Investigations scrutinizing NRA’s Russia connections. TRANSCRIPT: 1/31/19, The Rachel Maddow Show.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: There are a lot of nights where at this point,
if you had come to me now, I wouldn`t be here for another 30 seconds.
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: I just jumped. I just jumped and then you`re
there on the split screen. We did it.
MADDOW: Think of me as your human safety net, my friend. I`m always here.
All right. Thanks, my friend.
And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. Very happy to have you
So, the great state of Kansas is a red state, has been for a long while
now. In the 2016 presidential election, Kansas went for Donald Trump over
Hillary Clinton by something like 20 points, 21 points. Just a blowout in
But two years after that blowout in the 2018 election, which just happened
in November, Kansas voters elected a Democrat as their governor. Her name
is Laura Kelly.
On that same night that Laura Kelly was elected Kansas governor, an
incumbent congressman from Kansas, Kevin Yoder, he also lost his seat to a
Democrat. He lost his congressional seat to a Native American gay
Democratic woman named Sharice Davids.
And amid all the glass ceilings that Sharice Davids smashed through in
order to get that seat off Kevin Yoder, it`s also just sort of a partisan
wonder that there is a Democrat in the Kansas delegation, but Sharice
Davids is just that.
And it kind of just didn`t stop on election night. Since midterm election
night in November, there`s been a little mini landslide of incumbent
Republican members of the state legislature switching parties in Kansas.
Since election night, four different members of the Kansas state
legislature ditched the Republican Party and proclaimed that henceforth
they are Democrats. And, you know, I mean, still nobody`s going to argue
that Kansas should be called a blue state, even with the defections of all
of those state legislators since election night, both the state house and
the Senate are still really bright red in Kansas.
But with Sharice Davids taking that Republican incumbent congressional seat
and with Laura Kelly taking the governorship and with these four members of
the state legislature flipping from Republican to Democrat, Kansas is still
red, but it is starting to take on a sort of light purple tinge around the
And here`s another thing that has just happened in Kansas. You might
remember that before the midterm elections this year, our show actually
spent a pretty good amount of time in Kansas. Specifically in a famous and
historic town called Dodge City, which is fan-Gunsmoke-tastic.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jacquelin (ph), you take Buell and you take the rest of
your men and you get out of Dodge.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: You get out of Dodge.
Dodge City of “Gunsmoke” fame. Dodge City is in southwest Kansas. They
still do celebrate the old “Gunsmoke” vibe. There is a Gunfighters Wax
Museum there. Coincidence with the Kansas Teacher`s Hall of Fame. It`s an
awkward pairing but, you know, they both pay rent.
These days, Dodge City`s industrial base is meat packing and that meat
packing industry has attracted a lot of Hispanic workers and their
families. Dodge City, Kansas, is now a majority minority town, it`s
The reason we ended up spending time there before the midterm elections
this past year is because Republican elected officials in red state Kansas
made some striking decisions when it came to voting in Dodge City, which is
the largest majority minority community in that entire state.
When Laura Kelly, the Democrat, was running for governor in Kansas this
past summer, the Republican she was up against was named Kris Kobach. He`s
known nationally as someone of national profile in part because he was the
head of President Trump`s sort of bogus and now disbanded Voter Fraud
Commission. Kris Kobach has also made somewhat of a national name for
himself in recent years trying to sell other states besides Kansas on
policies that are designed to make it as hard as possible for likely
Democratic voters to cast their vote and get it counted.
But while he was running for Kansas governor this past November, he was
simultaneously serving as the secretary of state in Kansas as the top
elections official in that state and under his leadership it was decided
that Dodge City, the largest majority minority town in the whole state, it
was decided that they would be relieved of their one voting place, their
one polling location. There`s like 13,000-ish registered voters in Dodge
City. They were already in bad shape with regards to access to the polls
before this past election. For those 13,000 voters, there was precisely
one voting place in all of Dodge City before this last election.
But then for the midterms, for the November elections in which Kris Kobach
was going to be top of the ballot as the Republican committee for governor,
for the midterms, Republican officials in Kansas decided that that one
polling place in Dodge City was one polling place too many, and so that
polling place would be shut. They said it was because construction was
going to make that one polling place in Dodge City inaccessible so they
closed that one vote place for the whole town and instead opened up another
one way outside the city limits.
So, that`s why we sent a staffer there. We sent a producer from the show
to go to Dodge to see if there was any observable ground truth here, right?
If there was any rhyme or reason to this claim from Republican elected
officials in the state who decided that 13,000 mostly Hispanic voters in
dodge city, Kansas should be afforded precisely zero places to vote in
The first thing we learned when we got to Dodge is that the new polling
place that they opened outside the city limits was hard to get to with a
car. It was impossible to get to without one. The second thing we learned
by visiting Dodge City was that the ostensible reason for closing the one
polling place in town, the supposed construction at the traditional polling
place, did not really seem to be much of anything that was directly
impinging on access to that polling place. There were plenty of other
events being staged at that location where the polling place had been.
There was no kind of mass disruption that might justify what they were
trying to get away with.
The whole thing seemed even more suspicious when we learned that county
election officials had sent notices to new voters in Dodge City that
contained the wrong address for their new outside city limits polling
place. The situation seemed to get even worse than that when the ACLU of
Kansas wrote to the local elections officials, the county official who had
– who had moved the polling place outside of town and who had sent out the
wrong address for it. The ACLU wrote to that county election official
asking for her help in publicizing a voter help line that would contain the
correct polling place information.
That top county elections official forwarded that e-mail from the ACLU.
She forwarded it to Kris Kobach, to the office of the Republican secretary
of state, adding her own caption to this help that the ACLU had asked for,
which she added to that e-mail was her own commentary and it was, I quote,
LOL – this is what I got in the mail from the ALCU, LOL. Which in this
case means, of course, no, I`m not going to give you any help in
publicizing the true address.
After all that, the ACLU sued. They argued what was happening in Dodge
City was illegal. It was, for one thing, disenfranchising Hispanic voters
in that town. One of the named plaintiffs in that case was a very
impressive young man named Alejandro Rangel-Lopez, 18 years old, local high
He told us that for his 18th birthday last year, he was super psyched to be
able to vote for the first time, but he really wanted to be able to vote in
the town where he lives, and so he thought that was worth fighting for.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALEJANDRO RANGEL-LOPEZ, DODGE CITY HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT: My family is
immigrants. My friends are immigrants. This community is made up of
immigrants and many of those are undocumented or DACA recipients or are
Dreamers. And they don`t have the right to vote or have any other rights
that citizens like myself have.
And as instilled by my parents, it`s very important that people who have
the opportunity to vote exercise that right to vote and do anything
possible to make it easier or to make their voice heard about issues that
are important to them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: In the end, Alejandro did not get to vote inside city limits in
Dodge City in the 2018 election. Despite a lawsuit, a judge ruled that it
was too close to make any changes to the planned polling places for
November`s midterm elections. So, everyone who wanted to vote in Dodge
City had to figure out some way to get to this out of town location.
But now, tonight, we can tell you that the next time there is an election
in Dodge City, which is going to be primary elections in August of this
year, for the next election in Dodge City, people will be actually allowed
to vote inside city limits because that that lawsuit worked. All that
pressure, all that fight caused the Republican county election clerk to
finally give in. They`ve now announced, OK, fine, they will announce and
open two new polling places inside the city limits in Dodge City and they
will be ready for this year`s primaries.
Alejandro and LULAC, which is the League of United Latin American Citizens,
and the ACLU, they filed a voluntary motion to dismiss their lawsuit once
that announcement was made by the county because they got what they were
after, and so, you know, they didn`t get it in time for the midterms but
they got it.
Sometimes when you fight, you win. Sometimes when you are fighting in an
environment that seems absolutely unforgiving and impossible, sometimes the
environment changes around you and it allows you to win.
I mean, one of the places that Democrat Laura Kelly campaigned for governor
when she was on her way to winning the statehouse. One of the places she
campaigned was in Dodge City. What did she campaign on there? Improving
voters` access to the polls. Now, voters` access to the polls is improved
in Dodge City and she is in charge of state government and Kris Kobach is
But, again, ground truth in Dodge City – this next time, you will no
longer have to leave town to vote like you did before.
I mean, there`s still a couple of things to watch here. The case was
dismissed without prejudice, which means that case can come back to life
pretty much instantly if the plaintiffs come to believe that they need to
do that in order to hold the county and hold the state to account, right?
To make sure that Hispanic voters are getting equal treatment in that town
and in Kansas. It can come back. That`s what dismissing it without
And if you think about it, it is still a little bit nuts that for 13,000
voters, there is only two planned polling places in Dodge City. But it`s
better, I mean, at least two polling places is two more than what they had,
which is zero. So it`s not like that fight is permanently over, but they
did win what they were trying to get, and a win is a win for Alejandro and
for the ACLU and the voters in that town who were not going to take it
And it does show you that things change, even in places where it seems like
they cannot ever change. Things change. Kansas voted for Trump by 20
points. Two years later, they voted for Laura Kelly to become the
Democratic governor of that state.
That same night that Laura Kelly became the Democratic governor of Kansas,
that`s the same night, of course, that Democrats won control of the House
of Representatives in Washington. And over these last few days, we have
started to see the substance of what that is going to mean in terms of how
your federal government works, how Congress works, how it spends its time,
what it works on. The first bill the Democrats brought up and held
hearings on is what they call H.R. 1. It`s a big omnibus bill on voting
rights and anti-corruption measures.
This is legislation that sort of hits all the high points on small “D”
democratic reform. It would stop partisan gerrymandering for congressional
districts. So instead of having state legislatures draw up the
congressional districts to maximally benefit their own party, instead, it
would be independent nonpartisan redistricting in every state, so you don`t
have all these guaranteed Republican seats or guaranteed Democratic seats
and it would be all across the country.
It would make Election Day a federal holiday, so nobody has to skip voting
because they can`t get time off work to do it. It would guarantee early
voting days for every federal election in every state in the country.
Right now, some states offer early voting, some don`t.
It would establish nationwide voter registration, where you have the
opportunity to opt out if you don`t want to be registered, but otherwise
you`re registered. It would stop states from dumping registered voters off
their rolls in purges like the ones that are advocated nationwide by Kris
It would make the president and the Supreme Court subject to the same
ethics and anti-corruption rules as everyone else in government. Imagine
that. It would force dark money groups and super PACs to have to disclose
their donors so we`d have no more anonymous money flooding into election
When the Democrats first introduced this legislation, you always pick
something to be H.R. 1, right? To show this is our first priority. This
is what we want to be known for when we take the gavel. When the Democrats
first put forward this legislation, I don`t think the Republicans worried
or thought too much about it at first, but when the Democrats held this
first hearings on H.R. 1 this week and the Republican witnesses just got
roasted and Republican members of Congress had a very hard time mounting
sober-sounding arguments against many of the elements of this bill,
particularly the anti-corruption stuff, I think the Republicans started to
take the threat and the potential appeal of this bill more seriously.
This is a House bill but in response to this House bill, Senator Mitch
McConnell got up on the floor of the Senate and called a power grab.
Democratic Senator Brian Schatz of Hawaii clapped back at him, yes, voting
is a power grab by citizens.
One of the other elements of H.R. 1 that never would have been
controversial, let alone a partisan issue as recently as just a few years
ago, is a provision that would require candidates for vice president and
candidates for president to disclose their tax returns to the public or
they wouldn`t be allowed to run. The Donald Trump presidential candidacy
was the first time since Nixon that a presidential candidate hasn`t
disclosed his or her tax returns, let alone an actual sitting president not
disclosing his or her tax returns. But despite that stark break from
bipartisan precedent and ongoing questions about what it is about his tax
returns that he did not want to disclose, Republicans absolutely decided
not to care, at least they decided not to do anything about that when they
held unified control of Congress for the first two years of the Trump
Today, we learned that will change under the new Democratic leadership in
this Congress. Next week on Thursday, the subcommittee led by Congressman
John Lewis, Subcommittee in Ways and Means, will convene the first hearing
that has ever happened on candidate tax returns. The first tax returns
hearing since Donald Trump became the first major party candidate to refuse
to release his. The hearing will be called “Legislative Proposals and Tax
Law Related to Presidential and Vice Presidential Tax Returns.” Again,
this is in the context of proposed Democratic legislation that would make
it a requirement that all vice presidential and presidential candidates
have to disclose them if they want to run.
That hearing will be a week from today, 2:00. They`re going to live stream
Already in the few days they`ve been up and running in Congress since the
shutdown ended, Democrats have convened hearings on drug companies hiking
the price of prescription drugs. You might remember the polling that
showed health care and health care costs were the single greatest
motivating factor who Americans who turned out to vote in this year`s
elections. Those voters when they turned out, elected Democrats by a
historic margin, they flipped 40 Republican seats to the Democratic Party.
Democrats know that.
They know anger and fear and concern about health care costs is a big part
of what drove voters to pick them and put them in office. And so, the
first full day of hearings under the Democratic – under the Democratic
Congress included aggressive hearings on drug companies hiking the price of
their drugs. Democrats have also convened hearings on the president`s
remarkable and as yet explicitly unjustified decision to send thousands of
U.S. troops to the border right before the midterm elections.
Was that a presidential stunt that was designed to have a political impact
and for no other substantive reason? It`s at least worth asking.
Democrats have started already.
Next week on Wednesday, for the first time in eight years there will be a
House hearing on climate change. Actually, there`s going to be two – one
in the Energy Committee and one in the Natural Resources Committee. The
chairs of those committees are Democrats now, Raul Grijalva and Frank
Pallone, both Democrats. Neither of whom believe that climate change is a
hoax invented by the Chinese that is easily disproven by the continued
existence of winter.
Next week for the first time in eight years, there will also be a
congressional hearing on gun violence. Think about that for a second.
Eight years – there has not been a House hearing on gun violence in eight
That means through Sandy Hook and through Aurora, Colorado, and through the
Navy yard shootings, and what happened in San Bernardino and Orlando, the
Pulse nightclub shooting, and Las Vegas, and Sutherland Springs, Texas,
where 27 people were shot and killed, and the Pittsburgh synagogue
massacre, and Parkland, Florida, through all of these – those are just off
the top of my head. Those are just some of them, right?
The House has held zero hearings. They have had zero response. They have
paid zero attention to anything having to do with all of these gun
massacres in the country. They actually thought about having a hearing on
gun violence in 2017, they got close, but it got called off because of the
congressional baseball shooting.
In 2016, after what happened at the pulse nightclub in Orlando where 50
people were killed, another 53 were shot and wounded that`s when
Congressman John Lewis led Democratic members of the house in a sit-in on
the floor of Congress. They sat – remember that? They sat in overnight
for 25 hours demanding Republicans allow some kind of vote on some kind of
gun reform, some kind of response, anything.
Republicans did nothing in response. Nothing. Not a hearing. Not even a
hearing to talk about it in eight years.
Well, now next week with the Democrats in charge, there will be a gun
violence hearing. It will be in the Judiciary Committee.
California Congressman Ted Liu is on that committee. When that hearing was
announced he said online, quote, the American people delivered control of
the House to Democrats. What does that mean? No more stupid hearings
about Hillary`s e-mails. Instead, next Wednesday, House Judiciary will
hold a hearing on gun violence. Next Thursday, we will pass a bill on
And the House will hold all of these hearings and they will in all
likelihood pass a ton of stuff. Nancy Pelosi is very good at managing her
caucus so that when stuff comes to the floor, it comes to the floor because
they know who is going to vote for it and they bring stuff to the floor
because they want it to pass and then they pass it.
Now, when they pass stuff in the House, will any of that go anywhere? Will
any of this pressure from Congress change anything? The attention that
they can bring to stuff through hearings, will it change anything? Will it
make new policy?
I know they`ll be able to pass bills in the House. Does that mean they`ll
be able to pass new laws? There`s the Senate. There`s the White House.
I mean, I don`t know, but the prospect of what they are doing already, all
of a sudden, makes Congress way more relevant than it has been in a long
time. Democrats and some observers who do not want to be voted are already
suggesting that even looking at some of that stuff that`s in the Democrats`
big H.R. 1 bill, some of the anti-corruption measures in that bill, if
they`re broken out alone, some of those might be too hard for Republicans
to resist. Some of those might get sufficient Republican support. They
could potentially become law. We`ll see.
There are real signs that things could actually change and maybe in short
order on issues related to foreign policy, or even Republicans in the
Senate appear willing to break with the president from time to time. The
number of Republican senators who crossed over and voted with Democrats to
try to stop the Trump administration from lifting Russian sanctions on Oleg
Deripaska, that number of Republican crossovers was not sufficient to stop
administration. They needed a couple of more votes but it did hit double
digits. And in the House, it was well over 100 Republicans who joined with
the Democrats to try to stop the Trump administration on that, too.
Today, Senate Republicans got behind a legislative rebuke of the president
on Syria and Afghanistan. The president has tweeted stuff that looks like
potentially he`s ordering U.S. troops out of Syria and Afghanistan. It`s
really just his Twitter feed and it`s not quite clear what he`s trying to
do and what he might actually be doing, but Senate Republicans showed today
they`re willing at least to rebuke him on issues like that.
And that dynamic will be fascinating to watch, regardless of what you think
about whether there ought to be more American troops in Syria and
Afghanistan and for how long. I mean, the idea that congress, even the
Republican-controlled side of the Congress in the Senate, that they might
get up on their hind legs on issues like that and express themselves and
take back some of their power on an issue like that, that would be the huge
thing. I mean, war power issues and authorizing the use of military force
have accrued increasingly to the presidency for a couple of generations
now. For every president since Vietnam, increasingly and inexorably, it
has been this one-way swing of U.S. military power being consolidated
within presidency – decision-making power and authority over U.S. military
force being consolidated in the executive.
I read a book about it in 2012 called “Drift,” in which I did not
anticipate that the thing that might ever turn that drift around would be
the election of a president who was so widely perceived on a bipartisan
basis to be manifestly unfit to wield those kinds of concentrated powers
when it comes to U.S. force, but that`s where we`re at. It has taken a
Trump presidency to swing the pendulum now back in the other direction, to
the point where Congress now maybe wants to assert that just like the
Constitution says, actually, war and the use of military force is something
that Congress is supposed to decide, not just the president alone. And so,
we will see.
The realm of what is possible, the realm of what you might be able to
achieve if you fight for it is something that is in flux right now in
America. I mean, just ask Dodge City, Kansas, and their two new polling
places and their Democratic governor and their deep red legislature that
gets slightly bluer every day, every time a new legislator jumps out of the
Republican Party and declares herself to be a Democrat. I mean, we will
see. Things are in flux.
And some of the things people have been fighting for that seemed like
hopeless causes, all of a sudden, are going to be causes that win this
year. We are in that kind of an inflection moment.
But the one place in national politics where we don`t have to wait and see,
where the change is already happening, where there has been a passing of
the gavel in terms of who is empowered to make things happen and to say how
things will end, that is in the realm of oversight, and we broke the news
here last night about the Democrat who has just now newly been empowered as
of now to take that gavel. Republicans delayed it as long as they could
but he is finally now being allowed to start his work.
He is about to become one of the most powerful figures in Washington and
one of the most powerful Democrats in the country and he joins us live
MADDOW: Congratulations, America, we finally got a committee, a whole
It`s not totally clear why it took this long but Republicans yesterday
finally named the Republican members who will sit on the house intelligence
committee this Congress. They waited two weeks. Over the course of that
two weeks, all they did was swap out one dude and just leave in place
everybody else they used to have on that committee so nobody quite knows
why it took them this long, but regardless, here they are.
And the important thing about those Republican members being named to the
intelligence committee is that now that those Republicans are in place, now
that the membership is known and intact, now that committee can finally
start working under their new Democratic chairman, Congressman Adam Schiff.
Now, Congressman Schiff has said the first act of business on this newly
constituted committee will concern the transcripts of interviews from more
than 50 witnesses who have testified behind closed doors in the committee`s
Russia investigation. Congressman Schiff says under his leadership, the
first thing House Intel will do is get official copies of those transcripts
into the hands of special counsel Robert Mueller and his prosecutors. And
Mueller, of course, has shown that he will bring charges for lying to
congress. Just ask Michael Cohen or Roger Stone.
Joining us now is Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff.
Mr. Chairman, thank you so much for making time for us tonight. Really
appreciate you being here.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), CHAIRMAN, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Good to
be with you.
MADDOW: So can you explain to us what is the importance of these
transcripts, the transcripts from witness testimony that`s happened behind
closed doors to your committee. What`s the importance of those transcripts
and their being conveyed to the special counsel now?
SCHIFF: Well, it`s important for a couple of reasons. It`s important
because if the special counsel wants to bring perjury charges, they need to
have access to those transcripts. They need to be able to compare the
testimony with the facts they`re aware of, otherwise, they can`t use those
transcripts in a court proceeding.
It also may be important in terms of the report that Bob Mueller makes to
the Congress or to the attorney general that he be able to use the facts
that we`ve been able to uncover as part of his analysis and his report.
So, this is something we`ve been looking forward to do, that we wanted to
do frankly long before now. But now that we do have that final Republican
member appointed, we can finally get underway.
MADDOW: Are you frustrated that it took this long and are you worried
about the reasons there may have been this long delay in getting your
Republican colleague seated?
SCHIFF: It does concern me because clearly they weren`t going to make
changes to the committee. They merely added a member where one of the
termed out members was leaving the committee. That doesn`t take weeks and
weeks. Even if it did, they had all that time to prepare for it.
So, it looks like this was an effort to delay the investigation. I think
it`s a pretty pointless effort, but if it`s an indication of what`s to
come, they intend to play an obstructionist role or continue the role they
played for the last two years like acting as an extension of Giuliani`s
defense team, that would be deeply regrettable. We`ll go forward anyway.
But I`d much rather go forward in a bipartisan basis if they`re willing to
work with us.
MADDOW: On the issue of witness testimony, one of the things that is
interesting here is that the Republican majority in the last Congress
essentially declared the Russia investigation over. They put out a report
that could be I think briefly summarized as all caps “no collusion” and
said it was done. You and your Democratic colleagues at the time indicated
you did not think that investigation was done. And clearly, under your
leadership, that investigation is going to be reconstituted in a
But despite all of that, there are these 50 witnesses who have come before
your committee. As you say, there is this issue with the transcripts and
conveying them to the special counsel.
Can I ask if your committee has the ability to or has considered or has
indeed made any criminal referrals to the Justice Department in reference
to any witnesses who you do believe lied to you in their testimony?
SCHIFF: We have not made criminal referrals. What we have wanted to do is
really provide the evidence to the special counsel and let him make a
judgment about who he thinks has violated the law, particularly as it
pertains to false testimony before our committee. I will tell you, though,
in terms of that report that you mention that the Republicans put out about
nine months ago, essentially was a report saying we believe every denial we
heard in our committee.
So we completely believe everything Michael Cohen had to say. We
completely believe everything Roger Stone had to say. We don`t need to go
We don`t need to get documents. We don`t need to get records. We`re going
to take everything we heard at face value.
You can`t conduct a credible investigation that way. We had wanted to look
into, for example, the issue of the use of the NRA as a potential back
channel, people like Maria Butina, but, you know, their view was there is
nothing to see here. Well, apparently there was something to see here.
This was a Russian asset working trying to infiltrate the NRA.
So we are determined to get to the truth of this. They were also great
many witnesses, Rachel, who came in and simply said we`re not going to
answer questions. Steve Bannon refused to answer whole categories of
questions. Don Jr. refused to answer whole categories of questions, among
others, and you can`t conduct an investigation if you let the witnesses
pick and choose what they`re going to answer.
MADDOW: Congressman, CNN and ABC report tonight that on the Senate side,
investigators have obtained – and it`s sort of vague language and I don`t
want to try to be any more specific than they`re saying in their reporting.
This is not MSNBC reporting and NBC hasn`t confirmed this. But they`re
saying that Senate investigators have obtained information about something
you have asked about in the past concerning Donald Trump Jr. In the lead
up to the 2016 Trump Tower meeting during the campaign, he had made a
couple of calls to blocked numbers.
And you had suggested that was one of the things that was important for
your committee to figure out, whether those blocked numbers might have
indicated – might have been an indication that Mr. Trump Jr. was actually
calling his father, potentially talking to Donald Trump the candidate about
that Trump Tower meeting with all those Russians.
What do you make of this new reporting and what do you think about the
importance of that incident now overall?
SCHIFF: Well, the problem is that we are not in a position to be able to
confirm the reporting because the Republicans wouldn`t let us get the phone
records. It was such an obvious investigative step and is an obvious
investigative step and one that we will take very early on now that we are
under way. That is find out who Don Jr. was talking to about that meeting
at Trump Tower. Those conversations could have taken place over the phone
or they could have taken place by Don Jr. walking down the hall to talk to
But it`s key to understanding the president`s involvement in all of this,
and if we look at what we already know, we already know that the president
and his son misled the country about meetings the campaign was having with
Russians. They denied they even took place.
And then when they were confronted with meetings like the meeting in Trump
Tower, they misled the country again about what took place in that meeting.
The president and his son, it is reported, helped fabricate together this
false statement that the meeting was about adoptions, that it wasn`t about
getting dirt on Hillary Clinton or an effort by the Russian government to
help the Trump campaign when, in fact, that`s apparently what that meeting
was supposed to be about.
So we`re going to get to the bottom of this. Why all the lies? Why the
cover-up? What more was going on here?
And I think a key part of that is to find out what the president`s role was
in all of this.
MADDOW: Congressman Adam Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence
Committee – sir, I know that your life is about to get very, very busy.
Thanks for taking time to talk to us tonight.
SCHIFF: You bet. Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. We have lots more to get to tonight. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Now that Democrats have control of half of Congress and they`re
about to hold first hearing on American gun violence in eight years, one
tree that might shake a little bit is the National Rifle Association, which
Congressman Adam Schiff, the chairman of the Intelligence Committee, just
mentioned moments ago.
The NRA, of course, is a legendary organization. It`s like the classic
modern American case study in terms of political power, money and lobbying
But it turns out if you shake the NRA`s tree these days, it kind of just
falls over on top of you. Tim Burr, whatever`s going on with the NRA right
now, it is not what it used to be. I mean, their finances have apparently
collapsed in the last couple of years.
They had started an NRA TV network, which is a very high-profile thing.
That apparently is imploding.
There have been reports they`re trying to save some money at headquarters
by even taking away the free coffee machine for their employees. Their
spending on the last election was completely upside down from previous
history. In all previous elections, the NRA absolutely dominated spending
for anybody who`s donating on issues of gun reform and gun rights. This
year, they were vastly outspent by people on the other side of their issue.
But then there`s this, quote, NRA seeks distance from Russia as
investigations heat up. This is from “The New York Times” this week,
quote: When a delegation of high-profile donors, boosters and board members
from the NRA travelled to Russia in 2015, they visited a gun factory in
Moscow, took in a ballet and met with members of Vladimir Putin`s inner
circle. But now, the NRA is seeking to distance itself from that trip
after revolutions that a Russian woman who helped arrange, Maria Butina,
was conspiring to infiltrate the organization.
The NRA`s lawyer telling “The Times” this week that the NRA`s chief
executive Wayne LaPierre was opposed to that trip. He forbade NRA staff
members to go to Russia says his lawyer now.
The NRA president a the time of the trip now says, oh, I was also opposed
to the Russia trip, just like Wayne was. Yes, we both knew it was a
terrible idea. “The Times” rather dryly notes, quote, given Mr. LaPierre`s
power within the organization, it`s unclear how such a trip would have
proceed at all despite his opposition to it. You can understand why the
NRA might now want to disavow that 2015 Moscow trip.
And the public narrative of why they took the trip was always weird enough.
I mean, the narrative about this trip was that the NRA guys went to Moscow
to make connections with a Russian gun rights group that mysteriously had
been blessed by Vladimir Putin`s political party. Now, in reality, here on
earth one, there is no gun rights movement in Russia, certainly not one
sanctioned by the powers that be, right? Not one that would be headed up
by high-ranking members of Putin`s political party like the people who
hosted the NRA delegation in Russia.
So the cover story never made sense in the first place. And, of course,
now we know for certain that the trip was a Russian intelligence operation,
because the woman who ran that supposed gun rights organization has pled
guilty in the United States to acting as a secret agent of the Russian
government, using gun rights as a pretense to infiltrate American
conservative circles through the NRA.
Maria Butina has pled guilty. She is now cooperating with federal
prosecutors. Court filings would seem to indicate that she has testified
multiple times before at least one grand jury.
Ms. Butina`s American boyfriend, who is essentially her unnamed conspirator
in her indictment, he is also reportedly in prosecutors` sights and has
received a target letter from prosecutors. There are inquiries into the
NRA`s ties to Russia from Congress and from the FBI and from special
counsel Robert Mueller. And, you know, it is – it`s one thing, and it
might explain the little freak-out happening right now at the NRA if all
these innocent NRA folks who just wanted a tour of a Russian gun factory
and a trip with this nice Russian lady, if it turns out they were all duped
by Russian intelligence and they had no idea what this was all about.
But the more we learn and what we have just learned today shows us that
actually there is really no chance they were duped at all and the more we
see about what happened in that relationship, the more we can see about
whatever was going on with America`s great gun rights group and the Russian
government, it is weirder than they`ve ever admitted to before.
We`ve got that story next. Stay with us.
MADDOW: In 2015, an American Republican activist, a manned named Paul
Erickson wrote an e-mail to a member of an NRA delegation that was heading
out on a trip to Moscow. Paul Erickson was the boyfriend of Mary Butina.
She`s the Russian citizen who has now pled guilty to trying to infiltrate
conservative American political circles and the Republican Party on behalf
of the Russian government using the gun rights movement as a pretext. She
had played a key role in organizing that NRA trip to Moscow in 2015. So,
her boyfriend, Erickson, sends this e-mail to a member of the delegation
just before that trip departs.
Reporter Betsy woodruff at “The Daily Beast” has quotes from his e-mail in
a new piece that “The Beast” just published today. Erickson wrote in this
email that the former NRA president who was leading the delegation to
Moscow was angling on the trip to get a private interview with Russian
President Vladimir Putin. He said that the Russian official organizing the
trip, Maria Butina`s handler in the Russian government had, quote, dangled
the possibility of such an interview and therefore the NRA delegation
really needed to impress their Russian hosts. Quote, high stakes all
Erickson also appears to spell out in this e-mail that the trip to Moscow
was much more than a gun rights networking event. He wrote this to a
member of the NRA delegation who was about to head to Moscow, quote, as we
discussed over lunch in Iowa, Russia believes that high-level contacts with
the NRA might be the best means of neutral introduction to the next
American president. This simple goodwill trip would have enormous
diplomatic consequences for a future U.S./Russia bilateral relationship to
It certainly appears from that e-mail that Paul Erickson and at least one
member of the NRA delegation had a shared understanding that what Russia
wanted out of this trip, bringing these guys to Moscow, was political
access in the United States, and they appeared to have been on board with
that as they set off for the trip.
Well, now the NRA` leadership is like, oh, we definite weren`t on board
with that. We tried to stop that. We didn`t think people should do it.
The NRA trying to distance itself from this trip that happened to Moscow in
2015 appears to be happening amidst a bit of a meltdown at the NRA.
We don`t exactly understand the significance of what might have happened
that they`re so worried about. But, clearly, you can see from their own
behavior and their own sort of now wrong after the fact denials that they
at least believe this is a big deal.
It makes you wonder what they know and what these reporters are on to who
have been digging into this story and turning up worried about, but
clearly, you can see from their behavior and long after the fact denials
they at least believe this is a big deal. I mean, it makes you wonder what
they know and what these reporters are on to who have been digging into
this story and turning up new details about it all the time.
Joining us now is the reporter who broke the story, “Daily Beast” political
reporter Betsy Woodruff.
Betsy, it`s great to see you. Thank you for being with us tonight.
BETSY WOODRUFF, POLITICAL REPORTER, THE DAILY BEAST: Sure thing.
MADDOW: So, I feel like there`s two things happening at once. The NRA
appears to be kind of falling apart, appears to be kind of in meltdown.
And they appear to be freaking out about whatever happened between them and
Is it your understanding that this is about their worries about the Moscow
trip in 2015? Is it about the arrest and the cooperation agreement of
Maria Butina? Do you have a big picture sense of what is so concerning to
WOODRUFF: What I can tell you is that, ironically, the Trump
administration time period has been a surprisingly challenging window of
time for the NRA. Historically, the NRA is at its most successful. It
gets the most members and the most money when Democrats are in power
because the NRA can push the narrative that a Democratic president is going
to steal your guns and use the regulatory power to drive up the cost of
So often when Democrats become president or when they expand their
political power, we see conservative Americans who perhaps would buy into
some of these theories rushing to buy ammo, rushing to support the NRA and
to help fund, it out of fear that their right to have any sort of weapon
whatsoever is on the line.
So, when Trump became president, surprisingly enough, even though the group
had an ally in the highest levels of the American government, many of their
grassroots supporters and at least this is the view in the American gun
rights community, have become a little complacent and a little less
invested in supporting the NRA simply because as long as Trump is in office
they`re not worried that anyone is going to try to grab their guns.
MADDOW: And, Betsy, this Paul Erickson e-mail you obtained about the
Moscow trip of all these NRA honchos in 2015, it makes it seem like it trip
to Moscow was a really big deal for the NRA, that this was something
connected to big geopolitical aims.
Why do you think the NRA is now reframing how this trip happened and
claiming that actually all their leadership was very opposed to it and they
didn`t want it to happen?
WOODRUFF: There`s no doubt that part of the reason they`re reframing it is
they`re expecting things to get significantly worse. We`ve reported that
the Senate Intelligence Committee has been receiving e-mails from the NRA
related to their trip to Moscow as part of that committee`s investigation
into Russian efforts to influence American politics and Senator Ron Wyden
has also been helming a robust investigation of this same thing.
So within the NRA, there`s an expectation that ultimately everything is
going to become public in one way or another, that these Senate
investigators are going to present to Americans a broader view of how
Russians tried to use the NRA to influence American politics. So my sense
is that people in the gun rights community and the NRA are certainly
concerned about that and trying to get out ahead of it and sort of start to
shape the narrative.
And that`s part of the reason this e-mail is so important, is that it shows
not what the NRA is saying right now as they try to craft the way we view
their place in the American political sphere but rather what Paul Erickson,
who was a long-time NRA insider and very influential member of the American
gun rights community, was saying at the time when he though the was having
a private conversation.
One detail in this e-mail that I find really striking was the fact that
Paul Erickson, and he`s not the world`s most reliable narrator, but he
claims that David Keene, who at the time was a former NRA president, was
absolutely irate that Allan Cors, who at the time was the NRA`s president,
made a last-minute cancellation of going on the trip. And according to
Erickson, and to be clear I reached out to Keene and to Cors, I didn`t get
any pushback from them about the claim that Erickson makes.
According to Erickson, what he says in this email is that David Keene, the
group`s ex-president considered ending his friendship with Alan Cors, the
group`s current president, because Keene was so concerned and so invested
in this trip to Moscow being a success. We know Keene was hoping to get
some face time with Putin out of the trip. An important detail is part of
the trip was funded by a group supported by a Russian oligarch. We know
Keene was deeply invested in this trip being a success, having a successful
trip and the emotions were really high.
MADDOW: Yes. And so, now, for the NRA trying to say like oh, this trip,
this is nothing and we probably shouldn`t have done it and we knew at the
time it was a bad idea, it`s fascinating to see this evolving story.
Betsy Woodruff, political reporter at “The Daily Beast” – great work,
Betsy. Great to see you. Thank you.
WOODRUFF: Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Today, some new breadcrumbs were dropped in the mystery case that
has been winding its way through the federal courts in D.C. since last
August. It`s a case that is very intriguing, in part because what we don`t
know about it. We know it involves Robert Mueller and the special counsel.
We know it`s being handled with alacrity in the federal court system.
But we otherwise don`t know what it`s about. It involves a corporation.
We don`t know which one. A corporation that is wholly owned by a foreign
country. We don`t know what country.
It appears this mystery corporation has been fighting a subpoena from
Mueller. And we think we know now that a federal judge is he fining this
corporation $50,000 a day for every day that they refuse to comply with
that Mueller subpoena. Well, late last night, we got a few more
breadcrumbs in this case when the court unsealed a redacted version of the
docket for this case. From that, we can now see that a few weeks ago, the
mystery corporation filed a motion asking the court to find that its prior
order saying that the corporation was in contempt for not responding to the
subpoena, that order was, quote, “unenforceable” and that blank property is
immune from execution or attachment.
What we think this means is because this mystery corporation has been
skipping out on paying their $50,000 a day in fines for not complying with
the subpoena, we think that the Justice Department, the special counsel`s
office, may be entitled to go get that money some other way, for instance,
by seizing the mystery corporation`s property here in the United States.
So this part of the docket is the mystery corporation telling the judge,
hey, don`t let Mueller take our stuff. Our redacted property is immune
from execution or attachment.
On January 24th, we can now see the judge denied that request and basically
told the special counsel`s office he`s more than welcome to go seize stuff
from this mystery corporation. We can see that ever since the judge gave
Mueller the green light to seize their stuff, the mystery corporation has
not tried to pump the brakes. They have not filed an appeal. So, it looks
like from this docket that Mueller and the Justice Department still have
the judge`s blessing to go take stuff to account for the 50 grand a day
that this corporation apparently isn`t paying.
Now, we still don`t know who the corporation is or what country owns them.
But they apparently have property or assets in the U.S. that appear to be
fair game for the Justice Department to seize to cover these $50,000 a day
penalties the court has imposed. What this means for you is that if
anybody has seen federal marshals cutting off the gold doorknobs from some
wholly foreign-owned corporation in the United States, please snap a
picture of that for us – www.sendittorachel.com. We`d love to know.
That does it for us. See you again tomorrow.
Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL”.
Good evening, Lawrence.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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 content.>
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