Manafort to be sentenced Thursday in Virginia. TRANSCRIPT: 3/5/19, The Rachel Maddow Show.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She doesn`t threat (ph) any hate, animus or
discrimination. And, you know, she`s been on the receiving end of hate.
She has the Republican Party in West Virginia saying she`s a terrorist.
You have an advisor to the president going on Fox and calling her filth.
So, the idea she should be targeted by a resolution is absurd and I would
say one thing here. Everything she said about Israel, she`s pretty much
said about Saudi Arabia. So, if she`s an anti-Semite, she must be
Islamophobe as well.
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: She has been hard at Saudi Arabia from the
beginning, which s worth nothing. And that poster there was in the West
Virginia capital the other day put up by the Republican Party.
Jeremy Bin Ami (ph) and Mehdi Hassan (ph), thanks for joining us.
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.
HAYES: You bet.
MADDOW: And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. Happy
This is the U.S. attorney, the top federal prosecutor in Washington, D.C.
Her name is Jesse Liu. She also served in the Justice Department during
the George W. Bush administration. She also briefly served as a lawyer at
the Treasury Department.
But early on in the Trump administration, President Trump named Jessie Liu
to be the U.S. attorney for D.C. And that is a – I mean, all U.S.
attorneys jobs are important. Being U.S. attorney for D.C. is a
particularly important prosecutor`s job.
The D.C. U.S. attorney`s office is the largest U.S. attorney`s office in
the country. Prosecutors from that office have jurisdiction over all sorts
of things that have national resonance, including all sorts of juicy stuff
involving the federal government. In the Trump administration, the U.S.
attorney`s office in D.C. has been particularly high profile because of the
role of that office in either handling or taking part in the investigations
and the prosecutions of a whole bunch of people who have been caught up in
various Trump administration scandals, including the Russia scandal.
Jessie Liu`s office, that U.S. attorney`s office in D.C. has been involved
in the criminal cases against Sam Patten, who is now cooperating with
investigators. Among other things, Patten has links to Cambridge Analytica
and to Konstantin Kilimnik, and prosecutors say he helped funnel foreign
donations into the Trump inaugural.
The U.S. attorney`s office in D.C. has also pursued the Maria Butina base.
She too is now cooperating with federal prosecutors after she was charged
with acting a secret agent of the Russian government. She was charged as
working here in this country to infiltrate the American conservative
movement and the Republican Party ahead of the 2016 presidential election.
She was working, according to prosecutors, as an unregistered, undeclared
secret agent of the Russian Federation when she was enacting that plan.
Jessie Liu`s office, the U.S. attorney`s office in D.C., has also taken the
lead on the president`s longtime political adviser Roger Stone. Jessie
Liu`s office has also been involved in the D.C. prosecutions of the
president`s campaign chair Paul Manafort.
And there may be others as well. Those are the ones I can do just off the
top of my head. And obviously all of those cases I just mentioned, they`re
all ongoing in one way or another.
But as of tonight, that U.S. attorney in D.C., the U.S. attorney heading up
that key office that`s been involved in all of those cases related to the
president, as of tonight that U.S. attorney, Jessie Liu, is out. “The Wall
Street Journal” first to report tonight that U.S. Attorney Jessie Liu is
being moved out of the U.S. attorney`s office in D.C. She`s being moved
over instead to what they call main Justice. They`re going to try to give
her the number three job in the whole Justice Department. It`s a job that
has been vacant now under the Trump administration for more than a year.
If Jessie Liu is confirmed to that position at DOJ, she`ll be working,
according to “The Journal,” primarily on antitrust matters and civil
issues. And I`m sure that`s great, but that will also mean she will have
nothing more to do with any criminal cases of any kind, let alone the kinds
of national security criminal cases that she has been involved in at the
U.S. attorney`s office in D.C., including all of those multiple high-
profile cases she has been running or involved in all of this time against
all of these people who are directly related to the president and/or his
campaign and/or the Russia investigation.
By moving Jessie Liu out of that top prosecutor job in D.C., the president,
of course, will also get the opportunity to pick a new person to take over
all of those now ongoing cases while they are in process, plus any other
cases that derive from the various scandals in this administration and from
the Russia investigation that might reasonably be taken up by that key U.S.
attorney`s office in D.C. Moving Jessie Liu out of there means he takes
out the top prosecutor that`s been handling those things, but also he gets
to pick somebody new to be in charge of all of that stuff. Gulp.
Sadie Gurman is the reporter at “The Wall Street Journal” who got that
scoop today about Jessie Liu being moved out of that U.S. attorney`s
office. Credit to her and “The Journal” to being first on this story.
But, boy, this seems like it`s potentially a big deal, at least potentially
a big deal. Since “The Journal” first broke that news today, I should tell
you it has been confirmed by NBC News and by other news outlets.
And now, as of tonight, as of just a short while ago, it has just been
formally announced by the White House. So it looks like this is, in fact,
Meanwhile, the president`s campaign chairman Paul Manafort is due to be
sentenced in that jurisdiction in D.C. federal court as of next week.
Before he even gets to that sentencing in D.C. next week, though, Paul
Manafort is going to be sentenced first in the other federal jurisdiction
where he was charged with multiple felonies. Manafort`s sentencing in
federal court in the Eastern District of Virginia takes place the day after
tomorrow, and tonight, prosecutors from Mueller`s office submitted this
filing to the judge in Manafort`s case in Virginia, basically telling the
judge that he should throw the book at Paul Manafort.
Quote: The government opposes any credit or mitigation for Manafort`s
alleged cooperation and contends that consideration of his lies to the
government and the grand jury are aggravating factors and an additional
basis for the denial of any reduction for acceptance of responsibility.
That`s prosecutor speak for “lock him up, judge.”
Prosecutors are arguing in this filing tonight that Manafort is recidivism
risk, meaning he`s likely to offend again. Part of the way they say you
can tell that is because they say Manafort was still committing crimes as
recently as October. Which would be not only after his indictment, it
would be after his conviction. It would be after his guilty plea on other
charges and after he supposedly became a cooperating witness, they say even
after all that as recently as October, he was still crimes more. He was
still committing more crimes.
This is Mueller`s office essentially arguing to that federal judge who is
about to pass sentence on Manafort in Virginia, they`re arguing the judge
should not be persuaded that Manafort is some old and washed up criminal
who is no longer actively seeking to commit crimes. They`re saying he`s
still in the game. The prosecutors tonight are also brushing aside any
concerns about Manafort`s health because those concerns have been raised
obliquely by Manafort`s defense team.
Prosecutors from Mueller`s office tell that judge tonight whether it`s
Manafort`s gout or anything else that is physically bugging him, they`re
telling the judge tonight that the Bureau of Prisons is more than capable
of treating any much maladies while Manafort serves his years behind bars,
and they do mean years. Remember, this is the jurisdiction where Paul
Manafort is looking at 19 to 24 years in prison under federal sentencing
And the judge, of course, can depart from those guidelines, either up or
down as he sees fit. This is the interesting judge that you might remember
was a bit of a character in overseeing the Manafort trial, so we may expect
yet more fireworks from the judge when it comes to sentencing the day after
tomorrow. That said, this filing tonight from Mueller`s office, we think
it`s the last thing we`re going to get in the Manafort case before we find
out Manafort`s fate on Thursday from that judge.
Meanwhile today, the D.C. federal judge who is overseeing the case of
Manafort in D.C., that is also the same judge overseeing the case in D.C.
that involves President Trump`s longtime political adviser Roger Stone.
And that judge, Judge Amy Berman Jackson, today, came just that much closer
to the end of her rope when it comes to Roger Stone and Stone`s ongoing
public statements about his case.
I mean, it is one thing to generally be known as a blurter, as somebody who
has a tendency to blurt things, as a person who is unavoidable for comment
on pretty much any subject, especially when it comes to himself, but it is
quite another thing when you apparently can`t shut off that propensity in
yourself, even upon getting direct orders to do so from a federal judge, a
federal judge who has told you in no uncertain terms that you must shut it.
Shortly after Roger Stone was arrested in January, the federal judge
overseeing his case established a limited gag order for Stone that
basically said that Stone was essentially banned from making public
pronouncements about his case from the courthouse steps. And I say that
specifically because the judge`s order was geographically specific in terms
of where Roger Stone could say what about his case, at least in the initial
But then, Mr. Stone decided it would be a good idea to post online a
picture of the judge in his case with a crosshairs next to her head. And
so, the judge`s initially quite limited gag order got way more strict. A
lot of people observing the Stone case thought Stone would end up in jail
right away because of that stunt with the threatening statement about the
judge and the judge`s photo and the crosshairs.
The judge did not jail Roger Stone and revoke his bail immediately after he
did that. She instead decided to make the gag order significantly more
strict and admonish him in court that he needed to follow it. The new
iteration of the gag order banned Roger Stone from making basically any
public statements about his case or the overall investigation that it
Since then, since the newly strict gag order was imposed on Roger Stone and
he definitely understood it because she explained it to him face-to-face in
court while he sat on the witness stand. Since then, it is almost
unbelievable to say, but since then, Mr. Stone has gone ahead and posted
this image online, who framed Roger Stone. And within the last few days,
he and his defense team have notified the judge in his case of his new book
introduction that is just now being published.
And by this point in the story, you will not be surprised to hear the
character of this new book introduction that Mr. Stone is publishing in
this new thing he describes himself as being on the, quote, hit list of
crooked special prosecutor Robert Mueller.
And, you know, it`s one thing to say stuff like that if you are Florida
man, you know? Like on social media or on Fox News TV show. But, you
know, in this case the guy spouting about the crooked prosecutor and being
on the hit list, he`s the defendant in a serious felony trial about which
the judge has already said he`s banned from making public statements.
So, today, the judge in D.C. federal court in Roger Stone`s case, she was
nothing if not clear in response to the news of this new book introduction
that is being published for Mr. Stone. The judge said today in court,
quote: There is no question that the gag order prohibited and continues to
prohibit the defendant from making any public statements, using any medium
concerning the investigation. It does not matter when the defendant may
have first formulated the opinions expressed or when he first put them into
words. He may no longer share his views on these particular subjects with
Can we make – would you like it embroidered on a pillow? Would that help?
So it may only be a matter of time, but at this point in time, Roger Stone
still has not had his bail revoked. He is still at liberty. That said,
the judge has yet to weigh in on his additional public claim this weekend
that he`s being framed.
CNBC did report late today that a couple of websites associated with Roger
Stone today were taken down. Maybe that`s an effort to remedy that kind of
problem, too, but for now, Roger Stone remains out on bond and not in jail
and the matter will be back before the judge on Monday.
As I say, observers of the Roger Stone case have been surprised that he has
not yet had his bail revoked, given how much he appears to be yanking the
judge`s chain over and over again in this case. But we`ll see. He is at
least at liberty for almost another week before the judge takes up this
matter again on Monday.
So, as we have been watching, you know, the Stone case and the Manafort
case and all of – and the Butina case and the Patten case and the Erickson
case, I mean, as we`ve been watching all of these cases proceed through the
courts, they`re all interesting, they`re all potentially going interesting
places. It will be interesting to see the fate of all of these people and
how they fit into the overall narrative if the special counsel ever spells
out that narrative in a readable way.
But while we`ve all been watching those cases, there are a couple of things
that are sort of new factors for us now as observers as this part of the
news about this administration. One of the new factors we have to keep an
eye on as we`re watching all these cases is the new leadership at the
Justice Department, right? There are still unanswered questions about how
the new Attorney General William Barr may or may not be influencing things.
May or may not be influencing anything having to do with these ongoing
cases run by special counsel Robert Mueller and these derivative
prosecutions that have been farmed out to other U.S. attorneys.
Ongoing questions about how Mueller is being handled by the new attorney
general and how William Barr is approaching all of these cases that touch
on the Trump administration and the Trump campaign in general, I think
that`s in part why there`s going to be a lot of questions asked over the
next few days about this new reporting about Jessie Liu. “The Wall Street
Journal,” again, first to report today the decision to take her out of the
U.S. attorney`s offices in D.C., where she has been in command of a whole
bunch of these cases that relate to the Russia investigation, right? There
will be questions about that in part because it`s presumably, presumably,
it is William Barr who is topping her to leave that U.S. attorney`s office
and move to main Justice. There will be questions before we understand
more about how Barr is approaching these things as to whether or not that
may have implications for those ongoing cases.
So that`s sort of one factor that`s new that we`re all watching having to
do with all these cases. Sort of an X factor when it comes to this change
in Justice Department leadership.
The other new factor that we`ve also had to map on to all of these cases as
we`re watching them go through the court system is Congress. The newly
energized congressional investigations that exist in parallel alongside all
of these criminal matters in the courts. For example, today, the White
House rejected the request for documents that had come in from the
Democratic controlled Oversight Committee about security clearances, about
security clearance processes in the Trump White House and particularly
these recent reports that the president`s personally intervened to order
the issuance of a clearance, a security clearance to his son-in-law Jared
Kushner despite some kind of adverse material that turned up in Kushner`s
background investigation at both the FBI and CIA, which led career national
security officials to recommend that Jared Kushner shouldn`t be given a
I should tell you incidentally that CNN tonight is also reporting that the
president also intervened to get his daughter Ivanka Trump a security
clearance. NBC News has not yet verified that reporting, but CNN has run
with that this evening.
Now, the Oversight Committee had asked the White House for documents about
their security clearance processes last month. They got no response at
all. Last week, they re-upped those requests urgently in light of the new
reporting about the White House, you know, flouting all previous precedent
for how security clearances were being handled.
Today, the White House counsel Pat Cipollone finally responded to those
requests from the Oversight Committee, and he responded with this refusal,
a refusal to hand over any of the documents that that committee is
Now, in terms of, right, these two lanes that we`re watching, right,
courts, the courts and Congress, and these new questions we have to ask
about how these two lanes sort of function alongside one another in all of
these various investigations and in these confrontations between the
administration and the law and these confrontations between the
administration and congressional oversight – I mean, this refusal today
from the White House to hand over documents requested by Congress, this is
– this is new, right? This will presumably lead to Congress issuing
subpoenas to try to get those documents. That will presumably lead to not
just a political fight but a legal fight over those subpoenas and what the
Congress is going to be able to get from this White House and what the
White House is going to be allowed to legally hold back. So, that`s a
whole new area of fighting we haven`t had to deal with before. We`re about
to start that area of fighting, too.
And here are just a couple of things to keep an eye on as we are watching
these two lanes, the courts and Congress. And as we are starting to see
these newly aggressive congressional investigations and these ongoing court
proceedings sort of not only proceed on parallel tracks, but in some cases
they`re sort of starting to touch. And one of the things I think you
should be watching for right now concerns WikiLeaks, right? What the –
and I know you`re thinking like WikiLeaks, oh, my God, if I never hear
another thing about WikiLeaks in my life – no, this is a really specific
thing that looks like it`s starting to happen.
What the Roger Stone case is about really, I mean, separate and apart from
all that personal circus stuff that surrounds Roger Stone, right, what that
criminal case about Roger Stone is really about is his contacts with
WikiLeaks, right? That indictment lays out seven felony charges that are
pertain to lying to Congress or witness tampering related to his alleged
contacts with WikiLeaks during the presidential campaign at the time when
WikiLeaks was staging and releasing the stolen documents that had been
hacked by Russian intelligence. Staging them and releasing them in a way
that was designed to cause maximum damage to the Clinton campaign and
maximum benefit to the Trump campaign.
In that massive pile of document requests sent out yesterday by the
Judiciary Committee, WikiLeaks and Julian Assange and Roger Stone were all
asked by the committee for documents and communications that relate to that
issue, that relate to WikiLeaks and their role in dumping Russian
intelligence`s stolen material during the presidential campaign.
And, you know, we will see what kind of response the Judiciary Committee
gets from WikiLeaks and Julian Assange and Roger Stone. I mean, presumably
if the committee doesn`t get responses, those requests will become
subpoenas and then we`ll have fights about those things, too.
But it`s interesting. It`s not just those three entities. It`s just not
WikiLeaks, Julian Assange and Roger Stone who are being asked by the
Judiciary Committee about WikiLeaks. We`ve been going through all of those
document requests and it turns out a ton of people – yes, a ton of people
in Trump`s orbit and related to the Trump campaign have been formally asked
by the judiciary committee now for any documents or communications they
have regarding WikiLeaks.
Everybody from, you know, Reince Priebus to Corey Lewandowski, to Brad
Parscale, who is the current Trump reelection campaign manager, to Don
McGahn, who is White House counsel, to Rhona Graff, the president`s
secretary. I mean, all of these different people got Judiciary Committee
requests specifically about WikiLeaks. All of these other people on that
Actually I should tell you, there may be more. There were 81 different
document requests to go through. We might have missed some. That`s what
we got on the first pass.
All these other characters in the drama are being asked about WikiLeaks
communications. Because of that and because of the criminal case against
Roger Stone, you should also know that today in federal court in Virginia,
a little bit of drama. Today in federal court in Virginia, the U.S.
attorney himself, the top of that prosecutor`s office, the EDVA U.S.
attorney himself personally turned up in court for a sealed hearing today
that appears to be about some sort of legal case potentially involving
WikiLeaks and/or Julian Assange.
You might remember back in November right after the election there was a
little flurry of news stories about what seemed to be a weird even slightly
surreal error in a federal court filing. One of the federal prosecutors
who works in the U.S. attorney`s office in EDVA inexplicably in the middle
of a filing, in a totally unrelated case, somehow randomly popped in this
language in a whole different case that referenced Julian Assange. It was
very weird. This was this unexpected insert in a random case which said
that Julian Assange from WikiLeaks had been charged in an American federal
indictment and that fact needed to remain under seal until after Julian
Assange had been arrested in conjunction with those charges, and everybody
was like, dude, what, this case isn`t even about that and Julian Assange
has been arrested and he`s going to be charged and what?
That was back in November. It was such a random way to learn that
information and the U.S. attorney`s office came out quickly and had their
spokesperson say that was an error. That was not supposed to be there.
That was just a mistake, just a typo, fat finger kind of.
“The Washington Post,” however, reported at the time that although that
language about Julian Assange was unintentionally disclosed in that
unrelated case, according to people familiar with the matter, that language
about Julian Assange was, quote, true. Oh.
Well, if so, that was a weird way to learn about it. Today`s news makes it
seem like maybe it was true. Today, that same assistant U.S. attorney,
that same federal prosecutor who was blamed for making that weird mistake
and putting that language about Julian Assange in that unrelated case, that
exact same U.S. assistant attorney today was spotted in court for the
sealed hearing. That assistant U.S. attorney blamed for that mistake was
spotted in court alongside the U.S. attorney himself from the Eastern
District of Virginia.
And then, Chelsea Manning of all people also appeared at that same
courthouse, walking out at the end of the day to tell reporters that she
was there to fight a grand jury subpoena to testify in a sealed case.
Chelsea Manning, of course, went to prison in her role for supplying
documents to WikiLeaks, documents that WikiLeaks later posted online. So,
if there is a new criminal case involving WikiLeaks and Julian Assange, you
can at least draw a dotted line to Chelsea Manning as somebody who might be
facing a grand jury subpoena to testify in conjunction with such a case.
That scene at the courthouse came today after another WikiLeaks volunteer
this weekend announced publicly that he is cooperating with federal
prosecutors in a case related to WikiLeaks. He told reporters this week
that he is seeking an immunity deal in conjunction with his testimony in a
case involving WikiLeaks. So, all of this to say between that court filing
error in November, the reporting around that error that suggested that it
was weird he was in that case and it was a mistake but the information was
true, and then what we saw today in Virginia, something appears to be
happening in federal court that pertains to WikiLeaks and Julian Assange.
And this is happening as the president`s longtime adviser Roger Stone goes
to trial for lying to Congress and witness tampering, allegedly, about his
supposed communications with WikiLeaks during the campaign. It happens
potentially as he`s going to jail for violating the gag order in that case.
It happens as tons of people associated with the president and his campaign
are being asked detailed questions by the Judiciary Committee about their
interactions with WikiLeaks, including during the campaign.
And it happens within a week of the president`s longtime personal lawyer
Michael Cohen testifying in Congress that the president himself was
personally notified by phone in advance about WikiLeaks` plans to dump
stolen material that Russia hacked from the Democrats during the campaign.
Now, I will warn you, if you are an interested news consumer who is
interested in following this part of the story, I will warn you, just about
everything that pertains to WikiLeaks and Julian Assange and Roger Stone is
basically un-Googleable for all of the online trash there is that relates
to these characters. Put your virus protection on.
But something does appear to be happening there in federal court. And so,
that is worth watching, particularly as we are looking at the intersections
between all these court cases and what is going on in Congress.
And there`s just one more thing to watch that came up today, came as a
surprise to me when the news crossed late this afternoon in “The New York
Times.” We`re going to talk about this right after the break. The most
important thing about this new story that broke today is I think it sort of
calls the question as to whether or not the president will be able to
disappear some new elements of these investigations, either through
pressure on the Justice Department or through use of the pardon process.
That story`s next.
MADDOW: Since late last week, we have been following with interest
statements from the new chair of the Financial Services Committee in the
House, Maxine Waters. According to Chairwoman Waters, that committee is
really getting somewhere when it comes to its document requests to a major
financial institution called Deutsche Bank.
Her committee has expressed two areas of interest when it comes to Deutsche
Bank. One is the bank`s history of doing hundreds of millions of dollars
worth of business with President Trump, even after all other major lenders
had sworn him off. The second area of interest is Deutsche Bank`s admitted
involvement in massive amounts of Russian money laundering.
Ten days after President Trump was sworn in in January 2017, Deutsche Bank
was hit with a $425 million fine for its role in a multibillion dollar
Russian money laundering scheme that they ran out of several of the bank`s
But it`s interesting, though, $425 million fine against Deutsche Bank was
not levied against that bank by the U.S. Justice Department. That fine was
actually extracted from Deutsche Bank by New York state, by a powerful
agency in New York state called the Department of Financial Services.
Department of Financial Services is essentially the regulator of the
banking and finance and insurance industries in New York state.
And although this Department of Financial Services is a state agency, and
that means its jurisdiction only extends as far as New York state, that
doesn`t limit it to much, given that New York is the financial capital of
both the country and the world. New York state`s Department of Financial
Services is an incredibly powerful agency with basically worldwide reach
because of New York`s role as a financial capital.
Well, today, “The New York Times” was first to report that that New York
state agency, the Department of Financial Services, that same agency that
got that $400 million-plus fine for deutsche bank for their role in Russian
money laundering, that same agency late yesterday served an expansive
subpoena on Donald Trump`s insurance broker.
Quote: New York state regulators have issued an expansive subpoena to the
Trump Organization`s longtime insurance broker, the first step in
investigation of insurance policies and claims involving President Trump`s
family businesses. The subpoena was served late Monday on the company and
one of the largest insurance brokerage firms in the world, as part of an
inquiry by the New York State Department of Financial Services. It came
just days after Michael Cohen, President Trump`s former fixer and lawyer,
indicated in congressional testimony that the Trump Organization inflated
the value of its assets to insurance companies.
And Michael Cohen, remember, testified that they inflated assets to
insurance companies, but you`ll remember, he also handed over financial
documents that he said were given to insurance companies as part of the
Trump Organization`s efforts to reduce its premiums. Even before Michael
Cohen testified last week to Congress, “The Times” had previously reported
that Michael Cohen was speaking to SDNY prosecutors about insurance claims
the Trump Organization had filed over the years.
And we didn`t really know what that line meant when “The Times” first
reported that the in late February, but last week in open session in
Congress, Michael Cohen spelled it out. He told members of Congress, he
cold William Lacy Clay from Missouri and he told Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
from New York that the president`s business and the president inflated the
president`s assets in financial statements to insurance companies in order
to lower his insurance premiums, which is illegal. And, you know, that`s -
- it sort of sounds like garden variety financial crime, but that`s garden
variety felony financial fraud.
And now, according to these new reports, the insurance entity that would
have handled the documents in any such alleged fraud is cooperating with
this new investigation by this powerful New York state agency that oversees
the finance industry in this state and essentially by extension around the
world. And one of the reasons this is going to be fascinating to watch is
because there is absolutely no way that President Trump can stop this one.
The Department of Financial Services in New York state can`t bring criminal
prosecution itself, but they can bring civil proceedings. Hello, $425
million fine against Deutsche Bank.
And if they find evidence of criminal behavior, they can refer criminal
matters to state prosecutors or to D.A.s. And if you are being prosecuted
for this kind of financial crime by those kinds of prosecutors, it does not
matter if you are president of the United States, at least when it comes to
pardoning your way out of that kind of a problem because presidential
pardons only apply to federal crimes and federal prosecutions.
So this one, this one`s untouchable.
MADDOW: All right. This story is such a perfect and tidy portrait of
Washington during this moment in American history under this president.
The story goes like this.
April of last year, two big wireless companies, T-Mobile and Sprint,
announced a huge merger, $27 billion merger, 27 billion with a “B.” Once
the two companies reached that deal between them that they wanted to merge,
the next thing they had to do was convince the federal government, convince
federal government regulators to let them go ahead with this merger.
Well, what reporter David Fahrenthold discovered at “The Washington Post”
is that the day after that merger was announced last April, the next day,
the merger that was going to need federal government approval from the
Trump administration, the next day after they announced the merger, nine
top executives from T-Mobile, including the company`s CEO, booked
themselves into stay at the Trump Hotel in Washington. And then they kept
coming back. One T-Mobile executive came back and stayed at that Trump
hotel 10 times in six weeks. I don`t stay home ten times in six weeks.
The T-Mobile executives were all listed on the hotel`s VIP arrivals list,
which was distributed to Trump Hotel staff, and while all those executives
were there, you better believe they were making sure they were visible,
walking around literally wearing bright neon clothing that had the T-Mobile
logo on it, greeting people, being noticed, having their pictures taken
David Fahrenthold found that T-Mobile executives booked dozens of nights at
the Trump Hotel last year once their merger need Trump administration
Look, to be fair, maybe T-Mobile executives have always just loved Trump
Hotels. You know, they`re coming to Washington to push for this deal.
They stay at the same hotel. They always stay, right? They`ve always
loved that place. Nothing to do with currying favor and to bribe somebody
to get the merger approved, right?
Well, David Fahrenthold`s latest report in “The Washington Post” today puts
the finishing touch on the arc of this story. Quote: T-Mobile acknowledges
its patronage of Trump`s Washington hotel increased largely after the
announcement of the merger with Sprint. In a letter responding to
questions from Democratic lawmakers, the company says before the
announcement of this merger that needs government approval, quote, only two
top officials from T-Mobile had ever stayed at Trump`s hotel with one
overnight stay each in August 2017.
But since the merger was announced, since April of last year, T-Mobile
employees have spent $195,000 staying at the Trump hotel in Washington.
That is $195,000 into the pocket of the president of the United States,
whose administration will soon decide whether T-Mobile will be allowed to
go through with this giant multi-billion dollar deal.
And this will be called bribery in the fable version of this story that
will be some day used to teach future generations about corruption in the
American government at this time in American history. Some day this will
be called some variation of the word bribery, but today it`s just breaking
Joining us now is David Fahrenthold. Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter at
“The Washington Post.”
Mr. Fahrenthold, it`s nice to see you. Thank you for being here.
DAVID FAHRENTHOLD, THE WASHINGTON POST: Great to be here.
MADDOW: I`m describing this as simple, and I always get self-conscious
when I do that, but I fell like this is one of the most direct, simple news
arcs that we`ve had about how this is working here.
Did I miss anything important or did I fudge any complications here?
FAHRENTHOLD: No, you`re right. It`s very simple. You saw that they
barely stayed at this hotel in the 16 months it had been open. The day
after they announced this merger that needs Trump`s approval, they all show
up and keep coming back, $195,000 over ten months of hotel stays. That`s a
lot of money in a pretty short time.
MADDOW: Now, I have to say that we contacted t-mobile for comment, and a
spokesman for the company declined to comment on the record, but T-Mobile
in their letter to Congress, they say that these Trump Hotel stays were
only a small portion of their hotel expenditures in Washington. They say
they stay other places too.
But, I mean, for everything we`ve seen, I haven`t seen any firm denial here
from the company that they may have been doing this at the Trump Hotel to
try to curry favor with the Trump administration and the president. What`s
your reading of this?
FAHRENTHOLD: You`re right about this. We found John Ledger, the CEO of T-
Mobile, we actually found him in the Trump lobby, sort of caught him there.
And he said at the time, oh, no, I just stay here because it`s convenient
to the Justice Department where I`m going to lobby for my merger. It is
not in any way attempting to curry favor.
But you`ll notice in the letter they wrote to the Democratic lawmakers,
they didn`t make that claim, you know, we weren`t doing it to curry favor.
They`re just saying we trust that regulators will make a good decision and
not be influenced by this. There will be a trustworthy decision despite
MADDOW: I mean, I have to ask, I made the joke about bribery when this is
told as a children`s story some day. Obviously, there is concern about the
president`s potential violations of the Emoluments Clause in the
Constitution in accepting particularly foreign gifts by continuing to do
business while he`s still serving in public office. Is there potential
legal liability, even civil liability by shareholders or some other entity
for a company if a company could be shown to be trying to curry favor with
regulators by doing something like this, by putting money in the
president`s pocket in the ostentatious way that T-Mobile seems to have done
FAHRENTHOLD: Well, this is where I wish I went to law school like my
mother wanted. I don`t know the law enough to say if there`s certainly
liability. But there`s a lot of people who oppose this merger. A lot of
other companies that have lost market share – will lose market share if T-
Mobile grabs Sprint and grows in size so much. They certainly will use
this against them.
You said this is – this is a sign of the way business is done in
Washington now. The president has created this private channel, while
you`re lobbying him publicly, you can also pay him privately. If we
haven`t gotten ahold of these VIP arrivals lists, I don`t think anybody
would have known how much they were paying him privately. So, you see how
these created this second channel for influence and people seem to be using
MADDOW: Wow. “Washington Post” reporter David Fahrenthold – David, great
to have you here. Thank you for your work tonight.
FAHRENTHOLD: Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. Lots more ahead. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Twice now, the dictator of North Korea has been able to summon the
president of the United States to come to Asia, come talk with him in a
bilateral summit and praise him as a great guy in front of all the world`s
news cameras. It must be nice.
The first summit was less than a year ago. It`s not clear what exactly
North Korea did after that summit to get themselves a second summit, but
they got themselves a second summit and this one was definitely a bust.
Not only was there no discernible outcome from the summit at all, President
Trump said at the event that he believed the North Korean dictator`s claim
that he had no idea that Otto Warmbier was tortured at one of his North
Korean prisons. He pulled the U.S. military permanently out of joint
military exercises with South Korea, one of North Korea`s big priorities
that President Trump gave them in exchange for nothing.
He also said that when Kim Jong-un made vague promises about nuclear
testing, quote, I trust him. I take him at his word.
Why? On what basis?
Well, now here`s breaking news from NBC News tonight. Courtney Kube,
Andrea Mitchell, Carol Lee are now reporting that within 48 hours after
that bust, within 48 hours after Trump left following that disastrous
failed summit, North Korea was already rebuilding a key long-range missile
site, a site that essentially been dormant since Trump`s first meeting with
Kim Jong-un last year. According to this exclusive NBC News report
tonight, that missile site is now showing activity consistent with, quote,
preparations for a test.
We know this thanks to commercial satellite images obtained by NBC News.
These images were taken March 2nd, that`s two days after the summit fell
apart. The images show what experts say is renewed activity at this long-
range missile launching site.
I should clarify, these images don`t show an actual missile being moved to
the launch pad, but one of the authors of this report points out, quote,
they have already tested a few of these and it looks like they are
preparing the launch pad for another act. Again, that breaking news
tonight from NBC News.
Senator Chris Murphy is on the Foreign Relations Committee. He`ll join us
in just a moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAN COATS, DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: We currently assess that
North Korea will seek to retain its WMD capabilities and is unlikely to
completely give up its nuclear weapons and production capabilities because
its leaders ultimately view nuclear weapons as critical to regime survival.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: It`s leaders view nuclear weapons as critical to regime survival.
Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats speaking January 29th.
One more Donald Trump/Kim Jong-un summit later, we now know that Dan Coats
and the intelligence community were apparently on to something there. NBC
News reporting tonight within two days of the president leaving his failed
denuclearization summit with Kim Jong-un last week, the North Koreans
appear to have started preparations for a new missile launched at a
previously dormant testing site.
Joining us now is Senator Chris Murphy. He`s a member of the Senate
Foreign Relations Committee.
Senator, thanks very much for joining us tonight. Nice having you here.
SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D-CT), SENATE FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: Sure.
Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: So have members of Congress, have senators been briefed on these
developments? If so, is there anything you can share?
MURPHY: No, we haven`t. In fact, today we had an off the record
conversation with the president`s primary negotiator with the North
Koreans. And this did not come up. I`ve seen the reports you have.
It`s certainly very worrying that they`re back working on a test site that
was supposedly closed. You know, there was an assumption that when the
president at the end of this summit announced that notwithstanding the fact
they didn`t get any agreement, he was going to permanently shut down these
joint exercises with the South Koreans that maybe that had come in exchange
for a promise from the North Koreans to permanently stop these tests as
well. That may not be the case, given the fact that they look to be
restarting one of these facilities.
And if we have unilaterally decided to stop not military exercises without
any behavior given an exchange from the North Koreans, that`s even worse
than coming out of the summit without a deal.
MADDOW: On this point of the president giving up the military exercises,
there`s a – I mean, as far as I understand this, this is one of North
Korea`s major priorities in terms of dealing with the United States, sort
of one of their major international demands. I have been slightly unnerved
about the president being so willing to trade away those joint military
exercises, not only because our military says they`re important, but also
because the president himself apparently told people that he got this idea
by speaking to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who suggested this to him
as something he ought to give away to the North Koreans.
That was reported in “The Wall Street Journal” a very long time ago.
That`s very much stuck in my craw. I don`t know if you have any take on
that aspect of this.
MURPHY: Yes. So much for “The Art of the Deal”. There were, you know, a
small number of things other than the sanctions that really stuck with the
North Koreans. There were a small number of things that we could give away
in part of a confidence-building deal if we didn`t want to start loosening
the sanctions. And those exercises were one of the few chips we had.
Trump went into the negotiations thinking the, you know, these Danielle
Steele love letters that he exchanged with Kim Jong-un was going to lead to
a big comprehensive agreement. That was never going to happen and he
walked away with nothing. What he should have been doing was trying to
work on some small preliminary deal that would lead to a bigger deal later
on. And we`re now seeing that the stakes of failure were pretty high if
the consequence is the North Koreans are going to start again.
One last thing I`d mention, we have not gotten confirmation on this, but
there were reports that Sergey Lavrov was in Hanoi during the time of the
summit, which makes you even more worried about what he was doing there.
MADDOW: In terms of what happens next here, I know you are a dedicated
student and leader on foreign policy issues, and I think that you have
strong ideas about negotiating even with people whom you disagree in order
to get America`s way in the world. With this president and the way he has
approached this, though, do you think there is a course correction that is
available here in terms of how he is handling this matter? Obviously, this
is a – this is a huge deal for not only the Korean peninsula, but for the
world in terms of national security.
MURPHY: Yes, you are running out of time and, of course, it may be that
this has all been simply a delay play by Kim Jong-un. That he has been
assiduously working behind the scenes underground on developing nuclear
weapons capacity while he`s been sitting across the table from us. In a
six-month period of time, it will be too late.
The problem, though, is we could have used this last year to continue to
build up crippling sanctions. Instead, because Trump was so eager to get
this deal, he set aside the sanctions work and went right for the
comprehensive agreement without having done any of the prep work ahead of
So, we`ve lost critical time to build up sanctions pressure. We now are at
ground zero. We don`t have even a preliminarily agreement that could have
been worked on in Hanoi. And it may be that we`re going to find out as
this nuclear site continues to be developed that it`s all too late.
MADDOW: Senator Chris Murphy of Foreign Relations Committee – really
appreciate your time tonight, sir. Thanks for being here.
MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: Thank you for being with us tonight. We will see you again
Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL”.
Good evening, Lawrence.
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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