Woman from China carrying malware arrested. TRANSCRIPT: 4/12/19. The Rachel Maddow Show.

Guests:
Lulu Ramadan, Aaron Belkin
Transcript:

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

appreciated.  Thanks.

 

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

investigators. 

 

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

ongoing cases. 

 

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

intelligence. 

 

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

congressional committees. 

 

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

fine. 

 

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

Stone. 

 

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

know. 

 

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

prosecutions.

 

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

comes in.

 

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

Manafort. 

 

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.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

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

thing. 

 

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

come.

 

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

computer. 

 

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

cash. 

 

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

promptly disappeared. 

 

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

Republicans. 

 

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

that is. 

 

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

complicated. 

 

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

collected it. 

 

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

stunning piece. 

 

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.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

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

yesterday. 

 

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

it now? 

 

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

back. 

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

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

policy. 

 

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

necessary care. 

 

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

time. 

 

AARON BELKIN, THE PALM CENTER FOUNDING DIRECTOR:  Oh, it`s a pleasure to be

here.

 

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

President Obama? 

 

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

hands. 

 

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.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

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. 

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

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

tonight. 

 

                                                                                               

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY

BE UPDATED.

END   

 

Copyright 2019 ASC Services II Media, LLC.  All materials herein are

protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced,

distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the

prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter

or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the

content.>