Britain votes to delay Brexit. TRANSCRIPT: 3/14/19, The Rachel Maddow Show.
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now.
Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thanks, my friend. Much
And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
We start tonight, actually, with some breaking news out of a federal court
case in Florida. You will remember that between the 2016 presidential
election and the subsequent inauguration of Donald Trump, in January of
2017, the news organization “BuzzFeed” published this document which soon
came to be known as the Steele dossier, the Christopher Steele dossier.
This is a document that at the time some reporters had seen or at least
they`d seen parts of it. Parts of this document or perhaps all of it had
been handed over to the FBI and over to the State Department. This
document had also been briefed, at least in part, to the incoming
president. Remember that dramatic scene in James Comey`s book where he
talks about going in one-on-one and briefing President-elect Donald Trump
on the content and the nature and most importantly the existence of this
dossier, which was starting to circulate.
So, it was a round in various circumstances but “BuzzFeed” was the first to
make it available to the general public when they published it online in
January 2017. And to put it mildly, their publication of that dossier
exploded like a freaking fireball, right? I mean, it had, you will recall,
this awkward and still difficult to talk about front page allegation that
President-elect Donald Trump had engaged in some very specific
extramarital, extracurricular behavior in a Moscow hotel room that had been
videotaped and was being used to leverage or blackmail him. That
allegation about that supposedly videotaped behavior by the president and
Russia holding it over him, that obviously got the most attention because
of the nature of that allegation, and that specific allegation has never
really gone anywhere in the interim coming of years.
But as reporter Matthew Rosenberg notes at “The New York Times” tonight, a
lot of the other stuff in the dossier, certainly the headline stuff in the
dossier, did ultimately pan out. Quote, parts of the dossier have proved
prescient. Its main assertion that the Russian government was working to
get Mr. Trump elected was hardly an established fact when it was first laid
out by Christopher Steele in his first memo in June 2016. But that has
since been backed up by the United States` own intelligence agencies and by
Robert Mueller`s investigation.
The dossier`s talk of Russian efforts to cultivate some people in Mr.
Trump`s orbit was similarly unknown when first detailed in one of
Christopher Steele`s reports, but it has proved broadly accurate as well.
When “BuzzFeed” published the Steele dossier so everybody could read it,
though, there was one Russian guy who was mentioned on the final page of
the dossier who went beyond just complaining about the document being
published or denying that the claims about him in the dossier were true.
It was this one guy who was not known in the United States at all but who
was mentioned in the dossier and described as sort of having bank shot roll
in this whole scheme. He went so far as to actually file an American
lawsuit, a defamation case in federal court in Florida against “BuzzFeed”,
basically trying to destroy them as an entity as punishment for “BuzzFeed”
publishing this dossier, which he said contained allegations about him that
were not true.
So, this Russian guy files that defamation lawsuit against “BuzzFeed” in
February of 2017, right after “BuzzFeed” publishes the dossier.
Ultimately, “BuzzFeed” prevailed in that case. A judge dismissed the
defamation case from this Russian guy just this past December. The court
found that “BuzzFeed`s” decision to publish the dossier was lawful, it was
not defamatory, threw the case out.
Well, last week on this show, you might remember me giving you sort of a
heads up that there might be some potentially interesting new information,
some potentially interesting new fallout from that lawsuit after its
dismissal, because even though the case has been dismissed and it is done
in court, there has been some additional legal wrangling about whether the
materials produced in that case would be kept secret indefinitely or
whether the materials produced over the course of the fight over that case,
whether they would now be made public.
Well, bingo. That`s what we got tonight. Tonight, that slot machine
finally paid out its jackpot, because tonight, the court unsealed this
report which was created by the guy whose name you see on screen there.
He`s not a famous person, but he`s the former chief of staff of the FBI`s
He`s the former director for cyber incident response at the National
Security Council at the White House. He`s now the head of a cyber security
company that has hired in the course of this lawsuit to investigate whether
the Steele dossier was true. Not all of it, but specifically the part of
it that was the basis of this lawsuit.
As I mentioned, it`s on the last page of the Steele dossier, as published
by “BuzzFeed”, where this Russian guy and his tech firm are described as
having an important technical role in the Russian attack on our election in
2016. You sort of have to read through the redactions of various kind to
get there, but what the Steele dossier said about this guy was over the
period from March 2016 to September 2016, his company and its affiliates
had been using botnets and porn traffic to transmit viruses, plant bugs,
steal data and conduct altering operations against the Democratic Party`s
leadership. Entities linked to blank were involved and he and other – he
and another hacking expert both recruited under duress by the FSB were
significant players in this operation.
So, the guy whose companies were described that way in that part of the
Steele dossier, he`s the one who filed this defamation lawsuit against
“BuzzFeed” right after “BuzzFeed” published the dossier. And this guy,
this other guy was the chief of staff of the FBI`s cyber division, top
cyber incident response guy at the National Security Council, he was hired
by “BuzzFeed” as part of them fighting this lawsuit, to produce a report –
look at the data and produce an expert report basically to determine
whether those allegations in the dossier about that guy and the botnets and
the porn traffic and how exactly they used that stuff to get at these
Democratic documents, they hired that expert guy to determine whether or
not those allegations in the dossier were true, right, because that`s a key
point of fighting a defamation case.
You can`t sue someone for saying bad things about you if the bad things
they`re saying about you are true. So, I mean, the lesson here for all of
us is don`t sue somebody for defamation unless you`re absolutely sure that
the thing they`re saying about you is a lie because the discovery process
in a defamation lawsuit will ultimately turn up the truth. About whether
those terrible allegations against you that you didn`t want anybody to
hear, that you`re so mad about them, you`re suing about them. Eventually
in this defamation case, it will come out whether or not the bad things
about you are in fact true, because if they`re true, somebody can legally
say it about you, no matter how bad it makes you look.
I know these things and I can riff on them off the top of my head because I
basically got that all printed out on a rubber stamp in my office, which I
use as a response to everybody who contacts me to complain about something
that I say about them on this show. I`m terribly sorry, but it`s true.
Stamp. Give me the next one.
We now know because this expert report has been unsealed tonight after that
lawsuit ran its course in Florida. We now know that at least according to
this guy from the National Security Council and the top cyber guy at the
FBI. We now know that what it says in the Christopher Steele dossier about
those Russian botnets and the porn traffic and viruses and bugs and how
those were used to steal data in the Russian operation against the
Democratic Party, according to this expert report, that stuff in the
dossier broadly is true.
Quote: Technical evidence suggests that Russian cyber espionage groups used
XBT infrastructure to support malicious spear phishing campaigns against
the Democratic leadership which resulted in the theft of e-mails from a
senior member of the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign. Technical
evidence suggests that the Russian cyber espionage group that`s linked to
the DNC hack has used an XBT-owned IP address. XBT owned infrastructure
was used to support the malicious spear phishing attack of Democratic Party
leadership in 2016, which resulted in the theft and subsequent publication
of sensitive information related to the Clinton campaign.
So, you know, this is the spear phishing attack on John Podesta. This is
Fancy Bear and Cozy Bear, the two different Russian intelligence groups
that were conducting the attack and how they did it. I mean, what this
technical report that we`ve now had unsealed out of that lawsuit, what it
suggests is that at least in the part of the dossier, Christopher Steele
As “The New York Times” sums it up tonight, quote, a report by a former FBI
cyber expert unsealed in a federal court in Miami finds evidence that
suggests Russian agents used by the guy who sued “BuzzFeed”, Mr. Gubarev,
to start their hacking operation during the 2016 presidential campaign.
Quote: The report`s suggestions of a link between Mr. Gubarev and Russian
hacking is likely to spur new demands for renewed investigations.
It has long been fascinating to me that Republicans and the Trump White
House have focused on Christopher Steele and the Steele dossier as if it is
embarrassing or bad somehow that that document and his work might in any
way have been a predicate for the larger Russia investigation and
ultimately the special counsel. I mean, honestly, bits and pieces of the
dossier keep getting proven true all the time. Nothing in it has been
conclusively disproven at all.
And – I mean, flip through it again some time. I mean, you know, I don`t
understand why Republicans in the White House keep drawing people`s
attention back to the dossier. Really, you want people to read the
dossier? What it says about the Trump campaign and Trump himself is not
good, and bits and pieces of it keep being proven true.
Now, we think but we are not sure that there may yet be more unsealed
documents that derive from this case in Florida, but this piece of it
unsealed tonight verifying the only real technical stuff in the dossier
about the Russian attack on our election and the Russian attack on the
Democrats, that is new as of tonight. So very interesting news.
“New York Times” was first to break it, but that report is available to
everybody because it`s been posted publicly by the court. And, you know, I
should mention when it comes to efforts by congressional Republicans and
the Trump White House to try to fend off the Russia investigation, one of
the things that`s also been happening over the past few days is that the
top Republican member of the Judiciary Committee in the House, remember,
Republicans are in the minority there now, so the chairman in the Judiciary
Committee is Democrat Jerry Nadler. The top Republican is Republican
congressman from Georgia.
He personally, that top Republican from that committee, has unilaterally
been releasing un-redacted transcripts or almost totally un-redacted
transcripts from a whole bunch of different witnesses who have come before
that committee for its part of the Russia investigation. And the
transcripts he`s been releasing are from witnesses who the Republicans and
the Trump White House and the conservative media have been trying to vilify
as terrible bad guys somehow in the Russia investigation. Today, for
example, these Republicans released the 300-page-long transcript of the
testimony of the former top counterintelligence agent in the FBI, Peter
This was the Strzok testimony they released today. Two days ago, they
released the testimony, almost as long, from a top FBI lawyer named Lisa
Page. A couple of days before that, they released the testimony of one of
the top experts in the Justice Department on Russian organized crime, Bruce
And again, they picked those three – they picked Peter Strzok, Lisa Page
and Bruce Ohr – because all of those public servants are people who the
Republicans and the White House and conservative media have vilified,
right? Have tried to turn into terrible, terrible bad guys because of
their roles in the Russia investigation.
And, you know, knock yourself out. You can try to turn anybody into a bad
guy that you want. Especially when you`ve got access to privileged
information that isn`t public, that gives you an easy way to vilify people,
right? You take little dribs and drabs, specific allegations, phrases from
here and there, and if people don`t have access to the full record, they`ve
only got access to what you`re telling them about, it`s easy to spin things
and characterize things in as negative a way as possible, and they`ve been
doing that for months now when it comes to these law enforcement and
But now this congressman from Georgia, Doug Collins, has decided that
unilaterally what he`s going to do to stick it to the Democrats is he`s
going to release the whole transcripts from these witnesses, to point,
according to the Democrats, of rejecting suggested or requested redactions
from the Justice Department when the Justice Department has asked for stuff
to be held back because it`s law enforcement or national security
sensitive. Collins just says no and he`s been rejecting those redactions,
just releasing the whole thing.
And I know why he`s doing it, but I`m not sure he`s thought it through. I
mean, taking an individual line or a phrase, right, and posting it on
Twitter and giving it to conservative media as if he`s turned up these
damning admissions. We`ve seen Congressman Collins do that with bits and
pieces of these transcripts that he`s released, but we`ve all got the whole
transcripts now to read.
And the whole transcripts definitely don`t help their case when it came to
trying to – comes to trying to make people like Peter Strzok and Lisa Page
and Bruce Ohr look like bad guys. So, like, from the Lisa Page transcript,
for example, there is this.
Question, are you aware of any FBI officials leaking information about this
investigation before the election? Lisa Page: not to my knowledge.
Question, did you make any disclosures about this investigation to the
press or the public before election day? Lisa Page: No, ma`am. Question:
why not? Lisa Page: It`s both impermissible and it would be patently
unfair. Thank you.
Question: How do you think a disclosure to the press or the public would
have impacted Donald Trump`s electoral prospects? Lisa Page: that`s not
mine to speculate on, ma`am.
Quote: Well, on the basis of the information, would it have been damaging?
Would have been major? Lisa Page: I would – yes, I would suspect so.
Question: If someone at the FBI was trying to stop Donald Trump from being
elected president, yourself or Peter Strzok or any of the others, do you
think they could have publicly disclosed that Trump`s campaign was under
investigation for potentially colluding with Russian government actors?
Lisa Page: That`s what you would think. Question: So you`re saying yes?
Lisa Page: Yes, ma`am.
Question: but to your knowledge, nobody the FBI did disclose this fact
publicly correct? Lisa Page: No, ma`am. Question: Would you consider this
strong evidence that there was not a deep state conspiracy at the FBI to
stop Donald Trump from being elected? Lisa Page: Yes, ma`am. That and the
fact that this is an extraordinarily conservative organization, the notion
that there is an FBI deep state conspiracy about anything is laughable.
Question, just to be clear, so you were not personally trying to stop
Donald Trump from being president? Answer: Oh, no.
Again, Republicans are releasing this transcript from Lisa Page because
they think that`s going to make her look terrible. Let`s show the whole
terrible truth about – I mean, on the one hand, this is fascinating, and
on the other hand, this does not make her look bad.
I mean, here she is, for example, explaining the urgency within the FBI of
the Russia investigation ha w. That they were secretly conducting during
the president campaign and how that urgency was inflicted by widespread
expectations about whether or not Trump actually had any prospect of
winning the election.
She says, quote, by which I mean if he is not elected to the extent that
the Russians were colluding with members of his team, we`re still going to
investigate that, even without him being president because any time the
Russians do anything with a U.S. person, we care and it is very serious to
us. But if he becomes president, that totally changes the game because now
he is the president of the United States. He`s immediately going to start
receiving classified briefings. He`s going to be exposed to the most
sensitive secrets imaginable. If there was somebody on his team who
wittingly or unwittingly is working with the Russians, that is super
Thank you, Lisa Page. No, seriously, thank you, Lisa Page. I mean, I am -
- I – the circumstances under which it was released are contested, but I
am glad to have this access to this information from your transcript. I
don`t know why Republicans think it makes you look bad.
Also, in the Peter Strzok transcript released today, it`s long and there is
a ton in it, but there is, for example, again, something the Republicans
think makes him look terrible, which I don`t think most people are going to
see it that way. For example, a sort of hilarious back and forth that I
can`t put fully on television because there is a lot of swearing, but a
Republican congressman is trying to get Peter Strzok to spell out why he
expressed in a text message that it would be, forgive me, F-ing terrifying
for Trump to actually be elected president. And Republicans are
questioning him about that and they clearly think they`ve got him nailed on
something super bad about him expressing that it would be terrifying for
Trump to be elected president.
How terrible it is that Strzok is expressing that while he`s part of the
investigation into whether or not the Russians had successfully infiltrated
Trump`s campaign in order to install Trump in the White House because they
had basically flipped people close to him. Why would you think that would
be bad? They have this whole back and forth about it, and at the end of
it, you can actually just see in Strzok`s own words, rather than
Republicans` characterizations of it, why he would have been so F-ing
terrified about the prospect of Trump`s election.
Here we go. Quote, what did you mean by F-ing terrifying? Peter Strzok,
I`m sorry? Question, what did you mean by F-ing terrifying? Peter Strzok:
the prospect that candidate Trump might be elected president.
Question, in November when you said it would be F-ing terrifying, you were
investigating whether or not he had colluded, coordinated or otherwise
conspired with a foreign actor to interfere in the election. Peter Strzok:
the allegations that have been made public – he`s being careful not to
step on open investigations – but the allegations made public are
allegations that members of Trump campaign may have been doing that.
Question, then why in the world would you be talking about impeachment if
you did not think that he, Trump specifically, had done anything wrong?
Peter Strzok: Because without getting into details here that are either
classified or in the context of an ongoing investigation, my concern, based
on the credible allegation that members of his campaign were actively
colluding with the government of Russia struck me as on extraordinary
threat to America and represented – interruption with a question. Well,
you had already – he then finishes, represented the most unbelievably
severe and reprehensible behavior that any sort of American could have
Oh. So even if it wasn`t at that point in the investigation, the prospect
that Trump himself was colluding, it was the people in his campaign, the
prospect that he would get elected while people within his campaign were
colluding with the Russian government in order to get the Russian
government to help install Trump in the Oval Office, that would be the most
unbelievably severe and reprehensible sort of behavior that any American
could engage in so, therefore, of course it would be F-ing terrifying that
that person might become president of the United States. Further
No wonder Peter Strzok had to be demonized and run out of the place, right?
But now, thanks to the Republicans who think they`ve really nailed him
here, we`ve got 300 pages of him in his own words. I don`t think it`s
playing the way you guys want it to.
That`s a lot of things are happening all at once right now. Obviously,
we`re getting continuing revelations, both from Congress, including from
some unexpected corners in Congress. We`re getting unexpected revelations
from court cases, which we weren`t watching closely, we didn`t expect to
get new news developments.
Today, the president`s longtime political adviser Roger Stone got a trial
date for early November. Tomorrow, we`ll get a status update on Rick
Gates, the president`s deputy campaign chair. He has been a cooperating
witness for over a year now. His sentencing in federal court has been
delayed four times already. We will find out tomorrow whether they`re
going to delay his sentencing yet again or whether prosecutors in the
special counsel`s office are ready to tell us how cooperative Rick Gates
has been, what they`ve got from him and therefore what they think he ought
to get in terms of a sentence. That deadline is tomorrow.
Yesterday, of course, it was the president`s campaign chairman who was
sentenced to several years in federal prison. Within minutes of that
sentence being handed down, the same man was handed a multi-count felony
indictment out of New York state, which among other things has profound
questions or a profound impact on the overall question of whether or not
President Trump might be able to use his pardon powers to get him,
witnesses and defendants basically out of the line of fire when it comes to
the Russia investigation writ large.
It`s interesting, though, today in the wake of that development with
Manafort getting charged in New York state, today a whole bunch of New York
stuff sort of exploded. First thing today, this morning there was a
landmark ruling in a New York state appeals court, which said that a
sitting president is not immune from lawsuits filed against him in state
court. This is a landmark ruling because this is considered to be
Back in the Clinton administration, the Supreme Court established that a
president can be sued in federal court. That was the Paula Jones case.
But that Supreme Court ruling in 1997 left the question about state court
cases open. Well, today, this New York state appeals court said we think a
president can be sued in state court. And so, therefore, this particular
state court lawsuit against president Trump that is before us today, it can
The immediate material consequence of that ruling in New York today is that
the lawsuit they were considering when they made this ruling, a lawsuit
against the president by a woman named Summer Zervos, that lawsuit will
proceed. This is a woman who says the president sexually and aggressively
groped her and crucially says he then defamed her when she made that
allegation publicly and he publicly claimed that she was a liar.
Her case proceeding now in state court will ultimately lead to discovery in
that case. And discovery can be a very big deal. I mean, remember from
where we just got all this stuff in the Christopher Steele case?
Defamation cases really are one way to get courts to prove one way or nut
whether nasty-sounding allegations are actually true. Somebody says you
defamed them, they bring you to court for it, right.
Ultimately, the court`s going to be called on, the court process is going
to be used, among other things, to determine whether or not the supposedly
defamatory allegation was true. So the court will effectively be used in
this case if it goes forward to prove whether or not Trump sexually and
aggressively groped that woman. So that case at least for now will go
forward, although the president`s side certainly will appeal.
As a secondary consequence of that landmark ruling today about state
lawsuits being okay against a sitting president, we also got this late in
the day, the New York state attorney general going forward with a case
against President Trump`s foundation, his so-called charity. Now, that may
sound surprising to you because you might remember that in December the
president`s charity was shut down after the New York attorney general filed
a lawsuit that alleged persistently illegal conduct at that foundation.
Well, apparently it being shut down doesn`t mean it`s out of trouble
Within hours of that Summer Zervos appeals court ruling today, Attorney
General Tish James in New York was back in court saying that shutting down
that foundation down is not enough and that New York state is going after
him for it. Quoting from the filings today, quote, Mr. Trump used the
foundation`s assets for his own benefit and benefit of entities in which he
had a financial interest. Mr. Trump used foundation funds to among other
things pay for portraits of himself, make political donations, pay for
advertisements for Trump Hotels, settle lawsuits involving his business,
the Trump Organization and used it to improperly intervene in the 2016
In using the foundation`s charitable assets, Mr. Trump`s conduct was
willful and intentional. Mr. Trump was aware that directors of charities
may not use charitable assets for a director`s benefit, and the foundation
is absolutely prohibited from using its assets to intervene in public
elections, but he nevertheless used money donated to the foundation to
benefit his campaign. This arrangement not only violated New York state
law, it also ran afoul of federal campaign finance law, turning a charity
fund-raiser into a campaign fund-raiser and campaign rallies into
opportunities for the candidate to dole out money that the public donated
to charity. As a result of this willful and intentional conduct, the court
should require Mr. Trump to pay restitution of $2.8 million plus a penalty
in the amount of two-point – excuse me, a penalty in the amount of up to
So how was your day today? I mean, today the New York attorney general
told the president of the United States that he needs to pay $8.4 million
to make good on the wrongdoing of his charitable foundation, which he was
already forced to shut down by previous action by the New York attorney
When it rains, it pours. I mean, all of this stuff is happening all at
once. Honestly, it`s not even half of it. More to come.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: Last night, the Republican controlled Senate voted 54-46 to pull
the plug on U.S. military support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen. Seven
Republican senators voted with the Democrats on that. So, it passed.
That measure is also expected to pass over overwhelmingly in the House.
Because it passed the House and the Senate, that resolution will tee up
what could be President Trump`s first ever attempt to veto something. He
hasn`t tried to do that yet.
Even if it`s first on the resolution, it won`t be the only one. Hard on
the heels of the vote yesterday, today, the Republican controlled Senate
voted to void the president`s declaration of an emergency so we can build
his southern border wall. This time even more Republicans broke ranks and
sided against the president, 12 Republicans crossed the aisle to vote with
the Democrats this time.
And it was an interesting thing to watch this take shape. On this vote on
the wall on the emergency declaration, the president kept insisting
Republican senators would stick with him and saying that publicly over and
over again. Even as he kept claiming that, the number of Republican
defectors on this issue went from initially two and then three and then
four, all the way up to the 12 Republican senators who sided against him
This is a historic thing, though. This is the first time that the U.S.
Congress has ever blocked a presidential emergency declaration. Even ahead
of whatever happens with this veto, they have never done something like
Joining us now is Congressman Joaquin Castro of the great state of Texas.
He`s a member of the House Intelligence Committee. He also authored the
bill in the House to overturn the president`s declaration of an emergency.
Congressman, thank you so much for being here tonight. It`s a real
pleasure to have you here.
REP. JOAQUIN CASTRO (D), TEXAS: Thank you for having me, Rachel.
MADDOW: You have to feel validated by the bipartisan nature of the support
for your resolution in both the House now and in the Senate.
CASTRO: Yes, that`s right. We got 245 votes in the House and 59 votes in
the Senate. So it was a strong bipartisan condemnation of President Trump
attempting to go around Congress to fund his border wall. You know, I was
predicting we`d get 54 votes in the Senate. We got 59.
MADDOW: In terms of the expected veto, obviously, you need a whole bunch
more senators to flip against the president in order to get it up to a veto
override. Obviously, it would be a heavy lift to get that threshold in the
House, as well. To me, just as an observer that doesn`t seem like a
realistic possibility. I imagine you and your colleagues will try for it
CASTRO: Yes, that`s right. You know, when we started this, I said if he
tried to use the emergency declaration, to build his border wall and fund
his wall, then we would fight him in the courts. We would fight him in
Congress and that the American people would fight him.
And so you`re right, overriding any veto is going to be very tough but
we`re not going to give up. We`ll continue to fight and do everything that
we can to terminate this emergency resolution.
MADDOW: Well, is there a connection, actually, between what just happened
with these again votes against the president, those votes to block the
president in both houses and pretty big votes in both houses to do that?
Is there a connection between that and the legal strategy if this does get
into court, will these votes in the House and Senate be material to the way
the courts look at this and decide whether the president acted within his
constitutional powers here?
CASTRO: Yes, I think you`re absolutely right. They are related. It will
be very significant for the courts and perhaps the Supreme Court if it
reviews this to see that both chambers of Congress, one re pub can chamber
in the Senate and one Democratic in the house of representatives both voted
the terminate President Trump`s emergency declaration, because we don`t
believe it`s legal and because there is no emergency on our southern
MADDOW: To the extent that the Congress, excuse me, that the courts will
be considering the sort of plain language understanding of what an
emergency is, a majority, bipartisan, bicameral majority of Congress
looking at that matter and saying, no, Mr. President, we don`t see the
emergency, you have to imagine that moves the courts somewhat but we will
CASTRO: No, that was very significant. Thank you, I just want to say as a
final thought, Rachel, a thank you to all the Americans who reached out to
their members of Congress and their senators and put pressure on these
folks to do the right thing. I think that`s why we saw overwhelming
numbers in both the House and the Senate.
MADDOW: Congressman Joaquin Castro of the great state of Texas who
authored this bill overturning the president`s declaration, of an emergency
– really appreciate you being here tonight, sir. Thanks a lot.
CASTRO: Thank you.
MADDOW: I should always remember, you have to – if you start stepping on
the person, you have to re-invite them back into the conversation or you
both end up – I`ll work on it. I`ll be right back.
MADDOW: Here is one ad, this is subtle. Consider your man card reissued.
The fine print reads, if it`s good enough for the professional, it`s good
enough for you. Who`s the professional?
One 2012 product catalog shows the silhouette of a soldier holding his
helmet. It says, when you need to perform under pressure, if you buy this
product, you, too, can do what this soldier does under pressure.
Here`s anther one. Forces of opposition bow down. You are singlehandedly
outnumbered, and at this point, just in case it`s not clear we`re selling
military capacity here, there`s this quote, it`s tested and proven reliable
in the most brutal conditions on earth. It`s the uncompromising choice
when you demand a rifle as mission adoptable as you are. It is, quote, the
ultimate military combat weapons system – the ultimate combat weapon
In 2014, the families of the first graders and the educators who were
killed in the Sandy Hook shooting, they filed a wrongful death lawsuit
against Remington, the manufacturer of the rifle that was used in that
massacre and they used the company`s marketing as evidence that this was a
product that was not being marketed for a lawful use. The argument in
court was that this gun maker was specifically marketing the AR-15 rifle to
civilians so that those civilians could use it for military style combat in
civilian life, which is not a thing you`re legally allowed to do.
During the trial, the lawyer for the families explained it the different
way. He said, imagine if a car company marketed a vehicle as being perfect
for running people over.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you imagine Ford Motor Company advertising a car to
go run over people? Who would hesitate for a second to hold Ford
accountable for that?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Who would hesitate to hold Ford accountable for that and who would
question that Ford should be held accountable for that, and that American
law would allow it?
There is a very specific reason it`s been impossible to hold gun
manufacturers accountable following America`s epidemic of mass shooting.
It`s because the gun industry alone, among all American industry, the gun
industry alone has special immunity. I mean, if you make a pillow that`s
prone to burst into flames when exposed to heat, or if you manufacture a
flotation device that sinks, not only are you liable to consumer protection
regulations that will likely remove your product from the marketplace, or
prevent you at least from advertising it.
Not only that, if your product injures or kills somebody because of those
failures, you`ll get nailed for it, right? It`s not the case with guns.
Guns alone are protected from those types of lawsuits.
In 2005, Congress passed a bill that was later signed into law by President
George W. Bush. It`s called the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act.
You say the Benetton array there of the diverse group supporting that.
That was right before the Democrats swept the House and Senate.
But the lawyers for the families of the Sandy Hook victims may with this
lawsuit they initially filed in 2014, they may have become the first people
in the country to find a way around that gun maker`s immunity law and it
starts with the marketing strategy used by gun makers.
Today, huge, hugely, hugely important ruling in Connecticut. The Supreme
Court in Connecticut today ruled that marketing military style guns to
civilians as a way of killing enemies, that could be a violation of state
fair trade laws. There is a 4-3 decision overturned a lower court ruling
that thrown out that lawsuit and, boy, does this open a world of
I mean, this ruling paves the way for families to subpoena internal
documents on how the gun companies marketed their AR-15s, this rifle that
has become the weapon of choice for mass shooters. These are documents,
internal documents and communications how they try to sell them and
documents the manufacturers fought tooth and nail to keep out of the public
eye. Because they fought so hard, it is expected that these documents may
provide a brutal glimpse how the industry operates and how it has
strategized how to sell its products.
A similar discovery process in court is what pulled back the mask on the
tobacco industry and what that industry knew about what it was selling to
the American people and how. Discovery in the tobacco cases what forced
that industry into a quarter trillion dollar settlement that became the
beginning of the end of that industry.
Here for me, though, is maybe the part of this that`s going to be most
important to watch. In their ruling today, these judges in the Connecticut
Supreme Court said it will fall to a jury to decide the promotional schemes
alleged in the case rise to the level of illegal trade practices and
whether fault for the tragedy can be laid at their feet. Which means this
will no longer be knocking around among judges. This will be a jury, a
Connecticut jury that will finally get to decide this case as it
specifically relates to what happened at Sandy Hook, and they will get to
look how this gun manufacturer marketed this rifle as the ultimate combat
weapon system for civilians, in the context of knowing that that rifle took
the lives of 20 first graders and six adults, right?
Twenty-six people killed at Sandy Hook, killing all 26 of them took 264
seconds because of the capabilities of that ultimate combat weapon system,
for civilians. Two hundred sixty-four seconds.
Gun lobbyists may have immunity thanks to Congress and thanks to President
George W. Bush and you may be allowed to market this type of weapon. But,
you know, you can`t market a car on the basis how good it would be for
running people down in a crowd and maybe this jury in Connecticut will find
you can`t market weapons like this to civilians for combat use in civilian
life because in civilian life, there is no such thing as legal combat use.
MADDOW: Today, there was a Supreme Court ruling in the state of
Connecticut that I think may end up being very, very important for the
entire country. It will pave the way for a gun manufacturer called
Remington to potentially be held liable for the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy
Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. One of the mothers of the
victims said about this ruling today, quote: Nobody has blanket immunity.
There are consequences. We want our day in court to see what they do to
see why they do this this way and what needs to change.
Joining us now here in studio is Joshua Koskoff, who is a lawyer for the
Sandy Hook families, and my friend David Wheeler whose son Ben was killed
during the shooting.
I want to thank you both for being here. Big win today.
DAVID WHEELER, FATHER OF SANDY HOOK VICTIM: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: David, let me ask you about your reaction. It was a close ruling.
It`s 4-3 but you prevailed. How did it – what was your reaction?
WHEELER: It was overwhelming, of course, in a lot of ways. But when I
think back to in the months and weeks when we learned about how this
industry works and when we first saw those advertisements that you showed
earlier tonight, absolutely shocking and overwhelming in that respect, as
well. None of us had any idea that this kind of thing was prevalent and I
just don`t understand as I look at it what kind of society allows manhood
to be defined that way and that`s what this is about for me, it`s about
MADDOW: Josh, one of the reasons I wanted you to be here is because I
talked to you here when you filed this because I was intrigued by this as a
legal strategy. You at the time were also an interesting character in this
because you have not been a gun rights advocate. This is not the space in
which you are practicing law.
You came from outside this advocacy world to say hey, I think I see a way
forward here. Is this going the way you expected it to?
JOSH KOSKOFF, LAWYER REPRESENTING SANDY HOOK FAMILIES: Oh, exactly. Not
100 percent but it`s going the way, remember, I remember speaking with you
and talking about a path that we thought we had found through the block
immunity, the gun immunity. That part is going exactly as we thought, and
that perspective I think we were able to bring was that of an outsider.
And I had the same experience that David had when you learned about the gun
and we saw the marketing. It just leads you to say to yourself, this
cannot be legal.
KOSKOFF: This cannot just be above reproach, or above investigation, and
that belief and having David come to me and the other clients was more than
enough motivation to try to find that path around this thing.
MADDOW: David, I was struck by one of Josh`s arguments in court is that
this gun maker didn`t know the man who killed your son and who committed
that massacre but that gun manufacturer had been courting him for decades,
has essentially been driving their products in the marketplace toward
people who should have been recognized as likely to misuse these products.
Do you think that`s a fair characterization at all?
WHEELER: I think that`s accurate and it`s important for us to be able to
take a look at how those decisions were made. It`s really important for us
to be able to see how that manufacturing and marketing and advertising
process is related to what happened to us. It`s crucial and this decision
allows us to do that. It`s really important.
MADDOW: In terms of Newtown and Sandy Hook and families bonded together
because of what you`ve been through.
MADDOW: I remember talking to you very early on after it happened and
there was no clear sense of what was going to feel like the right way
forward. Obviously, there`s no right way to do this.
How does it feel overall in the context with everything you`re coping with,
to be working on fights like this? I mean, this is a confrontational thing
and it upsets people and it gets people mad and calls to question – how
does it feel?
WHEELER: Well, I can only speak to that personally and I think it`s
important work and I think it has to be done, and I certainly respect and
allow anyone else the validity of the way they respond to something like
WHEELER: But this is what I have to do. This is how I have to move
through the world. This is how I have to look at myself in the mirror in
the morning. If I don`t do this, it has to be done.
MADDOW: Josh, what happens next in the case?
KOSKOFF: We`re ready. We`re ready to peel back the curtain and find out
if I get the stuff they had been hiding.
MADDOW: To get the internal documents from manufacturers.
KOSKOFF: You know, one thing is clear, Rachel, is that they have done
everything they can so far to prevent us from seeing their documents and
their e-mails and their marketing strategy. So, it just kind of begs the
question what are they afraid of.
And so I think we owe it to certainly the families and I think the public
ought to see these things and make up their minds whether this is something
acceptable for the community or not.
MADDOW: Joshua Koskoff, lawyer for the Sandy Hook families, David Wheeler,
it`s great to see you, my friend. Thanks. Thanks. Come back. Keep us
We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Here is a deep cut. Do you remember the one absolutely
inexplicable moment late in the 2016 campaign when Trump held a rally in
Jackson, Mississippi? Right, that`s weird late in the campaign because
Mississippi is not a place Republicans have to campaign in the general
election. What`s he doing in Mississippi?
Then while, he`s in Mississippi, out of nowhere in Mississippi, he invites
up on stage a British guy in a pink tie who starts talking in his British
accent about fighting Brussels bureaucrats and how terrible Angela Merkel
is and everybody is like, who is this guy and why is this happening in
Then, when Trump got elected, that guy, Trump`s favorite British person was
like the first person to show up at Trump Tower after election to
congratulate Trump on his win. That was also weird.
Today, it all came due and that`s our last story tonight. That`s next.
MADDOW: British parliament voted to delay their country leaving the E.U.
That exit is otherwise slated to happen catastrophically in two weeks. So,
they voted to delay it, but it`s not their decision to make. All 27
members of the E.U. have to agree unanimously to let the Brits have an
extension. Only one country peeling off blows the whole thing up.
I know this is hard to imagine but the man we know to be President Trump`s
favorite British person of all, his friend, the right wing, super anti-
immigrant Brexit advocated Nigel Farage is now reportedly actively lobbying
other countries in Europe to get one of them to block the delay. Farage is
trying to find one European country, maybe the new right wing government in
Italy, anybody will do, to stop the U.K. from getting this delay it`s
elected leaders are asking for so that Britain is forced to crash out in
two weeks with no plan.
One British paper summed it up, quote, having campaigned for most of his
life for British sovereignty, Nigel Farage is now asking the E.U. to go
against the British government. And Farage may be blowing smoke here, but
that feeling today that I`m pending disaster may temporarily postponed in
our closest overseas ally, that may be short lived if President Trump`s
best British friend gets his way.
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