Fmr. Rep. John Dingell dies at 92. TRANSCRIPT: 2/7/19, The Rachel Maddow Show.

Guests:
Eric Swalwell, Elliot Williams
Transcript:

SEN. ED MARKEY (D), MASSACHUSETTS:  And we`re ready to have a political

showdown on climate change.

 

JOY REID, MSNBC HOST:  All right.  Well, we shall see.  We`ll be watching

it.

 

Senator Ed Markey, thank you so much for your time.  Really appreciate it.

 

And that is ALL IN this evening.

 

Marathon show to Rachel Maddow starts now. 

 

Good evening, Rachel.  I need a nap. 

 

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST:  Joy, this is one of those days.  It`s like one

of those what we train for kind of days.  You know what I`m saying?

 

REID:  Why you watch. 

 

MADDOW:  Thanks, my friend.  Much appreciated.

 

Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. 

 

You know, Joy is right.  This is one of those days.  Sometimes, some

nights, everything just happens all at once and when that happens, it`s

easy to get overwhelmed.  It`s impossible to absorb everything all at once,

and in circumstances like these, the only way to understand the importance

of what has just happened in today`s news is not get overwhelmed by it, to

try not to get it all at once.  Instead, you just do it piece by piece. 

You do it one step at a time. 

 

So that`s what we`re going to do tonight because a whole bunch of

interrelated stories have just had really important developments this

afternoon and tonight.  We`re going to go through it piece by piece. 

 

We`re going to start in federal court in the Southern District of New York

right before Christmas, in mid December, this past December.  That`s the

day that the president`s long-time personal lawyer Michael Cohen was

sentenced to three years in federal prison.  It was a dramatic day.  He

wept in court.  His family wept. 

 

Cohen and his defense team and his family all clearly thought he was going

to get a much lighter sentence in recognition of his cooperation with

prosecutors from the special counsel`s office and for their part, Robert

Mueller, the special counsel and the prosecutors in his office, they did

recommend to the judge sentencing Michael Cohen that Cohen should be

treated leniently because he had been so helpful to him in his – in the

special counsel investigation, in Cohen`s cooperation with them. 

 

But the prosecutors from the special counsel`s office were not the only

prosecutors involved in the Cohen case and they were not the only

prosecutors making their case to the judge that day.  There were also

prosecutors from the Southern District of New York.  Those were the

prosecutors who obtained guilty pleadings from Michael Cohen on a whole

bunch of felonies and those prosecutors from the Southern District of New

York told the judge sentencing Michael Cohen that Cohen really should do

serious time. 

 

And so, he`s going to do three years.  He`s about to start the three-year

prison sentence a month from today.  But on the day he was sentenced back

in mid December, that exact same day within about an hour or so of when we

learned that Michael Cohen was going to do that serious time, that same

day, we also got, surprise, a whole new thing that we weren`t expecting

from those prosecutors in the Southern District of New York. 

 

That day that Michael Cohen got sentenced, we also got this from the

federal prosecutors` office in the Southern District of New York.  It`s a

non-prosecution agreement that those prosecutors entered into with an

entity called AMI, American Media Incorporated.  They`re publishers of the

supermarket tabloid “National Enquirer”.

 

And that non-prosecution agreement with AMI, it was unsealed.  It was made

available to the public, basically upon Michael Cohen being sentenced for

his crimes.  It`s interesting.  You can see from the date on it that it had

actually been entered into several months before.  We learned about it that

day in mid December when Cohen was going to be sentenced by the date is

September 20th.  It was in force since the fall, since September. 

 

And you remember, of course, what Michael Cohen pled guilty to and

sentenced to prison for, right?  This whole big long list of felonies, tax

evasion, bank fraud, all these things related to his personal business

interests, his own real estate transactions, something weird about him

selling an expensive purse, which I never totally understood.  His business

work on the sort of shady side of the taxi medallion industry.

 

Most of the felonies, numerically, pertain to all that kind of stuff. 

Michael Cohen`s business life.  But then there were those two felonies that

Michael Cohen pled to that were really the real headline, right, that had

huge political resonance ever since.  The two campaign finance felonies

that he pled to and those felony campaign finance charges were the ones

that derived not from his personal business life, they derived from paying

about a quarter million in hush money to these two women who are otherwise

going to go public ahead of the presidential election in 2016 with their

allegations that they had had extramarital affairs with then-candidate

Donald Trump. 

 

Prosecutor`s descriptions of those crimes and Cohen`s own allocution in

court about those crimes made clear that he wasn`t the only one involved in

the commission of those crimes.  Prosecutors and Cohen himself made clear

that the president himself was implicated in those felonies.  Cohen himself

said Trump directed him to commit the felonies and the president was

described as Individual 1 in the charging documents, spelling out the

commission of the crimes. 

 

What was also clear in those charging documents about the felonies is that

there was yet another party to the campaign finance felonies besides Cohen

and President Trump, another party that played a knowing role in that

transaction.  But like individual one, like the president, that entity was

also not prosecuted, right?  So in the description of that crime, we get

the description of a number of people involved in the felony.  Cohen gets

prosecuted.  He`s going to prison for it in a month. 

 

Individual one, the president, does not get prosecuted for that felony

despite his alleged role in it and that may be in part because he`s the

president and there is legal ambiguity as to whether or not the president

can be indicted for anything while he is still serving as president. 

 

But the other party that did not get prosecuted for his role in that felony

transaction was AMI, the publisher of “The National Enquirer”.  And learned

that day in December, the day that Cohen got sentenced, we learned that AMI

wasn`t prosecuted for their role in the crime because they entered into an

overt, non-prosecution agreement with the federal prosecutors in New York,

who nailed Cohen for that crime and who designated the president as

individual one. 

 

In that non-prosecution agreement, prosecutors committed that they wouldn`t

prosecute AMI for its roles in those crimes and for crimes related to those

felonies and they would agree not to prosecute AMI, essentially as a reward

for AMI cooperating, for AMI helping prosecutors in their inquiries into

that matter. 

 

Now, that surprise revelation about that non-prosecution agreement that

prosecutors entered into with AMI, it also bolstered some reporting we have

got last summer from “The New York Times.”  Last summer, “The New York

Times” have reported that the CEO of America Media, the president`s long-

time friend David Pecker, had himself personally done some sort of immunity

deal with prosecutors in exchange for his own cooperation in their

investigations.  That seemed to be borne out when we got to see the non-

prosecution agreement unveiled by the court in December. 

 

Now, as I said, sometimes, like nights like this, sometimes everything

happens all at once.  So, we got that background, right?  We know about –

we`ve all absorbed all that stuff about Cohen, that crime, the implication

the president was involved in it, the implication that AMI was involved,

the fact that AMI had a deal so they wouldn`t get prosecuted for it.  That

all happened before tonight.

 

But tonight, a lot of the things initially raised by that set of

circumstances now seem to be coming to a head.  First of all, there is the

question of the ultimate dispensation of Michael Cohen.  He is going to

prison in a month.  There is ongoing wrangling over whether over the course

of the next month, before he goes to prison, he will testify to Congress. 

We can surmise that there is something important going on with his case and

his role in the larger Russia investigation because of that wrangling,

because the House Intelligence Committee announce yesterday that Michael

Cohen`s planned testimony tomorrow is being delayed, quote, in the

interests of the investigation, and they won`t say what exactly they mean,

but they did go ahead and rescheduled him to testify February 28th. 

 

By deduction, we can tell that means they think something is going to

happen between now and February 28th, something that needs to be done and

out of the way before they take Michael Cohen`s testimony at the

Intelligence Committee.  We don`t know what that thing is, what`s going to

happen between now and February 28th that will make it possible for him to

testify but presumably, we just have to wait and see, tick tock. 

 

There is also further evidence today that something else is going on with

Michael Cohen and his case and his case`s connection to the larger Russia

investigation because today, we got this court ruling from a federal judge

in New York.  This is a judge who is considering legal action by a bunch of

media outlets who have been trying to make public a whole bunch of material

related to the Cohen case.  These media organizations want search warrants

and law enforcement affidavits and other materials related to the Michael

Cohen case, they want that unsealed and made available to the public just

in the public interest. 

 

So this judge today was considering that request from media organizations,

and the judge ruled that in fact, some of the material that has previously

been sealed in Cohen`s case, it can be unsealed.  It will be unsealed.  It

will be released to the public and shortly. 

 

Namely, what we should expect to be unsealed is the stuff about Cohen`s tax

fraud and bank fraud and the taxi medallion business stuff and other stuff

that didn`t get the lion`s share of attention when Michael Cohen first pled

guilty.  But what it comes to the really high profile stuff he pled to,

when it comes to those felonies that Cohen pled to that purportedly

involved the president, that purportedly involved AMI, those hush money

payments to benefit the president`s campaign, those campaign finance

felonies, the judge today said actually those materials can`t be unredacted

and can`t be shown to the public any time soon because those are still live

legal issues that pertain to ongoing investigations. 

 

So, here is a little bit from the judge`s ruling where he just lays it out

bluntly.  Quote: This court concludes that disclosure of materials with

redactions strikes an apro – excuse me, this court concludes that

disclosure of materials with redactions strikes an appropriate balance

between the strong presumption of public access to search warrant materials

and to the countervailing interest identified by the government.  In

particular, the government represents aspects of its investigation remain

ongoing, including those pertaining to or arising from Cohen`s campaign

finance crimes. 

 

Indeed, the search warrant applications and affidavits catalog an

assortment of uncharged individuals and detail their involvement in

communications and transactions connected to the campaign finance charges

to which Cohen pled guilty.  According to the government`s ex-parte

submissions, these individuals include those cooperating with the

government, those who have provided information to the government, and

other subjects of the investigation.  At this stage, wholesale disclosure

of the materials would reveal the scope and direction of the government`s

ongoing investigation and would also unveil subjects of the investigation

and the potential conduct under scrutiny. 

 

The disclosure of such information may enable uncharged individuals to

coordinate or tailor their testimony and interactions with the government

and the judge says, if the past is any prologue, unmasking those

cooperating with the government`s investigation or who have provided

information to the government could deter further cooperation with the

investigation by subjecting those individuals to witness tampering,

harassment or retaliation.  Accordingly, the judge says the portions of the

materials related to Cohen`s finance crimes shall be redacted. 

 

Ruling today from a federal judge. 

 

So Michael Cohen`s bank fraud, tax fraud, the expensive purse thing, fine. 

That can come out and will all come out.  But the stuff about the hush

money payments to benefit the president, the stuff that involved the

president`s campaign and the president`s business and AMI, all this stuff,

no, no, no, that stays redacted because that`s a live issue.  And there are

witnesses and subjects of the investigation and cooperators that cannot

safely have that stuff disclose in public, at least when it comes to the

safety and integrity of that ongoing investigation, that live legal issue. 

So, that stuff won`t be unsealed any time soon. 

 

And remember, that`s the live legal issue.  I mean, those are the charges

as described by prosecutors and as described by Michael Cohen in court,

those are the charges that implicate the president directly, as the person

who benefitted from that illegal scheme and who allegedly directed it.

 

The Trump Organization also appears to be implicated as the entity that

effectively laundered those illegal contributions, and this company AMI is

also implicated as participating in the hush money scheme, right?  It`s

their gigantic illegal corporate contribution to the Trump campaign, their

help with this hush money plan.  And they skated and they didn`t get in

trouble for it because they entered into a non-prosecution agreement. 

 

I mean, remember, AMI`s involvement here as described by prosecutors is

that they effectively during the campaign entered into a deal with Donald

Trump they could contribute to his campaign as a corporation.  They would

help him politically and materially by making adverse stories go away. 

They would expend resources as a corporation that would never be declared

as campaign contributions but they would nevertheless be expended in order

to benefit Trump`s campaign and the hopes of his eventual election by

paying off or otherwise disappearing material that might hurt Trump`s

political chances. 

 

In the non-prosecution agreement that AMI entered into with prosecutors, we

learned AMI is told explicitly by prosecutors in the Southern District of

New York that they won`t be prosecuted for their role in the campaign

finance felony scheme that Cohen is going to prison for.  They won`t be

prosecuted for their role in it as long as AMI, quote, truthfully and

completely discloses all information with the respect to its activities and

itself and its officers.  Those activities as they pertain to the company

itself, its officers, agents and employees. 

 

AMI pledges to cooperate fully with the Southern District of New York and

any other law enforcement agency designated by that office.  AMI agrees to

provide all records.  They agree to turn up at all meetings and it`s kind

of a throw away line at the end but AMI also in that agreement commits for

a period of three years to, quote, commit no crimes whatsoever.  Oh. 

 

Quote: It is understood that should AMI commit any crimes subsequent to the

date of signing this agreement or should the government determine that AMI

or its representatives have knowingly given false, incomplete or misleading

testimony or information, or should AMI otherwise violate any provision of

this agreement, AMI shall therefore, ahem, be subject to prosecution for

any federal criminal violation of which this office has knowledge.  Oh. 

 

The agreement goes on to say that if AMI commits crimes, any crimes after

signing this agreement, any statement made by AMI or by any of its

representatives to prosecutors or any other law enforcement agents or any

grand jury proceedings, any such statement, quote, shall be admissible in

evidence in any criminal proceeding brought against AMI.  Think about the

situation that AMI is in right now.  They had to come completely clean with

federal prosecutors about their role in those campaign finance felonies

during the 2016 election in order to get this non-prosecution agreement.  I

mean, at least one other dude is going to go to serious federal prison time

because of his role in that crime. 

 

Their role in the crime, uh-uh, they are OK because they got this

agreement.  They had to come totally clean about their involvement in the

crime to get the agreement.  But for a period of three years, if they

violate this agreement by, say, jaywalking or removing the tag from a

mattress, or I don`t know, continuing to engage in a criminal extortion

scheme designed to silence people who might hurt the president politically,

I mean, any crime, any crime at all, then everything AMI and all of its

officers and employees have said is fair game and admissible for their

prosecution on anything, including the crimes they have already fulsomely

confessed to. 

 

And so, now, here we are tonight when everything is coming together, when

everything is happening all at once.  This is a man who will recognize. 

His name is Jeff Bezos.  He is the founder of Amazon.  He is one of the

richest men on earth.

 

Actually, today, we checked.  Today, technically, he is the richest man on

the face of the earth.  He`s also the owner of one of the greatest

newspapers on the face of the earth, “The Washington Post.” 

 

The president has made no secret of the fact that he does not like “The

Washington Post”, he does not like the way “The Washington Post” and its

reporters cover him and his administration.  He also been remarkably

unsubtle in connecting his complaints about the journalism of “The

Washington Post” to Jeff Bezos personally and to his concurrent ownership

role of both “The Washington Post” and Amazon. 

 

In May of last year, for example, you might remember we learned that the

president had personally, personally, individually directed the postmaster

general of the United States that the Post Office should financially stick

it to Amazon, that they should hurt the company and by extension, Jeff

Bezos` personal bottom line by doubling the postal rates that the U.S. Post

Office charges Amazon to ship its packages.  The president personally

giving that directive to the postmaster general in order to hurt Amazon, in

order to hurt Jeff Bezos, in order to hurt “The Washington Post.”

 

I mean, that itself would be the single biggest scandal in most modern

presidencies, right, or any other president.  I mean, for this president,

that was like, you know, an average Friday morning, maybe it will make the

front page kind of thing but like honestly.  But again, there is no

subtlety about the president`s antipathy for “The Washington Post”.  His

personal antipathy for Jeff Bezos.  It`s all quite out in the open. 

 

Well, last month, “The National Enquirer”, the flagship publication of AMI,

they published private intimate text messages that were exchanged with Jeff

Bezos and a woman he was romantically involved.  Mr. Bezos and his wife of

25 years upon that publication of that story announced the disillusionment

of their marriage, and their impending divorce, and president reacted to

that with glee. 

 

The president said publicly, quote: So sorry to hear the news about Jeff

Bozo being taken down by a competitor whose reporting I understand is far

more accurate than the reporting in his newspaper, the Amazon Washington

Post.  Hopefully, the paper will be placed in better and more responsible

hands. 

 

So, it`s the president delighting in Mr. Bezos` divorce of 25 years,

delighting in the role of the “National Enquirer” in bringing that about,

saying out loud that he should lose the paper.  “The Washington Post”

shouldn`t be in his hands.  Look what “The National Enquirer” turned up

about him.

 

Before long, there were signs that perhaps this story existed on more than

one level at once.  Report that Bezos himself have launched a private

investigation what was behind this “National Enquirer” story, what was

behind their publication of his private text messages. 

 

Yesterday, “The Washington Post” had this headline, was tabloid expose of

Bezos affair just juicy gossip or a political hit job? If it many was a

political hit job, one hot potential implication of that kind would be that

it was perhaps carried out by AMI to help President Trump politically, once

again, by hurting or trying to take out of the equation somebody who Trump

perceives to be doing him political harm. 

 

I will tell you there is also a Saudi Arabia component to this with “The

National Inquirer”, which is a related but separate angle.  We`ll get to

that in a different part of tonight`s show. 

 

But now, tonight, this is how this all came together.  Mr. Bezos tonight

published this ten-page post online.  And it is titled, as you can see, “No

thank you, Mr. Pecker.”  Mr. Pecker in this case is not an insult to

somebody, it`s the name of the CEO of American Media, David Pecker, long

time friend of President Trump.

 

No thank you, Mr. Pecker.  In this post tonight, Mr. Bezos push

accomplishes what he says is the full unredacted, recent correspondence

he`s had with the “National Enquirer”, with Pecker`s company, AMI, which he

describes as a, quote, extortion and blackmail effort.  Now, we should note

that NBC has not independently verified these emails.  We`re going off what

Mr. Bezos has published, but here we go.

 

Quote: Rather to capitulate to extortion and blackmail, I have decided to

publish exactly what they sent me despite the personal cost and

embarrassment they have threatened.  Bezos says, quote: A few weeks ago,

when intimate text messages from me were published in “The National

Enquirer”, I engaged investigators to learn how those texts were obtained,

and to determine the motives for the many unusual actions taken by the

“Enquirer”.  As it turns out, there are now several independent

investigations looking into this matter. 

 

Quote: Several days ago, an AMI leader advised us, meaning him and his

lawyers and this guy who he`s hired to lead an investigation for him,

several days ago, an AMI leader advised us that Mr. Pecker, David Pecker,

the CEO of America Media, is, quote, apoplectic about our investigation. 

Quote: A few days after hearing about Mr. Pecker`s apoplexy, we were

approached verbally at first with an offer.  They said they had more of my

text messages and photos they would publish if we did not stop our

investigation. 

 

I guess we, me, my lawyers, the investigator we hired did not react to the

generalized threat with enough fear so then they sent this.  And then Bezos

publishes what he says is the full letter that he received this week from

AMI, describing in graphic detail ten different personal and embarrassing

photos that “The Enquirer” has obtained and is threatening to publish in

order to hurt Jeff Bezos. 

 

Quote: With “The Washington Post” poised to publish unsubstantiated rumors

of “The National Enquirer`s” initial report, I wanted to describe to you

the photos obtained during our news gathering. 

 

AMI, according to Bezos, then goes on to demand that Bezos affirmatively

say publicly that he quote has no knowledge or basis for suggesting that

AMI`s coverage was publicly motivated or influenced by political forces. 

And unless Bezos says that, they will publish these embarrassing photos of

him that they have obtained. 

 

So, like I said, everything happens at once, right?  But the bottom line

here is that Jeff Bezos, the richest man on the face of the earth, the guy

who owns “The Washington Post”, he has just blown this up by publishing

what he says is this extortionate, threatening, blackmailing, panic button

stuff by the “National Enquirer” and AMI.  Don`t you say what they are

doing is politically, don`t you say that this has any political intention,

don`t you say that we did this for any reason other than embarrassing you. 

Don`t you say that this comes from a political place, or we will drop this

nuclear bomb on you. 

 

Whoa, why?  I should tell you AMI declined to comment tonight since Mr.

Bezos has made public what he says is their correspondent.  But there`s

questions here, right? Why is AMI freaking out?  Why are they going nuclear

against Jeff Bezos now?  I`m they`ve already exposed his affair.  They`ve

already said his divorce in motion.  They`ve already caused him all this

pain and embarrassment.  The president has already danced on his divorce,

right?

 

I mean, specifically, they appear to be quite panicked about him turning up

any evidence and making any credible allegation that they may have acted

once again with political intentions.  And we know because we follow the

news that when AMI panics about that, we know they are doing so in the

context of their still active non-prosecution agreement with the Southern

District.  It is still enforced. 

 

AMI`s obligations under that continue until a period of three years from

the signing of the agreement which would be the fall of 2021, or the date

on which all prosecution are rising out of the conduct described in the

agreement are finally, whichever is later.  So, at least the fall of 2021.

 

And frankly, when it comes to whether all the prosecutions are final, we

know from a judge ruling on the Michael Cohen case it sounds like the

prosecutions might not be over when it comes to those campaign finance

felonies that AMI is implicated in, that they have fully opened with

prosecutors about already under the protective umbrella of a non-

prosecution agreement. 

 

They are currently benefitting from this non-prosecution agreement as long

as they are still holding to it. 

 

So, the wheels do appear to be coming off here a bit.  One of the parties

to the two felonies in which prosecutors may have violated the terms of the

prosecution agreement while the judge today let slip the fact that the

prosecution of those felonies is an ongoing law enforcement matter. 

 

And by the way, the acting attorney general who the president appointed to

oversee the Mueller investigation, who ignored ethics advice that told him

he had to recuse to overseeing that investigation, he`s going to appear in

Congress tomorrow to answer questions in open session.  And the Saudi

Arabia part of this blew up, too, and some nights everything happens at

once but you get through it one step at a time. 

 

Stay with us.  More to get to. 

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

MADDOW:  Tomorrow, the Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker is going to

testify in Congress in open session before the Judiciary Committee.  This

was not at all certain for the rest of the day today, including a lot of

wrangling over whether Whitaker would be subpoenaed to appear, or whether

he would appear voluntarily. 

 

End of the line, Judiciary Chairman Gerald Nadler now confirms that

Whitaker will be there 9:30 Eastern Time.  That explains why your bodega

has already run out of jiffy pop tonight, because this should be fairly

incredible. 

 

There has been a lot of wrangling over this appearance.  There`s reportedly

been a lot of consternation in the Justice Department about how Whitaker

might do in this hearing.  Because of this back and forth and the questions

as to whether or not he would be able to appear, and I mean able in a

number of different ways. 

 

Whitaker`s already been advised about a lot of the things he`s going to be

asked about.  Questions about the firing of former Attorney General Jeff

Sessions and whether White House officials or the president himself

contacted Whitaker about replacing Sessions.  Whether those discussions

included the possibility of whether Whitaker would recuse from overseeing

the Mueller investigation.  Questions about whether Whitaker consulted with

the White House on his decision that he wouldn`t recuse despite the fact

that ethics advisers told him he needed to. 

 

Also questions about these advisers who Whitaker consulted who told him it

was OK if he didn`t recuse.  Questions about whether Whitaker was briefed

on the Mueller investigation and if he has shared information from those

briefings with anybody at the White House or the president himself or the

president`s legal team.  Questions about reports that Trump lashed out at

Whitaker after his longtime personal lawyer Michael Cohen pled guilty and

after federal prosecutors identified President Trump as individual one

associated with two of the felonies to which Cohen pled. 

 

Questions about whether the president contacted Whitaker after Cohen pled

guilty or after the president was identified as Individual 1.  They intend

to ask Whitaker if the president expressed concern or anger or frustration

with the Southern District of New York.  The prosecutor`s office that

handled the Cohen case.  Questions about whether the president discussed

the possibility of firing or reassigning anyone from that prosecutor`s

office in reaction to what happened there with Michael Cohen and the

individual one designation for the president in conjunction with those

felonies. 

 

Now whether or not acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker is actually going

to answer those questions or how he`s going to try to not answer them once

he`s in that seat, that remains to be seen tomorrow morning.  All we know

is that as of right now he is expected to show up. 

 

Joining us now is Congressman Eric Swalwell of California.  He`s a member

of the both the Intelligence Committee and the Judiciary Committee. 

 

Congressman Swalwell, it`s nice to see you.  Thanks for being here. 

 

REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D), CALIFORNIA:  You, too.  Thanks for having me back,

Rachel. 

 

MADDOW:  I have to tell you, I have lots of questions to ask you about this

Whitaker thing.  I do actually want to ask you about some news that has

just crossed since I have been talking, which is that former Michigan

congressman, longtime, longtime Michigan congressman and beloved figure in

the Democratic Party, John Dingell, has just died at the age of 92.  We had

heard from his wife yesterday that he had entered hospice care.  His wife,

of course, is Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Dingell. 

 

John Dingell served in Congress for 59 years, longest-serving member of the

House.  He has just passed at the age of 92. 

 

I don`t know if you personally knew Congressman Dingell or if you had any

reaction to the news of his passing tonight, sir? 

 

SWALWELL:  It`s crushing news, Rachel.  Thank you for bringing it up to

tribute his service. 

 

I did know him.  I was a freshman member during his final two years.  He

was a giant of the Congress and set an example for us new incoming members

as to how congressional oversight was to be conducted.  He was famous for

making every witness raise their right hand and go under oath because he

really deeply believed in congressional oversight of the executive branch. 

 

I remember the first time I met him, I went up and introduced myself to

him.  He was in a wheelchair on the floor and I kneeled down next to him to

introduce myself and he looked at me and said, you can stand up when you

talk to me.  He didn`t want to be treated any different just because he was

in a wheelchair, but the character of this man, his integrity will last for

many, many years throughout – through his wife Debbie who serves now, but

also in the next generation who has come to know him through his sick burns

on Twitter.  So, we`re going to miss John Dingell. 

 

MADDOW:  Yes, I will just say at a personal level, I had the opportunity to

meet with Congressman Dingell around the time that he was leaving Congress

just to personally chat, to talk about the news, to talk about his time in

Congress, not anything that he wanted to do on camera.  He just wanted to

meet and talk human-to-human, and I was – it`s just –

 

SWALWELL:  Yes. 

 

MADDOW:  – an incredibly impressive career but just an incredibly

impressive person to be with. 

 

SWALWELL:  And you remember he was seated next to President Obama when

President Obama signed into law the Affordable Care Act because of the work

that Congressman Dingell, Chairman Dingell had done on the Energy and

Commerce Committee. 

 

MADDOW:  Yes, and the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act and the

Endangered Species Act.  I mean, a giant. 

 

Well, thank you for being willing to divert from news of the day and talk

to us about that as we get that news in, Congressman.  But let me ask you

about what you are expecting tomorrow.  There was a lot of uncertainty,

today in particular, but also in recent days as to whether or not the

acting attorney general would turn up tomorrow to answer questions. 

 

What are you actually expecting to happen tomorrow now? 

 

SWALWELL:  Yes, this is about, you know, one individual, Acting Attorney

General Whitaker, but it`s also about something larger than that, and it`s

a damage assessment of the rule of law.  As in, is it still standing after

two years of a wrecking ball being taken to it and very little

congressional oversight on the rule of law? 

 

And so, we want to know, you know, is it still standing?  Is the Mueller

investigation – does it have the freedom of movement to follow the

evidence? 

 

And then also just looking at the waypoints of Mr. Whitaker`s tenure so far

– the fishy way in which he got the job by essentially auditioning for it

through his opinions of the Mueller investigation, the fishy way he has

refused to recuse, despite opinions from the department that he should. 

And the fishy way that he went out there and announced that the

investigation was nearly complete.  You know, was that his wish and Donald

Trump`s wish or was that something contrary to what was going on with the

special counsel`s office?

 

So, there`s a lot of questions for him but it`s really a damage assessment

to the rule of law in our country. 

 

MADDOW:  After – given all the wrangling today whether he would be

appearing voluntarily, or under at least under the implicit threat of a

subpoena if he decided not to turn up.  Do you expect he will actually

answer questions or are you expecting tomorrow is going to be a big fight

over what we can say and what he uses to try to evade answering some of the

questions that have already been put to him in writing in advance of

tomorrow`s sit-down? 

 

SWALWELL:  We expect him to be there and to answer questions.  We`ll be

ready if he does not.  Rachel, you know, in what country does an executive

tell elected representatives that they are not going to come in if they are

subpoenaed?  Well, I`ll tell you, it`s China, it`s Russia, it`s Iran, but

it`s not the United States of America. 

 

So, the days of presidential immunity are over.  And, you know, we`ll be

ready today.  We authorized a subpoena in case we needed to use it.  We did

this because we`d actually sent over last week the questions that we wanted

to ask him just to know if he was going to be obstructing or invoking

executive privilege so that we could be ready and they never responded. 

 

So, that`s why we wanted to be ready with the subpoena in case that`s

necessary.  I hope it doesn`t come to that.  I hope the takeaway is that

the rule of law still stands and that he is honoring the Mueller

investigation and just letting it follow the evidence. 

 

MADDOW:  Congressman Eric Swalwell from the great state of California, I

really appreciate you being here tonight, sir.  Good to have you here. 

 

SWALWELL:  Of course, thank you. 

 

MADDOW:  Thank you. 

 

All right.  Much more to get to tonight.  Busy night.  Stay with us. 

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

MADDOW:  Jeff Bezos, the owner of Amazon and “The Washington Post,” had his

private text messages published by “The National Enquirer,” supermarket

tabloid last month.  That reporting appears to have led to the dissolution

of his marriage of 25 years. 

 

Tonight, Jeff Bezos says “The Enquirer” has threatened him that they will

publish more of Bezos` text messages and intimate, embarrassing photos if

he doesn`t call off his investigation of “The Enquirer” and its parent

company AMI.  He`s been investigating the question of whether their actions

against him were politically motivated.

 

Because of AMI`s involvement in the hush money scheme during the campaign

that resulted in felony charges against the president`s lawyer Michael

Cohen and federal prosecutors implicated the president in those felonies,

the immediate implication here is that any political motivation by AMI

might have been to help President Trump who has declared Bezos essentially

to be his sworn enemy.  That said, Bezos writes tonight about that

potential political motivation, quote, for reasons still to be better

understood, the Saudi angle seems to hit a particularly sensitive nerve,

meaning a sensitive nerve with AMI.

 

He`s referring to, well, what – some of what you can see here.  What

appears to be a strange relationship that AMI and its chief executive David

Pecker have had recently with the government of Saudi Arabia.  You might

remember our reporting on this big glossy mash book that “The Enquirer”

published last spring celebrating the beauty and awesomeness of Saudi

Arabia and specifically its Crown Prince MBS.  Also, there was Pecker`s

Oval Office visits with advisers to the Assad crown prince while Pecker was

reportedly trying to drum up some sort of business for his company in Saudi

Arabia. 

 

Jeff Bezos is suggesting that AMI`s Saudi connection may be the reason that

Jeff Bezos was targeted by “The Enquirer” in the first place.  He writes

tonight that as the owner of “The Washington Post,” quote, it`s unavoidable

that certain powerful people who experience “Washington Post” news coverage

will wrongly conclude: I am their enemy.  Quote, “The Post`s” essential and

unrelenting coverage of the murder of its columnist Jamal Khashoggi is

undoubtedly unpopular in certain circles. 

 

Jamal Khashoggi was murdered at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October. 

Since then, “The Washington Post” has been furious and relentless in trying

to get justice for their murdered reporter, particularly because of the

prospect that he was killed on orders from MBS, from the Saudi crown

prince, something the Saudi government has emphatically denied and the

Trump administration has emphatically ignored. 

 

Well, tonight we have the latest damning evidence tying the Saudi crown

prince, MBS, to Jamal Khashoggi`s murder.  “The New York Times” with

remarkably detailed reporting tonight on intelligence intercepts of MBS, of

the Saudi crown prince, the kind of material we rarely get to hear about as

members of the public, while the president has shown little interest in

finding out who was respond responsible for murdering Jamal Khashoggi in

that Saudi consulate, “The Times” reports that the intelligence community

has actually been working hard at, quote, sifting through years of the

crown prince`s voice and text communications, communications that the

national security agency routinely intercepted and stored. 

 

Included in that material was reportedly a phone conversations the year

before Jamal Khashoggi was murdered in which the crown prince, MBS,

reportedly told an aide that if Jamal Khashoggi could not be brought back

to Saudi Arabia, either through enticement or by force, then he personally

would go after Khashoggi, quote, with a bullet. 

 

And, yes, that`s the same guy featured on the cover and on nearly every

page of “The National Enquirer`s” inexplicable special issue, the new

transformative leader of the magic kingdom. 

 

Tonight, “The Washington Post” says “The Enquirer” is threatening to

publish his private and embarrassing photos unless he says publicly that

“The Enquirer`s” parent company AMI definitely, totally has not been

motivated or influenced in any way by political forces as they have

launched this hit piece and these additional threats against Jeff Bezos. 

 

Why are they so concerned about that?  Hold that thought. 

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

MADDOW:  This story is so nuts but it boils down to a very simple question. 

I mean, not so long ago, just back in the fall, the owner of “The National

Enquirer” acknowledged paying hush money to a woman who allegedly had an

affair with the president to prevent her story from influencing the

election.  Federal prosecutors waited until December to reveal it, the day

that the president`s lawyer Michael Cohen was sentenced, in part for his

role in that scheme. 

 

Because of his role in that scheme, Michael Cohen is headed for prison next

month.  But despite AMI also having a role in those crimes, AMI appears to

be off the hook, right?  Because they cooperated with prosecutors and

they`ve been keeping up their end of a non-prosecution agreement that

prosecutors gave them.  That agreement that they made with prosecutors

includes this line, quote, it`s understood that should AMI commit any crime

subsequent to the date of the signing of this agreement, AMI shall

thereafter be subject to prosecution for any criminal violation of which

this office has knowledge, including perjury and obstruction of justice. 

 

So, the deal for AMI not getting prosecuted as only as good as AMI`s own

behavior from the day the company`s lawyers signed that agreement. 

 

Tonight, Amazon`s CEO and “Washington Post” owner Jeff Bezos is publicly

accusing AMI of extorting him and blackmailing him when Bezos said AMI is

threatening to publish private text messages and embarrassing photos of him

if Bezos doesn`t stop his investigation into the tabloid and its

motivations for targeting him. 

 

Now, AMI declined to comment tonight, but that accusation by Bezos against

AMI raises one kind of simple question, right?  I mean, does the behavior

that Bezos describes and the behavior he`s published evidence of tonight in

a legal sense, does that amount to blackmail or extortion like he says?  I

mean, AMI is in really, really, really big trouble if they have committed

crimes while they are still bound by a non-prosecution agreement that

requires them not to commit any crimes. 

 

Are they potentially on the hook here legally, and is that what`s driving

their what appears to be panic toward Jeff Bezos? 

 

Joining us now is Elliot Williams.  He`s a former deputy assistant attorney

general in the Obama administration. 

 

Mr. Williams, thank you very much for joining us.  Much appreciate you

being here. 

 

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL, DEPARTMENT OF

JUSTICE:  Hey.  Thanks, Rachel. 

 

MADDOW:  So, Jeff Bezos says in his statement tonight after he publishes

what he says is this correspondence from AMI that they are attempting to

blackmail or extort him.  I don`t know legally what the threshold is for

something being considered blackmail or extortion. 

 

Does he have a case to make that this is criminal behavior? 

 

WILLIAMS:  So, look, sort of big picture, there`s no question this is an

act of sexual violence.  It`s this increasingly common act of, you know,

sextortion is sort of the term that`s used, where these photographs,

whether it`s Jeff Bezos, a billionaire or a 16-year-old kid with photos on

their phone.  It`s a violative act right now. 

 

Can you charge this as extortion?  Extortion is the big umbrella over a

bunch of conduct that includes blackmail.  Extortion usually involves

violence.  So, you`ve got some nice legs there, it would be a shame if one

of them had to break.  You know, that`s the kind of thing, sort of give me

some money from that.  That`s the kind of thing you get through extortion. 

 

Blackmail is a little trickier, at least in this case because what you have

is, you know, if – with respect to let`s say you can`t do something –

like I will – I`m trying to think of the simplest way to put this.  You

know, deriving a benefit from somebody not doing something, right?  

 

So the question here is, is that transfer of information, is – is making

him make a statement a benefit to “The National Enquirer”?  That`s really

complicated.  Usually it`s give me money or I will embarrass you or give me

money or I will post these pictures.  But, the question, does making a

statement counts as a thing of value?

 

So, you know, it`s not a slam dunk.  There is no question that it`s bad. 

It`s ugly conduct.  Like I said, sexual violence.

 

But, again, it`s – you know, can you charge it?  I just don`t know.  It`s

a tricky question. 

 

MADDOW:  The thing that strikes me is what Bezos laying out is that this

activity by AMI may essentially mirror what they got caught up in when it

came to those campaign finance felonies with Michael Cohen and the hush

money payments to the women who were going to say damaging things about

Trump.  Now, obviously, this is not happening in the context of an election

and an active campaign in the same way, but AMI does seem to be palpably

panicking here. 

 

I mean, they already inflicted great harm on Jeff Bezos with their initial

story.  They`re now threatening to inflict nuclear-level harm on Jeff Bezos

if he publishes information or if he comes to some sort of public, you

know, supported allegation that AMI is targeting him for political reasons. 

And I guess the question is whether or not that is the sort of thing that

they might have to worry about when it comes to this non-prosecution

agreement that they`ve got with SDNY.  Whether this might open up their

potential prosecution for all the things they`ve already confessed to

prosecutors. 

 

WILLIAMS:  There`s no question about that.  And, again, AMI exists in a

world of, you know, testing the bounds of where the First Amendment and

criminal law will allow you to go.  The very concept of catch and kill,

which is this, you know, this practice of paying people off to not tell

their stories, which was at the heart of this Michael Cohen/McDougal and

Daniels story.  It`s a legal practice, but it really steps up to the line

of what`s permissible under the First Amendment. 

 

And so, what you`re seeing again here is testing the limits of what they

can get away with.  And yes, this is going nuclear on Jeff Bezos.  Now,

again, he`s an individual who perhaps to some, including the president of

the United States, is less sympathetic than many others.  He`s a

billionaire and so on.  But at the end of the day, this is very bad, very

threatening, very ugly conduct that steps right up to the line and probably

over the line of legal conduct. 

 

And so, you know, there is – if you – maybe they can`t charge it

federally.  Now, once they click that – sorry, once they click that e-

mail, it – once they click that e-mail it sort of becomes a more federal

offense, but it might be a state offense.  So it`s not going to be good for

them, no question. 

 

MADDOW:  Right.  And it doesn`t, as far as the way I read the non-

prosecution agreement, they don`t need to commit a crime for which they are

going to be prosecuted here. 

 

WILLIAMS:  Correct. 

 

MADDOW:  If prosecutors believe they have committed a crime, they can

simply use that as an opportunity to open up everything else they know that

AMI has already confessed –

 

WILLIAMS:  Absolutely. 

 

MADDOW:  – that they`ve done. 

 

Elliot Williams, former deputy assistant attorney general in the Obama

administration, thank you for being with us tonight.  Much appreciated. 

 

WILLIAMS:  Thank you. 

 

MADDOW:  All right.  We`ll be right back.  Stay with us. 

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

MADDOW:  Let`s say you live in northern North Dakota or northern Washington

state or Maine, if you live in one of those very northerly places, the news

from across the border in United States doesn`t necessarily feel like

international news to you.  It can feel like news from your own backyard,

because it`s sort of is.

 

Same goes if you live in southern Arizona or the Rio Grande Valley or El

Paso, right?  What happens in nearby Mexico is local to you in your part of

the U.S. 

 

So when President Clinton ordered the clearing of an old mine field at an

American military base in Cuba, the editors of the nearby “Miami Herald”

saw that as kind of a local story and they sent a reporter from Miami to go

follow the dangerous work of digging up the old explosive mines and getting

rid of them safely. 

 

By June 1999, the mine field had been cleared and “The Miami Herald” had a

reporter on staff with experience at the American military base at

Guantanamo.  That reporter`s name was Carol Rosenberg. 

 

And because she had covered that sort of extended backyard story for “The

Miami Herald.” Rosenberg was the natural choice to send back there when

news broke at Guantanamo again in January 2002, a few months into America`s

post-9/11 war.  That prison at Guantanamo, that prison camp is still there

today, 18 years later.  It`s still a sort of lay-by, in American legal

limbo. 

 

Through it all for 17-plus years, Carol Rosenberg has been covering this

secretive corner of American justice, hounding the prosecutors and the

defense attorneys at tribunals, scrapping information from Guantanamo to

D.C. to Mauritania.  So all could better understand this strange forever

prison where we keep people indefinitely without any due process.  In a

speech a few years ago, Rosenberg explained that she does this work

precisely because the U.S. doesn`t have an exit plan for Guantanamo.  She

says we are stuck and, well, we`ve got her stuck with it, too. 

 

And for that, Carol Rosenberg is a national journalistic treasure.  He`s

been covering this from the beginning intensively.  She`s the only one. 

She`s a legend. 

 

And Carol Rosenberg tonight is on the brink of losing her job.  “The Miami

herald” and its sister papers the McClatchy chain have put 450 staffers on

a list for voluntary buyouts, for volunteering to take a lump sum and go

home.  On that list so happens to be this nation`s sole full-time reporter

on America`s forever prison at Guantanamo, the one reporter who has

followed it from day one, who understands it better than anyone on earth

and who knows where to dig when stuff needs to be dug up. 

 

Carol Rosenberg told “The Washington Post” this week, quote, I don`t want

to stop covering this story. 

 

She has just under two weeks from McClatchy.  She can take her chances,

decline the buyout, stay at the paper for now, maybe she won`t get laid

off, maybe another paper would pick her up if she did.  But meanwhile Carol

Rosenberg keeps reports, she keeps filing. 

 

Just in the past day, she has delivered the news that hundreds of suspected

ISIS fighters could soon find themselves at Guantanamo.  For long, who

knows? 

 

But nobody in America, nobody on the planet is better equipped to follow

that story for you than Carol Rosenberg, reporter for the “Miami Herald”. 

Guantanamo is her backyard story.  She wants to keep covering it.  Frankly,

the nation needs her to keep covering it because nobody else can the way

that she has. 

 

Does she get that chance?  There has to be some kind of way, right? 

Guantanamo is something that we will all own at the end of our lives. 

Carol Rosenberg will be the reason we know the story of it.  She can`t lose

that job. 

 

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.  I`m sorry I took your minute. 

 

                                                                                                               

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