20,000 show up for Harris campaign launch. TRANSCRIPT: 1/28/19, The Rachel Maddow Show.
CHRISTINA GREER, PROFESSOR OF POLITICAL SCIENCE, FORDHAM UNIVERSITY:
That`s going to protect her to a certain extent. She`s still introducing
SAM SEDER, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: And that`s my point, that there`s going to
be a lot of people in those debates, that`s a great way of avoiding it.
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Yes. Christina Greer and Sam Seder, thank you
both for joining us.
That is 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.
HAYES: You bet.
MADDOW: And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. Happy Monday,
thanks for being here.
There is a lot going on tonight and there`s a lot going on, coming up. So
I want to jump right in, let`s go.
First, let`s get out our calendars because we have to make changes. See,
next week in your calendar, on Friday, where it says, and you had written
in there for a long time that`s the day the president`s campaign chairman
Paul Manafort is going to be sentenced to federal prison. I know you had
that date penciled in your calendar for a long time now. Paul Manafort`s
sentencing for multiple felonies.
Friday, February 8th, next Friday, has been on the docket forever. Turns
out it`s good you only wrote it in in pencil because now you have to either
erase it or at least messily “X” it out because the sentencing of the
president`s campaign chair was called off today by the famously
cantankerous judge who oversees Manafort`s case in Virginia. Although that
Virginia trial is over and Manafort was convicted at that trial of eight
felonies, and that Virginia court famously likes to get stuff done fast
with no delays, that`s the court, the so-called Rocket Docket, despite all
of that, the sentencing of the president`s campaign chair which have been
sentenced for next week, next Friday, that is now indefinitely on hiatus.
It`s indefinitely delayed.
The problem is that the whole sentencing process for Paul Manafort has now
been complicated by these new allegations from special counsel Robert
Mueller that Manafort breached his plea deal and lied to prosecutors after
he agreed to cooperate with them. That specific issue, which Manafort is
now facing, the question of whether or not he lied to prosecutors, that is
going to be the subject of a court hearing for him next week in D.C, a week
from today, on Monday, February 4th. That hearing, you should probably put
in your calendar because one may ultimately be the whole enchilada for Paul
I mean, depending on the outcome of that hearing as to whether or not he
lied to prosecutors, he could be looking at an additional decade in prison
on top of the seven to ten years he`s already likely facing for what
happened in Virginia, whenever they finally decide that they`re going to go
ahead with sentencing him in Virginia. Again, as of today, the Virginia
sentencing is off. Monday`s hearing on whether or not he lied to
prosecutors is on. But that`s going to be held behind closed doors. We`re
not going to know what happened at that hearing on Monday until well after
The reason they are apparently sealing that next crucial hearing for the
president`s campaign chair is because we believe his case still relates to
a bunch of sensitive matters and other ongoing investigations. Again, we
can`t see that because it`s all been happening under seal. We probably
will not know the whole truth of that for quite some time.
But those dates have changed. And now that the Manafort sentence is off
next week, you should have a little space on your calendar on that day.
That same day, Friday of next week, you can now write in this. Michael
Cohen, the president`s longtime personal lawyer, will be testifying that
day to the House Intelligence Committee under their new Democratic
chairman, Congressman Adam Schiff.
But again, that testimony from Michael Cohen will also be held behind
closed doors so we, the public, won`t get to see it. Most Intelligence
Committee witnesses in the Russia investigation have appeared in closed
session behind closed doors, that will be true of Michael Cohen next week
at Intel. That said, we are still waiting to find out when and where and
under what circumstances Michael Cohen might do open public testimony that
we can all listen in on and see. Late last week, Cohen tried to back out
of his commitment to appear at a public hearing before a different
committee, before Democratic Chairman Elijah Cummings and the House
Oversight Committee, Mr. Cohen backed out of that appearance on the grounds
he and his family felt threatened by and intimidated by the president
because of the president`s public remarks about that forthcoming testimony.
Chairman Cummings and the Democrats seemed to believe that they`re going to
get Michael Cohen publicly testifying in some way, somehow. But we don`t
know when that will be and the clock is ticking because Michael Cohen is
due to appear and report to federal prison on March 7th. Now,
incidentally, Michael Cohen today dumped his whole legal team, which I
didn`t see coming. And maybe that`s related to the start of his
forthcoming prison sentence. Maybe that`s related to the ongoing
negotiations about public testimony to Congress or closed door testimony to
Until today, Cohen`s legal team had been led was named by a lawyer named
Guy Petrillo. Guy Petrillo is a very well-connected in the federal
prosecutor`s office in Manhattan in the southern district of New York.
That`s the prosecutor`s office that charged Cohen and convicted Cohen or
secured a guilty plea from Cohen for eight felonies, including campaign
finance felonies in which prosecutors said the president was also
personally implicated. That was all SDNY.
So, it made sense that Cohen had picked as his defense lawyer Guy Petrillo
because Guy Petrillo used to be the head of the criminal division at SDNY.
You think about the strategy on these things. Even if you`re not a lawyer
and you`ve never been charged with anything, you can see the logic here.
If you`re being prosecuted by SDNY, it`s probably not a bad idea to have on
your side a guy who used to run the criminal division at that prosecutor`s
That is how Cohen got Petrillo in the first place. But now, as of today
with Michael Cohen preparing to go to prison and apparently negotiating
these potential appearances before various congressional committees, now,
today, he has dropped Guy Petrillo and he has announced a few new lawyers,
a couple of new guys who`ve never been involved in his case before at all,
a couple of guys from Chicago. And again, we do not know the exact reason
for the switch. Nobody is quite sure why Michael Cohen dumped his old
lawyers or if we should expect something unexpected from Michael Cohen
because he`s got these new lawyers.
But this late in the game, with the client convicted and on his way to
prison, I mean, one perhaps reasonable guess as to what is driving this
decision might be a word that rhymes with honey and starts with mm. Those
sort of things sometimes arrive at this point in a criminal case. But it`s
interesting, that same day that Michael Cohen is due next week to testify
behind closed doors to the Intelligence Committee, Friday next week, there
is also going to be public testimony that day before Democratic Chairman
Jerry Nadler and House Judiciary Committee, there`s going to be public
testimony that day from Matthew Whitaker, who is the Trump appointed acting
attorney general at the Justice Department right now.
Matt Whitaker was never confirmed by the Senate. He also rejected ethics
advice from the Justice Department, which he was instructed or advised he
should recuse himself from any oversight role in the Mueller investigation.
He rejected that advice. Did not recuse himself.
Matt Whitaker is a hugely controversial figure as acting attorney general
for a whole bunch of different reasons. Today, though, ahead of this
public testimony he`s about to give next week, today, he appears to have
stepped in it. Today, there was a press briefing about the Justice
Department bringing criminal charges against a behemoth Chinese cell phone
maker and at the press briefing announcing those charges, acting Attorney
General Matt Whitaker was asked about the status of the Mueller
investigation, and again, this is a sensitive subject for him, right?
He has a long record of public comments criticizing the Mueller
investigation. He was appointed to this job by President Trump. There is
every indication the reason President Trump appointed him to this job is
because of the long record of public statements criticizing the Mueller
investigation. Whitaker was never confirmed by the Senate. He got ethics
advice from the career ethics officials at the department that he should
recuse from being involved in the Mueller investigation. He didn`t follow
So, it`s an incredibly sensitive subject when it comes to Whitaker. But
regardless of what you think of Matt Whitaker, regardless of what you think
of him being in this job as it relates to the Mueller investigation,
regardless of all of that, if you are anybody who works at the Justice
Department in any position of authority at the Justice Department, rule one
of that particular fight club is that you do not talk about that particular
fight club. As a Justice Department official, you do not talk about open
and ongoing investigations.
That`s like day one of Justice Department orientation. It`s an open
investigation, don`t talk about it. I mean, if you`re not Matthew
Whitaker, the most controversial figure in the middle of this important
investigation at the Justice Department, even if you`re not him, you do not
do this. Particularly if you`re him, you do not do this. Particularly if
you`re him, and you`re due to testify before Congress who is itching to get
at you on this subject, you do not do this.
And the fact that he shouldn`t have done this appears to dawn on him in the
middle of these remarks. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Before you came into your current role, you were critical of the
special counsel investigation. Now, since you have received your
briefings, is there anything that you have seen or read that gives you
concern about special counsel Robert Mueller or his investigation?
MATTHEW WHITAKER, ACTING ATTORNEY GENERAL: You know, I`ve been fully
briefed on the investigation and, you know, I look forward to Director
Mueller delivering the final report and I really am not going to talk about
an open and ongoing investigation otherwise. But, you know, sort of the
statements I made was a private citizen, only with publicly available
information. And, you know, I`m comfortable that the decisions that were
made are going to be reviewed and, you know, either through the various
means we have. But right now, the investigation is I think close to being
completed, and I hope that we can get the report from Director Mueller as
soon as possible.
KERRI KUPEC, DOJ SPOKESWOMAN: That`s all we have time for today. Thank
you so much.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Thank you so much. Let`s – can we – cut.
Whatever you think of Matthew Whitaker as acting attorney general, nobody
at the Justice Department is supposed to talk about ongoing investigations
at all. I am comfortable the decisions made are going to be reviewed, you
know, either through the various means we have but, right now, you know,
the investigation is, I think, close to being completed, and I hope we can
get the report from Director Mueller as soon as possible.
You can tell Matt Whitaker remembered he`s not supposed to opine on the
investigation or wax ineloquent on this investigation. You can tell that
dawns on him in the middle of the remarks because of the giant soup bowl of
hot sweat that breaks out on his head and his face in the middle of him
making those remarks when his words start to fail him. And at this point,
nobody knows if he said the Mueller investigation is wrapping up because
the Mueller investigation is wrapping up and he knows that, or perhaps
because he doesn`t know that and when he`s passing on common wisdom.
It`s also possible he blurted that out in a panic, which honestly looked
like he barely strung those words together before the whole thing was
called to an end quickly by the Justice Department spokeswoman. So, who
knows what that meant, but he shouldn`t be talking about an open and
ongoing investigation regardless of what it is he thinks he might want to
try to blurt out about it. Those remarks from the acting attorney general
caused a major stir today, honestly, nobody really knows what they might
On your calendar, though, you should note that that same official, Matt
Whitaker, is due to testify publicly next week on Friday before Democratic
Chairman Jerry Nadler and the Judiciary Committee. I`m sweating just
thinking about it. I hope everybody will bring along a little helper to
help them mop their brows so that there isn`t a tripping hazard by the time
we`re done in the hearing room.
I also think, though, just pure speculation, I think we should also be open
to the possibility that that public testimony from Matthew Whitaker might
get called off. Again, it is scheduled for next week, Friday. But Matthew
Whitaker is only the acting attorney general right now. There is a nominee
to become the actual attorney general confirmed by the Senate.
We`re going to have a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee here in a
moment. That Judiciary Committee`s vote on William Barr for attorney
general is scheduled tomorrow. If that vote in fact happens tomorrow, and
if William Barr wins that vote and gets voted out of committee, again, just
think about your calendar for the next week or so. If the judiciary votes
to confirm William Barr to be attorney general, it would be this time next
week, it would be early next week they could give him a full vote on the
So, if everything went his way and those votes happened as scheduled and
expected, William Barr could be voted out of the committee tomorrow. He
could be confirmed by the Senate and sworn in as the attorney general in
early next week. Could be a week from tomorrow if that happens and we get
a new Senate confirmed sworn in attorney general as of next week, that
would mean Matthew Whitaker, hyperventilating Matthew Whitaker will no
longer be acting attorney general.
And if that happened, do you think this relaxed, self-assured man who we
saw melting down before the cameras today, do you think he would keep his
date with the Democratic-led House Judiciary Committee that wants to ask
lots of really, really hard questions in public session before all the
cameras? I mean, if you were him, and you were no longer serving as acting
attorney general, would you keep that date, or would you come up with an
excuse? We shall see.
You should factor into your calculations that we also just found out today
the new date for the State of the Union is Tuesday of next week, a week
from tomorrow. You can see how this timing may be coming together, right?
If they get a Judiciary Committee vote to confirm William Barr tomorrow,
that would probably mean they get a Senate vote to confirm Barr as attorney
general a week from tomorrow, and they could swear him in a week from
If they can time that for a week from tomorrow for Tuesday, that would give
President Trump something like normal president seeming for him to brag
about at the State of the Union that night. I`d like to thank the Senate
for confirming my attorney general nominee. Yay.
That would also give Matthew Whitaker a convenient opportunity in the
middle of all the State of the Union news hoopla to finally announce that
he`s sadly no longer available to testify in public session, now that he`s
no longer acting attorney general, besides he has an urgent appointment
with a cold compress and a fan. And he`d be happy to talk to you some
And the reason you should know all of that stuff is on the horizon for the
next few days is because tomorrow is going to be a little bit nuts.
Tomorrow is going to be a little nuts all day long. First of all, in the
morning, there is going to be the formal arraignment of President Trump`s
longtime political adviser, Republican gadfly Roger Stone.
He was arrested in Florida on Friday. He had his first court appearance in
Florida in federal court on Friday, but he`s being charged in Washington,
D.C., and he will be arraigned in D.C. federal court for the first time,
tomorrow. Now, if you`re looking for a sign of how that`s likely to go, as
of late this afternoon, Mr. Stone`s legal team had forgotten to apply to
the court in D.C. for his lawyers to be able to represent him there. His
lawyers have to make that sort of an application because neither of them is
formally admitted to the bar in D.C., and it`s not an unheard-of situation,
it`s easy enough to ask the court`s permission to get around that as a
But the fact that Roger Stone`s lawyers have not even bothered to file the
relevant paperwork by close of business today, and the judge needed to
remind them that they need to file that paperwork before tomorrow`s
arraignment and when they did file the paperwork at the last minute today,
they filed it wrong and the judge still rejected it and so still Roger
Stone`s lawyers are not approved to represent him in court tomorrow and
they got a 9:00 a.m. deadline. He`s due to be arraigned at 11:00 a.m. and
it`s not sorted out even now?
That is not a good sign for roger stone`s legal team, for Roger Stone`s
criminal case getting to be any less of a circus anytime soon. But, again,
I`m telling you, tomorrow is going to be nuts. That Roger Stone
arrangement is scheduled for 11:00 a.m. Eastern Time in D.C. federal court,
who knows who`s going to represent him. Simultaneous to that inevitably
scrum and nuttiness, tomorrow will also be the first day of real oversight
hearings in the new Congress, including in the democratically controlled
One thing to watch for, the Armed Services Committee tomorrow in the House
is going to convene hearings on the situation on the southern border and
specifically the absolutely remarkable, if now somewhat forgotten fact the
president deployed thousands of active duty U.S. troops to the U.S.
southern border right before the midterm elections, while he was
simultaneously making the case that people should vote in the midterm
elections on the basis of the terrible security situation at the southern
Now, I don`t know if that military deployment, if that expenditure of
resources was just done for political effect to try to influence the
midterm elections. If it wasn`t, it`s presumably because the
administration has some other reason for that military deployment. The
problem with that argument is that the president had a really hard time
explaining what did justify that commitment of military personnel and
resources to the border at that moment and in that way?
For example, for example, I kid you not, the Trump appointed senior
management at customs and border patrol reportedly sent an e-mailed request
for information to employees of that agency, asking them for any factual
backup they could locate to bolster the president`s repeated, detailed
assertions that part of crisis at the southern border is that women are
being tied up with tape in cars to traffic them across the border while
they are all tied up with tape. The president says this over and over and
over again. There does not as yet seem to be any known factual basis for
the president`s repeated claims that this is part of the crisis at the
There also does not seem to be any factual basis for the president`s claims
that Mexican smugglers have amazing cars like you`ve never seen before,
cars that are better than any other cars, cars that are much faster than
the border patrol vehicles and that`s why U.S. law enforcement can`t keep
up because the cars aren`t as amazing as the amazing Mexico cars. We don`t
know why the president has been saying either of those two things about the
southern border. Apparently, the border patrol doesn`t know either, and
Trump appointees were surveying members of the border patrol to find out if
there was any factual basis for any of these things the president has been
It should be noted that both of those things, the women being tied up with
tape and put in cars to traffic them across the border and the border
patrol having amazing cars that U.S. law enforcement can`t keep up with,
both of those things do feature in a new movie, a movie called “Sicario:
Day of the Soldado.” In that film, which is fiction, one of the things
that happened is there a woman taped up in the car. In that same movie,
there are also Mexican smugglers with amazing vehicles that are too fast
for American law enforcement to keep up with.
Also, you know that thing the president keeps saying about the prayer rugs
being found in the desert at the border, that is in that same movie, too.
Again, all plot points in the same movie, which is fiction.
Now, in a normal administration, it would be insane to suggest the
president of the United States seeing stuff in a movie and him maybe
thinking it was real, or at least real enough to justify a U.S. military
deployment of thousands of active duty U.S. troops to the border. But in
this case, women tied up with tape, put in car and driven across border and
the magic vehicles and prayer rug thing, they do all appear to be from the
same movie, rather than from the real world.
I mean, is it possible that that is where the president cooked up these
justifications for the supposed crisis at the border and pretense for
sending U.S. troops there right before the election? I mean, could that
actually happen in real life? I don`t know. But for the first time,
tomorrow morning, we are about to have actual oversight hearings to try to
figure out what exactly that deployment was actually about and whether the
president`s statements comport with the real reasons that deployment
And somehow it is at least comforting to know somebody may try to take a
stab at that. Tomorrow, there is also a really important oversight hearing
in the Senate. This is sort of the annual oversight hearing for the
intelligence community. And that sounds boring but what this means in
practical terms, is that the head of the FBI, head of the CIA, head of the
Defense Intelligence Agency, head of the NSA, and the director of national
intelligence, all the heads of all the big intelligence agencies are all
going to be there in person all at once answering questions in open
session. And I don`t expect any of them to break out in buckets of flop
sweat like Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker did today.
The heads of those intelligence agencies will be in Congress tomorrow
morning in the Senate answering questions in public session for the first
time since the Helsinki summit, between Trump and Putin. Think they might
have anything to say about that? Since the murder of U.S. journalist Jamal
Khashoggi, with the Trump administration excusing the Saudi Arabia
potential role, Saudi Arabian government`s role in causing the death.
Even just in the last few days, there have been serious revelations and
allegations made in open source public reporting that will be fascinating
to get these chiefs on the record about. There is an NBC News report from
Thursday night that there are at least 30 officials in the Trump White
House who career officials recommended should not be given security
clearances based on what the FBI turned up in the background checks.
In at least 30 instances, NBC News reports that a Trump appointee in the
White House, a single appointee overruled those negative recommendations
and nevertheless granted security clearances to these people who are
working in the White House. The FBI and the CIA are key agencies for
dealing with security clearances overall and for protecting the kind of
information that people without security clearances aren`t supposed to see.
The heads of those agencies will be in open session tomorrow with the
Senate intelligence committee presumably available to be asked about that
scandal and whether or not they can justify 30 people working in the Trump
White House who would have otherwise been turned down for security
clearances, who were nevertheless cleared to be given access to that kind
As of yesterday, the Trump administration has gone forward and dropped
sanctions on a Putin-linked Russian oligarch named Oleg Deripaska. He was
sanctioned because of Russia`s interference in the 2016 presidential
election. He is known to have extensive ties to Trump campaign chairman
Paul Manafort whose criminal case is very much ongoing at this moment.
136 Republican members of the House, all the Democrats in the House, all
the Democrats in the Senate, even 11 Republicans in the Senate, they all
tried to block that lifting of sanctions on Deripaska by the Trump
administration. They fell two Republican votes short in the Senate. And
so, these sanctions have been lifted as of yesterday.
Since they – since they failed to stop the Trump administration from
lifting these sanctions, it has been reported that Deripaska won`t have to
give up effective control of his companies in order to escape these
sanctions. It`s been reported he may, in fact, benefit to the tune of
hundreds of millions of dollars by this lifting of sanctions.
Again, he was sanctioned with conjunction with the attack on our election.
That matter isn`t exactly settled, but now, he`s getting hundreds of
millions of dollars in breaks from the Trump administration while the
Manafort case alone persists in the courts.
One Republican senator, Mike Rounds of South Dakota, has suggested that
given the subsequent reporting about how well Oleg Deripaska is going to do
from the Trump administration lifting sanctions on him, maybe the Senate
should look at that again. Maybe their vote to let the Trump
administration lift sanctions on Deripaska was maybe a mistake and maybe
they should revisit it. That was a little late from Senator Mike Rounds.
But the sanctions now have officially been lifted. We`ll see tomorrow if
the intelligence chiefs have anything to say about the impact of that
NBC News also reported on Thursday that the Trump administration has
apparently decided to not go ahead at all or at least to not go ahead yet
with the sanctions on Russia. They said they were going to impose for the
nerve gas attack on Sergei Skripal and his daughter in England. Remember
that? The Novichok attack?
It`s been nearly three months since the Trump administration announced that
they would join our European allies in sanction Russia for that nerve agent
attack on U.K. soil. NBC News reporting on Thursday night that despite
that announcement, no such sanctions have been forthcoming. They announced
it and they just didn`t do it. Maybe they think if they wait long enough,
nobody will notice they never followed through. The intelligence chiefs
can weigh in on that tomorrow in open session, as well.
So, there is a lot going on right now. I`ll tell you, tomorrow is going to
be a little nuts. I will also tell you, the next couple weeks are going to
be wall to wall.
And now, I got to tell you there is one more thing to watch for, it is a
surprise move, a bipartisan move, and not from the usual suspects either.
It`s a surprise move that may have a major effect on the ultimate
resolution of the Mueller investigation and on some of the strongest
concerns that are raised about whether Trump`s Justice Department might be
able to submarine or keep secret any final report that Mueller produces.
Again, this was a surprise development in today`s news. It was a
bipartisan development and one of the lawmakers who made it happen joins us
Stay with us.
MADDOW: It is a common beltway assumption that the special counsel Robert
Mueller is going to make some kind of report about the Russia
investigation. Is it common enough assumption that one member of the
president`s legal team – well, one person adjacent to the president`s
legal team recently suggested that the team would be allowed to edit the
Mueller report before anybody else saw it. I don`t think that`s how it
The Senate is about to start voting on whether or not to confirm William
Barr to be the next attorney general of the United States, a significant
portion of Barr`s confirmation process, thus far, has centered on the idea
of a Mueller report and Barr`s vague answers, thus far, as to whether or
not he`d ever let such a report see the light of day.
But honestly, we don`t know that`s how it`s going to happen. An eventual
Mueller report seems to be more of an assumption than certainty for now and
if William Bar is going to be confirmed, so is the idea that Americans
would ever get a chance to read any it, if one of those report does some
But now, there is this, the Special Counsel Transparency Act, introduced
today. It would, quote, guarantee that every special counsel does a report
complete with findings and evidence and that it be disclosed directly to
Congress and the American people. To be more specific, quote: The Special
Counsel Transparency Act introduced today requires any special counsel
produce a report to Congress at the conclusion of an investigation or
within two weeks of a removal, transfer or resignation of a special
counsel. The report must include all factual findings and underlying
Oh. Well that would seem to cover it. Here is the kicker: this
transparency act that was just introduced today, this isn`t just a
Democratic wish list kind of thing. The co-sponsors of the measure about a
Mueller report are Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal and also
Republican Senator Chuck Grassley, both of whom serve on the Judiciary
Committee and that means this might go somewhere.
Joining us now is Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut. He is a
Democratic senator. He`s a member of the Judiciary Committee.
Sir, thank you very much for being with us tonight.
SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), CONNECTICUT: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: So, this a – I am not surprised to see you pursuing this because
of the way you have talked about the need for transparency around the
Russia investigation in general and with the special counsel`s office in
particular. I am – I am surprised to see Senator Grassley as your co-
sponsor here. I wonder if you could give us some of the back story as to
how you and he came to a meeting of the minds of this.
BLUMENTHAL: I`m proud that Senator Grassley, who is champion of whistle-
blowers and transparency, has agreed to join this legislation and there is
a really simple idea behind it, which is the public`s right to know. He
and I have worked on other legislation that involves transparency and full
disclosure and of course, you`ve been a great champion of it. So, while we
may seem to be an odd couple, Grassley and me, so would perhaps you and
MADDOW: Oh, yes.
BLUMENTHAL: But I think he is heeding and hearing what many of us have
heard and heeded from the American public. A real desire that there be
full disclosure when there is a special counsel who is appointed only in
the most serious and significant circumstances involving grave violations
of public trust and no assurance here that the public will eventually know
because William Barr has been at best ambiguous on this topic.
MADDOW: And on the Judiciary Committee, you obviously have an absolutely
key role to play in this whole part of this scandal and this investigation.
We know that the Judiciary Committee will be voting on whether or not to
confirm Mr. Barr as the next attorney general, controversy and vagueness in
the answers how he would treat any eventual Mueller report has been a big
source of concern I think for a lot of people observing those hearings.
But with Senator Grassley as your co-sponsor here, I`m struck by the fact
that he`s no longer the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, he was until
this new Congress started. I know he`s still on the committee. Lindsey
Graham is going to be the chair of Judiciary going forward.
Do you have any sense of how Lindsey Graham feels about this or whether or
not former Chairman Grassley has talked to him about it?
BLUMENTHAL: I`m going to be talking to Senator Graham and others on the
committee, but in my conversations so far, there has been a lot of
receptivity, even tentative support among my Republican colleagues. Of
course, there has been among Democrats, as well. But I think that it`s
important to understand that the president`s allies ought to be in favor of
full disclosure, as well, because they claimed that the facts and evidence
would vindicate him.
So, I`m hoping that there will be, in fact, strong bipartisan support. In
fact, William Barr has perhaps indicated in his written responses that
he`ll be bound by the rules and regulations. He may provide for full
disclosure. He should. But his statute if passed would make it clear and
compulsory and the public really needs and deserves it.
MADDOW: Senator, I have one last matter related to this that I want to ask
you about and I`m not sure if you can answer this and if you can`t, I don`t
mean to pry – actually, I do mean to pry. I don`t mean to push.
But the – one of the things that we`ve been watching from outside the
Mueller investigation, trying to anticipate not only what he`s likely to do
next but how his case is coming together as it relates to a larger scandal
is that we`ve been watching as people are charged with lying to Congress.
We`ve seen that with Roger Stone. We`ve seen that with Michael Cohen. We
saw reference to lies to Congress in the Sam Patten indictment, as well.
One of the things we`ve been trying to track is whether or not witnesses
who have testified in the Russia investigation and various committees
before Congress, whether their testimony has been conveyed to the special
counsel, whether Mueller`s office has received official transcripts from
witness testimony in a way that might indicate that he`s considering
potential similar charges against any other witnesses.
Can you tell us if other Judiciary Committee witnesses have had their
testimony sent over to Mueller, sent to the special counsel`s office as
BLUMENTHAL: Very simply, Rachel, I`m barred from saying whether any
testimony has been conveyed to the special counsel. But I can tell you
this much, I was in the room when a great many of these witnesses appeared
before the Senate Judiciary Committee behind closed doors. I think many of
them should be called back to testify in public and I hope that will be
true of other congressional committees, as well, because behind closed
doors, there was questions, serious issues concerning their truthfulness
and that issue pertained particularly to Donald Trump Jr. in a number of
contentions before our committee.
So, I think this common thread of lying to Congress and particularly to
congressional committees may in snare a number of others potential targets
in this special counsel`s investigation and become a matter of criminal
MADDOW: Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, sir, thank you. I know
this is going to be a very busy week this week and next week as well.
Thanks for taking time for us. Much appreciated.
BLUMENTHAL: Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. Much to get to tonight. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Today, hundreds of thousands of federal workers were finally back
at work after the 35-day government shutdown. They came back to unanswered
e-mails, backlogged paperwork, unsigned permits, unrenewed contracts, and
got five weeks worth piled up, untouched messes to clean up.
For National Park Service employees, this is a very literal cleanup. And,
of course, these returning government employees might have just three weeks
to get it all squared away before it goes to heck again because the bill
that ended the shutdown on Friday funds the government for only three
weeks, only through February 15th, and the president, of course, appears
perfectly happy to shut it all down again in order to once again try to get
U.S. taxpayers to pay for a wall between the United States and Mexico.
The surprise ending here, I`ll tell you the spoiler right now, is that
Democrats are not going to give the president money to build a wall between
us and Mexico, never. And maybe he shuts down the government all over
again. You can`t rule it down.
But as this goes on, one thing we can see is that the politics of this are
getting worse for the president by the day and now, they are getting very
much closer to his family and to his business, and that story is next.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: Ossining, New York, is in Westchester County, New York, about 40
miles north of New York. It`s right on the Hudson River. Ossining is a
small town. It`s perhaps best known as the home of the infamous Sing Sing
Prison. It`s also right down the road from one of the president`s golf
courses, which is why a handful of “Washington Post” reporters caught a
commuter train up to there last week to chase this new scoop.
Quote, Trump`s golf course employed undocumented workers and then fired
them amid showdown over border wall. Starting at 10:00 a.m. on January
18th, a human resources executive from the Trump Organization summoned
about a dozen employees from the Westchester golf course into a room one at
a time. The workers say they were read a script from a piece of paper and
then fired from their jobs. One by one, a dozen times, it went like this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DEIRDRE ROSEN: The club has conducted an internal audit of Employment
Eligibility Verification forms, or I-9 forms, to ensure its ongoing
compliance with the law. This was not a government audit. During the
audit, the club reviewed the I-9 forms for all club employees regardless of
citizenship status or national origin. They concluded the document you
submitted does not appear to be genuine.
By law, the club cannot continue to employ an individual knowing that the
individual is not authorized for employment. Unfortunately, that means the
club ended employment relationship with you today.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (translated): For them to tell you, from one day to
another, you know what? This is over, and that is it. They change your
life from one day to another without thinking. How can they be so cruel to
as to simply say that it is over after so many years of employment?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: “The Washington Post” reporting that the president`s golf club in
Westchester, New York, has suddenly fired about half their entire winter
staff because they were immigrants without eligible employment
documentation. Many of the employees who were fired say they had submitted
fake green cards or Social Security numbers when they were first hired, but
they say the president`s company never before questioned their status, and
that seems to have changed suddenly for some reason.
The Trump Organization now says they are making a, quote, broad effort to
identify any employee who has given false and fraudulent documents to
unlawfully gain employment. Where identified, any individual will be
Now, new rule, not how it has been, the employees who were fired showed
“The Washington Post” their pay stubs and uniforms and their employee of
the month awards. One employee who was fired had worked for the Trump
Organization for 18 years, 18 years before he was canned by HR with no
warning, no severance, no backup plan.
Gabriel Sedano was a maintenance worker at the golf course. He`s worked
for the president`s family since 2005. He tells “The Post” when I was
fired last week, quote, I started to cry. I told them they need to
consider us. I worked almost 15 years for them in this club. I have given
the best of myself to this job.
Margarita Cruz, the woman from the video we just played, he has been a
housekeeper at the Westchester Golf Club since 2011, eight years ago.
She`s a single mom with two kids. She says in the eight years she worked
there, the president`s company never before raised a question about her
She told “The Post” when the Trump Organization started firing people, they
felt, quote, like little lambs lined up for the slaughterhouse. She said,
quote: They said absolutely nothing. They never said your Social Security
number is bad or something is wrong, nothing, nothing, until right now.
A Pulitzer prize-winning reporter who helped break the story joins us next.
MADDOW: This, again, is the headline from “The Washington Post.” Trump`s
golf course employed undocumented workers and then fired them amid showdown
over border wall.
Joining us now is David Fahrenthold. He`s reporter for “The Washington
Post”. He co-author this piece with Joshua Partlow.
Mr. Fahrenthold, thank you very much for being here.
DAVID FAHRENTHOLD, REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Good to be here.
MADDOW: How hard – how hard was this story to report? On the one hand,
this is the president`s business. You have reported extensively on the
president`s affiliations, both his foundation and his business interests.
But on the other hand, these are people who have a lot to lose from being
FAHRENTHOLD: Absolutely, and people who have spent their whole lives
trying to avoid attention, just to work and not get a lot of attention.
So, what happened is they turned to an attorney after they were all fired.
The attorney called us and Josh, the other reporter, and I went to
Ossining, New York, and basically just introduced ourselves to them one
day, talked about our backgrounds, what we did, what it would mean to go
public in the paper, kind of the risks they would take, maybe the rewards
that may be there for them.
And we said, look, we`re going to go back to New York and wait. You know,
you call us when you have time to think about this if you really want to do
it, thinking, you know, if you want to take the risk and go on the record,
they called, we came back, and there were 14 people in the room, of which
six wanted to go on the record.
FAHRENTHOLD: So they thought about this, and decided this was the best
course. They put a lot of faith in us.
MADDOW: In terms of the Trump Organization doing this about-face here, the
clear allegation here is that there was never any attention to the
fraudulent documents that were the basis of these people being hired in the
first place, and the Trump Organization just now has started to care about
FAHRENTHOLD: Well, if you look at the audit that they performed that
caused them to fire these folks, the documents they looked at had been on
file since they were hired, since 2015, since 2010, since 2000 in one case.
They have been sitting there this whole time, and they have been fraudulent
the whole time. And so, why hadn`t they been found before? We asked, did
you ever do an audit like this before, we didn`t get an answer.
One interesting part of this is the E-Verify system, that`s something if
you`re an employer, you can enroll in that. It`s a federal government
program that lets you instantly check your employees to see if they`re here
in the country legally. That`s sort of the easiest next step you can take.
The Trump Organization never enrolled in this course, didn`t enroll most
courses in E-Verify. So, they didn`t take that step along the way.
MADDOW: Have there been credible allegations that part of the hiring
process for these folks may have been actually using other people
affiliated with the Trump organization in order to obtain these fraudulent
documents in the first place?
FAHRENTHOLD: Well, the one person we talked to who sort of described
having an interaction with the Trump Org in which they said, get better
fake documents. One guy says he bought documents in Queens. He presented
them when he got hired, and they said, look, we want to hire you, but this
is a bad fake, get a better fake. He gets another one. Brings it back.
They say, no, this still isn`t real enough. Go get another one. On his
third trip, he came back and they said, OK, that`s good enough. That
doesn`t sort of speak to an organization that cares about whether you`re
legal or illegal, speaks to an organization that cares about going through
MADDOW: David Fahrenthold, reporter for “The Washington Post,” it`s good
to see you. Congratulations on the story.
FAHRENTHOLD: Good to see you, too.
All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: One last thing before we go tonight. I want to go back to one
thing, we heard from our earlier guest, Connecticut U.S. Senator Richard
Blumenthal. I asked Senator Blumenthal a question tonight here on the air,
and I think he may have made some news in his answer. I asked him about
people facing criminal charges for lying to Congress.
I just want to play you back what he said just moments ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BLUMENTHAL: Because behind closed doors, their arose in my mind, very
clearly, questions, serious issues concerning their truthfulness, and that
issue pertained particularly to Donald Trump Jr. And a number of his
contentions before our committee, so I think this common thread of lying to
Congress and particularly to congressional committees may ensnare a number
of other potential targets in this special counsel`s investigation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: We have seen Michael Cohen and now Roger Stone both charged with
lying to Congress. Senator Blumenthal on our air tonight saying he
believes the same may also – same fate may also await the president`s son,
Donald Trump Jr. Just wanted to make sure we underscored that, and you
knew that happened on our air tonight.
We will be back again tonight.
Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL”. Lawrence I
know has a big interview tonight with Senator Elizabeth Warren joining him
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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Copyright 2019 ASC Services II Media, LLC. All materials herein are
protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced,
distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the
prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter
or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the