Alabama Senate passes Abortion Ban 25-6. TRANSCRIPT: 5/14/19, The Rachel Maddow Show.
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: I mean, having gone through the skirmishes now,
individually, with allies, there`s every reason for them not to be
particularly supportive of what we`re doing here.
AUSTAN GOOLSBEE, FORMER CHAIR OF THE COUNCIL OF ECONOMIC ADVISERS: Of
course. Of course. They`re not supportive. They`re irritated. They`re
angry. We`re about to slap tariffs on Canada and on Europe, and Europe is
about to have retaliatory tariffs against the U.S.
HAYES: All right. Austan Goolsbee, thank you for joining us.
GOOLSBEE: Thank you for having me.
HAYES: That is ALL IN for this evening.
“THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW” starts right now. Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thanks, my friend. Much
HAYES: You bet.
MADDOW: And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. Very happy to
have you with us.
If the great Oprah Winfrey were running the scandals of the Trump
administration, as a daytime talk show, today`s episode of that talk show
would be the one where the audience was invited by Oprah to all check under
their seats because, yes, it`s true, everybody here, you get a subpoena,
you get a subpoena, and everybody gets a subpoena. Everybody`s got one
under their seats right now.
Since the special counsel`s investigation was ended, under circumstances we
still don`t totally explain – still don`t totally understand – and since
the special counsel Robert Mueller submitted his report about that
investigation, we`ve been living in this very specific era, right? This
very specific world of confrontation.
I mean, the president and the Trump administration had an initial burst of
claiming vindication and exoneration by that report and the attorney
general characterizing the report in ways that couldn`t be checked by
anybody, but that whole era lasted, like, five seconds. Since then, they
have bolted themselves down into an increasingly hardened effort to try to
block access to Mueller, himself, to block access to Mueller`s findings, to
block access to witnesses who testified to Mueller, to block the production
of documents that were used in Mueller`s investigation or that pertained to
his findings or to subject of his investigation, and to block Congress from
obtaining any information, any documents or access to any witnesses, that
could help Congress follow up on what Mueller did.
And, importantly, that could help Congress follow up on what we now know
Mueller did not investigate. I mean, before the Trump administration, it
was pretty much a settled matter as to whether or not a White House and a
president had to comply with court orders and subpoenas. I mean, yes,
executive branches and congresses always fight about all sorts of things,
right? And all presidents try to keep some stuff secret.
But there was a unanimous Supreme Court decision that sort of teed up the
whole cataclysmic end of the Watergate scandal, right? There was U.S. v.
Nixon, unanimous decision by the Supreme Court which said, yeah, presidents
do have to respond to subpoenas and court orders. Before now, that has not
been considered one of the more controversial decisions in American
jurisprudence. Everybody sort of thinks of that as a settled matter,
But now, we are in this era where we have got this incredible clash
happening, right? Since the Mueller report was submitted such as it is,
since the Mueller investigation ended, since the countries had to decide
what to do with the end of that investigation and the consequences of what
Mueller has been allowed to say, thus far, we are in this moment where
according to this White House, all voluntary requests for information and
testimony are to be denied. That is why it`s raining subpoenas now and now
we`ve got the president and the White House trying to mount a legal war
effort to try to stop everybody from complying with all subpoenas, too. At
least for as long as they can get away with it.
Well, one of these subpoena fights was potentially resolved today in a sort
of unusual way. It`s about the president`s eldest son and namesake, Donald
Trump Jr., he testified to Senate Intel among other things about the Trump
Tower Moscow project in 2017. There are indications that the contours of
his testimony very much matched what Michael Cohen also testified to
Congress about when it came to the Trump Tower Moscow project.
Now, Cohen later admitted in court that his testimony was false. That`s
part of why he`s serving time in federal prison right now as we speak. Did
Donald Trump Jr. tell the same lies to the Intelligence Committee about
Trump Tower Moscow? If so, why was Michael Cohen prosecuted for that and
Donald Trump Jr. has not been, right? It`s not an unreasonable question in
these circumstances where Michael Cohen is literally locked up right now in
a federal prison cell for that and Donald Trump Jr. is still out in the
wild with these questions still outstanding about the veracity of his
testimony on that same topic.
But the Intelligence Committee, the Senate Intelligence Committee, they did
at least try to arrange for Donald Trump Jr. to come back in and clarify
his testimony. There were reportedly protracted negotiations about him
coming back in on a voluntary basis. He reportedly stood the committee up
and refused to come back in on a voluntary basis. That`s what led to this
recent subpoena ordering him to testify, whether he wanted to or not.
Now, the White House and Donald Trump Jr. have been signaling that they
would resist that subpoena among all the other subpoenas they want resisted
as well, but now tonight, they do appear to have come to some sort of
negotiated accommodation. Donald Trump Jr. will reportedly appear behind
closed doors before the Senate Intelligence Committee next month under a
new agreement in which the number of topics he`s asked about the amount of
time he has to testify will both be limited by agreement in advance.
That`s the kind of agreement, right, limiting the total amount of time,
limiting the topics you can be asked about. That`s the type of agreement
you would usually think would be negotiated in the context of a voluntary
request for someone to appear, right?
You wouldn`t expect the committee with subpoena power to make that kind of
agreement, right? To agree to those kinds of limitations and
accommodations. Frankly, with subpoena power, they have the ability to
compel you to comply. They have the ability to compel you to show up and
testify without any terms and accommodations. Why would they negotiate?
But, hey, this is a Trump family member and so special treatment, I
suppose, is a given here. And incidentally, that means the Trump White
House and Trump family have thus been given their first reward for this
blanket stance they`ve taken since the Mueller report was submitted in
which they say all subpoenas should be defied. Apparently, that stance
already earned them relief from some of the things that Donald Trump Jr.
would otherwise have been compelled to testify about, apparently that
stance has also earned them a time limitation on the things – on the
amount of time that he`ll have to spend testifying.
So, we got the news today about Donald Jr., the resolution of that subpoena
fight, at least it appears that way. And on the heels of that news that we
got late today about Donald Trump Jr. and Senate Intelligence, we also got
remarkable new news from the other intelligence committee, from the one in
the House. News that lawyers working for president Trump and the Trump
Organization and for the president`s adult children, their lawyers,
themselves, may be on the hook or may at least compelled to spill when it
comes to one of the alleged obstruction of justice efforts that`s described
in some detail in Mueller`s redacted report.
This is from volume 2, page 134, of Mueller`s report. Quote: After the
media began questioning Trump`s connections to Russia, Michael Cohen
promoted a party line that publicly distanced Trump from Russia and
asserted he had no business there. Cohen continued to adhere to that party
line in 2017 when Congress asked him to provide documents and testimony in
its Russia investigation. In an attempt to minimize the president`s
connections to Russia, Cohen submitted a letter to Congress falsely stating
he only briefed Trump on the Trump Tower Moscow project three times, that
he did not consider asking Trump to travel to Russia, that Cohen had not
received a response to an outreach he made to the Russian government, and,
he testified, the project ended in January 2016, before the first
Republican caucus or primary.
None of those things were true.
While working on that false congressional statement, Cohen had extensive
discussions with the president`s personal counsel, who according to Cohen,
said Cohen should not contradict the president. Cohen eventually entered
into a joint defense agreement with the president and other individuals who
were part of the Russia investigation. Cohen`s false statement to Congress
was circulated in advance – in advance to – sorry, Cohen`s false
statement to Congress was circulated in advance to and edited by members of
that joint defense agreement.
Before statement was finalized, early drafts contained a sentence stating
the building project led me to make limited contacts with Russian
government officials. But in the final version of the statement, that line
was deleted. Cohen thought he was told it was a decision of the joint
defense agreement to delete the sentence about his contacts with Russian
government officials. Cohen did not push back on the deletion.
Cohen said the release of his opening remarks was intended to shape the
narrative and let other people who might be witnesses know what Cohen was
saying so they could follow the same message. Cohen recalled that on
September 20th, after Cohen`s opening remarks had been printed by the
media, the president`s personal counsel told him that the president was
pleased with his Trump Tower Moscow statement.
President was pleased with it. Cohen stated that the president`s personal
counsel responded it was not necessary to elaborate or include these
details about – sorry, the president stated – sorry, go back to that for
a second. Cohen stated the president`s personal counsel advised him ahead
of his testimony that it was not necessary to elaborate or include some of
the details that he had planned to give about his contacts with the Russian
government and President Trump`s notice about the Trump Tower Moscow
So, this is all what`s described in the Mueller report about Michael Cohen
and his testimony about the Trump Tower Moscow project. The president was
very pleased with his statement to Congress, right? The president was
happy with that statement, with what he told Congress about Trump Tower
Moscow. What the president was so pleased for we later find out, of
course, was a false statement to Congress about Trump Tower Moscow for
which Michael Cohen is now in prison.
But what Cohen is alleging here, what Cohen told Mueller is the president`s
personal counsel, Jay Sekulow, and other lawyers involved in the joint
defense agreement, they specifically shaped his statement, including taking
out the stuff about his contacts with the Russian government. Well,
Michael Cohen is already paying for that. He is in prison paying for that
But what about the other people who were allegedly involved in crafting
that false statement for him in that act of obstruction, right? Well,
that`s why all of those lawyers working for the president and the Trump
Organization and the president`s adult children, that`s why all of those
lawyers may soon get subpoenas under their seats, too.
(BEGN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): If there were others that were participating in
that act of obstruction of justice, if there were others that were knowing
of that false statement, participated in the drafting of that false
statement, we need to know about it, we need to expose it and we need to
deter other people from coming before our committee and lying.
Mr. Cohen`s testimony was important but also the documentary record is
important, and it raises profound questions about whether Michael Cohen,
alone, without assistance, without encouragement, would take it upon
himself to mislead our committee about Donald Trump`s pursuit of money in
Russia during the campaign.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff today
speaking to reporters after the news broke that his committee demanded
documents and testimony from Jay Sekulow, the president`s personal counsel,
as described in many the Mueller report. Also, Alan Futerfas, and Alan
Garten and Abbe Lowell who represent the president`s business and his adult
children and how are part of this joint defense agreement which Michael
Cohen says was used for a criminal and corrupt purpose to get him to lie to
Congress about the Trump Tower Moscow deal.
Now, those lawyers are being told to hand over documents and also to
testify, themselves. What we learned today is that back in March, those
lawyers were told by the Intelligence Committee that they needed to hand
over documents related to that alleged obstruction of justice. Documents
related to the drafting of Michael Cohen`s false statement to Congress,
documents about the joint defense agreement, documents and communications
about whether pardons were offered or discussed for Cohen or other
witnesses. Statements about the Trump Tower Moscow project. Tons of
I mean, the document request, itself, is sort of stunning. I mean, even
just the pardon part of it is amazing. I mean, these lawyers are being
told, I`ll just read you the pardon part of it, they`re being told to hand
over documents or communications about, quote, a presidential pre-pardon,
global pardon, pardon or other pardon-related concept, for or related to
Michael Cohen, Jared Kushner, Donald Trump Jr., Ivanka Trump, the Trump
Organization, Paul Manafort, Michael Flynn, Roger Stone, Keith Schiller,
Rhona Graff, Felix Sater, or any witness who testified before the committee
or asked to testify before the committee.
Discussions of a global pardon, a pre-pardon, a potential pardon for the
president`s secretary and bodyguard?
I mean, what we learned today is that this document request, and the
request for testimony by those lawyers, who, again, here, basically accused
by Michael Cohen of engaging in criminal behavior, themselves, I mean, this
demand from the committee, it started in March, it was rejected by these
lawyers. It`s been reiterated by the committee now and now it looks like
we`re on the brink of these lawyers being subpoenaed.
As “The New York Times” puts it tonight, quote, “The lawyers have so far
balked at the committee`s request, but Congressman Schiff is prepared to
issue subpoenas to compel cooperation if necessary.
You know, I think it has long been assumed that the president might have a
kind of tripwire when it comes to investigations, or legal liability,
getting too close to his adult children. I mean, in this case, according
to reporting from “Vanity Fair” and “The New York Times,” one of the
allegations at issue here for which there`s apparently some sort of
documentary trail, is the allegation that lawyer Abbe Lowell specifically
told Cohen that he should tell Congress Ivanka Trump had essentially no
knowledge of Trump Tower Moscow.
According to Michael Cohen, that wasn`t true. According to Cohen, Ivanka
Trump was regularly briefed on Trump Tower Moscow. Well, if as Cohen
alleges, Abbe Lowell was involved in telling Michael Cohen to lie to
Congress, specifically about the involvement of Ivanka Trump in that
I mean, that feels like the sort of thing that could trip 50 tripwires all
at once, right? That`s sensitive on a lot of different levels. But that
is apparently now what the House Intelligence Committee is chasing down and
we are being told to expect that that may be in the form of subpoenas soon.
We are also told by the intelligence committee tonight that as of this
evening, they are in negotiations with the justice department over yet
another subpoena that they issued last week for the redacted material
that`s been cut out of the Mueller report, and for the counterintelligence
information and findings and evidence that were turned up by Mueller`s
investigation but not included in the version of Mueller`s report that
we`ve all seen.
Now, the deadline for the Justice Department to comply with that subpoena
for the unredacted report and the underlying evidence and all the
intelligence information turned up by the investigation, that deadline on
that subpoena is tomorrow. We don`t know exactly what it means that the
committee`s in negotiations with the Justice Department tonight over the
terms of that subpoena and that tomorrow deadline.
The last time we were in this circumstance, though, it was a subpoena from
the judiciary committee which was being ignored by the attorney general and
in that case, the response was that the attorney general was swiftly
subject to a contempt vote. So, we`ll see how this develops, this may very
well go that same direction. It`s worth watching this overnight into
tomorrow morning, though, because a subpoena deadline is a real deadline
and that deadline is tomorrow.
And the conflict over this one – I mean, this particular subpoena that the
attorney general seems poised to defy, this one because it`s from the
Intelligence Committee and because it`s for that specific information
they`re asking for, this one may finally shed some light on what`s emerging
since Mueller`s investigation was ended as kind of the biggest open
question that remains about what happened with that investigation, right?
The Intelligence Committee has issued a subpoena to obtain the
counterintelligence information and the foreign intelligence information
that Mueller turned up.
They shouldn`t have to issue a subpoena to get that. Under black-letter
law, under federal statute, the Intelligence Committees are supposed to be
able to get that whenever they want it. They`re supposed to get briefed
whenever they want to on matters at the Justice Department or in any other
investigating agency that pertain to counterintelligence or foreign
That`s their purview. They have oversight over all of that. So they get
access to anything that touches that area. Nothing is classified from
Well, the Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff has been saying that
his committee hasn`t been receiving those briefings. They haven`t received
any information on any foreign intelligence or counterintelligence related
to Mueller`s investigation since James Comey was fired back in 2017.
They`ve got nothing.
Well, that revelation from Adam Schiff and the fact that we can now see the
redacted Mueller report, and the redacted Mueller report has no information
at all on the counterintelligence consequences of any factual information
they turned up, those two things together have led to this sort of slowly
dawning revelation that Mueller might have not done a counterintelligence
investigation at all.
That if there was a counterintelligence investigation into the Russia
attack and potential links to President Trump or the Trump campaign, it
looks like maybe Mueller isn`t the one who did it. I mean, we know that a
counterintelligence investigation was started. We know one was authorized
and open at the FBI. We know a counterintelligence investigation was
publicly announced by James Comey to Congress when he was still FBI
In terms of what that investigation might look at, off the top of your
head, you right now could list 10 important questions a counterintelligence
investigation on this matter might possibly be looking into. Start with
Trump Tower, alone, Trump Tower Moscow alone. But it really doesn`t appear
that Robert Mueller and his investigators did that.
I mean, as we discussed with former FBI general counsel James Baker on this
show on Friday night, Mueller really appears to have only looked at
criminal matters specifically, which means that this whole question of
whether Russia was compromising people, whether Russia was trying to get
leverage on people, whether there was a foreign influence operation under
way that was targeting people who were then or would be involved in the
U.S. government, for the purposes of advancing the Russian government over
our government, all of those questions, to the extent that
counterintelligence investigation was done, it appears that that was
handled at the FBI, outside the confines of the special counsel`s office,
which means it was not under Robert Mueller`s purview.
It means it was under the purview of the FBI director, Chris Wray. Chris
Wray is the one who appears to have been supervising the
counterintelligence investigation, not Mueller. Mueller just did criminal.
And as that revelation I think is slowly creeping across Washington and the
news media and all of us, all of a sudden we now find ourselves in day
three of the president publicly attacking FBI Director Chris Wray,
including saying now that under Chris Wray, quote, the FBI has no
leadership. The director is protecting the same gang.
So, we`ll have more on that in a second, in terms of what happened to the
intelligence part of this inquiry and what it means to have the president
and now the attorney general appearing to turn the investigators into
targets. To go after the people who have been investigating this matter,
particularly if the counterintelligence investigation is still live, as we
are increasingly seeing the president turn against the FBI director who we
believe has been overseeing the counterintelligence part of this.
We even saw right-wing group connected to the president go after a specific
named prosecutor on Mueller`s team tonight. We`ll have more on that coming
But there was one other landmark thing that happened in this big
confrontation today, which is worth noting as it came up, which is that for
the first time today, a court got involved. For the first time today, the
judicial branch of government, the third branch of government, got involved
in trying to police this question of whether or not the president and this
White House can defy all subpoenas, right? Defy court orders. Defy
subpoenas. Defy any incursion on what they want to do in terms of the law.
Today, for the first time, a judge got into the middle of that and it did
not go well for the president and his lawyers. It really, really did not
go well for them, but we`ve got that story next.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: Today for the first time, a federal judge held a hearing about one
of the subpoenas that the president is fighting. The House Oversight
Committee issued a subpoena to the president`s accounting firm, Mazars, to
get them to hand over information about President Trump`s financial
history. The president has sued to block that subpoena.
Well, today, a federal judge hearing that case took oral arguments from
both sides. I think the “Washington Post” may have summed up how that went
the best, when justice reporter Spencer Hsu described the judge in today`s
hearing as, quote, astonished by President Trump`s argument in trying to
block that subpoena. A federal judge in Washington today expressed
astonishment at arguments raised by President Trump`s lawyers seeking to
block his accounting firm from turning over years of financial records to
the House Oversight Committee.
We`re in this weird moment in this presidency where we`ve got the president
and the White House trying to stop all testimony, to stop all document
requests, to defy all subpoenas in all investigations. And, you know, that
seems nuts, as a matter of politics and history and how we know the three
branches of government are supposed to work.
But that argument from the Trump White House today for the first time got
tested in court, and it got very, very blunt very fast. I mean, at one
point in today`s hearing right at the beginning of the hearing, the
president`s lawyers literally refused to concede to the judge that the
Watergate investigation should have been allowed. That Congress should
have been allowed to investigate Watergate. I mean, that`s what this fight
has arrived at already.
We thought we were living in a world where U.S. v. Nixon was settled law,
presidents have to comply with subpoenas and court orders because – you
know, America. President Trump`s lawyers today, in fighting one of these
subpoenas for the president`s financial information, they basically told
the judge, yes, that whole Watergate thing maybe shouldn`t ever been
allowed to happen. Congress maybe shouldn`t have been seen as having the
power to investigate the Watergate crimes.
I was – this is from the transcript today in court. Quote, the judge: I`m
just asking, could, for example, Congress say, we believe that the
president of the United States is receiving payments from foreign
governments, foreign interests, and we want to investigate that? We want
to determine if that`s so. And we`re going to get financial records from
him, from his entities, to make that determination. Congress does not have
that power in your view?
The president`s lawyer: Not in the way you framed it, Your Honor, no, they
The judge: Why not?
President`s lawyer: Because it is determining whether he`s in compliance
with the law.
The judge: I don`t understand how that jives with what I thought was your
confession, that if the president was engaging in corrupt behavior in
office that might violate a criminal law, that would be a proper subject of
investigation. The president`s lawyer, I`m sorry if I created any
confusion, Your Honor. I don`t think that is the proper subject of
investigation as to the president.
The judge says: OK. So in your view, Congress` investigations in
Whitewater, for example, and Watergate, were beyond the scope of Congress`
President`s lawyer: I have to look at what the basis they were providing
and, again, we have – at which point the judge interrupts. They weren`t
inquiring about criminal law. It`s pretty straightforward.
That was a federal judge in D.C. district court today. The first judge to
consider one of the many subpoenas that this president and White House is
defying, trying to get the president`s lawyers to concede that Congress
would have been allowed to investigate something like Watergate, right?
Congress does investigate potential crimes by presidents, right? You
concede that Congress – president – presidents can be investigated for
crimes and stuff?
President`s lawyers stammering but not willing to concede that.
I mean, hard to tell from oral argument arguments, right? From today`s
hearing, it doesn`t sound like the president`s lawyers are going to get
away with this argument for long if the courts have anything to say about
it. But as always, watch this space. Stay with us.
MADDOW: They`re calling it a review. Bill Barr, the attorney general, has
asked for a review of the handling of the counterintelligence investigation
into the president`s campaign and its contacts with Russia. He has tasked
the U.S. attorney for the great state of Connecticut, John Durham, to lead
that review, but in addition to John Durham working on it, CNN was first to
report today that they`ve also roped in the leaders of the intelligence
community as well.
Quote: Attorney General William Barr is working closely with the CIA to
review the origins of the Russia investigation and surveillance issues
surrounding Donald Trump`s presidential campaign. Barr is working in close
collaboration with CIA Director Gina Haspel, the director of national
intelligence, Dan Coats, and the FBI director, Christopher Wray.
The FBI director, the CIA director, and the director of national
intelligence, they`re all personally tasked now with working with a
handpicked federal prosecutor to investigate the counterintelligence
investigation into Russia and what they did during the campaign. Number
one, are we sure that investigation`s over? And number two, what does it
mean that the people who conducted and led that investigation are now,
themselves, being subject to this new hybrid sort of nonofficial review
involving the heads of all those agencies and reportedly the attorney
general, personally, as well?
Joining us now is Jeremy Bash, former chief of staff at the CIA and at the
Department of Defense under President Obama.
Mr. Bash, thanks very much for joining us. Good to have you here.
JEREMY BASH, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF AT CIA & DEPT. OF DEFENSE: Hey, Rachel.
MADDOW: So tell me what you make about this reported review. The CIA
director, the director of national intelligence, the attorney general
personally and a handpicked U.S. attorney all being roped in to do some
sort of review of this intelligence investigation.
BASH: Well, first, Rachel, the attorney general has done a number of
concerning things including mischaracterizing the Mueller report,
misleading Congress about it, and then describing lawful surveillance as
spying. He also has not spoken out forcefully against the president saying
he wanted to use the Justice Department to investigate a potential
Democratic rival, Joe Biden. Those are all things we would expect the
attorney general to do.
But there is a silver lining here is this move today by the attorney
general to allow John Durham to look at this matter, the U.S. attorney in
Connecticut, and to involve the leaders of the intelligence community,
looks to me, Rachel, like kind of what others in the Trump administration
tend to do, which is tell the boss, yes, yes, we`re working on it, but then
do something short of what the boss expects.
And I think involving Gina Haspel, involving Chris Wray, involving Dan
Coats, means that he`s going to get the professional opinion of the
intelligence leadership about really a silly question which is whether or
not the original investigation of Russia`s efforts to attack our democracy
were predicated, whether they were warranted. We know they were
predicated, we know they were warranted.
MADDOW: Does it affect your thinking about this or should it affect all of
our thinking about this that it appears that the counterintelligence
investigation into what happened between the Trump campaign and Russia,
this key question as to whether or not Russia tried to exert or did exert
leverage over the man who`s now president of the United States, or people
around him and in his administration? That appears nowhere in Robert
Mueller`s redacted report. Any counterintelligence findings about
leverage, any discussion about the implications of stuff like the Trump
Tower Moscow project or any other contacts between Russia and the campaign,
it doesn`t appear in what we`ve been allowed to see of Robert Mueller`s
I mean, to me, that suggests that maybe that counterintelligence
investigation was handled elsewhere in the FBI. It would have been under
Wray`s purview, not under Mueller`s purview. That raises questions to me,
him being involved in a review of an investigation that he may still be
BASH: That`s correct, Rachel, and in fact, the intelligence committees in
Congress have the statutory jurisdiction to obtain any information about
that counterintelligence review, including anything that`s currently
ongoing and being reviewed by the FBI because, of course, the Russian
federation has not suspended its attacks on the United States and, in fact,
may only be accelerating them.
I think also important, Rachel, is the appointment of John Durham, the U.S.
attorney from Connecticut. You know, the Sebastian Gorkas of the world
celebrated this and said this is Trump`s secret weapon to take on the deep
state. I don`t think so. I worked a little bit with John Durham in 2008
and 2009 when he initially began to review CIA`s destruction of the
interrogation videotapes and then the abuse of detainees.
And what John Durham did in that investigation, he was very thorough. I
would say even slow. He was very methodical. At the end of the day,
though, he did not bring any criminal charges against intelligence officers
because in his conclusion, they were following the legal opinions by the
So I think if anybody thinks that John Durham is going to be a political
pawn here, or he`s going to find that, say, the FBI did something
politically that, you know, they swerved out of their lane, don`t count on
it, especially when we have people like Jim Baker on your program this week
explaining the lawful predication for the original counterintelligence
MADDOW: Jeremy Bash, former chief of staff at the CIA and the Pentagon –
Jeremy, really appreciate your time tonight. Thank you for being here.
BASH: Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: All right. Much more ahead tonight. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Ahead of his meeting with President Vladimir Putin in Russia
today, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was supposed to have made a pit stop
in Moscow yesterday, but that itinerary was scrapped so Pompeo could
instead crash a meeting of European foreign ministers in Belgium. He
literally dropped right in, no invite, zero warning, hey, guys, I`m here.
That kind of ping-ponging and unexpected schedule changes has become the
norm for Pompeo lately. Last week, he skipped out on a long-planned
meeting with the German chancellor in order to make, instead, an
unscheduled visit to Iraq. Last Thursday, he was supposed to go to
Greenland, but instead, the State Department issued a statement saying that
that part of his trip had to be postponed due to a need for the secretary
to be in Washington, D.C.
Under normal circumstances, you might not think much of a top U.S. official
blowing up his travel plans and showing up in unexpected places and
canceling long-planned trips but that day he canceled on Greenland, last
Thursday, when it was so important he suddenly be back in D.C., that
happened to be the same day that the acting defense secretary, Patrick
Shanahan, reportedly presented a plan to Trump`s top national security
staff, a plan to send 120,000 U.S. troops into the Middle East, to try to
intimidate Iran or maybe to invade Iran?
“Newsweek” reporting today that those military options presented to the
president`s top national security staff included air strikes and setting up
for a possible ground invasion, a ground invasion of Iran.
So, no wonder Mike Pompeo would rather be back in D.C. participating in
that discussion instead of heading off to Greenland to talk about other
Today, unnamed U.S. officials downplayed that report saying those troop
levels represented a worst-case scenario contingency plan. Not definitely,
we`re not going to do it, we`re just thinking about how bad it could be.
I mean, what this seems like is an administration that is testing the
waters, right? Floating on idea so that they can ultimately claim they had
no intention of going through with that plan that everybody has reacted to
with such horror. But even floating an idea like this one is alarming when
you look at what they`ve been doing over the past few weeks. I mean, the
Trump administration over the past few weeks already designated an arm of
the Iranian military to be a terrorist group. Iran responded by
designating all U.S. troops in the Middle East as terrorists.
Iran also declared its intent to restart some of the nuclear activities
that were prohibited under the Iran deal which the Trump administration
threw under the bus. Last week, the White House announced an aircraft
carrier and bombers would be sent to the region specifically to try to
rattle Iran. Now against this backdrop, there have been apparent attacks
on Saudi oil tankers and one of that country`s pipelines which are being
blamed by unnamed U.S. officials on Iran or Iranian-related forces.
I mean, they`re presenting these things as a type of provocation that could
set off the entire region, right? It certainly appears like this
administration is beating the drums for war with Iran, but it`s moving
beyond their typical rhetoric in that regard. It seems like they`re trying
to line up some sort of planning and some sort of potential named
provocation that they might use to justify it.
Joining us now is Colin Kahl. He`s co-director for the Center for
International Security and Cooperation at Stanford University. He`s also
former national security adviser to Vice President Biden.
Colin, thank you very much for joining us tonight. I really appreciate you
COLIN KAHL, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT TO PRESIDENT OBAMA: Great to be with
MADDOW: So you are one of the people who has been describing these recent
events within the Trump administration and between the Trump administration
and Iran as potentially bumbling into war or drifting into war. I feel
like they`ve been so aggressive and so bellicose in terms of the way
they`ve talked about Iran ever since the campaign, it`s sort of hard for me
to see the distinction between their typical bluster and what might be a
Why are you worried about a potential real threat here?
KAHL: Well, I think the worry comes in two directions.
One is there`s definitely a war camp inside the Trump administration. I
mean, John Bolton for decades has had his sights set on attacking Iran
militarily, overthrowing its regime. Secretary Pompeo, prior to becoming
secretary of state, is also quite hawkish on Iran.
You don`t have reasonable voices around the president anymore like H.R.
McMaster or Secretary Mattis who weren`t doves but did caution restraint as
it related to Iran. So, I think one danger is there`s a war camp within
The other danger is you can stumble into an accident. I mean, I recall in
January of 2016 when about a dozen U.S. sailors inadvertently sailed into
Iranian waters and were scooped up by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps
Navy, and we were able to return them in the Obama administration in about
24 hours because John Kerry could get on the phone with Javad Zarif, the
Iran foreign minister, and work out a peaceful settlement.
I don`t think anyone today thinks that would end peacefully. I think that
while Donald Trump may not want a big war in the Middle East, if the
Iranians draw blood or there`s an incident involving U.S. and Iranian
forces who operate in Iraq, Syria and crowded waters of the Gulf in close
proximity, then I think things could spin out of control in a kind of “Guns
of August” scenario.
MADDOW: NBC News reported last week that top intelligence and military
advisers to President Trump held what was described in the piece as a
highly unusual meeting at CIA headquarters to discuss Iran. That reporting
points out that Vice President Dick Cheney frequented CIA headquarters in
the lead-up to the Iran war, in part so he could grill analysts directly
about the faulty intelligence in that lead-up to that war.
Does that – that scenario, this idea that Bolton and other top Trump
officials are going to the CIA to do some of this planning that they`re
doing, does that – does that unnerve you at all?
KAHL: It does. I think it does have these dark echoes of kind of the
machinations that Dick Cheney was involved in to manipulate intelligence
prior to the 2003 Iraq war. It`s conceivable that Bolton and others went
to CIA with the goal of trying to gin up intelligence to justify Bolton`s
threat about a week ago to unleash unrelenting force against Iran if they
attacked U.S. interests in the region.
It`s also possible, however, that the conversation was about covert action
to undermine Iran. I think you can see the CIA meeting potentially in the
same vain as the Pentagon meeting that you talked about just a few minutes
ago, of the administration exploring options, both covert and overt, to
take on the Iranian regime if it engages in provocations or attacks against
U.S. forces or if it, you know, follows through with backing away on its
commitments and starts to restart its nuclear program.
So I think we`re at a very dangerous moment.
MADDOW: I know that, Colin, you oversaw Iran policy and planning at the
Pentagon for a couple of years. So, I mean, you have a very specific type
on expertise on this. When they`re talking about those options that you`re
describing, and when we`ve got this reporting that they`re talking about
120,000 U.S. troops being involved in some sort of action directed at Iran,
what does that number say to you? Does that tell you anything about what
they might be considering in terms of a potential invasion or some other
type of attack or action?
KAHL: Yes, it`s a very bizarre number. I obviously can`t go into the war
plans that I oversaw at the Pentagon at the beginning of the Obama
administration, but I`ll just say this. If the contingency is to, you
know, degrade Iran`s ability to carry out attacks in the region or to go
after its nuclear program, that`s mostly something you would do with air
power, with missiles, with your navy. It would not involve 120,000 forces.
So, the 120,000 force number is weird. It`s simultaneously way too big to
actually accomplish the missions that the administration has talked about
but also too small to actually invade Iran unless you simply wanted to
topple the government and leave, which I guess is one possibility.
The “Newsweek” story that you referenced a few minutes ago offered some
clarity where off the record, you know, Pentagon officials seemed to be
suggesting that the 120,000 forces would be kind of a Desert Shield like
scenario where you would put forces in the region as a build-up towards a
massive invasion, which is terrifying because, of course, there is no legal
authority for that and no informed consent of the American public.
But my read on this is two-fold. One, it could either be a leak that is
intended to just try to scare the Iranians into behaving or more likely it
was the Pentagon presenting some very large options to the Trump
administration in the hopes of convincing Trump that this is something he
doesn`t want to do and therefore to rein in Bolton and others.
MADDOW: Yes. And that dynamic, again, it`s very hard to see without any
normal policy processes that we can witness, like we`ve seen in other
administrations, even no normal functions of the National Security Council,
no normal functioning of the type of process you`d usually see on big
national security decisions like this, even though that has been flawed in
the past. Without that kind of process, it`s very hard to see the
president`s decision-making here, whether or not this might be people like
Bolton and others in the administration essentially acting on their own in
a vacuum where they can take up space because the normal policy making
process isn`t functioning.
KAHL: Yes, I mean, to quote young Frankenstein, it`s not normal, it`s abby
You both have non-normal process or nonexistent one where essentially
Bolton is kind of running an ad hoc process that only goes through him and
you have a president, of course, who is notoriously erratic.
Look, I don`t think in his heart of hearts Trump wants a big war in the
Middle East. It`s certainly not what his base signed up for, but I do
worry that he is prone to heated rhetoric. He`s already put some quasi red
lines down against Iran and Bolton and others may be trying to box the
president in rhetorically so that if an incident happens, he feels like he
has no choice but to respond in the most bellicose manner possible.
MADDOW: Colin Kahl, former national security adviser to Vice President
Biden – thank you so much for being here, Colin. It`s great to have you
here. Thank you.
KAHL: Great to be with you, Rachel.
MADDOW: We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: We have breaking news tonight out of the great state of Alabama.
The Alabama state senate just moments ago passed a bill to ban, to
criminalize any and all abortion procedures in the state of Alabama, with
no exceptions. No exceptions, even for women who became pregnant through
rape or incest. Rape victims and incest victims, even juveniles as of this
bill just passed by the Alabama legislature tonight, they will be forced to
give birth against their will, along with any other woman in the state who
ends up pregnant by any other means.
This bill was heading to the – sorry, as this bill was heading to the
Alabama Senate tonight, the national ACLU, it`s interesting, sent out an
image today of a check, a big check. As you can see, it is from the state
of Alabama. It`s made out to the ACLU of Alabama for the amount of $1.7
million. You can see at the bottom right. It`s signed by the state
The ACLU tweeted out that check quite explicitly as a warning to Republican
legislators in Alabama who were about to pass a law to criminalize all
abortions in that state. The ACLU said, quote: The last time Alabama
threatened abortion rights, they lost and paid the ACLU of Alabama and
Planned Parenthood $1.7 million. We really don`t want Alabama`s money.
Just keep abortion legal and we`re good.
The Alabama ACLU also points out that the state of Alabama has never won a
lawsuit on abortion. Well, with this vote tonight, they just bought
themselves a new big one, this bill to recriminalize abortion in Alabama,
again, with no exceptions for rape or incest victims, it passed the House
Just minutes ago, it passed the Senate. Alabama`s Republican governor is
expected to sign it into law. Soon, we`ll be able to cut to the part when
they end up sending ACLU and Planned Parenthood another giant check, but
right now, this is the first outright abortion ban test that they are
hoping will make it to the United States Supreme Court.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: That does it for us tonight. We will see you again tomorrow when
Montana Democratic Governor Steve Bullock is going to be here as my guest.
Governor Bullock announced today he`s joining the Democratic race for
president. He has a unique case to make for why he ought to be the
Democratic nominee. He`s going to be here live in studio tomorrow to talk
with us about it.
Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL”.
Good evening, Lawrence.
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protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced,
distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the
prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter
or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the