barr, today, we are joined now live by Democratic Senator
Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota.
Senator Klobuchar, it`s great to see you. Thank you for your time.
KLOBUCHAR: Thanks, Rachel. I wish you could have been on there in the
panel. That would have been good.
MADDOW: Well – I`d be – I`d at least offer a good snark.
Were you satisfied with the answers he gave you? I was reading into your
body language and tone and I felt like you were underwhelmed but I realize
I shouldn`t assume that.
KLOBUCHAR: I was not satisfied. First of all, the major thing that
happened there was when a number of us, I asked him, Senator Harris asked
whether or not he would abide by the decision of career ethics attorneys in
the Department of Justice when they make a decision about whether or not
the attorney general should recuse himself or herself from a case, in this
case, of course, this investigation because of his earlier 19-page memo
that he wrote.
He said today that he would not do that. That he might refer to them but
he would not abide by that, that he would make his own decision. And it
was so ironic because he actually commended Attorney General Sessions for
agreeing to follow those ethics attorneys` recommendations and recuse
himself. So that was troubling.
MADDOW: There was one element of that and I don`t mean to get too weedy
and specific on this, but one of the things I`ve been wondering, sort of
anticipating that he might not commit, that he would follow the ethics
advised that he was told to recuse. I was wondering if he was going to be
asked whether he would at least commit to making that advice public. So,
commit to asking for an ethics opinion about whether you should recuse, and
he did commit to that today. Commit to their advice? He said no.
But would he commit to make the ethics advice public? So if he decides not
to take advice, we at least know what he`s objecting to, we can at least
query him about that? I felt like today, that was – that was very fuzzy.
I`m not sure he committed one way or the other on that.
KLOBUCHAR: I agree. And I`m going to follow up with some more written
questions on that. I also asked him if he agreed with the fact that
Whitaker wouldn`t recuse himself, right? And that was – that guy is like
a walking, talking conflict with his past work and what he`s done. And he
didn`t really answer that, either. He said he hadn`t looked at it.
And the other major part of this in addition to the ethics news that we had
today was the report. And I do appreciate that he said he wants to allow
the investigation to run its course and that he says he`s going to try to
make the report public. But there was a lot of equivocating in my private
meeting with him and today in terms of, well, I`ll have to look at the
rules and regulations in terms of – so I`m concerned about, I loved how
you showed earlier in the show the redacted Manafort filing with the
multiple pages of just redaction with nothing on them.
That is not what we want to see when this report gets filed, when the
American public should have a right to see exactly what happened when a
foreign country tried to interfere in our election. And after 33
indictments, I think we know how serious this is.
MADDOW: My impression watching carefully that interaction between you and
him, and between you, him, and a few other senators on that topic, was that
he seemed to be saying that if there is a report written by Robert Mueller,
that will be a report to him and then he as attorney general, he will then
issue a report to Congress that will, what summarize what Mueller told him?
Oh, that will be his own takeaways from Mueller`s report?
That was a new idea to me. I felt like he was framing that in a way that
I`ve never heard before.
KLOBUCHAR: Well, the Justice Robert rules do say that Mueller is to submit
the report to the attorney general, to the Department of Justice, whoever
is overseeing it and then they make that decision. But what we wanted to
hear was this full-throated, I know how important this, I`m going to put
that report out there – you know, barring some kind of legal problem that
you don`t want to reveal some evidence or something.
And we didn`t hear it like that. It was much more vague, as you said,
about what he might put out there. So, that`s the most concerning thing as
we see more and more indictments tumbling our way, more things leaking out.
We want to know exactly what happened.
The other thing I`d add I was troubled by, some of the answers on
immigration, I`d say his answers on criminal justice reform given his past
views when he was attorney general, that was a good discussion he had with
Senator Booker. But then I`d asked a question which I think you would be
interested in, as a daughter of a reporter, I asked him, well, I asked
Senator Sessions this, would you put reporters in jail for doing their
jobs? That`s all. That was it. Simple.
And there was the longest pause I could remember in a long time and then he
kind of said, well, I`d have to – well, there might be some cases. So,
that was also concerning because of the things the president has been
saying about journalists, as you know, and going after media organizations
and individual reporters.
MADDOW: Yes, the long pause that you elicited from him there drained the
color out of every face in the newsroom in my office when that happened
today. That was itself an alarming moment.
Senator Amy Klobuchar, member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, thank you
so much for being here.
KLOBUCHAR: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: When you are ready to talk about whether or not you are, in fact,
going to declare you`re forming an exploratory committee to run president,
you have to do it here, OK?
KLOBUCHAR: I will remember that. Thank you.
MADDOW: Diplomatic. Thank you. I`ll be right back.
MADDOW: Last week, the president tried giving out candy to members of
Congress when they met to discuss the shutdown. That didn`t work.
Today, he got off his wallet and invited a group of Democratic lawmakers
for lunch, offering up a full meal this time. Guest list was a little
hinky, though. The only Democrats invited were all relatively new to
Congress. They`re all, relatively speaking, moderates.
I think the idea was if you flattered these Democrats enough, if you fed
them right, they might break ranks with Nancy Pelosi and decide on their
own to make their own deal with President Trump for his Mexican border
wall. Nice plan.
Plan, meet Pelosi.
Here`s the “Associated Press” today on that lunch meeting. Quote: “The
White House ran quickly into the limits of trying to bypass Speaker Nancy
Pelosi in shutdown negotiations when rank and file House Democrats all
declined an invitation to lunch on Tuesday with President Donald Trump.
Every single one of those Democrats invited to that meeting at the White
House today refused to go there to meet with the president. It turns out
it takes more than free sandwiches for Democrats to break from Nancy
Pelosi`s leadership in the House. With Democrats holding the line with
their unified refusal to buy the president this wall that he said Mexico
would pay for, the president does appear to be running out of options to
get himself out of this.
I mean, there is always ice cream. There is always beer, but I think it`s
not going to work on his terms.
Watch this space.
MADDOW: Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand announced today she`s
forming an exploratory committee and running for president. She announced
that tonight. She will be our guest tomorrow here on set tomorrow night at
9:00 p.m. Eastern.
Senator Gillibrand now formally running for president. Very exciting.
That does it for us. We will see you again then.
Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL”.
Good evening, Lawrence.
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distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the
prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter
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