Lori Lightfoot wins landslide victory. 4/3/19, The Rachel Maddow Show.

Guests:
Judy Chu, Lori Lightfoot
Transcript:

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

appreciated. 

 

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

revealed.” 

 

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

American history. 

 

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

Judiciary Committee. 

 

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

actually found. 

 

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

thinking. 

 

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

did. 

 

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

that before. 

 

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

notice. 

 

NEAL KATYAL, FORMER ACTING SOLICITOR GENERAL IN THE OBAMA ADMINISRATION: 

Thanks, Rachel. 

 

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

fair. 

 

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.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

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

scandal. 

 

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

Trump. 

 

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

this. 

 

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. 

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

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

time. 

 

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

Rockefeller. 

 

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.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

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

later. 

 

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,

trouble. 

 

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

tonight. 

 

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

righting itself. 

 

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. 

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

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. 

 

                                                                                                               

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BE UPDATED.

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