NYT reports Trump plans to fire acting Deputy Secretary. TRANSCRIPT: 4/8/19, The Rachel Maddow Show.
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: That is ALL IN for this evening.
“THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW” starts right now.
Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thanks, my friend.
HAYES: You bet.
MADDOW: And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
Two years ago, in the early weeks of the Trump administration, the spring
of 2017, “The New Yorker” magazine published a story about the new
president`s business history. And it was a story that was almost too much
And if you know me from this show, if you have seen this show before, you
may know that one of things that makes me not awesome at this job is that
I`m kind of a prude. I am – I`m easily embarrassed. I blush and stutter
and get tongue-tied when I am confronted with things that make me
uncomfortable on TV, and a lot of things it turns out make me uncomfortable
on TV. Anyway, you`re probably aware of that about me and my failures as a
That said, I also think that gives me a little bit of an insight as to why
some things take off and others don`t. I will tell you ever since that
“The New Yorker” piece was published in march of 2017, that unbelievable
article in “The New Yorker,” I have truly believed as a prude that part of
the reason it didn`t take off, part of the reason it didn`t become one of
the things that everybody knows about Donald Trump`s business history and
his potentially serious trouble in that business history, I think one of
the reasons that story has stayed kind of obscure instead of becoming part
of a – you know, Trump legal trouble pantheon that everybody talks about,
I think part of the trouble with that one is because this is what that
hotel looks like that is the subject of that business story in “The New
Yorker” from two years ago.
And honestly, I mean, it`s just – I think this is part of it. I know
we`re safe to put this on TV right now because it`s 9:00 p.m. Eastern or
whatever, but would you even be allowed to put this picture up on a morning
news show or day side. Why did they build it to look like this? What did
the people of Baku, Azerbaijan, think about this building in their midst?
But this is the Trump tower Baku or it was at least. It never actually
Incidentally, I can actually show you what it looks like on fire. There`s
actually a bunch of pictures of it on fire, since there are precisely two
things this Trump Tower Baku is known for, one of it catching fire last
year as it sat empty and unfinished, the other thing it is known for, to
the extent that it`s known at all, is that gobsmacking reporting that “The
New Yorker” ran about it in 2017, which everyone promptly filed away, never
to talk about in polite company ever again. How could you?
That “New Yorker” story was the story of the Trump Organization, the
president`s business, developing this would-be orchid shaped Trump luxury
tower in a random corner of Baku, Azerbaijan. They were developing that
tower in a business partnership that for all intents and purposes appears
to have been funded by the Iranian revolutionary guard.
In fact, the Trump organization`s top lawyer, Alan Garten, admitted to “The
New Yorker” for that piece for March 2017, that the president`s business
had known as early as 2015 that the money behind that project, the backing
for their business partner in that hotel deal in Baku, Azerbaijan, was
likely the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. They knew about it as early as
2015 but they kept going with the project anyway.
They only canceled that deal. They only backed out of trying to build that
thing after Trump was elected in December of 2016.
And that piece was just remarkable reporting from “The New Yorker`s” Adam
Davidson with that astonishing line. That not only was the president doing
business the Iranian Revolutionary Guard but that business admits that`s
what they were doing, and nevertheless that business deal extended all the
way through Trump`s campaign for president, as Davidson writes in “New
Yorker”, quote, throughout the presidential campaign, Trump was in business
with someone that his company knew was likely a partner with the Iranian
So that story was just astonishing when it came out in March of 2017. It
is all the more astonishing that today – today, President Trump announced
that the U.S. government has officially designated the Iranian
Revolutionary Guard a foreign terrorist organization. In addition to the
designation they released a strongly worded statement from the president
about how tough this is.
Quote, today, I`m formally announcing my administration`s plan to designate
Iran`s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a foreign terrorist
organization. This designation will be the first time the United States
has ever named a part of a government as the foreign terrorist
organization. This action will significantly expand the scope and scale of
our maximum pressure on the Iranian regime. It makes crystal clear the
risks of conducting business with or providing support to the Iranian
And I kid you not, this is the next line in this statement from the
president released today. It`s remarkable. Quote: If you are doing
business with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, you will be bankrolling
So, that`s what this kind of day has been, right? If you`re doing business
with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, you`re bankrolling terrorism.
Throughout the presidential campaign, Trump was in business with the
This is what kind of presidency we`re in. This is what kind of week we`re
going to have. The president who`s literally doing business with the
Iranian Revolutionary Guard until after his election as president, that
president today declaring if you`re doing business with them you`re
I mean, this is where we`re at now. President cracks down on self,
declares self to be a despicable bankroller of terrorism. That said,
awkward shape of building in question makes it all too embarrassing to talk
about so let`s pretend.
And that`s just the start of it today. The president fired the homeland
security secretary yesterday, and then today he fired the head of the U.S.
Secret Service. There are also now reports he`s about to fire a number of
other Department of Homeland Security officials, including the number three
official at the agency. He apparently needs her out next so he can install
his preferred replacement for Kirsten Nielsen as acting secretary of the
If he goes through that process of firing the number three official to make
room for the acting guy he want to put in place, that, of course, will mean
that Trump will need another acting official to take over that guy`s
current job, which is running the Customs and Border Protection.
I mean, just in homeland security alone, that means we will have an acting
secretary. We`ll have no deputy secretary. The number two official in the
agency left a year ago and never got replaced. The next person down the
chain of command is the number three official in the department. That`s
the person who is reportedly about to be fired as well.
There`s also an acting head of FEMA. There`s now a new acting head of ICE.
There`s an acting inspector general at the department. We`ll soon to have
an acting head of Customs and Border Protection once he becomes the acting
secretary. We`re also about I guess to have a new acting head of the
I mean, when the new acting secretary of homeland security starts going to
cabinet meetings and starts appearing at White House events and starts
having to answer for the actions of his agency he`ll be in good company in
this administration, right? There`s also an acting defense secretary and
an acting interior secretary and an acting head of the Food and Drug
Administration and acting head of the FAA. Federal Aviation
Administration, not like we need a good one of those right now or anything.
There`s also the acting head of the Small Business Administration, the
acting head of the Office of Management and Budget.
There`s even an acting White House chief of staff which doesn`t even make
sense but that`s what they call Mick Mulvaney now. They call him acting
White House chief of staff, as if he hasn`t yet been nominated for this
Senate confirmed position. White House chief of staff is not a Senate
confirmed position. They`re just calling him acting to keep him on his
I think that there`s a couple of different things going on here. Part of
it I think is just turnover. I mean, this president is barely through half
of one term in office. He has already chewed up and spat out cabinet
secretaries from almost every cabinet level agency that serves under him
from Health and Human Services. Remember Tom Price, remember him? The
State Department, the Defense Department, the Department of Justice, the
attorney general, the Interior Department, now Homeland Security. He`s
turfed out all those cabinet secretaries. He`s on his third White House
chief of staff already, even if the current one is just acting. He`s gone
through five White House communications directors. I don`t think he even
has a new one acting or not.
For the first, like, year and a half of the Trump administration, the rate
of turnover, the rate of people being fired or quitting or leaving in
scandal and disgrace or under threat of indictment was so overwhelming that
we used to try to keep track of all the departures in one big graphic here
in the studio. It sort of became too much in the end and we stopped doing
it. There`s not enough pixels in the world to make it worth it after a
But what we didn`t see coming, what I didn`t see coming about that
incredible pace of turnover, about that rapid pace of people departing from
the Trump administration, people being fired or leaving in disgrace or
fleeing on their own terms, what I didn`t see at the time about how fast
the Trump administration was emptying out so early on was that in so many
of these cases where people left under whatever circumstances, they
wouldn`t ultimately get replaced. That`s turned out to be really
important. And over time I think the Trump administration and the
president in particular have decided that under whatever circumstances,
they wouldn`t ultimately get replaced. That`s turned out to be really
And over time, I think the Trump administration and the president
particularly have decided that that dynamic is not a problem. That`s not
like falling down on the job. Maybe this is part of the way they`re
deliberately trying to run the government under President Bush now –
excuse me, President Trump now.
Jonathan Blitzer, reporter at “The New Yorker” today said as long as a year
ago, last spring, a senior Homeland Security Department official told him
that Kirstjen Nielsen couldn`t be fired even back then despite reported
conflict between her and the White House. She couldn`t be fired a year ago
because this DHS official insisted there was no number two official at that
agency. There was no deputy secretary in place, so there wouldn`t be
anybody to step up and run the department if Kirstjen Nielsen got canned.
That was the argument a year ago why she couldn`t possibly be fired. That
would be disastrous to the agency. You couldn`t do that to an agency that
big. You realize how big Homeland Security is?
Fast forward a year later to today, there`s still nobody in that number two
job at Homeland Security. They never even bothered nominating anybody for
the number two job at that agency when the last deputy secretary quit last
April. But now, nevertheless, Kirstjen Nielsen is out anyway. There still
isn`t anybody in the number two job. That was supposedly enough to
constrain them from firing her a year ago, but now that`s no co constraint.
And in addition to her being fired while there`s no number two official at
the agency, now everybody is waiting on the number three person at the
agency to get fired as well. And what? You think they`re going to be
I mean, in a normal administration, you`d expect people at that high a
level at that big an agency to be replaced and on the double. I mean, if
nothing else, you`d usually think if you tried to declare something a
national emergency, that would mean you want to staff up the parts of the
federal government that are assigned to do deal with that supposed
emergency. It`s quite the opposite here. The president is simultaneously
declaring a national emergency on the border and he`s firing all officials
on all major agencies that deal with that in the federal government without
any real effort to nominate replacement for them.
And it doesn`t seem to be because he just wants to install his own acolytes
and devotees who might closely match his policy aims in these jobs. There
are multiple reports tonight that the guy he`s putting in as the acting
secretary after Kirstjen Nielsen is somebody the president doesn`t even
know. It`s not somebody who has been, you know, waiting forever to see if
he can get this great guy into a high level job.
This culling people out of top level jobs in the government, this culling
of the cabinet and agency heads and top agency officials, it doesn`t appear
to be just the product of laziness or not understanding that appointing
people to high level jobs is part of the job of running the executive
branch. If it were just that, I don`t think we would see it a accelerating
over time, as part of the way Trump is doing business in this White House.
I mean, part of what`s going on here is as he leaves the upper echelons of
these agencies vacant, as he fires cabinet secretaries and refuses to
nominate anybody to replace them, he leaves instead these comparatively
weak low profile acting officials who of course don`t have to go through
the Senate confirmation process. These are officials who answer only to
the president and the president alone in terms of how they got their job
and how long they have it. Because they`re all brought in indefinite terms
with no promise of any longevity in the job be on the president`s whim,
they also don`t bring in their own senior staff to run the agency they
think this agency should be run.
“The Washington Post” editorialized on this this afternoon. Quote: Acting
chiefs often don`t have the chance to install a team, though no leader of a
major department can succeed without one. It makes recruitment harder,
too. Who wants to work for a boss who may be gone soon?
Quote: Under Mr. Trump, who values personal loyalty over capability or
principle, acting appointees have every reason to cater to his whims and
forsake the naughtier problems that won`t earn brownie points in the White
House. Quote: by appointing – excuse me – by appointing so many acting
chiefs, Mr. Trump undercuts the Senate`s job of giving advice and consent
on major appointments. Overall the practice, injects uncertainty and
And that sort of sounds perfect, right, for this administration on so many
different levels. Uncertainty, it`s disruptive. Having active cabinet
officials in all your agencies, just emptying out your ranks of senior
officials, it does have the direct benefit of dodging the whole Senate
confirmation process, which is nice I`m sure, even in a friendly and
But you don`t want to bother to have your employees that you think of as
employees and your appointees, you don`t want to bother to have them vetted
by any outside entity. Also some people sometimes say things in
confirmation hearings that Congress holds them to once they`re in place in
that agency. You wouldn`t want that.
Keeping these acting officials there and making sure there`s no senior
executives around them, it limits the ability of these agencies to get
things done in the normal way agencies get things done. But the benefit of
it for a president like this is that it just bluntly changes the profile of
power in the American federal government, right?
If you don`t have any Senate confirmed cabinet secretaries, if you don`t
have any strong recognizable leaders effectively running major federal
agencies in the executive branch, then you don`t run the risk of there
being even a single minor counter weight against the president`s power
anywhere inside the executive branch. The smaller he can make every other
supposed major player, the larger he becomes, both in the public`s eye in
terms of how the federal government`s perceived but also in terms of how
policy is made, how stuff gets done and who says.
If you feel the whole executive branch of government including the cabinet
with essentially temps, well the balance of power in the Trump
administration is as stark as it can possibly be. I mean, you`re either
Trump, right, I mean, you`re Jared or Ivanka or you`re President Trump
himself or you just work there. I mean, there`s two categories, right?
Family or the hired help.
And for the hired help, they`re not only replaceable, they are unmemorable.
They get replaced at a moments notice, on a whim, and everybody`s hurt
serving in any job that`s not a family job. You better behave like you`re
infinitely replaceable or some new Kelly girl will be here to take your
place in the morning.
This consolidation of power in the president and only in the president is
sort of a new style of federal governance for the United States of America.
There is a word for it in political science. It starts with “A.”
But I think what we`re seeing right now with specifically this purge of
homeland security officials, one which we appear to be in the middle of,
we`ve seen the secretary of the agency and also these subsidiary agency
heads lose their jobs already. It`s expected more of them will lose their
jobs in days to come. What`s going on at Homeland Security in particular I
think there may be 1 other dynamic at work and it runs alongside nice
overall effort to avoid oversight, to avoid anybody wielding any sort of
power and any visible way who`s not named President Donald Trump.
And I think the other dynamic particularly we`re seeing with this homeland
security stuff is the question of whether or not the president is
constrained if not by Congress and if not by, you know, the balance of
power within the legislative and executive branches, there`s the additional
question of whether or not the president is constrained by law. And that`s
coming up quite bluntly in this Homeland Security stuff that`s happening
CNN had a striking story today about the president`s trip to Calexico last
week, Calexico, a California town right on the Mexico border. This is
Quote: Last Friday, the president visited Calexico, California, where he
said, we`re full, our system`s full, our country`s full. Can`t come in.
Our country is full.
What can you do? We can`t handle any more, our country is full. Can`t
come in, I`m sorry it`s very simple.
Two sources told CNN that behind the scenes the president told border
agents at this event to not let migrants in. He said: Tell them we don`t
have the capacity. If judges give you trouble, say sorry, judge, I can`t
do it we don`t have the room.
According to CNN, after the president left the room or he made those
remarks, those border agents he`d been speaking to sought further advice
from their leaders in their agency. Their leaders told the agents they
were not giving them that direction and if they did what the president
said, they would take on personal liability. The agents were told you have
to follow the law.
You have to follow the law not what the president told you to do, which
would be violating the law.
And this, of course, isn`t the first time the president appears to be
ignorant of the law or interested in flouting it directly. But he does
seem to have a real fervor for flouting the law and being publicly seen to
defy the law when it comes to the border and to immigrants. I mean, this
is from “The New York Times” story yesterday with the initial reports that
Kirstjen Nielsen was being fired at Homeland Security.
Quote: the president called Ms. Nielsen at home early in the morning to
demand that she take action to stop migrants from entering the country,
including doing things that were clearly illegal such as blocking all
migrants from seeking asylum. She repeatedly noted the limitation imposed
on her department by federal laws, court settlements and international
obligations. Quote: Those responses only infuriated Mr. Trump further.
After that report from “The Times”, NBC News was first to report today that
the president has been insisting on reinstating large scale separation of
migrant families crossing the border, meaning taking kids away from their
parents. He wants that reinstated on a large scale despite his own
executive order halting that policy last year and despite now multiple
court orders that forbid him from reinstating it.
Again, according to multiple sources, NBC is reporting that Kirstjen
Nielsen told President Trump he was not legally allowed to reinstate the
policy. He legally can`t do it. Federal court orders prohibit her agency
from reinstating that policy. The president has nevertheless been
depending that she do it.
After that report from NBC News, that was matched today by “The Wall Street
Journal” and other sources. Here`s again how CNN reported it today.
Quote: Senior administration officials tell CNN that in the last four
months or so, the president has been pushing Nielsen to enforce a stricter
and more widespread zero-tolerance immigration policy. According to
multiple sources, the president wanted families separated even if they came
in at a legal port of entry and were legal asylum seekers.
Quote: The president wanted families separated even if they were
apprehended within the United States. Sources told CNN that Nielsen tried
to explain they couldn`t bring the policy back because of court challenges.
White House staffers tried to explain to the president it would be an
unmitigated PR disaster.
But the president wants it anyway. A senior administration official now
telling CNN, quote, he just wants to separate families. He just wants to
do it. He likes it. He likes the way this looks. He thinks it`s an
excellent idea for what he should do with his powers as president and
anybody telling him no has to go.
And so, the Department of Homeland Security must be sheared of all its top
leadership. That said, there`s nothing to indicate that these leaders of
the Department of Homeland Security who are all getting fired now, nothing
to indicate they themselves were against taking little kids away from their
families. Nothing to suggest that they as individual leaders were standing
in the way of the president taking kids away from their families or
breaking any of these other laws the president insists that they break.
Now, the reason the president has been getting told no by these homeland
security officials is because these policies he wants to pursue aren`t
within the legal abilities of the agency. He wants to do stuff that courts
say is illegal. He`s therefore constrained from doing any of this stuff.
I mean, if all these folks from homeland security are losing their jobs
because the president wants more babies taken away from their parents, it`s
not because anybody in this administration is knowing to go down in moral
history for standing up to him on that issue. It`s because he`s legally
constrained from even trying to do that, at least he`s supposed to be. And
that is an active fight right now and we`re going to check in on the status
of that next.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: One of the most emotionally searing episodes in modern American
politics, the U.S. government take little kids away from their parents at
the southern border. All the outrage and protest generated by that Trump
policy last year, it ended in court with a judge`s order. It was a stark
thing, stark language. Quote: Defendants and their officers, agents,
servants, employees, attorneys and all those who are in active concert or
participation with them are preliminarily enjoined from detaining class
members in DHS custody without and apart from their minor children. You
may no longer detain these people without and apart from their kids.
Since that federal court order in June stopped the policy of taking little
kids away from their moms and dads, the ACLU which led that case has been
trying to get the Trump administration to find all of the kids they took
away from their moms and dads. The administration said on Friday that,
yes, trying to get that all done with all the kids they took away could
take up to two years before they find all the kids.
And now we have this news. After the president fired Homeland Security
Secretary Nielsen yesterday reportedly by tweet NBC News was the first to
report part of the dissatisfaction with Nielsen was the president wanting
to go back to separating families. Wanting to go back to more than ever,
more kids taken away. A bigger policy that would apply to even more moms
and dads and little kids.
He was reportedly annoyed with Nielsen and other officials saying he was
banned from doing that by federal court order, and now, Nielsen has been
fired. So, I have questions.
Is the White House conducting this extraordinary purge, mass firing of
senior officials of various agencies at DHS because the president wants to
crank up the family separation policy again, because he wants to start
taking kids away from their parents again? Is he trying to find – is he
trying to install a whole coterie of officials who will say never mind the
courts, we`ll do what you say, Mr. President, we will separate families
regardless? If that is what the president is now trying to do, does he
have reason to think he can get away with it?
Joining us now is Lee Gelernt. He`s the deputy director of the ACLU`s
Immigrants Rights Project. He`s the lead attorney in the lawsuit against
this Trump administration policy.
Mr. Gelernt, thank you for being here.
LEE GELERNT, ACLU IMMIGRANTS` RIGHTS PROJECT: Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: So a lot of reporting today about the president wanting to restart
this policy you`ve been relitigating against. Does he have the legal
option to do that?
GELERNT: No, that`s absolutely clear. The judge as you read made clear
family separation is unconstitutional and issued an injunction. That`s the
end of it. There cannot be family separation again.
But beyond that, I think what you said is absolutely right. There would be
an enormous public outcry hopefully as big as what we saw this past summer.
We said family separation so often I think sometimes people forget, there`s
little kids. I mean, these 2 and 3-year-old kids begging please don`t take
me away, please don`t take me away and they`re just dragged away.
The fact that we would go back to that is just remarkable.
MADDOW: The president appears to want to, at least that`s –
MADDOW: So NBC was the first, and a number of news organizations reported
it out as well. It seems that the president in part sees the public outcry
against it as a plus, that he thinks – I`m reading into it here, but I
feel he thinks it makes him look extra tough.
GELERNT: Well, you know, what was interesting is that it didn`t split
along conservative/liberal lines, Democrat, Republican. You had Laura Bush
coming out. You had the pope coming out. You had conservative reverends.
I don`t think this will divide as it did – it didn`t in the past and it
I think when people think of little kids and see, look, there has to be a
line in this country and we`re just not going to cross it. We know at the
ACLU and not everyone agrees on our immigration, macro immigration policy,
but I think virtually everyone agrees taking a little child away is
something we cannot do in this country.
MADDOW: Seeing all these senior DHS officials get fired including the
homeland security secretary with reporting how this is driven in the White
House and whose interest is driven behind, it makes me wonder if there`s a
faction within Trump politics, maybe within the Department of Homeland
Security now believes there is some way around that judge`s injunction,
there is some way you would recharacterize the policy in a way that would
allow the president to restart it just by tweaking elements of it.
GELERT: Right. We don`t think there is and we would be back in court
immediately. But until we see the family separations restart, our focus
will be on the past separations. And as you mentioned, they did not report
potentially thousands of separation.
We were told and the court was told, there were 2,800. That`s an enormous
number, but then the HHS and investigative report broke there may be
thousands more. The government said it`s going to take too much to find
them. The court said, no, no, we`re a civilized society, we`re not leaving
these children out to dry.
Now the government comes back and essentially thumbs their nose at the
court and says, well, we can get it done in two years. We can take 10
paralegals at the ACLU and go through all the files and do it in two weeks.
MADDOW: In terms of the court prospects here, it seems to me that you have
been, having a good run in the courts in terms of judging blocking these
policies. There`s a recent ruling tonight –
GELERT: – about return to Mexico.
GELERNT: They were placing people and families in the most dangerous
conditions in Mexico and saying, wait here in your asylum hearing in two
months. The court struck that down just this afternoon.
And I want to say something about the federal courts. I mean, there`s a
lot of bashing and it seems that`s very trendy to bash the courts. And the
federal courts are acting in the best traditions of our system, sticking up
for vulnerable people who get picked on. That`s always been in the best
traditions of our courts.
We really need to look carefully when we start bashing the federal courts
because you never know who`s going to be vulnerable. This weekend, you saw
a lot of laughter when the president was bashing asylum seekers. I think
people need to look at history or World War II, because it was not Central
Americans back then, it was other groups that were being sent back. And I
think everyone needs to examine that history before they`re so cavalier
about saying, we`re going to take families away or we`re going to do away
MADDOW: Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the ACLU Immigrants` Rights
Project, keep us surprised. I feel you obviously have been at the tip of
the spear from the very beginning, but I have a feeling this is about to
even more intensified.
GELERNT: Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: Thanks, Lee. Good to see you.
GELERNT: You too.
MADDOW: Much more to get to tonight. Stay with us.
MADDOW: All of this is so exasperating. Today was the day federal
prosecutors told a judge how much cooperation they received from a man
named Sam Patten. Sam Patten is a political consultant, a one time
business associate of Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort. They both worked
for the same pro-Russian political party in Ukraine.
Sam Patten pled guilty last summer for failing to register as a foreign
lobbyist in the United States. He also admitted in charging documents to
illegally funneling a $50,000 foreign donation into Trump`s inaugural. He
used an American as a fake stand-in for a Ukrainian guy who was actually
given the 50 grand.
Sam Patten also admitted to lying to the Senate Intelligence Committee
about all of that. Well, today was for prosecutors to tell the judge in
his case what kind of sentence Sam Patten should get, given his crimes and
how helpful he was as a cooperating witness after he pled guilty.
So, the sentencing of Sam Patten, even though it`s been a low profile case,
it`s been an interesting prospect that we would learn exactly how helpful
he had been to prosecutors and with what kind of information. It`s been
particularly interesting because of his connection to illegal activity
around the Trump inaugural. I mean, since Sam Patten pled last summer, we
have since learned the Trump inaugural has come under investigation by
federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York, also federal
prosecutors in the Eastern District of New York, also prosecutors in
Southern California, also the attorney general in New Jersey, also the
attorney general in D.C., and, and – that`s not even counting the
congressional investigations. They`re all investigating the inaugural, for
Well, now that Sam Patten is due to be sentenced this week in part because
of him admitting n facilitating illegal foreign donations into the
inaugural, it has been an interesting prospect that we`ve finally learned a
little bit more bout how his case fits into the overall investigative
interest in the president`s inauguration, what exactly what he providing
No idea it turns out. Prosecutors told the judge today that Sam Patten
committed serious crimes but also that he`s been very good ever since.
They said he should get significant credit for his substantial assistance
to prosecutors. That`s them asking the judge to go easy on him.
The closest prosecutors got to explaining what Sam Patten helped them with
since he`s been a cooperating witness were these two lines. First, they
said Sam Patten serve as a valuable resource for the government in a number
of other criminal investigations providing helpful information about
additional individuals and entities. Oh, individuals and entities, both
kinds, right? Not helpful in terms of description.
But then they also said this. Quote, in total, Patten has met with
government investigators in person or by phone a total of nine separate
times to answer numerous questions and explain various documents. In all
of these sessions, Patten has been honest and straightforward with
government investigators. The government will also file an addendum to
this memorandum in aid of sentencing, where the government more fully
describes the nature of Patten`s cooperation and assistance to the
government. Oh, tell me more.
Luckily, there`s a footnote. Here`s the footnote. Quote, because the
addendum includes sensitive information about other investigations and
persons who have not been and may not be charged with a crime, the
government is seeking permission from the court to file the addendum under
So, yes, this guy has definitely helped us. Yes, prosecutors want a
downward departure in sentencing from the judge. He`s been great. He`s
helped with them with tons of other criminal cases. It`s all very
sensitive. What are those sensitive and ongoing criminal matters? That`s
And, you know, this keeps happening. We`re more than two weeks out now
from the Mueller investigation ostensibly being over, but prosecutors in
cases spawned by that investigation continue to refer to other
investigations, to ongoing investigations. The grand jury, quote,
continuing robustly including some of the prosecutors who took over
But in thinking about what other investigations could still be at play
here, it is worth noting how many parts of the special counsel`s
investigation just this guy Sam Patten touched. I mean, he is linked to
the investigations of Trump`s inaugural, through the foreign money he
funneled into that event illegally. In addition to the inaugural
connection, though, Sam Patten also previously worked at Cambridge
Analytica, the Trump campaign data firm which has since gone out of
business in a huge cloud of scandal in the U.K.
Believe it or not, Sam Patten was also in business with Konstantin
Kilimnik, who`s the Manafort associate prosecutors say have active ties to
Russian intelligence. Kilimnik was also indicted by Robert Mueller.
So, he`s tied to all of this stuff. Sam Patten will be sentenced on
Friday. The prosecutors say they want something nice and light. But when
it comes to why exactly they want something nice and light because of all
the good stuff they got from him, that`s all still under seal. Maybe we`ll
see the fruits of his cooperation turn up in these other active cases
somewhere down the road. Or maybe we`ll see the fruits of that cooperation
in the Mueller report.
Hold that thought.
MADDOW: After the revelation in 1973 that there was a White House taping
system – there`s what? The Senate committee investigating Watergate at
the time and the Watergate special prosecutor moved to subpoena any of
those tapes that might pertain to the Watergate investigations.
President Nixon in response said no. He refused to hand them over, cited
separation of powers. He said he was very confident the courts would
uphold his position and they would okay him saying no to those subpoenas.
That said, Nixon hedge d a little bit. He did say he would abide by,
quote, a definitive decision of the highest court. The only problem is no
one knew what that meant. What counts as a definitive decision from the
Supreme Court? It`s not like you can appeal a Supreme Court decision.
Is there some other kind of decision you can get from the court? Was Nixon
saying he`d only abide a unanimous decision or a really lopsided ruling,
but he if got more than a couple of votes on his side, he might not
consider that definitive, he might refuse to comply? What did he mean?
President Nixon at the time was pressed on that point by a reporter you
might have heard of, a man named Dan Rather who at the time was work as a
White House correspondent for CBS News.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAN RATHER: Now, for most, if not every other American, any Supreme Court
decision is final, whether the person, in terms of the decision, finds it
definitive or not. Would you explain to us why you feel you`re in a
different category, why, as it applies to you, that you will abide by what
you call a definitive decision and you won`t even define definitive?
RICHARD NIXON, FORMER PRESIDENT: The president of the United States under
our Constitution has a responsibility to this office to maintain the
separation of power and also maintain the ability of not only this
president but future presidents to conduct the office in the interest of
Now, in order to do that, it`s essential that the confidentiality of
discussions that the president has with his advisers, with members of
Congress, with visitors from abroad, with others who come in, that those
discussions be uninhibited, they be candid, free wheeling. I will simply
say as far as I`m concerned, we`re going to fight the tape issue.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: But when the president is consulting not just with his advisers
but with his fellow criminal conspirators, do you still have the same
The case did end up going to the Supreme Court. Nixon gave a very
definitive decision. The court ruled unanimously that Nixon needed to turn
over the tapes. Two weeks later, Nixon resigned from the presidency. At
this moment in our own history, we are now waiting to see how much of
Robert Mueller`s report we will get access to as the public, how much
Congress will get as well, and how much Attorney General William Barr will
be able to blackout and for how long he`ll be able to retain those
In Barr`s letter to Congress on March 28th, he said, quote, I anticipate we
will be in a position to release the report by mid April if not sooner.
Today, for the record, is April 8th.
Joining us now is veteran journalist Dan Rather. He`s president and CEO of
News & Guts. He`s the host of “The Big Interview” on AXS TV.
Dan, it`s great to have you here. Thank you so much for being here.
RATHER: Always an honor to be here.
MADDOW: I wanted to talk to you tonight on this point specifically about
the redactions from the report and what Barr is doing. But also, I just
want today see into your mind a little bit in terms of how you`re thinking
about where we are in this moment in history and this confrontation over
the scandal around the president.
RATHER: As you know, Rachel, I`ve been reluctant to make too many
comparisons with Watergate, different time, different president (ph).
But we`re in a situation now where President Trump is very clearly
following the Nixon plan of lie and deny, delay and spin. This was the
Nixon strategy for as long as he could do it and it worked for a very long
time. Remember, it took an awful long time to discover that the tapes
existed, and then took another long time for the courts to come to and say
MADDOW: But the investigations were well along before the revelations of
RATHER: So, look, by any reasonable analysis, what you`re seeing from
President Trump and some of those closest around him, now his own personal
attorneys are a lie and deny, delay and spin strategy.
Now, it`s gut check time. It`s gut check time for Attorney General Barr.
Let`s see what he does. Let`s don`t prejudge what he`s going to do or
might not do.
It`s gut check time for the Congress because will the Congress insist on
getting if not the full report, most of the report to make public or at
least for them to see it? Or do they sort of – do they unite behind that
and have an effort to get it or do they use the old hackneyed expression,
fold like a cheap suit in the rain, and just kind of fade away.
And the third place which to gut check is for the public at large. Because
for the people who care about this, it`s time to show that you care and
stand up. Because what eventually exposed the reality of the Nixon
administration was a combination of the courts doing their job, Congress
doing its job and the public keeping the pressure on.
I`m not actually convinced that the public will keep the pressure on. If
they do, we`re likely to see, if not all, a great deal of the Mueller
MADDOW: Is – I wonder on that point in terms of public attention, public
interest and potential public pressure by Barr treating Mueller`s report
the way he has, by keeping it under wraps now for more than two weeks, by
apparently surprising everybody involved by announcing his own exculpatory
conclusions from the report, while not quoting Mueller at all.
RATHER: (INAUDIBLE) at all.
MADDOW: Did he create – did he take all the air out of the balloon? Did
he create an impression that the whole thing is over, that the Mueller
report has been released, that we know what was said in a way that will –
I don`t know, I guess, how will that map onto the public reaction when
ultimately the report does come out?
RATHER: I do think that`s what he was trying to do. We have yet to know
whether successful or not.
Remember, we`ve only seen 42 words out of 300 to 400 pages of the
transcript. All of that by what Barr did was grab the narrative. He had
the power to grab the narrative.
And the powerful narrative is he`s free. He`s scot-free, and that has
taken hold. And so, my concern whether the public will keep the pressure
on this is built on Barr and those around him and the president. Betting
on public fatigue about all this is saying, already you`re going to hear it
on Fox and any number of radio programs, listen, it`s over, put this behind
And if the public at large falls for that, then you`re unlikely to see what
is it is that President Trump is hiding, because they`re hiding something.
There`s something in the report they don`t want out, otherwise they`d say
put the whole thing out.
MADDOW: Yes, if it`s a pure exoneration as the president said, you`d think
they`d be putting it out on bill boards.
RATHER: Well, exactly. And originally, he said, I don`t care to put the
whole thing of. But now, he`s come back at it.
But, you know, this is a very important time in our history, because during
the Watergate period, the fundamentals of law were under attack, and the
law prevailed. Our belief in a rule of law, no one is above the law. Now,
once again, those – there`s a fundamental attack on the law because this
business of the president telling his people, I don`t care what the courts
say, I want you to do this on the border and separate families. I mean,
what – so it`s a fundamental attack on the rule of law and we`re being put
to the test, let`s see whether we pass it or not.
MADDOW: Dan Rather is now the president and CEO of News & Guts. He`s the
host of the big interview on AXS TV. They`re lucky to have you, sir.
RATHER: Thank you very much. Appreciate it.
MADDOW: All right. Lots to come. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Hey, come on in, the water`s fine, plenty of room, it`s nice in
here. The telegenic, young congressman from California has been hinting
around for a while now. As of tonight, he is no longer just hinting.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I`m running for
president of the United States.
STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, THE LATE SHOW: It`s official.
SWALWELL: Thank you. It`s official.
COLBERT: Now, it`s official.
SWALWELL: Boy, did it feel good to say that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Congressman Eric Swalwell of northern California dropped his hat
into a crowded ring tonight when he became the latest Democratic elected
official to join the Democratic primary for president. He made the
announcement on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert”.
Congressman Swalwell is known, of course, for his work on the Intelligence
Committee, in particular, his work on the Russia investigation. Also, his
prioritization of gun reform. He says he is heading to south Florida
tomorrow for a town hall on gun violence, but then I got to tell you the
day after that on Wednesday, he`s going to be here live with us in studio
for his first interview since making this announcement.
Congressman Eric Swalwell, newly declared candidate for president, he will
be here taking questions 9:00 p.m. Eastern on Wednesday.
It`s going to be a busy week.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: Breakfast with the attorney general or midmorning coffee? Take
your pick. Maybe combine them.
Tomorrow at 9:30 a.m. Eastern, Attorney General William Barr will testify
in Congress open session. He`ll be testifying before the Democratic-
controlled Appropriations Committee. In theory, it`s a hearing about the
Department of Justice`s budget. I`m sure they will talk about dollars.
But presumably, lawmakers will also ask the attorney general about when
exactly he`s planning on handing over Robert Mueller`s report and how much
he intends to let anybody see. Again, that hearing open session 9:30 a.m.
Eastern Time tomorrow.
That does it for us tonight. 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
Copyright 2019 ASC Services II Media, LLC. All materials herein are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content.>
Copyright 2019 ASC Services II Media, LLC. All materials herein are
protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced,
distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the
prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter
or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the