Special Counsel investigation approaching two-years. TRANSCRIPT: 3/19/19, The Rachel Maddow Show.

Guests:
Michael Rothfeld
Transcript:

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-

Cortez`s district. 

 

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

like that. 

 

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

Monday. 

 

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

time?

 

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. 

What 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

hour. 

 

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

Flynn. 

 

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

matters.

 

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

live. 

 

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

Dmitriev. 

 

“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

countries.

 

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

2016. 

 

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

about before. 

 

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

wrapping up. 

 

Stay with us.  Lots to come tonight.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

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

Times.” 

 

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? 

What`s ongoing? 

 

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

today? 

 

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

crime. 

 

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

funds. 

 

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. 

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

(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

thousand documents. 

 

(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.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

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

NYU Law. 

 

Then we got another just yesterday.  Zainab Ahmad, another counterterrorism

prosecutor.  She worked on the Flynn case.  She has also gone back to her

old job. 

 

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

official. 

 

Chuck, it`s great to see you.  Thanks for being here. 

 

CHUCK ROSENBERG, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY:  Oh, my pleasure.  Thank you for

having me.

 

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

Department. 

 

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.. 

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

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.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

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

be. 

 

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

first started. 

 

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

tonight.

 

Good evening, Ali.

 

                                                                                                               

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