One on one with Amy Klobuchar. TRANSCRIPT: 5/9/19, The Rachel Maddow Show.
CAROLINE FREDRICKSON, PRESIDENT, AMERICAN CONSTITUTION SOCIETY: People say
that Chief Justice Roberts is very worried about the status of the court
and proceeds incrementally. But I don`t think the others are there, and
I`m not really sure that he`s there.
I mean, we`ve already seen that they have indicated they are ready to undue
a decision they issued a couple years ago, which found law and
constitutional for putting some real constraints on women`s access to
abortion and I think it could happen any time.
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: And you only need four votes to take the case and
the wrangling begins.
Laura Bassett and Caroline Fredrickson, thank you both for joining me.
LAURA BASSETT, SENIOR CULTURE AND POLITICS REPORTER, HUFFPOST: Thank you.
FREDERICKSON: Thank you.
HAYES: That is ALL IN for this evening.
“THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW” starts now.
Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thanks, my friend. Much
HAYES: You bet.
MADDOW: And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
Today, I learned that President Trump`s campaign chairman is a lawyer, or
at least he was a lawyer until today. You are forgiven if you never really
thought of Paul Manafort as a real legal eagle, but today, I learned he was
a lawyer when he was formally disbarred in the District of Columbia because
of his multiple felony convictions for crimes, quote, involving moral
Paul Manafort turns out had been admitted to the D.C. bar in 1979. He was
sentenced earlier this year to 7-1/2 years in federal prison for multiple
felonies. Today, CNN reports that after his initial imprisonment in
Virginia, he was then moved to a prison in eastern Pennsylvania where he
was initially processed to start his federal sentence.
CNN reports and we have confirmed that Manafort has now settled in to sort
of his forever home at FCI Loretto, which is the federal correctional
institute at Loretto, Pennsylvania, which is about halfway between
Harrisburg and Pittsburgh.
Fun fact about FCI Loretto, used to be a Catholic seminary. Now, it is
home to Donald J. Trump presidential campaign chairman inmate number 35207-
Now, there is the possibility that Mr. Manafort will be moved out of FCI
Loretto so he can be closer to his next round of trial proceedings. You`ll
recall that Mr. Manafort was also indicted on New York state charges right
after he got his federal sentence. But for now, at least, he is at the old
seminary in Western PA, and today he was disbarred in the District of
Of course, the president`s longtime personal lawyer also reported to
federal prison this week. He also got his number. Michael Cohen is now
federal inmate number 86067-054.
I don`t know what kind of access Mr. Cohen has while he`s in prison to the
news of the world, but it`s interesting to think about him going to prison
this particular week, right? I mean, we don`t know if Michael Cohen right
now is aware of the news that Donald Trump Jr. was just subpoenaed to
testify to the Senate Intelligence Committee. He is reportedly planning to
defy that subpoena and face legal consequences for doing so.
I mean, does Michael Cohen know that? I mean, Michael Cohen has just gone
to prison and, remember, Michael Cohen has just gone to prison in part for
arranging to pay hush money to two women right before the presidential
election. Donald Trump Jr. is one of the people who actually signed the
checks that paid for that whole hush money scheme.
But Donald Trump Jr. is at large. Michael Cohen is in prison. Michael
Cohen is also in prison now for lying to the Intelligence Committees about
the Trump Tower Moscow real estate deal that he worked to arrange
throughout the campaign while the president was publicly maintaining that
he had no business deals in Russia.
Well, this week, Donald Trump Jr. is facing that subpoena to come back and
testify again to the Senate Intelligence Committee, reportedly specifically
about Trump Tower Moscow because of perceived problems with his testimony
on that same subject before the same committees. I mean, inmate number
86067-054, the man on your left, is in federal prison right now for
felonies that he committed that did not benefit itself, right?
The lies about the Moscow real estate deals with the Kremlin and the scheme
to pay off the women before the election, those were crimes that did not
benefit Michael Cohen, those were crimes that benefitted Donald Trump and
the Trump campaign and the Trump family business. The president`s son
literally signed the checks in the hush money scheme and his testimony on
Trump Tower Moscow appears to hue very closely to what Michael Cohen said
about the Trump Tower Moscow plan, for which Michael Cohen was sent to
So, I mean, it has to be an awkward time right now in the president`s
closest circles right now, right? One of the things that Michael Cohen
testified to Congress about before he went to prison were these financial
statements that he says were used by the Trump Organization and the
president himself when seeking loans from banks and as a means of
describing the president`s overall financial health while he was trying to
get favorable treatment in his various insurance policies. Michael Cohen
handed over those documents to Congress and bluntly told Congress in his
testimony that these firearm statements were false representations of the
president`s financial status. He told Congress bluntly that these
financial statements were used to commit bank fraud and insurance fraud.
Well, today, interesting turn of events. Back on March 20th after Michael
Cohen`s testimony, including about those financial statements, the
Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings followed up on Cohen`s
testimony biform ally requested a whole boatload of documents about Trump
from the firm that prepared those firearm statements on Trump`s behalf.
The firm which is an accounting firm called Mazars, their initial response
is very measured and very cautious. When they first got this big document
request from Elijah Cummings, they simply said Mazars believe strongly in
the ethical and professional rules and regulations that govern our
industry, our work and our client interactions.
Soon, Mazars got their legal P`s and Q`s in order and sent this back to
Elijah Cummings, a lawyer letter from them telling Congressman Cummings, as
I`m sure you can appreciate, Mazars cannot formally turn over the documents
sought in the request. Emphasis on voluntarily, because the firm went on
to helpfully point out that were there a validly issued and enforceable
subpoena tell them to hand over the documents, well, then they wouldn`t
have a choice. Then they wouldn`t be voluntarily handing the stuff over.
Then there would be no problem.
And so behold, a subpoena was born. And what happened upon the issuance of
that friendly subpoena to Mazars was interesting. The president himself
hired a whole new boatload of lawyers who are specifically charged with
trying to keep his financial history and his taxes secret.
And those newly hired lawyers got right to work. They contacted Mazars,
the accounting firm and told Mazars that Mazars should not respond to this
subpoena from Congress. Then, within a week, the president`s new lawyers
who`ve been hired to keep his finances and his taxes secret, they filed a
lawsuit by the president, the president personally suing his accounting
firm to try to stop them from complying with this subpoena, this subpoena
that orders them to hand over his financial documents, including the
financial statements that firm prepared that the president`s lawyers said
under oath he saw used to commit bank fraud and insurance fraud.
The president sues the accounting firm to try to stop the firm from handing
over information about him and he sues Elijah Cummings, chairman of the
Oversight Committee, to try to stop him from demanding those documents.
Now, that lawsuit the president filed here is not a thing of beauty, as all
by all legal accounts. But Elijah Cummings did agree once that lawsuit was
filed that he would delay the subpoena`s deadline ordering that accounting
firm to hand stuff over. He would allow for a delay. They would not have
to meet the subpoena`s deadline to submit those documents while this
lawsuit was being heard. So that`s what the president`s paying for with
all these new private lawyers, right, who he has hired at personal expense
to try to keep his taxes and his finances secret.
I mean, that lawsuit that they filed at least buys Trump some time. It at
least gets this thing into the courts. It at least slows everything down,
right? Maybe he can drag this out forever now, right?
Maybe not. Today, the judge that`s assigned to hear that case said, you
know what? I actually want to go fast here. Next week was supposed to be
an initial round of stuff on there maybe being a preliminary injunction in
the Mazars case and then maybe another round of stuff on maybe there being
a permanent injunction on the Mazars case and then after that another round
of stuff on the merits of the case. That I eventually get to the merits
some day down the road.
That had been the initial plan, but today the judge said, nope, there is no
need for that kind of a drawn out schedule. Let`s do all those things all
together all on the same day all next week. And then the judge said he`d
go ahead and rule right then and there that day.
Quote: The sole question before the court is, is the House Oversight
Committee`s issuance of a subpoena to Mazars for financial records of
President Trump and various associated entities a valid exercise of
legislative power? That sole question before the court is fully briefed
and the court can discern no benefit from an additional round of legal
arguments nor is there any obvious need to delay ruling on the merits to
allow for development of the factual record.
And so bottom line, there is not going to be another round of arguments and
weeks of competing motions and mish-mash here. This is the judge in the
Mazars case saying, you know what, I`m ready. Let`s do this thing. Let`s
do the whole thing. Injunctions, merits, let`s do it all.
And you know what? Let`s do it all on Tuesday, all that day. And then
Which means if the president`s best hope here was to slow everything down
as much as possible for as long as possible by getting it into the courts,
well, getting it into the courts doesn`t necessarily guarantee that it`s
gummed up forever. Sometimes the courts decide they don`t want to go slow.
I should mention that the president`s new raft of lawyers that are just
working to keep his taxes and his finances secret, I should mention that
they also filed a basically identical lawsuit trying to block Deutsche Bank
and another bank called Capital One from responding to their own subpoenas
that they got from the Intelligence Committee and from the Financial
According to “The New York Times,” were it not for that lawsuit that the
president filed against those banks on Monday of this week, Deutsche Bank
was poised to hand over to Congress, to the Intelligence Committee and the
Financial Services Committee, a huge trove of financial documents about
their dealings with the president, including years` worth of material from
his federal tax returns. So, they were poised to hand that stuff over on
Monday. They did not hand that stuff over on Monday because that deadline
and that subpoena was delayed because of this lawsuit that the president
filed, so the president`s private lawsuit, it did delay that at least for a
Honestly, though, now that the twin to that lawsuit, the one at Mazars, now
that it just got put on warp speed by a federal judge who appears to not
want to play along with the delay of game strategy, I mean, we have to see
if that one blows up fast now, too. I mean, we`re in this really
interesting moment, and I think it`s easy to get overwhelmed by following
every, you know, picayune detail of every different fight and the different
rhetoric on both sides, and I think it`s easy to get overwhelmed because of
the sheer scope of the conflict, the sheer number of points of
confrontation between, honestly, the White House and the Mueller
investigation, between the White House and congressional oversight, right?
We entered into this Thunder Dome this week of the president and the White
House saying we will block all subpoenas related to Robert Mueller or
anything else. We will block all testimony. We will assert executive
privilege over everything Robert Mueller did, right?
And each of these is its own interesting drama, but I think because there
are so many points of conflict right now, because the assertions by the
White House and by the president are so broad, this stone wall on
everything, I think it`s become common wisdom that, you know, however
unsustainable this posture might be for the White House in the long run,
surely they can use this posture to delay everything for a long time, for
months, for years, definitely until after the 2020 election.
I understand why it`s tempting to feel that way because the amount of
things they`re fighting on feels so overwhelming but that may not be true.
I mean, to the extent that stuff is headed to court, judges don`t have to
be slow. Some of them are already saying they`re not going to be. I mean,
today in the Roger Stone case, the federal judge in D.C. who was hearing
that case just walked right up to what otherwise looked like a big legal
knot and just cut right through it. Roger Stone in his case had demanded
he be allowed to see the full, unredacted Mueller report to help him in
preparing his defense. There are certainly elements of the Mueller report
that seem to pertain to the charges against him.
Well, the prosecutors in the Roger Stone case said they objected to that.
They didn`t want him to get the unredacted report. The judge who is
arbitrating in that case, right, the judge who is oversees that case in
those disputes said in order to decide this particular dispute, she`d need
to see the material that`s being fought over here. She said she would need
to see the unredacted Mueller report herself, at least the parts that might
be relevant to Roger Stone`s trial.
And the prosecutor said, no, judge, we wouldn`t be able to do that for you.
We can`t give you the unredacted report, judge, to which the judge just
today said, oh, yes? You can`t give that to me? How about I give you a
court order that tells you to do that? To which the prosecutors today
said, ah, well, in that case, uh, and so ordered.
Now, the Justice Department has by Monday to give Judge Amy Berman Jackson
in D.C. the Mueller report including the bits that are redacted for her to
review. Specifically she wants all the redactions revealed from, quote,
those portions of the report that relate to defendant Stone and/or the
dissemination of hacked materials, including but not limited to pages 41
through 65 of volume I of the Mueller report.
Now we know from what we can see of Mueller` report and the way the
redactions are coded, the redactions she`s going to get to see, blacked out
to us that will not be blacked out to her, it includes all the different
categories of redactions that they made. The one that`s labeled
investigative techniques, which I think basically means intelligence
sources and methods, also personal privacy redactions, also grand jury
redactions, also harm to an ongoing matter, which in this case is probably
a bunch of stuff that relates directly to the case against Stone.
I mean, we now know based on today`s court order from Judge Jackson that
this judge is about to become one of only a few people in the country who
have seen everything that`s in Mueller`s report on all of this stuff. And
honestly, I have to tell you, this is likely only the first federal judge
who is going to get the unredacted Mueller report, another judge in the
same district in D.C. has signaled that he may also get the full report
minus all of its redactions as part of the Freedom of Information Act
lawsuits being fought out now by different entities that are trying to get
the whole thing.
So, I mean, listen, all of these fights are interesting and you can – I
mean, you can follow any of them at any level of detail that you want.
They`re all interesting. They all, though, have two sides. And the courts
may move faster than you think when it comes to blocking the financial
subpoenas from Congress, right, that are likely to produce tons of
financial information about the president and also tons of his federal tax
The Treasury Department deciding not to hand over the president`s taxes to
the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee despite a law that says they
have to. That`s about to become its own legal fight. We expect the Ways
and Means Chairman Richie Neal to announce tomorrow if he`s taking the
administration directly to court for defying that law that says the IRS has
to give him the president`s taxes.
We`ve actually got some new news coming up on that in just a minute that
you`re going to want to hear. I believe we`ve got this exclusively
tonight. Nobody else has reported it.
You should also know that the financial and tax materials that the
president is trying so hard to block with the standoff involving the IRS
and with these lawsuits in federal court, even all of those fights haven`t
stopped at least Deutsche Bank already, and we think also the president`s
insurance broker already from handing over subpoenaed financial documents
and potentially tax documents already to New York state authorities, even
as he`s fighting to try to keep that stuff secret through all the other
means he can. Some of it`s already been handed over to authorities in New
New York state legislature is moving ahead with legislation that will allow
them to convey all of the president`s state tax returns to congressional
committees, including his real estate and business taxes. At least one
federal judge is now reviewing what was redacted from Robert Mueller`s
report. A second federal judge may soon follow.
I mean, nothing is stuck, right? Everything is moving. And just because a
fight has been declared does not mean that a stalemate is inevitable or if
there is a short stalemate that it will inevitability become a long one.
But in the midst of all of this, and it is a real push me, pull you at this
point. It is not stasis. Stuff is happening. In the middle of this, here
is my question, and I think it`s answerable. And the House Intelligence
Committee chairman is here in part tonight because I`m hoping that he can
Regardless of whether or not you think President Trump should be impeached,
regardless of whether or not you think the U.S. Senate would ever vote to
remove President Trump, were he impeached in the House, regardless of
whether or not you think the Democrats would find it politically
advantageous and disadvantageous to mount an impeachment effort against the
president in the House of Representatives, regardless of what you think
about all of that stuff, specifically here`s my question: Would it help
congressional Democrats get some stuff that they otherwise couldn`t get if
they opened up formal impeachment proceedings in the House? Would opening
an impeachment inquiry open legal doors for them to get stuff they
otherwise couldn`t get? Would it give them a legal advantage in trying to
obtain some of the information that the White House is fighting them on
The White House is asserting executive privilege in some blanket way over
everything that Robert Mueller did, right? That`s one of the remarkable
revelations of this week`s news cycle, right? It`s amazing that they are
trying to do that.
Now in the long run are they going to get away with it? I don`t know. In
the short and medium term, they`re going to use that, it seems, to try to
block access to the rest of Mueller`s report that we haven`t seen, to block
access to the underlying evidence from Mueller`s report that nobody`s seen.
They will use it to try to block not just Don McGahn but all Mueller
witnesses from testifying or from handing over documents related to
They will use that assertion of privilege to try to block Mueller himself
from testifying. OK. Well, procedurally, would it help Congress defeat
those efforts by the White House? Would it help them get those witnesses
and those materials and that testimony if Democrats in the House took the
formal step of opening an impeachment inquiry?
Does having an impeachment inquiry open and ongoing give them more legal
leverage to obtain those things? If so, why wouldn`t they just formally
open an impeachment inquiry? Regardless of all the things that impeachment
down the road might mean, why wouldn`t you just start that proceeding?
I mean, there is supposedly this political worry that the Republicans will
get some advantage in 2020 from saying the Democrats want to impeach Trump,
so therefore you can`t open up an impeachment inquiry. Hey, surprise, you
know what? Republicans are going to say that anyway whether or not the
Democrats are technically formally doing it.
The Republicans are already trying to get political advantage. The
president is already trying to get political advantage saying the Democrats
are coming after him, trying to impeach him. So, that`s – that`s baked
in. There is no way that you can avoid that attack from the Republicans by
not formally opening an inquiry.
But when legal observers say that opening an inquiry, opening an
impeachment inquiry would give the house more tools to actually get the
stuff they`re seeking, that it would disadvantage the White House in their
now ramped up ongoing efforts to block all forms of congressional
oversight, are those legal observers right? And if so, is that the grounds
on which the Democrats might see clear to proceed to that step and open up
an impeachment inquiry, not because they`re sure that they`re going to
impeach Donald Trump let alone remove him from office, but only because
they need to start that inquiry in order to get access to the information,
testimony and documents that they would otherwise be getting where the
president and the White House not fighting them the way they are.
Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff is now suggesting that may be
what is about to happen here and he joins us live next.
MADDOW: It`s barely a year ago that Congressman Adam Schiff, the top
Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, was writing in “The New York Times”
that Democrats should not be considering impeaching President Donald Trump.
Well, this week, Congressman Schiff who is now chair of the Intelligence
Committee and who is now faced with an across-the-board fight all the
subpoenas stonewall effort from the White House, now, Congressman Schiff
tells “The Washington Post”, quote: These continued acts of willful
obstruction add new weight to those who have advocated impeachment.
In a fascinating interview with Greg Sargent at “The Post”, Schiff now says
the case for impeachment will be weightier still if starting impeachment
proceedings could allow Congress to break through White House obstruction
in a way they currently cannot, if Congress` legal right to the materials
they otherwise can`t obtained will be strengthened if they formally start
impeachment proceedings. This is one of the questions congressional
Democrats are grappling with right now.
Regardless of how anybody might feel about the ultimate task of trying of
impeach the president, literally setting that aside, is an impeachment
proceeding basically, procedurally the path they need to go down if the
White House is going to fight the way they are to block access to the
Mueller investigation and to block access to everything else on which the
Congress wants either to investigate or to exert oversight?
Joining us now is Congressman Adam Schiff, chairman of the House
Mr. Chairman, thank you so much for making time tonight. It`s nice to see
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): Good to see you.
MADDOW: Am I right to characterize that shift in your position? Over
time, you`d been very articulate in the past about why it was not an
appropriate time and it wasn`t appropriate circumstances to move on
impeachment. The way I hear you now is that you may think that impeachment
proceedings might be sort of be sort of utile, might be helpful simply to
obtain information that you can`t otherwise get.
SCHIFF: Well, when I wrote that op-ed, and that was over a year ago, I was
urging that we wait and see what the results of the investigation are
before we form a judgment, and I did so because I thought we ought to know
what the evidence is, but also because if we had to take that extraordinary
step, we should communicate this is not something we`re eager to do, it`s
something that we`re, in fact, reluctant to do.
Now we have the report and we are being prohibited from getting the
evidence behind that report. We`re even being barred, at least at the
moment, from hearing from the man who did the investigation, Mr. Mueller,
and I think this does give weight to the – those calling for impeachment
because after obstructing the investigation in a potentially criminal way,
Donald Trump is now obstructing Congress.
As a legal matter, there are a few discreet areas where it may make a
difference. In most of the document demands it shouldn`t make a difference
whether it`s an impeachment proceeding or it`s an oversight proceeding.
You know, the claims of executive privilege, for example, can be advanced
in either proceeding, but there are provisions like the grand jury
provision, the exception for grand jury materials that make reference to a
judicial proceeding. That was the basis in which those materials were made
available to Congress during Watergate.
But there is also language in that provision that says preliminary to a
grand jury proceeding, which I think applies here, but it`s possible that a
court might find otherwise. To me, though, the Justice Department really
shouldn`t be able to maintain a position you can`t indict a sitting
president, you can only impeach one, and, by the way, we`re not going to
give you the evidence you need until you begin an impeachment without
knowing what the full evidence is.
But if that argument were to prevail in court, I think, yes, it would
proceed strongly into initiating a proceeding, if that`s the only way we
can overcome the White House`s obstructionism.
MADDOW: There is a matter I want to try to disentangle with you because I
think it`s being discussed more and more in the media. It`s being
discussed more and more in terms of this confrontation with the White House
over what`s happening to Mueller`s findings and I think it`s sometimes
being conflated. You have now issued a subpoena to the Justice Department
for the unredacted Mueller report and for the underlying evidence and
intelligence information that pertains to that report.
But as I understand it, you have also made a request to be briefed on the
intelligence findings of Mueller`s investigation. Now, should we see those
as two different requests and how should we expect those two tracks to
proceed if, in fact, these are two different things?
SCHIFF: You know, they really are two different things, although there is
a lot of overlap, but roughly you can look at what the Judiciary Committee
is doing as centered around the second article of the Mueller report, the
second section on obstruction, and we`re focused on the first section and
that is all of the contacts with the Russians, all of the potential
counterintelligence problems and threats. This investigation, after all,
began as a counterintelligence investigation. It then later became both
counterintelligence is criminal.
We still don`t know what the counterintelligence findings are. We know
from the Mueller report that he had imbedded counterintelligence FBI agents
in his team that wrote their own reports back to headquarters. They`re not
in the Mueller report and we have a separate basis, legal basis to get that
information from the Judiciary Committee.
There are statutes on point that say any intelligence matter must be given
to the Intelligence Committee upon request. There are other statutes that
say we have to be kept currently informed of any significant intelligence
or counterintelligence activity. There is a separate grand jury exception
that says you can provide foreign intelligence and counterintelligence
investigation to any counterintelligence officials that have responsibility
here as we do.
So, we have an independent basis for getting much of the same mission and
then some that pertained to the counterintelligence findings.
MADDOW: And yet you haven`t been getting it.
SCHIFF: And yet we haven`t.
MADDOW: And so, is the remedy there to take them to court? Is the remedy
there to pass a bill? Is the remedy there to turn these requests into
It`s hard for me to see how the – how the – how the path here proceeds in
terms of what leverage you have to obtain these things that you`re saying
by right and in some cases by statute you already should have gotten.
SCHIFF: You`re absolutely right. In fact we were getting
counterintelligence briefings up until when Comey was fired and then it
stopped. That really is a violation of the legal requirements.
You know, the remedies that we have are really the same as the Judiciary
Committee and the same as the Ways and Means Committee, they`re violating
the statute, we can enforce it in court but that takes time. That really
doesn`t necessarily change in an impeachment proceeding where they can
fight us likewise, but there is another remedy that I think we really need
to consider that may be even quicker than an impeachment proceeding or the
court proceeding, and that is reviving Congress` inherent power of
contempt, something we utilized up until the 1930s, where we in effect do
our own judicial proceeding in the Congress, have a little mini trial in
the Congress and hold people in contempt and responsible and compel their
production without even going to court.
Now, it used to be we imprisoned people, but we could also fine them
$25,000 a day until they comply or some other number. That may be an even
swifter remedy if we need to embark on it and we may have to.
MADDOW: Congressman Adam Schiff, chairman of the House Intelligence
Committee, you make news every time you`re on this show, sir. Thank you
very much for joining us. I appreciate you being here.
SCHIFF: Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: All right. Still ahead tonight, Senator Amy Klobuchar is here.
I`m very excited about that. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Do not sleep in tomorrow. Set your alarms if you`re me.
Tomorrow`s decision day for Richard Neal, chairman of the House Ways and
Means Committee. Now that the Treasury Department has officially said no
to his demand for the president`s tax returns, the chairman told reporters
today he will make a decision by tomorrow about what he`s going to do in
response. And the drama here isn`t just what`s in the president`s taxes
and why is the president turning himself into a gigantic pretzel to try to
block people from seeing them – I mean, the drama here now is also that
Chairman Neal`s request is not an optional thing.
The Treasury Department is required by law to give the chairman of the Ways
and Means Committee anybody`s tax returns for any legislative purpose, just
because he said he wants to see them. That`s why Chairman Neal has now
been signaling that he might even skip subpoenas, he might skip threats of
contempt, he might just fast forward straight to the courts to get this
settled and to get the president`s taxes, as he is legally authorized to
Well, while we wait for that potential court fight to start over the
president`s tax returns which, again, we`re going to hear about as soon as
tomorrow, there is one little piece of this that I think is worth sticking
a pin in. This is Michael Desmond. He is the head lawyer at the IRS,
chief counsel. Chief counsel is the number two job at the IRS.
In this case, he was hand-picked by the president for that job.
Specifically, he was hand-picked and then he was also hand pushed through
his confirmation by President Trump. “The New York Times” reported ahead
of this confirmation that the president personally intervened to push along
Desmond`s confirmation. The president personally asked the Republican
leadership in the Senate to prioritize this guy`s confirmation vote, even
ahead of the confirmation for William Barr to be attorney general. Wow.
The IRS chief counsel not only handpicked by the president, but he is seen
by the president as more important, a bigger priority than even the
attorney general? Hmm.
Turns out, surprise, Michael Desmond previously advised President Trump`s
businesses on tax issues. Oh, so maybe that`s why Trump wants him to be
the top lawyer at the IRS. Well, now, at the time Michael Desmond said
that nobody should worry about any potential conflict or loyalty issues
there. A spokesman for Mr. Desmond said during the confirmation process
that if Desmond was confirmed and, quote, something involving Trump came
up, Mr. Desmond would seek advice from ethics officials, right?
That makes sense. He worked on tax issues for Trump`s businesses. If
Trump`s taxes come up while he`s the lead lawyer at the IRS and the number
two official at the agency, that would seem like a conflict, he should
getting ethics advice.
Well, now, Mr. Desmond is the IRS chief counsel. He is in that job. He
got confirmed. Something involving the president`s taxes most definitely
has come up, right?
The Treasury Department and the IRS have said, no, no, no, we`re not going
to hand over the president`s tax returns despite that law that says we have
to. The question is, did the IRS chief counsel Michael Desmond ever
consult ethics officials like he promised? Is he recused from matters
having to do with the president`s taxes given that he advised the
president`s business on tax issues before his confirmation?
Has he been recuse from dealing with those things at the IRS? If not, how
has he been involved in this decision-making process? What kind of advice
has he been giving? We don`t know.
So, we tried to ask the IRS on Tuesday. For three days, we didn`t get so
much as a tumbleweed blowing our way from the IRS in response to our calls.
We tried calling. We tried emailing. We were about to try sending smoke
signals this afternoon when we finally heard back.
And this is what the IRS is finally willing to tell us about whether or not
their chief counsel who advised Trump`s businesses on tax issues, whether
he is recused from making decisions at the IRS about releasing the
president`s taxes. They told us this, quote: Federal privacy laws prohibit
us from commenting on specific taxpayer cases or situations.
Which is not an answer to any of the questions we asked about the IRS and
their chief counsel and whether he`s working on this thing where he would
appear to have a very big conflict. We tried following up to get an actual
answer to our question. We never heard back.
So, I mean, we`ve been asking for three days now. Just stick a pin in
this. The IRS and the Treasury Department are gearing up for what looks
like an unprecedented court fight over the sitting president`s taxes and
the Treasury Department and the IRS defying black letter law that says the
president`s taxes have to be handed over. The IRS and the Treasury
Department saying, no, we`re not doing it.
And the top lawyer at the IRS, we`re not allowed to know? The IRS will not
give us a straight answer about whether or not their top lawyer is recused
from participating in that fight because he used to advise the president on
We`ve been asking him for three days. We`ll keep going. We`ll ask do
more. Watch this space.
MADDOW: Joining us here now on person, in person, on set, on person, in
set is Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota. She`s in the running to be the
Democratic nominee for president of the United States. She also serves on
the Senate Judiciary Committee, which I fell in love with this week because
of its list of questions –
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Oh, yes.
MADDOW: – they published last night about things that should be asked
about Robert Mueller`s report.
Senator, it`s great to see you.
KLOBUCHAR: Thank you, Rachel. Great to be here.
MADDOW: How are you enjoying running for president?
KLOBUCHAR: I love it. You get to talk to people. You get to talk about
your ideas and it is really a moment in time as you know like we`ve never
seen before in this country.
I was in Milwaukee last night talking to voters there and did a town hall.
I did one in New Hampshire earlier, and I can tell you that people are
concerned about the rule of law in this country, but they still are asking
about those bread and butter issues as the president gloats about the
economy, people are worried about losing their health care. I just put out
a proposal on mental health and addiction and lots of interest in that
because there`s just – a lot of people feel like they don`t know where to
go for help. And then you got people that just simply are having trouble
And this president seems to act like he should be celebrating every day
when in fact, there are so many people that still are having trouble in
MADDOW: I saw the announcement today from your campaign. You`re headed to
Puerto Rico soon, as well.
I wondered if – what happened to Puerto Rico with Hurricane Maria is such
an epic tragedy in it own terms and the size of that tragedy compared to
the attention that it got as a matter of government accountability, that
ratio is unbelievable and is a moral stain on our country. I wonder if the
presidential campaign might actually be a way to at least get some
accountability, at least have some oversight, at least have some attention
to what went so wrong with the government`s handling of Puerto Rico.
KLOBUCHAR: Well, exactly. And a lot of it is to do with this president
who continually wants to look at Puerto Rico in a different way when in
fact there are citizens there, there are people – this is a U.S. territory
and he is someone that just wants to look at them and let them go I guess,
when in fact you have people that need so much help, that lost everything,
that lost their homes, that lost their hospitals, that lost her schools.
And one of the things I`m doing there is to go to see some of the efforts
that are underway to make things better, but the help that they still need.
And, of course, that`s why the House of Representatives combined this with
all of the other tragedies we`ve seen. With the fires from California,
with the floods in Iowa and Missouri, and the help they need and, of
course, in Florida. Not too far from Puerto Rico.
And so, you have this combination which is what we do when a disaster
strikes our country people, and strikes our people. We respond. We don`t
just let them out there.
We did it when New Jersey needed help, we helped them. When North Dakota
needed help, with Grand Forks in that flood, we helped them. We come
together as a nation.
And this is just one more example and I believe in the end, we will come
together. I know Senator Shelby, Senator Leahy, Republican and Democrat,
are working valiantly on this from the appropriations side in the Senate,
and Senator Shelby is often getting in arguments with his own Republican
Party White House because we want to do it the right way.
And this president just looks for divides, right? He wants to blame people
in Puerto Rico. He wants to blame immigrants. He wants to blame people of
color. Every day where there is a divide, he looks for it.
MADDOW: Literally – I`m sorry, I exclaimed for a moment. I got upset.
The president literally pulled out a piece of paper at his rally last night
to try to gin up anger in the crowd he was speaking to in Florida about
Puerto Rico getting too much aid. He had this totally false graph that was
not true information showing Puerto Rico is receiving a disproportionate
amount of funds, trying to egg the crowd into being mad at that and booing
that, and talking about a zero sum game where Florida is being denied. You
people here at this Trump rally are being denied because those Puerto
Ricans are getting everything.
KLOBUCHAR: When, in fact, we want to help both places, right?
KLOBUCHAR: And when, in fact, there are so many Puerto Ricans that call
KLOBUCHAR: And the Florida representatives traditionally have tried to
help both Puerto Rico and Florida as have other people in this country.
You just don`t treat your fellow citizens like this. You just don`t do it.
MADDOW: Yes, and try to leverage anger about it in order to sow that
resentment in a way that is –
KLOBUCHAR: That`s what he does.
MADDOW: I want to talk to you about a whole bunch of different things –
MADDOW: – including some of the stuff that`s happening on the Judiciary
Committee right now.
Can you stay with us?
MADDOW: Senator Amy Klobuchar is here.
We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: Back with us now, Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota. She serves
on the Senate Judiciary Committee. She`s also running for president in the
Democratic primary this year.
Senator, thank you for sticking around.
KLOBUCHAR: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: You wrote a letter to Robert Mueller after the hearing in the
Senate Judiciary Committee where you questioned Attorney General Barr
pretty sharply, including about this very discreet issue about whether or
not Mueller looked at President Trump`s financial history and his taxes as
part of his investigation. And he responded and said, I don`t know. And
you asked if you could follow up with a written question.
KLOBUCHAR: It was worse than that. He said, well, I don`t know.
MADDOW: That`s a better impression.
KLOBUCHAR: And I said, well, you don`t know? I was surprised. I thought
he might know that they looked at the president`s financial documents.
He`s the attorney general, highest law enforcement officer in the country.
MADDOW: He oversees that investigation.
KLOBUCHAR: Yes. And he`s not – and then he says, well, you`ll have to
ask Bob Mueller when he comes, and I go, oh, OK. Well, that`s what I`ll do
And so, now, we have Senator Graham telling us that he`s not going to be
calling Mueller except for some very narrow things.
KLOBUCHAR: So, we`re not going to be able to hear. So, that`s why I wrote
the letter to Bob Mueller himself, asking for those tax returns and the
financial documents. I haven`t heard back yet.
KLOBUCHAR: But we are waiting and as you know, proceedings are going on in
the House as well after – you just pointed out in your last segment, the
Mnuchin and the Treasury Department and everyone else decided not to
release these tax returns. That is something that when you really look at,
it should be released.
And I think when you step away from all this, though, as you so well
pointed out, this is really about the rule of law. It is Thomas Paine and
common sense who once said in America, the king is not the law, the law is
KLOBUCHAR: And so, this is about the law and our country and holding the
president accountable. But it is also about making sure that our election
is not invaded by a foreign power again. And they didn`t use tanks, they
didn`t use missiles but they invaded our election all the same, and we have
an opportunity to protect it.
And I will tell you one thing, when you talk to people out there, while
this is not the first issue on their mind when you`re in New Hampshire or
Nevada or South Carolina, it`s not the number one thing that they say. But
when you start talking about the rule of law and having a president in the
White House that obeys the law and believes in the truth, that`s what they
want to hear, and that`s what they care about.
And they understand that we can do two things at once. We can pursue an
economic agenda that`s positive, and we can get to the bottom of what
MADDOW: How do you think it`s going to resolve – I mean, let`s take the
microcosmic issue of that letter you wrote to Robert Mueller and you
haven`t gotten a response yet. It`s a direct question. William Barr said
he didn`t know. I don`t know if he`s ever going to answer the question.
So, a really interesting and important point, did Mueller ever look at the
president`s financials? It`s a huge background issue –
MADDOW: – in terms of this fight over tax returns and all the rest of it.
MADDOW: How will you get that answer? How will that be pursued? How will
that resolve? They`re trying to block access to everything Mueller did.
KLOBUCHAR: Well, we know, first of all, some things are going on right
here in New York, where they`re trying to get it in other ways. I think
We also know that the House now has a case that can go to court to try to
get those taxes because they were denied access. And the House also has a
lot of power.
The Democrats will run the House. They don`t as you know run the Senate.
So, they have the ability to get that. And I think that`s all important.
But I think our job right now in the Senate is to push on this issue of
foreign interference in our election and make sure people understand what
happened. This isn`t meddling. This was an invasion by a foreign power,
and we now know as we look at all of this evidence that`s come out, and
that`s why we did all those questions, we know that we can`t ask Mueller
right now, and so, we have to do everything to get him before Congress, for
the American people.
And at some point, he won`t be special counsel anymore.
KLOBUCHAR: And then, we`ll have another way to get him to testify. But we
have to move forward.
MADDOW: Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Democratic candidate for
president – Senator, it`s always good to have you here.
KLOBUCHAR: Thank you.
MADDOW: Thank you so much.
We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: So this is an important announcement about this show and something
that`s going to happen here tomorrow. You just heard Senator Amy Klobuchar
describe what Russia did to our democracy in 2016 as an invasion. That was
the word she used.
When it came to the investigation of that invasion and its implications,
the FBI general counsel at the time, James Baker, had a seat right inside
that from the very, very beginning. James Baker was there from moment zero
as the top legal official in the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Now, Baker has been pilloried by Republicans and by conservative media for
taking on the responsibility of uncovering what Russia did to us in 2016.
Thus far, he`s been all but unable to publicly talk about that experience
and to explain what he did.
But now, he can`t talk about it. With the redacted Mueller report out and
with House Republicans having released his closed door testimony, former
FBI General Counsel James Baker is going to be here tomorrow night as a
guest on this show. He will be talking about a number of these issues for
the first time in any media environment. This is a very big deal for me.
James Baker is going to be here tomorrow night.
That does it for us tonight. We`ll see you again tomorrow.
Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD” with the great Lawrence O`Donnell.
Good evening, Lawrence.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
Copyright 2019 ASC Services II Media, LLC. All materials herein are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content.>
Copyright 2019 ASC Services II Media, LLC. All materials herein are
protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced,
distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the
prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter
or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the