Manafort’s lawyers file sentencing memo in Virginia. TRANSCRIPT: 3/1/19, The Rachel Maddow Show.
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: That is ALL IN for this evening.
“THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW” starts right now.
Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Have a great weekend, my
HAYES: You too.
MADDOW: And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. Happy Friday.
Since it`s Friday, that, of course, means ten pounds of news in a five-
pound bag, as usual. We should get a bigger bag for this day of the week.
We`ve got a lot to get to tonight, including the still expanding, still-
developing story first broken in the “New York Times” last night that
President Trump overruled career national security officials and ordered
that his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, be given a security clearance, despite
whatever it was that turned up in Kushner`s FBI background check and in a
CIA review that led to him being denied a permanent security clearance
until his father-in-law had to intervene.
The president, the president`s daughter and Mr. Kushner`s very famous
lawyer all appear to have made direct, detailed and very false public
statements about this matter before now. We`re seeing tonight some sort of
confused and to my eye, slightly desperate efforts tonight to clean up some
of those false statements. But the story is still developing tonight.
We`re going to have more on that ahead.
We`re going to start tonight, though, with a little bit of breaking news.
This document has just been filed tonight in the criminal case involving
the president`s campaign chairman, Paul Manafort. Paul Manafort, as you
know, is due to be sentenced next week, Thursday, next week, by a federal
judge in Virginia.
This new filing tonight is Manafort`s best effort with his defense team to
argue for lenience in that sentence from that Virginia judge. Quote:
Defendant Paul J. Manafort comes before the court for sentencing after
having been convicted at trial of five counts of subscribing false income
tax returns, one count of failing to file a foreign bank account report and
two counts of bank fraud.
Mr. Manafort acknowledges that he received a fair trial before this court.
He accepts the jury`s verdict. He is truly remorseful for his conduct.
Mr. Manafort submits the sentencing memorandum to aid the court in
determining an appropriate sentence.
Quote: The U.S. probation office has calculated under U.S. sentencing
guidelines, an advisory sentencing range of roughly 19-1/2 to 24 years.
This range is clearly disproportionate to the conduct for which Mr.
Manafort was convicted. The defense submits that a sentence substantially
below the range calculated by probation is warranted.
And that`s how it starts. Thereafter, we get 40 or so more pages of how –
what Paul Manafort did is really no big deal. And we get lots and lots of
letters of support from his relatives about what a good guy he is.
On page 11 of this new filing tonight, we literally get a reference to Paul
Manafort being an altar boy. There`s the inevitable mention of his humble
beginnings. There is that odd clanging assertion that Paul Manafort,
quote, has spent his life advancing American ideals and principles. That
was in the other sentencing memo, his defense filed in the other court
where he`s facing charges, too.
But here`s the thing that I think is really going on here. Here`s why I
think this sentencing document is actually really important here, because I
think it explains a whole bunch of what we have been seeing recently in
this case. And I think it explains something important about how this
whole thing with the president`s campaign chairman, how it may end up
playing at the White House.
This Manafort case in Virginia is basically done now, right? All that`s
left in that case is for the judge to pass sentence. That`s where this
document tonight is Manafort`s lawyers telling the judge their client
should get a very light sentence because he was an altar boy.
And you`ll remember, that case in Virginia – remember when he was
convicted for, right? Tax fraud, bank fraud, tabbing money overseas and
overseas bank cuts without reporting it to the IRS. Those were the crimes
in this case.
Nevertheless, throughout their argument to the judge tonight in this new
filing, Manafort`s defense team makes one argument to the judge over and
over and over again about why Manafort should not get a long prison
sentence. And it is not an argument about tax fraud or bank fraud or
foreign bank accounts.
The argument they keep making over and over again to the judge tonight is -
- no collusion! It`s not even in the case. But that`s what they`re
arguing to the judge.
Quote: In October 2017, unable to establish that Mr. Manafort engaged in
any such collusion, the special counsel charged him in the District of
Columbia with crimes unrelated to Manafort`s work in the 2016 campaign.
Quote, several months later, Manafort was charged in this district,
allegations again that were unrelated to the 2016 campaign or to any
collusion with the Russian government.
And just in case that`s not emphatic enough in this filing tonight from
Manafort`s defense team, both of those sentences I just read you, they both
have footnotes. And the footnotes to those no collusion sentences also say
no collusion. The first one says, quote, Mr. Manafort`s guilty plea in the
District of Columbia case includes no charges that he colluded with the
Russian government. Footnote two: the special counsel`s strategy in
bringing charges against Mr. Manafort had nothing to do with the special
counsel`s core mandate, Russian inclusion.
And then, again, later on in the filing, your honor, let`s come back to our
main point. The prosecution in this case did not charge him with anything
related to Russian collusion. And did we mention he was an altar bar who
did no collusion, which is an even better way to do no collusion.
I mean, this judge, this federal judge in Virginia who is weighing Paul
Manafort`s sentence, he`s not supposed to be sentencing Paul Manafort on
whether or not Paul Manafort colluded with Russia. That`s not in this
case. This is tax fraud, bank fraud and foreign bank accounts. So,
there`s no reason for Manafort or his lawyers to believe that the no
collusion, no collusion argument is going to have any impact on how the
judge interprets the sentencing guidelines in this case, right? And
figures out how Manafort`s conduct and these crimes might map on to those
Because of that, because they`re making this argument, this no collusion
argument that is totally external to this case, I think it is worth
recognizing, at least worth considering, that the real idea here from Paul
Manafort`s defense is that they are now aiming their arguments not
necessarily at this judge. They are now aiming their arguments at the
public, at the press, and ultimately at the White House. It appears that
their idea here is that it would be more politically palatable for Paul
Manafort to get a presidential pardon if Paul Manafort seems like a grownup
altar boy who became just a poor old, you know, normally corrupt guy, who
had gotten away with all of his financial crimes for years and who only got
caught this time, this year, because of his unfortunate turn at the helm of
the Trump campaign.
Poor old corrupt guy never would have otherwise been caught. Just getting
away with his normal corrupt stuff. How could he know that the spotlight
might eventually fall on his foreign bank accounts and his bank frauds and
tax cheating just because he ended up running this presidential campaign.
Oops, Paul Manafort tripped.
I think the idea here may be that that guy kind of is a more palatable
target for a pardon from the president than a guy who was running the
president`s campaign while Russia was interfering in the campaign to
benefit Trump and simultaneously this guy running the campaign was meeting
frequently with a Russian guy linked to Russian military intelligence who
among other things was – delivering messages back and forth between
Trump`s campaign chairman and a Putin-linked Russian oligarch who is tied
to Russian active measures campaigns in other countries to affect other
elections, not to mention suspected money-laundering plots, right?
I mean, that guy is maybe not as attractive a target for a presidential
pardon. Not, at least, in this environment with all of these dangling
threads still out there in terms of the president`s own potential
implication in the Russia scandal.
So in this new filing tonight, in this sentencing memorandum from
Manafort`s defense tonight to the judge in Virginia, this judge in Virginia
is being bombarded with this no collusion, no collusion message. It is
somewhat inexplicable if you`re looking in the four corners of what that
case was about. But in the larger context, it might make sense. I also
think it may explain what`s been going on in the other jurisdiction where
Paul Manafort is set to be sentenced soon, as well.
This document that we got tonight – again, this is for the Virginia case.
Manafort is due to be sentenced there next week on Thursday. The week
after that, Manafort is due to be sentenced in federal court in Washington,
D.C. and like the Virginia case, that D.C. case is also technically over
Manafort is guilty. The filings are in. The judge is deciding what he`s
going to get.
Nevertheless, there has been otherwise seemingly inexplicable, furious
fighting over the past week or so in that D.C. case. It seemed
inexplicable. It`s now starting to make sense in terms of what it looks
like Manafort might be after here.
You`ll remember that in the D.C. case, that`s the judge that ruled that
Paul Manafort broke his cooperation with prosecutors, when he lied to them
intentionally about a few different matters. That determination by that
judge in the D.C. case is going to have a major impact on the res t of Paul
Manafort`s life. It`s going to have a major impact on his sentence. I
mean, just as one example, one ramification of that, her ruling that Paul
Manafort broke his plea agreement.
That ruling precludes Manafort`s defense from even trying to argue in her
courtroom that Manafort should get less than the sentencing guidelines when
she sentences him in D.C. They can`t even ask for that, because he signed
away the right to even ask for that when he entered into that plea
agreement, which he later broke when he lied, right? When the judge ruled
that Manafort lied to the prosecutors intentionally about three separate
matters, he really did seal his fate in a serious way in that D.C. case.
That said, there was a little bit of a curveball thrown on that point this
week when the special counsel`s office surprised everybody by notifying
that D.C. judge earlier this week that they actually turned up some new
evidence. They had turned up new exculpatory material on this issue of
whether or not Manafort had intentionally lied.
When I say exculpatory material, I mean, even though the stuff was being
shown to the prosecutors, what prosecutors told to the judge this new
material they turned up actually helped Manafort`s case. And we don`t know
exactly what this new exculpatory material was that the prosecutors turned
up and dutifully handed over to the judge. We got some filings on it, but
as you can see, it looks like mad libs, right? It`s more redactions than
words. Nobody has been able to put it together.
But we do know that the material the prosecutors handed over to the judge,
it appears to be about Paul Manafort`s relationship with Konstantin
Kilimnik. He`s the Russian guy who worked for Manafort for years. He`s
the guy who prosecutors say has been assessed by the FBI to be actively
linked to intelligence.
Apparently what happened this week is that Manafort`s former codefendant,
the guy who served as deputy campaign chair on the Trump campaign, Rick
Gates. Gates apparently saw news coverage about Manafort`s ongoing legal
case and him heading towards sentencing and the litigation over what
Manafort lied to prosecutors about, and something about that coverage made
Rick Gates contact Mueller`s office to tell them, hey, I`ve actually got
something for you on that issue.
And whatever it was that Gates had, he brought it to Mueller`s office.
Mueller`s office this week turned around and brought it to the judge in
D.C. and told the judge, hey, judge, this may be exculpatory for Manafort.
This is new information we just got from Gates, we didn`t have it before.
It is apparently about Kilimnik and the issue of Manafort lying about his
relationship with Kilimnik.
The judge this week considered that new material that she got from
prosecutors and late tonight she just issued a ruling on it. This is that
ruling in its entirety. It`s a minute ruling so a minute order, so not one
of these long ones. And even in this short little minute order, it`s still
got a bunch of redactions.
In short, though, what the judge says in this ruling is that she, quote,
appreciates the clarification of the record. However, this new information
that has clarified the record, quote, does not alter the court`s
determination that the defendant, Paul Manafort, intentionally made
multiple false statements concerning his interactions and communications
with Konstantin Kilimnik.
So, this is the judge tonight saying, hey, thanks, for handing over the
stuff you thought might help Manafort`s case. It doesn`t help Manafort`s
case. Dude still lied, still lied about his interactions with Konstantin
Kilimnik. So why is this Kilimnik stuff being fought ought so hard to the
very, very end?
I mean, this Kilimnik issue turns out to be a very key area of focus. This
is the last thing that Manafort appears to be fighting to the proverbial
death over, as all of his criminal cases come to an end. And as he
literally waits to find out if he`s going to die in prison.
This Kilimnik thing is the last thing he is trying to do, right? No
collusion, no collusion. He`s arguing at the Virginia judge.
With the D.C. judge, he`s arguing everything he possibly can about
Kilimnik. Manafort`s lawyers have been fighting specifically in the D.C.
case to get stuff about Konstantin Kilimnik unredacted from transcripts in
the Manafort case and unredacted from court filings in that case.
And, again, remember, that case is done. It`s over. Why are they fighting
to unredact all this stuff in the D.C. case? The D.C. case is over.
I mean, whether or not this stuff is redacted is not going to make a
difference to the judge in the D.C. case. Nothing is redacted to her. She
has seen everything that`s behind every black box. Why do they care
whether or not this stuff is unredacted to the public and made available to
Well, they may be trying to have an influence on the other judge in
Virginia, who is going to rule on Manafort`s sentencing there first. They
may also be trying to influence public opinion about Paul Manafort and his
links to Russia, more specifically his links to Russian intelligence.
And they may specifically be trying to say something to the White House
about whether or not pardoning Paul Manafort would make it look like the
president was pardoning the guy who was the link between the Trump campaign
and Russian intelligence during the Russian attack on the campaign. I
mean, the special counsel`s office has said in court filings and their
prosecutors have said in open court that this guy, Kilimnik, Manafort`s
right-hand man, right? He is assessed by the FBI to have active links to
This big redactions fight that`s been happening over the past week in D.C.
is that Manafort`s defense has been insisting that other stuff about
Kilimnik needs to be unredacted. It needs to come out from behind those
black boxes in order to balance out the assertion from the prosecutors that
Kilimnik is Russian intelligence.
Specifically what they have been fighting to unredact in the public-facing
filings and in transcripts are their own assertions from the defense side
that Kilimnik is known to have met with U.S. personnel at the American
embassy in Ukraine. OK.
This is how – this is the last big fight of Manafort`s case in D.C.? Yes.
His defense fighting tooth and nail to get these references out from behind
the black boxes. So we, the public, can see that information. The judge
in D.C. appears mystified by why they`re fighting so hard for this.
This is from the judge. Quote: We have on the record the assertion that
Kilimnik has connections to Russian intelligence. I think there`s a desire
on the part of the defense that I understand to have on the record the
defense assertion to say he was providing information to the U.S.
Quote, they were definitely – excuse me. There were definitely
communications that Kilimnik has with people in the State Department. The
judge says, I don`t think it`s relevant, but he`s not denying it. So, if
that`s something you want to see publicly, it`s said. Is that enough?
The judge continues. To the extent you want the public record to reflect
the fact he talked to the State Department, OK. It`s in there.
The judge says, quote, I do think that this is just not relevant to what I
have to do. It may be relevant to something, but it wasn`t relevant to
what I had to decide. To which Paul Manafort`s defense lawyer, Kevin
Downing says, well, then, it seemed to be relevant to the office of special
counsel. Otherwise they never had to say it. They never had to put it in
one file. So if it`s obviously relevant to the special counsel, it`s
relevant to Mr. Manafort.
The judge says, quote, you`re still acting like these two things that one
disproves the other. I don`t find that.
Defense lawyer: I know you don`t, your honor. That`s clear. But it is
important that there`s no reason for this to be redacted. We think it`s
important that the allegation for the prosecution on more than one occasion
about his being known about connections to Russian intelligence, it needs
to be countered on the public record.
It is very important to Mr. Manafort. And that`s why we raise the issue
again. We do think it`s very important for that allegation of his known
ties to Russian intelligence to be countered and to be countered in a
And, again, the way they are trying to balance that out is by letting it be
shown in the public record in unredacted court filings that Kilimnik, yes,
is assessed to be linked to Russian intelligence. The FBI assessed him to
be actively linked to Russian intelligence. But they want it to be known
that Kilimnik has also had conversations with people at the U.S. embassy
Now, the judge, as I say, appears bewildered that this is so important.
And that this is even a defense to the charge that Kilimnik is linked to
Russian intelligence. I mean, I think that`s key, that point where she
says, quote, you`re still acting like these two things that one disproves
the other. I don`t find that.
But as unimpressed as the judge is by what Manafort and his defense team
are trying to get in the public record about Konstantin Kilimnik, it`s
clear that they are trying this point harder than anything else they are
trying at the end of Manafort`s rope, at the very end of his journey
through the criminal justice system in the District of Columbia. And we
don`t know exactly why they are doing it, except, perhaps, to try to create
some sort of impression that maybe the issue of Kilimnik being linked to
Russian intelligence is fuzzier than it seems. Maybe that means that
Manafort shouldn`t be seen as the person who was linking the Trump campaign
to Russian intelligence during the Russian intelligence attack on the
That is not an argument that is likely to matter to either judge within the
four corners of these cases. But that`s how they`re finishing up. That
means the audience for that is you and me, and Donald Trump.
So these legal cases continue. As of today, it is now March. Remember
when the Mueller investigation was definitely never going to make it to
March? It would be all over? It`s March.
And the Mueller investigation is intact and proceeds, and all of these
different legal cases attached to it and related to it continue. I mean,
the Manafort case is taking this very interesting public sort of
inexplicable no collusion turn at the very end. Trying to make the case
all about no collusion and Konstantin Kilimnik isn`t a Russian spy.
Judges in the case aren`t considering that, but they`re nevertheless trying
to make that their last public case. I think the audience for that is the
Also, Robert Mueller and the special counsel`s office this past week, they
won one of their big cases in federal appeals court. A former aide to
Roger Stone trying to get out of responding to his grand jury subpoena from
Mueller, arguing that Mueller`s appointment was somehow unconstitutional,
so he didn`t need to respond to the subpoena. A federal appeals court this
week ruled in Mueller`s favor on that one.
We also got unsealed filings this week that make it look like Mueller`s
probably winning his other big appeals court case, as well. This is the
case about the mystery corporation that`s owned by a mystery foreign
country. We still don`t know the country or the company.
But newly unsealed filings this week show that the courts at every stage
have been very skeptical of that challenge to Mueller, as well. Ruling at
every turn that the company does have to respond to Mueller`s subpoena,
and, in fact, they do have to pay $50,000 a day in penalties until they
comply with that subpoena.
Both of those appellate cases show that not only the special counsel`s
office, Mueller`s investigation, appear to be on very strong legal ground.
Also a practical matter, the grand jury that Mueller has convened is likely
going to get new evidence from both of those entities that have received
Mueller`s subpoenas, both of those entities fighting those subpoenas. Both
of them have lost or are losing their fights to not respond to those
subpoenas. That means more information to the grand jury.
Also this week, there was another surprise in the Maria Butina case. Her
sentencing put off for at least another month because federal prosecutors
say she continuing to operate with ongoing investigations.
Also, the Roger Stone case proceeds apace. The judge in that case being
told by prosecutors today that they expect the Stone trial to take five to
eight days in court. The judge in that case ruling late tonight, just
before we got on the air, that Stone once again appears to be banging his
forehead into the low-hanging gag rule that that judge has imposed on him
and his counsel in the Roger Stone case.
Apparently from her ruling, it appears that Stone is somehow involved in a
book that is coming out shortly, and the judge was never advised of that
book and the book may somehow violate the judge`s gag order that stone
can`t make public comments about the case. I don`t know. We`ll find out
more on Monday, when new filings are due to address that issue with the gag
order and roger Stone`s case. That order, again, just coming out late
tonight, just as I sat down here tonight.
So, all of these legal cases are proceeding apace. And I actually want to
put one other thing on your radar in terms of what`s been happening in the
courts and what might happen next because of it. You might remember
headlines a few weeks ago about “BuzzFeed”. “BuzzFeed” prevailing in a
libel case that had been brought against them in federal court in Florida.
“BuzzFeed”, of course, was the entity that published the Christopher Steele
dossier in January 2017. “BuzzFeed” was subsequently sued by a Russian guy
whose name appeared in unredacted fashion in that dossier. That libel case
against “BuzzFeed” made headlines recently in December because the libel
case was not successful. “BuzzFeed” won the case. The case is over.
But now, the judge in that case appears to have just ruled that a whole
bunch of information and proceedings that were part of that case are going
to be unsealed and shown to the public within the next two weeks. Among
those things that are going to be unsealed is apparently the deposition
that was made in that case by Christopher Steele himself. The former
British spy who collected those intelligence memos that became the
famous/infamous Christopher Steele dossier.
Steele gave a deposition for that case. He has been fighting legally to
try to keep that deposition under wraps. He has cited potential danger to
himself or his family, were that deposition to be made public.
Nevertheless, it looks like the federal court in Florida is going to make
the Steele deposition public soon, this month.
So these legal cases are humming. After Michael Cohen`s testimony this
week in Congress, anything to all of the legal cases are humming,
congressional investigations have just had a fire lit under them as well.
Cohen himself will be due back before the House Intelligence Committee next
week on Wednesday.
The same committee is now saying they will solicit testimony from Trump
Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg, whose name was sung like a hymn,
mentioned more than two dozen times. Now as of tonight, Massachusetts
Democratic congressman, Richie Neil, head of the House Ways and Means
Committee, tells NBC News that although he had initially planned to wait
for the conclusion of the Mueller investigation before making any decision
on whether he would seek president Trump`s tax returns, he tells NBC News
now that, well, given what`s happened recently, they have decided to go
ahead with it.
Quote: Ways and Means Committee chairman, Richie Neal, Democrat, asked the
committee`s attorneys to prepare the request for years of Donald Trump`s
person tax returns. According to two aides involved in the process, that
request is expected to land at the IRS as early as the next few weeks.
Oh. They kept telling us this thing was winding down. You thought this
thing was winding down. Turns out we`re just getting started.
Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. RAJA KRISHNAMOORTHI (D-IL), OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE: What did he or his
agent communicate to you?
MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER TRUMP ATTORNEY: Unfortunately, this topic is
something being investigated right now by the Southern District of New York
and I`ve been asked by them not to discuss it and not to talk about these
REP. PAUL GOSAR (R), ARIZONA: The committee understands you`ve been in
contact with the Southern District of New York, is that true?
COHEN: I am in constant contact with the southern district of New York
regarding on going investigations.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Constant contact with the southern district of New York regarding
on going investigation. You are?
That was somewhat of a surprise from the president`s long-time lawyer
Michael Cohen this week for this specific reason. As recently as December,
that federal prosecutor`s office in the Southern District of New York told
a judge in writing that they were recommending a substantial prison term
for Michael Cohen in part because Cohen was not as helpful to them as he
might have been. Quote, to be clear the prosecutor said, Cohen does not
have a cooperation agreement and therefore not properly described as a
cooperating witness as that term is commonly used in this district.
So, that was in December when he got his three-year prison sentence. They
are saying Cohen helped then out a bit but not enough to be seen as a
cooperator, not enough that the court should see him as qualified for a
sentence reduction as a cooperator. But now this week, he says he is in
constant contact with the prosecutors, constant contact, regarding ongoing
Well, that made us wonder if something changed between December and this
week. Does Michael Cohen have a new arrangement with prosecutors? Has he
finally after the fact become a formally cooperating witness in SDNY?
While we think we have an answer to that and it`s interesting, despite
Michael Cohen`s assertion this week that he is in constant contact with
SDNY on ongoing investigations, two sources close to Michael Cohen have
confirmed to us that Cohen is still not working under a formal cooperation
agreement with SDNY. He is not therefore a cooperating witness in a formal
sense. Even though he is meeting with them frequently and assisting them
with multiple ongoing inquiries.
After three straight days of testimony before congressional committees this
week, next week Michael Cohen has somewhat unexpectedly been called back
for a second round of testimony before house intelligence.
Cohen`s attorney Lanny Davis told us here on our show last night that that
second invitation to Cohen for him to come back for another day of
testimony, that invitation was extended to him last night after quote new
information developed, new information quote that really could be game
changing. He told us quote the development of this new information is the
reason Cohen is coming back next Wednesday.
What does that mean? What new information, and how is it developing and
what do you mean by game-changing?
Joining us now is Congressman Eric Swalwell of California. He`s on both
the Intelligence and Judiciary Committee.
Sir, thank you very much for being here.
REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Of course. Good
MADDOW: So, last night, Mr. Cohen`s attorney told us it wasn`t the
original plan to have Mr. Cohen return next week with your committee, the
Intelligence Committee. He said that became necessary after Cohen
developed new information. He characterized it`s potentially game changing
and I know you don`t tell us what he said behind closed doors, but can you
tell us if his lawyer is spinning us? Can you tell us if there is new
information or broadly what it`s about?
SWALWELL: He is not spinning, and we truly were at the edge of our seats
listening intently as Mr. Cohen told us information that he certainly did
not tell us in October 2017 when we interviewed him and he certainly did
not testify to during the open hearing. And that was the arrangement, was
that he was going to make sure that when he testified to the intelligence
committee, he wouldn`t talk about anything that could compromise any other
agreements he had or any ongoing investigations.
But we did take a deeper dive into what Mr. Cohen knows and we expect him
to come back on Wednesday with corroborating documents, to see if it`s
MADDOW: He contents he has corroborating documents to back up whatever it
is he told your committee behind closed doors?
SWALWELL: He does. And, you know, Rachel, I found him to be a liberated
man. I watched him for about ten hours in October 2017. And he seemed –
like someone who had, you know – an interest in protecting someone else as
he did. He wasn`t straight with us. There were a lot of I don`t recalls
if it was convenient to protect the president.
But here, he was very careful in his testimony. You could tell he wanted
to understand the question. He didn`t want to give an answer where he
would be called to speculate and you can tell that he put his hand on the
hot stove and he learned not to do that again. And I also think that as
much as he talked about his family, that he does care to not spend the next
ten years or the rest of his life in prison.
MADDOW: And part of that may not be his hope. Part of that maybe his
effort. One of the reasons we were trying to chase down whether or not he
has a formal cooperation with SDNY right now is even though he`s been
sentenced in the district, if he provides prosecutors with information
that`s good enough for them to use it in the investigation or prosecution
of another person, at the judge`s discretion, and at prosecutors`
discretion, that could be used to reduce his sentence.
And I think Mr. Cohen was coy about that – or wasn`t coy about that when
he was speaking in that public session with the Oversight Committee. Does
that factor into how you assess his credibility? And do you have to factor
that in in terms of not stepping on the toes of law enforcement matters?
SWALWELL: Well, it`s really interesting, Rachel, because he`s a man
without a life jacket. If that`s what he`s doing because without a
cooperation agreement, there is no assurances with the prosecutors as to
what they would do or recommend.
And so, you know, that`s why I think if he is indeed telling the truth, you
know, he is risking – telling a lot more about the Trump organization and
Mr. Trump than he had agreed to do and may not even benefit from it at all.
And that`s why I think you have to even, you know lend more credibility to
And when I worked as a prosecutor with people that had broken away from the
gang as Mr. Cohen has, sometimes just doing the right thing is what
motivates them more than anything. I`m not naive. I know he wants to see
his family as soon as possible, but it`s important for us to take this
information and fill it in by looking at other corroborating evidence out
A lot of what he`s told us matches other pieces of evidence that we had but
now we`re getting the color that we didn`t have before.
MADDOW: We had reports, Congressman, that Allen Weisselberg, CFO of the
Trump Organization, and Felix Sater, who`s former employee to the Trump
Organization employee or executive, we had reports that they are going to
both come before your committee hopefully soon.
Can you confirm that they have been invited and can you tell us if anybody
else is on your list already?
SWALWELL: They are invited. Mr. Sater will come on March 14th. It`s long
past time we take an MRI to every organ and tissue in the Trump
administration to understand, one, whether the president and his team and
family are financially compromised. And two, to understand if even today
as he serves in the Oval Office, if he`s making decisions that affect our
national security to just benefit himself financially.
There`s reason to look. So those are certainly the two witnesses we have
announced publicly. But there are others that we are learning about in
these investigations who will help us better protect our democracy and the
American people from a potentially compromised and corrupted president.
MADDOW: Congressman Eric Swalwell of California from the intelligence
committee, Judiciary Committee – sir, thank you for being with us. Much
SWALWELL: My pleasure. Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. Still a lot to get to tonight. Stay with us.
MADDOW: You will recognize this top White House staffer as Jared Kushner,
senior advisor and son-in-law to the president.
Here we have Jared Kushner and his super lawyer Abbe Lowell, who has been
representing Mr. Kushner in his dealings with Congress and the Russia
investigation and so on. These are the leading news reports over the past
24 hours that say Jared Kushner got a top secret security clearance only
after the president ordered that Jared be given one, over the objections of
intelligence officials who review these things for a living.
But now check this out. This is new tonight. If you know somebody who
says they don`t believe in evolution, show them this.
Here are the changing statements from Abbe Lowell, Mr. Kushner`s very well-
regarded lawyer, about how exactly his client Jared Kushner got his top
secret security clearance.
Statement numero uno, yesterday to the “New York Times”, this is the first
one. Quote: In 2018, White House and security clearance officials affirm
that Mr. Kushner`s security clearance was handled in the regular process
with no pressure from anyone. Regular process, no pressure, no story here.
That`s statement number one.
And tonight, we got statement number two from Abbe Lowell. Quote: Whatever
the accuracy or not of recent news stories, we were not aware of or told of
any request for or action by the president to be involved in the security
clearance process. That`s statement number two.
While we were wondering who is included in the “we” there, yet another
statement came in from Jared Kushner`s lawyer Abbe Lowell, the third one of
the last 24 hours and this third one is notably focused on Abbe Lowell
himself. Quote: Whatever the accuracy or not of recent news stories, Mr.
Lowell was not aware of or told by action by the president to be involved
in the security process.
Again, officials affirmed at the time the regular process occurred without
pressure. They told me it was regular process. I mean, Abbe Lowell seems
to be saying there: don`t ask me, ask them, ask the White House.
Mr. Lowell was not aware of nor told of anything the president might have
done about ordering up a top secret clearance for Jared Kushner over
objections. Can we – I don`t know if we can do this graphically. Do we
try to cram all of that evolution into one page for a second? Can we do
that tiny print? Yes.
In 24 hours, Jared Kushner`s lawyer had to go from “no, dad didn`t
intervene to get Jared a clearance, statement one. Two, OK, maybe dad did
intervene to get Jared a clearance, but if so, Jared had no idea about
To statement number three, OK, maybe dad did intervene to get Jared a
clearance but if so, Jared didn`t tell his lawyer about that. In fact, his
lawyer might have been lied to about this which is the only reason his
esteemed lawyer might have ever lied to the public about it unwittingly.
Jared might have known but Abbe Lowell, super lawyer, he was in the dark.
Don`t blame him. It`s 24 hours, one guy, all statements on the same thing.
As reporting has continued on exactly this point, this is looking bad in
terms of how the White House is handling this story and raising questions
about whether or not Jared Kushner gets to keep his super lawyer who among
other things has been helping him with Russia stuff. Lawyers do break up
with clients when they find out their clients are lying to them and the
lies cause the lawyer to make false statements and they have to put out
multiple evolving corrections for in one night.
And that little part of that story is Jared Kushner`s to figure out now.
The bigger problem for the rest of us is just ahead. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MAXINE WATERS (D-CA), CHAIR, FINANCIAL SERVICES COMMITTEE: Now that
I`m chairing that committee and the Democrats are in charge of the House,
they said they will cooperate. We have people going up to New York to sit
with his people and go over our document requests.
HAYES: So you have staffers that are coordinating with the – I imagine –
attorneys at Deutsche bank on document production now?
WATERS: Yes, I do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Wow, that`s news. Actually, there is two pieces of news tonight
for which I feel like we need some presidential scandal perspective.
Number one is that breaking news that happened with Chris Hayes here on
MSNBC last hour. Congresswoman Maxine Waters, chair of the Financial
Services Committee, announcing that her committee staff are going to
Deutsche Bank offices and coordinating with Deutsche Bank to begin
producing documents related to the committee`s request which are about the
president`s finances. That`s a big deal. Has that ever happened before
with the sitting president?
Similarly there is the still developing story from “The New York Times”
that the White House chief of staff and White House counsel both wrote
memos to file which are apparently somewhere in the White House right now
expressing their concern and their objections to the president overruling
national security officials to give his son-in-law Jared a security
clearance despite whatever turned up in Jared`s background that led
national security officials to not clear him before the president
A, has that ever happened before? And B, does history tell us whether or
not we ever get to see those White House memos that explained what happened
and explain the objections?
Joining us now is NBC presidential historian Michael Beschloss.
Mr. Beschloss, great to have you here. Thanks.
MICHAEL BESCHLOSS, NBC PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Thank you. Thank you,
MADDOW: Let me ask you about the breaking news we got from Chairwoman
Maxine Waters. She says congressional staffers are basically obtaining
financial information about the president`s finances that he himself
refused to give. Is this historically unprecedented territory?
BESCHLOSS: Not a bit. Congress is now doing its job it should have been
doing for the last two years. In 1973, Richard Nixon, there was a report
Nixon had seriously under paid his taxes. 1970, 1971, he paid less than
$1,000, each of those years.
Congress investigated. They found that it was absolutely right. Nixon had
taken illegal tax deduction, backdating a gift of his vice presidential
papers to the National Archives. He owed $475,000 which he had to pay up,
half of his net worth. But in the process, Nixon voluntarily gave his tax
returns to Congress so that they could track this down.
MADDOW : And that relates to the other breaking news story we had tonight
from Chairman Richie Neal from Ways and Means who said that although he had
previously planned, the previous plan had been to wait until the end of any
Mueller investigation before they started about wanting to obtain the
president`s tax returns. It now sounds like they have tasked staff
attorneys on that committee with pursuing them.
BESCHLOSS: That`s right.
MADDOW: I`m struck by the president`s reported sensitivity, specifically
on the issue of Deutsche Bank. His relationship with this bank, his
personal finances, his business finances. For Maxine Waters to say that
Deutsche Bank is handing over materials, we know what they`ve asked for,
that seems like – I mean, banking materials, financial stuff that the
president wants hidden that he`s very sensitive about, that seems to me
almost closer to him than his taxes.
BESCHLOSS: Well, yes. You are quoting the word game changer earlier in
this hour. We may be seeing that right now.
MADDOW: On the issue of these security clearances, Michael, there are
these reported memos by former chief of staff and former White House
counsel John Kelly and Don McGahn that according to “The Times” object to
the president overruling national security career staff in order to give
Jared Kushner a clearance.
And the issue of giving somebody a clearance in this way is one thing.
That`s a whole kettle of fish. I`m very – my interest is piqued by the
existence of these memos. I mean, as a historian, what can you tell us
about whether we might ever see those memos?
BESCHLOSS: Well, number one, McGahn and Kelly would not have written those
memos saying they objected to the security clearance unless it was pretty
bad and they wanted to get on the record that they were opposing a decision
that was being made that they thought was damaging to national security.
The problem in terms of your and my finding out what was in those memos is,
in terms of actually seeing them, unless someone decides to leak them, you
know, these might be said to expose sources and methods. Let`s say the
objection to the security clearance was bad information on Kushner that had
been learned through interception of a conversation between two Russian
So, the government would say to release that would expose sources and
methods. You know, the president is, for instance – Jay Oppenheimer
famously had a security clearance withheld by Dwight Eisenhower in 1954.
Some of the documents took 60 years to come open. I hope we don`t have to
wait that far, that long. We may get a leak or get people talking about
what`s in them.
MADDOW: NBC presidential historian Michael Beschloss, I knew you would
know. Appreciate you being here, Michael. Thanks.
BESCHLOSS: My pleasure.
MADDOW: All right. More to come. Stay with us.
MADDOW: I may have seen this week amid all the news going on that there
was finally an arrest and an indictment. And that botched/stolen
congressional election in North Carolina. Here`s some slightly jaw-
dropping news about how exactly that went down this week. McCrae Dowless
is the operative in question. He worked in this election for Republican
congressional candidate Mark Harris. Dowless was the guy who`s arrested
and indicted this week.
Prosecutors say McCrae Dowless ran the same illegal election scheme in
races up and down the ballot in that part of North Carolina for years. But
this week when McCrae Dowless got arrested, the guy who turned up to bail
him out is an elected county commissioner in North Carolina, who maybe
doesn`t care so much about his reputation in this matter.
Local station WRAL asked why he did that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The reason I`ve got him out and other people have
assisted is with him being out, we can have legal people contacting him to
get to the bottom of the true source of what has been going on with
elections in Bladen County for a long time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: McCrae Dowless denies any wrongdoing and is expected in court next
week. Watch this space.
MADDOW: One quick note before we go tonight. Newly announced presidential
candidate Jay Inslee, the governor of Washington state, is going to be my
guest live here in studio on Monday night. It will be his first cable TV
interview since he announced today that he is running for president. I`ll
see you then.
Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL”.
Good evening, Lawrence.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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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