Whitaker meets with Nadler. TRANSCRIPT: 3/13/19, The Rachel Maddow Show.
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: That is ALL IN for this evening.
“THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW” starts right now. Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thanks, my friend.
HAYES: You bet.
MADDOW: Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
HAYES: Man, this day. This day was only one day, even though it feels
like it was ten, ten, ten days in one. But, you know, only one way to get
through it is to just start getting through it.
Let`s just jump in. All right? Here we go.
This is how it started when the judge came back from recess. Before the
recess, she had heard arguments from the prosecutors from the special
counsel`s office. She had had quite a lot of back and forth with the
defense counsel. She had heard an apology from the defendant, who spoke
from his wheel chair.
And then she took a break. So, deep breath, everybody collect yourself,
and then when she comes back from that recess, it`s time for everybody to
see how the cookie crumbles. All rise.
The courtroom deputy says, quote: Your Honor, recalling criminal case
number 17-201-1, the United States of America versus Paul J. Manafort Jr.
And then the judge begins. Quote: The sentencing briefing, and to a lesser
extent the argument this morning in this case, has been marked by a great
deal of passion and a fair amount of hyperbole and overstatement on both
sides. This defendant is not public enemy number one, but he is not a
victim either. I also want to make clear from the start that the
conclusion of this particular prosecution with the imposition of sentence
today will not be a vindication of and will not incriminate anyone who was
involved in or the subject of the ongoing investigation by the office of
the special counsel.
Notwithstanding the many references that pepper the sentencing memo, the
question of whether there was or was not any coordination or conspiracy or
any collusion between anyone associated with the presidential campaign and
anyone in Russia was not presented in this case. Period. Therefore, it
was not resolved one way or the other by this case.
She continues: Also, this sentence will not be an endorsement or an
indictment of the mission or the tactics of the Office of Special Counsel.
That question is not before the court either.
Then, she says: Nor does it fall to me today to pass judgment on Paul
Manafort as a human being, or decide, as his daughter asked me to, if he is
worthy of forgiveness under God. His life is not over, and he is going to
have the opportunity to make something positive out of this, as he has
suggested he is going to do, and that is a question left for a higher
authority at another time. The issue today is what is the appropriate
sanction in this world for certain things he did deliberately over a
considerable period of time and in violation of a number of federal laws.
And at that point, Judge Amy Berman Jackson from the bench out loud,
orally, she goes into a detailed verbal recitation over Paul Manafort`s
crimes, specifically, what he`s being sentenced for today. After she
describes all of his crimes, the judge goes on to talk about in more
general terms Manafort`s disregard for the facts, his dissembling in this
courtroom, his, quote, belief that he had the right to manipulate these
proceedings and the court orders and the rules didn`t apply to him. She
said that, quote, a significant proportion of Paul Manafort`s career has
been spent gaming the system, but she said, quote, court is one of those
places where facts still matter.
So, a bunch of detail of the crimes. At one point, she goes into a lot of
detail about what is so dangerous to American democracy that he committed
the types of crimes where he did, where he kept secret the people who were
paying for lobbying efforts so that our democracy functioned in the dark,
essentially, without the facts about who was trying to influence us. She
goes into detail.
And at this point, the fate of the president`s campaign chair Paul Manafort
is sort of starting to become clear, right? We`re starting to realize at
least that this judge is going to give him some prison time.
But there is also a crucial question about how his fate, how his personal
fate relates to the rest of the Russia investigation, and that was really
set in motion, or at least really advanced today by the sentence that Paul
Manafort ultimately got in this courtroom today. But right before the
moment when she sentenced him, right at the very end of the proceedings
today, while she is going through Manafort`s crimes and talking about what
she thinks about him and talking about the case, we got from this judge
today sort of an anger.
We got her telling us what we the public should know and what she basically
contends is B.S. untrue spin about how the conviction and imprisonment of
this man, the president`s campaign chair, fits into this whole scandal.
So, this is the last piece of this transcript I`m going read here, this is
– I mean, this judge knows how high profile this case is. She is
obviously addressing the matter at hand, but I think she is also telling us
something here, and I did not expect this from this judge today at all, but
it is worth hearing exactly what she said.
All right. Last bit. Manafort`s, quote, core argument ahead of this
sentencing, she says, echoed by his defense lawyer Mr. Downing this morning
was that, quote, but for this special counsel investigation, Manafort
wouldn`t have been charged in the first place. That argument, she says,
Quote, it is certainly not unusual that investigators uncover crime X when
they`re looking into crime Y. And the perpetrators who get uncovered that
way do not get a pass. Saying I`m sorry I got caught is not an inspiring
plea for leniency.
Then she says, first of all, it`s entirely relevant to the question before
the court – excuse me, first of all, it`s entirely irrelevant to the
question before the court. The number of times the argument was repeated
notwithstanding – excuse me. First of all, it is entirely irrelevant to
the question before the court. The number of times the argument was
repeated, notwithstanding the fact that it didn`t have any bearing on the
question at hand, suggests that it wasn`t being repeated for the benefit of
the person you were trying to persuade he had accepted responsibility, but
it was being repeated for some other audience.
So forgive my missteps there. That is the judge saying that the fact that
it was the special counsel who is prosecuting Paul Manafort was irrelevant
to the question before her. The fact that the special counsel was the
prosecuting agency here, she`s suggesting kept getting brought up in court
by Manafort`s defense not because it mattered to her, not because it would
have any influence on the way she was going sentence Paul Manafort, but it
was being repeated for some other audience – meaning it was being repeated
for a public audience who might be more inclined toward Paul Manafort
because specifically he`s being prosecuted by this no-good very bad special
And then this is how she finishes up. Quote: Finally, the no collusion
refrain that runs through the entire defense sentencing memorandum is
similarly unrelated to the matters at hand. The defense told me over and
over importantly or it is notable that the defendant has not been charged
with any crimes related to the primary focus of the special counsel`s
investigation, and the sentencing memorandum suggests without foundation
that the individuals who received relatively short sentences for lying
during the investigation received those sentences because, as the defense
put it, courts recognize that these prosecutions bear little to no relation
to the special counsel`s core mandate of the investigation, allegations
that the Trump campaign colluded with the Russian government to influence
the 2016 election.
The judge says, quote: It is hard to understand why an attorney would write
that. That sentence, like the others, has no citation following it because
not one of the judges involved stated at the time they imposed sentence
that they considered that to be a factor in their sentencing decisions.
The no collusion mantra the judge says is simply a non sequitur that does
not bear on the question of the appropriate sentence, and it is not clear
whether it`s even accurate since the investigation is as yet unfinished and
no report has been issued. It`s also not particularly persuasive to argue
that an investigation hasn`t found anything when you lied to the
investigators. So that was Judge Amy Berman Jackson today.
The judge saying explicitly right before she sentenced Paul Manafort, look,
I wasn`t asked to look at Russian collusion in this case, so you guys are
bringing it up not for me, and this repeated – what she calls the no
collusion mantra from Manafort and his defense team, she says it is a non
sequitur, but then remarkably she says it`s not even clear whether that no
collusion mantra is even accurate since the Russia collusion investigation
is as yet unfinished and no report has been issued.
So, she is saying I was not asked to look at Russia collusion. You keep
bringing this up. That is not about this case.
And why you saying no collusion? I didn`t even look at it, and it`s not
clear to me that won`t ultimately be charged. And remember, she`s seen
stuff we haven`t.
I mean, ultimately, in Paul Manafort`s life, the most important thing that
happened today will be the length of the federal prison sentence that Judge
Jackson gave him. But for all of us as a country, this diversion that
Judge Jackson took at length in Manafort`s sentencing hearing, in the
transcript here, this no collusion, no collusion diversion, that may end up
for us being the most important thing in terms of understanding the
historical importance of the Manafort case and the historical importance of
Paul Manafort`s prison sentences, and the impact of this case and all of
these other criminal prosecutions on the presidency of Donald Trump and the
president`s own liability and potential criminal exposure in this ongoing
Because what this judge says there about the no collusion mantra being,
quote, simply a non sequitur, I mean, that is – that is literally and
exactly true in this case. I mean, just – just think about this for a
second like with your child mind, right? Let`s just take this outside the
context of old Paul Manafort sitting there in his wheelchair and outside
the context of Donald Trump and all the drama over the past couple years,
over the duration of the Russia scandal.
Just imagine this in the abstract. Imagine, just for the sake of argument
here, imagine, let`s say that you are the Hamburglar. Remember the
Hamburglar? You wear black and white stripes. You wear a weird little
fedora and a mask.
You are known for having such an insatiable appetite for hamburgers that
you steal them all the time. You`re terrible. You`re a Hamburglar.
Also, surprisingly, you are a terrible driver. So bad that you, in fact,
have gone on trial for reckless driving. You`re an insanely bad,
criminally bad driver, and a cop totally caught you crossing double yellow
lines, smashing into a guardrail, knocking down a street sign, causing
other cars to crash in your wake. You`re awful.
Now maybe it`s because you were ravenously gobbling down purloined
hamburgers while you were doing that bad driving, and that`s what made you
a bad driver, I don`t know. But you were reckless driving, and you got
caught for it, and you got prosecuted for it. And you, in court, get
convicted for reckless driving.
Now imagine that upon you being convicted of reckless driving, your lawyer
walks outside to the courthouse steps and says, I am the defense lawyer for
the notorious Hamburglar. And I`m here to tell you that we feel vindicated
today, because, yes, I know, my client just got convicted on all these
reckless driving charges, but this court turned up absolutely no evidence
that my client burgled any hamburgers. No evidence of, you know, breaking
and entering with the intent to steal hamburgers.
This judge concluded that my client is not a beef thief. He is not a
burger burglar. And yes, he is going to prison for a long time on this
reckless driving thing.
But he is vindicated. He is a Hamburglar in name only. This is a terrible
smear. It has been disproven in court.
All right. That would be ridiculous on a whole bunch of levels, even
beyond your outfit. But that is an allegory to what just happened here now
twice in one week with the president`s campaign chair Paul Manafort because
– I mean, as the judge explained today, when she absolutely didn`t have
to, but as she explained today as she was about to sentence Paul Manafort,
Manafort really has been putting on this weird display, this kind of
performance by his lawyers that`s running alongside his criminal trials in
which he publicly claims vindication for something he was not actually
tried for at all. I mean, even as he is convicted of lots of other
felonies and sent to federal prison for years, his lawyer`s out on the
courthouse steps saying Manafort is vindicated.
I mean, today, the president`s campaign chair was in fact sentenced to
federal prison for two felony conspiracy counts, one involving financial
crimes, the other one involving witness tampering. But upon the handing
down of that multi-year prison sentence on those felony counts, Paul
Manafort`s lawyer walked out on to the courthouse steps and said this –
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KEVIN DOWNING, PAUL MANAFORT`S ATTORNEY: For anyone who was in the
courtroom today, what I`m about to say will not be a surprise. Judge
Jackson conceded that there was absolutely no evidence of any Russian
collusion in this case. And that makes two courts. Two courts have ruled
no evidence –
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Traitor. Liar.
DOWNING: – of any collusion with any Russians. Point number two –
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That`s not what she said.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Manafort`s a traitor.
DOWNING: Very said, very sad day, for such a callous harsh sentence that
is totally unnecessary.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You guys are liars, man. You`re not lawyers, you`re
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: You`re not lawyers, you`re liars. That was Paul Manafort`s
defense lawyer immediately after being sentenced to federal prison today.
And you can hear all the people yelling over him. That`s not what she
said, right? I mean, Manafort`s lawyer says Judge Jackson conceded there
was absolutely no evidence of any Russian collusion. People – that`s not
what she said. That`s not what the judge just said in court.
I mean, this is Manafort`s lawyer on the courthouse steps lying what that
judge just said in court. The people who were shouting him down, whatever
you think of the fact they were shouting him down, on the facts they were
correct. Because – I mean, we know what Judge Jackson actually did say on
the Russia collusion issue today. I mean, just moments before, we got that
performance from Manafort`s lawyer outside her courtroom. She could not
have been more clear, right?
The question of whether there was or was not any coordination or conspiracy
or any collusion between anyone associated with the presidential campaign
and anyone in Russia was not presented in this case. Period. Therefore,
it was not resolved one way or the other by this case.
Manafort`s lawyer hears that and then goes outside on the courtroom step
and says the judge conceded there was no evidence of Russian collusion in
This is not subtle, right? This was not hard to grasp from the judge.
This is not some little nuance in Manafort`s criminal case.
This is the judge bluntly saying what has been true from this case from the
beginning, which is that this case, this court, this judge did not consider
the issue of Russian collusion. That`s not what the charges against
Manafort were about. This is about different stuff.
This was not about your hamburglaring. This is about reckless driving,
whether or not you`re a dastardly hamburglar.
But given that, given that Manafort`s lawyers had just heard the judge say
that moments before, they know that to be the truth about their client`s
case, why did Manafort`s lawyers still walk outside that courtroom today
and say this lie about the judge, to say the judge confirmed in this case
that there is no evidence of Russia collusion? Well, presumably, they said
that today for the exact same reason they said it outside Manafort`s other
federal trial where he was sentenced on other felony counts in Virginia
less than a week ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DOWNING: What you saw today is the same thing that we had said from day
one. There is absolutely no evidence that Paul Manafort was involved with
any collusion with any government official from Russia. Thank you,
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Well, at least you could hear him there. As far as I understand
it, the Virginia courthouse setting last week was a little harder for folks
to navigate logistically. So last week when Manafort`s lawyers said the
weird no collusion thing on the courthouse steps then, there weren`t people
standing around him in that moment, shouting him down, saying he was lying
about that point. But he was lying about that point.
Just like in D.C. today. What Manafort`s lawyer said on the courthouse
steps both last week and this week were both lies. I mean, in Virginia, it
was just as explicit as it was today in D.C. I mean, the judge in Virginia
didn`t consider the issue of Russia collusion one way or the other. The
judge didn`t collect evidence on Russia collusion and then weigh it in that
courtroom and then decide, oh, OK, in fact I rule there was no Russia
Just like in that D.C. courtroom today, in Virginia last week, that
Virginia judge was blunt and explicit and unmistakably clear about the fact
that collusion wasn`t something he looked at all. It wasn`t an issue in
the case. Quote, Manafort is not before the court for anything having to
do with colluding with the Russian government to influence this election.
So, I mean, today – today is a historic day. You will always be able to
tell your kids and your grandkids what you remember what you were doing
that day, the first day in U.S. history that the campaign chair for a
sitting president was sentenced to multiple years in federal prison for
felonies. With the partially concurrent and partially consecutive
sentences handed down by Judge Jackson in D.C. today, on top of the
sentence that Manafort got last week in Virginia, also factoring in credit
for the time he`s already served in federal lockup, factoring in the good-
time credits that he will get if he is in fact good during his prison time,
people who have experience in these things say they expect Manafort will
ultimately do about seven years roughly in federal prison before he is
The closest thing we`ve ever seen to something like this in U.S. history
was when President Nixon`s campaign manager John Mitchell served 17 months
in federal prison starting in 1975 before he was ultimately paroled out on
medical grounds. But, again, John Mitchell`s 17 months is nowhere near the
seven years that Paul Manafort is going to do. And at least in Mitchell`s
case, the president who he got elected, Richard Nixon, was no longer in the
White House when Mitchell had to go to the crowbar hotel. Nixon was long
gone by the time Mitchell was convicted and had to start serving his time.
So Manafort breaking this historical ground, it`s not the way you like to
go down in the history books. He is doing something that`s never been done
before in U.S. history, but I`m sure this is the type of infamy he is not
happy to have achieved in American history. That said, there is one
logistical advantage Paul Manafort has gained by being the first
presidential campaign chairman in history to ever find himself going to
prison in these circumstances.
And that is that the guy who he got elected president, the guy whose
campaign for president he ran just a couple of years ago, that guy is still
president now, and as such, that president has the constitutional power to
issue a pardon for Manafort or to commute Manafort`s seven-year sentence if
he so chooses. I mean, John Mitchell never had that benefit, right? Nixon
was no longer in a position to pardon him by the time John Mitchell started
serving his term.
Nobody who ran a presidential campaign has ever been in this circumstance
before. But that prospect for Manafort, that the president who he helped
elect could undo all this legal trouble for Manafort, could undo Manafort`s
prison sentence with the stroke of a pen, that presumably is why Manafort`s
lawyers keep popping up outside courthouses saying, hey, the judge just
said conclusively no collusion, no collusion. It was proven in this
courtroom. The judge agrees, no collusion.
When in fact the judges in those courthouses never considered that question
at all, let alone what evidence might support that prospect or not. And
so, I mean, I don`t know if those lawyers get in trouble for that
performance, and honestly, in the broader context here, whatever Paul
Manafort may know about that subject or not, he didn`t cooperate with
prosecutors to give them truthful and useful information about it.
Remember, prosecutors in both courthouses told the judges that Manafort
should get no credit whatsoever for his supposed cooperation because he
wasn`t in fact Cooperative with them.
And in this D.C. court today, the judge affirmed her earlier ruling that
Manafort in fact deliberately lied to prosecutors about his connections
during the campaign with a Russian guy who is tied to Russian intelligence.
She also ruled in the Manafort case that Manafort deliberately lied about
his dealings with the guy who produced detailed polling information for the
Trump campaign. One of the collusion allegations that has arisen about the
Trump campaign is the prospect that the Trump campaign provided Russian
sources with internal detailed technical polling information that could
conceivably been helpful to Russian intelligence while they were mounting
that foreign intelligence campaign to try to tamper with the election to
Well, Manafort in his D.C. case was found to have lied to prosecutors about
his contacts with the Russian intelligence guy, and he was found to have
lied to prosecutors about his dealings during the campaign with the guy who
handled the Trump polling. Well, lying to keep those things covered up and
then lying to a sea of reporters and TV cameras to say, hey, these judges
found there was definitely no collusion – well, if there was collusion and
there are worries that this president might use the powers of his office to
cover it up, to quash any investigation that might turn up evidence of
Russian collusion, if there are worries that this president might use his
pardon power to protect and reward people for lying to prosecutors about
Russian collusion, if there are worries that this president will use his
pardon power to protect and reward people for lying to federal judges about
Russian collusion, if there are worries that he will use his pardon power
to protect and reward people who know stuff about Russian collusion and
either don`t tell it all or tell lies about it, that`s why there is a
substantive concern about the president possibly pardoning Paul Manafort or
commuting his sentence, right?
Concern about that is not just about Manafort`s life and the prospect that
Manafort may not face justice for his crimes. Concern about President
Trump pardoning Manafort, commuting his sentence, that has to do with the
prospect that such an act by the president would show every other witness
and every defendant in this case, current witnesses and defendants and
future witnesses and defendants that if they stick to the “no collusion, no
collusion” mantra, despite the facts, if they stick to that mantra, even to
the point of lying to investigators about it and lying to federal courts
about it, those people, even if they get caught for lying, they will still
have nothing to worry about, they`ll still get off because the president
will get them off.
That is the worry about a Manafort pardon. That has been the worry all
along. It is particularly the worry now, now that Manafort is facing seven
years in federal prison after, among other things, repeatedly lying to
prosecutors about his contacts with Russian intelligence.
And you have heard a lot of discussion in the news and legal circles
recently about the prospects of a Manafort pardon. Trump was asked about
it today by reporters at the White House soon after Manafort received his
sentence. All of that discussion, yes, it is of interest in terms of
Manafort`s personal fate, but it is also about the fate of the whole Russia
It is about the prospects for the entire investigation. It`s about the
whole kit and caboodle. And the crucial question of whether the president
can use his powers as president to wire the Russia investigation to explode
by using his pardon power to protect people who agree to lie about it in
order to protect him and in order to prevent the truth from coming out.
And that is why New York prosecutors today, not federal prosecutors, but
state prosecutors in New York threw a huge wrench in the works for the
White House today when they unsealed a brand-new 16-count felony indictment
against presidential campaign chairman Paul Manafort just minutes after his
sentence was announced in court in D.C.
You know, obviously, the immediate revelation everybody had upon seeing
that indictment is that whatever the president may be considering in terms
of using the pardon power, and whatever the president might be thinking
about whether he`s going to spring Manafort, either getting rid of his
convictions all together, just getting rid of the federal prison time that
Manafort is about to do, the immediate revelation from that New York
indictment today was – well, as we all know, there is no such thing as a
presidential pardon for state crimes. There is no way a president can
commute your state prison sentence. The president can`t get Paul Manafort
out of New York charges.
And that is one important thing to consider about the new New York
indictment against Manafort today, but I think there are a couple of other
things that are worth figuring out here about this indictment given the
importance of this development today. Again, not just for the fate of
Manafort himself, but for the whole proverbial kit and caboodle that is the
Russia investigation and the question of the president`s ability to stop
And I actually think with the right advice, we can figure some of the stuff
out during this hour during this show tonight. And so, that`s what we`re
going to do.
Stay with us. That`s next.
MADDOW: Right after the president`s campaign chair Paul Manafort was
sentenced to prison today in a D.C. courtroom, we got news that he`d been
indicted on 16 state charges in New York. Now, one of the things I think
is worth trying to figure out here is how the mechanics of the state
prosecution work vis-a-vis the two federal cases against Manafort that have
just wrapped up. Obviously, the big picture perspective here for the whole
country in terms of how Manafort fits into the Russia investigation amounts
to a lot of concern about the president`s ability to pardon Manafort or
commute his sentence so that Manafort is essentially excused for having
lied to prosecutors about, among other things, his contact with a guy
linked to Russian intelligence during the course of the campaign.
So, the potential success of this prosecution in New York is important to
the whole big picture of how Manafort fits into all this and how the
president fits into the Russia investigation broadly. And under the
Constitution, of course, you can`t be tried twice for the same crime.
That`s called double jeopardy.
That said, generally speaking, you can be charged, even if it is for the
same or similar conduct, you can be charged with different crimes in
different jurisdictions in different kinds of court. Even if you only did
one bad thing, you could be charged for it for one crime in federal court.
You could be charged for it for a different crime in state court.
Prosecutors just have to be very careful and specific in the way that they
do it so as to avoid double jeopardy concerns.
So, for example, Manafort was charged in federal court in Virginia for bank
fraud for some real estate shenanigans he pulled involving New York
properties. In a generally speaking way, that same set of facts, those
same shenanigans by Manafort around New York real estate, those were
charged today in state court in New York as, quote, residential mortgage
fraud in the first degree.
Now, there`s no federal crime of residential mortgage fraud in the first or
any degree. That`s not a federal crime. And so, on its face, this is not
an instance in which Manafort is being charged again for a crime which he`s
already been convicted. This is a whole new crime under state law that
wasn`t available to federal prosecutors had they wanted to pursue it,
because that crime is only a New York crime.
So, again, I think there are questions here that we can start to answer
tonight about how these prosecutors, these state prosecutors try to
navigate this prosecution so as to avoid double jeopardy concerns, trying
to avoid some state judge throwing out this indictment by saying Manafort
has already been convicted of these crimes in a different court, in federal
court. But honestly, the facts laid out in this 16-count, 11-page
indictment today against Manafort in New York, it didn`t give us any new
alleged facts about Manafort. I mean, they`re charging him in New York
based on the same evidence that was brought to bear against him in his
And remember, in his federal cases, Paul Manafort was convicted on eight
felony charges. He pled guilty to an additional two felony charges. As
part of pleading guilty, he admitted guilt to all the other charges that
had been pending against him. That means that he`s already formally in
writing admitted guilt to having committed crimes when he did all these
things that are now described in this new indictment that was just brought
against him today in New York.
So I understand the delicacy of what the prosecution is trying to do here.
What about the defense? How does Manafort`s defense deal with the fact
that all these charges he has just been hit with in New York, these are all
things for which he has already admitted guilt. I mean, how do you even
mount a defense when you`ve already said yeah, that stuff, ooh, yes, I did
Joining us now is Joyce Vance, former U.S. attorney for the Northern
District of Alabama.
Joyce, thank you so much for being here. I`m really looking forward to
talking to you about this stuff tonight.
JOYCE VANCE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Glad to be here.
MADDOW: First of all, let me ask you about whether I`m asking the right
questions when it comes to this New York indictment. What I see as
important about it, other than Manafort`s fate, is how it really calls the
question as to whether or not the president can free him from legal
liability in the prospect of prison. That said, it seems to me like the
prosecutors have to be careful in how they pursue this, given that he has
already been charged in two different federal courts.
VANCE: I think you`re exactly right. The first thing that Manafort`s
defense lawyers will likely do is file a motion to dismiss the indictment,
alleging that it subjects him to double jeopardy, and then all of these
legal issues will be teed up and argued, most likely all the way to New
York`s highest appellate court.
MADDOW: Joyce, in terms of the D.A. bringing these charges, that double
jeopardy concern obviously, I`m also having a hard time imagining how a
defense counsel would approach this. I mean, this is this awkwardness,
just in terms as a layman looking at the plot here that Manafort has
already said he did all this. All the factual allegations that are laid
out in the indictment are things that Manafort has already admitted he`s
done. This is the state of New York describing those things he`s admitted
to as crimes. It seems for the defense almost impossible.
VANCE: It`s really a double-edged sword. It will make the legal defenses
very important to Manafort, because he would have difficulty surviving a
jury without being convicted given what he`s admitted to factually. But
I`ll say something very unpopular, I suspect, Rachel, and say that we have
this important notion of double jeopardy in our Constitution, and we should
think carefully. We don`t really need rabid masses in this country
chanting “lock him or her up”.
VANCE: And so, it`s important that this double jeopardy issue be very
thoroughly vetted. I know that Cy Vance runs a very good shop in
Manhattan, and I suspect that some of the best minds in that office
considered the double jeopardy question and the implications of it, and it
will, of course, play out in front of state court judges.
MADDOW: What do you expect to be the timeframe on this? Before this
presidency, I knew very little about federal criminal procedures. I know
even less about state criminal procedures, let alone these ones
specifically in New York.
Do you have any sense of the kind of timeframe that this will proceed on?
VANCE: This is an issue that will have to be decided before there would be
any kind of trial for this quirky little procedural question in law that
says double jeopardy attaches when a jury is empanelled. In other words,
the minute that you get a jury in the box, then it`s too late to consider
double jeopardy questions.
So, this will have to happen early. I would say that once he is –
Manafort is arraigned in New York custody, which will take some time,
because the federal marshals will have to put him on their bus and ship him
up there. But once he`s arraigned, his lawyers will begin to file
procedural motions, and this will be one of those early motions.
MADDOW: OK. Joyce, if you don`t mind sitting with us, I have another
aspect that I feel like seems clear to me as a layperson, but I definitely
need some expert advice on it. Can you hold on just a moment for that?
MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back as we try to get through to the
meaning of this stuff. Gosh, what a day.
All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: When the president`s campaign chairman was hit today immediately
after his federal sentencing with an indictment for 16 new felony charges
in New York state, here`s my question: Did that indictment include a little
bit of a shot across the bow for the president himself? Because to me, as
a non-lawyer, it looked that way.
Let me show you what I mean, and then we`ll actually talk to somebody who
will know for sure. You remember that federal prosecutors in New York
already named the president as individual number one in two campaign
finance felonies that were charged in federal court in New York. According
to prosecutors, individual one, aka President Trump, is the person who
directed Michael Cohen to commit campaign finance felonies when he directed
the hush money payment scheme to two women right ahead of the presidential
election and the cover-up thereafter.
Since those federal prosecutors described the president`s conduct that way
in court documents, the question that has loomed over the Trump presidency
like King Kong hanging off the freaking Empire State Building is whether or
not those prosecutors intend to bring felony charges against individual one
in regard to those crimes, or indeed the question of whether they might
have already wrought felony charges against individual one, aka President
Trump, in some sort of sealed indictment that we the public have not yet
In that campaign finance felony scheme, it is not just the president who
was personally implicated as the person directing the scheme. The
president`s business, the Trump Organization also appears to be implicated
in that felony. In those felonies I should say.
Among other things, they falsely described those hush money payments in the
Trump Organization`s own books as tax services or a legal retainer.
Prosecutors explicitly say that those descriptions in Trump Organization
records are false. They explicitly describe the Trump Organization sort of
cooking their own books that way, using their own business records to
disguise the true nature of those payments which were illegal payments.
And after prosecutors went out of their way to describe the Trump
Organization having done that, you know, you ask former prosecutors, you`d
ask experienced defense attorneys, hey, why are these SDNY prosecutors
going out of their way to show and describe these false bookkeeping entries
at the Trump Organization? And lawyers would tell you, well, yes,
theoretically, that could be a crime, too. Falsely recording those records
as something they`re not, that could be a felony called falsifying business
Well, to you and me who aren`t lawyers, that`s not a very famous crime.
Falsifying business records? That`s not like bank robbery or reckless
driving or even hamburglaring, right?
I mean, falsifying business records, does anybody ever actually get charged
for that? Well, remember I said it is a 16-count indictment today against
Paul Manafort in New York.
Count 8, falsifying business records in the first degree. Count 9,
falsifying business records in the first degree. Count 10, falsifying
business records in the first degree. Count 11 and count 12 and count 13
and count 14 and count 15 – 8 of 16 felonies Manafort is charged with
today in New York state are falsifying business records in the first
And falsifying business records is what the Trump Organization is
effectively accused by prosecutors already of having done in the felony
campaign finance case that is sending Michael Cohen to prison in a matter
of weeks and in which the president is also alleged to have directed the
entire criminal scheme.
And it`s true, there is a federal Justice Department policy that arguably
constrains any federal prosecutor from indicting and prosecuting a sitting
president. But that federal Justice Department policy doesn`t bind state
prosecutors whatsoever. And neither state prosecutors nor federal
prosecutors are barred from bringing any sort of prosecution against the
president`s business or against people who work for the president at his
business, whether or not they`re his children.
Is this today New York prosecutors showing the president how to expect this
will be done?
Joining us once again is Joyce Vance, former U.S. attorney in Alabama.
Joyce, thank you for sticking with us.
I`m wondering what you think about this idea that the state prosecutors are
sort of taking aim at the president here and showing the way that state law
might produce a prosecution even out of those felony campaign finance
charges we already saw against Cohen.
VANCE: It`s very interesting that we`re talking really about three
different prosecutors` offices, at least three, the Southern District in
New York. That`s federal prosecutors. Today, we`ve got charges filed by
the Manhattan district attorney. That`s a second office.
And then the third office that also appears to be quite interested in the
functioning of both the Trump Organization and the foundation is the New
York attorney general`s office. These are the folks who`ve previously
caused the foundation to dissolve and who issued subpoenas that were
reported yesterday for information about Trump Organization deals with
So, I think it`s a safe assumption. I don`t know anything specific about
this particular case, that these three offices would have some level of
communication and contact, that it`s not impossible that federal
prosecutors, for instance, would use established mechanisms for sharing
evidence that they obtained in the grand jury with state prosecutors, that
the offices would talk with each other about theories, and that we would
see an indictment today on charges that might later be echoed in work being
done by another office, which I think is the long-winded way of saying it`s
entirely possible that this is a signal of something to come in the future.
MADDOW: Joyce Vance, former U.S. attorney from the great state of Alabama
– Joyce, thank you for being here tonight, and thank you for helping us
over the course of the day trying to understand the legal significance of
this stuff that happened today. Thanks so much.
VANCE: Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: All right. Lots more to come. It was one of those days. Stay
MADDOW: The man who President Trump installed to be acting attorney
general of the United States for a hot minute, Matthew Whitaker, he was
back on Capitol Hill today where lawmakers invited him to meet with him, to
clarify some testimony that he gave last month.
Matt Whitaker told the Judiciary Committee in an open session that
President Trump never exerted any pressure on him over the Mueller
investigation or any other investigation, including the federal prosecution
of the president`s longtime former lawyer Michael Cohen. At that February
hearing, Mr. Whitaker flatly denied public reporting that the president had
lashed out at him on at least a couple of occasions after Cohen pled guilty
to multiple felonies when he was prosecuted in the Southern District of New
Whitaker`s testimony that day in Congress denying that he`d been the
recipient of any such pressure, denying that he`d had conversations like
that with the president, that was soon thrown into doubt when “The New York
Times” reported that the president had, in fact, called Matt Whitaker late
last year and asked him if somebody else could be put in charge of the
Cohen investigation at that federal prosecutor`s office in SDNY.
Well, Matt Whitaker was called back to the Hill today to try to clear up
whether any of that was true. The meeting was closed doors, so we didn`t
get to hear exactly what happened, but here`s what the chairman of the
Judiciary Committee, Congressman Jerry Nadler, told reporters thereafter.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY), CHAIRMAN, HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: I think
there were three main takeaways that we take away from today. One, unlike
in the hearing room, Mr. Whitaker did not deny that the president called
him to discuss Michael Cohen – the Michael Cohen case and personnel
decisions in the Southern District. Two, while he was acting attorney
general, Mr. Whitaker was directly involved in conversations about whether
to fire one or more U.S. attorneys. And three, while he was attorney
general – acting attorney general, Mr. Whitaker was involved in
conversations about the scope of the southern district of New York U.S.
attorney Berman`s recusal and whether the Southern District went too far in
pursuing the campaign finance case in which the president was listed as
individual number one.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Oh. So according to Jerry Nadler, Whitaker doesn`t deny talking
with President Trump about Cohen`s case in the Southern District of New
Also, the president was directly involved in conversations about whether to
fire one or more U.S. attorneys and he was involved in discussions about
whether federal prosecutors in New York went too far in pursuing campaign
finance charges against Cohen. Yes, that`s the case where the president
himself is personally implicated and called individual one. Oh. That
would be the biggest scandal for any president since Watergate if it wasn`t
just another scandal in this administration.
We pressed for more details tonight with Chairman Nadler`s office. His
office told us that he stands by his description of what happened in that
meeting. Obviously, we do not know where this inquiry is heading, nobody
But the idea that the president weighed in with the attorney general of the
United States on the Cohen investigation in which he himself is named and
implicated, that`s a – that`s a big deal. That`s a big deal. It`s not
the kind of deal that just goes away, particularly when the chairman of the
judiciary committee appears to have evidence on it and be on to you.
We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: So at this point, the judge had addressed the convicted felon
before her for 8 1/2 pages already. Addressed the man himself and what she
laid out as his objectionable conduct in her court.
Quote: All this appeared to reflect – excuse me. All this appeared to
reflect his belief that he had the right to manipulate these proceedings,
that court orders and the rules did not apply to him. The judge said the
defendant, quote, has now admitted that he engaged in attempts to influence
the depiction of this case in the media in direct contravention of a court
Then she added 3 1/2 years to the nearly four years he was already looking
at in prison. It is that same judge from D.C. today, that exact same judge
who is going to hear Roger Stone`s argument tomorrow at 10:00 a.m. in that
same courtroom. Stone`s argument about whether he too has been
manipulating the criminal proceedings against him by violating that judge`s
gag order in his case.
Has to be a little intimidating stepping back in there today where the last
guy got absolutely stapled by this judge, 10:00 a.m. Eastern tomorrow.
MADDOW: Tomorrow, among all the other news and drama going on, tomorrow we
expect the U.S. Senate to vote down President Trump`s declaration of an
emergency, which is what he tried to use as a way of going around Congress
to take funds from the military to build his wall on the southern border.
That declaration has already been voted down in the U.S. House. He is also
due to lose tomorrow in the U.S. Senate. The White House has promised a
veto, but even then we will be in uncharted territory for this president.
Something more to look forward to.
Now, that does it for us tonight. See you again tomorrow.
Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL”.
Good evening, Lawrence.
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protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced,
distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the
prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter
or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the