Woman from China carrying malware arrested. TRANSCRIPT: 4/12/19. The Rachel Maddow Show.
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: All right. We`ve got a great “Why is this
happening” this week. You should definitely check out, which is I talk to
you prison abolitionist Maryanne Caldwell. It`s a way of thinking about
criminal justice. I think we`ll really change the way you see things.
Check it out with Pod.
And that is ALL IN for this evening.
“THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW” starts right now. Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Have an excellent weekend, my friend. Much
HAYES: You too. You too.
MADDOW: Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. Happy Friday.
You made it.
Today, a federal judge handed down the most lenient sentence yet against
any of the defendants charged in the Mueller investigation or in any of the
prosecutions that have derived from the Mueller investigation. His name
was Sam Patten. Sam Patten pled guilty last year to lying to
In a plea agreement in which he admitted, arranging an illegal $50,000
foreign donation into the Trump inaugural. He also admitted lobbying as a
foreign agent without registering. He also admitted lying to Senate
investigators about that and other matters.
Sam Patten pled guilty last year. Prosecutors have since said, he started
cooperating with prosecutors, even before he signed his formal plea
agreement, even before he pled guilty. They say he`s been very helpful.
Judge Amy Berman Jackson in Washington, D.C. today explained that she would
have considered a prison sentence for Sam Patten were it not for his
considerable cooperation with federal prosecutors. But given the
combination of the nature of his crime and his lack of a previous criminal
record and prosecutors wholehearted endorsement and appreciation for
whatever it is he`s been helping them with all these months, the judge
ultimately gave Sam Patten today three years probation and a $5,000 fine.
And again we think that may be the lightest sentence so far thus far as
Mueller defendant. That said, with Sam Patten`s case now coming to a
close, with him walking out of the courtroom a free man, we the people, we
the observers of this whole scandal investigation, we`re all still very
much in the dark as to how his case and how his cooperation fit into the
larger investigation. I mean, prosecutors said in open court, and in a
public facing court filing that Sam Patten had been a great cooperator. He
had very willingly and honestly given them tons of good help with lots of
When it comes to the details of what he helped them with, what he told
them, those are all still a mystery. They were all filed under seal to
Judge Jackson in advance of today`s sentencing. So who knows if we the
public will ever see those details? Unless and until we do, we`ll never
really have any inking as to what Sam Patten was helping with. What Sam
Patten gave prosecutors that they thought it was of so much value?
And it`s of interest because Sam Patten had ties to so many different
elements of this scandal. He had connections to Cambridge Analytica, the
murky and now defunct scandal-ridden firm that the Trump campaign used as
their data operation during the campaign. Sam Patten had business
connections with Konstantin Kilimnik. He was a long time associate of
Trump`s now imprisoned campaign chair Paul Manafort. Kilimnik himself has
been indicted by the special counsel. Prosecutors have said in court on
multiple occasions that they assess him to be linked to Russian
Sam Patten, of course, also admitted to being involved in funneling illegal
foreign money into the Trump inaugural. And we know the Trump inaugural is
the subject of multiple ongoing investigations, including an SDNY, Southern
District of New York, which has subpoenaed the inaugural committee. Trump
inaugural is also reportedly being investigated by multiple state attorneys
general, by at least one other U.S. attorney`s office and by multiple
Was Sam Patten who illegally funneled foreign money into the inaugural was
he helpful to investigators who are hook into those matters?
At this point we do not know. Whatever he helped with is still all under
seal. All we know is that prosecutors were absolutely delighted with him.
And that is why he walked today with just probation and a relatively small
And speaking of ongoing investigations, today, we also got this 19-page
filing from federal prosecutors, explaining to the same judge, to Judge Amy
Bergen Jackson in Washington, D.C., why prosecutors want her to reject a
request from a number of media organizations, including CNN and “New York
Times”, and “Politico”, and “The Washington Post,” all of whom are looking
to have documents unsealed from the ongoing case against the president`s
long-time political adviser, Roger Stone.
Roger Stone is due to go on trial in D.C. this fall. The media companies
that are making this request of the judge, they want copies of the search
warrants that were executed against Roger Stone around the time that he was
arrested and charged in January. Prosecutors at the U.S. attorney`s office
in D.C. tell the court today that these requested materials, they
understand why the news organizations want to see them.
They say in this filing today that those Stone search warrants can`t be
shown to the public because of three things that would be adversely
affected if the public had access. Number one, the first thing that will
be adversely affected is the forthcoming trial this fall in United States
versus Stone. It would affect their effectiveness for prosecuting Roger
Also, they say there are privacy interests for uncharged third parties
which would be affected by unsealing that search warrant information. And
finally, they say, unsealing that information would affect investigations
that remain ongoing. What are those ongoing investigations? We don`t
For the same reason that the Sam Patten stuff was all filed under seal,
because it relates to ongoing investigations, and we`re not allowed to see
it, same thing with the Stone stuff. But because all of those factors,
prosecutors are saying no, they`re saying Roger Stone`s search warrant
material should not be released, at least not yet. We`ll see how Judge Amy
Berman Jackson rules on in coming days.
But in the meantime, we actually learned one other surprised fact in this
filing from prosecutors tonight, which is about Robert Mueller in the
special counsel`s office. We, of course, know that Mueller three weeks ago
submitted the report on his investigation to the newly appointed attorney
general, William Barr. Attorney General William Barr then promptly threw
it in a drawer and nobody has been allowed to see it since. We`ll have
more on that later.
But the submission of Mueller`s report three weeks ago, we are told that
was the last official act of the special counsel`s office. We were told at
the time the report went in, that the special counsel`s office would be
wrapping up its operations within days, that its investigation was
complete. We also start to get reports about what the prosecutors and
lawyers and FBI agents who had been working in the special counsel`s
office, what they would be doing for their next jobs.
We have seen evidence and court filings of all the ongoing court cases,
involving all of the indictments brought by the special counsel`s office.
Those have been handed off from special counsel`s office prosecutors to
U.S. attorneys` offices around the country, mostly to the U.S. attorney`s
office in D.C. We`ve seen all this evidence of how things are wrapping up
around Robert Mueller and his special counsel`s office.
But, today, a little surprise. At the end of this filing in the Roger
Stone case, we learned that one of the relatively high profile prosecutors
on Mueller`s team, a man named Aaron Zelinsky, we had previously not heard
where Aaron Zelinsky was going in terms of him getting a new job. But now
we know, he has been named a special assistant U.S. attorney in the U.S.
attorney`s office in D.C.
So, that`s new information. One of Mueller`s prosecutors has essentially
been transferred. He`s been named a special U.S. attorney in the
prosecutor`s office in that D.C. U.S. attorney`s office that has been
receiving most of Mueller`s ongoing cases. So, a special counsel`s office
lawyer moved over to the office that is receiving all the special counsel`s
office`s cases, essentially to help them continue help them continue those
The special counsel`s spokesman tonight confirmed to us that yes, Aaron
Zelinsky has made that move. As to whether or not we should expect other
similar appointments where other people from the special counsel`s office
moved to other U.S. attorney`s offices to help with ongoing prosecutions
that started with Mueller, we don`t know if any other special counsel`s
office prosecutors will do that. So far, it seems like Aaron Zelinsky is
the only one.
That said, as we mark today, three weeks since Mueller`s report was turned
in, and we remain in this remarkable period in American history, this
remarkable sort of interregnum with where the Trump administration has the
Mueller report and they`re not letting anyone see it.
Trump`s newly appointed attorney general, William Barr, of course, has been
saying that he assigned a redaction team. Those were his words, a
redaction team, to cut stuff out of Mueller`s report before it released
either to the public or to Congress. Barr says that that redaction team
includes staff from Mueller`s office, from the special counsel`s office, as
well as Justice Department personnel.
This new information today we got about Aaron Zelinsky from the special
counsel`s office reminds us that we have actually no idea which staff from
the special counsel`s office has been taking part of this so-called
redaction team that Barr has been describing. Nor do we have any ideas who
else is on that team. We have no idea what other lawyers or staffers from
the Justice Department have been working on those redactions as well.
Are the other people besides special counsel`s office personnel who are
working on that redaction team, are they career Justice Department lawyers?
Are they subject matter experts and experienced prosecutors from the
Justice Department? Are they Justice Department personnel who participated
with the special counsel`s office in their investigation and in these
prosecutions? Or are they random Trump appointees who have been put into a
room with somebody from the special counsel`s office and everybody gets a
sharpened pencil and nobody gets any water and you see who leaves the
longest and gets out the door?
I mean, how is that process working? Who is involved? On what grounds did
anyone earn their role on that team? If what they`re doing is censoring
the Mueller report? We have no idea.
We are expecting some censored version, some redacted version of Mueller`s
report to be released to the public sometime next week. If it happens over
the weekend, I`ll see you back on TV. I will be mad, if I have to do that
over the weekend. But if nothing else, please join me if that happens so
if nothing else, we can commiserate about the loss of good weekend time for
all the things we all like to do on our weekends.
We don`t necessarily expect it over the weekend. Everybody is telling us
sometime in the next week. We`ll see. We`ll be right here as soon as it
Meanwhile, though, Gregory Craig entered a not guilty plea in federal court
in D.C. on two felony counts. Gregory Craig is the former White House
counsel from President Obama`s first time in office from his first year in
office. Gregory Craig entered a not guilty plea today after he was
indicted yesterday on charges of lying to investigators about his contract
with the Ukrainian political party that was a client of campaign chair Paul
Greg Craig, again, pled not guilty today. He was released on personal
recognizance. You will recall that earlier this year, his highfaluting law
firm, Skadden Arps, entered into a settlement with the Justice Department.
It included a non-prosecution agreement. The law firm had to pay a little
fine, had to say they were sorry, had to agree to some training, but in
that agreement, the law firm basically blamed Greg Craig for all of it,
said everything was all his fault. That was nice of him. The firm,
because of that non-prosecution agreement, they are not being prosecuted
for what Gregory Craig allegedly did he while he was a senior partner at
that firm. It is just Craig standing alone.
As of today, he says he will plead not guilty. He says he is innocent and
he says wants to go to trial. So we shall see.
And on top of all of that tonight, oversight committee chairman,
Congressman Elijah Cummings, tonight, has announced to the members of his
committee that if they have a problem with what he is about to do, they can
come talk to him about it over the weekend. But unless somebody talks him
out of it, right now, his intention is that on Monday morning, he will
deliver a subpoena to a company called Mazars USA.
Mazars is an accounting firm that has had a long association with President
Trump and with his various business interests. Trump Organization
executive and the president`s long time personal lawyer Michael Cohen
testified to Elijah Cummings` committee earlier this year about the
president allegedly committing bank fraud and allegedly committing
insurance fraud by misrepresenting his assets and his financial standing.
To back up those claims, Michael Cohen provided to Cumming`s committee a
few years of financial statements from Trump and Trump`s business,
including at least one that was prepared by this firm Mazars.
Now, Cummings and his committee started investigating Cohen`s claims. As
part of that investigation, this financial firm that worked with Trump,
Mazars, they expressed to Cummings and his committee that while they didn`t
have any intention of resisting the committee`s inquiries, they would
rather not respond to a simple request from the committee to hand over
information. They would prefer to respond to a subpoena.
Well, we now know they`re getting a subpoena on Monday. We now know this
is exactly what they`re going to be asked to hand over, and it is sort of
breathtaking. Quote: With respect to Donald J. Trump, the Donald Trump
revocable trust, the Trump Organization Inc., the Trump Organization LLC,
the Trump Corporation, Donald J. Trump Holdings LLC, the Trump Old Post
Office, the Trump Foundation, and any parent, subsidiary, affiliate, joint
venture, predecessor or successor of the foregoing, with respect to all of
those, Mazars is ordered by this subpoena to hand over all statements of
financial condition, annual statements, period financial reports, and
independent auditors reports, prepared, compiled, reviewed or audited by
Mazars or their corporate predecessor. They will have to hand over all
engagement agreements or contracts related to the preparation, compilation,
review, or auditing of such documents. They will hand over all underlying,
supporting or sourced documents or records related to those documents.
They`re also ordered to hand over communications between a specific named
partner at the firm, and President Trump, or the Trump Organization, I
don`t know what that`s about. And this is the most interesting part to me,
at least the most intriguing part. This subpoena specifically directs
Mazars to hand over all communications, quote, related to potential
concerns that records, documents, explanations or other information
provided by Donald Trump or other individuals from the Trump Organization
were incomplete, inaccurate or otherwise unsatisfactory.
So if this was any discussion within this accounting firm that they were
getting horsepucky from Donald Trump or the Trump Organization when it came
to his assets and his financial standing, the firm is being directed by
subpoena to produce any documents, any internal communications that attest
to any worries they have in the firm. Any concerns or conclusions they
came to at that firm about the prospect that stuff they were getting from
Donald Trump or the Trump Organization was a lot of hooey.
So, this subpoena demands that those internal communications be handed over
to Cummings and the Oversight Committee, and the subpoena is going out on
Monday, and I think this is a big deal in terms of what Congress is going
to have to work from in its myriad of investigations of the president. We
still don`t know if anyone investigating the president, either from the
Mueller investigation, or from any of the investigations that happened in
the U.S. attorney`s offices or the congressional investigations, we still
don`t have any sense that any investigator looking into anything related to
this president has ever had any substantial information when it comes to
money, when it comes to the president`s financials, his business and any
other financial matters that might affect any of these scandals.
If Mazars is about to hand this over, for years and years and years, the
president`s financial matters and his businesses, this will – A, this will
be a big piece of information. But this will also ratchet up even further
pressure on the question of why the president will not allow anyone to see
his tax returns. I mean, he tried to do this whole thing where he
pretended if you`re under audit, you`re not allowed to return your tax
returns. Even his own IRS admits that that`s not true.
The president still sometimes tries to say that and sometimes he admits it
is not true. That appears to be inoperable as a potential explanation for
why the president won`t release his taxes. I mean, he`s the first
president in four decades to refuse to let anyone see his tax returns,
either as a candidate or a sitting president. Why?
I mean, we know it`s not the audit. Why? What is he so worried about?
And now, it`s just one thing going on. But on the taxes thing, we are in a
totally unprecedented stand-off in which the Trump administration appears
to just flat out be breaking black letter law by refusing to has not over
the president`s tax returns after they were requested from the IRS by the
chairman of the Ways and Means Committee. There is a law that says they
have to hand it over, right? It is required under clear unequivocal law,
that the IRS has to hand over any return, including a president`s return if
the return is requested by committee chairman in the way it was requested
this past week. They have to do it under law.
The administration is so far just refusing. They`re sort of trying to
delay. They`re implying, they`re reviewing it, they`re implying there are
grounds they might wage a legal fight over this. They really appear to
have no legal leg to stand on at all.
They are just defying what the law says they have to do. I don`t know what
the strategy is there. I`m assuming it is that no one will have the
wherewithal or the bravery to enforce that law while they continued to
flagrantly break it. But this is a direct, clear legal confrontation
between the administration refusing to do something they`re lawfully
required to do and nobody having any idea how that will be enforced.
The Oversight Committee is about to get a ton of financial information that
may shed light on why he`s trying to hold the taxes back. So, on top of
all of that, which is ongoing, today you may or may not have seen that a
great newspaper in southern Florida called the “Palm Beach Post” has also,
on top of all that, broken a brand new story. That is a whole other level
of oh, my god. They did what now?
I`m not sure if you`ve heard about this latest “Palm Beach Post” story, but
it is a doozy and that story is coming up next. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Have you ever had one of those very fancy cakes, fancy desserts
where it looks like a normal cake from the outside but then you put your
fork into it and it turns out it is not a normal cake? It is a stack of a
million different little cakes? Like 10 million cake layers or crepes
stacked up together with frosting or whatever in between?
Apparently, this is a whole category of dessert. I did not know this
existed before this year on my birthday, the nice ladies, my buddies who
work in the hair and make-up room in this building. They got me a cake
like that for my birthday. It was amazing. It was a totally mind bending
I looked at the piece of cake that they gave me. It had a, you know, a
candle in it. We sack and everything and I thought it was cheese cake. I
put my fork into it and I was like, no, it is 10,000 little tiny cheese
cakes all stacked up of each other.
It was the greatest thing I`ve ever seen. It`s the greatest thing I ever
put in my mouth. I had no idea that existed before this month. And that
is what this news story out of south Florida is. Except it`s not a million
layers of cake. It`s a million layers of weirdness, one on top of the
other that culminate in tonight`s news story.
I mean, it started with, the owner of the Patriots football team, Robert
Kraft, and a number of rich guys getting picked up on prostitution related
charges, tied to a Florida massage parlor. Now, what does this have to do
with the president? Oh, no, no, just layer one. There`s more layers to
We would soon learn that the original owner of the Florida massage parlor,
an alleged prostitution den in question, was someone who was a ubiquitous
presence at the president`s private Florida club, which is called Mar-a-
Lago. The pictures alone are their own distinct little level of weirdness
for this story.
Then you get the next layer on top of that, which is “The Miami Herald”
reporting that she seems to be tied to a number of organizations that are
sponsored by or affiliated with the Chinese government and/or the ruling
Chinese communist party, oh, including the Chinese government inviting her
to visit the visit of a Chinese warship into a Florida port. Oh.
Then we learned on top of that, through really good reporting at “Mother
Jones” magazine, that this same woman has been running a very, very special
kind of investment company, that she`s been marketing in China. The
investment that she is looking for is a cash investment in her. What her
company will sell you if you pay her, is that she`ll get you into Mar-a-
Lago to meet the president or to meet a member of the president`s family or
to meet Trump administration cabinet members, or perhaps you would prefer a
White House meeting. You could pay her to get one of those as well, at
least so that her marketing company.
At this point in the delicious layer cake, we`ve got the massage parlor
owner selling Chinese nationals personal, physical access to the president,
his family and cabinet level officials in the administration, while she is
simultaneously hanging out at the president`s private club, taking pictures
of him and working with the Chinese communist party in a number of murky
organizations that seem to have no real public facing purpose.
Layer on top of that, the arrest on March 30th on a new lady we had never
heard of before at Mar-a-Lago. And a Secret Service affidavit that soon
followed which explained a very strange tale of this woman inexplicably
being allowed into Mar-a-Lago while the president was on a visit there.
She claimed to be there for a U.N./Chinese friendship event which was
something maybe marketed by the massage parlor lady?
It was an event that was not happening at Mar-a-Lago that day in any event.
She also told Secret Service officials at one point that perhaps she was
there that day to go swimming.
The initial affidavit from the Secret Service indicated that the woman,
when she was arrested, was not found to be carrying a swimsuit. She was
found to be carrying four cell phones, a laptop and external hard drive and
a thumb drive that they soon realized was infected with malicious malware.
How did they figure it out? Well, a Secret Service agent who later
testified in court admitted that part of the reason they knew she had
malware on this thumb drive is that while they were questioning her, one
Secret Service agent popped the thumb drive into his own computer. It
immediately began to install files.
According to “The Miami Herald`s” account of his testimony, quote, the
agent saw that it was a very out of the ordinary event that he had never
seen happen before during this kind of analysis. The agent had to
immediately stop the analysis, to halt any further corruption of his
We then learned the woman was not just carrying the four cell phones, the
laptop, the external hard drive and the thumb drive infected with malicious
malware that immediately starts installing itself when you pop it into any
USB drive, she didn`t just bring those things to her trip from China to
United States which resulted in her getting into Mar-a-Lago. No, in her
hotel room down the road, agents found that she was storing nine additional
USB drives, five SIM cards, yet another cell phone, that`s five cell
phones, plus a signal detector specifically used to find surveillance
devices like hidden cameras. Also thousands and thousands of dollars in
She had initially told Secret Service agents at Mar-a-Lago who questioned
her as to why she had the four cell phones and the laptop with her, she
said she didn`t want to leave valuable stuff like that in her hotel room.
Just that thousands of dollars in cash. That was OK to leave there.
And remember, besides, she was just there at Mar-a-Lago to go swimming.
It`s been a long time since I was a lifeguard, but I would advise you if
you got that many electronic devices on you, don`t try to swim.
Today, the woman with all of the electronics and the cash who turned up at
Mar-a-Lago, she was indicted in federal court in Florida. She has been
held in custody since she was initially arrested on March 30ths. She was
receiving consular assistance from the Chinese government. It does appear
that she may have had links to the massage parlor lady who was offering to
sell Chinese nationals access to President Trump through Mar-a-Lago. That
has not been flushed out in any court documents yet so we await any further
information about that.
But now, look today at what “The Palm Beach Post” has piled on top of all
of this stack. You thought you could not take one more layer of weirdness.
But here, it`s just wafer thin.
This is the Mayflower Hotel which is very swanky. It`s quite near the
White House in downtown Washington, D.C. This is a picture of an event
that took place at the ballroom at the Mayflower Hotel the night before
Trump was sworn in in 2017.
The event apparently featured hundreds of guests, also an Asian opera star,
also lots of big fancy dance performance. It was a big gala event.
This is from a Facebook photo, which described the event as an Asian-
American inaugural ball, inaugural gala to celebrate Trump`s inauguration.
It was hosted by two entities, a Trump campaign advisory board, the Asian
Pacific advisory committee to the Trump campaign, which is an adjunct of
the Trump campaign. Also, a registered political committee which is called
the National Committee of Asian-American Republicans.
Guess who is the fund-raiser for the National Committee of Asian American
Republicans? It`s the massage parlor lady. Of course it is.
To attend this inaugural gala co-hosted by this Trump advisory committee,
you had to pay a bunch of money for the ticket on get in which hundreds of
people did. But there were also names sponsors. According to someone who
worked directly on fundraising for the event, who was interviewed by “The
Palm Beach Post” today, those main sponsors for this gala paid anywhere
between 5 grand and 15 grand to be listed as a major sponsor of the event.
That person who worked directly on event says that all the checks from
people who attended, all the checks from all the big dollar sponsors, they
were all made out to that Asian-American political committee, to the
massage parlor lady`s committee, to the National Committee of Asian-
American Republicans. That`s who everybody made their check out, everybody
who bought a ticket, all of the sponsors. And then all of the money
Quoting from today`s “Palm Beach Post”, quote: Thousands of dollars in
donations flowed to an undisclosed source at a Trump inaugural ball with
links to China and dubious donors, but no financial records. The lavish
Asian Pacific American Presidential Inaugural Gala drew more than 900
people, quote, but there is no trace of the money raised that night as
required by law. Because the National Committee of Asian-American
Republicans, the event host is a registered political committee, any
contributions to that committee must by law quickly be reported to the
Federal Election Commission. But despite this gala event, no donations
were ever reported.
The committee`s executive director, a Florida tech entrepreneur named Cliff
Li told “The Palm Beach Post”, this is greatest line in the entire thing.
He told “The Palm Beach Post” today that he knows where the money from this
event went. Quote: But I don`t want to tell you.
Li has drawn international attention as an associate of Cindy Yang, the
massage parlor lady, the one time head of fundraising for the committee
that hosted the gala. Her access to Trump through his Mar-a-Lago estate in
Palm Beach, an involvement in groups linked to the Chinese communist party
prompted top congressional Democrats to seek a federal investigation.
People involved in the gala event, the inaugural event, again say that all
the checks were made out to the National Committee of Asian-American
One of the people involved said that there were definitely foreign
nationals in attendance at the event. It is not clear where some of those
foreign nationals contributed any money to that event or paid to get in.
Of course, foreign nationals are not allowed to give money to that kind of
a political committee.
But regardless, none of the money was ever reported anywhere. Nobody knows
what happened to any of the money. This was one of the Trump inaugural
galas. You had to pay to get in. You had to pay the sponsor. There were
lots of names sponsors. What happened to all the money?
The only explanation from the people who were running this thing, again,
who have, on the one hand, the Trump campaign, adjunct group, right? And
then it`s the Asian-American Republican committee, again, where the fund-
raiser is the massage parlor lady who was linked to the thumb drives at
Mar-a-Lago lady, they`re refusing to say what happened to any of the money
raised at that event.
Quote, Li declined to say how much money was raised or whether any of the
donations went to him, the embattled Trump inaugural committee or any of
the other two dozen event organizers. He told “The Post”, quote, the money
went into the right account legally but I just don`t have to tell you where
I just don`t have to tell you. I am not sure how much taller this
particular slice of weirdness can get before it topples over. But if this
now relates back to the Trump inaugural, with all of ongoing investigations
of the Trump inaugural already, including the two U.S. attorneys offices, I
mean, that`s going to be linked as well to the Mar-a-Lago insane Chinese
spying story too? Seriously?
Joining us now is Lulu Ramadan, who`s reporter for “The Palm Beach Post”
who broke the story.
Ms. Ramadan, I really appreciate you being here. Thank you.
LULU RAMADAN: Thanks for having me, Rachel.
MADDOW: So, first let me ask you. I mean, you can tell that I think this
is a little bit of a gonzo story. Let me ask you if I got the details
right in terms of what you`re able to find out about this gala, its
connection to this political committee and what happened to the money.
RAMADAN: Yes, absolutely. You pretty much summed it up. It is pretty
There was this inaugural gala. And we have no financial records to tell us
where the money went. Foreign nationals attended and we have no way of
knowing if the money came from them, came from the sponsors and who
MADDOW: In terms of the potential legal ramifications here, it seems like
you`ve got a scoop on your hands here. And you and the “Palm Beach Post”
are producing this today. It`s the first time anyone has seen reference to
this line of inquiry.
But you do point out that the committee involved here that was the apparent
recipient of all these funds, they are required to report all their
donations. In FEC filings, they`ve never reported anything related to
this. Do we know if the FEC or any other law enforcement entity is looking
into this at all?
RAMADAN: So, we don`t know at this point. And, you know, they haven`t
acknowledged any open investigations as far as we know. But it is pretty
recent. This appears to be the first reporting about this. So who knows
what lines of inquiry are going to pop up?
MADDOW: You also mentioned. Obviously people had to pay to get in. But
there were named sponsors of the event, seemed to have paid several
thousand dollars to be sponsors. One of the things that you mentioned in
your piece is that the lead sponsor of the event was raided by the FBI just
a few weeks after this event happened.
First of all, is there any indication that there`s any connection between
that FBI raid and what happened at this mysterious Trump inaugural gala?
And do we know further what the FBI raid was about?
RAMADAN: Yes. So that reporting was actually from “Bloomberg
Businessweek”. And, you know, we know very little about the raid in
Saipan, at that Saipan casino. But we know that a month later, some
contractors who were hired by Imperial Pacific, that casino company, were
harboring or hiring foreign workers illegally on tourist visas.
So, you can infer that it possibly had something to do with that. But
interestingly enough, these corporations and businesses that sponsored the
gala, several of them benefited from a bill that Trump signed into law a
year later, that actually assisted them and offered more avenues for hiring
foreign workers legally, which essentially allowed these businesses to
avoid what we now know some of them did do and hire foreign workers legally
on tourist visas.
MADDOW: I mean, you`re right that we don`t know how the dots connect. But
the dots that you`ve been able to spell out with this reporting, in
connecting with other reporting here is we`ve got entities including this
rated Saipan casino firm, donating money to an entity that disappeared. We
have no idea where it went. It definitely wasn`t reported to the FEC.
After that money was donated to the Trump inaugural data, the Trump
administration did take action to benefit those firms and others like them.
Now, nobody is accounted for that money still and we don`t have any sense
that anyone is looking for it. It`s just – I realize it is a complicated
set of facts. But when you line them up sort of chronologically in terms
of who got what for what they appear to spend the money on, this is just a
Lulu Ramadan, reporter at “The Palm Beach Post” – congratulations on this
scoop and please keep us apprised.
RAMADAN: Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. Much more to get to tonight. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Yesterday, the founder of WikiLeaks was arrested in the London.
The United States is seeking his extradition on hacking charges.
Yesterday, President Trump tried to pretend like he had never heard of this
WikiLeaks. Let alone sung their praises hundreds of times on the campaign
trail, tweeted about them innumerable times, and frankly based the whole
end of his presidential campaign on hyping and promoting WikiLeaks and its
distribution of stolen documents that WikiLeaks distributed after obtained
them from Russian military intelligence.
Wiki who now? I never – I don`t recall. That was the president
Today, it was the vice president`s turn to weigh in on this delicate
matter. It went poorly.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Justice Department is
now seeking extradition. And we`re going to bring Julian Assange to
justice. We`re working with Chelsea Manning. Julian Assange was involved
in one of the greatest compromises of classified information in American
history. It literally put American military personnel at risk and we`ll
hold them to account in American justice system.
MADDOW: What about what did he in 2016? The president when he was a
candidate welcomed seeing WikiLeaks and the information that they got from
Hillary Clinton. Has that changed?
PENCE: Well, I think the president always welcomes information. That was
in no way an endorsement. An organization we now understand was involved
in disseminating classified information about the United States of America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was in no way an endorsement.
The president saying, I love WikiLeaks, or WikiLeaks is a treasure trove.
Or saying, go look at the WikiLeaks. I love reading WikiLeaks.
Mentioning the organization 141 times at rallies how soon in the campaign`s
final month. Not an endorsement. It`s just this is a president who is a
voracious consumer of information, as you know. That`s what he`s known
for, right? He`s a reader.
I would also draw your attention to that thing that Pence said there at the
end. Please play the end part again.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PENCE: That was in no way an endorsement. An organization that we now
understand was involved in disseminating classified information about the
United States of America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: We now understand, now, now we know. I mean, well after the
campaign, now we know that this was an organization that was involved in
disseminating classified information.
You know, back in 2010, around the time of the whole WikiLeaks, Chelsea
Manning gigantic hack thing that has now led to these charges against
Julian Assange, Mike Pence was like the number three Republican in
Congress. That was kind of a scandal at the time, the idea that WikiLeaks
was involved in the distribution of classified information.
We now understand was involved in disseminating classified information. We
now understand that? That happened in 2010. You`re only admitting knowing
I think of myself as a marathon news consumer. I admit, Mike Pence is
wearing me out with this. We now understand them to have – we`ll be right
MADDOW: Attention, attention. Quote: After consultation with my generals,
my generals, and military experts, please be advised that the United States
government will not accept or allow, dot, dot, dot, dot, dot. New tweet:
Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. military. Our
U.S. military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming dot, dot, dot.
New tweet: victory that cannot burden with a tremendous medical costs and
disruption that transgender in the military would entail. Thank you.
With that series of vaguely incoherent tweets in July 2017, the still
fairly new president declared a new policy on who would be allowed to serve
their country in the United States military. He surprised the thousands of
transgender troops who seemed to be serving just fine. He surprised
military leadership who would be trying to implement this new by tweet
The new policy was fought over in the courts round after round for more
than a year until finally in January, the conservative majority on the
Supreme Court ruled that the president could impose this ban that he had
unveiled randomly on Twitter that day.
And now, today, it happened. The Trump administration`s official anti-
trans policy goes into effect in U.S. military today. Transgender troops
are barred from enlisting or if you`re currently serving, you are counseled
on your failure to adhere to standards and, quote, given an opportunity to
correct those deficiencies.
The advent of this new policy drew sharp reproach from medical leaders,
including former U.S. and military surgeons general who released a
blistering statement today condemning the new policy. Quote: We are
troubled by the Defense Department`s characterization of the need to
undergo gender transition as a deficiency, and by the addition of gender
dysphoria to official list of congenital or development defects that
include bed wetting and disturbances of perception, thinking, emotional
control or behavior. We`ve already expressed our concern over the Defense
Department`s misuse of science to justify discharging and denying medically
Quote: Here we note there is a global medical consensus the need to undergo
gender transition is not a deficiency or defect. That de-stigmatizing
transgender individuals in this way is inappropriate for U.S. government
entity and scapegoating and denial of medical care will compromise the
wellbeing of transgender service members who are otherwise fit and
available for duty.
Joining us now is Aaron Belkin. He`s founding director of Palm Center on
Public Policy and he`s author of “How We Won: Progressive Lessons from the
Repeal of `Don`t ask, Don`t Tell`”.
Mr. Belkin, thanks very much for being with us. Appreciate you making the
AARON BELKIN, THE PALM CENTER FOUNDING DIRECTOR: Oh, it`s a pleasure to be
MADDOW: Given your previous involvement in the “don`t ask, don`t tell”
fight, and, in fact, your book on the subject, I wonder how you see any
parallels or lack thereof in terms of how this possibility is implemented
and the type of discrimination that it means.
BELKIN: This is “don`t ask, don`t tell” for transgender troops and it`s a
day of great anguish for the troops. The Trump administration is claiming
that this is just an innocuous policy. It won`t harm the troops, but
that`s what we were told at the beginning of “don`t ask, don`t tell”, and
we saw how well that worked out. This policy will injure all transgender
troops and effectively force them to remain in the closet.
MADDOW: The idea of gender dysphoria, some sort of defect that makes you
unfit for military service is something that the Obama administration took
on, dropping that term and used in that way and in 2016, since then,
thousands of openly transgender service members have been serving,
essentially, without there being any problem.
How is this going to work in terms of grandfathering people in who came out
under the previous policy when the previous type of discrimination – when
the previous iteration of discrimination of this kind was dropped by
BELKIN: Yes, so there are about 14,700 transgender troops today and about
1,000 of them have received diagnoses of gender dysphoria since inclusive
policy was put in place three years ago, and the administration is pointing
to that very small minority of about 10 percent of transgender troops and
saying, look, see how humane we are because we`re going to let these people
remain in service and continue to get medical care. But even for these
thousand troops who are grandfathered, they`re going to be burdened by the
stigma of serving in an institution that says they`re, quote/unquote,
plagued by a deficiency and a defect.
So, even for the tiny minority of troops who are grandfathered, there`s
really no protection for them.
MADDOW: Given the Supreme Court ruling that effectively allowed this to
happen today, how do you see the fight shaping up over this? Obviously, I
think people aren`t going to take this lie down. I think the number of
transgender troops who are serving openly and proudly and benefitting the
military is going to create, I think, sort of an unstoppable moral force in
terms of this being eventually overturned but it`s hard to see what that
path looks like.
How do you envision it?
BELKIN: Well, this will, this policy will fail in the same way that “don`t
ask, don`t tell” failed. It will hurt the military and the troops and it`s
not going to last because the public won`t tolerate a policy that hurts the
troops indefinitely, but we can`t predict now whether the collapse of the
policy will be in court or in Congress where there`s now bipartisan
legislation to protect the troops or perhaps if the White House changes
We know when the White House changes hands, if inclusive policy has still
not been put back into place, it will be restored very, very quickly, but
there`s just no way to predict how this ban will crumble.
MADDOW: Aaron Belkin, political science professor, author, founding
director of the Palm Center, thanks for being here tonight. It`s a
landmark day in a bad way. But thanks for helping us understand the
implications. Appreciate your time.
BELKIN: Thank you.
MADDOW: We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: If polling truly mattered at this point in the primary process,
Joe Lieberman would have been the Democratic nominee in 2004 and would have
been President Giuliani in 2018 and Sarah Palin would have been running
against Barack Obama in 2012.
Polling this far and advance, in other words, doesn`t mean anything. That
said, aren`t you curious about this young mayor of South Bend, Indiana, who
is surging up the polls right now, polling third right now in Iowa and New
Hampshire behind only Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders.
Pete Buttigieg is going to be here on this show for the first time ever on
Monday night. I have never interviewed Pete Buttigieg before, but he`s
having a moment and he`s going to be here for the interview Monday. Don`t
say I never gave you nothing.
MADDOW: Thanks for being with us this Friday night. Again, we`ve got
Mayor Pete Buttigieg here on Monday night live for the interview. We`ll
see you again then.
Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD” with Ali Velshi, in for 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