Manafort faces sentencing in D.C. on Wednesday. TRANSCRIPT: 3/11/19, The Rachel Maddow Show.

Nicholas Nehamas

HAYES: 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:  Much appreciated. 


And thanks to you at home for joining us.  Happy Monday. 


And, no, this is not a rerun but you are going to have a little sense of

deja vu because the president`s campaign chairman is due to be sentenced by

a federal judge again this week, and I know that sounds like last week`s

news but this week`s sentencing on Wednesday will be in addition to the

sentencing Paul Manafort went through with the federal judge in Virginia

last week.  So, those headlines from a distance, they`re going to look

similar.  Before we get to the sentencing on Wednesday, it all sort of

feels a little bit similar, but this is going to be a pretty different

process this week because this judge in D.C. who is going to be considering

Manafort`s fate this week and handing him down his new sentence on

Wednesday, this is the judge who is going to be considering not the guilty

pleas from a jury trial like that Virginia judge was considering last week.


Now, this judge in D.C. is considering something very different.  She`s

going to be considering the failed plea deal that Paul Manafort got himself

into when he tried and failed to become a cooperating witness in an effort

to try to get himself a more lenient sentence. 


You remember how this went down, right?  Manafort went on trial in

Virginia.  He was convicted on eight felonies.  The jury was hung on ten

others.  Manafort had been due for a second federal trial in the

neighboring jurisdiction of Washington D.C.  It was on the eve of the

second federal trial when Manafort instead jumped, tried this new course. 

He abandoned his not guilty plea and said he no longer wanted to go to

trial.  He started talking to prosecutors.  Prosecutors agreed to drop all

charges against him in D.C. except for two felony conspiracy counts. 


In exchange, they got not only his plead in guilty but got him to admit

even to the – admit that he was guilty even to the ten felony charges on

which he had the hung jury in his first federal trial in Virginia and most

importantly, he pledged to cooperate with prosecutors in the special

counsel`s office.  That was the deal Manafort tried to make to save his own

skin on the eve of what would have been his second federal trial.  And that

is what blew up when prosecutors came back to the judge in D.C. to Judge

Amy Berman Jackson and they told her, hey, judge, don`t think of this guy

as a cooperator. 


Do not give him any credit for accepting responsibility for his crimes, for

providing meaningful assistance to prosecutors.  He`s not doing that. 

Prosecutors came back to the judge after she approved this plea deal and

prosecutors told her it`s off.  Manafort has lied to us multiple times on

multiple subjects. 


He can`t do that under the terms of this deal.  This week is when we`re

going to see that all come due. 


This federal judge is going to sentence Manafort this Wednesday, she`s the

judge who took Manafort`s guilty pleading.  She`s the one who signed off on

the plea agreement he made with prosecutors.  She`s the one who then ruled

from the bench that he broke the agreement because yes, she ruled in court

he did intentionally lie to prosecutors on multiple occasions on material



Incidentally, I should tell you, this is the same judge who put Manafort in

jail in the first place, last June.  This was the judge that ruled he had

violated his bail conditions by tampering with witnesses while he was out

on bail awaiting trial.  That order from Amy Berman Jackson in D.C. is what

put Paul Manafort into a federal cell as of last June where he`s been ever



Now we know thanks to last week`s sentence that he isn`t getting out of

prison for at least a few more years, but this week we`re, about to find

out just how many years he will have to serve in total depending on what

Judge Jackson gives him on Wednesday and now, as we head towards that

Wednesday ruling, that Wednesday sentencing with that judge, a funny thing

is now developing here ahead of this sentencing this week.  And it is about

Manafort lying to prosecutors and breaching his plea deal and not



Last year, a reporter at CNBC named Christina Willkie pulled off a rabbit

out of a hat.  She pulled off a neat trick.  “The McClatchy News Service”

had reported last spring that Mueller`s office, special counsel`s office,

had started looking into the Trump Organization`s previous business

dealings and attempted business deals and business trips to the former

Soviet Union.  So not just Russia, but also places like Georgia and

Kazakhstan dating back into the 90s and maybe beyond. 


In the wake of that reporting from McClatchy, CNBC got a tip about somebody

who had played an important role in multiple Trump building efforts in that

part of the world.  The tip was that in Georgia and in Kazakhstan and in

Russia, the Trump Organization, basically the way they approached these

things, is that they pitched this big Trump branded building projects with

what amounted to a three-pronged approach.  One of those prongs was Trump

himself.  They would bring Trump over there himself to get press attention

and do events with celebrities and dignitaries and talk up whatever it was

they were doing.  They bring the Trump star power.


And then they would also bring Michael Cohen, the president`s personal

lawyer to make connections and talk terms, but then they would also bring

an architect who would show off possible designs for these potential Trump

developments.  That was basically their three-pronged approach to making

business pitches overseas in the former Soviet Union.  So we know what

happened to Donald Trump.  He became president.  We know what happened to

Michael Cohen.  He`s going to prison. 


What about the other guy?  The architect who helped make these pitches for

the Trump Organization he himself has never been accused of wrongdoing that

we know about.  Nobody has alleged that he has done anything to get himself

in trouble with any of this stuff, but he was proximate to something that

is reportedly of investigation and where the other people involved in it

are very, very much at the center of on going investigations. 


So, if the Mueller investigation started to investigate this part of

Trump`s business past, what about this other guy?  I mean, the architect

who was involved in these pitches, is he now part of the investigation,



So, Christina Wilkie, reporter at CNBC reached out to that architect.  She

got a tip that he was the architect who was involved in those projects and

those projects are subject of interest to Robert Mueller, and she reaches

out to the architect, and that is when she pulled that rabbit out of the

hate.  This reportorial magic trick.  I mean, she didn`t like saw the guy

in half but it`s the journalistic equivalent of that. 


Quote: The architect did not respond to a call or e-mail but eight hours

later, meaning eight hours after we called and he mailed, he announced on

Twitter that he was closing his architecture firm after ten years in

business.  A few days later, he closed down the Twitter account he used to

announce he was closing down the architecture firm.  By the end of the

week, all the content from his professional Website including his entire

international architecture portfolio had been removed from the web

entirely.  Also gone was any reference to the two overseas branches to his

architect firm that he had opened in Georgia and in Ukraine. 


Wow.  One call from a CNBC reporter does that.  I mean, I`m used to getting

in commented.  I have been no commented up the yin yang.  But – I mean,

this is no comment and also I no longer exist, right?  It`s like I live for



Anyway, that really was something.  At the time, you might remember us

talking about this on the show.  At time we had that reporter from CNBC,

Christina Wilkie, here on the show to try to figure out what happened there

and she was sort of bewildered as we were by it. 




MADDOW:  Joining us is Christina Wilkie, White House reporter for 

She`s the one who spooked the architect. 


Christina, thank you for being here. 




MADDOW:  Do you have this effect on people more broadly? 


WILKIE:  I do not.  People love to call me back. 




MADDOW:  So, that was last year in June.  And it`s interesting about six

weeks later-ish, the architect in question did resurface but without his

firm.  He put up a statement on his website announcing, quote: this most

recent transitional phase of my career but insisting I think with annoyance

about the press conference, he said he neither vanished nor disappeared. 


Honestly, though, his firm did disappear.  It is did poof. 


And now that same reporter at CNBC, Christina Wilkie, she does appear to

have done it again and this time it concerns one of the things that Paul

Manafort lied to prosecutors about.  This judge in D.C. that`s going to

sentence Paul Manafort this week, she ruled that Manafort deliberately lied

to prosecutors on three different subjects.  And of them, the one that I at

least found hardest to follow because of the redactions in the court

documents, it seemed to be about something related to a payment Manafort

received in June 2017. 


So, June 2017, this is after Trump`s been in office for half a year.  It`s

before Manafort gets indicted but that was at a time when it was becoming

very clear Manafort was clearly the subject of multiple serious criminal

investigations.  His legal bills were starting to mount and in June 2017,

Manafort apparently reached out to a pro-Trump super PAC, to try to get

from them some money to pay his mounting legal bills specifically asked for

125 grand. 


Now, the PAC ultimately did not send that money for Paul Manafort`s legal

defense, but Christina Wilkie at CNBC now appears to have figured out what

happens next, as have the special counsel`s office who have been pursuing

the case against Manafort in two federal courtrooms and specifically have

litigated this point with the judge about why Paul Manafort lied about this

payment.  So, the PAC that Manafort approached to pay the legal bills, that

was the biggest pro-Trump super PAC in all 2016 campaign.  Remember when

Trump said he was going to finance his whole campaign and wouldn`t need to

take in donations from anybody?  Ha, this pro-Trump super PAC was the

biggest one that took in over $24 million in donations, Again, not as part

of the campaign but as a pro Trump super PAC, the biggest one. 


That PAC was run by a very close associate of Paul Manafort.  Manafort

himself basically set up that PAC, as soon as he was Trump`s campaign

chair.  He green lit the creation of the super PAC and he installed as the

head of it a guy who he had done tons of work with before, a guy who is a

long-standing work colleague of Manafort dating back decades.  He`s

reportedly godfathered one of Paul Manafort`s daughters. 


What CNBC is now reporting and what Mueller`s appears to have figured out a

while ago, is that when Manafort in June 2017 asked this pro-Trump super

PAC, this is after the campaign, right?  Campaign has been over, Trump is

already president for a half a year.  Manafort goes to this pro-Trump super

PAC, asked for the money.  It`s run by his good friend, he wants money for

pay some of his legal bills, he asked for 125 grand. 


We now can tell basically that the answer from the PAC to Manafort was yes

but.  Yes, Paul, you can have the money but you`re not going to get it from

me exactly.  Instead, you should get it to the other place, this other

entity, this easy to forget generic-named fuzzy little corporate entity

which according to CNBC was secretly owned and controlled by a famous

Republican pollster named Tony Fabrizio.  And in fact, that little

corporate fuzzy entity MMSC run by Tony Fabrizio, that should gave Manafort

the money. 


Now, do you care about Paul Manafort getting some of his legal fees paid

for by this Republican pollster guy?  Do you care?  No, you don`t care.  I

mean, not in the abstract, none of us care about this.


But there is three sort of like hair raising consequences of this little

revelation.  Number one, why would Paul Manafort lie about that over and

over and over again to prosecutors when he was legally bound not to lie to

them about anything and when the question of the freedom of the rest of his

life is potentially on the line if he does lie?  I mean, he`s doing a plea

deal which means he has to cooperate and he can`t lie.  With the plea deal

he can get out of going to prison for the rest of his life.  With no plea

deal, it`s going to be some years at least. 


Prosecutors say that Paul Manafort not only lied about that $125,000

payment, he told three different false stories about that payment in three

different meetings with the prosecutors and the special counsel`s office. 

I mean, think about – put yourself in his shoes here for a second. 


OK, first instance, he comes up with one false story about that payment. 

OK.  Maybe, you know, you misrembered, you got to trembled up.  But the

prosecutors come back and ask you about it again. 


That might be a signal that maybe you screwed up the first time and ought

to make sure you get it right now since you`re legally bound not to lie to

them.  But then you lie to them again?  Different lie, you tell them

another false story that`s different in the first one, but that is also a



Then think they come back a third time.  Hey, we want to talk to you about

payment again.  Are you sure? 


And the third time you try to snow them with another false story about it. 

Three different meetings with the prosecutor specifically on that payment,

three different lies.  He tells a new lie every time.  Who cares? 


It`s OK for you to take the money from Tony.  Really, like that wasn`t a

bad thing.  You`re going to go to prison for maybe like a decade for lying

about that?  That`s an okay thing for you to have done.  What is the



So, that is – that`s consequence one of this weird lie.  Tony Fabrizio

sending Manafort $125,000 to help with his legal fees is not a crime as far

as I can tell.  Why Manafort would go to such lengths to lie about it when

that had such dire consequences for him is absolutely inexplicable.  That`s

consequence one. 


Consequence two, despite Manafort inexplicably lying about it over and over

again, the prosecutors, the special counsel`s office, they know the truth. 

They know what actually happened, from court filings, and from open source

reporting, it appears that part of the reason Mueller`s office knows what

really happened here is because they have spoken repeatedly with Tony, with

the pollster guy who actually did pay Paul Manafort this money while Paul

Manafort lied to them about it over and over and over again.  It appears

that in the course of figuring out the truth of that payment, Mueller`s

office also uncovered a little bit of a kickback scheme.  A not

particularly sophisticated system by which these guys were basically

skimming off a bunch of money that people had donated to the pro Trump

super PAC and instead keeping it for themselves. 


So, they discovered the truth of the payment.  They also discover when

getting to the truth of the payment that there was a little scheme of a

scheme here, there was a kickback scheme going on.  There was cash moving

necessarily where it shouldn`t have gone, but it`s hard to tell this stuff

directly from court filings in the Manafort case because of all the

redactions and the written documents and in the transcripts. 


But through basically doing the math and playing game where you tried to

pair like objects with another, and through reading closely all these

documents and reporting it all and calling people and tracking them down,

Christina Wilkie at CNBC appears to have basically figured out a way to get

behind those black boxes in the redacted transcripts so we can actually

understand what`s going on here.  And so, it appears what Mueller`s office

has found and demonstrated to the court and CNBC can now describe publicly

for the first time, it appears that yes, Manafort got this payment from

Tony Fabrizio, the pollster. 


It also appears that the long-time Manafort friend who Paul Manafort

installed as the head of the super PAC, that guy and Tony Fabrizio, the

other long-time Paul Manafort friend who Manafort hired to be the Trump

campaign pollster, it also appears that those two guys set up some sort of

a scheme where the two of them took a 6 percent cash cut of every dollar

that Trump super PAC spent on political ads in the 2016 campaign. 


Again, the pollster, this famous Republican pollster who appears to be

caught up in this stuff, Tony Fabrizio, he has reportedly been talking to

Mueller`s investigators for a long time now, more than a year ago. 

February 2018, CNN reported that Fabrizio was seen leaving the special

counsel`s office.  CNN later confirmed that Fabrizio had met with Mueller`s



Wilkie at CNBC now reports that Fabrizio appears to have done at least one

more interview with Mueller many months later in November 2018.  So,

whatever was going on with Tony Fabrizio`s side of it, presumably, that is

all known to the special counsel`s office.  He`s had multiple meetings with

them.  Fabrizio, for what it`s worth, has also been the subject of a

detailed document request from the House Judiciary Committee which I think

he has to respond to by next week. 


But there is one more consequence of this new reporting, which is that

Christina Wilkie appears to have pulled off the same magic trick yet again,

the one she did with the architect before.  It seems like she`s done it

again this time.  In addition to reporting out the role of Tony Fabrizio

here, the other player in this new drama is the guy who Manafort installed

to run the super PAC, right?  This guy who was apparently part of this cash

kick back scheme, who is apparently part of this whole mysterious $125,000

payment that Manafort is going to die on a hill lying about.  I mean, the

three players in this drama are Paul Manafort, Tony Fabrizio, the Trump

campaign pollster, and this other guy who Manafort put in charge of the

PAC.  The guy who`s a godfather of one of Manafort`s daughters, his

longtime friend.  He`s apparently somebody who worked together with

Manafort all the way back in the `80s.  He worked at that lobbying firm

that Paul Manafort had with Roger Stone. 


In addition to Manafort installing him as the head of this pro-Trump super

PAC, where there was this kickback scheme running and who knows what else

this guy also ended up playing a key role in the Trump inaugural, randomly

he was the guy who got put in charge of ticketing all the Trump inaugural

events even though he appears who had no experience with that sort of

thing, whatsoever.  OK?  


So, he`s of interest.  What about him?  What about his role in all of this? 


This guy is a guy named Laurance Gay.  He appears to be at this point

basically the beleaguered spotlight – excuse me, stop light at the center

of a five-way intersection of Trump-related scandals and criminal

investigations.  How does Laurance Gay fit in this investigation now?  Is

he, too, talking to prosecutors?  I mean, if Fabrizio is talking to

investigators, for example, about this role of the skimming kick back and

how it connected to getting cash to Manafort, OK. 


We know about Manafort`s conversation with prosecutors and the problems

there.  We know this reporting about Fabrizo`s conversation with

prosecutors.  Has Laurance Gay told his side of the story, too?  How does

he fit into all of this?  How does he fit into the special counsel`s

investigation?  How does he fit into the inaugural investigation?  How does

he fit into the congressional investigation?


Queue Christina Wilkie at CNBC and her amazing journalistic powers.  Quote:

CNBC attempted to reach Laurance Gay several times but the phone at his

Canaan, Connecticut consulting firm, Business Strategies & Insight, has

been disconnected. 


Hello?  Hello? 


I mean, this is not a fly by night guy who nobody heard of before, right? 

This guy had been in the Paul Manafort universe for 40 years.  One call

from CNBC about this and poof, he`s gone.  Disconnected? 


Joining us now is Christina Wilkie, White House reporter for  


Christina, I know I`ve been embarrassing you.  Thank you very much for

being here. 


WILKIE:  It`s my – such a great pleasure, Rachel. 


MADDOW:  You seem to have this ability to make people disappear, disconnect

their phone and shut down their businesses and eliminate themselves from

social media when you ask questions.  I know that there is a lot of

different components here.  But I have to ask you about that aspect of the

story that must have been a surprise not just to get no commented by

Laurance Gay, but to have him sort of disappear. 


WILKIE:  I mean, there is no way to tell when his phone was disconnected

but it is – you know, in this day and age, yes, it`s unusual to get an

intense beep, beep, beep of a disconnected phone.  This number is no longer

in service. 


MADDOW:  In terms of Laurance Gay and the super PAC, it seems like, I can

imagine the things you wanted to ask about, given what you`re able to

report about his role, but it seems like what you`re describing is not just

you figured something out but you believe that Mueller has figured out

something about both the routing of that payment to Paul Manafort but also

what appears to have been a cash kickback scheme that was running in the

biggest pro-Trump super PAC, right? 


WILKIE:  Yes, that is what appears to have happened and yes, I mean, we

have figured out that Laurance Gay, that Paul Manafort kind of installed

this guy who he really trusted and to oversee $24 million that Manafort

suggested to Gay that he hire Tony Fabrizio ad buying firm, there`s no name

multimedia services, and then the two – it appears the two of them,

Fabrizio and Gay, set up their, you know, one man`s kickback scheme is

another man`s commission split.  You know, they set up a secret commission

split and essentially overcharged all these donors.


And, you know, we heard from Laurance Gay`s lawyer and he says his client

has done nothing wrong.  He`s a criminal defense attorney and so, we will

see.  Gay`s voice is very absent from these court documents.  You know,

whereas they are often obvious references to Manafort, interviews and

obvious references to Tony Fabrizio`s role and what he told prosecutors. 


You know, Fabrizio is really the kind of truth teller in this as Manafort

tells different stories.  Fabrizio lays it out, but the third man is really

absent.  It`s – you know, and obviously, that`s not an accident. 


MADDOW:  Christina, let me ask you also about the dynamic where Fabrizio as

far as we know has spoken with Mueller`s office at least a couple times. 

He`s described in court filings I think we can now sort of see it the way

we`ve given you this window behind the reductions.  We can see him being

described as the person who gave prosecutors what they believe to be true

and corroborated information about that payment to Paul Manafort while

Manafort himself was lying about it over and over again. 


Do you have any sense now about why Manafort might have been lying about

that over and over again?  His lawyers really described it as, you know, he

got mixed-up.  He got confused.  He didn`t remember the precise nature of

it, but the prosecutors documented he told three different false stories on

three different occasions as they are questioning on it escalated. 


WILKIE:  And if he was, in fact, trying to conceal any legal kick back

scheme, then it would make sense that`s why he told these different

stories.  First, he said it was debt owed to him by gay and then said it

was payment for services rendered for business he sent Fabrizio over the

years, and then his third story was that it was a loan for Fabrizio, and he

produced an unsigned loan document and each time, prosecutors came back to

him and said to him, well, this doesn`t quite add up.  You know, it doesn`t

look like Laurance Gay pay this because our record show that this no name

advertising firm in Alexandria paid it. 


And so, Manafort came up with another story.  You know, there certainly

appear to be real questions about the legality of some of what appears to

have happened, you know, and Manafort maybe protecting his friends. 


MADDOW:  Wow.  And it may be at great, great cost.  We will find out that

in detail on Wednesday at his sentencing. 


Christina Wilkie, White House reporter for, careful with who you

call, you have a habit of disappearing people, but we`ll follow your

reporting wherever it leads.  Thanks for being with us.


WILKIE:  Thank you, Rachel. 


MADDOW:  All right.  Much more ahead tonight.  Stay with us.




MADDOW:  This is a big week for Donald Trump`s campaign chair and for his

deputy campaign chair and for his national security advisor and for his

long-time political advisor.  They`ve all got a big week in court so get

your calendars out or ready to write on your hand with a sharpie, however

you do it.  But here`s what`s coming up this week. 


You`ll recall last week, we saw Paul Manafort, the president`s campaign

chair sentenced in the Eastern District of Virginia.  He got 47 months for

bank fraud and tax fraud.  This week Wednesday, he is set to be sentence in

D.C. for two felonies, both conspiracy counts.  The reason he`s only facing

two charges in D.C. is because he pled guilty to those two felony charges

in September, in exchange for having all these other charges dropped, that

kept him from having to go on trial second time, but those guilty pleas

were also part of a cooperation agreement with prosecutors which Manafort

then promptly broke when he lied to them. 


So, on Wednesday, the D.C. judge in that case, Amy Berman Jackson will

sentence Paul Manafort.  She can give him a maximum of ten years in prison. 

She`ll also have the choice as to whether Manafort will have to serve

whatever new sentence he gets.


After his 47 months are up from the Virginia case, or could possibly the

two sentences run concurrently.  I mean, depending on how much time Judge

Amy Berman Jackson gives Paul Manafort this week that the consecutive

versus concurrent thing, it could make a huge difference as to how much of

the rest of Paul Manafort`s life is going to be spent not in prison.  So,

that is going to happen on Wednesday.


That same day, Trump national security adviser Mike Flynn will have a

status update in his case.  And in the Flynn case, this might be a big

deal.  You`ll remember Mike Flynn was supposed to be sentenced back in

December but his sentencing hearing went totally off the rails.  The

sentencing hearing was basically aborted half way through when the judge

started the sentencing process and then basically signaled that it was

going to go so, so badly for Mike Flynn that the judge would allow him to

try to improve his circumstances by cooperating even more with the special



And in court that day, Mike Flynn initially seemed to not understand that. 

The judge kept offering that over and over again.  You sure you want me to

sentence you today, sir?  You sure you don`t want a little more time? 


Finally, after the judge basically described his disgust and disdain for

Flynn`s offense, after the judge said in open court that Flynn undermined

and sold out his country, finally, Flynn and his lawyers appeared to cotton

on to what the judge was suggesting.  And so, Mike Flynn finally took the

judge up on his offer not to be sentenced that day, to go spend a little

more time with prosecutors and see if you can help them more. 


So, after that bizarre day in court in December, Flynn went back to

cooperating some more, which means Wednesday is going to be the first time

he`s back in court since the disaster of a sentencing hearing in December. 

Flynn is obviously hoping to end this thing and get to sentencing again

right away.  But we`ll see what prosecutors have to say.  We`ll see what

the judge has to say, you know, since this judge literally raised the

prospect of Flynn being prosecuted for treason the last time he saw him

back in December. 


I think when it comes to Wednesday, most of the attention is going to be on

Manafort and the expectations for his second sentencing.  But the Flynn

news that day could be really big, as well. 


Then the next day, long-time Trump political advisor Roger Stone will be

back in court, likely to be there in person.  That could also be a dramatic

day in part because of the legal wrangling that`s been happening between

the two signs in Stone`s case, over whether Roger Stone has again violated

the gag order that that judge has put on him in this case.  Roger Stone`s

status report outlining his compliance with the gag order was due today. 


We actually got the filing from his lawyers moments ago.  Filing exhibit A,

composite exhibit B, yes, it goes more.  We just got this stuff in. 

Basically, the upshot is that Stone`s lawyers are claiming he didn`t mean

to violate the gag order again when he forgot to tell the court about a new

introduction to one of his recent books that`s coming out, an introduction

in which he talks a lot about the Mueller case.


Depending how the judge feels about the submissions from both sides, she

could choose to revoke his bail if she wants to.  She could choose to send

him to jail to await trail the way she did to Paul Manafort last year. 

She`s also likely on Thursday to pick Roger Stone`s trial date.  So,

Thursday, Roger Stone is going to know a lot more about his fate.


Then the next day on Friday, we`re going to get the answer to one of the

biggest mysteries of all these cooperating witnesses.  Rick Gates, Rick

Gates was one of the first people charged by the special counsel back in

2017.  He was charged alongside Paul Manafort in the very first Mueller

indictment.  Gates, though, fairly quickly peeled off and pled guilty and

started cooperating. 


Unlike Paul Manafort, though, Gates` cooperation seems to have gone well. 

It did not break down and go very badly for Mr. Games the way it did for

Paul Manafort.  For Gates, it was a somewhat productive process, at least

to the extent the special counsel felt comfortable calling him as a witness

to use against Paul Manafort in the big federal trial in Virginia. 


I mean, beyond that turn on the witness stand, we had very little insight

into what Rick Gates might have been helping with.  But remember, he wasn`t

just Manafort`s deputy.  Rick Gates was also the number two guy in charge

of the Trump inaugural.  Since Gates started cooperating among the

developments we`ve been a little surprised by is the sweeping subpoena

issued to the Trump inaugural committee from prosecutors in the Southern

District of New York. 


So, who knows?  That may have been what seems to have extended this

cooperation period for Gates.  Again, we don`t know what he`s been

cooperating about, but his cooperation has been extended and extended and

extended again. 


On Friday, in the status hearing in his case, we may have got our first

insight into how helpful he`s actually been as a cooperating witness.  We

may finally see after more than a year of being a cooperating witness, what

he`s actually been doing and how much he`s actually been helping the



That`s all happening this week.  What are you doing this week? 


We`ll be right back.




MADDOW:  Admit it, sometimes you think about what the Jeb Bush presidency

might have been like, right?  When I think about it, all I can remember is

his goggling noises that he made in the campaign.  There were unexpected

things about the Jeb Bush for president campaign.


Now, we got a new one.  You don`t hear news like this all that often.  You

hardly ever hear about it on this scale, but a super PAC from the 2016

campaign, a super PAC that supported Jeb Bush for president has just been

hit by federal officials with a huge fine for accepting donations from

foreigners.  If you go to that super PAC website right now, it still has

the Jeb Bush Right to Rise logo at the top of it but look, that website is

clearly defunct how to install gutter guards or like cool lights for your



But back in 2015, this right to rise super PAC was a real thing, and it was

run by Jeb Bush`s brother, no, the other one, Neil Bush.  Again, supporting

Jeb`s run for the presidency, and as part of his turn at the helm of that

super PAC, brother Neal accepted – solicited and accepted a seven-figure

donation from a company he had worked with which was owned by Chinese

nationals, a seven-figure donation from a Chinese couple who did business

with Jeb`s brother Neil.


Now, foreign nationals cannot donate money to presidential campaigns or PAC

supporting candidates for office here, full stop.  A watch dog group called

the Campaign Legal Center challenge that donation and, you know, campaign

finance stuff is basically unregulated and unpoliced at this point in their

country`s history, but today, “Mother Jones” was first to report that that

watchdog group actually won.  The FEC says it did not know that the

violations were knowing and willful.


But now, these super PAC and company between them have agreed to pay

$940,000 in fines.  That`s one of the biggest fines we`ve seen.  Campaign

Legal Center says it`s the third largest fine in the history of the FEC. 


And, of course, it comes at a time when foreign interference in the

election is still right in the doggone center of the news and we`ve got

more on that next.  Stay with us.




MADDOW:  Naval Station Mayport is a U.S. naval base in Jacksonville,

Florida.  The best covers more than 3,000 acres.  It`s the third largest

naval facility in the entire Continental United States.  And on a sunny

November day in 2015, it was really something different to see at naval

station Mayport that day, because at around 8:00 a.m., three Chinese naval

ships pulled up to that American naval base in Jacksonville.  Members of

the Chinese Navy stood on the deck of their warships and waved.  They`re

welcomed by dignitaries. 


They visited these three big Chinese warships, was part of a Chinese

goodwill tour around the world.  It`s kind of a big deal.  I mean, the

United States has the biggest navy in the world, but China has the second

biggest and coming, and they have been trying to prove to the United States

and the rest of the world that they see themselves as the supreme naval

power on earth. 


Their navy isn`t to be messed with.  Their navy is the future.  They think

their navy is the second best to no one. 


So, they have China in this military environment bring their worships to

U.S. base in Florida.  It`s no small thing, right?  I mean, it was a

friendly gesture on the part of both sides, but it`s also a big deal and

everybody involved knew it.  They even brought the Chinese ambassador to

the United States down to Florida and on to one of the ships to oversee the

festivities personally.  Also, the Chinese counsel general. 


China extended invitations to what they called overseas Chinese leaders,

Chinese immigrants now living in the United States.  Among the leaders,

they were invited specifically to come see these Chinese warships in

Florida was a woman named Li Yang, she goes by Cindy Yang. 


She was extensively invited for her work on something called the Women`s

Charity Foundation.  Women`s Charity Foundation.  That must be something to

get you this kind of invitation? 


Think about the Women`s Charity Foundation is that it doesn`t show up as

currently registered when you look for it in Florida records.  We can`t

really tell much about it at all.  It doesn`t appear to have done anything

that pops in public records in any way. 


So, why did the founder of this then brand-new and even then super low

profile and now apparently nonexistent none specific charity get invited to

a high level military event for the Chinese government?  According to the

Chinese press, only ten people got those invitations.  Why was she one of



According to “Mother Jones” magazine, around the time she was starting this

charity that got her this invitation to go see the Chinese warships, she

was also given leadership roles at two organizations in Florida with ties

to the Chinese government.  And around the time all this plum attention

from the Chinese government was being bestowed upon Cindy Yang, it also

seemed like there was a real turning point going on in her life because up

until that point, the biggest thing Cindy Yang had ever done in this

country was found a Florida-based chain of day spas and massage parlors

that had kind of a reputation for offering a very special kind of massage,

if you know what I mean, one where you turn over. 


For the record, Cindy Yang told “The Miami Herald” she has never broken the

law, but it was one of the massage parlors that Cindy Yang founded where

Robert Kraft, you know, the Patriots football team, he was just arrested

for allegedly soliciting prostitution.  Cindy Yang sold that particular

spot a couple years ago before it got busted for alleged human trafficking

and for prostitution thing.  “The Herald” though points out that not much

has changed at that massage parlor since Cindy Yang sold it.  They have the

same couch, the same wall hanging and same fake potted plant. 


Since selling that spa, Cindy Yang does seem to have gone through some kind

of transformation.  I mean, the day spas thing was one thing.  Starting in

2015 and into 2016, she was really doing something else. 


In 2015, after not voting in this country for ten years, Cindy Yang

suddenly became very active in American politics, almost astonishingly

slow.  She and her family donated – started off actually donating to Jeb

Bush campaigns.  They`ve since donated close to $60,000 to Donald Trump`s

campaign and to one of his super PACs. 


She`s turned into a regular at the president`s golf club in Florida and

also at fancy Republican dinners and galas and fundraisers.  She has taken

pictures with everybody from members of the president`s cabinet and his top

advisors, to members of the president`s family, to multiple selfies with

the president of the United States himself.


And now, it`s being reported that Cindy Yang has also started a company

which was advertising to potential clients in China that for a price, she

could sell you meetings with and pictures with the president and his

family.  You pay her, she`ll get you introduced to Donald Trump.  She`ll

get you pictures with Trump and his family. 


I mean, this is from her website spelling out the different services you

can buy from her.  She`s literally offering the opportunity to buy dinner

at the White House.  You pay her, she`ll get you into a dinner at the White

House, and that sounds crazy, except for the fact here`s a picture of Cindy

Yang at the White House, posing at an event celebrating the lunar New Year. 


Since “The Miami Herald” and “Mother Jones” started poking around and

asking questions about Cindy Yang and her ties to the Trump administration,

she quickly shutdown both her Facebook page and her company website. 


But given that transformation she went through, given all she`s been

accomplished and access with just the rudimentary website and a selfie

stick, it`s no wonder the Chinese government appears to have taken a real

shine to this Florida massage parlor owner and her work, whatever that work

might be. 


Joining us now is Nicholas Nehamas.  He`s an investigative reporter from

“The Miami Herald”.  He helped break that story over the weekend. 


Mr. Nehamas, thanks very much for being here.  I appreciate your time.




MADDOW:  First, let me ask you if I`m saying your last name right.  I`ve

been practicing all day. 


NEHAMAS:  Yes, you`re pretty.  Nehamas, a Greek name.


MADDOW:  Nehamas, fair?


NEHAMAS:  Yes, absolutely.


MADDOW:  What strikes me about your reporting and some of the reporting

that since happened at “Mother Jones” is it does seem like there was this

interesting transformation, political transformation in Ms. Yang`s life to

go from massage parlor entrepreneur who seems to have had a reputation, her

business had a reputation for unlicensed sex work, to get from there

invitations from the Chinese government and high level access to U.S.

public officials, including the president.  It just seems like a very quick



NEHAMAS:  Yes, it really is a remarkable turn of events for a person who as

far as we can tell from voter files had not voted in ten years.  Now, we

did not to a source close to Ms. Yang recently who said that she was very

taken with then candidate Trump and liked the idea of his candidacy and all

the attention he was getting and wanted to be part of it herself.  And so,

that`s the explanation coming from people close to her.  But it still

leaves a lot of questions unanswered about – I mean, really, how do you

pull off this quick, quick transformation from owning nail spas or nail

salons and massage parlors to, you know, as you said taking selfies with

the president of the United States. 


MADDOW:  And what about these allegations and this – what appears to be

the evidence of this business that she was running in which she was

offering people who would presumably pay her for the privilege, that she

could get you introduced to the president.  She could get you pick with the

president, with member of the president`s family.  She could get you into a

dinner at the White House? 


I mean, first of all, do we have any reason to believe that she could pull

those things off, and second of all, is that legal? 


NEHAMAS:  Well, she certainly had evidence that she had such access as

you`ll see from the pictures of her with President Trump, with Governor

DeSantis, with Senator Rick Scott, I mean, really, a laundry list of

Florida Republicans and conservative commentators.  And she also posted

people or pictures of people that she suggests on her now defunct website

where her clients are meeting these people. 


And she told a person at a Republican fund-raiser in December 2nd, 2017,

that she had arranged for a long group of mainland Chinese businessmen to

attend this fund-raiser which was hosted by the RNC for President Trump. 

So, she`s making a lot of claims and she does have some ability to back it

up.  As for the questions of legality, it is only legal for citizens and

permanent residents to donate to a campaign.  It is illegal for foreign

nationals to do so.  But foreigners can attend fund raisers and political

events as long as they`re not paying their own way. 


It would be illegal now for them to reimburse someone for paying their way

into a fund-raiser. 


MADDOW:  Nicholas Nehamas, investigative reporter for “The Miami Herald”, I

really appreciate your time tonight.  I understand there were some

logistical drama getting you on the air tonight.  So, thanks for going the

extra mile for us. 


NEHAMAS:  Glad to do it.  Miami, you never know what to expect. 


MADDOW:  That`s why we read “The Miami Herald” everybody.  Thanks.  Much



Be right back. 






OPRAH WINFREY, TV HOST:  Thank you for the chance to sit down and see that

if you are the real deal.  Are you the real deal? 


BETO O`ROURKE (D-TX), FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN:  I feel some pressure now

when you put it that way. 




MADDOW:  Ordinarily, after that kind of love fest with Oprah, you can kind

of hang it up, right, die happy?  But today, former Texas Congressman Beto

O`Rourke topped that. 




AD ANNOUNCER:  Beto O`Rourke`s image drafters say he`s Barack Obama but





MADDOW:  That is the new political attack ad against Beto O`Rourke from the

conservative group the Club for Growth.  Now, if you`re going to have a

political attack ad made in your honor, this is definitely the way to go. 

This is like VIP. 


This anti-Beto O`Rourke, he`s just like Obama ad is super long.  It`s two

minutes long, and they`re running it on TV, which it`s both expensive and

if you`re Beto O`Rourke, it`s kind of high praise, right?  It`s one thing

to get your own super sized right wing attack ads a year before you`re in

the race. 


But a year before the primaries, a year before you`ve announced you`re

running, there are reports that Beto O`Rourke could announce he`s running

as early as this week, just before we got on the air, he announced he`s

making his first Iowa trip this weekend to support a Democratic named Eric

Giddens, who`s running for state senate. 


Before Beto O`Rourke himself gets to Iowa, this super size two-minute long

TV attack ad is going to beat him to it.  That ad starts airing in Iowa

this week, the Club for Growth calls this their first installment in a,

quote, yearlong effort to undermine Beto O`Rourke with Democratic primary

voters.  Which means somebody`s either very worried about Beto O`Rourke as

a potential Democratic nominee or alternatively, maybe they`re really

hoping for Beto O`Rourke to do well in Iowa because they want him as the

Democratic nominee for some reason. 


So they`re doing all they can to boost his name recognition and make Iowa

think of him as white Obama in two-minute long campaign ads he doesn`t have

to pay for.  Choose your poison. 


One more thing to keep an eye on, Stacey Abrams.  The first black woman to

be a major party`s nominee for governor, the first black woman to deliver a

State of the Union response today dropped a holy cow hint in which she said

that she might run, too, quote 2020 is definitely on the table, dot, dot,



That`s not somebody quoting here.  That`s her quoting her.  How long before

Stacey Abrams gets her own super sized attack ads from right wing groups in



That does it for us tonight.  We will see you again tomorrow. 




Good evening, Lawrence.












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