Julian Assange arrested in London. TRANSCRIPT: 4/11/19, The Rachel Maddow Show.
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Thank you all for joining me.
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.
It has been an incredible 24 hours in the news, hasn`t it? I mean, this
time last night we were just getting news that the president`s older
sister, a federal judge, had suddenly retired from the bench just after it
was announced that had she was being investigated by a judicial conduct
counsel for her alleged role with her brother, the president, in a long
running and very lucrative tax avoidance and fraud scheme that was run out
of their family businesses. According to breakthrough reporting on the
“New York Times” on that tax scheme, Judge Maryanne Trump Barry may have
benefited personally to the tune of tens of millions of dollars from the
alleged tax fraud schemes that she and her sibling concocted and ran for
years, primarily to radically boost the amount of money that all the Trump
siblings were able to extract from their father`s business when he died.
Judge Barry`s own share of the windfall from Fred Trump`s business estate
was nearly $200 million. Her sudden resignation from the bench, again,
just reported this had time last night, that resignation ends the judicial
conduct inquiry into her role in that alleged fraud scheme. She made it go
away by resigning.
But that instantly just makes the spotlight that much hotter on the taxes
and the tax related controversies surrounding her younger brother, who
right now is the sitting president of the United States, who`s
administration is now two days in to just defying the law and refusing to
hand over the president`s tax returns for review by the chairman of the
House Ways and Means Committee.
And it`s interesting. This Trump taxes standoff with the House, it really
is a little bit different than all of the rest of the conflicts that have
arisen between Trump and the Democratic led Congress. I mean, in this case
about the tax returns, there is just clear, unambiguous, bold simple law
here that they are now defying. I mean, legally, the IRS has to – they
have no choice, they have to hand over tax returns when such returns are
requested by the Ways and Means chairman and the law was written
specifically to apply to the tax returns of high level administration
I mean, in this case, the Trump administration really is just flat-out
breaking back letter law full stop. We`re now just waiting to see what
somebody`s going to do about it. No presidential administration has ever
broken this law before. Therefore, nobody has ever had to coerce
compliance with this law before, so we don`t know how that works. We don`t
know yet how that resolves. Not yet.
Today as we reported last night might be a possibility today, we also, in
fact, got the indictment of President Obama`s first White House counsel,
Gregory Craig, for his alleged role in one of the illegal foreign lobbying
schemes coordinated by president Trump`s now imprisoned campaign chairman
Paul Manafort. We`ll have more on that coming up.
Today, we also got a third federal indictment of Michael Avenatti, the
telegenic, previously unavoidable for comment California lawyer who
represented adult film star Stormy Daniels in her legal cases against
Michael Cohen and President Trump, the case that`s ultimately resulted in
Michael Cohen, the president`s long time lawyer being sentenced to federal
prison for, among other things, campaign finance felonies deriving from his
paying off Michael Avenatti`s client just before the election. So her
claims about the president wouldn`t hurt his prospects in that election.
The president himself has been described by prosecutors as having directed
the commission of those felonies and there remain these weird unanswered
questions as to whether the president, too, will ultimately get charged
with those felonies that prosecutors said he committed.
Meanwhile, Michael Avenatti is now facing dozens of charges now in multiple
federal jurisdictions and they are not related to his Stormy Daniels` work,
they`re related to alleged misbehavior towards his client, not to mention
an alleged extortion effort against the giant athletic corporation, Nike.
And because everything`s happening all at once, the hush money campaign
finance felony part of this story is apparently back open as well with “The
Wall Street Journal” now reporting that prosecutors` interest in the hush
money case not only continues, it is way more sprawling and includes way
more people than you might have expected.
And, again, because everything`s happening all at once, another extortion
allegation not from Nike but instead from the richest man in the world, the
CEO of Amazon, may also simultaneously be undoing the immunity deal at the
heart of the hush money case, the immunity deal that allowed a close friend
of the president, the head of a supermarket tabloid to testify against the
president and against Michael Cohen while still having immunity that saved
his own skin. That immunity deal may now be unraveling because of
allegations by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, if that immunity deal is unraveling,
that means there`s a whole bunch of skin that may no longer be saved in
that criminal case, that means the hush money case in which the president
is already implicated by prosecutors, that case appears to be alive and
well right now and no, nobody knows what`s going to happen in that next.
Everything is happening all at once. I know, I know. We`re going to have
more on all that stuff coming up over the course of this hour.
Plus, we`ll have a mind bending update on how the newly appointed Trump
attorney general is steaming toward the start of week four since he
received the Mueller report and still hasn`t released any of it. It has
been amazing to watch William Barr really make stuff up as he goes along as
to what he`s doing with the Mueller report, and why and on what grounds and
what he might do next and what he`s allowed to say about the process and
what he feels compelled to not disclose – I mean, he`s just been winging
Today, he tried to take a whole bunch of it back, which was astonishing and
it`s all on tape, so you will want to see that. There`s a lot to get to.
Lots going on.
But I want to tell you, the first person we`re going to bring on the show
tonight, the first guest is going to be the great Chuck Rosenberg, and
we`re going to have him live in just a moment because I think we need
somebody that`s as big as brain and well experienced as Chuck is to try to
answer some big basic questions about what just happened today with
organization one, not individual one, that`s the president, not law firm A,
that`s Gregory Craig`s law firm, not magazine one, that`s the “National
Enquirer”, which may be losing its immunity deal. No, this is about
organization one, which is WikiLeaks per their description in the
indictment that Robert Mueller and the special counsel`s office filed last
summer against an even dozen military officers from the GRU in Russia.
Quote, indictment: The grand jury for the District of Columbia charges
count one, conspiracy to commit an offense against the United States.
Quote: In or around 2016, the Russian Federation operated a military
intelligence agency called the main intelligence directorate of the general
staff, aka the GRU. Specific units of the GRU conducted large scale cyber
operations to interfere with the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
The defendants were GFU officers who knowingly and intentionally conspired
to gain unauthorized access to hack into the computers of U.S. persons and
entities involved in the 2016 presidential election, to steal documents
from those computers, to stage releases of the stolen documents to
interfere with the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Starting in at least
March of 2016, the conspirators used a variety of means to hack the email
accounts of volunteers and employees of the U.S. presidential campaign of
Hillary Clinton, including the email account of the Clinton campaign
By in or around the following month, April 2016, the conspirators also
hacked into the computer networks of the Democratic Congressional Campaign
Committee and the Democratic National Committee, the National Democratic
Party. The conspirators covertly monitored the computers of dozens of DCCC
and DNC employees, implanted hundreds of files containing malicious
computer code, malware, and stole emails and other documents from the DCCC
By in or around that same month, April 2016, the conspirators began to plan
the release of materials stolen from the Clinton campaign and the two
Democratic Party organizations. Beginning in or around June 2016, the
conspirators staged and released tens of thousands of the stolen emails and
documents, they did so using fictitious online personas including DCLeaks
and Guccifer 2.0. The conspirators also used Guccifer 2.0 persona to
release additional stolen documents through a website maintained by an
organization, organization one, WikiLeaks, that had previously posted
documents stolen from U.S. persons, entities and the U.S. government.
Organization one is WikiLeaks. WikiLeaks is the organization who`s founder
was arrested today in London pending extradition to the United States.
Now, according to the special counsel`s office and this live indictment
that has since been handed off to the national security division at the
Justice Department, here`s how prosecutors say WikiLeaks helped in the
Russian military intelligence operation that attacked our election in 2016.
From page 17 of the indictment: Use of organization 1. Use of WikiLeaks.
Quote: In order to expand their interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential
election, the conspirators, meaning the defendants, the GRU officers,
transferred many of the documents they stole from the DNC and the chairman
of the Clinton campaign to WikiLeaks. The conspirators, the Russian
military officers pose is as Guccifer 2.0 discussed the release of the
stolen documents and the timing of those releases with WikiLeaks to
heighten their impact on the 2016 U.S. presidential election. On or about
June 22nd of 2016, WikiLeaks sent a private message to Guccifer 2.0 to send
any new materials stolen from the DNC here for us to review and it will
have a much higher impact than what you are doing.
Less than a month later, on or about July 6th, 2016, WikiLeaks added,
quote, if you have anything Hillary related, we want it in the next two
days preferably because the Democratic national convention is approaching
and she will solidify Bernie supporters behind her afterwards. The
conspirators responded, OK, I see. WikiLeaks explained, quote, we think
Trump has only a 25 percent chance of winning against Hillary so conflict
between Bernie and Hillary is interesting, meaning send me that stuff.
Between June and July, the indictment explains how WikiLeaks allegedly got
all the stuff they got from these Russian military intelligence officer
and, quote, you don`t know or about July 22nd, 2016, WikiLeaks released
over 20,000 emails and other documents stolen from the DNC network by the
conspirators, this release occurred approximately three days before the
start of the DNC, for maximum impact. Got to make sure those Bernie
supporters never, ever cross over and agree to vote for Clinton.
Then, a month before the election, just as the “Access Hollywood” tape was
coming out and the Trump campaign was nearly imploding just moments after
the release of the “Access Hollywood” tape, on October 7th, 2016, WikiLeaks
released the first set of emails from the chairman of the Clinton campaign
that had been stolen by Officer Lukashev and his Russian military
Between on or about October 7th and November 7th, organization 1,
WikiLeaks, released approximately 33 trenches of documents that had been
stolen from the chairman of the Clinton campaign. In total over 50,000
stolen documents were released.
So, WikiLeaks is the entity, according to prosecutors that leased with
Russian military intelligence to get the best stuff that would hurt Clinton
the most, soliciting specific stuff about Hillary that would hurt Hillary
the most, specifically both in terms of the timing and the content of what
they wanted. They leased with Russian military intelligence to time the
release of the documents that the GRU officers had stolen so as to inflict
maximum political damage on the Clinton campaign and to help Trump the
most, and to make sure specifically that Bernie Sanders supporters never,
ever would consider voting for Clinton.
During the time that WikiLeaks was leasing with Russian military
intelligence in order to accomplish all this stuff, WikiLeaks was also in
direct contact with the president`s eldest son, with Don Jr., advising him
on how to better circulate the documents that the GRU had stolen for
maximum impact. What link exactly his father should mention and that he
should tweet out to make sure that the Russian documents got the widest
distribution. Don Jr. appears to have been psyched about that particular
outreach from WikiLeaks, he turned right around and posted exactly what
they told him to post, posted that link exactly as they told him to post
WikiLeaks also gave the Trump campaign, they gave Don Jr. login information
for a website criticizing Trump`s friendliness toward Putin. WikiLeaks
gave don junior heads up that that website was about to launch and
information about how to break in to that Website. On that one, Don Jr.
appears to have been slightly dumbfounded on what he was just to do so he
forwarded that information to lots of other people on the campaign.
On Election Day, WikiLeaks sent this note to Don Jr., quote: Hi, Don. If
your father loses, we think it is much more interesting – we think it is
much more interesting if he does not concede and spends time challenging
the media and other types of rigging that occurred as he has implied that
he might do. Election Day. If your father, quote, loses, we think it`s
much more interesting if he doesn`t concede.
So, WikiLeaks in the 2016 campaign had kind of a singular role, right?
They had a role that at least was very well-appreciated.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R), THEN-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This just came out, this
just came out, WikiLeaks – I love WikiLeaks.
The Hillary Clinton documents released today by WikiLeaks.
Exposed by WikiLeaks.
We want to talk about WikiLeaks.
They want to distract us from WikiLeaks.
They got it all down, folks, WikiLeaks.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was then, this was today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Mr. President, do you still love WikiLeaks?
TRUMP: I know nothing about WikiLeaks. It`s not my thing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: WikiLeaks what`s it? Hum hum? I can`t hear you. Oh, wick can I
– the thing with the mermaids?
No, that`s not my thing. Yes, actually, sir, yes, it is your thing. It`s
your thing. It`s been your thing for a long time.
There are receipts and everybody in the whole wide world has them. But the
charges unsealed against Julian Assange from WikiLeaks today, they`re not
about the hacking of computers and stealing of documents from the Clinton
campaign and the Democrats by the Russian government during the campaign.
Charges today are not about the WikiLeaks` role in soliciting that
material, asking for specific types of material that they wanted from the
Russians and then distributing those documents with help from the Trump
campaign and the president`s son.
I mean, we know from the special counsel`s indictments that prosecutors
have plenty of evidence about WikiLeaks` involvement in that effort. They
not only put all that information that I just read to you from the GRU
indictment last summer they restated a lot of that material in a more
recent indictment of Trump political adviser Roger Stone. The government
knows a lot about WikiLeaks working with Russian intelligence in their plot
to mess with the 2016 election and to distribute the Russians stolen stuff.
The indictment unsealed today, though, it instead derives from a hack of
classified information from U.S. government computers which dates back to
That was tons of information including classified information related to
the Afghanistan war, the Iraq war, hundreds of thousands of documents from
the State Department, the soldier who stole those huge databases of
information and shipped them to WikiLeaks, that soldier was convicted at
court martial and sentenced to 35 years in prison. Chelsea Manning, she
ultimately served seven years of that 35 year sentence before having the
rest of her sentence commute by President Obama.
And that commutation was a dramatic thing. I mean, announced by the
president himself right at the end of his time in office because of that
commutation, Chelsea Manning got out of prison in the spring of 2017. She
otherwise would have been held in prison until the year 2045. But
President Obama commuted her sentence.
But that`s the Chelsea Manning side of that leak and that hack dating back
to 2010. When it comes to WikiLeaks, that posted all of that material,
although the Justice Department confirmed at the time that they had an open
and ongoing investigation into WikiLeaks` role into that hack and leak of
classified material, an investigation I should mention that would have been
led by the FBI at the time which was led at the time by a man named Robert
Mueller who you may have heard of. Although WikiLeaks was the subject of
an ongoing criminal investigation dating back to the Chelsea Manning case,
under Obama, WikiLeaks never got charged.
Chelsea Manning got charged, convicted, sentenced, served seven years got
the rest of her sentence commuted by Obama. WikiLeaks never got charged
during the Obama administration and we will get expert advice on this in
just a second.
But to the extent that WikiLeaks was the entity that published the
information that was stolen by Manning, the decision not to prosecute
WikiLeaks does make sense under the First Amendment, right? I mean,
anybody who works anywhere even remotely adjacent to the news business
knows the free press in this country has the right to publish even stolen
material, even material obtained by seriously unsavory or illegal means.
The free press is not responsible for the origins of any material that gets
to us, unless, of course, we are responsible for it because we had
something to do with how it was illegally obtained.
I will oversimplify it here, but basically what you learn day one in this
business is that if your source breaks into a safely and steals a document,
your source may have committed a crime in so doing, but you won`t commit a
crime just for publishing that document. That said, if you help your
source break into the safe or the locked filing cabinet or the encrypted
and password database, if you help in the stealing of classified material
or anything, nothing about the First Amendment is going to insulate you
from charges that you stole regardless of whether or not you publish it,
right? That`s – you learn that day one in news business school.
I mean, in the Assange indictment, today, he is not charged with publishing
the documents and materials that were taken by Chelsea Manning. In the
indictment unsealed against Julian Assange today, he is not charged with
publishing that material, he is charged I mean, in the Julian Assange
indictment today, he is not charged with publishing that material. He is
charged with helping Chelsea Manning hack into a government database by
trying to break a password on someone else`s account so Chelsea Manning
could continue to steal more documents without being noticed, without being
And that`s fascinating, right? I mean, part of the strength of this case
will obviously depend on the facts as alleged by prosecutors and what they
can prove, but part of the strength of this case may depend on whether the
court sees that act that alleged act of WikiLeaks helping Manning try to
crack into that database as if she were somebody else. Will the court see
that as helping Chelsea Manning in her efforts to steal government
documents and classified stuff? Or could the court see that as WikiLeaks
just helping Chelsea Manning keep her identity secret?
You can see how that would have an important – that would be an important
distinction when it comes to whether or not you can invoke the First
Amendment as some sort of defense to these kinds of charges and we will
see, but if prosecutors convince a court of the theory of the case that is
laid out in today`s indictment, that Julian Assange was helping Chelsea
Manning steal classified material, steal government documents, if the
government convinces a judge, convinces a jury of that, then Assange will
be convicted on the same general theory of the case that convicted Manning.
And this time there will be no President Obama to commute anyone`s
That said, this time there is a president Trump instead who today really is
pretending that he never praised WikiLeaks let alone more than 140 times
while campaigning for president while WikiLeaks was helping a slue of now
indicted Russian military intelligence officers do what they could to
sabotage Hillary Clinton to get Trump elected and even to encourage Trump
to go nuts and not accept the results if he lost.
And so who knows what that means for how this will be handled by this
president and by this Justice Department? And by the prosecutors who filed
this indictment against Assange last March specifically four days before
the statute of limitations expired on his alleged crime, four days before
the expiration of the statute of limitations?
And yes, the Obama administration clearly struggled, clearly wrestled with
whether or not to charge Assange and WikiLeaks related to what Chelsea
Manning stole and gave to them. But since that all happened, a whole new
WikiLeaks chapter has opened, since the whole Manning thing, WikiLeaks and
Assange opened up a whole new lease on life in terms of how they operate,
With Assange alleged by prosecutors to have played a major role in the
Russian military intelligence operation that monkey wrenched the 2016
election, with Assange during that same 2016 campaign reportedly declining
to post leaked documents or materials about the Russian government, with
Assange who supposedly this big anti-secrecy activist denouncing the Panama
papers reporting on massive international money laundering as an attack on
Putin. With Assange getting hired by state owned Russia Today TV, he got a
TV show on the Russian state owned – yes. What happened there for one?
But now that Assange is arrested, what is likely to happen to the evidence
Justice Department prosecutors have collected and already put into
indictments about WikiLeaks as organization 1, right, for its role in the
Russian election attack? And I am no lawyer, but from the way that I read
this stuff today, I think if they are going to charge anything about
Assange and his role in that attack, if they are going to charge anything
against Assange other than what they`ve already put in this initial
indictment, the way I read this, I think, they`re going to have to do so
really, really quickly like imminently, like this isn`t going to linger.
And that is a heck of a prospect with the president of the United States
right now saying Wiki, who? I`ve never – and the president`s newly
installed attorney general, the head of the Justice Department now sitting
on the Mueller report and not letting it out, I mean – if they`re going to
charge Assange anything other than what they`ve done today, they`ve got to
do so right away. What do you think it`s going to happen?
All I know is that everything happens all at once. Stay with us.
MADDOW: The indictment today of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is not
that long as these things go. It`s seven pages. It contains a single
charge, quote, count one covering an alleged conspiracy to hack into a
Pentagon computer network. We`ve heard lots of talk today about how this
is maybe just a placeholder indictment, that this one charge might just be
enough to get him extradited, but it might just be a placeholder for a lot
of other charges – maybe Assange will be charged with other stuff
particularly given what prosecutors have said in other indictments about
WikiLeaks and Assange having a key role working with Russian military
intelligence in the Russian attack on the 2016 election. We`ve heard a lot
of talk about that today.
Here`s the thing – as far as I understand this, if U.S. prosecutors are
going to charge Assange with anything other than the one count that`s
already in this indictment, chop, chop, because this is an international
matter, because Assange will need to be extradited from the U.K. back here
to face charges in the U.S., as far as I understand this and I might be
wrong, there`s an international doctrine at play which is called the Rule
of Specialty. Why is that not a board game already? The Rule of
And under normal circumstances, the Rule of Specialty means that the
country that wants to get someone via extradition, in that case that would
be us, that country cannot add new charges against the defendant after the
sending country has shipped that person over to face justice. So you can`t
say, extradite this person to our charge we want to charge this person with
jay walking and once you`ve got him add a murder rap on top of it, right?
After you`re extradited, no more charges. The extraditing country has to
know exactly what you`re facing before they make the decision to send you
over here, the Rule of Specialty. Don`t take it from me, though. I`m not
a lawyer. As far as I understand this, if U.S. prosecutors do intend to
file any more charges against Julian Assange, they really won`t have much
more time to get that done because the U.K. will extradite him in short
order and that`s a full stop on anything else being added to the charges
Joining us now luckily is somebody who actually knows this stuff. Chuck
Rosenberg is a former U.S. attorney, former senior FBI and Justice
Mr. Rosenberg, thank you very much for being here.
CHUCK ROSENBERG, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Oh, thanks for having me, Rachel.
MADDOW: So the Rule of Specialty, I am not a specialist, did I explain
that basically correctly?
ROSENBERG: Precisely. The extradition between the United States and many
countries including the United Kingdom is governed by treaty, and one of
the provisions of our treaty with the united kingdom which went into effect
in 2007, is that if they send somebody here via extradition, they want to
know precisely what it is we`re charging that person with and as you said,
we can`t add charges once they get here.
There`s a few exceptions to that not worth talking about right now, but
you`re right. We have to tell them why we want Assange and what we`re
going to charge him with when he gets here.
MADDOW: And, again, you said that the exceptions here aren`t necessarily
going into, does that mean in your view despite the fact that there are
some exceptions in the law around these matters, they don`t appear to be
exceptions that would meaningfully change what Assange might be facing
ROSENBERG: Right. So, let`s go to the exceptions then, Rachel. If he
commits another crime while he`s here in the United States he assaulted a
correctional officer, he could be charged with that, but if we want to
extradite him on matters related to the GRU indictment and any other role
WikiLeaks played in spreading that information and receiving that
information and hacking into that information, we would need to tell U.K.
authorities what we had in mind. We would need to charge him with that
And so, to your point, we would need to do that before he`s extradited and
MADDOW: And, Chuck, based on what we have seen about WikiLeaks or
organization one, he`s obviously a subject of discussion in the Roger Stone
indictment, he`s the subject – WikiLeaks is the subject of extensive
discussion in the GRU indictment. Given what prosecutors did lay out about
WikiLeaks` behavior during the 2016 election in that GRU indictment, would
you expect that it`s possible prosecutors will want to add a charge or
charges related to that behavior?
ROSENBERG: It`s possible, but the distinction you drew earlier is a really
important one, Rachel, WikiLeaks is arguably a media outlet. I don`t
admire their work or what they do or how they do it, but you could make an
argument that they are a media outlet.
Assange, however, at least in the indictment in front of us now is a
criminal. He helped someone try to crack a password and so there`s a big
difference between the act of publishing, which is first amendment
protected and stealing, which is not. Again, I think you nailed it
earlier. Imagine the scenario where, let`s say, a wayward IRS employee
wants to give the “New York Times” Donald Trump`s tax returns. “The New
York Times” just receives it and publishes it. The employee will go to
jail because that`s a crime, but the “New York Times” is within its First
Amendment rights to publish what it received.
However, if the “New York Times” reporters break into the IRS and steal
those tax returns and publish it, that act is not First Amendment
protected. So really crucial distinction here and I`m sure because I`ve
been through this in the Department of Justice that they were very, very
careful to make sure that what they were charging Assange with was not
covered by First Amendment protections.
MADDOW: Chuck Rosenberg, former U.S. attorney, former senior FBI and
Justice Department official, Chuck, thank you for helping us understand
this. When you tell me I`ve gotten something right on TV, it burns like a
hot sun in my chest for days on end. Thank you very much for saying that.
ROSENBERG: You got it. Thank you for having me.
MADDOW: Thanks, Chuck.
All right. We got a lot more to get to tonight. We`ll be right back.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: Tomorrow, we`ll be three weeks since Attorney General William Barr
got the Mueller report and still hasn`t released it. In that time, he has
made clear that he has zero intention of giving Mueller`s report to
Congress. The legal precedent here is that Congress gets everything even
if some stuff has to be cut out for public release, but Trump`s newly
appointed attorney general, William Barr, is instead insisting that he`s
going to cut stuff out of the report even from the version that goes to
His latest promise, there have been a few, but his latest promise is he`ll
release both the public and to Congress a censored version, redacted
version, next week hopefully. So who knows? Kind of making it up as he
Today, though the attorney general appears to be trying to cleanup from his
latest accidental “oops, I didn`t mean that” moment, which came when he
thought about it on the spot, you can actually seal the wheels turning and
decided to declare while testifying before Congress that it was his
personal belief that U.S. law enforcement was spying on the Trump campaign
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAM BARR, ATTORNEY GENERAL: I think spying on a political campaign is
a big deal, it`s a big deal.
SEN. JEANNE SHAHEEN (D-NH): So, you`re not – you`re not suggesting,
though, that spying occurred?
BARR: I don`t – well, I guess you could – I think there`s – spying did
occur. Yes, I think spying did occur.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Yes, I think spying did occur and it`s a big deal. That – right?
We all agree? Is that weird that I said that? Did I say something
happened when it didn`t actually happen? I could have been sure that I
thought I heard that there was like spying and we all agree.
Within moments of saying he was setting up a team to investigate the spying
that he believes occurred against the Trump campaign which is a big deal,
the attorney general decided maybe no, maybe try to take that back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARR: I`ve said I`m reviewing this. I am going – I haven`t set up a team
yet. This is not launching an investigation of the FBI.
SEN. BRIAN SCHATZ (D-HI): Do you want to rephrase what you`re doing?
BARR: Unauthorized surveillance. I want to make sure there was no
SEN. JERRY MORAN (R-KS): You`ve indicated that there`s the possibility
that unauthorized surveillance or spying occur.
BARR: Did you say that I said that it occurred? I believe there is a
basis for my concern, but I`m not going to discuss the basis.
Chairman, could I add one point of clarification, that I want to make it
clear thinking back on all the different colloquies here that I am not
saying that improper surveillance occurred, I`m saying that I am concerned
about it and looking into it, that`s all.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Please – point of clarify – what I have been saying up until now
was – I – it`s no longer operative. That cleanup job about his spying
comments was an amazing thing over the course of a not very long hearing.
It continued into today. After the testimony, a person familiar with
Barr`s thinking told “The Washington Post,” quote, he was not trying to
provide conservatives with rhetorical red meat and was using the word
“spying” in a technical sense of collecting intelligence. It`s not what he
said at all. That`s another explanation.
Now, today, more sources familiar with Barr`s thinking tell NBC News that
actually, Barr doesn`t see much of a semantic difference between spying and
surveillance and he`s more invested in whether the FBI followed proper
procedures in launching the Trump/Russia investigation. Loose translate,
it`s dark, it`s hard to see the light switch, trying to make sure it`s off
but it`s – the longer we wait for the Robert Mueller report, the more it
is clear that the newly appointed attorney general is absolutely making it
up as he goes along. It is almost entertaining to watch, but only almost.
MADDOW: Gregory Craig is a high profile well-connected Democratic lawyer
in Washington. He was President Obama`s first White House counsel. He
also worked on Clinton impeachment.
An indictment filed today, federal prosecutors in D.C. have charged Greg
Craig with lying to the special counsel, as well as lying several years
earlier to the Justice Department about work he did for the Ukrainian
At the time he was doing that work, Ukraine`s pro-Russia leader was a
client of Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort. Part of what prosecutors are
alleging here is that Manafort arranged for his Ukrainian client to
secretly shovel millions of dollars to Greg Craig`s big rich influential
American law firm from Skadden, Arps. Prosecutors say Greg Craig lied to
cover-up that he too, just like Paul Manafort should have registered as a
foreign lobbyist for his Ukraine work. That`s one of the crimes for which
Paul Manafort is now in federal prison.
Gregory Craig`s lawyer says he never lied to anybody. They say the
government`s, quote, stubborn insistence on charging him is a misguided
abuse of prosecutorial discretion. We shall see. Robert Mueller initially
referred Gregory Craig`s case for potential progression to the Southern
District of New York. Prosecutors appeared to have passed on it and decide
not do anything with it.
Today, instead, Craig was indicted by a grand jury working with prosecutors
in the U.S. attorney`s office in D.C. So, it started with Mueller, it went
to the Southern District of New York and went to D.C. before they finally
did charge him. Today, Greg Craig`s lawyer and Craig himself in a video
statement posted online said essentially, see you in court.
Craig says he is confident that a jury will vindicate him. If so, that
promises to be quite a trial. The U.S. Justice Department prosecuting one
of the most prominent lawyers in the country, a former Democratic White
Mueller investigation is apparently over but its ripple effects and ongoing
prosecutions emanating from his work are clearly going to be playing out
for a very long time. Another one of those ripples seems to be turning
into a bit of a tsunami and that story is just ahead. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Last month when a federal judge gave the green light to unseal the
search warrants from the raid on President Trump`s long-time attorney
Michael Cohen, there were 18-1/2 pages of redactions to those unsealed
search warrants. Redactions specifically related to the illegal campaign
contribution scheme. The hush money scheme, the campaign finance felonies
that Cohen`s going to prison for.
The judge said those 18 1/2 pages from the search warrants had to stay
redacted because otherwise they would, quote, reveal the scope and
direction of the government`s ongoing investigation. Ongoing
investigation, oh? And they would unveil subjects of the investigation and
the potential conduct under scrutiny. Also, federal agents told the judge
they expected to find evidence of a conspiracy.
Now, a whole bunch of people who might have been part of that conspiracy
around the campaign finance felonies, the hush money payments a poll whole
bunch of people involved in that will already have immunity is, say, Allen
Weisselberg, Trump`s long time financial guy at the Trump Organization.
Weisselberg has been reportedly been granted immunity, at least limited
immunity in conjunction with his testimony related to that issue.
Also, David Pecker, publisher of the “National Enquirer”. Also the
“National Enquirer`s” parent company, AMI. AMI entered into a non-
prosecution agreement with prosecutors in this matter which is contingent
on AMI not committing any more crimes which shouldn`t be hard but stick a
pin in that.
The universe of people who could be part of the conspiracy and also still
on the hook not potentially getting immunity here is getting smaller.
Meanwhile, the SDNY investigation of the conspiracy appears to be getting
bigger. “The Wall Street Journal” now reports that SDNY has interviewed
more people about this than we previously knew, including Hope Hicks, the
president`s former White House communication director. They interviewed
Keith Schiller, the president`s former chief of staff.
But when it came to talking to Hicks, they wanted to talk to her about her
contacts with David Pecker, around the time that David Pecker and everybody
else involved in the scheme was still selling a fake cover story to deny
what had really happened. Hope Hicks was involved in conversation with
David Pecker around that time? When they were covering it up? And now
David Pecker has immunity? What about Hope Hicks?
“The Journal” is reporting she was questioned, as was Keith Schiller. Now,
AMI has that non-prosecution agreement, don`t commit any crimes and you`ll
be fine. CNN is now reporting that Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, will
talk to SDNY prosecutors as soon as sometime this week. They are
reportedly investigating whether AMI extorted Jeff Bezos, extortion is a
crime, running stories about his extramarital affair in the “National
Enquirer” basically to punish him, to punish him according to Bezos for how
his newspaper, “The Washington Post”, has covered the murder of Jamal
Khashoggi and Saudi Arabia`s apparent complicity in that murder.
SDNY is looking at whether AMI might have been doing the bidding of Saudi
Arabia in going after Bezos on their behalf. So, AMI already has federal
prosecutors in their grill over the hush money scheme and had to admit
their an role in it in order to get their non-prosecution agreement which
they only continue to benefit from as long as they don`t commit any more
crimes. Now, prosecutors are reportedly asking whether they were
committing crimes to do Saudi Arabia`s bidding to shut up Jeff Bezos.
If that screws up their non-prosecution agreement, how much would that
reopen this whole story of these campaign finance felonies for which the
president`s long time personal lawyer is already going to prison and in
which the prosecutors say the president is already implicated.
Joining us now is Nicole Hong. She`s a legal reporter for “The Wall Street
Journal”, has been part of the team of that has broken so many of these
Nicole, thank you for being here.
NICOLE HONG, LEGAL REPORTER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: Thank you.
MADDOW: First, let me ask you if I laid that out in a way that makes sense
to you, given your reporting.
HONG: Yes, that`s right.
MADDOW: OK. Do we know whether the non-prosecution agreement for AMI
might be at risk?
HONG: So, it`s hard to tell at this stage. It`s in relatively early
stages and, especially if there is a Saudi element, that could take months
and months to investigate, because at the end of the day, you have the
world`s richest man alleging that he`s a victim of state-sponsored hacking.
That`s a very serious allegation and it`s also on that could take a long
time to investigate.
MADDOW: If the AMI non-prosecution agreement is at risk, my expectation as
a layman looking at this, that would open them up to potential prosecution
for everything they told prosecutors and under the terms of that agreement.
And we know from the Cohen indictment that they laid out their own
involvement in the campaign finance felonies for which Cohen is going to
We`ve had this ongoing question, this open question whether the president,
individual one, might himself have liability there. But it seems like AMI
might itself have liability if they lost their immunity.
HONG: They would certainly be at risk if the non-prosecution agreement
were ripped up. But it`s just too early right now to speculate about what
the southern district is finding because they`re still calling people in as
you noted and kind of in the fact finding stage right now.
MADDOW: In terms of their communications with Hope Hicks and Keith
Schiller, the implication from your reporting is that Hicks and Schiller
might have been aware of again what prosecutors say was a criminal
conspiracy to commit campaign finance policies. They might have been aware
at least of elements of it at the time that it was happening. I mean,
that`s what I`m reading from the way you`re describing what we know what
they were asked.
Is that fair?
HONG: So, they were definitely asked about their contacts with David
Pecker. It`s possible that prosecutors were causing them in early on to
try and get some leverage over David Pecker when they finally met with him
in early July.
MADDOW: OK. And if Schiller and Hicks were questioned about prosecutors
in this way, do we know anything about whether they might have entered into
any sort of deal with prosecutors or how they`ve approached their own legal
representation in these matters? Is the Trump Organization providing them
lawyers to handle this stuff?
HONG: So, our sense is Keith and Hope were not facing any criminal
exposure. They were called in early on possibly as witnesses. It`s
possible they were asked about phone calls and meetings that Pecker and
Trump had. One thing we do know through our reporting is before SDNY met
with David Pecker for the first time, they were already aware he had had
conversations with Trump. So, it`s possible they got that through the e
mails they got through Cohen`s personal e mails.
But it`s also possible that Hope or Keith told them about they might have
been in a position to know about those meetings and calls.
MADDOW: Fascinating. Nicole Hong, legal reporter for “The Wall Street
Journal”, you and your colleagues have advanced this and so many other
stories in this part of the scandal universe we live in with such clarity.
Thanks for coming in.
HONG: Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: That does it for us tonight. Was there enough news for you today?
Tomorrow, I`m sure will be much calmer. We`ll see you again tomorrow
Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL”.
Good evening, Lawrence.
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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