No policy road trip for Trump after State of the Union. TRANSCRIPT: 2/6/19, The Rachel Maddow Show.

Guests:
Seth Tupper, Derrick Johnson, Diana DeGette
Transcript:

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

appreciated.

 

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

last night. 

 

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

in control. 

 

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. 

That`s one. 

 

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,

right? 

 

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

current administration. 

 

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

thing. 

 

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

the Congress. 

 

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

getting. 

 

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

Michael Cohen. 

 

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

campaign contribution.

 

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.  

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

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

fields. 

 

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

initials V.T. 

 

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

investigation. 

 

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. 

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

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

Fairfax. 

 

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

Association. 

 

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

once. 

 

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

developing story. 

 

Joining us now is Derrick Johnson.  He`s the president of the NAACP

nationwide. 

 

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

today. 

 

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

racist. 

 

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

Southern residents. 

 

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

here. 

 

JOHNSON:  Thank you for the opportunity. 

 

MADDOW:  All right.  We got a lot more ahead tonight.  Do stay with us.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

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

nine years. 

 

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.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

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

border. 

 

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

just outrageous. 

 

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

here. 

 

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.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

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

blackface. 

 

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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