Lori Lightfoot wins landslide victory. 4/3/19, The Rachel Maddow Show.
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Tonight was a lot of fun. So, make sure to stay
up and check it out. That`s tonight at 12:35 a.m. Eastern here on NBC.
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
HAYES: You bet.
MADDOW: Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
When it rains, it pours. It feels like a Friday. Literally since
dinnertime tonight, we have learned in “The Washington Post” that the
president`s son Jared Kushner is White House official number one who was
denied a security clearance last year because of concerns about foreign
influence over him, his private business interests and his personal
conduct. After a ruling by career security officials that Mr. Kushner had
too many significant disqualifying factors to receive a top secret
clearance, a Trump political appointee nevertheless overruled that
determination and gave Jared Kushner the top secret clearance anyway.
Kushner, you might remember, issued a statement in February saying that his
security clearance was handled in the regular process. It now seems clear
according to a whistle-blower in a position to know that that statement was
absolutely not true. “The Post” reports tonight that Kushner`s top secret
clearance was granted against the recommendation of security officials on
May 1st. It was, in fact, initialed by the Trump appointee who overruled
security staff on that same day, also on May 1st, Ivanka Trump, the
president`s daughter who is married to Mr. Kushner, she was also given her
clearance that same day as well.
And you at home should look under your chair because you get a top secret
clearance too, and you get a top secret clearance and you get a top secret
clearance. Everybody gets one, no matter the serious disqualifying red
flags in your background checks and how many ways actual national security
screeners believe that you can`t be trusted with the nation`s most secret
information, you get one anyway.
Again, the president`s son-in-law Jared Kushner being named as White House
official number one, previously not described by name in those reports.
We`re going have more on that story ahead.
We`re also going to have more ahead on this major shot across the bow
tonight from the Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal.
Congressman Richard Neal of Massachusetts heads the ways and means
committee. Today, he notified the IRS in writing that he is invoking the
section of the federal tax code that requires the IRS to show him specific
tax returns that he wants to see as chairman of Ways and Means.
Chairman Neal is requesting six years of President Trump`s personal tax
returns, starting in 2013, two years before he declared his run for the
presidency, all the way through to 2018 last year. Congressman Neal has
also told the IRS to turn over tax returns for those same years for all of
these different Trump business entities. According to background
information provided by the Ways and Means Committee, those specific
entities, quote, constitute the core of the president`s business. The
committee says the first five entities on that list, quote, control
hundreds of other business entities associated with President Trump.
So, again, we will have more on that story ahead over the course of this
evening, including the fact that the IRS, you should understand they`re not
being asked for these records. They`re not being subpoenaed for these
records. They appear to be plainly required by law to hand these tax
returns over now that the committee chairman has demanded them.
Congressman Neal claims today that the IRS has never before in U.S. history
rejected a request for a tax return filed under this section of the tax
code. But those demands of the IRS are in and formally worded and formally
requested/demanded as of tonight. That one is red-hot and brand-new, and
just as we were digesting that, then we got this.
Ah, you don`t say. Yes. Who could have seen this coming? The headline in
this breaking news report in “The New York Times” tonight, this has just
broken within the last hour and a half, you see the headline there, “Some
on Mueller`s team see their findings as more damaging for Trump than Barr
Oh. Who could have seen this coming? You mean to tell me when the newly
installed Trump attorney general decided to sit on the Mueller report and
not release to it anyone, not a single page, and instead the White House
and congressional Republicans and conservative media tried to claim total
vindication for the president in Mueller`s report based just on Attorney
General Barr`s odd, vague characterization of what he says Mueller
concluded, which the A.G. then later said shouldn`t even be taken as a
summary of what Mueller concluded.
You mean to tell me that maybe the Mueller report isn`t as exactly as
exciting and positive and exculpatory for the president as the Trump
administration and conservative media and congressional Republicans would
have you believe? Really? Who could have seen this coming? Hope you`ve
enjoyed your victory laps.
Here is the lead tonight in “The New York Times.” Quote, some of Robert
Mueller`s investigators have told associates that Attorney General William
P. Barr failed to adequately portray the findings of their inquiry and that
the findings of their inquiry were more troubling for President Trump than
Mr. Barr indicated, citing government officials and others familiar with
the simmering frustrations of Mueller`s investigators, “The Times” tonight
reports, quote, some members of Mueller`s team are concerned that because
Mr. Barr created the first public narrative of the special counsel`s
findings, Americans` views will have hardened about the Mueller report
before the investigation`s conclusions actually become public.
Quote: At stake in the dispute is who shapes the public`s initial
understanding of one of the most consequential government investigations in
Today, of course, congressional Democrats led by Chairman Jerry Nadler of
the House Judiciary Committee, they authorized a subpoena to obtain the
entire unredacted report from Mueller`s office. They did not send that
subpoena to Attorney General Barr today. Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler
insisted today he wants to give Attorney General Barr time to change his
mind. He basically wants to negotiate with the attorney general to try to
persuade him to release the unredacted report of Mueller`s findings to the
Attorney General Barr for his part appears to be basically ignoring all
requests and demands from Congress when it comes to Mueller`s report. He
insisted in his last letter to the Judiciary Committees that he`s going
through the report now and cutting out a whole bunch of different kinds of
information that he believes Congress shouldn`t be allowed to see. He has
said that Mueller himself is assisting with this redaction process,
although no one quite knows what that means, and that may become a very,
very different thing in terms of how we understand this process given this
new reporting from “The Times.”
This report from “The Times” tonight suggests that Mueller`s team, however
involved they are in the process from here on out, this report tonight
suggests that Mueller`s team is not on board with how Attorney General
William Barr is handling this. And according to “The Times” reporting,
members of Mueller`s team are basically warning people that Attorney
General William Barr is trying to publicly sell a version of what he says
are Mueller`s findings that is not actually a fair representation of what
Mueller found, and that happens to be way too kind to President Trump when
you compare with Mueller`s actual conclusions.
And this new reporting goes right back to that strange initial question of
why exactly Barr is behaving the way he is. Why it is that Barr decided to
provide his purported summary/don`t call it a summary of Mueller`s findings
in the first place. Nobody expected him to do that. There is nothing in
the special counsel regulations that required him to do that. There was no
warning or any sort of expectation that he would do that. Why in fact did
Barr decide to not release anything from Mueller`s report and instead to
release his own take on what Mueller found?
Here is more from “The Times” report tonight. Quote: The special counsel`s
investigators had already written multiple summaries of their own report,
and some team members believe that Barr should have included more of their
material in the four-page letter he wrote on March 24th laying out their
main conclusions, as he characterized them. Mr. Barr, quote: only briefly
cited the special counsel`s work in his letter.
Going on, “The Times” says the government officials familiar with the
investigation and others interviewed declined to flesh out why some of the
special counsel`s investigators viewed their findings as potentially more
damaging for the president than Barr explained. Quote, it was unclear how
much discussion Mueller and his investigators had with senior Justice
Department officials about how their findings would be made public.
So, I mean, this is just – this is remarkable. What “The Times” is
describing here, remarkably, is criticism, right, what they describe as
simmering frustration from Mueller`s investigators about the pro-Trump
characterization of their findings that Attorney General William Barr made
public as his own summary of their work while he, A, prevented any of the
actual report from being made public or even provided to Congress, and, B,
he apparently prevented even their own written summaries of their own work
from becoming public at all.
This is totally new. We had no idea that Mueller`s team summarized their
own findings themselves. They prepared a summary themselves.
Barr did not release that summary. He wrote a different one himself, which
Mueller`s investigators say is wrong. They at least say it is less
damaging for president Trump than what their report and their investigation
Now there is a couple more things here. One is reporting that – I mean,
it`s all anonymous sources, right? But this is reporting that appears to
be sourced from DOJ. I say that because “The Times” describes its sources
for some of this as unnamed persons close to Attorney General Barr`s
But those sources are telling reporters at “The Times” why Barr might have
released his own summary that was only sunshine and bluebirds when it came
to President Trump rather than releasing the actual written summary
prepared by Mueller`s investigators themselves. I have to warn you, this
is a little bit rich in terms of the explanation about why Barr did what he
Quote: Barr has come under criticism for sharing so little from Mueller`s
report, but according to officials familiar with the attorney general`s
thinking, he and his aides limited the details they revealed because they
were worried about wading into political territory. Mr. Barr and his
advisers expressed concern that if they included derogatory information
about Mr. Trump while clearing him, they would face a storm of criticism
like what James Comey endured in the Clinton investigation.
Quote: Barr was wary of departing from Justice Department practice not to
disclose derogatory details in closing an investigation, according to two
government officials familiar with Barr`s thinking. They pointed to the
decision by James Comey to harshly criticize Hillary Clinton in 2016 while
simultaneously announcing that he was recommending no charges against her
in the inquiry into her email practices.
So, according to sources close to Attorney General Barr`s thinking, that`s
what he`s thinking. I mean, just – imagine you`re writing the history
chapter about this for people not yet born, right?
Here`s the thinking. Because the FBI made an announcement of free-floating
criticism and derogatory information about presidential candidate Hillary
Clinton right before the presidential election, thus helping her opponent
Donald Trump win the presidency, now Donald Trump appointees are soberly
pledging that when it comes to a sprawling criminal counterintelligence
investigation of Donald Trump as president, the Clinton example is why
nothing should be released to the public about Trump whatsoever, not at
least if it`s negative, only if it`s good. Because that`s the principle,
right, that we`re upholding.
Here`s one last point in this “Times” story, though. A couple of times
“The Times” says tonight that they`re not exactly sure, they`re not
reporting here what exactly the objection is from Mueller`s team, what the
frustration is here from Mueller`s team about the distance between what
they actually found and the way Barr has characterized their investigation.
For example, “The Times” says explicitly in their report tonight, quote, it
was not clear what findings the special counsel`s investigators viewed as
troubling for Mr. Trump.
But clearly, they`re troubling findings for Mr. Trump are listed in their
own report, right? They have written these things down. They are the
findings of the Mueller investigation. They`re there in the report, which
12 days now we can`t see.
So the question is do we get to see what those troubling findings for Mr.
Trump are? And whose going to decide? I mean, whose deciding what is
getting cut out of Mueller`s report?
Congress says they get it all unredacted. Well, whose deciding what
they`re going to try to ship to Congress when they reject Congress` claim
that they should get an unredacted report? Who`s to decide what goes to
the public and what the redactions are?
Again, Attorney General Barr says that Mueller, the special counsel, is
assisting in the process of deciding what`s being redacted from the report
before Barr lets it out of his clutches and gives it to either the Congress
or the public. So Mueller is supposedly helping in this process of, you
know, cutting stuff out of his own report, blacking stuff out.
Well, according to “The Times” tonight, Mueller`s team, again, prepared
their own summaries of what their own findings were. And Barr decided not
to release their own written summaries of their own findings and instead
substituted his own explanation of what he says they found, which they now
take issue with.
One of the weirdest things in this whole report tonight, though, is what
“The Times” is basically saying, according to sources that appear to be in
the Justice Department or sources familiar with the attorney general`s
thinking is that when Mueller`s team prepared their own summaries of their
own findings, they prepared them in such a way that they would be
unreleasable, either to Congress or to the public. Why would they do that?
Here`s what “The Times” reports, quote: The special counsel`s investigators
had already written multiple summaries of their own report, and some team
members believe that Mr. Barr should have included more of their material
in the four-page letter he wrote on March 24th laying out Mueller`s main
conclusions. However, the special counsel`s office never asked Mr. Barr to
release the summaries soon after he received the report, a person familiar
with the investigation said. OK.
And the Justice Department quickly determined that the summaries contained
sensitive information, like classified materials, secret grand jury
testimony, and information related to current federal investigations that
must remain confidential. That`s according to two government officials.
So, this is the part of it that kind of throbs like a fritzing neon sign
here. What “The Times” is reporting based on what appears to be current
government officials and Justice Department sources is that Mueller and his
team prepared their own summaries to their findings. Mueller`s team is
angry that those summaries were not released to the public by Barr and
instead he released his own, which was much nicer to Trump.
But Mueller is also involved in deciding what can and can`t be released
from his report, and his summaries were written in such a way that they
definitely can`t be released to the public or to Congress? I mean, that –
something just doesn`t add up here.
I will say there is one last implication, though, of this reporting from
“The Times.” When`s the last time over this whole two-year process that
you remember seeing reporting that sourced to Mueller`s investigators?
Mueller`s investigators say, Mueller`s investigators have told. When is
the last time you saw reporting like that? You haven`t seen reporting like
One of the other implications of this reporting tonight is that whatever
William Barr is trying to do with Mueller`s report, it appears to be
rubbing Robert Mueller and his team the wrong way. And for the first time
in this whole two-year process, they appear to be willing to squawk to make
some public noise to make sure their findings are not abused or
mischaracterized or submarined.
Maybe there will be now a new voice in this whole process from Mueller and
his team themselves. They`ve been silent throughout this entire process.
Now we`re starting to hear from them.
Joining us now is Neal Katyal, former acting solicitor general in the Obama
administration. He is the author of the Justice Department regulations
that define the Office of Special Counsel.
Neal, it`s great to have you here tonight. Thanks for joining us on short
NEAL KATYAL, FORMER ACTING SOLICITOR GENERAL IN THE OBAMA ADMINISRATION:
MADDOW: Let me just ask you, I know you`ve had a time to read this “Times”
report. I know you just heard my sort of takeaways from it. Let me ask
you what you think is important from it and what you think people should
understand about this new reporting.
KATYAL: Well, totally clears the president, no, Rachel. It`s obviously
due to this reporting and other things show to be a lot more complicated
than that. And President Trump said those words and his advisers that the
Mueller report clears him totally, and the like, and they`ve got to prove
it up now.
And last week, Trump said that the report clears him and he wants the
public – he wants the Mueller report to be publicly released. And today,
he switched tunes in a press conference and said huh-uh, it shouldn`t be
released, blah, blah, blah, excuse after excuse.
And I think what`s really extraordinary about this, as you were saying just
towards the end of your discussion, is we`ve gone 22 months. We`ve never
heard anything from team Mueller until tonight. And that just I think
underscores that what Barr did in those two letters and the games he`s been
playing are deeply damaging and the Mueller team is evidently not going to
stand for it.
MADDOW: Obviously, this is complicated, because this is “The Times” has
got three very impressive reporters by-lined on this. They`re being very
specific about the types of sources they`ve got here, but their sources are
unnamed. I have been wondering all along if the Trump administration or
William Barr specifically really tried to abuse Mueller`s findings, tried
to mischaracterize them, tried to submarine them, tried to represent them
to the American people or to Congress in a way that Mueller felt was not
Would he surface himself as a voice? Or do the special counsel
regulations, again, that you wrote essentially make him so subordinate to
the attorney general at this point in the process that he can`t speak for
himself, that he is not allowed to essentially advocate for the fair
treatment of his own findings?
KATYAL: No. We anticipated this. That`s why the special counsel comes
from outside the Justice Department, because once Mueller leaves and the
attorneys in his office leave, they have more freedom to speak to Congress
on matters of public concern than they might as department employees. And
that`s one reason why it exists that way.
And so, the whole idea behind the special counsel regulations, because the
Constitution gives the attorney general the full prosecution power, the
idea is to say attorney general, if you start messing with the special
counsel, then it`s got to be public. There`s got to be sunlight on that.
And the ultimate safeguard is what we`re seeing play out tonight, which is
if an attorney general starts to abuse the special counsel`s report, abuse
the special counsel`s findings, then the special counsel will come forward
and shed sunlight into what might look like a cover-up. And that is what
we`re starting to see now, something that looks like a cover-up.
Now, it might not be. It might be there are totally legitimate reasons for
this. But so far, Barr has given nobody any reason to think that this is
all on the up and up. It looks like he`s protecting his guy, and that`s
why the special counsel regulations and indeed all the investigations of
presidents such as Nixon, such as Clinton, the special prosecutor report
comes out because that`s what guarantees public confidence in the
administration of justice. And it`s got to come out now.
I mean, it might have been one thing if Barr hadn`t wrote those two
summary/non-summary, whatever you call it letters, but Barr did. He took
it on himself to clear President Trump on stuff that Mueller didn`t clear
him on. And at that point, it starts to look even more like a cover-up and
why the report has to be released.
MADDOW: Neal, briefly, one last question on this point about what is going
to come out. Obviously, with this authorized subpoena today in the
Judiciary Committee, a lot of interesting and actually I thought quite
substantive discussion in the Judiciary Committee today as to whether or
not the attorney general is within his rights to be personally going
through the Mueller report and taking grand jury material out of that,
saying that that can`t be conveyed to Congress. A lot of discussion in the
Judiciary Committee today about the prospect of some entity, maybe the
Judiciary Committee itself, some entity going to the court, going to ask
for a court order, filing a lawsuit or making a motion with the court so
that grand jury material can be conveyed to Congress, much as happened with
the Watergate road map in 1974 and with other investigations as well.
If Barr doesn`t want to do that and he so far hasn`t responded to
congressional Democrats asking him to make that request of the court, is it
possible that Mueller himself, that Mueller`s team as the special counsel`s
office could make that sort of a request to the judge, that the grand jury
information be conveyed to Congress?
KATYAL: Yes, Mueller can do it or Congress can do it on its own or even a
third party. So, Barr is right when he says grand jury material can`t be
released absent a court order. But he could have sought that court order
last Monday, nine days ago. And he hasn`t done it yet.
So it does seem like it`s not really about grand jury information. It`s
about something else. It looks like he is trying to protect certain
information, perhaps damaging information from coming out. And if he
actually cares about Rule 6E, he could go to court tomorrow and get this
thing lifted. That`s exactly what happened in Watergate, exactly what
happened in the Clinton impeachment, and it should happen here.
MADDOW: Neal Katyal, former acting solicitor general – sir, thank you
very much for weighing in tonight.
KATYAL: Thank you.
MADDOW: It`s a real pleasure to have you here on a night like this.
All right. Up next, the news that on any other night would have led the
show for a week, but we`ll be right back with that.
MADDOW: Just in the past few months, just since Democrats took over the
House, a whole bunch of stuff has started being pried open when it comes to
the president`s finances. The president`s long-time lawyer Michael Cohen
testified publicly to Congress earlier this year that among other things,
Trump had committed insurance fraud at his New York business.
That led to Aon, Trump`s insurance broker, a gigantic firm, subsequently
being subpoenaed by the New York Department of Financial Services. And an
entity like that has a name that sounds almost quaint like oh, they provide
services. Actually, they are a law enforcement agency that has an
incredible and cinematic history of busting people, up to and including
major mafia families based on financial crimes and fraud.
Cohen also testified that Trump inflated his assets not just to commit
insurance fraud, but also to apply for bank loans, which if true constitute
bank fraud. That led to Deutsche Bank subsequently being subpoenaed by the
New York attorney general`s office, specifically on the issue of that
bank`s large loans to Trump.
Deutsche Bank has also been reportedly cooperating with request for
documents from the House Financial Services Committee and from the House
Intelligence Committee. Now today, Elijah Cummings, chair of the Oversight
Committee, says that Trump`s accounting firm has also agreed to hand over
years worth of financial documents from their time working with Trump.
Interestingly, though, Mazars alerted Congress that they would please like
a subpoena if they really wanted to see this information so that it`s clear
that they legally had no choice but to hand over these document about their
work with Trump. Congressman Cummings today told reporters that he would
be happy to oblige.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D-MD), OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: They have told
us that they will provide the information when they – pretty much when
they have a subpoena. And we`ll get them a subpoena.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: We`ll get them a subpoena, no problem. Ask and ye shall receive.
So it`s only, you know, early spring, and the president`s financial world
is opening like a crocus poking its nose through the snow. But now
tonight, there is this – Democrats tonight starting to tackle the original
open question about the president`s finance, his tax returns. I mean,
Trump never releasing his tax returns is something we`ve gotten used to
about him. It doesn`t mean now it`s now normal. It is still an absolutely
unprecedented and abnormal thing.
Trump remains not just the first president, but the first major party
presidential candidate to not release his tax returns in decades. And the
reason he`s consistently given over and over again for the reason he`s not
releasing his tax returns is that the returns are under audit, and
therefore he can`t release them. Love to, but he can`t.
That claim has never made any sense at all. Nothing about being under
audit would prevent you from releasing your tax returns. But now, tonight,
Democrats appear to be throwing the harpoon and going for this white whale.
From House Ways and Means chair Richie Neal to IRS Commissioner Charles
Rettig tonight, quote: Dear Commissioner Rettig, the Committee of Ways and
Means has oversight and legislative authority over our federal tax laws.
With this authority comes a responsibility to ensure that the IRS is
enforcing the laws in a fair and impartial manner.
Chairman Neal then goes on to explain that the IRS is required to examine
the tax returns of every president. He says his committee in Congress has
a duty to make sure the IRS is performing that examination properly.
Quote: Pursuant to my authority under IRS Code Section 6103F, for each of
the tax years 2013 through 2018, I hereby request the following return and
return information. Number one, the federal individual income tax returns
of Donald J. Trump and the federal income tax returns of the following
entities. And then there are eight Trump business entities listed there.
Those businesses according to the Ways and Means Committee, quote, control
hundreds of other business entities associated with Trump.
Now, the authority that Chairman Neal is referring to here, this tax code -
- portion of the tax code that allows him to request any tax return in the
country, up to and including the president`s, that section of the tax code,
the authority under which he is making this demand to see Trump`s taxes,
that section of the tax code actually originated from a White House
You remember from high school history the name the Teapot Dome, right? The
Teapot Dome scandal. I know you remember that phrase, even though you
don`t remember what it was. You don`t need to remember every detail of the
Teapot Dome scandal.
Basically, it was a bribery scandal. It happened in the early 1920s. The
important part for us today is that the president himself at the time was
potentially implicated in that bribery scandal, and that created a problem
for investigators, because at the time, only the president himself had the
power to request someone`s tax return.
So how was Congress supposed to perform proper oversight and investigation
into this executive branch bribery scandal if they had no power to follow
the money when it came to administration officials, including the president
himself? So, Congress needs the ability not just the president. Congress
needs the ability to request to see, to demand to see individual tax
returns, up to and including the president`s tax returns.
There was also another impetus at the time interestingly. The guy who had
just become treasury secretary at the time of the Teapot Dome scandal, he
happened to be a very, very, very, very, very rich guy. He did not divest
from his own businesses when he joined the government as treasury
secretary. Stop me when this starts to sound familiar.
Congress said at the time, we have to be able to make sure that this guy as
treasury secretary is not making tax policy or other federal policy in
order to benefit his own business interests. We need to see his tax
returns, too. And since he`s the president`s cabinet official, the
president isn`t going to do it. There is a conflict of interest there both
for the president himself and for anybody he wants to protect. Congress
needs to be able to get returns as well.
For those – for those reasons, Congress in 1924 passed a loss that
explicitly clearly allows the chairman of the House Ways and Means
Committee and the chair of the Senate Finance Committee, those two specific
people to request and receive any American`s tax returns in order to
perform congressional oversight.
That law ended up coming in handy a half century later when Congress needed
to look at President Nixon`s tax returns, only to discover he had failed to
pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxes. That`s how we get the
modern tradition of presidents and presidential candidates releasing their
tax returns, because of what Congress found in Nixon`s taxes when they
pried them loose and took a look.
And now, Congressman Richie Neal is making this request under this nearly
century old law, and he is making clear that he expects to get what he is
asking for. He makes clear, for instance, that this letter today is not a
subpoena because he doesn`t need a subpoena. Quote, Chairman Neal is
explicitly authorized to receive tax returns under this statute.
Quote: The committee has used this provision to request tax returns as part
of its previous investigations. This provision is not obscure. President
Nixon, President Ford and Vice President Rockefeller all were subject to
congressional inquiry of their tax returns.
Neal also makes clear why he is asking for these returns. Quote: The
committee is concerned about the president`s compliance with federal tax
laws. He`s also calling the question of whether or not Trump was ever
really under audit at all, which has been Trump`s excuse for not releasing
his taxes. That was always an excuse that never made sense anyway. But,
of course, it`s also possible that was never – that it was never even true
in the first place.
And in releasing this request tonight, Richie Neal also put out this
essentially impassioned plea that what he is doing here is not rash and
it`s not playing politics and it`s not for some ulterior motive that you
can`t see. This is interesting.
He says, quote: I take the authority to make this request very seriously,
and I approach it with the utmost care and respect. This request is about
policy, not politics. My preparations were made on my own track and
timeline, entirely independent of other activities in Congress and the
administration. My actions reflect an abiding reference for our democracy
and our institutions and are in no way based on emotion of the moment or
partisanship. I trust that in this spirit, the IRS will comply with
federal law and furnish me with the requested documents in a timely manner.
I will also just note, and this is a little bit of a sort of maybe inside
the news business peek at this, but Congressman Richie Neal of
Massachusetts, chairman of Ways and Means, having released this letter
tonight, having told the IRS that they need to hand over these tax returns,
he is refusing all interviews on this subject, and he has been from the
very beginning, which itself is an interesting part of this dynamic here.
I mean, other chairs who have been going after Trump`s financial
information, they have made very much a public case, and in many cases a
televised case as to why they`re doing what they`re doing and why in
particular they`re doing the most controversial and confrontational things
they`re doing when it comes to investigating and overseeing President
Congressman Richie Neal in Ways and Means is taking absolutely the opposite
approach. There is a reason you have not seen him on TV talking about
But this is also going to be fraught, right? Here he is trying to get the
tax returns of the first president in decades, the first presidential
candidate in decades who decide on his own not to release them under what
appears to be a spurious excuse. He has vowed to fight to keep them
secret. Richie Neal says the IRS has never, ever refused a request under
this portion of the tax code to show him, to show the chairman of this
committee a return that was requested under this provision.
They`ve never before said no. Are they going to say no specifically for
Trump and on what grounds?
Stay with us. More ahead.
MADDOW: Ways and Means Committee is where tax law gets written, which
makes that a very powerful committee in Congress. Ways and Means also has
oversight and jurisdiction over tax policy and taxes in general. And one
of that committee`s sort of super powers is that the chairman of that
committee is empowered by law to request and receive the tax return of any
person in the United States.
Tonight the chair of that committee in the House has announced he is
exercising that power, and he is directing the IRS to turn over to him the
last six years of President Donald Trump`s tax returns. And his business
tax returns too.
Joining us now is Congresswoman Judy Chu of California. She is a member of
the Ways and Means Committee.
Congresswoman, thank you for joining us tonight. I really appreciate your
REP. JUDY CHU (D-CA), WAYS AND MEANS COMMITTEE: Thank you for having me.
MADDOW: So it`s clear and Chairman Neal makes clear that this is not a
subpoena, but he also seems to be saying in the way that he is laying this
out in his letter and the background information we`ve received from the
committee, he seems to be saying that the IRS has no choice but to comply
with this request that the language of the statute says they shall provide
a return requested by the chairman in this circumstances.
Is that your understanding?
CHU: Oh, yes. It was in 1924 that it was established in the tax law in
Section 6103 that the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee had the
authority to ask for the returns of any individual in this country,
including the president.
And Chairman Neal is exercising this. He is asking the IRS to provide
this, and never has the IRS refused such a request. It`s always been
granted, even in the case of Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, and Nelson
So it would be unprecedented not to have the IRS comply with this.
MADDOW: The president has reacted to this news this evening by essentially
suggesting that he won`t allow his tax returns to be handed over, as if he
has a role that he can direct the Treasury Department, that he can direct
the IRS specifically, that they should not respond to this request. What`s
your response to that?
CHU: He doesn`t have the authority to do so. The tax law allows us to ask
the IRS for those returns. The IRS is an independent committee and federal
agency, and so they – they must comply with the law. And indeed, they
have in every incident in which these returns have been asked for. So, no,
the president is not standing on the right ground on this.
MADDOW: I might imagine if try to put myself in the president`s shoes or
in the shoes of his advisers and people who might be worried about what
turns up in his tax returns, I imagine that they might be worried not just
about the committee seeing these materials in terms of their oversight on
tax matters, they might be worried about public scrutiny and what this
would reveal about the president and his business life and anything else
that these tax returns might speak to.
To that end, at the end of Chairman Neal`s letter today, I`m no expert on
this stuff, but the way I read his letter tonight, he seemed to be
suggesting that whatever the IRS gives him in response to this demand,
whether it`s the president`s tax returns or anything else the IRS hands
over in response to this demand, Chairman Neal seems to be suggesting that
those materials will become the property of your committee and thus
importantly, they can`t be FOIA-ed. No public citizen, no journalistic
entity can file a Freedom of Information Act request to obtain these
materials that the IRS is handing over. It seems to be sort of an
assurance to the IRS that this material, just because it`s being handed
over to your committee, doesn`t mean that it will be in the public eye.
CHU: That is true. And actually, the information goes to Chairman Neal.
It is up to Chairman Neal to decide whether to even share it with us. So I
certainly hope to see them, but nonetheless, it is up to Chairman Neal.
The law is very, very clear on this, and, yes, you can`t do a Freedom of
Information Act just to get this. This is private information and up to
the purview of the chairman`s decision.
MADDOW: Congresswoman Judy Chu, member of the Ways and Means Committee,
this is stuff that we – doesn`t usually come up in the course of a normal
news decade. So it`s helpful to get your help walking us through the
specifics. Thank you very much for joining us tonight.
CHU: Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. We`ve got much more to get to tonight. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Chicago has long held the mantle of being the most corrupt major
city in the United States, and you know what? There is stiff competition
for that title. Honestly, though, Chicago is special.
Over the past four decades, more than 1,700 people have been convicted of
public corruption in that one city. What? The city has convicted fathers
for bribery and then convicted their sons on the exact same charges years
One prominent city clerk was once indicted on Ash Wednesday. The ashes
were fresh on his forehead when he learned he was being criminally charged.
More than 30 Chicago aldermen, members of the city council have been
convicted of corruption since 1973. More than 30. Another one is awaiting
trial right now. He is alleged among other things to have looted a charity
fund for senior citizens in his ward.
You would think it couldn`t get much worse, but it did. Right before this
year`s mayoral election, this January, scandal involved one of the most
well-known figures in Chicago politics, an alderman named Ed Burke who is a
50-year veteran of the city council – 50. He was indicted on charges that
he tried to shake down the owners of a Burger King franchise. Shakedown
corruption isn`t rare in Chicago, but when it`s connected to someone as
senior and someone as much as a permanent fixture as Burke – well,
One of the consequences of that was that suddenly the top candidates in the
mayoral race all found themselves under scrutiny for long-standing ties to
Burke. That ultimately led to an opening for this woman, a bit of an
outsider. Her name is Lori Lightfoot.
Lightfoot is a former federal prosecutor. She has never before been
elected to political office, much less been a part of the Chicago political
machine. She won the Chicago`s mayor`s race last night. That makes her
Chicago`s first African-American female mayor as well as the city`s first
openly gay mayor.
And despite running as an outsider, Lightfoot just dominated in this
election. She won a landslide victory. She won all 50 city council wards,
all 50 of the wards. She took home 70 percent of the vote.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYOR-ELECT LORI LIGHTFOOT (D), CHICAGO, ILLINOIS: With this mandate for
change, now we`re going to take the next steps together. Together, we can
and will finally put the interests of our people ahead of the interests of
a powerful few. Together, we can and will make Chicago a place where your
zip code doesn`t determine your destiny.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Lori Lightfoot`s win comes at a really interesting time not just
in Chicago but in our country. There is a real renewed interest in U.S.
mayors right now as political leaders, right? They`re making themselves
heard as candidates on the Democratic side of this presidential race.
Outside of that, they`re presenting themselves as models of national
leadership. Last night, our nation`s third largest city, the great city of
Chicago, for all its troubles, they added another very new, very high-
profile member to those ranks.
And joining us now is Lori Lightfoot, mayor-elect of the city of Chicago.
Madam Mayor, congratulations. It`s really nice to have you here with us
LIGHTFOOT: Thank you very much, Rachel. It`s my pleasure.
MADDOW: I have to ask you if it makes you cringe as a Chicago leader, as a
Chicago resident hearing me describe Chicago in terms of its history of
corruption and the challenges that have really become legendary in Chicago
in terms of public corruption.
LIGHTFOOT: Well, as you know, Chicago is a complicated nuance place, and
yes, of course, we have a history of corruption, but we also have a history
of doing really, really great things. I`m going to be focused on that part
of it and making sure that we make city government much more transparent
and accountable to the voters. I think that`s what they voted for last
night and I intend to deliver.
MADDOW: As a former prosecutor, obviously you bring law enforcement bona
fides into this race. It`s a special kind of outsider to come from the law
enforcement community into elected office. I wonder if that`s part of your
promise to your constituents in Chicago, that there`s something to do with
law and order, there`s something to do with the – specifically the order
of the law and the promise of the law that holds the key to Chicago
LIGHTFOOT: Well, I`m a former federal prosecutor who charged, convicted
and sentenced city alderman. And in the context of the corruption scandals
we`re now living with, I think that resonated with voters. Voters are sick
and tired of the political machine. They absolutely voted for change, and
I`m humbled and overwhelmed by the mandate that we received last night, but
I think it gives us an opportunity to do some things to break from the grip
of that machine that we probably haven`t had maybe in a lifetime.
MADDOW: As an African-American woman, as a lesbian, as an openly gay
public official, you`re breaking a lot of glass ceilings all at once with
this election. I have to ask how you`re reflecting on that today.
Obviously here you are on national news talking to me, but you`re an object
of national interest, and you immediately become a national leader for all
sorts of different communities and people will be looking to you to see not
only what you can do but also to appreciate how far you`ve come.
I wonder what your reflections are on that – on that, 24 hours after you
found out you won?
LIGHTFOOT: Well, I`m really focused on making sure that I speak to the
children in our community. They`re absolutely watching. This was a very
difficult and challenging campaign.
And I want to make sure that I exemplify for them a leader of integrity and
let them know that one day they, too, could be the mayor of Chicago and
stand on my shoulders just as I stand on the shoulders of other
trailblazers in our great city.
MADDOW: Lori Lightfoot, the newly elected mayor-elect of Chicago – good
luck, Madam Mayor, as you get underway and as you take on the challenges of
this job. I hope you`ll check back in with us and keep us apprised. We`re
all so looking forward to seeing what you do.
LIGHTFOOT: I definitely will. Thank you so much.
MADDOW: Thank you.
All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: This is the kind of news night when you probably should get a
little merit badge just for absorbing it all, keeping it all straight.
Tonight, on the eve of what are expected to be protests around the country
tomorrow, the “Trump is not above the law” coalition planning protests
around the country tomorrow to try to pressure the administration to
release the Mueller report, as the Trump administration heads into day 13
since they have received Mueller`s report but not release it.
Tonight, on the eve of those nationwide protest tomorrow, we got this “New
York Times” exclamation point of a story about the Mueller report and its
content. We are not used to seeing news reports that quote members of
Mueller`s team, we`re not used to seeing news reports that ascribe anything
to members of Mueller`s team, but that changes tonight with the “New York
Times” saying that some of Mueller`s investigators have told unnamed
associates that Attorney General William Barr failed to adequately portray
the findings of their inquiry and that the findings were more troubling for
President Trump than Mr. Barr has publicly indicated.
Now, this report in the “New York Times” goes on to say that Mueller`s
investigators actually wrote their own summaries of their findings and
their investigation, which the Justice Department decided not to release.
So instead they could release Barr`s summation of their supposed findings
which, according to this “Times” report, is not an accurate reflection of
what Mueller`s investigators concluded and put in their report which he,
again, is still sitting on.
So, that`s just a wild bunch of news tonight from the “New York Times.”
Also tonight, within an hour or so of that breaking, we got this from the
chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee asking the IRS for six years
of tax returns from the president and a bunch of his businesses. The plan
language of the law under which this request/demand is being made to the
IRS appears to back the Democrats up on this point.
The statute actually says that the IRS shall provide tax returns when they
are requested from the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee and the way
that Chairman Richie Neal has now requested tonight.
And more news apparently can`t still fit, “The Washington Post” tonight
says, yes, Jared Kushner is senior White House Official A who was
identified by the House Oversight Committee by a whistleblower that career
staffers had ruled that Kushner shouldn`t get a security clearance but a
political appointee in the White House overruled those career officials.
That story about the White House intervening security clearances has been
gaining steam for months since NBC News first reported details of it.
But now, the whistleblower report, the early NBC News report about Jared
Kushner`s filings or security clearance application, those seem to be all
lining up. So it`s all happening all at once.
And the news often requires for fortitude, patience and hydration, but I`m
hoping someday soon we get merit badges, too.
That does it for us tonight. We`ll see you again tomorrow.
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
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protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced,
distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the
prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter
or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the