Atty. for Greg Craig expects indictment. TRANSCRIPT: 4/10/19, The Rachel Maddow Show.
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Thanks for joining us.
That is ALL IN for this evening.
“THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW” starts right now.
Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thanks, my friend. Much
HAYES: You bet.
MADDOW: Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
A big show tonight. There is a lot going on. This is one of those nights
when the news has – it`s definitely simmering in a roiling way, can we say
It hasn`t quite reached its full boiling point. But give it a minute. You
can tell the kettle is about to sing.
Tonight, for example, we have brand-new news from the fight in Congress to
get the president`s tax returns. This deadline was supposed to be midnight
tonight. That`s when House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal told the
IRS that he would please like to see the previous six years of tax returns
filed by the president and his business returns as well.
And that`s no idle request. Under federal law, the Ways and Means chairman
is absolutely allowed to get any tax return he wants. And there is no
exception in the law when it comes to the president. In fact, the law was
written specifically to account for the need to get the president`s taxes
in a circumstance like this.
Nevertheless, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has just said tonight that
he is not going to meet that midnight deadline. Secretary Mnuchin says he
will personally oversee a review of the request instead. Quote: Given the
seriousness of these issues, which bear no connection to ordinary tax
administration, we have begun consultations with the Department of Justice
to ensure that our response is fully consistent with the law and the
So the law says the IRS clearly shall hand over any tax return the chairman
asks for. The IRS did not do that. They punted to the treasury secretary.
The treasury secretary now says he is consulting. He is reviewing – while
the law waits for him to follow it, which is what he will ultimately have
to do here.
But while that Rubicon is busy being crossed tonight with regard to the
president`s taxes, tonight, we have also just learned that the president`s
older sister, a long-time federal appeals court judge named Maryanne Trump
Barry, she is now retiring from the federal bench.
This is an interesting story. Thanks to aggressive reporting on the Trump
family fortune and the Trump business empire, particularly from “The New
York Times” while the president simultaneously has refused to release his
tax returns, tonight, “The Times” is reporting that Judge Maryanne Trump
Barry had come under investigation for possibly violating judicial conduct
rules by taking part in fraudulent tax schemes with her siblings going back
to the Trump family business in the 1990s, which, of course, is what “The
New York Times” has exposed in recent months.
“The Times” says the court confirmed the investigation into the president`s
older sister in February. “The Times” says tonight that President Trump`s
sister, the judge, filed her retirement papers ten days later. Ten days
after the court confirmed that she was under investigation for potentially
violating judicial rules of conduct for her role in these alleged Trump
family tax avoidance schemes.
So, she apparently retired ten days after this court reported that the
court confirmed that she was under investigation in February. We are just
learning of her retirement tonight. Importantly, her retirement, her
status change at the court will end the investigation into her for her
potential role in those tax schemes.
Again, it was not a criminal investigation into her. It was an
investigation into whether or not she was violating judicial rules of
conduct. By her retiring, so she is no longer a judge, that investigation
and any potential consequences of that investigation for her, those all
And because the jets are wide open tonight, we have also just learned that
the “National Enquirer” supermarket tabloid is apparently expected to be
sold imminently. This is another amazing story. “Washington Post” reports
tonight that the hedge fund that owns a controlling stake in the “Enquirer”
has grown, quote, disgusted with the tabloid`s reporting tactics.
And hey, disgusting a hedge fund that owns the “National Enquirer” is an
impressive feat. I mean, what did they think they were buying?
Reportedly, talk about selling the “National Enquirer” started in August.
That was just when American media was finalizing a non-prosecution
agreement with federal prosecutors for their role in covering up
unfavorable stories about the president.
And, you know, I don`t know if this is related, but CNN is also reporting
tonight that the richest man in the world, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is now
reportedly meeting with federal prosecutors in New York, meeting with them
as soon as this week over his claims that the “National Enquirer” attempted
to extort him with pictures from his extramarital affair. Now, are these
two stories related? The “National Enquirer” being suddenly put up for
sale and Bezos meeting with federal prosecutors about his claims regarding
“The Enquirer”? I don`t know if those two-stories are related, but that
issue with Bezos and the “National Enquirer`s” alleged behavior toward him,
that did raise questions early on about whether that kind of behavior by
the tabloid might have violated the non-prosecution agreement they entered
into with federal prosecutors that they were supposed to be abiding by in
an ongoing way.
I mean, if the “National Enquirer” and its parent company violate the terms
of that non-prosecution agreement, the agreement is ripped up, and then
that company and its executives could be prosecuted for everything that
prosecutors have on them, and we know from the prosecution of Michael Cohen
that prosecutors at least have on them that they participated in campaign
finance felonies designed to aid the president`s election. So, if their
agreement is moot, if their agreement is gone, if they have screwed that up
because of the Bezos thing, Bezos talking to prosecutors and the enquirer
suddenly being up for sale, suddenly being disgusting to its owners, it`s
not hard to imagine that those two things might not be coincidentally
breaking at the same time.
But wait, there is more, because it`s never enough. Also tonight, lawyers
for Obama White House counsel, the first Obama White House counsel, Greg
Craig, say they expect that he will be indicted as soon as tomorrow morning
by U.S. attorneys in D.C.
Now, this is not about work that Greg Craig did in the Obama White House
when he was Obama`s White House counsel. This is somewhat amazingly in
connection to work that Greg Craig did in private practice after his stint
at the Obama White House. It was work that he did in connection with Trump
campaign chairman Paul Manafort.
Gregory Craig allegedly had a role in a key incident that was part of
Manafort`s illegal lobbying for the pro-Russian government of Ukraine.
Manafort has just started a federal prison sentence for a number of crimes,
including that illegal lobbying for that government. Greg Craig allegedly
participated in a key part of that. We`re going to have more on that
coming up later on in the show. But bottom line, Greg Craig`s lawyers say
that he is expecting to be indicted in federal court as early as tomorrow.
So, there is a lot going on. Stay by your TV. We`re going to start
tonight, though, with the attorney general of the United States today
making an unusual decision. Today, the attorney general decided to throw a
big can of gasoline on to the always smoldering fires of Trump world
conspiracy theories about the Russia investigation and Robert Mueller.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JEANNE SHAHEEN (D-NH): News just broke today that you have a special
team looking into why the FBI opened an investigation into Russian
interference in the 2016 elections. Can you share with us why you feel a
need to do that?
WILLIAM BARR, ATTORNEY GENERAL: I think spying on a political campaign is
a big deal. It`s a big deal. The generation I grew up in, which is the
Vietnam War period, people were all concerned about spying on anti-war
people and so forth by the government. And there were a lot of rules put
in place to make sure that there is an adequate basis before our law
enforcement agencies get involved in political surveillance.
I`m not suggesting that those rules were violated, but I think it`s
important to look at that. And I`m not just – I`m not talking about the
FBI necessarily, but intelligence agencies more broadly.
SHAHEEN: So, you`re not – you`re not suggesting, though, that spying
BARR: I don`t – well, I guess you could – I think there spying did
occur, yes. I think spying did occur.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Are you sure you want to say that? Do you know exactly what you
mean to say here? Do you want to think about it?
It may be that Attorney General William Barr is just, you know, he is
curious. He is a curious guy. He wants to ask questions.
He is recently appointed. He has only been there seven weeks. You take a
new job. You want to be thorough, right?
I`m not suggesting any rules were violated, but spying on a political
campaign, that would be a huge deal. Did spying happen? Ah, well, I mean
– you know, did anything ever come of that whole year plus long effort by
the president to say that maybe the FBI investigation into Russian
interference in the elections was just one big hoax? It was just made up?
Whatever happened to that claim?
Are we still trying to say that with Obama tapping his wires and all that?
Are we still saying that? Is that still the line we`re working? Just
curious. Should we chase that down?
I mean, when the attorney general of the United States goes before Congress
and says there was spying on the Trump campaign, that`s not a dog whistle
to the president and his allies about the thoroughly debunked conspiracy
theories about Robert Mueller and spying and President Obama having
wiretaps. I mean, that`s not a dog whistle. That`s an air horn.
And whatever reason Attorney General William Barr decided to blow that air
horn today, it`s interesting. It comes on the same day that we got fresh
evidence of how and why the investigation into Russia and the Trump
campaign really did begin in 2016. And specifically, how alarmed the
country`s top national security officials were at the intelligence they
were seeing and the evidence they were seeing and how seriously they took
their obligation to look into it.
Because all this happened today with the attorney general on the same day
that we got a new transcript of another day of testimony that the FBI`s
general counsel gave to Congress behind closed doors last October. This is
testimony that`s never before seen the light of day. It was – not
unsealed. It was released today by Republican members of the committee.
James Baker was the FBI`s general counsel in the summer of 2016 when the
counterintelligence investigation began into any potential links between
the Trump campaign and Russia interfering in the election. Here`s how
James Baker describes the beginning of the investigation. Again, this
transcript just released to the public for the first time today.
Quote: We were concerned that the Russians were engaged in an effort to try
to impact our elections, that particular election. And we were trying to
figure out exactly what they were doing and how they were doing it.
Question: Well, was the case a priority for the FBI? James Baker: Yes.
Question: Did you think that was the right decision? Baker: Yes.
Question: Why? Baker: because if the Russians were trying to influence
something as fundamental as a presidential election, I thought that would
be a particular threat to the country, because so much of our system
depends on the integrity of our elections. So much of our constitution
system depends on the integrity of the elections.
Question: Would that threat to the national security increase if the
president was elect and therefore obtained classified briefings and was
exposed to the nation`s most secretive secrets if there was someone within
– if he or someone within his campaign had been in fact working with the
Russians? Answer, from Jim Baker: Let me answer that generally. I guess I
would say we would – I think we would – I think we were concerned about
anyone who might enter government and be in a position to have access to
classified or sensitive information who might provide that to a foreign
Question: How serious would that concern be? James Baker: Extremely
You know, with remarkable consistency every time we get one of these
transcripts from a senior FBI official, senior Justice Department official,
senior national security official who is at all involved in this
investigation, they describe their work in 2016 in these very simple terms.
They saw signs of the Russian government interfering to try to influence
our election, and they saw all these unexplained contacts between Russians
and the Trump campaign, and they were concerned about the implications of
that. They were concerned that the country and therefore the Trump
campaign itself, they were concerned that the campaign should be protected
from whatever was going on.
I mean, weirdly, it is the Republicans in Congress who have been
unilaterally releasing these transcripts over the past few weeks. I don`t
know what smoking gun they expect us to find here. I mean, nobody in these
interviews has even hinted at the possibility that there was any
politically motivated spying on the Trump campaign.
But you know what? Maybe it wasn`t the FBI. One of the odd things about
the attorney general`s testimony today is that even as he said he believed
spying on the Trump campaign did occur, he kept going out of his way to say
he was not necessarily talking about the FBI doing that spying. He was
talking about the intelligence community more broadly.
OK. What could he mean? If he is talking about the FBI and the Justice
Department, honestly, the FBI and the Justice Department are on the record
over and over again saying no, they didn`t do any spying on the Trump
campaign, and nobody has yet found any evidence to call that into question.
If Barr is talking about as attorney general he is going to investigate the
intelligence community instead, that`s a little weird. It`s a little off,
but OK. Maybe that`s what he is doing.
That said, Mark Warner who is the ranking member on the Senate Intelligence
Committee, the committee that oversees the intelligence community, and he
has been that for a long time, Mark Warner today in response to these
comments from the attorney general says nope, he would know as the top
Democrat on the intelligence committee. And it wasn`t the intelligence
community spying on the Trump campaign either. It didn`t happen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MARK WARNER (D-VA): I`m flabbergasted by the attorney general`s
comments. I don`t get it. Is the attorney general questioning whether
Russia intervened? Is he questioning whether Russia intervened in the
campaign on behalf of Trump and against Clinton, things that the
intelligence community has unanimously agreed upon?
Is he somehow saying that the FBI and the Department of Justice shouldn`t
have started a counterintelligence investigation? Remember back in the
summer and fall of 2016, the intelligence community brought this
information to the full Gang of Eight in an effort to try to warn the
American public about what Russia was doing this. He is saying the
intelligence community should have sat on that information?
I think the attorney general`s comments today do a great disservice to the
men and women at the FBI and the Department of Justice who I think back in
2016 were just doing their job, but what I feel is this man with this much
experience who is using these partisan talking points from some of the far
right that had been, frankly, investigated and litigated a half dozen times
already, I don`t get it.
REPORTER: Have you ever seen – you`ve delved into this subject
WARNER: We have reviewed this extensively. The whole basis, the first
part of our bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee investigation was
looking at what the intelligence community did in terms of making their
findings that Russia intervened, and they did it on behalf of one
candidate, Donald Trump against another one, Hillary Clinton. Nobody has
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: We have reviewed this extensively. The intelligence community was
not spying on the Trump campaign. They were investigating Russian
interference. The FBI and DOJ were not spying on the Trump campaign.
So, what is Bill Barr talking about when he says, yes, I think there was
spying on the Trump campaign? I mean, I`m assuming that he didn`t just,
you know, make that up. Like I heard somebody talking than on “Fox &
Friends,” didn`t I? Yes, didn`t that happen?
I`m assuming this is based on something. To give them the benefit of the
doubt, conceivably maybe he is talking about foreign intelligence services
doing the spying? I mean, we do know it has been reported that there was
intelligence that our foreign allies shared with their U.S. counterparts
once they encountered contacts between the Trump campaign and Russians.
There has been pretty robust reporting that foreign intelligence agencies
picked up on a number of occasions Trump associates on their intelligence
intercepts in 2015 and 2016.
The problem with that, as far as this spying on the Trump campaign theory
goes is that those foreign intelligence agencies weren`t like running a
long-time surveillance operation on Michael Cohen or on X or Y Trump
associate. As far as we can tell, the reason that all those Trump
associates turned up on foreign intelligence intercepts is because those
foreign intelligence agencies were watching the Russians, like they do.
That`s what Western intelligence agencies do.
And while they`re watching the Russians, all these Trump associates and
people close to the Trump campaign kept walking through the frame. Really,
I mean, that`s sort of – that`s kind of the scary part. That`s how we got
the counterintelligence investigations in the first place. Information
about Russians and about Russian behavior that weirdly intersected with all
these people associated with one of the two presidential campaigns.
So, the attorney general says they`re spying on the Trump campaign. He
tried to sort of walk it back a number of times in his testimony today.
I`m not sure anybody knows what he means, but I`m sure it`s playing well in
the White House, and maybe that`s the only thing he cares about.
I want to say, though, there is one other part of the – actually the James
Baker testimony, the FBI general counsel testimony that we got today that I
also think is worth paying attention to. And again, this is questioning of
James Baker by congressional investigators. James Baker, they`re
questioning him as his time of the FBI`s top lawyer.
Quote, question: You had said that the president`s firing of FBI Director
Comey you considered to be a threat to national security. And my question
was, in what way was it a threat to national security? James Baker: So the
investigation at a high level was about Russia, period, full stop. And it
was trying to assess in this particular instance what the Russians were
doing or had done with respect to the 2016 presidential election. We were
trying to investigate what the Russians did and what any – whether there
were any Americans or others who had done things in support of those
efforts, either knowingly or unknowingly, so that we could understand the
full nature and scope of what the Russians had attempted to do.
And so, to the extent that this action of firing Director Comey may have
been caused by or was a result of a decision to shut down that
investigation which I thought was a legitimate investigation, then that
would frustrate our ability to some degree to ascertain what the Russians
as well as any other Americans or others had done in furtherance of the
objectives of the Russian Federation. So not only – I guess the point is
not only would it be an issue about obstructing an investigation, but the
obstruction itself would hurt our ability to figure out what the Russians
had done, and that`s what would be the threat to national security.
Our inability – the inability or the delays, the difficulties we might
have had with respect to trying to figure out what the Russians were doing
because our main objective was to thwart them, was to thwart the Russians.
We are, of course, still waiting to see the Mueller report. It`s nearly
three weeks now. William Barr, the attorney general says he will hand it
over – yesterday he said it would be within a week. Today he said it
would be some time next week. Definitely some time really soon.
Somebody should ask him tomorrow and see when he is planning on releasing
it tomorrow because presumably it will be a different answer. There
remains this weird thing hanging out there about that report which is that
Bill Barr quotes Robert Mueller, saying that Trump was not exonerated on
the question of obstruction of justice. We`ve nevertheless got William
Barr saying himself that he was deciding that the president was exonerated
on obstruction of justice.
And now, we`ve got simultaneously and sort of coincidentally now, we`ve got
two days of revelations from the FBI`s former top lawyer talking about how
serious the obstruction worries really were, and how freaked out the top
national security officials in the country were specifically about the
obstruction problem. I mean, we`ve got no explanation from William Barr
about how he looked at all that, scanned the 400 pages of Mueller`s report
and immediately concluded oh, definitely nothing here, and I don`t want to
talk about it. Nothing. Just believe me, I`m the bottom line, it`s fine.
I don`t want to talk about it. I don`t want to tell you what Mueller
found. I know Mueller says he is not exonerated, but I say he is. He is,
I say. And I won`t tell you how I arrived at this conclusion. That`s just
I mean, that is still where we are today. And the attorney general is
still not answering questions about it still. But somebody did try to pin
him to the mat on it today, and I think burst a few veins in frustration in
the process. Did you actually see what happened when Attorney General
William Barr finally got pressed repeatedly on that today by somebody who
would not take no for an answer?
We`ve got that for you next, and the senator who did it as well. Stay with
MADDOW: Today, Attorney General William Barr gave us a few new scraps of
information about what he`s doing with the Mueller report since he got it
almost three weeks ago. For instance, he said today that the Mueller
report will be released next week. He said hopefully. Yesterday, he said
it would be released within a week. Now, it`s next week, hopefully.
Attorney General William Barr also said that he personally has not
overruled Robert Mueller when it comes to any redactions in the report, but
he also seemed to suggest that he`s not personally participating in that
process. He repeatedly described the redactions team, and at one point
said that he had had the redaction team`s logistical arrangements described
to him, implying that he doesn`t actually know what`s going on with the
redaction team. He also suggested that in addition to special counsel`s
office working on those various redactions, there is a bunch of personnel
and lawyers from the Justice Department who are working on those redactions
on that redaction team, but we don`t know who those Justice Department
lawyers or officials are, nor do we know the grounds on which they are
proceeding alongside Mueller`s investigators.
What William Barr would not pointedly discuss today was his own behavior in
terms of what he`s already done with Mueller`s investigation.
Specifically, he would not discuss his own personal proclamation that even
though Mueller`s investigation didn`t exonerate the president for criminal
obstruction of justice, he, William Barr, did. He decided that the
president was exonerated.
It was on this point that Maryland Senator Chris Van Hollen sort of
hammered him at today`s hearing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARR: I`m going to give my reaction and comments, you know, about the
report after the report.
SEN. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D-MD): Well, it would have been – but you put your
view of the report out there on this issue obstruction of justice, right?
Nobody asked you to do that.
BARR: I didn`t put my view of the report.
VAN HOLLEN: Well, you put your assessment on – you made a conclusion on
the question of obstruction of justice that was not contained in the
BARR: I`m not going to discuss my decision. I will lay it out after the
report is out.
VAN HOLLEN: Mr. Attorney General, the thing is, you put this out there. I
mean, the president went out and tweeted the next day that he was
exonerated. That wasn`t based on anything in the Mueller report with
respect to obstruction of justice. That was based on your assessment.
That was on March 24th. And now you won`t elaborate at all as to how you
reached that conclusion.
BARR: I will discuss that decision after the report is out.
VAN HOLLEN: Did Bob Mueller support your conclusion?
BARR: I don`t know whether Bob Mueller supported my conclusion.
(EDN VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: I don`t know whether Bob Mueller supported my conclusion. Why
would I even ask him? It was like his investigation and his evidence, I
know, but I threw it out there any way.
It was – you could tell that there was some frustration in the room with
the attorney general avoiding these questions. He did get asked them,
though, and he did eke out, sort of seep out information with each
additional follow-up question and every senator who pressed him.
Joining us now is Senator Chris Van Hollen, Democratic of Maryland, who was
particularly effective today in his questioning.
Senator, thank you for being with us tonight. I know this is a big day.
VAN HOLLEN: It`s great to be with you, Rachel. Thanks.
MADDOW: So, I am giving the attorney general a hard time tonight both in
terms of his affects in answering your questions, but also because I have
been surprised overall over these past three weeks to feel like he is not
necessarily following the special counsel regulations to the letter of the
law. He seems to be portraying a sort of constantly evolving quasi legal
framework in which he describes his actions and explains what he`s doing.
I feel like every time he talks about the Mueller investigation or the
report or releases anything new about it, we`re learning new stuff about
how it`s being handled. Do you think that`s a fair criticism?
VAN HOLLEN: Oh, I think that`s very fair. Look, no one designated Barr,
Attorney General Barr to essentially substitute his decision and his
judgment on this question of obstruction of justice for that of Mueller and
his team who looked at this for many, many months. But somehow Barr
designated himself – it`s not in the law, it`s not in the regulations.
And, of course, that`s exactly what Trump was wanting him to do, because
Trump immediately went out and tweeted that he was exonerated.
Well, we know he`s not exonerated. In fact, Mueller very clearly said he
did not make an ultimate decision about whether or not President Trump was
criminally liable for obstruction of justice. And so, today I was pressing
Barr not on the contents of the Mueller report. I wanted to know how he,
Barr, reached that decision in 48 hours when Mueller said that there were,
quote, difficult issues of fact and law about the president`s activity and
intent on obstruction of justice.
I wanted to know, you know, Attorney General Barr, did you agree? Were
there difficult issues? Did you struggle with these issues? And he
refused to answer.
MADDOW: He refused to answer and refused to answer and refused to answer.
In the end, I felt like what he was implying to you was that there is some
sort of explanation for his decision to declare that the president is
exonerated that we will find in the report or that he will be willing to
describe out loud to members of Congress once the report itself has been
filed. Again, it was an evolving explanation that he gave over the course
of the day. But was that the impression that you were left with, that
ultimately he would explain?
VAN HOLLEN: Well, clearly, his explanation is not going to be in the
Mueller report itself. This is Mueller`s report. And that`s what I kept
saying. I`m not asking you to tell us today everything that Mueller
reported. I wish you would.
But I`m just asking you, Attorney General Barr, how you reached this
conclusion to exonerate the president. And he just, as you say,
stonewalled. Now, we have to go back to the memo he wrote. I call it the
audition memo when he was trying to get the president to look at him as
candidate for attorney general where he wrote that a president could not be
found guilty of obstruction of justice if the president was not found
guilty on the underlying crime – in this case, criminal collusion with the
But as you know, most legal experts think that`s a ridiculous theory.
There are many other ways the president could obstruct justice. And you
need sometimes to know the president`s intent. So I asked the attorney
general did you – did you have to determine the president`s intents to
make your conclusion, your exoneration conclusion? And he wouldn`t say.
So – but we`re not going get that in the Mueller report. The only way
we`re going to get that, Rachel, is by bring Attorney General Barr back
before the Congress after we get the report.
MADDOW: And briefly, Senator, when we do get the report, he said hopefully
some time next week now is his new estimation. I imagine it will be full
of multicolored redactions with more or less generic explanations as to
what justifies those redactions. If the report is substantially redacted
and it really affects your ability as a senator to understand the
implications of what Mueller found, do you feel confident that the
Democrats in the Senate, that the Senate more broadly, that Congress even
more broadly than that has the tools it needs to get the full unredacted
report pried out of Barr`s hands despite his efforts to hold on to it?
VAN HOLLEN: I do think so, Rachel. I mean, there`s – we can go through
legal process and ultimately subpoena it. We can call Bob Mueller. And as
Barr suggested in his testimony before the house the other day, it`s
possible Mueller could provide the report.
So, look, there are lots of potential avenues here. I tried to get some
assurance today from Barr that at least as they went through the redaction
process, he was going to kind of recuse himself from that process. He did
say that the Mueller team together with the Department of Justice lawyers
were the ones who were sort of making these redactions, but when I asked
him if he could guarantee us that he would not overrule them on any of
their decisions, he did not make that commitment.
So, I think automatic of us still worry that he is continuing to do the
bidding of the president. Of course, that was reinforced by the fact that
in the middle of this hearing on – when we`re going get the Mueller
report, he let loose with this conspiracy theory on, you know, the spying
allegation. And then he said, look, I`m not sure there is an adequate
predicate for this. I`m not – I`m not suggesting I have something, but,
hey, here is an idea I`m going throw out that would – while admitting that
he had no evidence to provide the committee for that allegation.
So, I think whatever shred of credibility Attorney Barr may have still had
left about being an independent administrator of justice, he lost it today
by both his responses on the Mueller report and then letting fly with the
latest conspiracy theory.
MADDOW: Senator Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, thank you for your time
tonight, sir. And I know that hearings like this are a bear, but it was a
pleasure to watch you get after him today, sir. Thank you very much.
VAN HOLLEN: Thank you. Good to be with you.
MADDOW: All right. Much more to get to tonight.
I have to tell you, we have Congressman Eric Swalwell here for his first
prime time interview since he has announced he is running for president.
This will be a different kind of interview than you have ever seen with
him. Stay with us.
MADDOW: It has been less than one month since a single shooter stormed
into two mosques in the New Zealand city of Christchurch and shot dead
dozens of people who were attending Friday prayers. Today, today, the New
Zealand parliament voted to ban military-style assault weapons, of the kind
that was used in that attack.
Incidentally, the kind of weapon that was used in the Christchurch attacks
is the same kind of weapon that was used in the massacre of first graders
at Sandy Hook in Newtown, Connecticut. It was the same kind of weapon at
the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida; the same kind of weapon that was
used at the Las Vegas massacre in 2017. It`s he same weapon that was used
at the Parkland, Florida massacre at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School,
and, and, and, and.
The mosque attack in New Zealand was March 15th, less than one month ago.
The vote in the New Zealand parliament was today, and it was not close. It
And now, this will be done. The governor general is going to sign off on
this tomorrow, and the day after that, assault weapons, semiautomatic
assault-style rifles will be banned in New Zealand as of Friday by the end
of this week, by the day after tomorrow. It`s done.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JACINDA ARDERN, NEW ZEALAND PRIME MINISTER: I have to reflect, Mr.
Speaker, that when I visited the hospital and the victims, that none of
them had just one gunshot wound. I struggled to recall any single gunshot
wounds. In every case, they spoke of multiple injuries, multiple
debilitating injuries that deemed it impossible for them to recover in
days, let alone weeks, Mr. Speaker. They will carry disabilities for a
lifetime, and that`s before you consider the psychological impact.
We are here because of them, and I believe that they are here with us,
supporting what we are doing here today as well. Because these weapons
were designed to kill, and they were designed to maim and that is what they
did on the 15th of March.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: From the 15th of March to today`s vote to ban assault rifles in
that country, that`s 26 days. And did I mention that the vote on that bill
Meanwhile, here in America, here`s what it`s like to be a member of
Congress sponsoring legislation to ban military-style assault rifles here.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SUBTITLE: I recently received this voicemail message.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Eric Swalwell, here`s a little ditty for you. Pop pop
popbop pop pop. Thirty-round clip, you`re all going to drop. And I don`t
give a (EXPLETIVE DELETED) anymore. You mother (EXPLETIVE DELETED) think
you got some new young mother (EXPLETIVE DELETED) going to take a over and
(EXPLETIVE DELETED) the Constitution. (EXPLETIVE DELETED).
You want to go to war mother (EXPLETIVE DELETED)? We`re going to war. And
you`re going to be the first mother (EXPLETIVE DELETED) casualty.
(EXPLETIVE DELETED) you.
SUBTITLE: We recently passed background check bills in the House. We must
ban and buyback assault weapons next.
I`m not afraid. Not of this caller. Not of the NRA.
No more silence. No more fear. @RepSwalwell.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That`s the dial tone plays out there at the end, you can see the
words on the screen. We recently passed background check bills in the
House. We must ban and buyback assault weapons next.
I`m not afraid. Not of this caller. Not of the NRA. No more silence. No
That kind of attitude, that kind of work also put that congressman on the
cover of the NRA magazine. Mazel tov, what an honor.
Congressman Eric Swalwell responded to that honor with this. He said,
quote: Living in the NRA`s head, on the cover of their magazine, but they
mischaracterized my position. My plan is to ban assault – my plan to ban
assault weapons is not hollow. It`s very real, and the public is with me.
And sorry, the first freedom is not unregulated gun ownership. It`s life.
Congressman Eric Swalwell is now joining the Democratic race for president.
And yes, before you say it, yes, he knows he`s a long shot. But you know
what? Statistically speaking, isn`t everybody a long shot when there are
five million people running?
He`s been a long shot before, though. He got his seat in Congress by
turfing out a 40-year Democratic incumbent, 40 years.
He`s the first in his family to go to college. He is the son of a police
officer. Two of his three brothers are police officers. He comes from a
Just today, he said if he`s elected, he will nominate a blended cabinet of
Democrats and multiple Republicans. That said, it`s not like he`s running
as a moderate. For one, he is totally unafraid on the guns issue.
And for another thing, Swalwell is well-known to folks who watch cable
news, such as yourself. Not just for him appearing here, but also CNN and
Fox, too. As a member of the Intelligence Committee and the Judiciary
Committee, he has done tons of public interviews, including being
particularly visible and particularly aggressive on the Russia
investigation, which draws all sorts of fire, I can tell you.
But let me just say one last thing about him. In the interest of full
disclosure, I feel I need to tell you that Eric Swalwell is the member of
Congress where my parents live, and I feel like I have to disclose to you
that my parents love him.
That`s not weird. The whole district loves him. Frankly, it`s because
they`ve watched him grow up. Less than ten years ago, this was his local
campaign video to try to get elected to the city council. This was not
that long ago.
He won that race to the city council. Then a couple of years later, he was
elected to Congress for the first time. In 2012, he won that race by four
points. By 2018, by last year, he was reelected by 46 points.
That`s not me saying he won with 46 percent of the vote. He won by 46
Eric Swalwell`s district in California loves him. My dad would follow him
to the ends of the earth. And that`s a good thing. My dad has good taste.
But it does raise the question why would you give that up? Why now? Why
run for president?
Joining us now for the interview is Congressman Eric Swalwell, Democratic
congressman from California.
I asked you to come here and do this when you made your decision. You kept
your word. Thank you for being here.
REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Of course. Thanks for
bringing me back.
MADDOW: So, you announced on Monday night, you said it felt great to make
it official. How`s these last couple of days been since you did?
SWALWELL: They`ve been thrilling. I took my wife and our two kids to
Parkland to start the campaign yesterday. We had a town hall and we had
about half the families there and about 500 people, including not just, you
know, mass shooting survivors, but people`s names we never have heard of.
Their parents came who were killed in Miami and Tallahassee.
And just to make this issue one that is a top issue in the campaign is a
goal of mine, because until it`s a top issue, I don`t think we`re going to
end gun violence in America.
MADDOW: In terms of what`s possible, obviously you have tried to sort of
widen the frame in terms of how even people in your own party think about
what could happen on gun violence. What would a President Swalwell do day
one on gun violence?
SWALWELL: Ban and buyback assault weapons. There is 15 million of them
out there right now. And if Democrats agree and a lot of Republicans too
that we should ban future manufacturing sales, I think you already got to
the point why you recognize they`re so dangerous. With a pistol grip, the
ability for a shooter to indiscriminately spray a crowd, it leaves people
with no chance.
I think of Gary Jackson. I prosecuted his murderer. He tied in Oakland.
Someone fired at him from a fourth floor of a balcony apartment about 40
times, hit him just once.
And his mom asked me before we went to trial, my son was hit in the back of
the leg. Wouldn`t you want to be hit like in the leg or in the arm? And
the pathologist and the ballistics expert said when it comes to an assault
weapon, because of how fast the round flies and the energy of the round, it
doesn`t really leave you with any chance.
So these weapons are different than a pistol or a shotgun or a hunting
rifle. So keep those. I think we want to get these back.
MADDOW: You have powerful committee assignments on House Intelligence,
House Judiciary. That`s part of the reason everybody books you on TV all
the time, because those committees are always in the thick of it. Why do
you think on the issues that you care about, gun violence and the other
issues you care about, why do you think you can do more good for the
country this year and next year campaigning for the White House instead of
just being all in with the Democratic majority in Congress and these plum
seats that you`ve got?
SWALWELL: So it`s a country I know well. I was born in Iowa, educated in
the South. Married a Hoosier from Indiana and elected in one of the most
diverse places in the country.
So, I`ve seen this country. I know why people work hard. But I see the
frustration on all of the issues we`re just stuck in quicksand. On health
care, costs are going up. On education, I`m part of the 40 million who
have $1.3 trillion collectively in student debt. And on gun violence, just
shooting after shooting and no action.
So, I`m offering the action of going big on the issues, health care,
education, gun violence, being bold with the solutions. Buy back, coverage
for all plans and seeking cures in our lifetime and having zero percent
interest on student loans and doing good, again, in the way we govern.
Seeking to get rid of the dirty money and the dirty mops that pollute our
government, but also pledging that I`d put together a blended cabinet. Not
because it would be easy to lead, but because we`re in such a deep, dark
hole right now that we`re going to need Republicans to work with us to
credibly move forward.
I may have to go on a search parent to find Republicans who will put the
country over party, but I do think that we are so traumatized right now by
what this president has done that you`re going to need people who will put
our country first on day one.
MADDOW: I have more to ask you. Congressman Eric Swalwell is our guest.
We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: Back with us again is Eric Swalwell, Democratic congressman and
candidate for president.
Congressman, thanks for being here.
SWALWELL: Of course.
MADDOW: You are one of two men in their 30s who are vying for this
nomination. Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana, is almost the
same age as you. You`re a little older. Two much, much, much, much older
white guys, Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders seem to be locking up the top of
every poll in every state.
But your home state of California is going to be hugely important in the
primary calendar this year. If I had to pick another candidate who is in
the race who could potentially win California despite the fact those two
guys are at the top of every poll, I would bet on Kamala Harris, because
she has won statewide. She`s locked up tons of endorsements in the state,
including from the state`s very popular governor.
Do you have designs on your home state of California? Are you banking
entirely on Iowa? I mean, what`s your path?
SWALWELL: Absolutely on California. And then, you know, Kamala Harris and
I both come from the same district`s office. So, if you`re looking for the
next 2040 candidate who`s going to be running then, go to that office now
and find a young prosecutor. It`s produced, you know, a lot of incredible
people, including Earl Warren, chief justice of the Supreme Court.
But we plan to add states in the general election. I think it`s because,
you know, I`m the son of two Republicans. I can talk to voters who I think
will come across to us.
I know why people work hard. I think I can be a candidate who says, I see
you, I hear you, because I saw my parents work so hard so I could be the
first in the family to go to college, because I`m the father of two under
two and I understand the health care challenges families go through and I`m
paying off my student loan debt, I could put forth policies that are for
So, a candidate sees you, hears you, is for you. Also bringing optimism
and inventiveness to Washington that`s just gridlocked, goes to crisis to
crisis. And finally, bringing experience on day one that will help, being
in Congress for seven years, knowing our threats from abroad, on the
Intelligence Committee, meeting with foreign leaders, taking classified
briefings, traveling to war zones.
And we`re going to have to have a global affirmation tour on day one. Take
the oath, go over to NATO and reassure our allies over there that we`re
still with them. Promise to host in the United States the next climate
accord that we will lead and be part of.
Right now, I`m worried about our foreign policy alienating allies and
costing us more at home. And what I mean, Rachel, and pardon me for using
metaphors a parent would use. But two kids is all I think about these
days. If you`re looking at our foreign policy landscape, as a parent would
look at playground, you will have seen your child over the last three years
go from hanging out with the honor roll kids like the Brits and the French
and the Germans to now we roll with the detention crew, the Russians, the
Saudis, the Turks.
But it`s going to cost us more. If we don`t have alliances we can count
on, the president said this in the State of the Union, we`re going to have
to spend more on bombs and missiles here at home. And that takes money
away from tablets kids need in classrooms and affordable medicine that
seniors need when they go to the CVS check out counter.
MADDOW: Eric Swalwell, congressman from California, my parents` member of
Congress – again, in full disclosure. So, I get lots of behind-the-scenes
updates on what`s going on in the district.
MADDOW: Sir, good luck.
SWALWELL: Thank you so much, Rachel. Thank you.
All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Point of personal privilege, today is my 20th anniversary with my
beloved. That`s it. I`ll be home soon, honey. Sorry I had to work.
Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL”. I`m going
Good evening, Lawrence.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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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