The Mueller report. TRANSCRIPT: 3/28/19, The Rachel Maddow Show.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: What is it and as a related matter, why does it
make them so crazy?
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: So nuts, bonkers. Yes.
MADDOW: It makes me all the more interested. Tomorrow is going to be
fantastic. I cannot wait. Well done, my friend. Thanks.
HAYES: Thank you.
MADDOW: Al right. Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
It was September 9th, 1998, which is a Wednesday, two vans – two white
vans pulled up to Capitol Hill and what Capitol Hill police officers opened
up the back of the vans, they started pulling out big banker-sized file
boxes and hauling them into the Gerald R. Ford office building. And that
day, that unexpected arrival of those vans containing big banker`s boxes is
how their learned that independent counsel Ken Starr had finished his
years-long report on President Clinton.
Ken Starr had been appointed independent counsel to investigate the
Whitewater real estate deal that to this day nobody understands.
Ultimately, though, that investigation by Ken Starr morphed into an
inquisition of the president over his affair with the young White House
intern named Monica Lewinsky.
But that four-year-long investigation, it ended with an exclamation point.
That Wednesday afternoon, 1998, when without warning, those vans pulled up
and that`s how we learned, hey, here it is. It`s done. A 445-page long
report from Ken Starr and his investigators typed, bound and presented to
But those boxes and boxes and boxes pulled out of those vehicles, they were
not multiple copies of the 445-page long Ken Starr report. What all of
those boxes contained was the report but also all the accompanying evidence
that went along with the report, as well.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TOM BROKAW, NBC NIGHTLY NEWS: Tonight, the future of the Bill Clinton
presidency is in a locked vault in a congressional office building. The
voluminous report of independent counsel Ken Starr, transcripts,
depositions, video and audio tapes. Starr`s office says it all adds up to
substantial and credential information that may support impeachment of the
president of the United States. The White House immediately denied that
REPORTER: On Capitol Hill, the independent counsel report arrived this
afternoon, 36 boxes, two copies of each piece of evidence that could lead
to impeachment hearings against the president.
REPORTER: After 4 1/2 years of investigation, it took two FBI vans to
deliver the evidence, 18 boxes of what Ken Starr and his prosecutors say is
proof of possible impeachable offenses by the president. Starr`s almost
500-page report, grand jury transcripts, the president`s videotaped
testimony and more than 20 hours of audio tapes of Monica Lewinsky telling
Linda Tripp lurid details of her relationship with the president all were
delivered to Congress this afternoon with a copy for each political party.
REPORTER: Starr aides shed no official light on the contents of the boxes
they delivered into the hands of Capitol police today.
GWEN IFILL, NBC NEWS: But, Tom, House leaders will move quickly to move on
the Starr report as much as they can.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: So what got delivered that day? I said it was white vans.
Obviously, it was a mix of white and black and navy blue vans? Hard to
tell. Anyway, I stand corrected.
But, anyway, what all those vans brought up to Capitol Hill that day, that
Wednesday afternoon September 1998 was the Starr report itself, which is
again more than 400 pages, but then it was these 18 boxes of supporting
evidence, including everything from audio tapes to videotapes to
transcripts of witness testimony before the grand jury. They made two
copies of all of that material.
So, it`s 36 boxes in all, 18 boxes of evidence. They made a copy to give
one complete set of evidence and one copy of the report to the Democrats
and one complete set of evidence and one copy of the report to the
Republicans. And they hauled all of that stuff up to Congress. It`s all
on a Wednesday afternoon.
You want to know when the public got the report? Friday. Yes. I mean,
all the supporting evidence, all the grand jury material, that went only to
Congress that didn`t get disbursed to the public.
But the report itself, 445 pages, it was in the public domain less than 48
hours after Ken Starr finished with it and submitted it. I should say more
or less 48 hours.
The way Congress chose to release that report to the public in September
1998 was by using a then quite newfangled machine called the Internet, and
in 1998 really nobody knew how to download anything. A 400-plus page
document that they didn`t break into smaller parts to make it an easier
download, that was basically an impossible Mount Everest of an online task
for the slow dialup modem speeds we had at the time, but they did do their
best to make it available to the public that Friday after they received it
only two days before.
Trying to post it online, they crashed every server that they posted it on.
News organizations ultimately did get their hands on the Starr report.
They distributed it as best as they could.
I remember also, the Starr report was very quickly published as a pulpy
paperback. That`s how I remember it, as I remember. And then I showered.
But the legacy there, the precedent there, is that that report on that
presidential scandal, it was turned around to the public within two days,
after being completed and submitted. And there was, of course, immense
public interest in the report. Tens of millions of Americans reportedly
read that thing within a couple days of it being released.
But that is apparently nowhere near what we are doing this time with this
report on this scandal, involving this president. It has now been six days
since the special counsel`s report from Robert Mueller was completed and
submitted. And this time, the Trump administration appears to be in no
rush whatsoever to provide anyone access to it.
I mean, forget the public. They are not even letting Congress see it.
After releasing a less-than-four-page document from Trump`s newly appointed
attorney general, which provides a largely but vaguely exculpatory summary
he says are Robert Mueller`s findings, now nearly a week after Mueller`s
actual report was completed, the actual report remains totally unseen.
And given the historical precedent for how things like this have been
handled in the past, given the intense public interest in this matter,
given the strangely vague, non-specific but definitely supposed to be
exculpatory summary that we`ve been asked to swallow by this
administration, by a Trump appointee, this effort by them to keep the
actual Mueller report completely under wraps indefinitely, well as of
today, it`s showing its first cracks.
Today, for example, we got the first credible reports about the rough size
the Mueller report might be. You know, if you squint from a distance or
maybe weren`t wearing your glasses but could get up close, could you tell
the general size of it? “The New York Times” was first on the spot the
size of the Mueller report story today.
But over the course of the day, we got a bunch of different sources and
leaks saying Mueller`s report is multiple hundreds of pages of long.
Ultimately a justice department spokesperson did confirm in the most
general terms, that, yes, OK, in fact, the Mueller report is over 300
So, that`s your range. Minimum number is 301, maximum number of pages is
infinity. So, somewhere in there.
And that, of course, even that tells us nothing about the content of the
report. It doesn`t even really tell us the minimum length of it, right?
The pages could be the size of a postage stamp or the size of a bed sheet.
The print could be like a billboard or could be like inscribed on the head
of a pin. I don`t know. It`s a minimum of 301 pages.
Is that double-sided? Single-spaced? I don`t know. We don`t know. We
know nothing about it.
But with a Justice Department spokesperson confirming this one barely
useful metric about the actual Mueller report, even that just puts a
brighter spotlight on the fact that they are trying to keep this thing
secret from everybody. I mean, if they are now confirming the thing is
over 300 pages long – that doesn`t tell us anything what is in it but it
does raise further questions about why thus far we are only allowed to see
the less than 50 words of it that were quoted in William Barr`s statement
about it, which is nuts, right?
I mean, on what basis has he selected those 42 words as the only ones we`re
allowed to see indefinitely? Also, Congress, those are the only words in
the Mueller report they are allowed to see. I mean, especially since the
one statement William Barr quoted from Mueller, that the White House and
the conservative media are coming apart at the seams over, right? They`re
so excited to the grounds in which they are declaring this scandal to be
over and settled, and the president to be heroically exonerated, that one
quote from Mueller that appeared in Barr`s letter is not even a full
sentence. You notice that, right?
I mean, in Barr`s report, this is what they are also excited about, that
line that he quotes from Mueller. Quote: The investigation did not
establish members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the
Russian government in its election interference activities.
Look at the first letter of the quote. They had to put the first letter in
brackets in order to make it a capital letter, in order to make it look
like that was the start of a sentence and that is a complete sentence. But
the brackets mean there isn`t actually a capital letter there, which means
that isn`t where the sentence starts, which means this statement about
there being no criminal conspiracy established by the investigation, that`s
the back half of a sentence that starts some other way.
But we`re not allowed to know how that sentence starts. We`re not allowed
to know what else is in that sentence. I mean, literally at this point, on
the right and in the Republican Party, they are hanging the entire Trump
presidency on that fragment of the sentence and not letting us see what
else is in that sentence.
Why is that? Why do we only have William Barr`s statement about what
Mueller found instead of anything at all from Mueller?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE SPEAKER: I have said and I`ll say again,
no thank you, Mr. Attorney general. We do not need your interpretation.
Show us the report and we can draw our own conclusions. We don`t need you
interpreting for us. That was condescending, it was arrogant and wasn`t
the right thing to do.
REPORTER: Do you feel that the committee should still be full steam ahead
on the issue of collusion? Or given the discrepancy between the Mueller
report and Barr summary should it be on obstruction of justice?
PELOSI: How can I say this more clearly? Show us the report. Show us the
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Nancy Pelosi speaking to reporters and getting more and more blunt
about it with each passing phrase, where at the end, she`s like, show us
the report. This is not that hard. This is not that complicated. I can`t
say this any more clearly. Show us the thing.
I mean, it is amazing that as of tomorrow, we will be a week into the
existence of the completed Mueller report and they are still sitting on it.
Still trying not to release it. Not release any of it.
Democratic congressional staffers today started circulating lists of
previous reports into president`s scandals and executive branch scandals
and how long – how the dispensation of those reports had been handled on
Capitol Hill and in terms of public access. The last time there was a
special counsel, which is what Robert Mueller is, that was John Danforth`s
report about the Branch Davidian standoff at Waco. His report was released
Before that, it was independent counsel Ken Starr, his report was provided
in full to the House on a Wednesday afternoon. It was then released to the
public on a Friday morning. Even as the grand jury material and underlying
evidence was held just within Congress and not released to the public, the
public got the report Congress got all the underlying evidence and it
happened zip, zip.
Before that, it was the independent counsel Lawrence Walsh and his report
about Oliver North and the Iran-Contra scandal. That was released fully to
Even some lesser known ones. There was an independent counsel who looked
in to then HUD Secretary Henry Cisneros. That was released fully to
Congress and released with very limited redactions to the public. There
was an independent counsel report into an agriculture secretary named Mike
Espy. That was released fully to the public.
It`s just the Mueller report they want to sit on. This isn`t how things
like this are previously handled. But for this one, we`re heading –
tomorrow, it will be a week and we haven`t seen any of it.
A few days ago here on the show, we talked about the precedent of the
Watergate report that came to be known as the road map to Nixon`s
impeachment. This was a document drawn up by Watergate special prosecutor
Leon Jaworski, and the grand jury in Washington that he had convened to
hear evidence in the Watergate scandal.
And this one was a little bit of a special case. This was purely grand
jury information, right? And a federal judge signed off on that grand jury
conveying the information they had collected about the president directly
to Congress in a confidential manner so Congress could look at that grand
jury information and consider what it meant in terms of drawing up
potential articles of impeachment against Nixon.
Now, that one, it took us a long time to get access to the 62-page stack of
grand jury material that did form the basis of the impeachment articles
against Nixon. But honestly, the precedent still stands here because that
information on Nixon, that wasn`t kept secret and put in a vault inside
Nixon`s Justice Department where only his appointees were allowed to look
which is what we got now. I mean, that Leon Jaworski grand jury Watergate
road map against Nixon, that was conveyed to Congress as soon as the grand
jury assembled it. They asked the judge`s permission, we would like to
give this to congress, your honor. The judge said, yes, it went to
Congress that day.
In this case, we`re not getting the Mueller report but Congress isn`t
getting it, either. Only Trump appointees get to see it and assure us,
it`s all good news for the president. Don`t worry your pretty little heads
about it. We`ll just keep this right here to ourselves. NBC News today
had some interesting reporting on Democrats` plans not just to try to
obtain whatever version of the Mueller report Trump`s attorney general
wants to allow them to see, they plan in addition to try to obtain both the
Mueller report and any grand jury information that William Barr says he
plans to try to cut out of it.
Also, as in the case of the Starr report, they say they want all of the
underlying evidence that led to Mueller`s findings. They want vans pulling
up on Capitol Hill unloading boxes of evidence for them to look at. They
are now citing that president of Leon Jaworski and the Watergate grand jury
Apparently, congressional Democrat say they believe they can bypass Trump`s
Justice Department and William Barr. They can bypass them altogether and
go directly to the courts, as Jaworski and his grand jury did in 1974 to
get a federal judge to clear the release of grand jury materials directly
to the House Judiciary Committee so that committee can on behalf of
Congress assess the president`s behavior as a co-equal branch of
Think about where this is going now. I mean, if Trump`s Justice Department
continues to try to keep the Mueller report secret, and if they try to keep
grand jury information from that report and the underlying evidence for
that report secret, and the Democrats and Congress are going to go not just
to fight the Justice Department about this, they`re going to go to the
courts directly to go around the Justice Department, to get that material,
this is going to be a rip-roaring fight about whether and when we get to
see this stuff and whether and when Congress gets to see it, too.
And meanwhile, Democrats are not playing along with the White House effort
and effort that conservative media to declare this over based on one
sentence fragment about the president and Russia and one full sentence that
Barr quoted about obstruction of justice. A full sentence incidentally in
which Robert Mueller says the president is not exonerated on obstruction of
Today, the House Intelligence Committee convened an open hearing on Russian
intelligence and Russian influence operations around the world and how
those things work. House Republicans at the outset tried to sort of hijack
the hearing to declare the Russia scandal over, to declare the president
totally exonerated and in so doing, they decided to declare that they were
demanding the resignation of Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff for him
having temerity to investigate this matter.
And I`m guessing, because they all have been watching conservative media
and listening to White House statements on this issue, I am guessing those
Republican members of Congress thought that this would be a big triumph and
moment for them. I think they thought they were going to score big with
their chest pounding demand today that Adam Schiff had to resign from the
committee because the Russia stuff is all fine, it`s all been cleared up,
everything is good. That`s what they have been hearing from the White
House and conservative media, because that`s what they have been hearing, I
am quite sure they were not expecting what they actually got from Adam
Schiff in response.
And part of the way you can tell is how absolutely flabbergasted they were
by the end of what Adam Schiff said. You might have seen some of Adam
Schiff`s remarks today. You might have seen coverage that this sort of
remarkable moment happened in Congress today, but I – you may not have
seen how Republicans responded at the end. This was just incredible.
There`s actually two things – no, there is three things to watch here.
First, watch what Schiff says, which is sort of stunning, this riff, right?
Two, watch how the people around him at that moment respond including like
his fellow Democrats, at one point you`ll see Val Demings sitting and in
the room, and watch to see how she reacts to what is erupting from Adam
Schiff in this hearing room today.
And the third thing that you really have to see is just watch Republicans
completely bamboozled and upset and sputtering with what he serves up to
them. They can`t believe he`s saying this stuff, and gosh, when you put it
that way, it sounds terrible and that`s not what we mean. You – stop
talking about it like that. Oh, geez.
I mean, this was just a signal moment, I think, in this whole two-yearlong
saga. This is incredible. Sit down and watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MIKE CONWAY (R-TX), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: We had no faith in your
ability to discharge your duties and at the manner consistent with your
constitutional responsibility and urge immediate resignation as chairman of
Mr. Chairman, this letter is signed by all nine members of the Republican
side of the House – of the committee. And I ask that it be entered into
the record of today`s hearing.
I go back.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), CHAIRMAN, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Without
objection, I`m going to turn to our witnesses who are the subject of the
hearing today. But before you, as you have chosen, instead of addressing
the hearing to simply attack me, consistent with the president`s attacks, I
do want to respond in this way.
My colleagues may think it`s OK that the Russians offered dirt on a
Democratic candidate for president as part of what was described as the
Russian government`s effort to help the Trump campaign. You might think
that`s OK. My colleagues might think it`s okay that when that was offered
to the son of the president, who had a pivotal role in the campaign, that
the president`s son did not call the FBI. He did not adamantly refuse that
No, instead that son said he would love the help with the Russians. You
might think it`s OK that he took that meeting. You might think it`s OK
that Paul Manafort, the campaign chair, someone with great experience in
running campaigns, also took that meeting.
You might think it`s OK that the president`s son-in-law also took that
meeting. You might think it`s OK that they concealed it from the public.
You might think it`s OK that their only disappointment after that meeting
was that the dirt they received on Hillary Clinton wasn`t better. You
might think that`s OK.
You might think it`s OK when it was discovered a year later that then lied
about that meeting and said it was about adoptions. You might think it`s
OK the president is reported to have helped dictate that lie. You might
think that`s OK. I don`t.
You might think it`s OK that the campaign chairman of a presidential
campaign would offer information about that campaign to a Russian oligarch
in exchange for money or debt forgiveness. You might think that`s OK. I
You might think it`s okay that that campaign chairman offered polling data,
campaign polling data to someone linked to Russian intelligence. I don`t
think that`s OK. You might think it`s OK that the president himself called
on Russia to hack his opponent`s e-mails if they were listening. You might
think it`s OK later that day the Russians attempted to hack a server
affiliated with that campaign. I don`t think that`s OK.
You might think that it`s OK that the president`s son-in-law sought to
establish a secret back channel of communications with the Russians through
a Russian diplomatic facility. I don`t think that`s OK. You might think
it`s OK that an associate of the president made direct contract with the
GRU through Guccifer 2 and WikiLeaks and considered that it`s considered a
hostile intelligence agency.
You might think it`s OK a senior campaign official was instructed to reach
that associate and find out what that hostile intelligence agency had to
say in terms of dirt on his opponent. You might think it`s OK that the
national security advisor designate secretly conferred with a Russian
ambassador about undermining U.S. sanctions and you might think it`s OK he
lied about it to the FBI.
You might say that`s all OK. You might say that`s just what you need to do
to win. But I don`t think it`s OK. I think it`s immoral. I think it`s
unethical. I think it`s unpatriotic and yes, I think it`s corrupt and
evidence of collusion.
Now I have always said that the question of whether this amounts to proof
of conspiracy was another matter. Whether the special counsel could prove
beyond a reasonable doubt the proof of that crime would be up to the
special counsel and I would accept this decision and I do. He`s a good and
honorable man and he`s a good prosecutor, but I do not think that conduct,
criminal or not is OK.
And the day we do think that`s OK is the day we will look back and say that
is the day America lost its way.
And I will tell you one more thing that is apropos of the hearing today, I
don`t think it`s OK during a presidential campaign Mr. Trump sought the
Kremlin`s help to have a real estate deal in Moscow that would make him a
fortune. According to the special counsel hundreds of millions of dollars.
I don`t think it`s OK he concealed it from the public.
I don`t think it`s OK that he advocated a new and more favorable policy
towards the Russians even as he was seeking the Russians` help, the
Kremlin`s help to make money. I don`t think it`s OK his attorney lied to
There is a different word for that than collusion and it`s called
compromise. And that is the subject of our hearing today. Mr. Ambassador,
I will not yield –
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Will you yield you made up things about all of us – we
SCHIFF: I will not yield. I will not yield.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We think you should allow us to speak.
SCHIFF: You can use your five minutes to speak. You attacked me in your
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I haven`t had an opportunity to respond at all
especially because of what we think. No one over here thinks that.
SCHIFF: Mr. Turner, you`re not recognized, Ambassador McFaul, you`re
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: And thus began the hearing on how Russia uses its various points
of leverage to compromise people around the globe including potentially
people in our own government. The gentleman will not yield.
And until the Mueller report actually gets released, any of it, I don`t
think anybody should expect him to yield not an inch.
Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCHIFF: But I do not think that conduct criminal or not is OK. And the
day we do think that`s OK is the day we will look back and say that is the
day America lost its way.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The House Intelligence Committee today was an epic clash of
civilizations maybe? An epic clash of partisan. It was an epic clash in
which Republicans demanded the resignation of the Democrats for
investigating what happened with Russia in the 2016 campaign and Democrats
came back and gave them what four ten times and six times extra on Sunday
about what Russia did, and how important it is.
Joining us now is Congressman Jim Himes of Connecticut, who`s on the
Intelligence Committee. And he was there today.
Sir, I really appreciate you being here tonight. Thanks for being here.
REP. JIM HIMES (D-CT), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Good evening, Rachel.
MADDOW: Let me just start by asking you what was that? I mean, this was a
hearing on the Kremlin`s use of oligarch`s money and intelligence in 2016
and beyond, but it started off with what really looked like a battle scene.
HIMES: It was remarkable. My pulse was around 200 just watching you
replay it. I was sitting right next to Adam, and I`ll tell you, the
emotional energy in the room was amazing. And you sort of saw this
happening, you know? You know, the former chairman, Devin Nunes with the
midnight run to the White House and his activities ultimately resulting in
Nancy Pelosi after a year and a half of antics calling on him to step down.
You know, you can just tell the Republicans were just waiting for this
moment. And of course, what they did was they created a moment in which
Adam Schiff reminded the nation that while – and we`re going to accept
Mueller for his conclusion, while the president`s behavior does not rise to
the level of an indictable conspiracy, inappropriate, outrageous,
unpatriotic, of course, every one of those actions was. So, it put a
little bit of a damper on the Republican celebration.
MADDOW: In terms of both where the hearing went today and with the grounds
on which Chairman Schiff made the stand, that he`s made over the last few
days, it`s interesting to me he has been asking, as an open question, even
to you guys on the Intelligence Committee, he`s been asking whether the
counter intelligence probe opened by the FBI into President Trump and
campaign, whether that investigation has concluded along with the broader
Do you have any further insight into that and into whether any counter
intelligence findings were part of what Mueller produced as his report?
HIMES: Yes, I mean, that is a really good question and it`s not
necessarily true that those findings or ongoing questions that are
counterintelligence related will necessarily find their way into the
I mean, there is three big shoes that have yet to drop. One of course is
that. They one may not drop. At the end of the day, if this is about
compromise in a way that would be classified, that shoe might not drop.
But, of course, the other two, and I think the Republicans realize that the
high water mark of their political experience was probably, you know, two
hours after the report was released because there are two other shoes to
drop. Number one is when the report comes out, just as Adam detailed in
his speech the behavior that the president and his people engaged in is not
going to make these guys look good and secondarily, this is why I wonder
why we see so many victory dances on the other side, it was apparently not
clear that the president did not obstruct justice.
So when we see that, and I haven`t seen it, but when we see that, and when
we are asking ourselves looking at actual facts and stories and saying, did
the president of the United States obstruct justice, a crime for which two
presidents were found themselves in impeachment proceedings, that`s going
to be a pretty ugly political situation for the president and for the
Republicans who have defended him.
MADDOW: But that`s all dependent on the idea that we`re going to have
access to the Mueller report. I mean, one of the things – I started with
the show tonight is the sort of remarkable situation we`re in right now,
six days after Mueller submitted his report and we still have only seen
like 40-something words of it including sentence fragments that were quoted
by William Barr.
I don`t know whether or not to be confident that the Trump administration
is ever going to allow it to be released and I feel like the more I talked
to Democrats about this, people, you know, who are on – in the House,
people who are in the Senate, people who are staffers, people who have
every intention of trying to pry this report out, it`s not clear to me what
the levers are by which they are going to try to get this released. It`s
both crazy to me that we haven`t seen it yet and I don`t know how we
ultimately are going to get to the part where we do see it.
HIMES: You know, I have a little more confidence than you do, Rachel. If
worse comes to worse, we will subpoena the report. And part of the reason
we haven`t seen it so far is that unlike the Clinton report which you were
talking about, in this case, there is lots of – I`m almost certain, there
is lots of classified information which needs to be redacted. Where it
gets interesting, because at the end of the day, look, we had a unanimous
vote in the House of Representatives, and the president himself said that
the report should be made available to the public.
It feels to me like only Lindsey Graham doesn`t want this report out in the
public. So, I think eventually it becomes public. I think where the fight
is, of course, this White House and president is going to demand that
anything that is embarrassing to him, and I think that of those 300-plus
pages, a lot of that will fall into the embarrassing category. They will
use the tool of executive privilege to redact that. And, of course, if
they do that, which I have every expectation they will do, we will find
ourselves in the court, which could get ugly and lengthy.
MADDOW: Congressman Jim Himes of Connecticut, member of the House
Intelligence Committee – sir, thanks for being here. Appreciate it.
HIMES: Thanks, Rachel.
All right. One of the best reporters on the president`s business dealings,
has a very, very, very big news scoop today. That story and that reporter
are going to join us here next. Stay with us.
MADDOW: The letter was weird in general. But it was particularly weird
given that it was supposed to be a health related document. You probably
remember this, right?
Quote: Mr. Trump has had a recent complete medical examination that showed
only positive results. His blood pressure and laboratory tests were
Quote: His physical strength and stamina are extraordinary.
Only positive results. Astonishingly excellent. Extraordinary.
This is the way it ended. This is the last line. Quote: Mr. Trump, I can
unequivocally state will be the healthiest individual ever elected to the
Ever elected. We went back and checked all the corpses. Yes. Really?
Are you sure? Really? Did you mean that?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NBC NEWS: Dr. Bornstein, phrases like “astonishingly excellent” seem a
little over the top to some people. What do you think about that? Is that
the way that you write most of your medical letters?
DR. HAROLD BORNSTEIN, DONALD TRUMP`S DOCTOR: No, but for Mr. Trump, I
wrote that letter that way.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was Donald Trump`s personal physician, Dr. Harold Bornstein,
back in August 2016. He was Trump`s gastroenterologist, and he released
this most over-the-top medical letter ever about then candidate Donald
Trump. It was baffling, right?
For one, this is not a thing that candidates usually fudge. Also, it was
worded really strangely. For example, that thing about all positive
results. In the medical world, having all positive results, that`s not
usually a good thing. If you get test results back from your physical and
your doctor is like everything is positive, that`s not good.
But it was also just, you know, obviously weirdly exaggerated. We later
learned that Donald Trump himself literally dictated that letter describing
his own health, basically told the doctor what to write, to try to create
the impression he was the healthiest, strongest person on earth.
And as crazy and as weird as that was, that early experience gave us as
Americans some valuable insight into our new president`s way in the world.
It should probably have prepared us for “The Washington Post” scoop that
dropped today about how Mr. Trump also did this exact same kind of thing
all the time when it came to his finances.
Here is the lead. Quote: When Donald Trump wanted to make a good
impression on a lender, a business partner or a journalist, he sometimes
sent them official looking documents called statements of financial
condition. These documents sometimes ran up to 20 pages. They were full
of numbers laying out Trump`s properties, debts and multibillion dollar net
Quote: But, for someone trying to get a true picture of Trump`s net worth,
the documents were deeply flawed. Some simply omitted properties that
carried big debts. Some assets were overvalued, and some key numbers were
“The Post” was able to report this out because they got copies of these
statements of financial condition for five different years and in those
documents, you know, it`s all astonishingly excellent and extraordinary and
very clearly fake.
Trump claimed, for example, that his national golf club in Southern Florida
had 55 home lots, that he was going to sell along the golf course. In
reality, only had 31 lots available for sale.
He also claimed his Virginia vineyard had 2,000 acres. It only had 1,200
acres. He also claims that the Trump Tower is 68 stories tall. It is only
58 stories tall.
These are all easily fact checkable things but Trump lied about these
things in financial statements again and again and again, and we first
learned about this as one of Trump`s ways of doing business last month
during Michael Cohen`s testimony before the House Oversight Committee. He
testified that Trump regularly used statements like this to inflate his
wealth or to reduce insurance premiums or to try to get loans.
That put the question squarely on the issue of legality. I mean, the
question is, is this just run of the mill lying and self-aggrandizing
behavior by Donald Trump, or is this something potentially more serious?
It is one thing to lie to impress people, it`s another thing to lie to
impress a bank or an insurance company or some other tightly regulated
The question that derives out of this is not just what`s the president`s
character. That`s quite clear, but whether or not this might prove to be
troubling for the president, as well. We`ll have more on that, next.
MADDOW: When “The Washington Post” dug up financial statements from
President Trump for a scoop that shows how much Trump regularly exaggerated
his assets and his wealth in these documents to potential investors and
journalists and other people he wanted to impress, on one hand, that was
yet another example of the president telling lies about provable things.
On the other hand, though, this isn`t exactly likely lying about your hand
size. Is there a potential legal liability for the president in producing
financial statements that materially misrepresent how much he`s worth?
Here is how a professor from George Washington University characterized it
to “The Washington Post” today. Quote: How much would the errors impact an
investor? I should also tell you this professor adds he`s never seen a
documented stretched so far past the normal conventions of accounting. The
professor told “The Post”, it is humorous. This is a humorous financial
Joining us now is David Fahrenthold, Pulitzer Prize-winning “Washington
Post” reporter who broke this story today.
Mr. Fahrenthold, it`s great to have you with us. Thanks for being here.
DAVID FAHRENTHOLD, REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Thank you.
MADDOW: So, this feels a little bit like some of the stuff that Michael
Cohen laid out in his bombshell testimony before Congress couple weeks ago
where he talked about the president augmenting his assets and playing down
his liabilities in order to try to get loans from banks or to try to reduce
his insurance premiums. That seemed like potential legal jeopardy for the
president because of the banking industry and insurance industry are
tightly regulated and lying to those institutions can send you to jail,
which Michael Cohen is now about to do.
This reporting, though, is about President Trump trying to impress
different sorts of people. So I wonder where you come down on the issue of
whether or not this might actually be a legal problem for him.
FAHRENTHOLD: Well, in the short term, it is a legal problem. In the last
few weeks since Michael Cohen testified, we`ve seen subpoenas from the New
York attorney general to Trump`s lender, Deutsche Bank. We`ve seen
subpoenas from the New York insurance regulator to Trump`s insurer and some
document requests of the House Oversight Committee, all focused on these
statements of financial condition, basically asking these folks that Cohen
said Trump had influenced with these inflated statements, asking to provide
documents about how exactly they were influenced and what Trump told them.
So, I don`t know in the long term, will this lead to civil charges, a
lawsuit, will lead to something criminal? That`s in the way in the future.
We have to know a lot more before we can say what`s going to happen with
But, already, we`ve seen this issue go from kind of an issue as you said of
character or morals into a legal issue as all these investigators start to
MADDOW: And, David, one of the things you point out is that there is in
the first paragraph from the statements, there is a caveat from Trump`s
accountant that says we have not audited or reviewed the accompanying
financial statement. That seems like kind of a CYA, forgive me, statement
from the accountant saying, like, don`t blame us, don`t hold us accountable
for what`s in here.
Is that kind of a caveat so legally significant that it could actually be
kind of a get out of jail free card for numbers and documents like this
that might otherwise potentially get you in trouble?
FAHRENTHOLD: It could. The experts we talked to said that yes, that kind
of disclaimer, it`s a two-page – that`s how many things were wrong with
these documents according to normal accounting standards. It`s a two-page
disclaimer at the beginning of a 20-page statement describing all the
different ways that Trump has diverged from normal practices. But even at
two pages, it doesn`t cover all the document`s flaws. That`s the important
There are other errors in the document, errors of fact, that are not
disclaimed, that are not caveated that you wouldn`t know if you were
reading the whole thing, you wouldn`t know are wrong. One of the ones you
mentioned earlier is a $72 million error. Trump said he had 24 more home
lots to sell in California than he did and he said he was going to sell
them at $3 million apiece.
So, if you look at Trump and say here`s a guy who`s got $72 million worth
of future cash flow he really doesn`t have, that could be a material
MADDOW: David, does it make sense to you that New York state authorities
are among the law enforcement entities and sort of accountability entities
that are looking into these matters? Obviously, the Trump Foundation which
you did such groundbreaking work on, the Trump Organization headquartered
in New York, President Trump is a resident of New York, these things mostly
pertain to his time, all pertain to his time before he was president.
Does it make sense that New York state would be the entity that would be
pursuing this now?
FAHRENTHOLD: It makes sense that it`s one of the entities pursuing it.
Deutsche Bank which was one of Trump`s main lenders of this period.
Michael Cohen said they got a lot of these flawed financial statements.
They`re headquartered – this particular office Trump went to is down at 30
So, the insurance regulators and the New York attorney general have
jurisdiction over both ends of the transaction. The accountants, Trump, as
well as his insurer and his lender.
MADDOW: David Farenthold, reporter with the “Washington Post,” Pulitzer
Prize winner – sir, thank you for being with us tonight. Much
FAHRENTHOLD: Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. Much more to come here tonight. Do stay with us.
MADDOW: After postponing the sentencing several times so she could
continue cooperating with federal prosecutors, today, the U.S. attorney`s
office in D.C. told a federal judge they were ready to sentence Maria
Butina. Maria Butina`s the Russian national who pled guilty in December
for running an influence operation targeting the NRA and other U.S.
conservative groups. Butina will now be sentenced by that federal judge on
April 26th. About a week before that, we should see prosecutors`
recommendation for her sentencing, which should hopefully tell us more
about what kind of cooperation she`s provided since she pled guilty, how
helpful she`s been to prosecutors.
That U.S. attorney`s office in D.C. has taken on a whole bunch of the case
that`s have been handed off by Robert Mueller`s office or that derive from
Mueller`s work or that are connected to the Russia investigation. That
U.S. attorney`s office in D.C. has been handling Butina. Also, the Roger
Stone case. They`re also handling the Manafort case now, the Rick Gates
case, the case against Konstantin Kilimnik.
They`re also handling – the mystery case of some mystery company from some
mystery country that`s being fined $50,000 a day for not complying with a
Mueller subpoena. That office may also get the Flynn case or the concord
management case or the GRU case. That U.S. attorney`s office in D.C. is
handling a huge chunk of what started as Mueller`s work. And Trump had
been planning on taking that U.S. attorney out of that office, out of that
A couple of weeks ago, the Trump administration announced their intention
to move U.S. attorney Jessie Liu out of her U.S. attorney`s job in D.C.
where she`s been handling all these Russia-related cases, to instead bring
her over to the Justice Department, to give her the number 3 job in the
justice department, where incidentally she would not be handling any of the
cases she`s previously been working on. She wouldn`t be handling criminal
or national security matters at all.
So we got that news in the first week of March. The White House was going
to move that crucial U.S. attorney out to a new job that would handily give
the president the opportunity to put somebody else in that U.S. attorney
job to handle all of those cases. Presumably, it would be like a Trump
child or like Melania`s Pilates instructor or something. Somebody who
would do what he wants.
Today that fell apart, actually. Jessie Liu`s name withdrawn for
consideration for that DOJ job. A Republican in the Senate apparently
objects to her nomination. We think it might be because she`s not anti-
abortion enough or something else random like that. But that effort to
take her out of that U.S. attorney`s job, put her at DOJ has come to an end
unexpectedly today. We don`t exactly know what that means, but watch this
MADDOW: That does it for us tonight, but I will see you an hour early
tomorrow night, at 8:00 p.m. Eastern. Because before you watch my show
tomorrow, we will all be watching the Chris Hayes town hall with Alexandria
Ocasio-Cortez on the Green New Deal at 8:00 Eastern tomorrow night, right
here on MSNBC. I will see you there.
Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL”.
Good evening, Lawrence.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
Copyright 2019 ASC Services II Media, LLC. All materials herein are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content.>
Copyright 2019 ASC Services II Media, LLC. All materials herein are
protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced,
distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the
prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter
or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the