New report about Trump’s personal lawyer. TRANSCRIPT: 1/17/19, The Rachel Maddow Show.
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: That`s “ALL IN” for this evening.
THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now. Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thanks, my friend. Much
And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. Very happy to have you
The government shutdown is now in day 27, but winter doesn`t care. Looks
like there will be another major storm arriving in the next few days. This
one looks like it`s going to hit the northeast this weekend.
I know that, I feel comfortable telling you that on television. I can
describe elements of that. I can talk about potential places that might be
hit harder than others and when these – I can do all that.
I can even factor that all into my own weekend plans this weekend because
there are thousands of employees of the National Weather Service who are
working 24 hours a day, seven days a week to provide we the people with
that very kind of valuable information. And all those employees of the
National Weather Service are doing that work for free. They are doing it
without being paid, hour after hour, day after day, storm after storm.
Yesterday, you might have seen headlines about a Georgia man who was
arrested for planning attacks on multiple sites, including the White House.
You should know that the FBI agents who got that guy and arrested him
yesterday, those FBI agents are also working without pay. We learned
tonight that at the New York City offices of the FBI, they have started a
food bank, as of today, for FBI agents and their families because you can
only work so long without pay before you really do need to turn to charity
in order to eat.
And as of today, we are now having ping-ponging fights in Washington about
what the president is personally able to do during the shutdown and what
congressional leadership is personally able to do during the shutdown. We
still have no clarity on whether or not there will be a State of the Union
Address this year. There`s never been one before while the government was
Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the house, says as a matter of security they
cannot responsibly bring the president to a Joint Session of Congress to
issue such an address this year, not while the government is shut down, not
while so many of the personnel who would already be involved in the
planning for a security event of that significance, so many of them are not
working at all right now or, again, they are working without pay.
In response to that potential cancellation or rescheduling of the State of
the Union, which Pelosi suggested to the White House yesterday, the
president today decided he would cancel the military transport for a
congressional delegation that Nancy Pelosi was set to join to visit U.S.
troops in Afghanistan.
Now, the Defense Department, military transportation for a congressional
delegation, that`s not actually affected by the shutdown, but the president
decided he wanted to do that anyway to smack her back about the State of
the Union or something. And because he wanted to make as big a deal as
possible about him cancelling that military transportation, the president
also today publicly disclosed for the first time that that trip was
supposed to happen, which means even if Nancy Pelosi and other members of
Congress did find alternative means of transportation to go take that
congressional delegation to go visit troops in Afghanistan, they now, of
course, cannot for security reasons, because the president blew that up.
There`s a reason when high-ranking American officials are flying into an
active war zone we don`t find out about it until they`re already there.
It`s for their own safety. The president blew that up today and told Nancy
Pelosi she should fly commercial anyway.
And whether or not you care where the president or whether any other
political leaders are personally spending their days while the shutdown
persists, it is now increasingly bizarre and just – I mean, it`s more than
remarkable, it is bizarre that the Trump administration with each passing
day now, they really are expecting hundreds of thousands of federal
employees to show up to work all day long without being paid. And that is
something that federal workers have been able to do for a few days here and
there when we have had shutdowns here and there in the past. But we`ve
never had a shutdown this long and showing up and working without pay is
only sustainable for so long. How long could you sustain that in your
I mean, it`s only sustainable practically for so many days. It may not be
sustainable legally for all that much longer either. And politically, it`s
hard to see how the president and the administration more broadly are going
to be able to sustain this expectation that hundreds of thousands of
Americans will work without pay. It`s hard to see how they will be able to
sustain that politically when the cost is now so blunt and so human, and
each passing day of this just makes it that much worse.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: We`re not paying people to
keep us safe, the TSA agents who stop bombs from coming on to planes, the
FBI agents who tracked – who track down terrorists in our country, the DEA
agents who stop the flow of drugs into our country and the officials who
patrol the border.
People think of public employees, federal employees only being in the
Washington area. No, they`re all over the country. They`re in small town
USA and other places around the country.
I don`t understand why the reality of this in people`s lives isn`t – is
not felt or concerned or cared about by the administration. Not only are
these workers not paid, they`re not appreciated by this administration.
These are the people who deliver services to the American people. We
should respect what they do for our country.
We`re saying let`s get a date when government is open. Let`s pay the
employees. Maybe he thinks it`s OK not to pay people who do work. I
don`t. And my caucus doesn`t either.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi speaking with reporters today, and I am
not a political expert. Ask me about some of my past political
predictions. I`m not great at it.
I am not a great political expert. I have never run for office. I never
would. I have never been part of a campaign of anybody else running for
But it strikes me, in political terms, that if you have picked a big
political argument and in so doing you have put your political opponent in
the position of arguing against you that it`s their position that people
who work should be paid for their work, if that`s their position against
you, that seems to me like maybe you`re going to lose that fight. I mean,
honestly, if you think about what`s going on right now with the shutdown,
logistically, I don`t know how they`re going to end it. Politically, what
this boils down to right now is that the way the president has set this up
is that he`s put the Democrats in the position of being able to make two
cases to the public.
The Democrats have two public positions right now in this fight with the
White House. They have two points. Let`s open the government and if
people work, they should be paid.
The Trump administration and now the Republicans in Congress are in the
position now of saying, OK, we get that you want to open the government,
but – OK, but, yes – and we understand that people should be paid, but,
you know, there`s this other stuff that we also need to – there`s other
factors here that you need to – I mean, the polling is increasingly
terrible for the president and the Republicans on this issue with each
passing day. It started off bad for them. It`s getting worse as this
thing goes on longer and causes more real human pain.
That doesn`t mean, though, that any of us know when it will end.
Certainly, the politics of this are only going to get worse for those who
are trying to sustain it and not better, but, again, we don`t know how long
they decide that they`re going to keep this going.
Outside of the ongoing standoff for the shutdown, there were a few
surprises in the news today related to the scandals swirling around this
president. It turns out – this presidency. Turns out that stuff doesn`t
– doesn`t stop for the shutdown. Emily Jane Fox is going to be here in
just a moment from “Vanity Fair” to talk about one of those surprises that
concerns the president`s longtime personal lawyer Michael Cohen. Emily
Jane has some new important reporting on that story tonight, specifically
about President Trump potentially having some new criminal liability from
yet another campaign-related revelations ala Michael Cohen.
So, Emily Jane Fox is going to be joining us live in just a second with
some of that new reporting. You are going to want to see that.
Before we get to that Michael Cohen case, though, there`s a couple of other
developments you should know about today as well. One of them, I can`t
tell you much about what the bottom line of it – in terms of what the
bottom line in terms of what it means, but I am very intrigued by this. We
have learned late this evening just before starting this show tonight that
the Supreme Court of the United States tomorrow, the justices of the
Supreme Court tomorrow are once again going to consider at least some part
of what we now affectionately call the mystery case.
This is a mystery case that appears to relate to Robert Mueller and the
special counsel`s office. High-level prosecutors working for Mueller in
the special counsel`s office are believed to be associated with this case.
I have to couch it like that, though, because all the filings, all the
argument in this case, they`ve all been conducted under seal so I can`t
just show you something that proves that.
The parties in this case are secret. The lawyers involved in this case,
it`s all secret. And even with the Supreme Court apparently considering an
element of this case tomorrow, we`re still not exactly sure what aspect of
the case Supreme Court justices are going to be looking at.
I mean, broadly speaking we know from previous court filings that this
appears to be a case involving an unnamed corporation. “The Washington
Post” has reported that they believe it is a financial institution of some
kind, but who knows?
From court filings we can tell this unnamed corporation that`s maybe a
financial institution. It`s definitely owned by a foreign country but we
don`t know which country. It`s just country “A” in the filings.
A federal court has previously ruled that this mysterious foreign-owned
corporation can`t ignore a subpoena that they received. And it appears to
be a subpoena they received from the special counsel`s office. Lower court
ruled that this company has to respond to that subpoena. That court also
imposed a $50,000 a day penalty on that corporation for every day that they
refuse to comply with the subpoena. That`s got to be adding up.
Well, some element of that mystery case is going to be considered in
conference by the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court tomorrow. So, in
conference means it`s not going to happen in open court where you get to
see the lawyers arguing back and forth. This is just going to be the
justices behind closed doors deciding amongst themselves.
But I`m intrigued. It`s funny, everything about this case has seemed like
it must be of outsized importance just because it`s secret. It may end up
being a small thing. It may end up being mundane, but all I can tell you
is something about it is being adjudicated tomorrow at the very highest
levels of the U.S. judiciary. The Supreme Court is taking it up and we
still will not know about it until somebody finally decides if and when
this can all be unsealed.
We also had another surprise announcement today from the Justice Department
about a big fancy expensive well-regarded law firm, one of the biggest and
richest law firms on earth. And they`ve just gotten in trouble for their
role in the Russia scandal and its various criminal offshoots.
Do you remember the guy Alex Vander Zwaan? He`s a tall, blonde, very
dapper foreign lawyer who pled guilty lying to federal investigators about
his work with Paul Manafort? Alex Vander Zwaan has not only pled guilty to
a felony, he`s been sentenced to prison. He`s already completed his prison
sentence and gone home to Europe.
When he turned up in federal court in Washington, there`s a couple things
interesting, not just about his case but who he is. First of all, it turns
out that he`s the son-in-law, he`s married to the daughter of a Russian
billionaire, one of the billionaire owners of Alfa Bank.
Alfa Bank is not a state-owned Russian bank. It`s the biggest bank in
Russia, I think, that`s not state-run. Although there has been some noise
quite recently that the Kremlin might take over Alfa Bank.
The owners of Alfa Bank have turned up numerous times on the periphery of
the Russia scandal involving President Trump and his campaign. For one,
they`re mentioned in the Christopher Steele dossier that`s been such a
controversial part of the anecdotes and allegations around potential
collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 election.
The Alfa Bank owners are currently involved in a legal dispute with Fusion
GPS over their being named in Steele`s dossier.
Alfa Bank has also turned up on the periphery of the scandal because
computer servers associated with Alfa Bank were reportedly observed during
the summer of 2016 having lots and lots of unexplained online
communications with computer servers for the Trump Organization. Why would
computers at the president`s business in Trump Tower be communicating
repeatedly with computers owned by a Russian bank during the campaign? We
still have no idea, but that was Alfa Bank.
And one of the billionaire owners of Alfa Bank is this guy, Herman Khan.
And Herman Khan`s son-in-law is handsome Alex Vander Zwaan who just got out
of prison because of his role in the Russia scandal, and his role
specifically in lying to investigators about the work he did for Paul
So, when Alex Vander Zwaan turned up in court, that was a strange
biographical detail we learned about him right off the bat. Maybe that`s a
coincidence, right? Maybe that`s just like a weird hairpin turn in the
middle of space time continuum.
But the other thing that was interesting about Alex Vander Zwaan when he
turned up in court was not just his odd family connection, but also the
firm where he worked because when Alex Vander Zwaan got in trouble for the
stuff he got in trouble for, he was a relatively junior lawyer at a super
fancy American white shoe law firm called Skadden Arps.
Alex Vander Zwaan`s supervisor, the senior partner who oversaw his work at
Skadden Arps, including at the time he was doing the stuff that he got in
trouble for, his supervisor, the senior partner over him was a very famous,
very well-connected American lawyer named Gregory Craig, who was a former
Obama White House official. Greg Craig worked in the Obama White House at
the very outset of Obama`s first term in office. He was Obama`s first
White House counsel.
Well, Alex Vander Zwaan no longer works at Skadden Arps. Gregory Craig is
no longer a senior partner at Skadden Arps. He left the firm in April.
But today, surprise, the Justice Department revealed a multimillion dollar
civil settlement between the Justice Department and that very fancy law
firm, Skadden Arps. The firm in the settlement agrees to retroactively
register as having been an unregistered foreign agent working on behalf of
the government of Ukraine, the pro-Russian government of Ukraine that Paul
Manafort represented. The firm has also agreed to pay back to the U.S.
government the more than $4 million Paul Manafort allegedly secretly
shoveled to them so they would do work that looked like the independent
work product of this very prestigious Western law firm while what they were
really doing was just whitewash work for Manafort`s pro-Russian clients.
So, there are a few things that are interesting about this. Number one,
this is a surprise. I didn`t know this was coming.
Also, big prestigious rich connected American law firms like this one don`t
usually get in trouble for anything. Let alone for grotty criminal foreign
corruption cases like this one.
So, seeing Skadden Arps in this Justice Department settlement in itself is
a remarkable thing. That said, what they`re getting from the Justice
Department in this settlement financially doesn`t even qualify as a slap on
I mean, Skadden is such a gigantic rich law firm. “The Wall Street
Journal” said today that their annual revenue as a law firm is something
like $2.5 billion in revenue every year now – $2.5 billion a year. Them
having to pay the government pack $4.6 million, that`s like a freckle on a
flea to them. That is not even a rounding error for them. They will not
even feel that in one day`s billings.
And we should also note that the money they are paying back apparently
according to prosecutors, that $4.6 million they got to pay back, yes, they
have to pay it to the government, but that`s just the money they received
to do this illegal foreign lobbying work. That`s just the money they got
secretly shoveled from Paul Manafort.
So that means all the Justice Department is requiring them is that they
don`t keep the illegal money they got, but they don`t have to pay anything
on top of that. This is like if you were caught going 100 miles an hour in
a school zone, the cop was like, whoa, you were 80 miles an hour over the
speed limit. This is a school zone. It`s 20. You didn`t see the flashing
yellows? What are you doing?
And then it turns out your punishment for having done that is that you have
to slow down. You are no longer allowed to go 100 miles an hour in a
school zone and you pledge that you won`t anymore, but other than that,
you`re free to go. Aren`t you ashamed? Right?
That`s the equivalent of what happened here to this rich, influential,
politically-connected law firm. I mean, Skadden technically gets in
trouble. Ooh, embarrassing press release. They have to retroactively
register as a foreign agent, but they otherwise sort of get off scot-free
for what they did.
That said, the Justice Department does praise them for their cooperation in
this matter, so maybe they`re helping with something else. Also, this may
not be the end. This civil settlement between the Justice Department and
this rich law firm today, it doesn`t resolve anything other than the
conflict between the firm and the government. It doesn`t resolve any
related allegations that may arise under – about any individuals.
Greg Craig himself, the former Obama White House lawyer, Obama`s first
White House counsel, he appears to play a starring role in what is
described in the settlement today as the firm`s misconduct. He or somebody
who is described as partner one, who appears to be Gregory Craig, is
repeatedly described in this settlement as having made false and misleading
statements to Justice Department investigators who were looking into what
was going on here, who were looking into whether or not this firm was
engaged in illegal lobbying with Paul Manafort.
So, there have been previous public reports that Gregory Craig is
personally under potential criminal scrutiny for his individual role in
this part of the Manafort saga, but as of tonight, we know his firm at
least has settled things with the government in a way that is embarrassing
but super cheap for them. It remains to be seen whether any other shoe,
white shoe or not, is about to drop – with any further indictments or any
further plea agreements or, you know, cooperation deals or anything else we
might hear about.
And on top of that, there is the freaking unbelievably weird story about
the president`s longtime personal lawyer Michael Cohen, which broke this
morning in “The Wall Street Journal.” did you see this? Did you see this
In one of the surreal things about this presidency is that no matter what
else is going on, no matter what happens in any given day in the news,
right, in the back of all of our minds, we all know somewhere that this
president, whatever he`s doing, good or bad, you know, exciting or
embarrassing, whatever it is, this president is also technically known as
Individual One in a multiple felony criminal case that`s about to send his
longtime personal friend and business associate to federal prison for three
years. The president is Individual One and was named as such by
prosecutors when they brought charges against Cohen for having paid more
than $250,000 in hush money to try to assure that two women wouldn`t go
public ahead of Election Day with their allegations they had had affairs
with the president.
Of all the things this president has been accused of and associated with,
those hush money payments to those two women seem so small, right? So
tawdry and tabloid and dumb, and embarrassing to talk about, right? It was
almost hard to take the legal maneuvering around them as something
potentially quite serious to the president and the presidency, but Michael
Cohen pled guilty to two campaign finance felonies because of those hush
The president got that moniker, right? The president became Individual
One. He is described by prosecutors as having been the person who
conspired with Cohen to commit those felonies. They describe him as the
person who directed the commission of those felonies and benefitted from
NBC News has reported that had the president not been president, with all
the complications that implies for a potential felony prosecution of
someone holding that office, had he not been serving as president of the
United States at the time that felony case came ripe, he, too, would have
been charged with felonies in the Cohen case.
Well, now there`s another one. As broken this morning by “The Wall Street
Journal” by Michael Rothfeld, Rob Barry and Joe Palazzolo. Quote: In early
2015, a man who runs a small technology company showed up at Trump Tower to
collect $50,000 for having helped Michael Cohen, then Donald Trump`s
personal lawyer, try to rig online polls in his boss` favor before the
Quote: In his Trump organization office, Mr. Cohen surprised the man by
giving him a blue Walmart bag containing between $12,000 and $13,000 in
cash and, comma, randomly, comma, a boxing glove that Mr. Cohen said had
been worn by a Brazilian mixed martial arts fighter. The man in question
then confirmed to “The Wall Street Journal” in an interview that he did do
what he was paid to do. He did try, quote, to manipulate online polls in
Trump`s favor, after he was directed to do so by Michael Cohen and promised
$50,000 for his trouble, even though he only got paid $12,000 to $13,000
plus a glove.
Because the news god`s have a sense of humor, I should also tell you that
the man currently serves as the chief information officer at Liberty
University, which is the televangelist university founded by Jerry Falwell,
because who among us is not asked whose online poll Jesus would rig, in
exchange for Walmart bag with a glove in it.
This again is that perfect Trump-era crossover between I need to take a
shower and I can`t believe I have to read this for work, right? Now we can
update the cast of characters here from the “Playboy” model being paid by
David Pecker at “The National Enquirer” not to write a fitness column, and
the charming and hilarious, smart adult film star with the bombastic lawyer
who maybe is going to run for president, to that cast of characters, we can
now add the chief tech guy from televangelist university who was
moonlighting from the Jerry Falwell school by taking bags of cash and maybe
boxing memorabilia as payment for trying to rig Drudge Report polls to get
Trump to seem like a top-tier candidate.
It`s too stupid and dirty to care about, right? Instinctively, that is
what you are feeling, but sometimes crime is small and dirty and boring and
embarrassing. I mean, after “The Wall Street Journal” broke this story
this morning, Michael Cohen said publicly online, quote: As for “The Wall
Street Journal” article on poll rigging, what I did was at the direction of
and for the sole benefit of Donald Trump.
And embarrassing as this all is, if Donald Trump did not this was happening
on his behalf, and if he did direct it and if he did pay Michael Cohen
$50,000 for this service and Michael Cohen did turn around and pay this
contractor a bag of dirty $2 bills for this service plus a boxing glove,
and this service was designed to increase Trump`s perceived public standing
so he would be seen as a credible presidential candidate so this would help
him in the election then, yes, this is dirty and small and hilarious, but
this is also in the same ballpark as the felony campaign finance violation
that is already sending Michael Cohen to federal prison for three years.
He starts his sentence in a few weeks. And it`s the kind of case for which
the president has already earned the legal moniker Individual Number One.
If this was an illegal campaign contribution, if this was an in-kind
payment to aid the president`s election that was not reported as such, that
may not seem like the most important thing of this disgusting little story,
but it may be the criminal part. And that question of whether the
president was in on this, whether the president, as Michael Cohen says,
knew about this and directed it, that may end up being a question of
critical legal significance for the president and for the presidency.
And Emily Jane Fox is going to break some news on that front here with us
MADDOW: Joining us now here on set is Emily Jane Fox, senior reporter at
Emily Jane, it`s great to see you. Thanks for being here.
EMILY JANE FOX, SENIOR REPORTER, VANITY FAIR: Thank you.
MADDOW: So the story broke in “The Wall Street Journal” this morning that
Michael Cohen was paid $50,000 by either Mr. Trump or the Trump
Organization, I`m not sure which, for something that Cohen sort of invoiced
as technical services. “Wall Street Journal,” we found out that some
reimbursement like that had happened. We found out during earlier charging
documents concerning Mr. Cohen. “Wall Street Journal” appears to have
tracked that down and figured out he was paying a guy at Liberty University
to rig online polls to make Trump seem like a better candidate.
Now, does Mr. Cohen deny that this happened?
FOX: No, I think he said in his tweet today – there was no denial there.
What he said very clearly today was, I did this at the direction of
President Trump, which is what he has said about the other things that he
pleaded guilty to last year, and it was the exact same language.
FOX: He expressed his remorse. And I think from my reporting today, what
I know is that only does Cohen say this, but there are documents or there
is a document that backs up his claim.
MADDOW: There`s a physical document that backs up his claim that the
president was aware of this, the president directed –
FOX: The president was aware that this was happening.
MADDOW: Now, the president does not use e-mail. At least we believe. The
president, we don`t think, uses a computer at all.
FOX: From all my reporting, I – in every reporting I`ve done on the
president, he doesn`t text, he doesn`t e-mail.
MADDOW: So it wouldn`t have been an electronic communication.
FOX: I don`t know what the document is, but there is documentation.
Now, this is what I will say about Cohen. He has pleaded guilty to lying
about things. There have been things in the past that he has lied to me as
a reporter about, other reporters about, that he has lied about publicly.
Cohen pleaded guilty to lying to Congress. That is part of the reason why
he is going to prison in March.
FOX: It would seem incomprehensible to me and against any better judgment
for him to go to Congress again and lie. He`s already going to prison for
So, this is the kind of thing, this document and what he is saying about
the president directing him or the president`s knowledge about this payment
ahead of time is the exact kind of thing I`m sure he`ll be asked about on
February 7th when he goes to Capitol Hill. This is the whole reason why
There are things in the Mueller probe that Cohen will not be allowed to
talk about. There are things in that investigation that are going to be
totally off the table. This seems to me to be squarely in line with what
he`s going to be asked about and allowed to talk about and that`s why this
hearing is going to be so important.
It would just be unbelievable for me to believe that Cohen would go and lie
to Congress again about this.
MADDOW: So let me just – let me be totally clear about what we`ve got
here. Cohen has said publicly he did this at the direction of Donald
Trump. You say that he`s told you that there is a document that backs that
FOX: My reporting.
MADDOW: Your reporting is that there is a document that backs that up.
MADDOW: And that Cohen has access to that document?
FOX: I would – I would assume that he has access to this document.
MADDOW: Do we know if this is something that he has discussed already with
either the Southern District of New York, which prosecuted him on the other
campaign finance felonies or with the special counsel`s office or with
FOX: Here`s what I do know. I know he has spent upwards of 70 hours with
investigators. If there is something that is pertinent to one of the cases
he is involved in, he`s shared it. You`re not sitting in rooms with
investigators twiddling your thumbs or talking about the weather. You`re
talking about everything you know that is relevant to those investigations.
I know he wasn`t an official cooperating witness in the southern district
of my New York, but it was my understanding he was fairly if not fully
cooperative in the investigations we have known about publicly.
MADDOW: Is it your impression – my last question for you on this. Is it
your impression what “The Wall Street Journal`s” describing and what Cohen
is not denying and what there may or may not be documentation of in terms
of backing up his assertion this is at the direction of the president – is
it your understanding that this is the same kind of campaign-related
expenditure that may be – may have criminal implications?
FOX: How could it not be? I mean, it`s not $130,000 to one woman.
FOX: But if it is a payment that was made at the direction of President
Trump and potentially could have influenced the election, isn`t that the
exact kind of payment that Cohen was in trouble for and the exact kind of
payment people in this network has been saying for months could potentially
implicate the president or Individual One? It`s the same thing in my mind.
MADDOW: Well, we will see if it is ever adjudicated. There, of course, is
the complicated question you`re allowed to spend as much money as you want
on your campaign. You have to declare.
FOX: That pesky little rule.
MADDOW: Stuff it in a boxing glove and stick it in someone`s carry-on bag.
This is remarkable.
Emily Jane Fox, senior “Vanity Fair” reporter – Emily, thank you very
much. Much appreciated.
FOX: Thank you so much.
MADDOW: All right. Much more to get to. Stay with us.
MADDOW: We have been covering unexpectedly suspenseful effort over this
past week to try to block the Trump administration from dropping sanctions
against companies associated with a Putin allied Russian oligarch named
Oleg Deripaska. Deripaska has been sanctioned over Russia`s interference
in our election.
When the effort to stop the lifting of those sanctions came up for a vote
in the Senate yesterday, 11 Republicans broke ranks with Republican
leadership and with the Trump White House and voted with the Democrats that
the Trump administration`s plan to lift those sanctions should be revoked,
should be blocked. The vote to block the administration from lifting those
sanctions, it was 57-42, and that sounds like it won.
That`s a big majority, right, 57 votes, 11 Republicans joining the
Democrats, breaking ranks, but still that wasn`t enough to get them to the
60-vote threshold they needed to stop this thing. So they got close to
stopping it in the Senate. They did fall short by a couple of Republican
votes. You can thank Mitt Romney and Lindsey Graham.
But check this out. Today, Democrats in the House introduced their own
version of this resolution trying to block the lifting of sanctions on
Deripaska`s companies. And in the House, they hit it out of the park. The
House voted overwhelmingly to stop the Trump administration from lifting
the Deripaska sanctions.
The vote in the House was 362-53. Of the 362 yes votes, there were 136
Republicans who broke ranks, who joined House Democrats today in a big
bipartisan overwhelming rebuke of the Trump administration on this issue.
And the House vote alone cannot stop the Trump administration from lifting
these sanctions on Deripaska`s companies. Can`t do it without the Senate
passing it, too.
But the House spoke in a pretty unified voice. That`s a lot of
Republicans, way more Republicans telling the Trump administration they`re
wrong on this than siding with the Trump administration on this.
Now what does this mean going forward? A super pointed question you ought
to be asking about that is coming up next. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Check this out. You may remember this. It`s a video posted to
Instagram a couple of years ago. Two guys on a yacht, apparently somewhere
in Norway. Pretty scenery, fancy yacht, lots of random jump cuts and
there`s some dance music.
But if you ignore the weird production of it and look really closely, one
of those guys on the yacht reportedly is Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska.
A Belarusian woman named Anastasia Vashukevich posted this video to
Instagram in August of 2016, so during the 2016 campaign, along with some
audio of someone she says is Oleg Deripaska discussing relations between
the U.S. and Russia.
Her video was uncovered last year by the anti-Putin Russian opposition
leader Alexei Navalny. He used the video in his own work. He argued that
the yacht trip amounted to a bribe paid by Deripaska to the other guy on
the boat with him, who is allegedly the Russian deputy prime minister.
Now, Oleg Deripaska famously was the patron of Trump campaign chair Paul
Manafort. Manafort reportedly owed him millions of dollars before joining
the Trump campaign where he offered to work for free. Manafort also
offered Deripaska private briefings on the campaign while he was Trump`s
The apparent video of Deripaska on the yacht with Russia`s deputy prime
minister, it got a lot of attention at the time, including in the American
press, but shortly after that news appeared, just three weeks after the
video appeared online, the woman who had posted the video, Anastasia
Vashukevich, she got arrested in Thailand. She said she was in Thailand
teaching seduction seminars for tourists.
She was initially arrested for working without a permit. She said she was
scared of being deported. She was scared specifically of ending up in
Russian hands. And it was under those circumstances from inside a
detention center in Bangkok that Anastasia made a very startling claim.
She said that she had more recordings of Oleg Deripaska. She said she had
audiotape, in which you can hear Deripaska and his associates discussing
the U.S. 2016 presidential election. She said those tapes would
specifically shed light on the Russian government`s interference in that
She told “The New York Times,” quote: They were discussing elections.
Deripaska had a plan about elections.
She said she also had recordings of conversations between Deripaska and
three people who spoke English fluently, people who she thought were
Now, to be clear, Deripaska has denied any wrongdoing, denied any
involvement in Russian interference in the U.S. election. He`s denied that
Russia did interfere in the U.S. election. As far as we know, nobody`s
heard these tapes or can confirm whether or not they exist, but there
Anastasia Vashukevich was in March making those claims and in conjunction
with these claims pleading with the United States government to please give
her asylum and fleeing specifically that if she was able to get out of jail
in Thailand, that she please not get deported back to Russia.
Quote: If America gives me protection, I will tell everything I know. I am
afraid to go back to Russia. Some strange things can happen.
She stayed in that jail for months in Thailand. She would end up charged
soliciting prostitution. She faced a decade in prison.
According to “The New York Times”, the FBI did try to get in touch with her
when she detained but she definitely never got the asylum she was seeking
from the United States. In August, she said she no longer had these tapes.
She said she had given them to Deripaska and promised him her silence.
But then on Tuesday, in an unexpected move, she appeared in court, pled
guilty to prostitution charges and under a deal worked out ahead of time
with the judge apparently, that guilty plea laid the groundwork for her to
be released, time served, you`re out. Released and deported.
A friend of hers told “The Washington Post” she was hoping to be deported
somewhere on earth other than Russia. If a situation like this could be
described as hopeful – well, Thailand shipped her out of the country this
morning. She reportedly had been offered safe passage on her way home to
Belarus. She reportedly had been told that even show she would have to
stop in Moscow on her commercial flight on her way home to Belarus, she
would be allowed to proceed home.
But today when she landed in Moscow for a change of flights, she was
arrested. She was taken at the airport. There were a ton of journalists
in that airport waiting there to try to talk to her. She was not allowed
to speak to anybody. She was taken by Russian law enforcement.
She had asked for help months ago after challenging this Russian oligarch,
challenging Oleg Deripaska and said she had evidence of his involvement in
what happened in our election. She wanted U.S. help. She definitely did
not get U.S. help. What happens now we don`t know.
While all of that has been playing out on the other side of the world,
stateside, we have been following a very little different challenge to Oleg
Deripaska. The Trump administration moved just before Christmas to drop
U.S. sanctions on all of his companies.
As we have been covering on Monday, 11 Republicans in the Senate joined
Democrats in trying to block that plan, but that effort fell two votes
short. In the House today, though, as I mentioned, it was a different
story. Today in the House, 136 Republicans, nearly 70 percent of the
Republican members of the House, joined the Democrats in saying no, no
sanctions relief for Deripaska, not now, not in the middle of this.
Other intelligence consequences of what`s going on around this Russian
oligarch, these votes and this action overseas.
Congressman Eric Swalwell joins us live in just a moment.
MADDOW: Joining us now is Congressman Eric Swalwell of California. He`s
on both the Intelligence Committee and the Judiciary Committee.
Congressman, it`s really nice to have you here tonight. Thanks for your
REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D), CALIFORNIA: Yes, thank you, Rachel. Thanks for
having me back.
MADDOW: I want to ask you first about – actually just about the shutdown.
I don`t know if you have any insights for us or any predictions for us
about how and when this is finally going to end. I don`t know if you can
tell if the end is coming.
SWALWELL: Boy, I hope it`s coming. Before the show, I was serving meals
to federal workers at the World Central Kitchen with Jose Andres` team, and
it was very hard to see, you know, FBI, police officers in uniform coming
in for meals, mothers bringing their kids. And it was also federal workers
volunteering to serve other federal workers, showing solidarity with their
And they just want us to open up government. I heard time after time.
Whatever the politics is here, can you at least just open up government and
then negotiate what has to be done for border security.
MADDOW: We`ve seen an interesting I think sort of collapse of what is the
usual partisan divide in Congress, specifically on this issue of Russian
sanctions over the past few days. We saw 11 Republican senators peel off
from their leadership and from the Trump White House in the Senate. We saw
136 Republicans today in the House peel off from the Trump White House and
join Democrats to try to stop the Trump administration from lifting Russian
sanctions associated with Oleg Deripaska.
I know the shutdown and the sanctions issue are different things, but I
wondered if that kind of fissure, that kind of fracturing of our usual
partisan expectations gives you some hope.
SWALWELL: Well, it does. It also shows and demonstrates that there`s
bipartisan consensus in both chambers. Over 400 members between both
chambers that believe that this is a bad move for our national security,
and also recognizes that sanctions are a tactic to change behavior. And
Russia hasn`t changed its behavior.
Former Secretary of Defense James Mattis said that they actually sought to
interfere in the 2018 election just as they were in the 2016 election. So
why would we be rewarding them?
I`ll just say this, Rachel. If you`re looking at a quid pro quo, I think
you can file this under the quo. More quo evidence between Donald Trump
and Russia. And it`s actually dramatically sped up since that Helsinki
meeting, where we don`t know what was said, where the interpreter`s notes
have been taken by the president.
Since that meeting with Vladimir Putin, President Trump has now sought to
ease sanctions, he`s pulled us abruptly out of Syria, and now we`ve learned
from reporting he has time after time talked about pulling us out of NATO.
And just today as Speaker Pelosi was going to Brussels to meet with NATO
leadership, he cancels her trip, which may be a petty move in light of
what`s going on with the shutdown on his part, but may also be I think his
insecurity about demonstrating support for NATO.
MADDOW: On that specific vote in Congress, too, I`m also struck by the
fact that we`ve had a whole bunch of revelations and hard questions raised
specifically about Deripaska while the Trump administration is lifting
sanctions specifically on his companies. I mean, we just got that the
somewhat inadvertent revelation that Manafort was sharing polling data from
inside the campaign with his intermediary with Deripaska, who is a guy
associated with Russian intelligence. Deripaska, of course, is the guy who
Manafort was offering private briefings too.
There`s this disturbing case of this Belarusian woman who just got out of
prison saying – after having said that she had damning evidence linking
Oleg Deripaska to the Russian election interference effort. She had
apparently given assurances that she would be left alone by Russia and
allowed to go home. Russia then picked her up at the Moscow airport today
and she hasn`t been heard from since. I mean, all of these things are sort
of Deripaska adjacent. While the administration is moving to ease
sanctions specifically related to him.
SWALWELL: Yes, there are only open questions about Deripaska, and there`s
none that have been closed. We know that the Mueller investigation is
still open, that the line of inquiry into Paul Manafort is still open. His
sentencing hasn`t occurred. And Manafort had a direct line of
communication to Deripaska.
There`s classified information about Deripaska as well that Mr. Schiff, our
chairman, talked about. Not the classified information but the existence
of it, on the floor today. We know he`s connected to Vladimir Putin.
I think the most responsible thing to do would be if there`s ever going to
be a discussion about easing sanctions against Russia, have that
conversation, have that discussion after the Mueller investigation is
MADDOW: Congressman Eric Swalwell from the Intelligence Committee, the
Judiciary Committee – sir, thank you very much. Good to have you here.
SWALWELL: My pleasure. Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Thanks for being with us tonight. For the record, I just want to
say there is no symbolic significance to the fact I`m accidentally wearing
a blue blazer instead of the same black blazer I`ve been wearing for the
past 2 1/2 years. I didn`t realize it was blue.
The lighting in my office is a little dim and I`m getting old. We`ll be
back to black tomorrow.
Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL”.
Good evening, Lawrence.
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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