No policy road trip for Trump after State of the Union. TRANSCRIPT: 2/6/19, The Rachel Maddow Show.
JULIAN CASTRO (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And if we`re going talk the
talk, we need to walk the walk. So, yes, I think in different ways.
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Julian Castro, former secretary of HUD and
running for president of the United States, based out of San Antonio –
good to have you here in New York.
CASTRO: Thanks, Chris.
HAYES: Come by any time. Thank you.
And 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. Much
HAYES: You bet.
MADDOW: Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
A very busy news day today. We`ve got sort of a packed show tonight. Lots
going on, including a little bit of breaking news that we`re going get to
in just a moment.
But the wake of last night`s State of the Union Address, President Trump
today, you may have noticed, he did not set off on any kind of message-
driven bus tour or any other kind of political event somewhere out in the
country, trying to sell the elements of his State of the Union Address from
Presidents always used to do that. I mean successfully or not, they would
at least try. You remember like George W. Bush trying to sell his
privatized social security plan, right? He did this traveling road show on
that, which ended up making that idea less popular every time he did a new
event. But at least he tried.
You might remember President Obama and Vice President Biden going off on a
road trip and making appearances with preschoolers to try to promote the
prekindergarten initiative from one of the Obama State of the Union
Addresses at the start of his second term. And who knows if these kinds of
hammer home the message tours actually do anything after a State of the
Union Address in terms of persuading Congress to pass legislation to
effectuate that presidential idea and pass appropriations to fund it. But
at least those stunts, those trips, they did at least have the effect of
keeping the press focused on the president`s message from the speech. For
a few more days after the biggest speech of the year was over, and those
efforts do at least show a president exerting a little bit of energy,
trying to at least maybe make a gesture toward selling his key ideas from
his biggest speech of the year.
This year didn`t happen. This year after the State of the Union Address
last night, they are not even trying anything like that, not with this
president. And maybe that makes sense to the extent that the big takeaway
message from this State of the Union was the president`s somewhat odd
declaration that there can be no more investigations of him with the
implied “or else” threat.
I mean, if that`s the point of this year`s State of the Union, there really
is no need for any sort of presidential stunt or bus tour trip to keep the
focus on that weird line in the president`s speech and that key element of
his presidency. I mean, he doesn`t need to do anything to change the fact
that the ambient news hook events around this State of the Union this year
were what happened the day before the address, which is federal prosecutors
subpoenaing his inaugural committee, and what happened the day after his
address, today, when the Intelligence Committee announced the parameters
for its renewed investigation of the president, including spelling out the
lines of inquiry that have since arisen, that have derived from the
original sin inquiry into Russia interfering in the 2016 presidential
election to make Donald Trump president in the fist place.
And I know you have probably seen headlines today about the Intelligence
Committee announcing the parameters of its new investigation now, right?
Yes, there was an investigation when the Republicans were in control. They
ended early, closed up shop and said no collusion. Now the Democrats are
Now, Adam Schiff is the chairman of the Intelligence Committee. Chairman
Schiff and the Democrats in his committee will be able to employ subpoena
power for that investigation. And you probably saw headlines about them
announcing the parameters of that investigation today. But did you
actually look at what they announced?
I mean, just – I knew they announced something. This is not what I was
expecting. This is way more of a capital doozy than anybody was expecting
outside of this committee.
Check what they announced. Quote, in the more than two years since the
intelligence community released its assessment of Russia`s malign influence
operation targeting the 2016 U.S. elections, much has been learned about
the scope and scale of the attack on our democracy, including how covert
and overt Russian activities – excuse me – covert and overt Russian
activities intersected with individuals associated with Donald Trump`s
presidential campaign, transition, administration, and business interests,
including the Trump Organization.
From late 2015 through early 2017, individuals close to Donald Trump
engaged in a significant number of contacts with an array of individuals
connected to or working on behalf of the Russian government, and several of
these contacts involved efforts to acquire and disseminate damaging
information about Hillary Clinton and her campaign or related to Russia`s
desired relief from U.S. sanctions. Quote: During the prior Congress, the
committee began to pursue credible reports of money laundering and
financial compromise related to the business interests of President Trump,
his family, and his associates. Unfortunately, these and numerous other
avenues of inquiry were not completed during the last Congress. Now, in
this new Congress, the committee`s investigation will focus principally on
five interconnect lines of inquiry, beginning with these, incomplete or
unexamined investigative threads.
So, this is where they say the investigation is going to go from here on
out. There is five items. The first two items are going to sound a little
bit familiar to you. They are in some important ways new, but they are
going to sound familiar.
Here is the first one, quote: The intelligence committee says it will
investigate number one, quote, the scope and scale of the Russian
government`s operations to influence the U.S. political process and the
U.S. government`s response during and since the 2016 election. So, this is
close to the sort of remit that the Mueller investigation was given when
Mueller was appointed as special counsel to look into Russian governments`
operations to interfere in the 2016 election.
But you will note this is a little broader, right? This is about
influencing the U.S. political process more broadly, and it expands from
just the 2016 election to include time since the 2016 election as well. So
even though that is familiar, that first point, it is also expanded.
Two, the Intelligence Committee also says that it will investigate the
extent of any links and/or coordination between the Russian government or
related foreign actors and individuals associated with Donald Trump`s
campaign, transition, administration, or business interests in furtherance
of the Russian government`s interests. And, again, this sounds familiar,
right? It sounds familiar from the remit of the Mueller investigation,
This is collusion. This is looking at whether the Trump campaign was
involved in what Russia did. But it is a broader definition, right? Links
or coordination between all sorts of people associated with Donald Trump
and the Russian government or foreign actors associated with the Russian
government. So, again, it looks similar to what Mueller`s remit is, but it
is a little bit broader, including extending into the transition and the
And now look at this. This is brand-new. The intelligence committee is
also going to investigate, quote, whether any foreign actor has sought to
compromise or holds level, financial or otherwise, over Donald Trump, his
family, his business, or his associates. This means they`re now officially
and with subpoena power investigating directly the thing that you shout out
in the dark in the middle of the night when you wake up sweating and you
thought it was a dream and you didn`t realize you said it out loud. You
know how you wake up in the night drenched in sweat saying what if the
president is a foreign agent?
That`s point number three. They`re actually just looking at that. How
foreign actors sought to compromise or hold leverage over the president,
his family, his business, or his associates financially or otherwise. Yes.
Is the president a Russian agent? Or his family or his business or his
associates, have they be compromised by foreign actors, including Russia?
That would be a good thing to know. It would help us all sleep, for one
But there is more. Number four, the Intelligence Committee will
investigate, quote, whether president Trump, his family or his associates
are or were at any time at heightened risk of or vulnerable to foreign
exploitation, inducement, manipulation, pressure or coercion or sought to
influence U.S. government policy in service of foreign interests.
In other words, has the Russian government or any other foreign interest
succeeded in these efforts? Have they by any means succeed in getting the
president or his family or people associated with him to act on behalf of
foreign interests when it comes to U.S. policy.
So, number one, have they been compromised. Number two, have they been
acting essentially as a Russian or otherwise foreign agent in trying to
influence the United States and our policies. Gulp.
And lastly, number five, whether – the Intelligence Committee, the fifth
of their five points today, happy State of the Union, Mr. President.
They`re also looking into this. They`re looking into whether any actors,
foreign or domestic, sought or are seeking to impede, obstruct, and/or
mislead authorized investigations into these matters, including those in
So that`s broadly obstruction, right? Anybody in foreign countries or
here, have they lied to or misled or blocked or attempted to intimidate or
otherwise divert the Mueller investigation or any other law enforcement
investigation related to this matter or any of the congressional inquiries
that relate to this matter? Five points.
And I don`t know what the president was hoping for last night when he
decided to say in his State of the Union Address that Congress shouldn`t
investigate him anymore or the country gets it, but I cannot imagine this
was the desired result of that now indelible and permanent line that will
always be part of the history of the Trump presidency and the history of
the State of the Union Address in America. And these five threads that the
Intelligence Committee says they`re going to investigate, this isn`t just a
Democratic wish list for what they hope people might look into. This isn`t
just like a table of contents for stuff to worry about and sweat over in
the night. This is now the stated parameters of the new active
intelligence committee investigation in the House of Representatives under
Democratic leadership who have subpoena power.
Today in their first act, the Intelligence Committee also voted to convey
witness transcripts to the special counsel, to Robert Mueller. Mueller, of
course, has already charged two people associated with the president for
lying to Congress. Mueller has charged – or federal prosecutors have
charged the president`s long-time political adviser Roger Stone, also, the
president`s long-time personal lawyer, Michael Cohen.
Federal prosecutors have also made reference to Sam Patten allegedly lying
to Congress in the plea deal that Patten made over his funnels foreign
money into the Trump inauguration. Now, we do not know if anybody else
that has testified with the Intelligence Committee is likely to face the
same kind of trouble in terms of potential felony charges, potential legal
liability for having lied to Congress under oath, but this is a whole lot
of transcripts that Mueller received today from the Intelligence Committee.
These are a lot of witnesses that we are talking about here, including the
president`s eldest son and his son-in-law Jared Kushner, and Trump campaign
figures including Brad Parscale, who is his new campaign manager, and Steve
Bannon, who ran the Trump campaign after Paul Manafort, and Hope Hicks and
Corey Lewandowski and Erik Prince of Blackwater fame, right? And Keith
Schiller, the president`s long-time bodyguard. Alexander Nix from
Cambridge Analytica, former Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, the
president`s long time secretary from his business, Rhona Graff.
I mean, lots and lots of people, transcripts amounting to thousands of
pages. And, again, we don`t know if any of those people, any of those
witnesses who testified under oath before the Intel Committee, we don`t
know if any of them are facing any kind of felony legal jeopardy that Roger
Stone and Michael Cohen have run up against and Sam Patten have run up
against in their dealings with federal prosecutors. But the conveying of
these official transcripts to Robert Mueller`s office today means that the
special counsel, if they do want the bring legal charges against anyone for
false statements in this testimony, the special counsel now has the ability
to do that with these official transcripts.
So, in terms of what`s going to happen next here, don`t expect a bus tour
from the president to highlight his State of the Union messages, such as
they were. The president`s long-time personal lawyer Michael Cohen had
been scheduled to testify in Congress in public tomorrow, an open door
hearing in Congress before the House Oversight Committee. That has now
been delayed after Mr. Cohen said he felt his own safety and that of his
family was in jeopardy because of threats from the president.
The day after tomorrow, Mr. Cohen had been scheduled to testify behind
closed doors to the Intelligence Committee. That as of today has also now
been put off. They have rescheduled that testimony for February 28th.
There`s a couple of things interesting about that testimony being
rescheduled. First of all, I think it`s interesting to note that these
committees, these members of Congress who are expecting him and his
testimony, none of them seem to be angry or dissatisfied with Michael Cohen
for this delay. Everybody is saying that Cohen is still being cooperative.
They`re not upset with him. They do not think that he is dodging them.
Congresswoman Jackie Speier today, veteran member of the Intelligence
Committee, she told reporters today that this delay should not be blamed on
Cohen. She said, quote, I think he is being very cooperative. She said
the delay is, quote, not at his request.
Well, who did want the delay, then? Congressman Adam Schiff, the new
chairman of the Intelligence Committee, added somewhat cryptically today
that the delay of Michael Cohen`s testimony was, quote, in the interests of
the investigation. When Congressman Schiff was asked by reporters today to
explain what that meant, he helpfully said Mr. Cohen`s testimony was
delayed in the interests of the investigation. Just repeated his previous
cryptic statement, basically telling reporters, listen, that`s all you`re
And so I think there are a couple of things to watch here. As I mentioned
on Monday of this week, on the eve of the State of the Union Address,
prosecutors from the Southern District of New York did issue a subpoena to
the president`s inaugural committee. Now, we don`t know if that relates at
all to this delay in Michael Cohen`s congressional testimony. Or why
delaying his testimony is something that might have been done in the
interests of the investigation.
But keen-eyed observers have noted that the prosecutor whose named on the
subpoena to the inaugural committee is one of the same prosecutors who was
involved in prosecuting the Michael Cohen case in the Southern District of
New York. So that suggests that perhaps there is some overlap there. It
has also been reported that the subpoena to the Trump inaugural committee
asked specific questions about one specific donor, interestingly, a donor
who had previously given to Obama and Clinton, who nevertheless became a
very enthusiastic Trump donor once Trump won the election. He is mentioned
in the subpoena, specifically, he is reported to have had dealings with
So, it`s possible that whatever is going on with this federal investigation
and this federal grand jury subpoena to the president`s inaugural committee
this week, it`s possible that that is quite substantively related to
Michael Cohen, to whatever is going on in his criminal case right now as he
awaits the start of his federal prison sentence a month from today. It may
have to do with the delays to what had been expected otherwise to be his
congressional testimony this week.
Also, there is this new reporting from CNN as of last night, as yet
unmatched by any other news organization, but CNN reported last night that
prosecutors from the Southern District of New York are also now seeking
interviews with Trump Organization executives, meaning with executives from
the president`s business. Now why would federal prosecutors be seeking
interviews with Trump Organization executives now? We don`t know.
We know the special counsel`s office subpoenaed the Trump Organization
almost a year ago, last March. We know Michael Cohen has since been
charged by prosecutors in the Southern District of New York in that hush
money case, which implicated the president himself in effectively
laundering money through the Trump Organization in order to make an illegal
We know that Mueller has since charged Cohen with lying to Congress about
the Trump Organization and their dealings with the Trump Tower Moscow
project during the presidential campaign. So, again, we don`t have any
clear window into why Michael Cohen is all of the sudden no longer
testifying to Congress this week, and members of Congress who were
expecting his testimony seem to be not at all bothered by that today, not
at all bothered by that tonight. They say the delays are in the interest
of the investigation, and they won`t explain any further.
So we don`t have a clear window into what all of that means, but we can see
the various dots here. It`s just a question of how they connect. It seems
clear that something is afoot here, that something is brewing, but we will
continue to watch that story tonight as it continues to develop.
And as we were watching that story continue to develop tonight, as we were
watching that story continue to develop tonight, we also got a legitimate
surprise new development out of South Dakota, of all places. This
indictment has just been filed by federal prosecutors in South Dakota. It
lays out 11 felony charges against a long-time Republican Party and NRA
activist named Paul Erickson.
Now, Paul Erickson, that name is ringing a bell for you because he is
reportedly the boyfriend of Maria Butina, Maria Butina, the Russian citizen
who was charged last summer with acting as an agent of the Russian
government in an effort to cultivate the American Republican Party ahead of
the 2016 election and the American conservative movement on behalf of the
Russian government using gun rights and using the NRA as a point of entry.
Maria Butina was arrested and charged in July. She plead guilty in
December and agreed to start cooperating with prosecutors.
We have since learned through inadvertently unsealed court filings that she
has been testifying before a grand jury in Washington as part of her
cooperation. Paul Erickson, her purported American boyfriend was clearly
referenced in the charging documents related to the Maria Butina case. He
was clearly referenced as essentially her co-conspirator in the Russian
influence operation that she was initially charged with. And that led to
interesting and until now unanswered questions about why Maria Butina was
the one sitting in jail while her American boyfriend and alleged co-
conspirator was still at large.
Well, now, he is technically still at large, although he is only at large
because he is out on bond. He is now charged with 11 felonies – 11 felony
counts of wire fraud and money laundering.
Now, this indictment was issued yesterday. He appeared in court in South
Dakota today. He pled not guilty to each of the 11 felony charges. As I
mentioned, he is now out on bond.
And it is hard at this point to tell if this is some sort of strange South
Dakota offshoot from the main Russia investigation, or is this an important
new avenue in that investigation. But this indictment we have just learned
about it tonight, we`re going get some expert help on that from South
Dakota coming up next.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: So we are following the breaking news tonight of the latest
indictment that appears to be related to or at least adjacent to the Russia
investigation. There have been a whole bunch of Russian nationals hit with
U.S. criminal charges since Robert Mueller was appointed as special counsel
to investigate the Russian attack on our election in 2016. A dozen GRU
officials from Russian military intelligence were charged, a bunch of
people employed by the Internet Research Agency in St. Petersburg, Russia,
which was run by a Putin-aligned oligarch. That Putin-aligned oligarch
himself has been charged by the Justice Department. His Russian company
was also charged.
But the only Russian citizen who was both charged by the Justice Department
and then actually was arrested and turned up in a U.S. courtroom, there has
only been one of them, and that is Maria Butina. She was charged last year
with acting as a secret agent of the Russian Federation. According to
prosecutors, she was dispatched by Russian government officials to
infiltrate the Republican Party and the American conservative movement
through the pretext of gun rights and the NRA.
Well, the man who`s the subject of this latest indictment tonight is
described in the case against Maria Butina as her American boyfriend. His
name is Paul Erickson. He is 56 years old. He is a long-time Republican
Party and conservative activist going back to his role on the Pat Buchanan
for president campaign in 1992.
This indictment against him tonight describes alleged crimes that on the
surface don`t appear to be Russia-related. They`re basically just accusing
him of being a crook, although there are some intriguing clues here. Let
me read you a little piece of the indictment.
Quote: From on or about 1996 to August 2018 in the district of South Dakota
and elsewhere, the defendant, Paul Erickson, did knowingly and unlawfully
device a scheme and artifice to defraud and obtain money by means of false
and fraudulent pretenses, representations and promises. Defendant Paul
Erickson was a resident of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, who solely owned and
operated a number of business entities, including Compass Care
Incorporated, Investing with Dignity, LLC, and an unnamed venture to
develop land in the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota. The object and
purpose of the scheme was for the defendant to unjustly enrich himself at
the expense of people he defrauded.
The indictment goes on to explain that Erickson was persuading people to
invest in these company`s named earlier in the indictment which supposedly
built assisted living facilities in the case of Compass Care. The
investing with Dignity one was supposedly a company that was going to build
wheelchairs that would allow people using these chairs to go to the
bathroom without needing help from somebody else to lift them out of the
chair. The unnamed Bakken oil field one was apparently a retail venture, a
home building venture, to build homes for workers in the North Dakota oil
In the indictment, though, prosecutors say despite all of those supposed
investment opportunities, what Erickson was really just doing was taking
people`s money, in amounts ranging from five grand from someone with the
initials K.H. to over half a million dollars from somebody with the
Now, what does this have to do with Paul Erickson`s purported Russian
secret agent girlfriend, now that she`s plead guilty and is cooperating
with prosecutors? We don`t know, but in the indictment, somebody with the
initials M.B. appears to have been paid out some of the proceeds of this
alleged fraud. The indictment also flags a large payment from Paul
Erickson to American University where Maria Butina was enrolled at school.
There is also a $14,000 cash withdrawal that is flagged by prosecutors.
That occurs right at the time that Maria Butina and Paul Erickson were
bringing a delegation of NRA officials to Moscow to meet with high-ranking
Russian government officials.
Joining us now is Seth Tupper. He is an enterprise report for the “Rapid
City Journal” in South Dakota. He joins us by phone.
Mr. Tupper, thanks for joining us on short notice tonight. You have been
really out in front on this story in South Dakota. I really appreciate you
making time to talk to us tonight.
SETH TUPPER, RAPID CITY JOURNAL ENTERPRISE REPORTER (via telephone):
Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: So you`d reported in the past year on fraud allegations that had
dogged Paul Erickson in South Dakota that didn`t necessarily seem to have
anything to do with his involvement with Maria Butina in this somewhat
exotic Russian agent case. Given what you have learned about those fraud
allegations against him and those sort of rumors about potential financial
wrongdoing by him, is this indictment tonight the kind of thing that you
were ultimately expecting from federal prosecutors?
TUPPER: Certainly, yes. I did a profile of Erickson about a year ago, and
for that profile I analyzed a lot of court records and spoke to a lot of
sources, and it appeared to me that Erickson`s M.O. for quite some time had
been exactly what`s described in this indictment today, that he got close
to people, he offered them investment opportunities, even appeared to have
somewhat of a form letter that he would send to people, offering them these
amazing returns on this latest investment deal. He would say that he was
only offering it to friends and family and people that were close to him.
And people would fall for this. And he would make the money and move on to
something else. And it was always just informal allegations of fraud. He
had been sued a few times, but he had never faced criminal charges until –
for any of this until today that I know of.
MADDOW: The thing that stuck with me from your profile on Erickson about a
year ago, this past February was when you quoted Republican former
legislator from Watertown, South Dakota, who told you, quote, he is the
single biggest phony I`ve ever met in South Dakota politics.
And that stuck with me all this time because I felt like, OK, there is some
view of the ground truth of about this guy, even if we don`t understand how
this fits into the larger story about Maria Butina and the Russia
Do you feel you have any brighter window or any clearer window into how
this fraud stuff may or may not relate to his relationship with Butina and
the larger case that she`s involved with?
TUPPER: Well, I think the relation is that as I said, this has been his
M.O. It just led him – he`d been doing this, as it says in the
indictment, at least all the way back to 1996 allegedly. As he went from
one thing to another, eventually he met up with Maria Butina, and that was
I think from what we know so far he got involved in just sort of another
scheme with her, allegedly. This time, it was – he bit off a little more
than he could chew, perhaps, compared to some of his other dealings.
But we also know that from some reporting that I`ve done in the past that
Maria Butina had been offered by prosecutors here in South Dakota, perhaps
been offered something in exchange for her cooperation in the wire fraud
and money laundering investigation into Erickson. And so, there could be a
connection there. That could perhaps I would suspect maybe play a role in
her sentencing if she did give investigators information on the South
Dakota investigation and help them with that, perhaps that will play a role
in her sentencing, by she is currently awaiting.
MADDOW: Right. In terms of prosecutors` narrative about her own case,
that sort of cuts crosswise if in fact as you say she is helping
prosecutors with this case against her purported boyfriend, even before she
was arrested in the Russia secret agent case. Tangled web.
Seth Tupper, enterprise reporter for “The Rapid City Journal” in South
Dakota. Thanks for your help in understanding this story tonight. I look
forward to seeing you continue to follow this one up. Thanks, Seth.
TUPPER: You`re welcome and thanks for having me.
MADDOW: Much appreciated.
All right. Much more to get to here tonight. I said it is a busy night
that includes the national president of the NAACP, Derrick Johnson, who is
joining us live next.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: “The Washington Post” tonight has just posted a blistering
editorial with this headline, “Ralph Northam must resign.”
Quote: His governorship has been irredeemably wrecked by the self-
inflicted, racially callous and clueless mess he has made in recent days.
Quote: Virginians deserve better. Mr. Northam`s time is up.
But today is day five of the scandal over this photo unearthed from his
medical school yearbook page. And so far, Virginia`s governor, Ralph
Northam, isn`t resigning. Calls of his resignation have come from inside
and outside the Democratic Party and the Commonwealth of Virginia.
This “Washington Post” editorial is the latest blow. It will be a powerful
one, though, given the influence of the post both as a national newspaper
but also as a newspaper that covers Virginia intensively and that publishes
on Virginia`s doorstep. Northam will either have to absorb this additional
political blow tonight in the form of this editorial from “The Post,” or it
will be something that contributes to him leaving office.
We don`t yet know how this ends. The Northam scandal has been politically
complicated and aggravated by serious and troubling but also contested
allegations about Northam`s would-be successor, Lieutenant Governor Justin
Dr. Vanessa Tyson, California college professor, has accused Justin Fairfax
of sexually assaulting her in 2004 in a detailed account she released
publicly today. Fairfax denies her claim. He did so before and after her
powerful statement today. He says they did have a sexual encounter, but
that it was consensual.
The Northam and Fairfax situation, of course, is further politically
complicated and aggravated by the additional admission today from the third
ranked would-be successor in the state, Attorney General Mark Herring, who
today said he once wore blackface in college. Herring today issued a long
apology, and he resigned as the chair of the Democratic Attorneys General
But where is this going? I mean, I remember – if you watch this show for
a long time, you may remember, when we covered the gigantic corruption and
bribery scandal involving then Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell a few years
ago, remember that? Everybody in Virginia politics kept telling us that
what was so amazing about the Bob McDonnell story is that ethics scandals
like that didn`t happen in Virginia politics. That no Virginia governor
had ever been involved in any kind of scandal of that magnitude, of that
thing that Bob McDonnell got into.
Now, just a couple of years later, Virginia is in this mess involving not
just the governor, but the other two top statewide officials as well all at
If you want to see the toll this is taking on some in Virginia politics,
this is Virginia State Senator Louise Lucas, taking a moment to try to
collect herself in a parking lot outside the Virginia state capitol today,
where reporters were gathered in a scrum to try to follow this continually
Joining us now is Derrick Johnson. He`s the president of the NAACP
Mr. Johnson, really appreciate you making time to be with us tonight.
Thank you so much for joining us.
DERRICK JOHNSON, PRESIDENT & CEO, NAACP: Thank you for the opportunity.
MADDOW: So this obviously is a still evolving scandal that you and your
organization is one of many calling for Governor Northam to resign. You
released a statement calling Governor Northam`s failure to take
accountability sickening, which is a word that stuck with me from your
statement. It`s part of the reason I want to talk with you about this
As this evolved over the last few day, do you feel like this has just
gotten worse as it has strung out, or do you feel like it`s evolving in a
way that`s made you change your thoughts on it at all?
JOHNSON: It`s bizarre. First, the governor took accountability on Friday
evening, and then on Saturday, in what I must say was an unusual press
conference where he retracted whether or not that was him, he then state
that he in fact was in blackface. He then talked about the fact that it`s
hard to give shoe polish off the skin, and everyone knows that. I don`t
know who he is speaking of.
So it was just bizarre, but not unusual considering the Southern culture.
We have a problem in this nation where many Southerners are still trying to
reconcile the concept with the Confederacy and racism. There is no way to
address it other than denouncing the Confederacy, and Virginia, like most
Southern states, they have truly come to grips that that was a treasonous
act, and the outcome of the activity of the confederacy was strictly
MADDOW: In terms of this – as I mentioned continuing to evolve as a
political story, there have been serious allegations now leveled against
the Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax, accused of sexual assault,
including in a powerful statement today from the woman, California college
professor who says – who described what she said happened in detail. He
denied that charge both before her statement today and since.
Simultaneous to the evolution on those charges and that story today, we
also got the attorney general of the state, another statewide elected
official saying that he, too, wore blackface. He wore blackface once when
he was 19 years old in college.
Now that we`re looking at this, from the entire top tier of leadership in
state politics, is this clear to you how this should resolve involving all
of these leaders?
JOHNSON: Well, first of all, in NAACP, we denounce sexual assault under
any circumstance. We`re going watch that scenario to see how it plays out.
The fact that the attorney general also has come forth today to talk that
he also was in blackface is not surprising.
You know, understanding, Rachel, that in the South, particularly after the
Brown versus Board of Education decision, many parents withdrew their
children from public education as a result of black children being allowed
to receive the same access to education. But any time you have communities
who live in close proximity, and there is the level of intentionality of
separating those communities, the level of intentionality to dehumanize one
of those communities, the level of intentionality to maintain a structural
system of apartheid, there is no empathy for African Americans from the
And so, you have many young people who grew up during this era simply
mocking African Americans, very similar to what took place in 1960 with
release of “Birth of a Nation.” It`s a continuation on the page in the
yearbook for Northam. It was an individual dressed up in a Klan uniform.
For African-Americans, that is domestic terrorism, that is the symbol of
domestic terrorism and for me and those who live in the South is something
that should not be tolerated. And for Northam and the A.G., they have
permitted to participate in this activity. And for that reason, we stand
by our position. They should resign.
MADDOW: Derrick Johnson, the president and CEO of the NAACP – sir, thank
you for making time to be with us tonight. I really appreciate you being
JOHNSON: Thank you for the opportunity.
MADDOW: All right. We got a lot more ahead tonight. Do stay with us.
MADDOW: Today, for the first time in eight years plus, the House of
Representative held a hearing on gun violence. Just do the math on that
for a second. That means today was the first response by the U.S. House of
Representatives, the first response, the first time anything since San
Bernardino, since Las Vegas, since Parkland, Florida, since Aurora,
Colorado, since Sandy Hook, since Newtown. The first time they have
responded in any way now that Democrats are back in charge.
Also today, the House restarted hearings on climate change. At one point
today, there were two climate change hearing going on in the House at the
same time. One of those panels had not heard testimony on the subject in
Here`s another one to keep an eye on in this new Congress. Last night of
course was the president`s State of the Union Address. He spent a
considerable amount of time talking about the dignity of life, about the
dignity of children`s lives in particular, about the importance of
protecting their right to live a safe and healthy life.
What was missing from his speech last night, of course, was any mention of
how his administration has been forcibly taking thousands of kids away from
their parents at the Southern border and locking up the kids simply from
their parents in a manner so disorganized that the exact number of children
who have been taken way from their parents is still unknown. Well, now,
after the Republican Congress not taking notion of that at all, after a
long silence on that, Congress is now trying to get to the bottom of it.
Tomorrow the Democratic-led house will hold its fist substantive hearing on
child separation hearings at the border under the Trump administration. It
will be the first congressional hearing since the policy started more than
a year ago and since thousands of kids have been taken away from their
parents by action of the U.S. government. The lawmaker who is going to
chair that hearing joins us next. Stay with us.
MADDOW: The Democrats won control of the house in November. One material
consequence of that is that the woman in charge of congressional oversight
over the Department of Health and Human Services is now Democratic
Congresswoman Diana DeGette. And tomorrow in that capacity, Congresswoman
DeGette is going to lead the first hearing Congress has had into the Trump
administration forcibly removing kids from their parents at the Southern
Congresswoman Diana DeGette joins us now.
Congresswoman, thanks very much for being with us tonight. I know this is
a big night and tomorrow`s going to be a big day.
REP. DIANA DEGETTE (D), COLORADO: It`s good to be with you, Rachel.
MADDOW: So I know that tomorrow is just presumably a start, but how high
are your expectations in terms of what you`re going to be able to get out
of the Trump administration and out of HHS about this policy of taking kids
away from their moms and dads?
DEGETTE: Well, so in April last year, the administration announced that
they were having this family separation, and we heard about all those kids
taken away, but then later this fall, we found out from the government
watchdog agencies, the GAO and the inspector general that this was
happening much sooner, much sooner. And what they said, there may still be
thousands of children out there who have been placed in foster homes or
other places who have still not been reunited with the their families.
What we want to find out is when did this start, what is the policy, and
obviously most importantly, what are we going to do to get these kids
reunited with their parents?
MADDOW: One of the things that has been the most troubling just watching
the legal wrangling over this, watching the ACLU case and others, is the
government asserting and in some cases the court seeming to accept or at
least observe that the Trump administration doesn`t have the capacity to
figure out how to reunite these families, to figure out which kids go with
which families. In your oversight role, is that something that you can at
least force the question on, if not force into reality?
DEGETTE: Absolutely. I went to the border in June, and that`s exactly
what happened, is when this policy came down, they just took the kids away.
They sent the parents to the criminal system and then they placed the kids
with the office of refugee resettlement in HHS. They didn`t even bother to
try to figure out how to track them.
And then when the ACLU filed the court suit in California, they told the
court that they couldn`t find a way to get the kids back together with
their parents. Well, the judge forced them to do that, but still, as you
say, Rachel, there are many kids out there who still haven`t been reunited
and there`s this specter that there may be many more. This weekend, we got
an affidavit from a government official saying he doesn`t believe that they
can even find the parents.
Of course, that`s not acceptable. We`re not going to accept that. These
kids are going to have long-term consequences from these separations. It`s
MADDOW: Obviously, the fact that the Republican-controlled Congress did
not hold hearings on this, did not pursue this as a matter of oversight –
I mean, it says something about the difference between the parties. But
now that your party is in the majority and that you are the chair of this
oversight subcommittee and that you are convening this hearing, are you
hopeful that the combination of the court`s interest and your oversight
role can, in fact, compel the Trump administration to do what they haven`t
yet been able or willing to do, that you can actually force them to do
better when it comes to getting these kids home?
DEGETTE: Absolutely. I`ve been on this committee for many years as – in
the minority, as the ranking Democrat on the committee, and I`ve seen how
frequently when we have these oversight hearings that that actually makes
people do things.
And don`t forget, the court suit in California actually made them find the
parents for most of these kids from the April executive order, and so I
think that by doing this hearing, combined with the court case, we can make
them do it. It`s not easy because they didn`t take records. They have to
comb through three or four different data points. They have to in some
cases take DNA samples.
It`s not easy, but it`s the right thing to do and we intend to make them do
it. Tomorrow won`t be the end of the investigation. Whatever testimony we
get tomorrow and whatever documents we get from the administration, we`re
going to continue to pursue this up as high as we need to go in the agency.
MADDOW: This is obviously one of the most difficult – at an emotional
level, one of the most difficult things to wrangle with what the
administration has done. But at a technical and logistical level, the fix
here is going to be hard.
I have to say from all the times I`ve spoke with you on lots of different
issues over the years, I`m glad you`re one of the key oversight people who
is going to try to fix this. I think of you as one of the most practical
people in the Congress and I long forward to see what you can get done
DEGETTE: You know, Rachel, thank you for that. This is why we have
oversight. This is why we have checks and balances in our government.
MADDOW: Congressman Diana DeGette, chairs the Energy and Commerce
Committees Oversight and Investigations Panel – absolutely key right now
in terms of sorting this out. Really appreciate your time tonight.
DEGETTE: Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: Good luck tomorrow. Thanks.
We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: As we wrap up tonight, I do just want to underscore a little bit
of news that just happened here on this show, a new development in the
growing and compounding scandals enveloping the top levels of state
government in the great state of Virginia this week.
Virginia Governor Ralph Northam continues to defy calls for his resignation
over the scandal around the photo from his medical school yearbook page
that shows a man in blackface and another in KKK robes. As he continues to
deny those calls for resignation, you have seen the news today that the
Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring also admitted he once wore
The Attorney General Mark Herring apologized. He stepped down as the head
of the Association of Democratic Attorneys General today. But tonight this
hour on our show, just a few minutes ago, the national president of the
NAACP, Derrick Johnson, on our air called on Mark Herring to resign as
Virginia attorney general. The NAACP had previously called for – excuse
me, for Governor Ralph Northam to resign. The national president of NAACP
tonight extending that tonight to the attorney general of Virginia, Mark
Herring, saying that he too should step down from office.
That does it for us tonight. We`ll see you again tomorrow.
Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL”.
Good evening, Lawrence.
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Copyright 2019 ASC Services II Media, LLC. All materials herein are
protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced,
distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the
prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter
or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the