New report about Trump’s personal lawyer. TRANSCRIPT: 1/17/19, The Rachel Maddow Show.

Guests:
Eric Swalwell
Transcript:

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

appreciated. 

 

And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.  Very happy to have you

with us.

 

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

shut down. 

 

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

family? 

 

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

office. 

 

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

Manafort. 

 

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

the wrist. 

 

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

today? 

 

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

money payments. 

 

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

them. 

 

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

presidential campaign. 

 

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

next.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

MADDOW:  Joining us now here on set is Emily Jane Fox, senior reporter at

“Vanity Fair.” 

 

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. 

 

MADDOW:  Uh-huh. 

 

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. 

 

MADDOW:  Uh-huh. 

 

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

this. 

 

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

he`s going. 

 

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

up. 

 

FOX:  My reporting. 

 

MADDOW:  Your reporting is that there is a document that backs that up. 

 

FOX:  Uh-huh. 

 

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

other investigators. 

 

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. 

 

MADDOW:  Uh-huh. 

 

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.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

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. 

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

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

campaign chair. 

 

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

election. 

 

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

Americans. 

 

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.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

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

time. 

 

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

colleagues. 

 

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

closed. 

 

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.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

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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