Cohen gave prosecutors new information. TRANSCRIPT: 2/22/19, The Rachel Maddow Show.
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Chris Lou (ph) and Marcy Hamilton (ph), thank you
both so much. Have a great weekend.
That is ALL IN for this evening.
“THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW” starts right now.
Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. You know, we are going to
have the reporter from the “Miami Herald” who broke up that Alex Acosta-
Jeffrey Epstein story. She`s going to be joining us live this hour.
HAYES: Julie K. Brown who should win all the awards. It is a model of
what great local newspaper reporting looks like.
MADDOW: Yes, and impact journalism. Talk about the impact of what she`s
been able to do. Stunning. Thanks for your coverage, much appreciated.
HAYES: Yes, I`m going to watch it.
MADDOW: And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
It is Friday. You know what that means. Five news cycles of news already
crammed into this one day. And we are still waiting for what we think will
be a pretty big news, maybe some time tonight from the office of Robert
Mueller, the special counsel.
There is a court-ordered deadline tonight for the special counsel`s office
to submit to a federal judge in Washington, D.C. the prosecution`s
sentencing submission related to President Trump`s campaign chairman Paul
Now, just to be clear about what this is, what we are waiting for tonight,
you`ll remember that Paul Manafort was actually brought up on federal
charges in two different neighboring jurisdictions. He was brought up on
charges in Virginia and also in Washington, D.C. He could have combined
those two. It seems like in retrospect, that might have been a good move.
But he didn`t.
So, a week ago tonight we got prosecutors sentencing submission for
Manafort in the Virginia case. That`s where they recommended that he serve
19 to 24 years in prison and that he pay fines and restitution ranging from
several million dollars to several tens of millions of dollars. We`re
still waiting on the defense – excuse me, the defense submission in
response to that from Paul Manafort`s defense team in Virginia. We
actually think we`ll get that response from them a week from tonight on
Friday March 1st.
Thereafter, that judge in that Virginia case will look at that submission
from the prosecution. The judge will look at that submission from the
defense. He`ll look at the sentencing guidelines and what Manafort was
convicted of in that trial in his courtroom, and then two weeks from
tonight on Friday, March 8th, Manafort is due to get his sentence handed
down in that case in Virginia.
So, that`s everything that`s happened thus far and what we`re expecting in
What we are waiting on tonight has nothing to do with the Virginia case.
Tonight, we are waiting on prosecutors` recommendation for what sentence
Paul Manafort should get in the other case. With the case that was brought
against him in Washington, D.C. And that will, again, start this whole,
you know, recourse of process where we will get the submission from
prosecutors then Manafort`s defense team will submit their own
recommendations for his sentence. That from Manafort`s defense team is
expected to come in on Monday.
And then in this D.C. case, the D.C. judge will consider both of those
submissions from the prosecution and the defense. The judge will look at
the sentencing guidelines. She will look at the circumstances of
Manafort`s case in her courtroom and then she will make her own decision on
Manafort`s ultimate sentence for that jurisdiction on March 13th.
So both of these things are coming to an end, right? Manafort is coming to
the end of the line, in both of these neighboring federal jurisdictions
where he was charged with federal crimes. And the reason there is so much
anticipation about this particular sentencing document we`re going to get
on Manafort by tonight`s deadline is that for everything we have been
through with Manafort thus far, right, with the charges in D.C. and the
charges in Virginia and him initially mounting a joint defense with Rick
Gates, and then Rick gates peeling off and pleading guilty and becoming a
cooperator and Manafort standing firm and saying he wasn`t going to plead
guilty and he wasn`t going to cooperate and then Manafort got convicted of
a bunch of felonies and then he did decide to plead guilty and he did say
he would cooperate and his prosecution deal fell apart.
I mean, there was the witness tampering allegations. There was the
revocation of his bail and jailing him. There were the allegations of him
lying to prosecutors even after his cooperation deal. There`s still this
dangling thread of Manafort`s Russian co-defendant, his former employee who
prosecutors and the FBI say is linked to Russian intelligence activity now.
I mean, for all of the drama around the prosecution of Trump campaign
chairman Paul Manafort, what we are expecting tonight in all likelihood
will be the last word from Robert Mueller, the last word from the special
counsel`s office about this case and about this defendant. And, you know,
anything can happen, but the way it looks like things are going, this will
sort of be it. I mean, and in this document – in this kind of documents,
prosecutors can say as much or as little as they want. They can be as
technical as they want or as sweeping and narrative as they want.
But as far as we know, this sentencing recommendation from the special
counsel`s office about Paul Manafort will be kind of the final scene
between Mueller and Manafort. If Mueller is ever going to spell out for
the public and the court the full gravity and full scope of what the
president`s campaign chairman Paul Manafort did wrong, this sentencing
document in D.C. is likely to be the document in which he does that. So
because of that expectation, me and all the prosecutors – all the
prosecutors – all the producers who work on this show and everybody else
in the country who covers this story, we`ve all been kittens with their
claws out hanging from a tree limb all day long waiting for this thing to
Now, the deadline technically is today. That definitely doesn`t mean close
of business. I guess it just means as long as you can stay up. There is,
of course, the possibility that the prosecutors will meet the court`s
deadline but they will submit something that needs to go through some sort
of redaction/unredaction process. Maybe we won`t get it tonight.
But based on the court`s deadline, we were expecting to see it today. We
shall see. A few hours left. So, we`ll have more on that in a second.
We`ll also be covering tonight a big curveball that was actually thrown
into the Manafort case in the last minute today in a big story that was
broken by reporter Greg Farrell at Bloomberg News. That`s all still ahead.
But you should also know that we also got an unexpected news break today
from reporters Juliet Eilperin and Lisa Rein at “The Washington Post” about
a possibility of a criminal indictment of a recently departed Trump cabinet
official. No, not that one. Not Labor Secretary Alex Acosta. We`ll be
talking about his potential criminal liability a little bit later on this
hour, too, but that`s not who I mean.
See, Alex Acosta is still U.S. labor secretary, which makes it all the more
amazing that we`re going to be talking about his potential criminal
liability tonight. But, no, this unexpected news that we got this
afternoon from “The Washington Post” was about a former Trump cabinet
official. It was about Ryan Zinke. He is the Trump cabinet official who
you may remember assigned an interior department staffer to run up to the
roof of the department headquarters and put his personal “Ryan Zinke is
here” flag up the flagpole every time Secretary Zinke entered the building.
He had a special flag that meant Ryan Zinke is in the house, and it was a
person`s job to run and put that flag up whenever Ryan Zinke walked through
the door. Yes.
By the time Ryan Zinke announced his resignation as interior secretary on
December 15th, he was not only famous for that, he was famous for having
found his way into no less than 15 ethics investigations covering the
tenure of his less than two years in office. Although Ryan Zinke has
characterize his December resignation as voluntary, he had reportedly been
told by the White House that if he did not resign as interior secretary, he
would be fired.
Ryan Zinke upon being told that then told White House staffers that, OK, he
would resign, but he wasn`t going to resign until after he was able to
throw himself a Christmas party at the Department of the Interior, which he
did. Part of the reason we know he did is because at that Christmas party
he posed for photos in front of a large stuffed bear wearing a Santa cap.
He had to stay until he could do that.
Literally, the following day, the day after he had his Interior Department
Christmas party with the stuffed bear, the party that he invited all the
lobbyists to so they could take pictures of him with the dead bear with the
Santa hat on, the day after that, that is when he finally consented to
resign, once he got that important task done with.
One of the things that Ryan Zinke got in trouble for as Interior Secretary
was trying to get rid of the Interior Department`s independent inspector
general who had brought several of these inquiries into Ryan Zinke on
ethics issues. He was not able to get rid of the Interior Department
inspector general despite his best efforts.
And it turns out in the end one of the inquiries that she launched into
him, an inquiry that concerned Ryan Zinke`s decision about casino gambling
and Indian tribes in the state of Connecticut, the inspector general`s
inquiry into that matter went especially pear shaped for Ryan Zinke when
officials in the inspector general`s office came to believe that he had
lied to them over the course of their inquiries into that particular
scandal. So in late October, “The Washington Post” reported that the that
had resulted in Ryan Zinke being referred to the Justice Department for
criminal investigation for potentially lying to investigators.
Well, now tonight, “The Washington Post” reports that the Justice
Department didn`t just sit on that criminal referral. Federal prosecutors
have now begun presenting evidence to a grand jury in Washington, D.C. with
an eye toward potentially indicting Zinke for lying to investigators.
As of today, “The Post” reports that Zinke himself has not been called to
appear before this grand jury, but Eilperin and the Rein at “The Post” have
two sources confirming that in fact this grand jury has been convened.
And, you know, although a lot of Trump cabinet officials or Trump cabinet
nominees or other senior Trump officials have been driven out of Washington
trailed by very serious scandals, depending on how this goes with the grand
jury, Ryan Zinke may be the first Trump cabinet official to face a federal
criminal indictment, which is a very serious thing. If that is where this
is going, somebody please save a seat in the courtroom for the stuffed
We will be watching that closely. I should tell you, as of yet, there has
been no comment from the White House on this reporting at all, but tonight
I can tell you one of our producers from this show was able to reach Mr.
Zinke by phone to ask him personally for comment.
He did give us a comment on this story tonight. His comment was, quote:
Have a great day. Bye-bye.
Better than no comment.
Here is something else we are watching tonight. As we have been waiting
all day on the prosecutor`s sentencing memo related to Trump campaign chair
Paul Manafort, “The New York Times” has also broken news on President
Trump`s longtime lawyer Michael Cohen. As you know, Michael Cohen had been
ordered to present himself less than two weeks from now. He had been
ordered to present himself on March 6th to start his federal prison
Earlier this week, the judge in his case granted him a delay for his prison
sentence start date. Instead of March 6th, Mr. Cohen is now expected to
start his prison sentence on May 6th. That`s an extra 60 days before he
has to show up and start serving his term.
Now, Michael Cohen and his lawyers had asked for the delay, the delayed
start to his prison sentence for two reasons. First, they said he has
recently had shoulder surgery and he needs time to continue to recover from
that surgery. But secondly, they said he is wanted in Congress and that`s
been very time consuming in terms of him getting ready to go to prison.
Over three consecutive days next week, Michael Cohen is in fact scheduled
to give testimony to three different congressional committees. He`ll be
talking behind closed doors on Tuesday and on Thursday to the intelligence
committees. In between those two intelligence committee hearings on
Tuesday and Thursday, on Wednesday, starting at 10:00 a.m. Eastern, there
will be what everybody`s expecting to be a blockbuster day of testimony
from Cohen in open session before the House Oversight Committee under the
leadership of Democratic Chairman Elijah Cummings.
And the reason everybody`s expected this to be a bit of a blockbuster is
not just because it`s going to be an open hearing, it`s also the list of
topics that Chairman Cummings has publicly released ahead of that testimony
to give us a sense of what Cohen is going to be testifying about. Chairman
Cummings said he does not want to step on the toes of the intelligence
committees and so, Cohen will not be asked questions about things that can
only be discussed in the secure classified environment that the
intelligence committees will offer him for his closed-door testimony.
But that doesn`t mean that in the open hearing, they`re only going to be
asking Michael Cohen about the weather and what he`s packing for his trip
to prison. This is the list of topics that Elijah Cummings has announced.
Quote, after consulting with the Department of Justice and with Chairman
Adam Schiff of the House Intelligence Committee, Chairman Cummings has set
the scope to address the following issues.
Number one, you can just stop me here. Number one, the president`s debts
and payments relating to efforts to influence the 2016 election.
Now, the only debts we know about for the president involve supposedly
business-related bank loans with institutions like Deutsche Bank. We do
not know why the Oversight Committee believes that the president`s debts of
any kind may be related to efforts to influence the 2016 election. Let
alone why that same committee believes that the president`s payments of
some kind may be associated with efforts to influence the 2016 election,
but apparently they think that`s app issue that needs to be discussed and
they think that Michael Cohen is going to be able to testify about that
issue on Wednesday.
Oh. Only if that was the only issue they said they were going to be
discussing with Michael Cohen, that would probably make for a lot of people
watching that hearing with great interest. We don`t know what they mean by
that. That will be fascinating to see.
But that is only one of ten topics they are planning to cover with Michael
Cohen. According to Elijah Cummings, these are the others. Quote: The
president`s compliance with financial disclosure requirements. The
president`s compliance with campaign finance laws, the president`s
potential and actual conflicts of interest. The president`s business
practices. We`ll come back to that one in a moment.
The Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C. for which the president
has been sued for allegedly violating the Emoluments Clause of the
Constitution. Also, quote, the accuracy of the president`s public
statements. Oh, God.
Also, quote, potentially fraudulent or inappropriate practices by the Trump
Foundation. The Trump Foundation, of course, was the president`s sort of
charity that has already been the subject of considerable legal wrangling
with authorities in the state of New York. And then finally, the tenth
topic they say they want to go through with Michael Cohen in this open
hearing on Wednesday is, quote, public efforts by the president and his
attorney to intimidate Michael Cohen or others not to testify.
So, again, that is the agenda for Michael Cohen`s testimony, Wednesday
morning, 10:00 a.m. Eastern Time. Michael Cohen`s expected attendance at
that hearing and the other closed-door hearings he`s going to do next week,
plus the time and effort needed to prepare him for those hearings, those
are things that were cited by Cohen`s defense counsel in asking the judge
in his case for a delay in his report date to start his federal prison
sentence. As I mentioned this week, the judge agreed and gave him an extra
In terms of this new stuff from “The New York Times” tonight about Cohen, I
think you have to keep in mind both that expected public testimony from
Cohen next week, but also the back story of how he got into this pickle in
the first place. It was August of last year when Cohen pled guilty to
multiple felonies, including two felony campaign finance charges in which
he and federal prosecutors both told the court that president Trump
personally directed Cohen to commit those crimes. Those felony charges
were brought against Cohen by federal prosecutors who were operating out of
the U.S. attorney`s office in the Southern District of New York. So that
But then, surprise, in November, Michael Cohen turned up back in federal
court again to plead guilty to one more felony. And this time that felony
charge was not brought by SDNY, it was brought by prosecutors from Robert
Mueller`s office, prosecutors working for the special counsel. And that
one additional felony that Michael Cohen pled guilty to in November was a
charge specifically of lying to Congress, lying to the Intelligence
Committees about something related to the president`s business –
specifically efforts by the president`s business to develop a Trump Tower
Moscow, while Trump was running for president.
In pleading guilty to that charge, Cohen admitted in court that the
negotiations to try to build a Trump Tower in Moscow had extended much
later into the course of the presidential campaign than he had previously
admitted. He also admitted to lying to the extent to pursue that Moscow
project involved direct contact and negotiations between the Trump
Organization and the Russian government.
So he pleads to most of that stuff in August. He pops up again in November
to plead to that one additional felony. And then in December, soon after
he pooped up in court to plead guilty to that one additional felony,
Michael Cohen was back in that same courtroom before the judge to be
sentenced on all of those felonies put together. On the one from the
special counsel`s office about lying about Trump Tower Moscow, plus all the
earlier felonies including the campaign finance felonies that he pled to
after being charged by SDNY.
So, he had this combined sentencing hearing in December. And you might
remember that the special counsel`s office basically asked for lenience
from the judge for Cohen, right? They described him as a very valuable
But the other prosecutors, the prosecutors from SDNY, right, the
prosecutors who had brought most of the charges to which Cohen pled guilty,
they did not ask the judge for considerable lenience for Michael Cohen.
Those prosecutors asked the judge to give Michael Cohen significant prison
time. I mean, despite the fact that he, you know, pled guilty and all the
rest of it, despite the fact that he had offered this very effective
Cooperation to Robert Mueller and the special counsel. That`s all well and
good, but according to the prosecutors from SDNY, Michael Cohen shouldn`t
be considered a full cooperating witness with them.
Frankly, they told the judge, they thought there was a lot more that Cohen
should have and could have coughed up if he really did want a break. They
told the judge, quote: With respect to Cohen`s provision of information to
this office, in its two meetings with him, this office assessed Cohen to be
forthright and credible and the information he provided was largely
consistent with other evidence gathered. Had Cohen actually cooperated, it
could have been fruitful. He did provide what could have been useful
information about matters relating to ongoing investigations being carried
out by this office, but as Cohen partially acknowledges, it was his
decision not to pursue full cooperation.
Cohen repeatedly declined to provide full information about the scope of
any additional criminal conduct in which he may have engaged or had
knowledge. Quote, indeed Cohen only met with the office, meaning the SDNY
prosecutors, about the participation of others in the campaign finance
crimes to which Cohen had already pled guilty. Cohen specifically declined
to be debriefed on other uncharged criminal conduct, if any, in his past.
Cohen further declined to meet with this office about other areas of
As the court is undoubtedly aware, in order to successfully cooperate with
this office, witnesses much under go full debriefings that encompass their
entire criminal history as well as any and all information that they
possess about crimes committed by both themselves and others. This process
permits the office to fully assess the candor, culpability and
complications to any potential cooperators and results in cooperating
witnesses who having accepted full responsibility for any and all
misconduct are credible to law enforcement and hopefully to judges and
Cohen affirmatively chose not to pursue this process. Cohen`s efforts thus
fell well short of cooperation, as that term is properly used in this
district. Because Michael Cohen elected not to pursue more fulsome
cooperation with this office, including on other subjects and his own
history, this office cannot assess the overall level of Cohen`s cooperation
to be significant.
And so, judge, throw him in jail.
And that is in part how Michael Cohen ended up with a three-year prison
sentence that he was due to start in a couple of weeks. He will now start
it in May. And by all anecdotal accounts, Michael Cohen was shocked to get
a three-year prison sentence. It was clear to observers in the courtroom
that his family was definitely shocked by the length of that sentence.
But now, here`s the thing. We are going to have some expert help here in a
second to explain this better. I am not a lawyer. Nobody should ever cite
anything I say in their own defense in court.
But as I understand it, under federal law you do sort of have one more card
to play potentially after you`ve been given your sentence by a federal
judge. If prosecutors are interested in what you may have to say, and if
you can offer prosecutors substantial assistance towards the investigation
or prosecution of another person, even after you have been sentenced,
prosecutors can go back to the judge who sentenced you and ask that judge
after the fact to please revise your sentence to make it more lenient, to
reflect the fact that you have offered now such helpful cooperation, even
if you did it after you got sentenced.
And that provision in federal law, I`m not sure if that`s what`s motivating
Michael Cohen to do what he`s doing now, but “The New York Times” reports
today that he is now since his sentence ahead of him reporting to federal
prison, he is meeting with federal prosecutors now and he is reportedly
giving them at least interesting if not valuable information. “The New
York Times” reports tonight that Mr. Cohen has apparently opened up some
new spigots of information that potentially relate to the president in his
conversations with prosecutors and SDNY. Prosecutors in that same office
that brought all those felony charges against him, who thereafter told the
judge hearing his case that he was not being all that cooperative.
Quoting from “The Times”: Michael D. Cohen, President Trump`s former lawyer
and fixer, met last month with federal prosecutors in Manhattan, offering
information about possible irregularities within the president`s family
business. Also about a donor to the inaugural committee.
Quote: Mr. Cohen, who worked at the Trump Organization for a decade, spoke
with the prosecutors about insurance claims the Trump Organization had
filed over the years. “The Times” is citing, quote, people familiar with
the matter. “The Times” says that these people familiar with the matter,
quote, did not elaborate on the nature of the possible irregularities at
the Trump Organization that Mr. Cohen has been talking to prosecutors
But remember, these are the same prosecutors who already got Michael Cohen
to plead guilty to those campaign finance felonies in which they said the
president himself was implicated and in which at least in one instance the
money for those campaign finance felonies appears to have been basically
laundered through the president`s business, through the Trump Organization.
Were they appear to have falsely booked those illegal campaign donations as
expenses for a legal retainer that wasn`t a real thing.
Well, now what “The Times” is reporting is that Michael Cohen has expanded
his cooperation with those same prosecutors to include something else about
the president`s business. Something else related to insurance claims that
the company has filed over time.
We do not know anything at all about what those insurance claims might be
or how serious this might be, but I imagine Mr. Cohen will be asked about
that in open session in Congress on Wednesday morning. And if this does
turn out to be valuable information as it pertains to the investigation
and/or prosecution of another person, we may find out yet more about it in
the form of some request for a sentence reduction from SDNY prosecutors.
Back at that judge who already gave Cohen three years.
Told you it`s been a big day. But, again, tonight we are waiting on the
special counsel`s office as it pertains to the president`s campaign
chairman, and we`ve got details on that, include that new curveball in the
Manafort case coming up next. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Like everybody else, we are waiting tonight on the special
counsel`s office, Robert Mueller`s office, which is up against a court-
ordered deadline tonight to file its submission as to how that office
believes Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort should be sentenced in
federal court in Washington, D.C. We do not yet know what Manafort will be
facing in D.C. We know he`s already facing potentially up to 24 years in
prison based on his case in Virginia.
One consequence of the fact that Paul Manafort is potentially looking at a
hugely long sentence or sentences is that that has led to ongoing and now
increasing discussions about whether or not the president might see the
Paul Manafort as a candidate for a pardon. Both because of the long
sentence in itself, but also, honestly, because a good part of the reason
why Paul Manafort is looking at such a long sentence right now is because
he blew up his cooperation deal with prosecutors. And part of the way he
blew up his cooperation deal with prosecutors was by trying to conceal from
them the extent of his communications with a guy linked to Russian military
intelligence, which means he was trying to conceal from prosecutors the
extent of communications between the Trump campaign at the highest levels
and a person linked to Russian military intelligence during the time when
Russian military intelligence was intervening in the U.S. presidential
election to benefit Donald Trump.
That was nice of him to do that, especially if it`s going to cost him the
rest of his life in prison.
Both Manafort`s long expected sentence and the reason he got it have led to
fears/expectations that the president might want to pardon Manafort. And
those fears/expectations led perhaps inexorably to this scoop from Greg
Farrell at “Bloomberg News”. Greg Farrell at “Bloomberg News” is first to
report today that even if Paul Manafort is pardoned by President Trump,
Manafort might still be looking at significant legal jeopardy and
potentially significant prison time because a presidential pardon only gets
you off the hook for federal crimes and Manafort is reportedly staring down
the barrel of serious New York state charges as well. And a federal pardon
can`t help you there.
Quote: New York state prosecutors have put together a criminal case against
Paul Manafort that they could file quickly if the former chairman of Donald
Trump`s 2016 campaign receives a presidential pardon. The, quote, array of
tax and other charges against Manafort are being seen as an insurance
policy should the president exercise his power to free Manafort with a
pardon or a commutation.
So, again, this was first reported today by “Bloomberg News”, which
reported that the charges would be brought in New York state if Manafort
were pardoned by President Trump. The story was then followed by “The New
York Times,” which reported that Manafort will be looking at the state
charges soon, whether or not he`s going to get a pardon from President
Now, theoretically this is a way to short circuit any effort by the
president to shield his campaign chairman from jail time, but this also
isn`t a simple thing. I mean, if Paul Manafort has already been charged
with these crimes, with these, you know, tax fraud charges and bank fraud
charges and other related charges, if he`s already been charged with these
things at the federal level, he just can`t be charged with them again at
the state level, right? Isn`t that something called double jeopardy?
Aren`t you supposedly protected from that by the Constitution?
Joining us now is Barbara McQuade, former U.S. attorney in Michigan.
Barb, I have been being amateur lawyer here tonight. I`m so glad you`re
here to rescue me.
BARBARA MCQUADE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY IN MICHIGAN: Thanks, Rachel. You
know, coincidentally, we just talked about this in my law school class
today. So I`m all over it.
MADDOW: The double jeopardy issue?
MADDOW: OK. Well, tell me as a lay observer why wouldn`t – as I
understand it, double jeopardy means you can`t be charged for the same
thing twice. How can to be that state prosecutors might charge Paul
Manafort for essentially the same set of facts we`ve seen laid out in his
court cases in federal court after he`s already been charged with these
things at the federal level?
MCQUADE: Well, in most states there is this concept known as the dual
sovereignty doctrine that says you can be charged in the federal system
after you`ve already been charged in the state. That is actually an issue
currently before the Supreme Court during this term. But New York actually
has more stringent double jeopardy laws than the federal system. So, in
New York, once you`ve been charged federally, you can`t be charged with the
same crime in the state system.
But there are lots of other potential crimes to choose from. So, for
example, Paul Manafort has been charged with federal tax violations. There
is nothing to prevent New York from bringing state tax violations. There
may be other crimes.
I have read in that same report that there are record keeping violations
that are potentially available to charge in New York. So as long as
they`re different crimes, there would not be a double jeopardy problem.
MADDOW: So even if it is the same general set of conduct, as long as
you`re not being charged with the exact same crime, you can sort of weave
your way through the double jeopardy restrictions?
MCQUADE: Yes. In New York, where it is a lot more stringent, they still
have lots of opportunities to look at other things. If the elements of the
defenses are different, then typically you`re going to be able to avoid
MADDOW: OK. And in terms of the details, one of the things that`s being
reported is that isn`t this a plan in – among New York state prosecutors.
There are reports that a New York state grand jury is already considering
evidence against Manafort on state crimes and that this grand jury, for
example, has issued subpoenas to a couple of banks who are implicated in
Does the fact that a grand jury is already receiving evidence indicate to
you that prosecutors believe they`ve already sort of solved those issues
about whether or not he is liable to state prosecution here?
MCQUADE: I think they would not convene a grand jury if they didn`t think
they had the potential for bringing a case. So they have already looked
through the legal problem and now they`re just trying to build a factual
basis for bringing the charges before a grand jury. They wouldn`t bother
to present evidence before a grand jury if they thought it was legally
barred in the end.
MADDOW: OK. Let me also ask you, Barb, about this new reporting we`ve had
from “The New York Times” about Michael Cohen. Michael Cohen is looking to
start his prison sentence soon. He`s looking at three years in prison.
“The New York Times” reports that he has been back again, sitting down with
prosecutors since his sentencing, offering them new information that he
hadn`t previously talked to them about potential irregularities or
questionable conduct by the president`s business. And we have very little
information about what those irregularities or that conduct might be and
how serious it might be. It`s said to be related in part to insurance
claims made by the Trump Organization.
My, again, lay observer`s take on this is that this might be an effort by
Michael Cohen to try to have his sentence reduced, even though he`s already
been sentenced. To try to get the judge in this case to go back and
lighten his load, basically, because of cooperation that he`s doing with
prosecutors right now, even while he`s on his way to prison.
MCQUADE: Yes, and you stated the rule correctly earlier. There is a rule
of criminal procedure, Rule 35, that says up to one year after your
sentencing, a defendant still can have his sentence reduced for substantial
assistance on motion of the government. So, only if the government
believes that the cooperation has reached – it`s a term of art,
substantial stance, the government may move and ask the court to reduce the
sentence that was already imposed. So, he could continue to earn a
reduction by providing information even after his sentencing.
MADDOW: And would the government only do that, would they only move to
reduce his sentence or to ask the judge to reduce the sentence if that
information in fact contributed to – contributed meaningfully to a new
investigation or a new prosecution? Would it actually have to go somewhere
or would it just have to be a good try?
MCQUADE: Yes, it has to actually go somewhere. Substantial stance is a
term of art. It has a definition. It means providing information in the
investigation or prosecution of others.
Many times people would come in and try to provide substantial assistance.
They would share information with you. It just didn`t pan out. It wasn`t
very good information or you could not corroborate it.
So, it has to rise to that level in order for Michael Cohen to receive that
credit. So he has an incentive to provide good information.
MADDOW: Barbara McQuade, former U.S. attorney in the Eastern District of
Michigan – Barb, thank you. Perfect. Really appreciate you being here.
MCQUADE: Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: All right. Much more ahead tonight. Stay with us.
MADDOW: He`s a well-connected multimillionaire. He surrounded himself
with powerful high-profile people. He`s been friends with people like
former President Bill Clinton and current President Donald Trump and member
of the British royal family.
In 2005, Florida police and then the FBI started investigating him, and
what they turned up was a horror movie. Investigators found that this man
named Jeffrey Epstein was essentially running a sprawling criminal
operation to sexual assault and rape lots of underage girls. Jeffrey
Epstein was in his 50s. Many of his victims were kids, girls as young as
The FBI was able to identify dozens of girls who had been Epstein`s
victims. They prepared a 53-page document laying out federal charges which
could have easily sent Epstein to prison for the rest of his life. But
that, of course, is not what happened to Jeffrey Epstein, because the U.S.
attorney in that case, the man who is currently President Trump`s secretary
of labor, he made a deal that saved Jeffrey Epstein from being charged with
any federal crimes and that also prevented federal charges against any
potential accomplices of Jeffrey Epstein as well.
Back when that FBI investigation was going on, Alex Acosta was the U.S.
attorney in that part of Florida. Instead of charges Jeffrey Epstein with
child sex crimes, Acosta cut a deal with him. He allowed Epstein to enter
into a non-prosecution agreement which gave Epstein immunity from all
federal charges. Instead, Epstein was allowed to plead guilty to two state
charges for prostitution because definitely when you`re doing this kind of
stuff to kids, it matters whether or not you`re paying them. That`s what
the law cares about. Clearly, they`re prostitutes.
He served 13 months in a county jail, a county jail sentence where he was
mostly allowed to spend time in his office six days a week doing whatever
he wanted to do because there was a generous work release program set up
just for him. He was also in a private wing of that lockup.
Alex Acosta, then the top prosecutor in Florida, he was the one who
approved that deal with Jeffrey Epstein. And it`s turned out to be very
important to that story that Mr. Acosta agreed to do that deal in secret.
There is a federal law, a law called the Crime Victims Rights Act, which
gives crime victims the right to be told when there are plea negotiations
going on in their case. They have the right to be present for any kind of
hearing or sentencing, but Alex Acosta didn`t notify Epstein`s victims
before he granted him that plea deal, the non-prosecution agreement, right?
He waited until the whole thing was signed, done and dusted before any of
the victims found out about it, until it was too late for any of them to do
or say anything about it. Dozens of victims. They had no chance to object
that that deal. No chance to appear at Epstein`s sentencing hearing. No
chance to tell their stories about what had happened to them or how his
behavior affected their lives.
I mean, those are all rights that were afforded to them under the law, not
just common senses of decency, but under the law, and they didn`t get that.
So, two of them sued the government. They didn`t sue Epstein. They sued
the government, alleging that Alex Acosta and his team of prosecutors broke
federal law when they kept secret from Epstein`s victims the fact that they
gave Epstein this non-prosecution deal for all federal crimes.
So that lawsuit was filed 11 years ago. Yesterday, a federal judge agreed
with those victims. A federal judge in Southern Florida ruled that the
current secretary of labor Alex Acosta in fact broke the law when he
negotiated that sweet deal for this serial sex offender and then agreed to
keep it secret from Epstein`s victims.
And that is an astonishing turn, right? After 11 years – 11 years this
has been pending. Astonishing turn in this astonishing and repulsive and
But now here`s the thing, and this is something where I actually have no
idea how this is going to turn out. I mean, despite this clarion ruling
from this judge against Acosta and the other prosecutors yesterday, the
judge yesterday did not issue a remedy. He said he has found that the
prosecutors broke the law, but he says that now both sides can take 15 days
to decide how they wish to proceed in terms of figuring out what the remedy
ought to be in this case.
Meanwhile, of course, as we wait out those 15 days, now 14 days to see what
could potentially be the remedy here, so far, Alex Acosta is still serving
as the U.S. secretary of labor. The White House asked repeatedly about
this matter said finally today they are, quote, looking into it, but that
as far as anybody knows, the president has not lost confidence in his labor
When Alex Acosta was picked to be in the president`s cabinet, he was asked
about his handling of the Jeffrey Epstein case at his confirmation
hearings. At the time, Mr. Acosta defended the deal he gave to Jeffrey
Epstein, the non-prosecution deal. He said the outcome of the Epstein case
was, quote, a point of pride.
But all this time it took more than a decade for their case to get through
the federal courts, but all this time that the victims have been seeking
this justice, Alex Acosta has never really explained why he gave Jeffrey
Epstein that deal and he`s definitely never explained why he kept the whole
thing a secret.
The reporter who broke this story wide open and who changed the course of
this case for us for the country will join us next. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Reporter Julie K. Brown from the “Miami Herald” just won the Polk
Award for her landmark reporting on the Jeffrey Epstein case, and
specifically, the efforts by his multiple child sex abuse victims to try to
get justice in his case, and to find out how and why federal prosecutors
gave Jeffrey Epstein a secret non-prosecution agreement without ever
notifying his victims. Now, a judge has sided with those victims for the
first time that they have – for the first time in more than the decade
that they have been pursuing this matter.
Julie Brown, thank you very much for joining us tonight. Congratulations
on your coverage of this story thus far.
JULIE K. BROWN, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER, MIAMI HERALD: Thank you.
MADDOW: I wanted to ask you what you think will be the impact of this
judge`s ruling yesterday. I was struck by the fact that he`s told the two
sides in this case to go talk amongst themselves to try to work it out over
the course of two weeks to suggest a potential remedy here. What do you
think is the range of possibilities?
BROWN: Well, I know that the victims, the young women who were girls at
the time this happened, I know that what they ultimately would like, and
that would be for them to invalidate this agreement and eventually bring
him – get him to federal prison. They feel that he should have been held
accountable for this crime, which was – which involved really, even though
prosecutors only listed about three dozen girls over the course of the past
11 years as these cases have been litigated, we know that there are
probably over 100 girls.
So, this – the vastness of this crime they believe dictates that he should
serve some time in federal prison.
MADDOW: The judge made a point in his ruling yesterday of mentioning that
Epstein`s crimes took place not just in Florida but interstate and
internationally. Do you think that opens the door for other prosecutors in
other jurisdictions to bring charges against Epstein, prosecutors who might
not have considered this relevant to them, to their own cases before?
BROWN: Well, certainly, the victims` lawyers believe that to be the case.
There have been two women that came forward that said that they were
trafficked by Epstein in New York and in the U.S. Virgin Islands at his
home on his private island, as well as in Europe. There`s other people who
have also given the government evidence over the past, I would say, five
years that indicates that this crime went far beyond Florida and even
MADDOW: Julie, if you don`t mind sticking with us for a little bit. I
have one more question I want to ask you about the man who is now labor
secretary, Alex Acosta, and the brewing storm. Can you stay with us one
Julie K. Brown, reporter for the “Miami Herald,” will be right back with
her just after this.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: Julie K. Brown is an award-winning reporter from the “Miami
Herald.” she really has broken open the Jeffrey Epstein child sex abuse
Julie, thanks for staying with us.
Labor Secretary Alex Acosta was the U.S. attorney and federal prosecutor
leading the Epstein case. A federal judge has now ruled that Acosta and
his office broke the law when they gave Epstein this non-prosecution
agreement without ever telling Epstein`s victims. One of the things I had
a hard time following in this story is the question of why (VIDOE GAP)
Jeffrey Epstein in the first place.
He`s defended it vaguely. He`s called it a point of pride. He`s never
answered questions as far as I can tell about why he kept this deal he did
with Epstein secret from Epstein`s victims.
Do you have any insight into that? Do you think this is a knowable thing?
BROWN: Well, he`s given a lot of different reasons over the years. None
of them which address the key points, the key things that have disturbed
the victims, one of which was the confidential agreement that was designed
– you can see it in the e-mails that they – that he and out prosecutors
passed between Epstein`s lawyers.
It`s clear from those e-mails that this whole thing was designed to avoid
the victims finding out about it and also to avoid public scrutiny because
there was quite a bit of discussion about how do we avoid the media, you
know? We don`t want them to find out about this.
Well, the reason why they don`t want the media to find out about it is they
didn`t want the victims to find out about it and they didn`t want people to
know how extensive this crime was. The reasons why he did it are still
somewhat of a mystery.
I think that they didn`t think that these girls – that these were
throwaway girls, basically. They came from very poor families. They were
young. I think they underestimated, quite frankly, the way the girls were
going to handle this over the – you know, by suing them.
MADDOW: Julie K. Brown, reporter for the “Miami Herald” – congratulations
again for your work on this story.
BROWN: Thank you.
MADDOW: Julie, thanks for being here.
We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: One last piece of news for you tonight. It is about that botched
congressional election in North Carolina where this week there were three
days of testimony about a Republican political operative`s elaborate
widespread ballot fraud scheme to help the Republican congressional
candidate win. The state elections board has ruled that that election was
so tainted they will have a do-over, but now, finally, we are hearing about
potential criminal charges in that case as well.
The district attorney in Wake County, North Carolina, today said she is
planning to bring the case to a grand jury. She says she is receiving
information that was obtained over the course of the elections board
investigation into this matter. She says that she expects to be convening
a grand jury to bring potential charges on this matter within the next
month. No rush.
That does it for us tonight. We`ll see you again on Monday.
Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD” with Joy Reid filling in for Lawrence
Good evening, Joy.
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Copyright 2019 ASC Services II Media, LLC. All materials herein are
protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced,
distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the
prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter
or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the