Special Counsel investigation approaching two-years. TRANSCRIPT: 3/19/19, 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: Chris, I am super excited about your Green New
Deal town hall thing. That`s awesome.
HAYES: I am, too. You know what? Here`s a great detail. It`s in the
Bronx. It`s in the hospital I was born in which is in Alexandria Ocasio-
MADDOW: That is going to be amazing. That is the last Friday in March,
that`s Friday, the 29th. Awesome.
HAYES: Yes, Friday next.
MADDOW: I have to find about these things watching TV.
HAYES: That`s how you get it.
MADDOW: Jeez, you know, I work down the hall. You could –
HAYES: Well, you`re welcome to come if you want, although you got to a
show to do. All right.
MADDOW: Yes. Thanks. Well done.
Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. We`ve got a lot to get to
tonight. You can always tell that when my desk is piled up like this
before we even gotten started talking about anything.
But we`re going to start tonight with something that arrived in today`s
news as a surprise. About a week and a half ago, “The Washington Post”
filed a motion with the federal court in Washington, D.C. that was handling
the criminal case of the president`s campaign chairman Paul Manafort. And
that motion from “The Washington Post” called on the judge in the Manafort
case in D.C. to release un-redacted filings and transcripts from Manafort`s
case. So that “The Washington Post” and by extension the American people
could get a gander at those documents.
Specifically, “The Post`s” motion called for unredacting a whole bunch of
the court materials from Manafort`s case that related to how he broke his
plea deal when he repeatedly and the judge ruled intentionally lied to
prosecutors. The motion also called for the release of an un-redacted
version of the sentencing submission about Manafort that was filed with the
court by Robert Mueller and the special counsel`s office.
It was fascinating, the parts we could see, but large parts of it looked
So, “The Post” filed to have all that stuff unsealed. And, you know, this
is – this is actually an important dynamic to watch, you know? Today, we
got the public release of all of these hundreds of pages of documents from
the Michael Cohen trial, which we`ll be talking about a little later on.
The reason we got these documents released today is because of a motion
filed with the court by “The New York Times.” “The Times” asked the court
to unseal all these stuff, which is why we got all this today, which is
what drove the news cycle all day. In the Paul Manafort case, this motion
to release all the stuff from his trial, it was filed with the court by
“The Washington Post.”
See, this is why you need to subscribe to more newspapers. They are doing
good work with your money. Subscribe to your local paper. Subscribe to
national papers that you read.
Heck, if you`ve got the money to do it, give people gift subscriptions to
those papers whenever it comes time to give a present. You will feel great
about it. Your country needs you to do it. Half the news that we`ve got
is stuff that newspapers dig up, but about another half of the news that we
get is stuff they pry loose by other means.
Anyway, in the Manafort case today, it`s “The Washington Post” and they`re
telling the court please unseal all this stuff from Manafort`s case. So,
the judge when she got that motion from “The Washington Post” a week and a
half ago, she set a deadline for the prosecutors to respond as to whether
they had any objections to unsealing that material, whether they wanted the
judge to continue to keep under seal all the redacted stuff about what
Manafort lied to the prosecutors about and how they wanted Manafort
sentenced because of it. The judge set that deadline for Mueller`s office
to respond as Thursday. So the day after tomorrow is their deadline.
Surprise. Mueller`s office today warned the judge that they don`t think
they`re going to be able to make that deadline and do you know why?
This is amazing. This is what they said today: On March 7th, “The
Washington Post” filed a motion under Local Criminal Rule 57.6 for public
access to certain un-redacted records from United States v. Manafort,
specifically the motion seeks un-redacted versions of filings and hearing
transcripts related to this court`s determination of whether Manafort
breached his plea agreement and the government`s un-redacted sentencing
submission. The government`s response is presently due on March 21st,
2019, the day after tomorrow.
The government respectfully requests an extension to respond to the motion
through and including April 1st. They want to be extended to a week from
Why do they want this extension? Quote: the counsel responsible for
preparing the response face the press of other work and require additional
time to consult within the government.
The counsel responsible for preparing the response, they face the press of
other work. You do? Tell me more.
I mean, this is the special counsel`s office saying this. It`s signed on
behalf of Robert Mueller by Michael Dreeben, who is the top appellate
lawyer on the Mueller team, also by another lawyer named Adam Jed.
What is this press of work they`re facing right now this week that
prohibits them from getting a motion into this judge by two days from now
as it pertains to unsealing stuff from Manafort`s case? And why would a –
filing the special counsel`s motion on that subject require, quote,
additional time to consult within the government?
I mean, at a surface level, I don`t think anybody much cares about whether
we`re going to get the Mueller`s team response about unsealing all of
Manafort`s stuff by Thursday of this week or by April 1st, which is a week
and a half from now. I mean, this filing today from the special counsel`s
office says in fact even “The Washington Post” doesn`t mind about this
delay at all. They consent to this delay as well.
But why is the Manafort team peeping here really for the first time about
some crush of work that they`re facing right now this week? Why are they
peeping to the judge right now about consultations they need to pursue
within the government on this matter? Consultations that will require more
I don`t know. And neither do you. But we can figure I think a little bit
of this out from context. Again, this whole thing, this whole motion filed
by “The Washington Post” is about whether the court will make public some
of the stuff that has been redacted and sealed in Manafort`s case. We know
from the wrangling over this issue in Manafort`s case that when prosecutors
told the judge this stuff needed to be redacted or sealed in the first
place, they said it was because these particular parts of these filings and
these particular parts of these courtroom discussions had to be kept from
the public because they related to ongoing investigations, and individuals
that had been not charged or at least that hadn`t been charged yet.
Now, we know from context that the sealed material in question relates to
Manafort`s lies to prosecutors. And we know from what we could see in his
trial about that that what Manafort lied to prosecutors about included his
interactions with the guy who handled polling for the Trump campaign. We
know that Manafort lied to prosecutors about a large payment he received
from the Trump campaign pollster.
We know that Manafort also lied about his communications with a Russian guy
who prosecutors say is tied to Russian intelligence. We know Manafort also
specifically lied about providing complex internal polling data from the
Trump campaign to that guy linked to Russian intelligence while the
campaign was under way.
Well, now today, in a surprise the special counsel`s office says before it
can tell this judge whether information on those matters can be unsealed,
they`re going to need more time. They need more time specifically to
consult within the government as to whether these matters can be unsealed,
and also they`re just going to need more time because right now this week
between now and two days from now, they are crushed with a ton of work.
I mean, it`s – it`s interesting to see them make this public-facing
argument. We`ve never seen them say anything like this before. I find
this super intriguing. I also know that we`re going to need some expert
help to try to figure it out. So we`ll have that ahead on this show this
But I have to say, this is particular surprising and particularly
intriguing news because of all the mixed signals we are getting right now
about whether or not all these Russia-related investigations are coming to
an end or not. I mean, you have probably seen the headlines over the past
week or so about some of the prosecutors and lead FBI agents who have been
working for the special counsel that are now leaving the special counsel`s
office and they are taking new jobs. Well, that sort of seems like maybe
the special counsel`s office is pulling up stakes and wrapping things up.
On the other hand, you probably saw the headlines today about the hundreds
of pages of Michael Cohen case materials that were just unsealed today, in
which, among other things, the redactions in these documents in particular
make it seem like there really is some central key stuff that came up in
Michael Cohen`s case that isn`t over, that doesn`t appear to be resolved by
Cohen going to prison and that may involve other people who as far as we
know haven`t been charged thus far. We`ll have more on that coming up this
hour as well.
But there`s one other piece of this – along these lines, amid all of these
mixed signals we`re getting, that things definitely look like they`re
wrapping up and these other signals that we`re getting that make it seem
like things definitely aren`t wrapping up, there`s one other thing going on
right now that I think informs our sense of whether or not this thing`s
coming to an end. It`s not something that has been getting much attention
yet but to me this is something jumping up and down yelling look at me,
look at me, and I think it deserves a little bit more attention.
In all the work done so far by special counsel Robert Mueller, of all the
indictments and the court filings and the plea deals, you know, and
statements of the offense and all that stuff, for all of it, if you think
about it, we haven`t had much courtroom action, right? I mean, there`s
been lots of hearings before judges and stuff, but in terms of actual
litigation with a jury and a defendant and everything, that`s only happened
once. We`ve only had one trial so far.
That was when Paul Manafort took his case to trial in federal court in
Virginia. It didn`t work out well, right? Manafort got convicted there.
That`s part of why he is now starting his seven-plus year federal prison
sentence. Regardless of what happens with the unredactions or not in his
case files, which is still a matter of dispute in the court.
But Paul Manafort, his trial, that`s the only trial we`ve had in this whole
scandal thus far. That said, another one is coming. The second trial from
this whole saga, the one – you know, it might not happen, might fall
apart, there might be a plea deal, they might drop charges, you never know.
But right now what appears to be coming for the second trial for all this
stuff is the same federal district court where Manafort went on trial.
It`s the case against this guy. A Trump transition official named Bijan
Kian. He`s charged with conspiracy and illegally operating as a foreign
agent in this country. Again, his name, Bijan Kian. He`s not a famous
guy. What he`s known for is having worked with the consulting firm of
Trump national security adviser Mike Flynn.
In court papers, in fact, Flynn is described as having participated in some
soft criminal schemes for which Kian is now being charged and expected to
go on trial this summer. But Bijan Kian isn`t just an associate of Mike
Flynn. Kian also did go on in his own right to get a real high-ranking gig
in the Trump transition. He was on the landing team for the Trump
transition at the office of the director of national intelligence.
Remarkably, his LinkedIn page is still up today even after he`s been
indicted and he got a trial date, and it still has his Trump transition
title. Quote: Presidential transition teams intelligence community deputy
lead. According to “The Associated Press”, the responsibilities associated
with that Trump transition job included Bijan Kian taking part in, quote,
sensitive, hiring and policy decisions involving U.S. intelligence. Those
sensitive decisions included, quote, scrutinizing then Congressman Mike
Pompeo before Pompeo was named Trump`s CIA director.
So that means this guy was serving as a senior official in the Trump
transition, working on intelligence matters. Among other things in that
role, he was helping select the next CIA director while prosecutors say he
was also allegedly at the same time illegally serving as a paid secret
agent of a foreign country. Oh, what could possibly go wrong?
Well, now as that guy`s case is heading to trial in July, now the reason
that Mike Flynn still hasn`t been sentenced, the reason his sentencing has
been delayed for another couple of months at least is because Flynn might
be done cooperating with the special counsel`s office but he is still
working with prosecutors in this case against Bijan Kian. Mike Flynn is
due to be a witness for the prosecution against his former business
partner, against Bijan Kian this summer in eastern district of Virginia.
And that is turning out to be a very newsy, very interesting little
sticking point in terms of the way all these cases are wrapping up and the
way all of these guys` ultimate fates are being decided because the Bijan
Kian defense team by rights, under the Constitution and under federal trial
procedure, if they get access to any evidence the government plans to use
their client. In this case, it seems like quite a lot of the evidence the
government plans to use against their client is going to come from Mike
So, now, Bijan Kian`s defense team is mounting this stand in federal court
which I think deserves a little more attention than it`s getting because
what they`re demanding of the court is that they get access to everything
the FBI and the special counsel and all of these other prosecutors have
obtained from Mike Flynn since Mike Flynn started cooperating with the
government. And that`s a lot of stuff they want access to. I mean, Flynn
has been cooperating since 2017.
The FBI produces a formal record every time they do an interview with a
subject or a witness or a cooperator, I guess. In Flynn`s case, there are
apparently at least 19 different 302s from the FBI, specifically about
Flynn, because he has been cooperating with them for so long on so many
different things. Kian`s defense team wants all of those. They want the
ones that relate to Bijan Kian`s case directly and the illegal lobbying
work for the nation of Turkey that he`s charged with. They want everything
on that subject matter. Naturally, that makes sense.
But they also want everything else. They want the whole universe of
everything that Flynn has said to anybody from the government, including
the special counsel since he became a cooperating witness. And they had a
big fight about it in court on Friday. We have obtained the transcript of
that. I`ll read you a little piece of it.
Quote: From the defense lawyer, quote, your honor, this is not an ordinary
case by any means. The judge, right. Kian`s defense lawyer. The office
of special counsel has disclosed that they interviewed Mr. Flynn, who`s the
key witness in this case, 19 times. If you had to that the interview that
led Flynn`s prosecution, that`s at least 20, probably more than that.
But the reason that we`re before the court is that Mr. Kian has a great
deal of work to do to put together a cross-examination of Michael Cohen
that is effective. This is not simply asking a witness if he`s got a
conviction. Was it for a false statement and sitting down? There is a
great deal there.
And in order for us to be effective, your honor, we have to understand what
it is. That`s the defense team pleading to see everything Mike Flynn has
told prosecutors in the special counsel`s office. Then the prosecutors get
up in court to make the opposite case, to tell the judge that, judge,
listen, there`s no way we can let people see all that information we`ve
gotten from Flynn.
Even opposing counsel in – representing this defendant who is on his way
to trial, even opposing counsel – no, they can`t see all the stuff that
Flynn has given the government. It is just too sensitive. It`s about
cases that are still ongoing.
Prosecutor, quote: Your honor, we`re not trying to hide the ball here at
all. In addition to all of general Flynn`s 302s having to do specifically
with this investigation, we`re also willing to produce redacted portions of
any 302 of the general`s, of General Flynn`s that were collected or made in
the course of the special counsel`s investigation that do relate
specifically to this case. Your honor, we do draw the line, though, at a
fishing expedition into everything else the special counsel might have been
investigating, and, of course, it is a sensitive investigation and also
there are spending investigations that concern the subjects that would be
revealed by an unfettered review of his 302s.
What we are objecting to is a frolic through everything else that the
special counsel`s office produced in connection with entirely unrelated
So this is – we`ve only had one trial so far from Mueller. This is likely
the next trial that derive from the special counsel`s investigation. Mike
Flynn is going to be art part of it. He`s apparently the key witness
against the defendant in this trial.
Mike Flynn`s cooperation has been extended. His sentencing has been
delayed again in part because of his role in this trial. Because he has a
role in this trial, the defense wants access to everything Flynn has said
as a prosecuting witness.
The prosecutors are saying no, no, no, no way. Flynn`s cooperation
involved matters that are still pending investigations. Stuff that`s still
Now, that`s where it was with this pending Kian trial and the fight over
Mike Flynn`s information. Now, it`s getting to be even more dramatic
because now Bijan Kian`s defense has sent this letter in relation to this
fight in the government. They`ve sent this letter to the U.S. attorney`s
office, to the prosecutors who are handling this matter. And this is sort
of their next offer.
Say in this letter, you know, basically, well, if you won`t give us
everything, if you won`t show us everything Flynn has said to the
government, at least give us everything you`ve got on Flynn on these eight
specific matters. And they lay out all these things they want information
about when it comes to Flynn and Flynn allegedly lying and Flynn`s sort of
bad behavior and Flynn behaving unethically.
And in that list of bad behavior by Mike Flynn that they say they want
information about, they reveal a brand-new allegation that I don`t think
we`ve ever heard before. Do you remember that weird meeting in the
Seychelles Islands with Erik Prince? Do you remember that?
“The Washington Post” broke the news of that meeting just a few weeks after
Trump was inaugurated. What they – the story they broke was during the
transition, there had been a secret meeting in the Seychelles Islands in
this luxury resort between Erik Prince, the founder of Blackwater, big
Trump donor, the brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. A meeting
between him and a Russian guy close to the Vladimir Putin who is the head
of a Russian state-controlled investment fund. A guy named Kirill
“The Washington Post” first disclosed the existence of this meeting just a
few months after it happened, in April 2017. They described that meeting
as part of an apparent effort to establish a back channel line of
communication between Moscow and President-elect Donald Trump. Now, Erik
Prince publicly contradicted that, right?
He gave denials in which he said, yes, he took that meeting, but it was
just him being a private businessman. His presence there and his taking
that meeting had absolutely nothing to do with the incoming Trump
administration at all. He told the House Intelligence Committee under oath
this was just a chance encounter over a beer that took place on the
sidelines of some totally unrelated business meetings he was having.
Prince told House investigators, quote, it was a matter of, hey, while
you`re here, there is a Russian guy we`ve done some business with in the
past. It would be interesting for you to meet him.
Except, as it turns out, that doesn`t appear to be true. A year after its
initial reporting on that meeting in the Seychelles Islands, “The
Washington Post” was still developing the story further, reporting this
time last year that Mueller was investigating this matter and, quote, a
witness cooperating with Mueller has told investigators the meeting was set
up in advance so that a representative of the Trump transition could meet
with an emissary from Moscow to discuss future relations between the
And there has always been this mystery surrounding that meeting and what
may have been discussed between Erik Prince with his links to the Trump
campaign and this high-level emissary of the Russian government,
particularly because it appears like Erik Prince has not been telling the
truth about that meeting for some time. Now, we have a new piece of it.
In the new filing in the Bijan Kian case, which suggests that that Russian
guy close to Putin running that investment fund, he wasn`t just randomly
having a beer with Erik Prince. Erik Prince might, in fact, not have been
the only person from Trump`s campaign to have had secret contact with him
during the transition.
As part of this effort to get discovery in the Bijan Kian case, Kian`s
lawyers now say in this letter they want information on, quote, Mr. Flynn`s
contact with Russian officials including Kirill Dmitriev, following the
presidential election in 2016. Mr. Flynn`s contacts with Russian
officials, including Kirill Dmitriev after the presidential election in
Trump`s national security adviser had contacts with that guy, too? The
money guy close to Putin who everybody has been lying about talking to? I
mean, we`ve never heard this allegation before.
I mean, we know that Dmitriev went out of his way to praise Mike Flynn
during the transition, his willingness to have an open dialogue with
Russia. But as far as we can tell from public reporting, there were never
any known contacts between Mike Flynn and this Russian guy. There were
never even any public allegations they had any contact.
Now, I should say this is just an assertion by Bijan Kian`s lawyers in a
criminal case. Asserting it is not the same as proving it in court. They
might be wrong. We might found out further in trial proceedings or if they
try to bring it up in court that this something that isn`t true and they`re
just blowing smoke.
But if it is true, if Trump`s incoming national security adviser was
meeting with this guy close to Putin who is this money guy for the Russian
investment fund also meeting with Erik Prince, and Erik Prince wasn`t
exactly forthcoming about that when he`s asked about it even under oath. I
mean, if this is true, this is a whole new element about the Trump-Russia
scandal that we didn`t know about. This is a whole new contact between the
Trump campaign and the Trump transition and the Kremlin that we didn`t know
Why would the Trump transition at the highest levels secretly be
communicating with the guy who runs Russia`s sovereign wealth fund for
Putin? We reached out to Bijan Kian`s lawyers today to dry to get clarity
on these bombshell assertion. We haven`t heard from them.
Mike Flynn`s lawyer declined to comment on this matter today. But if this
assertion is true, this would be a whole new kettle of fish, right, on the
central issue that the Mueller investigation is supposedly all about, and
it arrives today at a time when we keep hearing there is definitely no more
fish in any of these kettles. This is definitely all coming to an end,
definitely all wrapping up.
With all this new stuff coming out now, it really doesn`t feel like it`s
Stay with us. Lots to come tonight.
MADDOW: It was four days before the election in 2016. It was the Friday
before we all voted on the following Tuesday when a team of reporters at
“The Wall Street Journal” published this scoop, that Donald Trump`s friend,
the publisher of the pro-Trump supermarket tabloid, the “National
Enquirer,” had agreed to pay 150 grand for a former “Playboy” model to keep
her from telling her story of an alleged affair with Trump.
Then a year into his presidency, it was again “The Wall Street Journal” who
broke the news of another payment, reporting just before the election
Trump`s personal attorney Michael Cohen arranged to pay a different woman,
a former porn star, who also was alleging an affair with Trump. And less
than three months later, federal prosecutors were raiding Michael Cohen`s
home and hotel room and safe deposit box and seizing his electronic devices
and blah, blah, blah.
And by the end of summer last year, Michael Cohen had pled guilty to
multiple crimes, including two campaign finance felonies for those payments
that were reported in “The Wall Street Journal.” Felonies in which he said
the president was essentially a conspirator. The president was the person
who directed the commission of though felonies.
Now, in just a few weeks, Cohen will report to federal prison to start
serving three years for his crimes. And so at one level, case closed, but
today, we learned maybe not case closed. Today, we learned a lot more
about Cohen`s case, even as he heads off to federal prison.
When prosecutors investigating Cohen decided last year that they wanted to
raid his home and his office and seize his electronics and all the rest of
it, they had to apply to a judge for warrants to do that. And when
prosecutors make those kind of applications, they have to lay out exactly
what problem cease they want to raid and what devices they want to seize
and why they want to do so. Exactly what they`re investigating and what
evidence they think they`ll find in all those places that will be material
to their investigation.
Well, today a judge released the warrants and all the supporting material
that led to those warrants from the raids on Michael Cohen. A judge
released hundreds of pages in response to a request from “The New York
But if you`re hoping to learn more specifically about the investigation of
campaign finance violations, about the payments to those women, about that
hush money scheme, you`re actually out of luck in these documents today
because that section of these documents is 18 1/2 completely redacted
grayed out pages, and we don`t have to guess why those 18 pages are
redacted. The judge told us why in his order releasing them.
He says, at this stage, wholesale disclosure of the materials would reveal
the scope and direction of the government`s ongoing investigation. It
would also unveil subjects of the investigation and the potential conduct
under scrutiny, the full volume and nature of the evidence gathered thus
far and the sources of information provided to the government.
Accordingly, the portions of the materials relating to Cohen`s campaign
finance crimes shall be redacted – 18 1/2 pages, nothing. Nothing on the
campaign finance stuff. Nothing on the hush money payments.
But that`s how we learned in black and white today that the campaign
finance investigation is still ongoing one way or another. I mean, we know
it`s not ongoing when it comes to Michael Cohen. He has pled guilty
already. He is headed to prison for, among other things, those crimes. So
what else is still being investigated when it comes to those crimes?
I mean, according to these warrants that we got unsealed today, prosecutors
expected to find evidence of a conspiracy around the hush money payments
when they raided Cohen last year. Well, I`m not a lawyer, but I did look
it up and I know that you can`t conspire alone. So does that mean if this
case is ongoing that other people who are potentially involved in these –
who were potentially involved in these crimes should be concerned about the
fact that this judge is saying this stuff needs to be kept from the public
even now because this is still an ongoing matter?
Joining us now is Michael Rothfeld. He`s one of the “Wall Street Journal”
reporters who first broke the story of the hush money scheme. He`s been
following it ever since.
Mr. Rothfeld, nice to see you.
MICHAEL ROTHFIELD, REPORTER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: Nice to see you,
Rachel. Thank you.
MADDOW: First of all, did I get any of that wrong?
ROTHFELD: No, spot on.
MADDOW: Did you learn anything surprising in the Cohen stuff uncovered
ROTHFELD: Well, what we did learn which was interesting was that the
campaign finance investigation started actually in April or between
February and April of 2018 after Robert Mueller turned over the Michael
Cohen investigation to the prosecutors in the southern district of New
York. So up until that point, they had been investigating Cohen for
various financial crimes, potentially foreign money, money laundering, bank
fraud and then in February of 2018, which is after you and I were sitting
here first discussing the Stormy Daniels payment, they sent it to New York
and a couple of months later prosecutors in New York revealed, OK, now
we`re investigating campaign finance, we`ve uncovered some new evidence.
So, the investigation kind of took a turn when it got to New York and after
we had revealed that.
MADDOW: Just to be clear, so I make sure I understand your point – it`s
not that Mueller and his team said there are – there are indications that
there are campaign finance crimes here. Hey, SDNY, you go check it out.
This is something that SDNY decided to do after it had already been
referred to them.
ROTHFELD: Right. And we don`t know what the internal discussions were,
but in the filings made by the special counsel`s office, they had requested
his e-mails several times from Google, his iCloud account. They never
cited a campaign finance investigation through July of 2017 until the end
of 2017, only after it got to New York did they cite that as a possible
MADDOW: What do you make of the fact that this is redacted and we get the
judge`s explanation of why all the campaign finance stuff is redacted?
Honestly, from your reporting and from other stuff that we have figured out
about this through Cohen`s case, it seems like we can name or point at a
lot of the people who seem to have been involved in this scheme. The fact
that it`s being described as an ongoing matter in a legal context, does
that indicate that the other people who may have been involved in this
scheme may still be in legal jeopardy?
ROTHFELD: It`s possible, although we don`t have a sense that there are
imminent charges, but we know that the government has said it`s ongoing and
it`s possible they`re just tying up loose ends. But as you said, we know
there were several Trump Organization executives involved. There was the
president, obviously, who was implicated in the federal crime. Although
it`s unlikely that he would be charged while he`s sitting as a president.
So, you know, those are basically the cast of characters here.
MADDOW: Let me just – something you don`t have to answer. Somebody who
knows more about this than anybody else I know because of your pioneering
role in reporting it. If prosecutors in the Southern District looked at
the evidence that they had against President Trump in regards to these two
felonies and they spelled it out in court that they believe he directed the
commission of these felonies, that he was involved not only in the decision
to handle it this way but also in the cover-up of it, obviously these the
person who benefitted from it in the end, there is evidence from
prosecutors that his business was used essentially as the organization that
kind of – that covered it up, if not laundered what happened to these
If prosecutors took all that evidence and decided, you know what? Justice
Department policy says that we cannot prosecute a sitting president, but
we`re going to indict him and keep it sealed until he leaves office, would
they need to keep all this stuff sealed in the way that we saw today in
these documents in order to protect that future prosecution of a president?
ROTHFELD: I would think so, yes. I mean, I`m not saying that`s what`s
happened, but definitely I would think they would want to keep that sealed
if that were the case.
MADDOW: Michael Rothfeld, one of the “Wall Street Journal” reporters who
broke this story that has become so much bigger than it seemed the first
days – thank you so much. Appreciate you being here.
ROTHFELD: Thank you so much.
MADDOW: Coming up, a progress report of sorts. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: A lot of people
have responded. A lot of entities have responded. Some have said that
they`re going to, that they want to work with us. Some have said that they
will respond if we give them a subpoena. And we`ve gotten responses from
surprising people, like, for instance, Steve Bannon, who sent us a few
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Steve Bannon sent you a few thousand documents?
Last night, that was House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler here on this
show talking about what his committee had received thus far when the
deadline arrived yesterday for 81 people and entities who were sent
document requests related to all that committee`s multiple inquiries into
President Trump. And, of course, it is intriguing that former White House
chief strategist Steve Bannon gave the committee thousands of documents.
We have no idea what those pages cover. We can see from the document
request that was sent to Bannon that it was more than a dozen topics that
he was asked about, so we don`t know exactly what he`s given them or what
it relates to.
Today, politico.com, though, gave us more numbers, showing that it`s not
just Bannon turning in thousands of documents. They say that Tom Barrick
turned in more than 3,000 pages, the NRA turned in nearly 1,500 pages.
There`s also been submission from George Papadopoulos, just under 50 pages,
J.D. Gordon, about the same number.
Rinat Akhmetshin, one of the guys who went to the Trump Tower meeting,
nearly 500 pages. A couple dozen pages from Sam Nunberg. The Trump
Inaugural Committee has handed over more than 100 pages.
That`s a lot of material, as reported today by “Politico”. But it`s
interesting. I think the main point of this politico piece was that only a
small proportion of the 81 people who were supposed to hand stuff over have
turned over anything at all.
That may be a little bit misleading. We can report tonight from the
committee that there are a number of other people who have also made
submissions, who have also handed their stuff over to the committee and hit
the deadline in order to do it. We`re told that part of the reason the
records may not have been handed over to the full committee membership,
including the Republican sources who apparently provided those numbers to
“Politico”, is apparently because the other submissions that have come in
have come in on actual paper rather than as electronic filings.
And whenever you mail a physical thing, including paper to Congress, it, of
course, has to go through a crazy Rube Goldberg machine and series of
bureaucratic hurdles in which it gets screened for anthrax and all sorts of
things. So, it sounds like the judiciary committee is getting a ton of
stuff, some of it electronically, some of it on paper. Obviously, they`re
just getting started.
But we`ve got more on who might not just be getting started, who may
actually be wrapping up ahead. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Brandon Van Grack, my favorite name in the whole Trump-Russia
probe. Honestly, if there wasn`t a person involved in this investigation
named Brandon Van Grack, you`d have to invent one.
He is a real person. He`s the veteran espionage prosecutor who joined the
special counsel`s team early on. Brandon Van Grack – sorry, Mr. Van
Grack, I`ll say it normally. He worked on the case against Paul Manafort,
also on the case against Mike Flynn.
By October last year, we learned he last the special counsel`s office and
returned to his old job in the Justice Department. Brandon Van Grack was
not the first to go. But lately, the pace of departure seems to be
speeding up, just since the beginning of this month, David Archey, a lead
FBI agent on the Mueller team, he ran to run the Richmond FBI field office.
Also, Andrew Weissmann, arguably the highest profile prosecutor on the
Mueller team, the lead prosecutor on the Manafort case. Weissmann is also
leaving the investigation. NPR had the scoop he`s leaving to go teach at
Then we got another just yesterday. Zainab Ahmad, another counterterrorism
prosecutor. She worked on the Flynn case. She has also gone back to her
And, yes, the special counsel is basically done with Mike Flynn in terms of
his cooperation, but that is not the only case Ahmad was working on. She`s
also been part of the mystery case involving Mueller`s office and some
mystery corporation we`re not allowed to know the name of that`s run by
some foreign country we`re not allowed to know either. That case does not
seem to be done. Zainab Ahmad was apparently part of that, but
nevertheless she is leaving the special counsel`s office.
And what do we make of these departures? I mean, it`s been argued in some
cases, more was made of these exits than should have been made, but there
is enough of them that they`re starting to feel like a criminal mass.
Whether or not Mueller is wrapping up, and how would we know?
It`s also seeming relevant that the Mueller team is starting in some
important ways to show their work to the public. Today, we got these
hundreds of pages related to the Michael Cohen case that were just unsealed
by the court. What does that tell us about how they have been approaching
this work thus far, where they might be in the course of their work?
And specifically, are we right to look at the stuff that was released today
and that`s being released in other parts of these investigations? Are we
right to look at the stuff that is being made public now and to check the
stuff that`s still redacted as a sort of key into what`s ongoing and what`s
still pending in terms of future prosecutions or existing prosecutions that
we, the public, don`t know about yet?
Joining us now is Chuck Rosenberg. He`s a former U.S. attorney in the
Eastern District of Virginia, former senior FBI and Justice Department
Chuck, it`s great to see you. Thanks for being here.
CHUCK ROSENBERG, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Oh, my pleasure. Thank you for
MADDOW: Let me ask you about that last question first. I am self-
conscious about the fact that I`m reading a lot into the redactions, that
when prosecutors tell the judge or when judges explain that some stuff
needs to be kept from the public and it needs to be held behind those black
boxes or conducted under seal because it relates to ongoing investigations
and uncharged people, my layman`s eye reads that as something that is
intriguing, that there might be additional prosecutions. There might be
live cases that we don`t know about that explain why that stuff is being
held from the public.
Is that a fair supposition?
ROSENBERG: Absolutely. I mean, I read it the same way, Rachel. Those
redactions – the 18 pages are significant.
Now, it doesn`t mean the Mueller team is going to handle that prosecution,
but it`s one Justice Department and one FBI, and somebody`s going to handle
that prosecution going forward. So I think you`re reading it correctly.
MADDOW: As you see these announcements that we`ve had over time and also
there`s been a few of them recently with some of the prosecutors who were
detailed to Mueller`s team leaving to go back to other parts of the Justice
I think Brandon Van Grack is going to be running a FARA unit within the
Justice Department, working on people who aren`t registered as foreign
agents. We see Zainab Ahmad who is leaving, apparently going somewhere
else in the Justice Department. You see Andrew Weissmann reportedly
leaving to go back to academia.
Does that give you the sense that things are changing fundamentally at the
special counsel`s office, that things are wrapping up, that they may be
handing off any unrelated stuff to non-special counsel prosecutors?
ROSENBERG: Yes, I think it`s a fair proxy for that.
Look, it`s not binary. It`s not as if the Mueller shop is fully open or
fully closed. All these people, particularly those remaining within the
justice department, can be recalled to work on, you know, bits and pieces
of their case that remain.
But by and large, Rachel, Mueller`s remit 22 months ago was rather narrow.
It was Russian interference in the 2016 election and links or coordination
with those associated with the Trump for president campaign. What animates
Mueller is that he`s a marine infantry officer. If he`s told to take the
hill in front of him, he`s not going to take the hill to the left of the
right. And so, he`s going to hue closely to that order and hand off, I
think properly so, things that fall outside of that.
And that`s exactly what we saw with documents unsealed today, that handoff,
particularly on the campaign finance matter involving Cohen and others,
including individual one, the president.
MADDOW: In terms of these documents that were unsealed today, Chuck, is
there anything else that spoke to you in terms of what it showed us about
how they`ve been doing their work?
ROSENBERG: It sure did. You know, I was really struck by the level of
professionalism, the diligence. Remember, in order to get a search
warrant, you need to show probable cause. That standard comes right out of
the Fourth Amendment.
It is the lowest standard in the criminal law. To convict someone at
trial, you need proof beyond a reasonable doubt. At a detention hearing,
you need a moderately high standard of clear and convincing evidence.
For a search warrant, you only, and I sort of say that in quotes, you only
need probable cause, and yet you see hundreds and hundreds of pages
documenting their investigation and establishing their probable cause. To
the extent anybody claims this is a witch hunt or a hoax and still has an
open mind, they ought to read these documents and you`ll see the amount of
diligence, the amount of work that went into establishing the probable
cause to get the search warrant. It`s extraordinary, Rachel.
MADDOW: Chuck Rosenberg, former U.S. attorney, former senior FBI official
– Chuck, it`s great to have you here.
ROSENBERG: My pleasure. Thank you.
MADDOW: We`ll be right back. Stay with us..
MADDOW: You have your cirrostratus, your altostratus, your nimbostratus.
There`s also just plain old stratus clouds. The hazy shapeless kind that
are hard to see.
There are cumulus ones and stratocumulus. There`s also altocumulus.
My favorite ones to say are the cumulonimbus clouds.
But if you know all of those, you know enough to know that this is
something else entirely, something that is a lot less friendly looking and
for a very good reason. And that`s story`s next.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: Early Sunday morning, a storage tank filled with an ingredient for
campfire fuel leak and that tank burst into flames. Unhappily, the fire
was not alone, it took place at a chemical storage facility belonging to
the Intercontinental Terminals Company in Deer Park, Texas, which is about
20 miles east of Houston.
When the first tank went up in flames, the fire spread to other nearby
tanks full of chemicals. Tanks filled with chemicals that make gasoline.
Also nail polish remover and glue and paint thinner. It was Sunday morning
this all started. It`s still burning tonight.
Firefighters said today they have no timetable for how long it will take to
contain this inferno. They said they have to wait for all of the chemicals
in all these tanks that are on fire to burn off before they can control it
at all. The fire marshal today said it`s anybody`s guess when that will
Meanwhile, as Deer Park, Texas waits for those chemicals to burn themselves
out, this was the view over Deer Park, Texas, today. A big black chemical
smoke plume that sprouted out of that fire and spread across the entire
city and then started stretching for miles. Way beyond where the fire
I mentioned Deer Park is about 20 miles east of Houston. The smoke cloud
billowing out of that petrochemical fire has now stretched all the way
across Houston and even toward the Austin area.
Despite how massive this thing is, and despite the fact that it is made of
up burning chemicals, officials are insisting there`s nothing in that smoke
that is toxic. Officials say the air quality is safe, so long as the cloud
remains high enough above land.
But as that plume continues doing this, continues to creep across Texas and
with the chemicals still burning tonight, you cannot blame people for how
they`re feeling about this right now.
That does it for us tonight. We will see you again tomorrow.
Now it`s time for “THE LAST WORD” with Ali Velshi filling in for Lawrence
Good evening, Ali.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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Copyright 2019 ASC Services II Media, LLC. All materials herein are
protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced,
distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the
prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter
or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the