Manafort faces sentencing in D.C. on Wednesday. TRANSCRIPT: 3/11/19, The Rachel Maddow Show.
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
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.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Joining us is Christina Wilkie, White House reporter for CNBC.com.
She`s the one who spooked the architect.
Christina, thank you for being here.
CHRISTINA WILKIE, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, CNBC.COM: Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: Do you have this effect on people more broadly?
WILKIE: I do not. People love to call me back.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
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
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
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 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
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 CNBC.com.
Christina, I know I`ve been embarrassing you. Thank you very much for
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
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 CNBC.com, 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
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
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
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.
NICHOLAS NEHAMAS, MIAMI HERALD REPORTER: Yes, thanks for having me.
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.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
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.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AD ANNOUNCER: Beto O`Rourke`s image drafters say he`s Barack Obama but
(END VIDEO CLIP)
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
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.
Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL”.
Good evening, Lawrence.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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Copyright 2019 ASC Services II Media, LLC. All materials herein are
protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced,
distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the
prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter
or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the