Cohen heads to Capitol Hill tomorrow. TRANSCRIPT: 2/25/19, The Rachel Maddow Show.
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Let me have a final question, to Neera`s point –
NEERA TANDEN, PRESIDENT, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: Let me say I agree
with that. We did put the man on the moon and I appreciate that about the
Green New Deal. That there was a plan to put a man on the moon. That`s my
HAYES: Let me say that living through the 2008 primary about the mandate,
Barack Obama was like, no, you can`t have the mandate and won the
nomination. OK, we have the mandate. So, it`s like – it mattered more
what sort of consensus was in either the positions.
Heather McGhee and Neera Tanden, thank you both.
That is ALL IN for this evening.
“THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW” starts right now.
Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thanks, my friend. Much
Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. Happy Monday.
Former CIA Director John Brennan is going to be joining us here in studio
this hour. Very happy to have Director Brennan here on the show tonight.
He and more than 50 other former senior national security officials have
just signed onto a statement that says, in part, quote, we have lived and
worked through national emergencies, and we support the president`s power
to mobilize the executive branch to respond quickly in a genuine national
But under no plausible assessment of the evidence is there a national
emergency today that entitles President Trump to tap into funds
appropriated for other purposes to build a wall at the southern border. To
our knowledge, the president`s assertion of a national emergency here is
This statement from former senior national security officials who have
served both Republican and Democratic administrations, this declaration
from them comes as Congress prepares to vote on a resolution that would
block the president`s declaration of an emergency, which he is using to try
to build his wall between the United States and Mexico. One of the things
we will be talking about tonight with John Brennan and then otherwise this
hour is the fact that that congressional resolution is going to be brought
up in the House of Representatives tomorrow where it will definitely pass.
And then Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell will not actually have
the opportunity here to do his usual everyday trick where he just doesn`t
allow things up for a vote if the president doesn`t want him too. In this
case, Mitch McConnell has no choice but to allow for a Senate vote on this
resolution, blocking the president from declaring an emergency. I mean, we
won`t know for sure how it`s going to go until that vote actually happens
but it actually looks now like enough Republican senators are peeling off
from the White House on this issue, that when McConnell is forced to put
this resolution on the floor, it looks like this thing is not just going to
pass Nancy Pelosi`s House of Representatives, it looks like it is also
going to pass Mitch McConnell`s Republican-controlled Senate too.
So, again, we will have more on that over the course of this hour,
including with John Brennan here live in studio coming up. But that
expected rebuke of this president, this rare instance of Congress and
what`s expected to be a bipartisan fashion, you know, getting up on their
hind lights to actually block this president from doing something, that`s a
We were in this eerie situation for about six hours today when both the
president and the vice president were out of the country at the same time.
So it`s a little weird all these things are happening all at once. The
president`s trip to Asia, of course, is for his next one-on-one summit with
the dictator of North Korea, Kim Jong-un. The last time he did this was in
June of last year when he met the North Korean leader in Singapore.
Do you remember what the big surprise was from the Singapore summit that
Trump had with Kim Jong-un? Remember the one thing that happened there and
people were like, wait, was that supposed to happen? That was the one
where, surprise, President Trump announced that the U.S. would pull out of
joint military exercises with the South Korean armed forces. That`s
something that the U.S. military and the South Korean military have been
doing for decades, but in Singapore, President Trump unilaterally announced
that the U.S. would stop doing those exercises.
And that announcement in Singapore was a surprise at the time. It also
just appeared to be sort of a gift, a unilateral concession in which the
president got nothing from them.
You might have seen headlines in recent days as he heads off to this next
summit that national security officials, including Trump White House
officials, are worried that at this next meeting with Kim Jong-un, Trump
might again blurt out some sort of spontaneous, one-sided concession. He
might just sort of give away the store again in exchange for nothing.
People who have worked on these types of summits in the past are expressing
concern now that Trump might be allowed to sort of freelance and think up
his own deal points in the moment when he sits down with Kim Jong-un.
Part of the reason there are those concerns about this summit he`s about to
have is because last time, he just unilaterally blurted out that the U.S.
would pull out of those joint military exercises. And you have to
remember, after that last summit and that weird out of the blue concession
from Trump, there emerged this awkward back story, because several months
before that summit in Singapore, “The Wall Street Journal” reported where
Trump first came up with that idea that the U.S. military should pull out
of those joint exercises with South Korea. “The Wall Street Journal”
previously reported, quote: Around the same time in the summer of 2017, Mr.
Trump had an idea about how to counter the nuclear threat posed by North
Korea. Where did he get that idea? He got that idea according to “The
Wall Street Journal,” quote, after speaking to Russian President Vladimir
So, I mean, big picture, of course, Russia wants to augment its own
influence, they want to show off their own strength, their own intimidating
presence anywhere they can in the world, but especially on their own
borders, and their zero-sum view of the world. Russia, of course, also
wants to minimize the influence of the United States, the presence and
projected power of the U.S. military and also NATO.
As such, since Russia is a country that borders North Korea, Russia had
long opposed there being joint U.S. military exercises with South Korea on
the Korean peninsula. Russia had long been against that. Apparently, in
the summer of 2017, Vladimir Putin called up Donald Trump and told Mr.
Trump that Russia was against those joint military exercises, and Putin
reportedly told Trump that Trump should be opposed to those exercises too.
President Trump god got off the phone with Vladimir Putin in the summer of
2017, apparently convinced and told his White House advisers that as far as
he was concerned, Putin was right, and those military exercises should
definitely end. That was Trump`s big idea for North Korea. A big idea
that he got on a phone call with Vladimir Putin.
White House advisers, including then-Defense Secretary James Mattis
apparently talked Trump out of ending those exercises in the summer of
2017, but then, in fact, when Trump went and met Kim Jong-un last summer in
Singapore, in his own little “art of the deal” moment, he blurted out that
apropos of nothing, in exchange for no concessions from the North Koreans,
the U.S. would, in fact, pull out of those joint exercises.
And everybody in national security, everybody in the Trump administration,
White House advisers, everybody was like, dude, where did that come from?
It`s actually in the public record, he got that from Putin. That is where
he got the idea. And then he enacted it when he was given the opportunity
at a one-on-one meeting between him and Kim Jong-un.
Then just last week, there was another awkward episode in this same tragic
comic opera when Andrew McCabe, former senior FBI official, published his
book about his experiences with President Trump and the FBI`s challenges in
the context of the Trump presidency, one of the anecdotes he shared was,
again, about what Vladimir Putin told Trump about North Korea and how Trump
reacted to that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANDREW MCCABE, FORMER FBI ACTING DIRECTOR: The president launched into
several unrelated diatribes. One of those was commenting on the recent
missile launches by the government of North Korea, and essentially the
president said he did not believe that North Koreans had the capability to
hit us here with ballistic missiles in the United States. And he did not
believe that because President Putin had told him they did not. President
Putin had told him that the North Koreans don`t actually have those
SCOTT PELLEY, CBS NEWS ANCHOR: And U.S. intelligence was telling the
MCCABE: Intelligence officials in the briefing responded that that was not
consistent with any of the intelligence our government possesses, to which
the president replied, I don`t care, I believe Putin.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: You know, I don`t care, I believe Putin. You hear so much about
how President Trump doesn`t work well with staff, he doesn`t to listen his
briefings, he doesn`t take any advice from his so-called advisers. It
seems like that`s not true about North Korea. It seems like on North Korea
he is very, very willing to be briefed.
He is very willing to take advice on North Korea from one very, very
special adviser. Just the one, though. And his name is Vlad.
Today, President Trump heads off again to meet one on one with the North
Korean dictator again. And now, today, the foreign minister of Russia,
Sergey Lavrov, the same guy who met with Trump in the Oval Office, remember
him? Today on the occasion of Trump flying off to go meet with Kim Jong-un
once again, Sergey Lavrov today bragged to the press about how the Trump
White House has been asking the Kremlin for advice ahead of this summit
with Kim Jong-un too.
This is the headline in “The Associated Press” today. Quote, Russia: U.S.
asks for advice on North Korea talks. Here`s the lead. Quote: Russian
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov says the United States has asked Moscow`s
advice in dealing with North Korea before the summit between President
Donald Trump and the North Korean leader.
Quote: In comments carried by Russian news agencies today, Lavrov said,
quote, the U.S. is even asking our advice, our views on this or that
scenario, on how the summit in Hanoi could pan out. Yes, I bet. It`s
worked out so well for them before.
I should mention also that the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, the
one who is bragging now about how someone in the Trump administration has
been begging for Kremlin advice about what to do with Kim Jong-un at this
summit , that same Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov somewhat randomly
also happens to be in Vietnam this week. He happens to be in Hanoi. While
the Trump/Kim Jong-un summit will be taking place in Hanoi. What`s he
It could be just a coincidence. Hanoi is lovely this time of year. High
70s, low 80s, cloudy and thunderstorms all week.
So be on your toes over the next few days. That is going to unfold over
the next few days. A lot of it – actually, it`s worth noting, seems like
small-balance logistical stuff, a lot of potentially newsworthy stuff that
may happen around the summit will actually take place in the middle of the
night U.S. time.
We`ll have a cheat sheet later on as to what`s going to unfold over the
next few days and when. It`s a little bit awkward because of the time
difference between here and Vietnam, but it`s basically going to make for a
real 24-hour news cycle where stuff happens all day long here, you know, in
what`s expected to be a big week of news. And then when we`re supposed to
be sleeping, there`s going to be more big news happening where the
president is all those time zones away in Vietnam.
Don`t worry, though, there will be plenty of time to catch up on sleep next
One of the first things that`s going to happen here in the U.S. is the
president arrives at the Kim Jong-un summit in Vietnam is that perhaps not
coincidentally, the House Intelligence Committee is going to be convening
their first open hearing of the new Congress since Democrats took the
majority. Their new hearing, quote: national security implications of the
rise of authoritarianism around the world. For a president who has praised
the North Korean dictator as, quote, very honorable and has thanked him for
his, quote, courage, and who has gushed publicly about he and the North
Korean dictator, quote, fell in love with each other, those were the
president`s words. The House Intelligence Committee will essentially be
playing a little theme song tomorrow for the amazing spectacle of an
American president jumping into this particular dictator`s lap again.
Tomorrow`s hearing will be about authoritarianism, the rise of
authoritarianism, and also the U.S. response to that. Quote: The world has
witnessed the steady ascendance of authoritarian leaders and illiberal
governments in recent years, and the existential challenges these regimes
and their underlying ideologies pose to liberal democracies demand our full
attention. From Putin`s Russia to Xi`s China, to Duterte`s Philippines, to
Erdogan`s Turkey, and even among other NATO allies, there is a global rise
of autocracy and a growing appeal of the authoritarian model which ought to
concern every American.
Which just has a different resonance when it turns out not every American
has the same take on this issue or same instinct a authoritarian government
has an ick factor when looking from an American perspective. I mean, when
our current president came back from meeting Kim Jong-un in Singapore last
summer, he told Fox News upon his return about Kim Jong-un, quote, he is
the head of a country and I mean he`s the strong head. Do not let anyone
think anything different. He speaks and his people sit up at attention. I
want my people to do the same.
I think it is fair to say it is not an accident that while President Trump
is meeting with and undoubtedly, effusively praising and offering free
stuff to Kim Jong-un tomorrow, House Democrats will be convening a hearing
on authoritarian government and its dangers. It is also not an accident
that tomorrow will also feature that vote in the House of Representatives
that is expected to rebuke and potentially block the president from using a
declaration of a national emergency in order to get something he wants as a
policy that Congress will not agree to. Again, we will have more on that
with John Brennan in just a moment.
The most interesting thing in that vote tomorrow in the House, and then the
following vote that will have to happen in the Senate is that those are
likely to be bipartisan votes. In addition to those 50 plus former senior
national security officials from both parties who wrote that letter
condemning that emergency declaration today, there was also a really
interesting separate letter from more than two dozen former Republican
members of Congress and some former Republican senators, advising their own
Republican colleagues who are currently in Congress that they too should
vote with Democrats to opposite the president on this if for nothing else
because it doesn`t comport with Republican Party values for a president to
do something like this.
So, this is turning out to be something where there`s interesting fault
lines, interesting nonpartisan and sort of post-partisan stuff going on
there around the president`s attempt to use emergency authority to defy
Congress. And, of course, it`s playing off as he goes off to have another
summit with this dictator who he says he`s fallen in love with. And, of
course, this is all playing out while the continuing scandal that surrounds
this president and his election in the first place proceeds at pace. I
mean, this is week that we are expecting three straight days of marathon
testimony from his former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, who is due to
start a substantial federal prison sentence in a matter of weeks.
Michael Cohen will speak behind closed doors to the Senate Intelligence
Committee tomorrow. He`ll speak again behind closed doors to the House
Intelligence Committee on Thursday. But in between those two days while
the president is having his big summit with Kim Jong-un, Michael Cohen that
same day, kind of that same time, will be testifying in an open hearing
that will be televised, that will start Wednesday morning at 10:00 a.m.
before the House Oversight Committee. That House Oversight Committee has
announced in advance of Michael Cohen`s testimony that one of the things
Cohen will be testifying about is the president`s alleged involvement in
two campaign finance felonies, two of the felonies that are among the
charges that are sending Michael Cohen to prison for a considerable
These campaign finance felonies are charges to which both Cohen and federal
prosecutors in southern district of New York told the court that president
Trump not only benefited from the commission of those felonies, Cohen and
prosecutors told the judge in that case that President Trump directed the
commission of those crimes, that he basically ordered them. That is what
makes the president effectively an unindicted conspirator in those two
felonies. We expect Michael Cohen to be testifying about that on Wednesday
And in addition to all the Cohen testimony this week, we`re also expecting
a status hearing in open court tomorrow for Maria Butina, one of the many
Russian citizens charged with felonies in conjunction with Robert Mueller`s
Russia investigation and the federal prosecutions that have derived from it
from that investigation. Even though she`s one of many Russians who`ve
been charged, she`s the only Russian actually arrested and brought to court
to face those charges because Russia doesn`t extradite its citizens.
Butina was arrested in the United States and charged last summer. Last
December, she pled guilty and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors. Since
then, accidentally unredacted filings in her case revealed that she has
been testifying to a grand jury as part of her cooperation efforts.
This status conference we`ll have in her case tomorrow originally was
scheduled for a couple weeks ago. But both the prosecution and her defense
team jointly asked the judge hearing her case to delay that status
conference until this week because they told the judge, quote, her
cooperation is not yet complete. By that point, by the time they were
asking for an extension, by the time they were saying her cooperation was
not yet complete, Maria Butina`s Republican operative boyfriend had already
been arrested in South Dakota and charged with employment felonies.
By that point, the last person indicted in this scandal, Roger Stone had
already arrested and indicted in a case that prosecutors said is related to
the GRU indictment to the Russian military intelligence indictment brought
last year by Mueller`s office.
So, since Maria Butina`s cooperation was not yet complete as of a couple
weeks ago, we haven`t seen any other action by Mueller or other federal
prosecutors that would indicate the fruits of Maria Butina`s continued
cooperation. But nevertheless she`s expected to be in court tomorrow for
that status hearing. We will get the first substantive update on what`s
going on in her case.
Now, here`s one thing to keep an eye on. Her defense lawyer told a Russian
news agency within the past few days that Maria Butina`s passport has been
handed over to ICE. Her passport has been handed over to American
immigration authorities, a move her lawyer suggests could expedite the
process of her being deported back to Russia as soon as her case is
concluded. Butina`s defense team is obviously hoping that her cooperation
is substantial enough that she will be sentenced to very little time in
prison or perhaps she`ll be sentence today time that has been served
If so, the ultimate resolution of her case will likely be that she`s
deported back to Russia. Where who knows what awaits her. I mean, she`s
accused of being an agent of the Russian government secretly working here
in our country on the Kremlin`s behalf. On the other hand, the only way
she`ll get out with little to no jail time presumably if prosecutors and
the FBI attest to the fact she`s been an effective cooperator, helping the
U.S. Justice Department and the FBI in their inquiries into, among other
things, Russia`s interference in our presidential election.
If she has substantially helped with ongoing Justice Department inquiries,
that`s the way she`ll get out soon, but that might make going home a mixed-
emotions sort of thing, right? We will know tomorrow when we get that
status hearing in Maria Butina`s case.
I will tell you that Maria Butina`s lawyer tonight has confirmed to our
office what he told Russian news media within the last few days, that
Butina`s passport has, in fact, been handed over to U.S. immigration
authorities and in Robert Driscoll`s words, it means we`re working to make
sure that deportation which will occur soon after her sentence is complete
– which will occur soon after her sentence is complete, will not be
unnecessarily delayed. Mr. Driscoll acknowledging that her sentence is yet
to be determined, but they`re hoping once she gets sentenced, they want her
not to be held basically in immigration custody for a long time while her
deportation gets sorted out. They want her deportation to be sorted so she
goes straight from custody right home to Russia. We shall see.
This weekend, of course, we got a 25-page sentencing memorandum and 800
pages of exhibits from Mueller`s office in support of the sentencing
recommendation that prosecutors in that office have made about Paul
Manafort. Numerically, there was no surprise that Mueller`s prosecutors
described the sentencing guideline range of 17 to 22 years in prison for
Manafort. Again, this is just his Washington, D.C., case.
That sentencing range had been spelled out already and actually agreed to
my Manafort himself in his plea agreement last fall. What wasn`t a little
surprising in the Manafort sentencing recommendation from prosecutors to my
eye, at least, there were a couple things that were interesting if not
surprising. First of all, I thought it was interesting that prosecutors
went out of their way in example after example in their narrative about
Paul Manafort`s crimes. They kept going out of their way to talk about how
dangerous and corrosive it is to the Democratic process to have people
involved in that process who are secretly being paid by a foreign
I thought it was interesting the few times they brought this up.
Prosecutors from Mueller`s office stressed that point when it comes to Paul
Manafort`s own history. When he had worked in the 1980s, as a public
official appointed by Ronald Reagan, he had been part of the Overseas
Private Investment Corporation. While he was serving in that public
capacity, prosecutors say Manafort was also acting as an unregistered
foreign agent, and at the time he was confronted by the Justice Department
about the fact that public officials cannot be agents of foreign
Manafort was confronted back then with a choice, he could either keep that
political appointment in the Reagan administration and continue to serve as
a politically appointed public official, but if he was going to do that, he
would have to give up the money foreign governments were secretly paying
him, or alternatively, he could quit that political appointment, quick as a
public official, but he could keep the foreign money. Guess which one Paul
Manafort picked back in the 1980s. Yes, he quit the Reagan appointment,
quit the public job, kept all the foreign money.
Then years later when it came to his work with Ukraine and the illegal,
unregistered lobbying he did for pro-Russian political elements in Ukraine,
prosecutors explained in detail how Manafort duped members of Congress and
the executive branch by having them meet with European officials who
appeared to be independent, credible authorities on what the U.S. should do
with its policy toward Ukraine. They purported to be people who were
independent authorities who had come to their own conclusions about what
U.S. policy should be, when, in fact, Manafort had those guys on the
payroll, of the Ukrainian government.
And this dynamic comes up again and again for prosecutors when they`re
asking for this sentence for Paul Manafort. It`s the most narrative we
have seen from Mueller`s office about how dangerous it is for Americans and
public officials and other people involved in the democratic process to be
secretly taking foreign money while the other people involved in the
democratic process don`t know that they`re on the take.
So there was a lot that is still redacted in the Manafort sentencing memo
from Mueller`s office. We can`t tell from this vantage point how many of
those redactions are about live, ongoing case or people who haven`t been
charged with any crime but may be charged sometime in the future. Just
within the last few minutes, jus before we got on the air, we also got the
response from Manafort`s defense team that was just filed with the court
and made publicly available.
The bottom line of the defense sentencing submission, no surprise, they are
asking for Manafort to receive as little prison time as possible. They`re
actually I think restricted as too what they can argue when it comes to
Manafort`s sentence. They`re restricted because Manafort did enter into a
plea agreement where he signed away his right to contest the sentencing
guidelines in his case.
When Manafort broke that plea agreement by lying to prosecutors that, freed
up prosecutors from their side of the deal, but Paul Manafort is still
bound by what he signed for and part of what I what did he signed for is he
can`t contest with the sentencing guidelines say in his case. So, the
Defense tonight has filed this big pile of exhibits, which is letters from
his wife and his relatives and people who have known him that say he`s a
boy scout. They also filed a lengthy 50-page memorandum asking for
lenience for Paul Manafort, but their hands are essentially tied as to what
they can ask for because Paul Manafort when he pled guilty agreed he
wouldn`t contest with the sentencing guidelines say in a case like his.
So, we`ll have more on that later. But again, that defense memorandum just
filed in Manafort`s case. Manafort`s sentencing itself is going to happen
March 8th in Virginia and March 13th in Washington, D.C. Meanwhile, over
the next few days, this is going to be a 24-hour a day, seven day a week
news cycle. Lots is going to be happening all at once during the day and
the overnight hours.
We`ve got former CIA Director John Brennan here with us tonight in the
studio. Lots to get to. Stay with us.
MADDOW: It`s a busy night. Lots going on.
Joining us now here in the studio is John Brennan. He`s a former director
of the CIA and senior national security and intelligence analyst for NBC
News and MSNBC.
Director Brennan, it`s great to have you.
JOHN BRENNAN, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: Hi. Good to see you, Rachel.
MADDOW: I want to ask about your decision to sign on to this joint
declaration of former U.S. government officials. This is former senior
national security officials, including yourself, more than 50 of you,
signing on to this declaration that essentially says the president invoking
a national emergency in order to try to do what he`s going to do with this
border wall is unprecedented and improper.
Why did you decide to sign on to this?
BRENNAN: Well, my discussions with former colleagues, we decided to do so
this for several reasons.
One is that the claims that Mr. Trump is making about an emergency on the
southern border is specious. There is no basis for him to make that claim.
And so, as we talked about it and as we worked these issues, national
security issues, for so many years, including border security issues, even
the Trump administration`s own statistics and assessments do not support
his claim. So, we decided that we were going to speak together in unison,
several dozen of us that are going to take issue with it.
Number two, it`s a clear circumvention of the Congress`s budgetary
authority. He went to Congress, tried to get the money for his wall, was
denied it. And so, this is undermining the checks and balances system that
we have within our government. It is Congress` purview, its responsible to
appropriate funds. And for him to make moneys appropriated for other
causes and uses for his border wall is wrong in our view.
And third, it sets a very dangerous precedent. We don`t know what Mr.
Trump might decide next week or next month is a national emergency. So,
there has to be a foundation to do something as significant as this and the
previous declarations were solidly grounded in fact. And that`s why
individuals who worked for both Republican and Democratic administrations
decided that they were going to speak out and they were going to call the
lie a lie.
MADDOW: This is another instance, I don`t know if it`s fair to see it as
this part of pattern, I do. But I feel like this is another instance in
which the president has heard that he can do something and/or that he might
arguably be able to do something and he`s sort of testing to see how far he
can go. The president has done this with all sorts of different red lines
that he`s crossed where he`s been told there is no coming back or will be
I wonder what your expectation is if as seems likely the Congress is
actually going to pass a resolution brushing him back on this. The House
of Representatives tomorrow will vote on this resolution to block the
president from invoking this emergency, that will certainly pass. It has
more co-sponsors than it needs votes to pass. It`s now increasingly
starting to look like the Senate will have enough votes to pass that, as
Now, the White House says the president will veto that, but I wonder how
you anticipate and I sort of an intelligence question. When somebody is
testing the waters like that to see how far they can go, how they react to
being brushed back.
BRENNAN: Well, I think Mr. Trump has a track record of mischaracterizing
the facts and the events. He probably is going to try to turn around to be
in his favor, but I am so glad that some of the Republicans and the
Congress are now going to stand up against Mr. Trump. So, it is going to
be interesting to see what Trump does in terms of pushing back. Is he
going to pursue this in some other way? Who knows?
As you say, he continues to test the limits. He doesn`t understand what
his authorities are and he`s going to continue to push it. And the fact
that you have people around him in the White House who are not trying to
rein him in really gives I think a lot of us great pause in terms of what
he might do next.
MADDOW: In terms of the president`s trip to Vietnam now, he`s on en route.
He`s going to be meeting again with Kim Jong-un one on one. I opened the
show talking about concerns expressed by anonymous national security
officials who are currently serving, worrying that the president might give
away the store when he`s one on one with Kim Jong-un. I have identified a
few instances in which the president seems to have done things that were a
surprise even to his own administration that happened to line up with the
preferences of the Russian government, President Vladimir Putin.
What are you thinking about? What are you watching for as he heads to this
North Korean summit?
BRENNAN: Well, I`m looking for whatever concessions he might be tempted to
make with the thought that it`s going to get Kim Jong-un to denuclearize.
I was very concerned when he decided to suspend the training exercises with
the South Koreans.
This is so important for U.S. military forces to be able to interoperate
and train with our allied and partnered forces in the region, not just for
North Korea but also for any eventuality there. So, I think Mr. Trump
gives up the things without understanding the implications of it. So, who
knows as he gets together with Kim Jong-un in a tete-a-tete, especially if
Vladimir Putin is whispering in his ear or even President Xi. President Xi
is the biggest offender of Kim Jong-un.
And so, therefore, Mr. Trump really needs to listen to his experts inside
of the intelligence community, inside of the Department of Defense and
others who understand and recognize that Kim Jong-un has been masterful in
terms of how he has manipulated Donald Trump`s engagement.
MADDOW: Hearing that the president has been masterfully manipulated while
he`s on his way to the second part of summit.
John Brennan, can you stick with us for one more segment?
MADDOW: I have more things I want to ask you about.
Former CIA Director John Brennan is our guest. We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: Back with us now is John Brennan. He`s the former director of the
CIA and a senior national security and intelligence analyst for MSNBC.
Director Brennan, thanks again for being here.
MADDOW: There`s been a lot of discussion and anticipation about how the
Mueller investigation is going to end and when and what sort of report will
be produced, if any, and what sort of access we`ll have as the public to
I wanted to ask you about something that happened at the outset of the
Russian investigation. Andrew McCabe in his book has talked about the fact
that the Gang of Eight, the heads of both parties in both houses of
Congress and heads of the intelligence committees were briefed in detail
about what was going on with Russia and election interference. And that is
something that we had known in broad strokes, I think Andrew McCabe has
filled in some of the details there that we didn`t necessarily know before.
What is distressing to people is seeing the behavior of some of those
members of Congress who we now know were briefed after they had that
information. People like Senator Richard Burr, who`s the respected head of
the intelligence committee in the Senate who`s leading their bipartisan
investigation into this matter, publicly denying that there was any reason
to attribute these attacks to Russia after we now know he was personally
and briefed in detail on the fact that Russia was carrying out these
attacks. And I know you can`t talk about anything classified. You can`t
talk about the content of the briefings, but I wanted your reaction now
that we the public know more what happened.
BRENNAN: Well, I briefed the Gang of Eight as well on the intelligence
community assessment in terms of what the Russia was doing. So, Andy
briefed him on the investigation that the FBI was engaged in.
I was dismayed that some of the members, the Gang of Eight seemed to be
rather dismissive of the intelligence community`s assessment and were being
protective of the candidates of their choice during the campaign. It is
disheartening that a number of members of Congress have come out very
publicly against the intelligence community assessment and FBI`s work.
I think Richard Burr and Mark Warner on the Senate Intelligence Committee
side have been doing a pretty good job in terms of working in a bipartisan
fashion. Unfortunately, Devin Nunes just totally, totally, you know,
undermined the House Intelligence Committee`s credibility by defending to
an nth degree Mr. Trump. So I think now with Adam Schiff and the chair of
the House Committee on Intelligence, I think there is a much better shot of
getting to the bottom of this, but too many individuals in Congress are
just playing partisan politics on something of great importance to our
So, I`m sure it`s disheartening not just to me, but to a lot of members of
the intelligence and law enforcement communities.
MADDOW: Just as a member of the public now, somebody with the experience
that you have, what are you expecting in terms of how the Mueller
investigation will end?
BRENNAN: Well, I think Bob Mueller is a meticulous prosecutor. And I do
believe that there is going to be more indictments. I would think the
indictments are going to be probably presented along with the final report.
So far, we haven`t had any indictments of, for example, members of Trump
family, as well as any indictment that might identify Americans who are
involved in a criminal conspiracy.
If in fact, there is evidence to that and if the special counsel decides to
go forward, I would expect it to be the final act because I think Bob
Mueller and his team would know that cutting that close to the bone, so to
speak, would be the final bill for them and so I anticipate that sometime
in March we`re possibly going to see of the indictments, the final report.
I don`t have any insight into it, but I do believe that Bob Mueller is
going to hand off the Southern District of New York, the Eastern District
of Virginia to state attorney generals as appropriate, the investigative
threads that will need to be continued to be pulled.
But I do think that we`re going to see more in the coming weeks that will
then be the addition to the final report.
MADDOW: Former CIA Director John Brennan – sir, thank you. Appreciate
you being here.
BRENNAN: Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. Much more ahead tonight. Stay with us.
MADDOW: As I mentioned a few minutes, we just within the last hour got the
sentencing memorandum from Paul Manafort`s defense team. This is Paul
Manafort`s response to the sentencing submission this weekend that came
from Robert Mueller and the special counsel`s office. That was the filing
in which Mueller`s prosecutors said that Paul Manafort, Donald Trump`s
campaign chairman, quote, repeatedly and brazenly broke the law.
The sentencing submission from the special counsel`s office this weekend
told the court in the Manafort case, there were many aggravating factors
when it comes to Manafort`s behavior that should make Manafort`s sentence
worse, and there were no mitigating factors that should make it better.
Now, according to federal rules, the federal judge in the D.C. case can`t
actually sentence Manafort to more than ten years in prison specifically in
the D.C. part of his case. He`s facing up to five years for each of the
two felonies that he pled guilty to. So, the max that judge can give him
is ten years.
But Manafort and his defense team tonight, they are arguing Manafort should
in fact get less than that, that he should get no jail time at all if
possible. I mean, the reason they are saying that Manafort should get as
little jail time as possible is because of all the bad things Paul Manafort
didn`t do. Manafort`s case, they opened up their submission by saying
Manafort`s case is not about murder, drug cartels, organized crime, the
Madoff Ponzi scheme or collapse of Enron.
Well, OK then, I didn`t do any of those, either.
His crimes are also, Manafort`s lawyers claim, not, quote, related to the
primary focus of the special counsel`s investigation, i.e., any links or
coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with
the campaign of President Donald Trump. Nevertheless, these garden variety
and esoteric offenses have led to Mr. Manafort being widely vilified in a
manner that this country has not experienced in decades.
Manafort`s lawyers argue the special counsel`s office charged Manafort with
the crimes he eventually pled guilty to only because they couldn`t
establish that Manafort engaged in any, quote, Russia collusion. In other
words, what Manafort is going for in the filing tonight is the argument
that he didn`t do anything that bad, that he`s the victim of a political
prosecution and even though his defense is sort of constrained by the fact
that Manafort pled guilty already and conceded what his sentencing
guidelines would be in this sort of a case, they`re still arguing for stuff
to be as lenient as they can hopefully make it. How is that going to go
Joining us now is Ken Vogel, reporter for “The New York Times.”
Ken, thanks very much for being with us tonight. I know you`re joining us
on short notice. I really appreciate you making the time.
KEN VOGEL, REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Yes, great to be with you,
MADDOW: What do you think we should understand right now in terms of the
ultimate fate of the president`s campaign chair and, importantly, what we
learned about the course of his case in these two federal jurisdictions?
VOGEL: Yes, my biggest takeaway from his sentence – his lawyer`s
sentencing memorandum was this continued effort to try to recast his work
in Ukraine and really his work around the world, his international work
around the world over the course of several decades where he made a ton of
money working for some very unsavory characters whose interests were often
not aligned with those of the U.S. foreign policy community or orthodoxy.
And what he said in each of those cases and he makes that case acutely in
this memo, talking about his work on behalf of the Russia aligned Ukrainian
president, Viktor Yanukovych, which is the source of a lot of the charges
here that he didn`t register with FARA, that he didn`t that he concealed
his income, that he violated banking and financial laws.
So, he says that working for Yanukovych, and also, working for all these
foreign leaders, even though they may have appeared to be bad guys, or
could be cast as bad guys, what he was trying to do is further U.S. foreign
policy interests by bringing them into alignment with the West, in the case
of Yanukovych, with the European Union. And to critics or folks who have
followed Ukrainian politics, the answer to that as well, how did that work
out for you?
He ended up, Yanukovych ended up turning his back on the European Union,
embracing Putin, being driven from office by mass street protests related
to his pivot towards Moscow and he`s – the perceived rampant corruption
within his regime. And Manafort ended up making $60 million much of which
he didn`t declare as we now know because he has admitted in this case where
he is now asking for leniency in the filing –in his sentencing.
MADDOW: Ken, there`s another piece about this that I want to ask you
about. And, obviously, we`re getting Manafort`s defense claiming bluntly,
you know, they are only prosecuting for these things because you couldn`t
get him on collusion. There was one collusion-specific aspect of the
Manafort case that remains sort of unanswered in the public-facing filings,
but you`ve done a bunch of report on it this weekend. And that involves
Konstantin Kilimnik polling from the Trump campaign being sent to this
Russian guy who`s assessed to be linked to Russian intelligence.
If you can stick with us for just a second, Ken, I`d love to talk to you
about that new reporting when we come back.
VOGEL: Yes, happy to.
Ken Vogel of “The New York Times”, he`ll be with us when we come back.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: Joining us once again is Ken Vogel with the “New York Times.”
Ken, in this new filing just within the past hour or so, Paul Manafort,
President Trump`s campaign chair, has just told the judge who`s considering
his sentence that since Manafort isn`t being charged with any crimes
related to Russia collusion, in the grand scheme of things, his crimes
aren`t that serious, so effectively he shouldn`t get a tough sentence.
Ken, I know you have been reporting on Konstantin Kilimnik, who`s also been
charged by Mueller`s, a long time associate of Manafort, and this
contention, this interesting sort of dangling contention that Manafort may
have sent Kilimnik internal proprietary data from the Trump campaign during
the campaign, at the time that Russia was interfering in the election.
Can you sum up the importance of that and what we know about it at this
VOGEL: Yes, sure. Our sources tell us that when this first occurred, when
Manafort actually instructed Rick Gates, his deputy on the campaign, and
also his deputy during his time in Ukraine, to transmit polling data to
Konstantin Kilimnik, this long time associate of both of theirs, who was
been assessed by the FBI to have ties to Russian intelligence, when they
first did that, it was in the spring of 2016, which was both right as Trump
as wrapping up the Republican nomination, right as Konstantin Kilimnik was
preparing to go to New York to meet with Manafort and he told associates he
hoped to meet with Trump as well.
And most importantly, just as Russia was really ramping up its social media
disinformation campaign to benefit Donald Trump`s presidential campaign,
you could see how potentially, and this is the tantalizing aspect we don`t
know this for sure, but how potentially having very detailed polling
information that showed how Donald Trump was polling with various segments
of the population in various places, having that could potentially assist
someone who was trying to launch a social media campaign to help Donald
MADDOW: Ken Vogel, reporter for “The New York Times,” thank you for your
reporting on this. Thanks for helping us understand it tonight.
VOGEL: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: That does it for us tonight. We will see you again tomorrow and
every day this week because this week is going to be nuts.
Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL”.
Good evening, Lawrence.
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distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the
prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter
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