Current Labor Secretary faces public heat. TRANSCRIPT: 3/20/19, The Rachel Maddow Show.

Guests:
Julie K. Brown
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:  Good evening, Chris.  Thanks, my friend.  Much

appreciated.

 

HAYES:  You bet. 

 

MADDOW:  Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.  Very happy to

have you with us.

 

Halfway through the week already, where does the time go?  Whether or not

you regularly follow the trade war part of this presidency, whether or not

that is part of the diet of Trump-related controversial news that you

choose to partake in on a regular basis, and I realize everybody`s got to

sort of pick their own, you know, items out of the salad bar, right?  You

can`t gorge on all this stuff every day.  You sort of choose your stuff. 

 

What – even if you haven`t been following the trade war part of the Trump

administration, if that hasn`t been part of your regular diet of news about

this president, odds are that you drive, or maybe even if you`re not a

regular driver, odds are that you spend some time in automobiles and you

recognize the centrality of automobiles to American life and the American

economy.  Well, whether or not you have been paying any attention at all to

Trump trade war stuff, one of the things you should know that the Trump

administration appears poised to do and soon is that the president is

apparently getting ready to make a unilateral presidential decision to hike

up the price of cars by several thousand dollars each. 

 

President Trump has reportedly received from his Commerce Department a

report that he requested which gives him a national security pretext that

lays out some sort of legalistic national security justification that is

designed to allow him to make a solo decision to put big new taxes on

imported cars, which would make them thousands of dollars more expensive. 

“Politico” reported today on the content of that secret report that has

already been given to the White House.  The content of that report has been

speculated about for a long time.  It seemed pretty clear that this was the

direction that Trump was going with this, but now “Politico” today reports

not only has that secret report been delivered to the White House, but it

does, as expected, give the president this national security pretext that

he needs to be able to institute those taxes on his own. 

 

Now, the reason President Trump wants to do that, the reason he wants to

impose thousands of dollars in price hikes on cars is because he thinks

this is a genius economic deal making strategy against foreign countries. 

He apparently either doesn`t care or doesn`t believe that when he does this

unilaterally to foreign-made cars, they`re – he doesn`t get or he doesn`t

believe or he is willing to call the bluff that there will be a similar

reaction in all the other countries that we export American cars to.  I

mean, everybody who looks at this type of economic policy believes that if

we do this to other countries, they will do the same to us, and that will

have the ultimate effect of pitch-forking the whole U.S. auto industry on

which millions and millions and millions of American jobs depend, not to

mention what it`s going to do to the price of cars for everybody,

regardless of whether or not you depend on the auto industry or any of its

subsidiary industries for your own job. 

 

Nevertheless, the president loved this idea, and apparently this policy

decision is in the works from this White House.  Now, regardless of what

you think of this as a policy idea, regardless of whether you think it is a

good idea to do this to the price of cars on purpose, one major consequence

of this right now, which could matter for everything in this administration

is that the Republicans in Congress, and particularly Republicans in the

Senate are reportedly mad about this, and they`re mad about this, A,

because they don`t want these tariffs on cars, but B, they want to see this

secret report that has been provided to the White House, produced by the

U.S. Commerce Department, this report that reportedly gives Trump the

legalistic national security justification he needs to be able to impose

this policy on his own say so. 

 

So, Republicans in Congress, Republicans in the Senate have been demanding

that they be allowed to see this report.  And the White House will not hand

it over, and the Commerce Department will not hand it over.  And the little

miracle on the side of the road on this one is apparently Republicans in

Congress mind that.  They apparently care.  They are reportedly even

slightly mad about it, which these days is like a blue moon and a four-leaf

clover and a hen`s tooth all wrapped up in one. 

 

I mean, Republicans really don`t mind anything when it comes to the Trump

administration.  But, apparently, they mind this.  And that might become

important, not just on the question of whether the president is going to

unilaterally make all cars way more expensive.  It may really matter for

everything. 

 

Tonight, “The Wall Street Journal” reports that new requests for documents

and information are being prepared by the Judiciary Committee in Congress

for a whole new bunch of people who have not yet been targeted by these

congressional investigations, people like Gary Cohn, the president`s

economic adviser, also the president`s some time lawyer Rudy Giuliani. 

Even Trump`s first secretary of state, Rex Tillerson.  They`re going to

finally start asking questions of Rex Tillerson. 

 

I have questions for Rex Tillerson too, like, sir, for example, how did you

get that job in the first place anyway?  I would love to know. 

 

Now, even in this “Wall Street Journal” report, they`re not suggesting that

we have any information about what documents or what information are being

requested from these folks.  I should also mention there has been pushback

against this story tonight.  Reporter Natasha Bertrand at “The Atlantic” is

throwing a little bit of cold water on the story tonight, saying that her

reporting indicates that any planned second wave of Judiciary Committee

document requests isn`t ready to go at this point, and the names reported

by “The Wall Street Journal” tonight should not be seen as definitive

targets of this committee.  We`ve done some of our own reporting on this

show that suggests that Natasha Bertrand`s line here may be correct. 

 

But whether or not the second wave of document requests is going out, the

first wave itself was pretty gigantic, right?  Eighty-one document requests

from the Judiciary Committee alone.  And I mean, everybody from the NRA to

former White House official Steve Bannon to the Trump inaugural committee

to the Trump inaugural chairman Tom Barrack, to at least one of the

Russians who went to the Trump Tower meeting during the campaign.  I mean,

all of these entities that have received these document requests from the

Judiciary Committee, a lot of them have started handing over documents to

the committee.  As this committee, led by Chairman Jerry Nadler pursues

multiple lines of inquiry about the Trump administration and the transition

and the campaign. 

 

And it`s not just these document requests.  Next week, a week from today,

we`re expecting some public testimony, televised testimony before the House

Intelligence Committee from Felix Sater, who among other things worked on

the Trump Tower Moscow project during the campaign with Michael Cohen.  We

learned today that in addition to that partially open testimony next

Wednesday, Felix Sater will also testify to Jerry Nadler`s Judiciary

Committee behind closed doors the following day, a week from tomorrow, next

Thursday. 

 

The deputy chairman of President Trump`s campaign, Rick Gates, who also

served as the number two official in the Trump inaugural, his lawyers today

told the Judiciary Committee that Rick Gates cannot at this point Cooperate

with their request for information, but only because federal prosecutors

have advised him that might be a bad idea.  Quote: Having received input

from the various prosecution offices, I have concluded that for the time

being, it is not in the interests of my client to provide testimony of

documents to congressional investigators. 

 

Rick Gates, of course, is still awaiting sentencing on felony charges. 

Prosecutors said as recently as last week that his cooperation with

prosecutors is still ongoing and it`s still relevant to multiple pending

and open investigations.  So, it`s not a huge surprise that with that open

criminal case against Gates and with his involvement in all those other

ongoing cases, it`s not that much of a surprise that prosecutors are

telling Gates that he shouldn`t cooperate with congressional inquiries at

this time while all those other matters are open. 

 

It`s interesting, though.  Even so, even with that, his lawyer also told

the Judiciary Committee that that may soon change.  Quote: Our position in

this regard may well be different in the coming months, after Rick Gates

presumably comes out the other side of his own criminal case and out the

side of his Cooperation deal with the Feds. 

 

CNN is reporting tonight that former White House communications director

and long-time Trump organization employee Hope Hicks also plans to

cooperate with the Judiciary Committee in their inquiries.  Hope Hicks and

her attorney are not making any public comment, but the Judiciary Committee

spokesman says tonight that Hope Hicks will be providing documents to their

committee. 

 

AMI, the parent company of the “National Enquirer” supermarket tabloid that

had a role in the hush money campaign finance scandal, they`re handing over

documents to Congress.  Mike Flynn`s company, the Flynn Intel Group,

they`re also handing over documents to Congress.  A former employee from

Cambridge Analytica, the Trump data firm from the Trump campaign, they`ve

got employee is also reportedly shipped documents in in response to the

committee`s request. 

 

So, lots of people, lots of entities.  So you might expect to put up a

fight or maybe try to take the Fifth or somehow try to make themselves

scarce at this point.  Lots of people who you might not expect to be

cooperating are cooperating, and they`re sending in material.  They`re even

meeting the deadline, or getting close to it. 

 

But the White House is not doing any of that, at all.  The White House is

thus far providing nothing to the Judiciary Committee in response to their

requests.  And more broadly than that, they`re providing nothing in

response to any congressional inquiries.  Not just about the Russia scandal

and the obstruction of justice stuff that derives from the Russia scandal,

but on anything.  They`re refusing to hand over a single document. 

 

Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings has just published this op-ed

at “The Washington Post.”  Quote: I serve as chairman of the Oversight and

Reform Committee, the primary investigative body in the House of

Representatives.  I have sent 12 letters to the White House on a half dozen

topics, some routine and some relating to our core national security

interests. 

 

In response, the White House has refused to hand over any documents or

produce any witnesses for interviews.  Let me underscore that point, he

says.  The White House has not turned over a single piece of paper to our

committee or made a single official available for testimony during this

Congress. 

 

Quote: The complete refusal by the Trump White House to produce any

documents or witnesses to the primary investigative committee in the House

reflects a decision at the highest levels to deny congressional oversight

all together.  The president has dictated this approach.  President Trump`s

actions violate our Constitution`s fundamental principle of checks and

balances.  If our committee must resort to issuing subpoenas, there should

be no doubt as to why. 

 

And this is not just standard bickering between the executive branch and

Congress, the kind of stuff you see a little of at least in every

administration.  This is apparently a decision by the Trump administration

that is a sort of a block decision.  They`re not making a case by case

determination as to whether or not they`re going to cooperate with this or

whether they`re going to cooperate with this or whether they`ll hand over

this document or whether they`ll make this person available. 

 

This apparently is their – forgive me – stonewall decision on everything,

no matter what the request, you will get nothing.  And apparently, this is

the big new idea for this part of this presidency.  They are rolling this

out on purpose. 

 

Deliberately, they`re rolling out this story line to multiple news

organizations.  This is how you ended up with all these headlines all over

the place today that all said essentially the same thing.  Trump officials

prepare to stonewall Democratic oversight demands.  White House ignores

House panel`s request for documents. 

 

“The Washington Post” today lays it out as clearly as anyone, that this

isn`t just Capitol Hill fighting as usual.  This is an intentional standoff

being mounted by the White House in a way that no White House really ever

has before.  Quote: The White House has ignored more than a dozen letters

requesting documents from House Democratic chairman investigating President

Trump.  The White House`s refused to share e-mails and correspondence. 

 

According to two senior administration officials, the move is intentional. 

Quote: Those officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to freely

discuss strategy said the White House is intent on challenging most if not

all House Democrats` document requests.  We will give you nothing. 

 

They`re not waiting to find out what they`re being asked for.  They`re just

announcing in advance, telling reporters, telling multiple news outlets in

advance, no matter what they ask for, we`re giving them nothing.  And I am

sure that is a strategy that appeals to every atom in every molecule, in

every cell of this president`s body, right? 

 

I mean, this is – this fits his personality.  Oh, the Democrats won

control of Congress?  They`re going to use congressional oversight to

oversee things, to investigate stuff I`ve done in and this administration

has done to find stuff out? 

 

No.  The answer is no.  The answer is we will give you nothing.  That`s our

final answer.  You`ll get zero from us. 

 

I`m sure that kind of approach meets all of the emotional needs this

president has around this issue in governance.  The problem is in America,

this is not allowed.  I mean, this has been tested before.  Never

categorically the way this White House is trying to do it, saying we`ll

give you nothing on anything. 

 

But this has been tried before on specific stuff by an American president

who tried the strategy not all that long ago and very, very, very famously

it did not work out for that president. 

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  In this instance, the president has concluded that it

would not serve the public interest to make the tapes available.  Upon

receipt of that letter, special prosecutor Cox called a press conference

and announced that he would use his subpoena power to try to get the tapes. 

Cox disagreed with the position taken by Mr. Nixon. 

 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The effort to obtain these tapes and other documentary

evidence is the impartial pursuit of justice according to law.  None of us

should make assumptions about what the tapes will show.  They may tend to

show that there was criminal activity or that there was none.  They may

tend to show the guilt of particular individuals or their innocence. 

 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  In a letter to Senator Sam Ervin, chairman of the

Watergate committee, the president said the tapes fall into the category of

presidential papers, which, as he has said before, the president won`t turn

over to another branch of government.  And upon receipt of that letter, the

Senate Watergate Committee met and unanimously voted to subpoena the tapes. 

 

Here is some of what Senator Ervin had to say. 

 

SEN. SAM ERVIN (D), NORTH CAROLINA:  Upon the receipt of this communication

from the White House, the Select Committee held a meeting and unanimously

voted to authorize and direct the chairman to issue two subpoenas.  One

would require the president to produce the tapes.  I love my country.  I

venerate the office of president, and I have the best wishes for the

success of the incumbent, the president incumbent of this office because he

is the only president this country has at this time. 

 

The president not only has constitutional powers which require him to see

to it or to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, and I think his

duty goes beyond circumstances to produce information which would either

tend to prove or disprove that criminal activities have occurred. 

 

But beyond that, the president of the United States, by reason of the fact

that he holds the highest office to the American people, holds an

obligation to furnish a high standard of moral leadership to this nation.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

MADDOW:  The president owes it an obligation to furnish a high standard of

moral leadership to this nation, Sam Ervin in the Watergate Committee.

 

In 1973, President Nixon tried to make history when he decided he didn`t

need to hand over to Congress anything he did not want them to see that

pertained to Watergate, specifically the White House tapes that they had

learned of the existence of.  That forced a subpoena on the White House for

those tapes.  Nixon defied the subpoena.  That ended up in court. 

 

The special prosecutor`s demand for those materials, those tapes ended up

going all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. 

 

And, you know, this is really famous.  I mean, let`s say you only know

three things about Richard Nixon.  What are the three things you know?  You

know like Nixon had to resign the presidency, had a dog named Checkers,

Supreme Court made him hand over the tapes, right? 

 

Even if you only know three things about Richard Nixon, even if you know

nothing else about Richard Nixon, you know that unanimously in U.S. v.

Nixon, the president was not allowed to say no, no, you can`t have it.  I

say you can`t. 

 

But that “no, no, you can`t have it” policy today was rolled out by the

Trump administration.  They plan to give no documents, no materials to make

no witnesses available.  And, again, we`ll see how that works out. 

 

Honestly, in the courts, we know how it will work out.  This has been

tested before.  This has been tried before.  It doesn`t work out well for a

president who tries this. 

 

But in the meantime, while we are starting down the path to get there, in

the meantime, if that is where this is heading, the speed at which this is

all going to unfold and how everybody looks in the history books when it`s

all over will depend in large part on whether Republicans in Congress,

members of the president`s own party in Congress can bring themselves to

summon the energy to care about a president who is trying to not only do

this to Democrats, but trying to do this to them as well. 

 

Joining us now is the great Michael Beschloss, NBC News presidential

historian. 

 

Michael, very happy to have you with us tonight.  Thank you for being here. 

 

MICHAEL BESCHLOSS, NBC NEWS PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN:  Thank you.  Delighted,

Rachel, always. 

 

MADDOW:  I knew that I wanted you here tonight and particularly in the A

block, because I knew I was going make assertions about presidential norms

and history here for this context of what the Trump White House is rolling

out right now.  I need you to fact check me a little bit on whether or not

this is in fact something that Nixon tested and he lost that test. 

 

BESCHLOSS:  Yes, Nixon tried it.  You know, Nixon basically said to the

Congress, I`m not going to give up my tapes.  I`m not going to give up

related materials because they`re protected by executive privilege, which

covers, you know, deliberations within the executive branch, and also

separation of powers. 

 

And that went to a federal district court.  And they said they didn`t have

jurisdiction.  So, as you showed us, Archibald Cox, the special prosecutor

and his successor Leon Jaworski went to court.  They subpoenaed the tapes

as well.  Went up through the system, went to the Supreme Court, and Nixon

sort of cynically thought maybe he is going to prevail on the court because

he appointed four out of the nine justices of the Supreme Court, thought

maybe they would do him a favor. 

 

It didn`t work, of course.  U.S. v. Nixon, July of 1974, 8-0.  There was

one who recused himself, which was William Rehnquist, who had served in the

Nixon Justice Department. 

 

So, if Donald Trump has been advised that this can go up through the courts

and it will go to a Supreme Court to which he has appointed Kavanaugh and

Gorsuch, his two appointments might sort of defend him in the end, I think

he better look back at Nixon and realize that history rhymes. 

 

MADDOW:  In terms of the White House rolling this out explicitly, that`s

the other part of this that strikes me here.  We are not at a point where

there is a specific document that a lot of people believe may be a smoking

gun. 

 

BESCHLOSS:  Right. 

 

MADDOW:  That they`re trying to pry out of the White House and the White

House knows how damning it`s going to be.  I mean, this isn`t exactly the

same kind of standoff, the specific standoff they had over those White

House tapes.  We had testimony as to what was on the tapes. 

 

BESCHLOSS:  And we all wanted to hear the tapes. 

 

MADDOW:  Everybody wanted – this is the White House in advance broadly

asserting that they are going to do this, and telling reporters about it. 

Putting out White House officials on the condition of anonymity to explain

that this is a deliberate strategy, and they want newspapers to write about

it. 

 

And it strikes me in the Trump administration doing that that they think

that there will be some political benefit to them to taking this kind of

black and white stance with Democrats.

 

BESCHLOSS:  Totally.  I mean, it keeps his secrets, whatever secrets he is

worried about that are in those documents and other materials.  He figures

that it`s going to play to his base, who would love to see Trump standing

up to Congress. 

 

And the other thing is that the Mueller report is coming out soon.  This is

a big distraction.  People might notice this constitutional crisis more

than they notice what`s in the Mueller report. 

 

But the other thing, Rachel, that is different from the Nixon period and

also Iran/Contra where Ronald Reagan actually cooperated quite a lot with

Congress is in the case of Reagan and Nixon, they at that point had to fear

the very real possibility that they might be impeached and convicted if it

came to that.  In Trump`s case, he may have calculated the House is not

going to impeach, and he`s got Republicans in the Senate, and therefore the

only thing he has to worry about is the courts, and maybe has an undo, as I

was saying earlier feeling of complacency about how the Supreme Court might

rule on this. 

 

MADDOW:  Michael, when Nixon did pick this kind of fight over the White

House tapes, the Oval Office tapes back in 1973, did he expect that he

would get support from his base, that he`d get – it would become a

rallying point of support for Nixon supporters and for Republicans more

broadly, that he was saying no to the Congress, that he was saying, no, you

can`t have these tapes? 

 

I mean, one of the things that strikes me looking back at the historical

record was that unanimous bipartisan vote in the Watergate committee to

issue a subpoena to the president for those things.  I don`t know what

Republicans in Congress would do right now in the same sort of standoff

that`s evolving with this presidency, but did Nixon think that Republicans

would rally to him on this? 

 

BESCHLOSS:  In the end, he thought they would, because, you know, he felt

that party loyalty would be important, and he said actually privately about

some of them, I can`t believe he`s turning against me.  I campaigned for

this guy, sort of a naive point of view. 

 

But the other thing is that in 1973 and 1974, Nixon did not have coming to

his aid something like Fox News so that when this – these developments

began to turn against Nixon, the process was a lot more quick and he was

disappointed.  So, instead, Nixon would make these pious pronouncements. 

I`m not giving up the tapes because they would compromise the ability of

all future presidents to solicit confidential advice.  People were not very

impressed by the argument. 

 

MADDOW:  Michael Beschloss, NBC News presidential historian, keeping us all

honest every day – Michael, thank you very much. 

 

BESCHLOSS:  Thank you.  Happy spring, I hope. 

 

MADDOW:  Oh, indeed.  You as well, my friend.  Thanks. 

 

All right.  Coming up next, we broke a story here last night about the next

trial.  Not the next indictment, not the next case, but the next trial that

is expected to derive from the special counsel investigation.  We`ve got an

important update on that story for you next. 

 

Stay with us.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

MADDOW:  Update for you on a point of intrigue that we reported on last

night`s show concerning the next scheduled trial that derives from the

Mueller investigation.  As you know, there has been only one trial thus far

in this whole scandal.  Thirty-seven different people and entities

indicted.  Lots of guilty pleas.  Lots of cooperation deals.  Several

prison sentences already, but only Paul Manafort actually took his case all

the way to trial. 

 

Well, the next trial, only the second one in the whole scandal is due to

start in July when a Trump transition official named Bijan Kian is due to

be tried on multiple felony counts in federal court in Virginia.  Among

other things, Bijan Kian is charged with acting as a paid foreign agent of

the government of Turkey, and that`s a serious charge in any context.  It`s

particularly serious in the case of Bijan Kian since he was apparently the

number two guy on the landing team for the Trump transition at the office

of the director of national intelligence. 

 

The “A.P.” reports that his transition responsibilities included helping

pick the next director of the CIA.  Which is an important gig, and it`s the

sort of thing you might not want a secret foreign agent taking part in. 

Oh. 

 

Trump national security adviser Mike Flynn was Kian`s business partner. 

Flynn is also expected to be a key witness in this trial against Bijan

Kian.  And as that case gets closer to trial, Kian`s defense team has been

asking the government, they`ve been asking prosecutors to give them a bunch

of information about Mike Flynn. 

 

He is going to be a witness against their client.  They want to be able to

cross-examine him.  They are entitled under federal trial rules and under

the Constitution to receive whatever information the government is planning

on using against their they`ve been asking prosecutors to give them a bunch

of information about Mike Flynn. 

 

He is going to be a witness against their client.  They want to be able to

cross-examine him.  They are entitled under federal trial rules and under

the constitution to receive whatever information the government is planning

on using against their client.  That includes, in this case, information

about the key witness against their client who is Mike Flynn. 

 

And as we reported last night, the back and forth in that Bijan Kian case

ahead of this trial that`s due to start in July, it now includes a

provocative new assertion from Bijan Kian`s defense team.  They are

asserting in court documents that after the 2016 election, Mike Flynn had

contact with the head of a Russian investment fund.  The same head of a

Russia investment fund who met with Erik Prince in the Seychelles Islands

right before Trump was sworn in. 

 

“The Washington Post” has reported that the special counsel`s office has

obtained evidence that that meeting with Erik Prince in the Seychelles

Islands was a secret effort to set up back channel of communication between

the incoming Trump administration and the Kremlin.  Why did they need a

secret back channel of communication?  That remains unanswered this far

into this scandal. 

 

Erik Prince has denied that`s what that meeting is for.  He has said that

meeting in the Seychelles Islands between him and the Russian investment

fund guy, that was just a business meeting and not an important one at

that.  He said it had nothing to do with the Trump campaign or the Trump

administration at all. 

 

But if that same Russian investment fund guy who met with Erik Prince, if

that same guy was not just in contact with Erik Prince, but he was also in

contact with the incoming Trump national security adviser Mike Flynn –

well, first, that would be something new we never heard about before

concerning an alleged high-level contact between the Trump campaign and the

Kremlin.  But also, it would make it much harder to believe that that

meeting in the Seychelles was just some random Erik Prince business meeting

that had nothing to do with Trump or the campaign. 

 

So we`ve been trying to track this down, because this is a new assertion. 

There is an assertion in court filings from Bijan Kian that Flynn was in

contact with this Russian investment fund guy named Kirill Dmitriev after

the election.  Now, in the context of the way this has come up in this

criminal case, what Bijan Kian`s defense lawyers are actually asserting

when you get down to the nitty-gritty detail, they`re asserting not only

did that contact happen between Flynn and this Russian guy, they`re

asserting in this trial that the government prosecutors, they know that

that contact happened between Flynn and that Russian guy. 

 

Kian`s lawyers are asserting that the government knows those contacts took

place and the government has information about it, and they`re actually

asking the prosecutors to hand over the information they`ve got about those

contacts between Flynn and that Russian guy.  So, as of last night, all we

were able to pry out on this story after noticing this thing in these court

filings, all we were able to get for this story as of last night when we

did this on the air last night was a no comment from Mike Flynn`s lawyers. 

 

Well, we`ve still only got a no comment from Mike Flynn`s lawyers.  But

today we`ve also obtained a no comment from Bijan Kian`s lawyers, the ones

who are making this assertion.  That said, a spokesman at their law firm

tells us that they`re not just no commenting us on this story.  A spokesman

for their law firm tells us they`re actually prohibited by law from giving

us any comment on this matter in the middle of this case.  And so even if

they did want to comment on it, they could not. 

 

But this is the really interesting part.  We did today get a letter from

Russia.  We heard back from the lawyers for the Russian investment fund

guy, and they told us today in no uncertain terms that this assertion being

made about Mike Flynn and their client in the Bijan Kian case, they are

telling us that that assertion is wrong. 

 

Quote: Kirill Dmitriev has never met Michael Flynn or had any contacts or

connections with him. 

 

It`s nice to get a letter from Russia.  That was nice.  Today, we got this

letter from Russia, and that`s what it says. 

 

So bottom line here, if this contact occurred, if this contact between Mike

Flynn, the incoming national security adviser, and this Russian investment

fund guy, if that contact did happen, it`s never been publicly reported. 

This would be new. 

 

Bijan Kian, who is Mike Flynn`s business partner at that point, right,

through his lawyers, he is telling a court that those contacts did in fact

happen, and the government knows about it, and they`ve got information

about it, and they want to see that information. 

 

The Russian guy in question, Kirill Dmitriev is saying it definitely didn`t

happen.  Flynn isn`t saying either way. 

 

You know, this is why we have trials.  This is why we have trials.  Tell it

to the judge ultimately, right?  Ultimately, the truth of this will out in

court. 

 

And anybody who tells you we know the whole story already about what

happened between the Trump campaign and Russia is bluffing.  I mean, two

years in and it`s still like new stuff every day. 

 

So watch this space.  Still, again. 

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

MADDOW:  The Trump administration is not that old, but it has had no

shortage of senior officials who have resigned or who have been fired.  We

don`t do the big board showing all of the departures and firings anymore

because honestly, I know it`s hard to work on this show.  Like we drive

people hard and people work long hours, and – but we broke everybody by

doing that. 

 

Doing that repeatedly was an unfair labor situation.  I mean, look at this. 

That`s nuts.  We hurt people doing that here on this show. 

 

Anyway, besides, at this point, the senior ones you can rattle off the top

of your head, right?  Former national security adviser Mike Flynn forced

out after he lied to the FBI about his conversations with Russian

Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. 

 

Anthony Scaramucci, right, fired after like three minutes as White House

communications director, which included one vividly profane rant about

then-White House chief of staff Reince Priebus. 

 

Tom Price resigned as secretary of health and human services after he spent

a gazillion dollars in taxpayer money on luxury private air travel.  And

don`t get me started on his stock trading.

 

Rob Porter gone as White House staff secretary after allegations surfaced

that he abused both of his ex-wives. 

 

EPA Chief Scott Pruitt resigned after a whole big long string of

embarrassment over his spending, including $3,000 he spent on tactical

pants, tactical pants and tactical polos.  I can kind of imagine tactical

pants.  But what`s a tactical polo?  Not to mention the conflicts of

interest and all the rest. 

 

Ryan Zinke ousted as secretary of the interior, just as the Justice

Department has started investigating him for possibly using his office for

public gain. 

 

Well, there`s a lot of them.  Now, there`s another one.  Labor Secretary

Alexander Acosta who is facing a massive scandal that is growing bigger by

the day.  There are two big developments in that story tonight. 

 

That`s next.  Stay with us.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

MADDOW:  Two new developments to report tonight in the scandal unfolding

around Donald Trump cabinet official, U.S. Labor Secretary Alex Acosta.

 

Alex Acosta`s labor secretary now.  He was previously the U.S. attorney in

Florida when a hedge fund millionaire named Jeffrey Epstein was

investigated by the FBI for myriad child sex crimes.  Instead of bringing

charges as a result of that investigation, the U.S. attorney in that

jurisdiction, again now our sitting labor secretary Alex Acosta, he gave

Jeffrey Epstein a deal, which gave him immunity from all federal charges. 

 

Instead, Acosta let Epstein plead guilty to just two state prostitution

charges.  Since then, news organizations led by the “Miami Herald” have

been battling in federal court trying to get records unsealed in a

defamation case related to the case against Epstein.  The thinking is that

those records might shed light on the lenient plea deal that was brokered

by Alex Acosta.  It might also spread further light on any of Epstein`s

crimes and any of his potential accomplices. 

 

The court set a deadline yesterday for anybody to come forward with

justification for why records in that case should stay sealed.  Otherwise

the judges said they were inclined to release those records to the public

after all these years.  But look what happened right before the deadline. 

 

Quote: Two mystery parties tried to restrict release of documents in

Jeffrey Epstein`s civil suit.  This happened right at the deadline. 

 

One of the mystery people who came forward right at the deadline is

reportedly an Epstein victim who wants to keep information about herself

out of any release documents.  The other is an unidentified man calling

himself John Doe, and those two mystery parties at the very last minute are

trying to block the unsealing of these court records about the Epstein

case.  In the case of the victim, it`s easy to see why she might want her

own self-defined privacy in this matter.  For the John Doe, though, who

knows what his interests are here. 

 

The fight over keeping those records under seal or releasing them is coming

to a head right now, and it`s all happening in the context of another

brand-new revelation on this case from the “Miami herald.”  Unbeknownst to

everybody at the time, when Jeffrey Epstein cut that deal with Alex Acosta

so he could plead guilty to just two state charges, the youngest victim

involved in the crimes they let Epstein plead to was 16 years old, which is

horrifying in itself, but they let him plead to a case involving a 16-year-

old, despite the fact that other victims as young as 13 and 14 had come

forward. 

 

And that`s not only new information in terms of understanding the deal that

Alex Acosta brokered for Jeffrey Epstein, it also sheds light on just how

much of a sweetheart deal Alex Acosta gave Jeffrey Epstein, because 16 is

the age of consent in more than half the country.  So, allowing Epstein to

plead guilty to charges with a 16-year-old girl, with an older victim

instead of a 13 and 14-year-olds who came forward, that eased his

obligations to register as a child sex offender. 

 

Why would you go out of your way to do that when making this deal with him,

when you had younger victims who had come forward? 

 

Joining us now is Julie Brown.  She`s an investigative reporter at the

“Miami Herald” who has done landmark reporting on the Epstein case and

everything that labor secretary Alex Acosta did for Epstein in this case. 

 

Ms. Brown, thank you very much for joining us.  It`s nice to have you here. 

 

JULIE K. BROWN, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER, THE MIAMI HERALD:  Thank you. 

 

MADDOW:  Let me ask you first about this new reporting that was just posted

at “The Herald” tonight about the 16-year-old girl whose allegation against

Epstein was the basis of his plea deal.  This is the headline on your scoop

tonight.  Quote: She was the victim in Epstein`s secret plea deal.  She

didn`t even know it. 

 

Can you explain that headline and what you found here? 

 

BROWN:  Well, for unknown reasons, all of the sudden, the state attorney in

Palm Beach announced the birth date of the girl that was attached to the

plea deal that Mr. Epstein agreed to plea to at the time that he was a

suspect in a number of sex – child sex trafficking crimes. 

 

Instead of charging him with federal sex trafficking crimes, he was allowed

to plead guilty to prostitution charges.  The paperwork for that was very -

- always very vague.  It wasn`t clear exactly which victim that was

attached to.  There was no paperwork on it, and they didn`t present it even

to the sentencing judge. 

 

And now, we know that this particular victim was 16 years old.  And the

reason why they picked a 16-year-old was, again, not only did they

manipulate the criminal case against him, sabotaged the criminal case

against him, but they also manipulated the charge that he had to plea to

which involves a registered sex offense.  And by doing that, he doesn`t

have a strict monitoring and registration requirements. 

 

MADDOW:  In terms of what happened here with these victims, I mean, it`s

striking that you have found that this woman who was the described victim

essentially in the secret plea deal didn`t even know that hers was the case

that he plead to. 

 

One of the things that`s striking is that it appears that in court, the

judge asked about other victims, and the judge asked the prosecutors

whether or not the victims were essentially okay with this deal or they

were aware it had happened.  Prosecutors appear to have misrepresented the

truth to the judge and told the judge that the victims all knew about this

and also they seemed to have kept from the judge the total number of

victims involved here. 

 

That suggests to me that the prosecutors may be in even further trouble

than we`ve already seen as this case has broken open this year, in large

part because of your reporting. 

 

BROWN:  Well, we knew from the paperwork we already had that they were

trying to mislead the judge.  There were communications between the federal

– the lead federal prosecutor and Epstein`s attorneys basically where they

were saying we really don`t want to tell the judge how many victims there

are or how many charges that we could have gotten him on.  Let`s just not

tell the judge all this information. 

 

But this, really, the significance of this latest story, now that we know

who the victim was in this particular plea, it`s clear because the attorney

for that woman, I spoke with him yesterday, and he represented 16, by the

way, of Epstein`s underage victims. 

 

MADDOW:  Wow.

 

BROWN:  And he said none of his victims were ever informed of this plea

deal.  So, when the prosecutor went in front of the judge and the jungle

said have these victims been notified, and she said, yes, it`s clear that

that was untrue. 

 

MADDOW:  Julie Brown, investigative reporter for “The Miami Herald” who

among other things has won a Polk Award for this reporting – Julie, thank

you for updating us tonight.  Really appreciate your time tonight. 

 

BROWN:  Thanks. 

 

MADDOW:  Again, it remains – I mean, we have seen a lot of scandal, we

have seen a lot of departures and scandal from the Trump administration and

even from the Trump cabinet.  It remains astonishing to me that in this

case, with Alex Acosta as labor secretary, literally, a federal judge ruled

that he broke the law when leading that prosecutor`s office into doing this

deal with Epstein.  The law was broken by Acosta in his last federal job

before the one he`s on now. 

 

And yet he remains as a cabinet secretary.  He remains as labor secretary

in this administration.  The president as recently as this week gave

support to him, despite him breaking the law in order to give a child sex

offender a sweet deal that his victims were never allowed to know about. 

 

We`ll be right back. 

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

MADDOW:  In 1982, the secret weapon of the Miami Dolphins football team was

their defense, which they called the “Killer B`s”, named for their ability

to swarm the offense on the field the way that bees swarm and also because

half the squad has names that started with “B.”  The great Miami Dolphins

Killer B`s from 1982. 

 

Now in 2020, we are apparently playing that out on the boys` side of

Democratic presidential politics where it`s honestly getting a little bit

weird because now we`ve got Bernie, Beto, Booker, Buttigieg, looks like

Bennett, and now, also looks like Biden. 

 

According to “The Wall Street Journal,” former Vice President Joe Biden has

reached out to a half dozen supporters to tell them he intends to run for

president.  He`s asking for help in raising a whole bunch of money very

fast, specifically to keep up with two of the other Killer B`s who has

raised more money than anybody else in the field thus far, Beto and Bernie. 

 

Biden has reportedly expressed concern about matching or trying to exceed

the multimillion-dollar hauls that Beto and Bernie brought in on their

first days after they announced.  If and when Joe Biden does jump in, we

ought – again, just among the men, you have Bernie, Beto, Booker,

Buttigieg, Bennett and Biden.  And that`s only among boys who start with B,

let alone the whole rest of the field. 

 

When we heard that Andrew Gillum, the former mayor of Tallahassee who lost

his bid to become governor of Florida by less than half a percentage point,

when we heard today that he was going to make a big announcement today, a

lot of people wondered if Andrew Gillum would be the latest male candidate

to jump into the race.  Turns out that was not it. 

 

But what Gillum did announce today might be just as important ultimately to

the outcome of the race in 2020 because today, Andrew Gillum launched a new

voter registration effort in his state of Florida with the goal of

registering a million new voters in Florida to flip Florida blue and put

the nation`s largest and most important swing state out of reach for Donald

Trump in 2020. 

 

So that`s exciting about Florida politics.  It`s exciting about Democratic

politics.  Andrew Gillum is not becoming one of the Democrats who is

running for office. 

 

But at this point, it`s easier to count the numbers who aren`t getting in

rather than the numbers who are. 

 

Stay with us. 

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

MADDOW:  Last week, news leaked that one of the Robert Mueller`s top

prosecutors, Andrew Weissmann, is leaving the special counsel`s office and

taking a new job.  NPR was first to report it and then the special

counsel`s office confirmed that Andrew Weissmann is leaving the special

counsel`s office soon to take a new job which we believe will be at the law

school at NYU. 

 

Are you familiar with the idea of senioritis?  Like what happens to you

when you have already figured out what you are going to do over the summer,

maybe even next year and, yeah, you are still at school but you kind of

have checked out? 

 

Today, the eagle eyed CNN Robert Mueller`s office stakeout team caught

Andrew Weissmann showing up to work today in something unexpected.  Quote:

Andrew Weissmann seen wearing a tan suit to work today.  What? 

 

Noah Weiland land then tweeted this photo of Andrew Weissmann picking up

lunch with fellow Mueller prosecutors Jeannie Rhee and Rush Atkinson today

in Washington, D.C.  Weiland described it as a tan blazer and chinos, but

looks pretty close to a tan suit. 

 

It is possible that Andrew Weissmann was just celebrating the first day of

spring today.  It is also possible that this is senioritis.  But in any

case, you do you, Andrew Weissmann.  I know that people get upset about tan

suits.  I think that looks nice on you. 

 

That does it for us tonight.  We will see you again tomorrow.

 

Now, it is time for “THE LAST WORD”.  Ali Velshi filling in for Lawrence

tonight.

 

                                                                                                               

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY

BE UPDATED.

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