Flynn’s Turkish client surfaces. TRANSCRIPT: 6/7/19, The Rachel Maddow Show.

Guests:
Richard Blumenthal
Transcript:

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST:  Before we go, a quick reminder about this week’s

episode of our podcast “Why is This Happening”.  It features one of the

founding members of the Black Lives Matter movement, Alicia Garza, really

interesting discussion about the movement’s origins, its evolution and

where it stands today.  Go and listen, subscribe wherever you get your

podcast.

 

That’s ALL IN this evening.

 

“THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW” starts right now.

 

Good evening, Rachel.

 

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST:  Good evening, Chris.  Thanks, my friend.

 

HAYES:  You bet.

 

MADDOW:  Much appreciated.

 

Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.  Happy Friday.  Good to

have you with us.

 

So, last night, we led this show with a special report on the state where

not only has a Republican-controlled state legislature passed legislation

to ban abortion, as several Republican-led states have done this year.  In

Missouri, the state government is closing in on the last clinic left in the

state that’s still allowed to provide abortion services at all. 

 

In our special report last night, we spoke with staff at that facility who

say that within the past week as the state government has closed in on them

and tried to pull their license and shut them down, the state has also

instituted a new requirement that any woman seeking an abortion at a

facility from here on out must submit herself to an extra invasive

medically unnecessary pelvic exam, literally an internal vaginal

examination on orders of the state government as the price of requesting an

abortion at that last clinic. 

 

That is a new requirement that is being enforced in the state of Missouri. 

That was our special report last night.  Tonight, we’re going to have part

two of that special report which is about who’s doing that.  Who made that

happen?  Who in the state government decided to order these doctors to do

these medically unnecessary mandatory vaginal expectations? 

 

The answer we found is very specific and it may surprise you.  We’ve got

the second part of that special report coming up tonight.  I hope you will

stick with us for that. 

 

That said, because it’s Friday, the news gods are pitching stuff to us

tonight like they’ve got eight arms throwing all at once all with terrible

aim.  It’s been hard to field it all today. 

 

First of all, a federal judge in D.C. tonight has ordered the Justice

Department to remove a bunch of the redactions from the James Comey memos. 

You may remember the James Comey memos were part of the way the whole

existential Trump presidency started to break open in the first place. 

When we first learned early on in Trump’s few weeks in office, we learned

that FBI Director James Comey had kept contemporaneous memos of his

interactions with President Trump, including that the president had told

him to end the criminal investigation into Trump national security adviser

Michael Flynn, and then the president fired James Comey after Comey agreed

to do no such thing. 

 

When we learned that Comey had contemporaneous memos documenting his

interactions with the president leading up to his being fired, that was one

of the things that opened up the whole scandal, led to the hiring of the

special counsel, led to the whole obstruction of justice investigation. 

That’s part of what started the whole kit and caboodle. 

 

Well, now, in a court ruling tonight, a federal district court judge in

D.C. has ordered that the FBI must show the public more of what was in

Comey’s memos than we have been able to see thus far.  Now, this ruling

tonight is a win for CNN, which was the plaintiff in this case.  They were

suing the government to try to make them release more of this stuff.  It’s

a loss for the FBI, which was fighting to keep this stuff secret. 

 

That said, we don’t know exactly what’s going to be redacted from the memos

and when, but the judge did single out in his ruling stuff like this

section of Comey’s memos.  And the judge basically said that the FBI is not

justified in keeping these block boxes in this section of Comey’s memo

blanked out.  You know, we’ll see it when we see it, but if the judge is

telling us this is the kind of stuff that’s about to get unredacted, I

mean, just this one section, I would love to see this without redactions,

frankly, we all would. 

 

This is all from Comey’s memos with redactions.  Imagine if we got to fill

in all the blanks.  Comey memo says, Trump explained that he has serious

reservations about Michael Flynn’s judgment and illustrated from a story in

that day in which the president apparently discovered during his toast to

Theresa May that blank had called four days ago.  Apparently as the

president was toasting Prime Minister May, he was explaining she had been

the first to call him after his inauguration and Flynn interrupted to say

that, actually, blank had called first. 

 

It was then that the president learned of blank’s call, and he confronted

Flynn about it.  Flynn said the return call was scheduled for Saturday,

which prompted a heated reply from president Trump that six days was not an

appropriate period of time to return a call from the blank of a country

like blank. 

 

This isn’t blank we’re talking about, he said.  He said if he called blank

and didn’t get a return call for six days, he would be very upset.  I mean,

presumably what Comey was writing up there – I mean, I’m just guessing,

but presumably that is President Trump freaking out that he didn’t take

Putin’s call right away. 

 

Oh, god.  What will he think of me that I didn’t take the call and then I

didn’t call right back.  You idiot, Flynn, do you know how important this

is?  Somebody get me a phone.  I need to call him right away.  Let’s send

chocolates.  Let’s flowers.  Let’s send Crimea. 

 

With this ruling from Judge James Boasberg tonight, we will get to see for

ourselves who, in fact, is behind all of the intriguing blanks in that

redacted portion of Comey’s memos. 

 

Also in another nearby federal court in the eastern district of Virginia

today, an informal adviser to the Trump White House and apparently quite a

key adviser to the Trump campaign, George Nader tried to make his case to a

judge today that he should be released on bail ahead of his trial on

charges of transporting child pornography.  George Nader is cited multiple

times in Mueller’s report as a witness who was involved in multiple high-

level meetings during the transition and White House meetings as well

during the campaign we know that he met with people including Mike Flynn

and Jared Kushner and Steve Bannon and Donald Trump Jr. 

 

Mr. Nader reportedly attending a meeting in which the Trump campaign was

offered a foreign-run social media manipulation campaign to try to tilt the

election in Trump’s favor.  Imagine that.  Now, the Trump campaign says

they did not buy what was being offered to them at that meeting, but soon

after the election, George Nader nevertheless did pay $2 million to the

foreign firm that had been pitching the Trump campaign that particular

service, which has always been a source of intrigue.  Nobody knows what

that payment was for. 

 

Now, according to Mueller’s report, George Nader was also a key

intermediary between the Trump transition and the Kremlin, including

arranging a meeting between a Kremlin-connected Russian banker and Erik

Prince, as a representative of the Trump transition.  That meeting set up

by Nader was reportedly intended to establish a secret back channel for

communications between the new administration and Vladimir Putin’s office. 

But now, George Nader is in custody and awaiting trial on child pornography

charges. 

 

The judge in his case in Virginia today ordered that Nader must stay in

jail until his trial despite George Nader’s generous offer in court today

that he would not only pay $1 million cash bond, he was also happy to pay

for round-the-clock security guards for himself who surely would not let

him go astray or flee the country.  Again, prosecutors told the judge today

that in addition to the child pornography, Mr. Nader had on his phones, he

also had direct phone numbers for the ruling princes of both the United

Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. 

 

So, yes, even apart from the seriousness of the charge he’s facing, the

charge requires a 15-year minimum federal prison sentence if he is

convicted, a minimum sentence.  I mean, separate and apart from the

seriousness of the charge he’s facing, when this arrest warrant was pending

for a year a still phone numbers of the two richest people in the world on

his personal phone, that makes it hard that you’re going to stick around

for your trial. 

 

And so, George Nader will stay in jail until the trial starts as decided

today by the federal judge in the Eastern District of Virginia. 

 

But there’s always rest of the news tonight that also pertains to more

cases against more people involved in the Trump campaign, including Trump

national security adviser Mike Flynn.  For some of that news today, we need

to go back to a weekend in May 2017 and a conference on U.S./Turkey

relations.  The 36th annual conference on U.S.-Turkey relations, to be

exact, held in Washington, D.C., by a Turkish business lobbying group. 

 

You know, nothing particularly notable about that on its face,

international business lobbyists host conferences in D.C. all the time. 

But here what was notable about this one.  First of all, the event was

being run by a Turkish businessman who had paid Trump national security

adviser Mike Flynn over half a million dollars to lobby for the Turkish

government.  That’s while Flynn was the top security official in Trump

campaign and then the Trump transition.

 

So, the guy who had Trump’s first national security adviser on a foreign

government’s payroll, he was running this conference in D.C. about U.S.

relations with that foreign government.  He was holding that conference at

Donald Trump’s Washington, D.C., hotel, of course, because, of course, he

was.  He had put over half million into the pocket of Trump’s first

national security adviser, but that guy got fired.  So why not start

putting money directly into Donald Trump’s pocket through his hotel? 

 

That was May 2017.  If may 2017 rings a bell for you as an important time,

that’s probably because just four days before that Turkish lobbying

conference got under way at Trump’s hotel, Robert Mueller was appointed

special counsel to look into the Russian attack on the 2016 election and

any potential involvement by the Trump campaign.  Not to mention all

related matters. 

 

Well, here’s what we now know as of today.  Apparently, that Turkish

businessman, the guy who paid Mike Flynn to lobby for the Turkish

government, after Robert Mueller was appointed, that guy’s lawyers

contacted Mueller, contacted the special counsel’s office.  They called up

Mueller and said, hey, our client, who paid the Trump national security

adviser to work secretly for the Turkish government, our client’s going to

be in town this weekend for a conference at the Trump hotel, would you like

to speak with him? 

 

Robert Mueller was just appointed less than a week earlier.  I mean, he

probably hadn’t even gotten his nameplate on the office door and didn’t

have a trash can yet.  But this Turkish guy’s lawyers call him up out of

the blue, hey, our client would love to talk with you just in case you have

any questions for him. 

 

So the special counsel’s office apparently did take that meeting.  They did

that interview with this Turkish businessman literally one week after

Mueller was appointed and that businessman walked in and, according to

federal prosecutors, he sat down with Mueller’s team and he told them whole

bunch of porky pies.  He lied to Mueller’s investigators after having

volunteered that he wanted to and in talk to them. 

 

Yes, that’s as terrible as an idea as you think it is because that guy, the

Turkish businessman guy, is now under indictment for, among other things,

lying to the FBI in that interview.  If you were going to lie to them, why

did you volunteer yourself for that purpose? 

 

Also, he’s now on the lam.  There’s a warrant out for his arrest.  Nobody

knows if he’s ever going to face trial in a U.S. courtroom, along with this

other guy associated with Mike Flynn who was indicted with him. 

 

This is another one of these dangling threads at this point, but when it

comes to sort of proximity to Michael Flynn, all of the dangling threads

seem to be twisting in unusual and unpredictable ways right now.  I mean,

that Turkish guy is the lam, he’s in the wind, but he does have lawyers who

for the first time have turned up in federal court in Virginia to object to

the government’s case.  Even though they also basically say their client

has no intention of showing up to actually answer the charges against him,

their filings late yesterday are how we learned about their client calling

up Robert Mueller, the moment he was appointed and him making time in his

busy hotel conference schedule to go to the special counsel’s office and

commit felonies allegedly by lying to the FBI. 

 

We have not heard from that guy since he was indicted six months ago, but

here he is.  He just popped up.  He has lawyers representing him even

though he doesn’t plan on being here to face trial. 

 

And that odd turn comes at the same time as several other sort of

unsettling developments over the last couple of days in the case of this

guy’s business associate, right, the case of Michael Flynn.  In Flynn’s own

criminal case, we’ve just gotten released a less redacted version of the

FBI’s notes for their own interview with him in January 2017.  That’s the

FBI interview where Flynn lied to the FBI about his conversations with the

Russian government during the transition. 

 

Those interview notes give us a bunch of additional details about Mike

Flynn and Russia we didn’t have before.  Part of his plea deal with the

government when he pled guilty to lying to the FBI was admitting he was an

unregistered agent of Turkey, right?  He’d been covering up and lying about

his Turkish lobbying scheme.  That’s what his two associates including the

guy who paid Flynn $500,000 and is still at large, that’s what his

associates are indicted for as well, all stuff related to that unregistered

lobbying for Turkey. 

 

But Flynn’s relationship with Russia and his contacts with Russia, that has

always raised some pretty significant, forgive me, red flags about him.  I

mean, even before we knew about the turkey thing.  What we get from these

newly unredacted FBI interview notes pertaining to Flynn was his contacts

were more extensive than we thought.  And we already thought they were

pretty extensive. 

 

In this newly unsealed interview, newly unredacted parts of this interview,

we learned that Flynn talks about his visit to the Moscow headquarters of

Russian military intelligence.  He visited Russian military intelligence

headquarters, headquarters of the GRU in 2013. 

 

Now, he was the first he had of the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency to

ever make such a visit.  He described the FBI agents viewing him that the

head of the GRU he believed was, quote, someone the U.S. could work with. 

So we learned he was enthused to work with the GRU as early as 2013. 

 

We learned that in 2015, right before his fairly infamous trip to Moscow

where he sat next to Vladimir Putin at a celebration for a Russian

propaganda network, we learned newly from these newly unredacted documents

that Flynn took a meeting with the Russian ambassador to the United States

ahead of that trip to Moscow.  Flynn went to the Russian ambassador’s

residence for a meeting before he jetted off to go sit next to Putin and

Jill Stein while they all celebrated Russia’s propaganda network. 

 

A year later, during the Trump transition, Flynn and the same ambassador

discussed setting up a video conference between Trump and Putin on Trump’s

first full day in office after he was sworn in.  Don’t want to waste any

time getting that relationship up and going.  Flynn did not ultimately make

that happen, but according to James Comey’s contemporaneous memos, we think

that Putin probably was the first to call Trump after his inauguration and

Trump was super mad at Flynn for not telling him.

 

You didn’t put me through on the phone with Putin.  He’s going to be so

mad.  Oh, god, what’s going to come out now?  Guess Flynn should have made

that day one video conference happening.  Falling down on the job, Mike. 

 

I mean, there’s always been this sort of biographical element in the room

when it comes to Flynn and his appointment at national security adviser,

right, which is that weird stuff has happened between him and Russia.  Yes,

he was working as angle emissary when he went over to meet with the GRU in

2013, but he did a lot of stuff with the GRU that has never happened

before.  He did sort of oddly collegial things with our most aggressively

competitive long-standing international intelligence foe. 

 

And then soon thereafter, after he was fired by the Obama administration,

he really did go over to Moscow to attend this event celebrating one of

Russia’s state-controlled propaganda TV networks.  Happy to be here.  This

is all super inspiring celebrating your state-controlled propaganda

network, sitting right here with Putin. 

 

I mean, that trip gave rise to a memorable exchange with investigative

reporter Michael Isikoff who tried during the campaign to pin Flynn down on

whether or not he was actually paid by Russia to do that.  Flynn, of

course, insisted that he had not. 

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

MICHAEL ISIKOFF, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER:  Last December, you flew over to

Moscow – 

 

MIKE FLYNN, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER:  Yes. 

 

ISIKOFF:  – to participate in the 10th anniversary celebration of RT,

Russian Television, a propaganda arm of the Russian government, and you sat

next to Vladimir Putin at a celebratory dinner.  Were you paid for that

event? 

 

FLYNN:  You would have to ask the folks. 

 

ISIKOFF:  I’m asking you.  You know if you were paid? 

 

FLYNN:  Yes, I went over there as a speaking event.  It was a speaking

event.  What difference does that make?  Oh, he’s paid by the Russians. 

 

ISIKOFF:  Donald Trump made a lot of the fact that Hillary Clinton has

taken money from Wall Street. 

 

FLYNN:  I didn’t take my money from Russia, if that’s what you’re asking

me. 

 

ISIKOFF:  Then who paid you? 

 

FLYNN:  My speakers bureau, ask them. 

 

ISIKOFF:  OK. 

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

MADDOW:  I didn’t take any money from Russia.  This is the part of the

documentary where the deep voice narrator comes in and says, in fact,

Michael Flynn did take money from Russia as Michael Isikoff would soon

report, it was, in fact, Russia that paid him tens of thousands of dollars

for that report – for that trip, plus a three-day long all expenses paid

trip to Moscow, including business class and round trip airfare and

accommodations at a five-star hotel, and not just for him, but for him and

his son, Mike Jr.  Must have been awesome. 

 

And, you know, then getting closer to the scandal that led to Flynn’s

curtain lot in life as he awaits federal sentencing, I mean, there’s the

sequence of events that followed after him going to Moscow for that event. 

I mean, this is a guy who was career military, but he is a registered

Democrat.  Registered Democrat, no affiliation with any politicians

whatsoever, other than having worked for Obama.  He’s fired by the Obama

administration, like in 18 months later, he makes a weird three-day jaunt

to Moscow to celebrate their propaganda network while denying that they’re

paying him. 

 

Then just a few weeks later after he gets home from Moscow, he signs up

with the Trump campaign.  I mean, it’s always been weird.  And now as

Flynn’s legal case seems to be coming to its end, assist more stuff starts

getting released by the judge in this case who apparently wants this stuff

put out there in the public record, it’s unsettling about Flynn, but there

seems to be something sort of hot about what Flynn knew about the president

and what he might tell prosecutors about the president. 

 

I mean, the president was trying to end the investigation of Flynn when he

fired the FBI director, right?  That’s what led to the firing of James

Comey.  Will you go easy on Flynn?  Comey would not go easy on Flynn and

so, Comey had to be fired.  Firing Comey because he wouldn’t ease up on

Flynn, that’s what gave rise to the appointment of the special counsel, the

whole obstruction of justice investigation, all of it. 

 

Why was it so important to shut down that investigation of Flynn?  And now,

as Flynn’s case approaches its end, as he approaches he’s sentencing,

Michael Flynn suddenly fired his lawyers who represented him all of this

time.  A week before Flynn’s next status update in his case, we’re

expecting a sentencing date.  Boom, he’s fired his lawyers. 

 

This is just sort of track now.  Whatever the track was here before, this

feels off track now when it comes to Flynn.  And we still have no

confirmation about who Flynn’s new lawyers are or why he might have picked

them.  There’s explanation that he dumped his lawyers in the hopes of a

totally whole new strategy, which is a lot of people are on sort of pardon

watch when it comes to Flynn. 

 

Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut warning explicitly about that

possibility now since these events have started to unfold over the last

couple of days. 

 

Senator Blumenthal joins us here live, next. 

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

MADDOW:  Get your rest this weekend.  We got a big week coming up next

week. 

 

On Tuesday, the full House will vote whether or not to hold Attorney

General William Barr and former White House counsel Don McGahn in contempt

over their refusal to cooperate with congressional subpoenas related to the

Mueller investigation. 

 

Also next week, we’re expecting an important court deadline for Trump’s

national security adviser Mike Flynn.  Both the prosecution and defense

will outline how Flynn’s cooperation is going.  We’ll find out if they’ll

tell the judge they’re finally ready to move ahead to sentencing for Flynn.

 

Whatever’s going on with the Flynn case right now, Flynn did just fire his

longtime lawyers in a surprise move.  We don’t know who his new lawyers

are.  There’s also been a steady drip of new details released to the public

by orders of the judge in the Flynn case, including auto voicemail from

President Trump’s lawyer John Dowd right before Flynn flipped and started

cooperating with the government.  Dowd telling Flynn’s lawyer that he

wanted a heads-up if Flynn was going to provide information to prosecutors

that would implicate the president saying that that might have national

security consequences. 

 

We don’t know what Flynn might have been able to say about the president

that would implicate him and have national security consequences, but that

voicemail got a lot of people’s attention this week, including Senator

Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut who said this.  Quote: Hearing the

striking audio in the tapes released yesterday actualizes the pardon the

president’s lawyer dangled in front of Flynn.  Americans did he need to

hear and see more, all of the evidence making clear of the case for

obstruction. 

 

Joining us is now Senator Blumenthal of Connecticut.  He’s a member of the

Judiciary Committee in the Senate. 

 

Sir, it’s great to have you here tonight.  Thanks for being here. 

 

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CT):  Thank you for having me. 

 

MADDOW:  So, what do you mean when you say this voicemail from John Dowd

actualizes the pardon that was dangled to Flynn?  What do you mean?

 

BLUMENTHAL:  Well, you quoted a part of what he said, which was not only

that national security interests might be implicated in what Flynn would be

offering to Robert Mueller by cooperating, but also there’s a quote that he

needed a heads-up to protect, quote, all of our interests, not just

national security, and the president, and he said, remember what our

feelings are about Michael Flynn.  Those feelings are still the same after

the president on repeated occasions said had a nice guy Flynn was, what a

good man he was. 

 

And that sort of dangling the pardon in the voice that was projected in

that tape was deadly serious, even a bit desperate, and will be very, very

powerful to Americans if they ever see and hear John Dowd himself as a

witness in a House or Senate hearing. 

 

MADDOW:  Why is it damning and potentially obstructive for a president’s

lawyer conveying to a witness who’s about to turn state’s evidence, about

to start working with prosecutors?  Can you spell out why that is

potentially obstructive, potentially inappropriate or criminal to have that

expression?  The president likes you, the president wants you to remember

how much he likes you, that’s still in effect?  What is the implication of

that? 

 

BLUMENTHAL:  Really important to break it down and understand it.  And the

best explanation of it really is in the Mueller report, because he presents

it as one of those potentially obstructive acts that the president of the

United States committed.  And he says he can’t really attribute it to Trump

because he doesn’t know whether Trump knew everything that Dowd was saying,

and he declined to interview Dowd because of the attorney/client privilege. 

 

But basically, here it is.  The witness, Michael Flynn, knows all this

stuff about Trump, and Dowd is saying give us a heads-up, meaning tell us

what he’s going to tell Mueller to protect all of our interests, and

remember what a good man we think you are, and the pardon is dangled so

that, in effect, Flynn will be playing both sides of the street.  There’s

no longer the joint defense going on, but the two of them can still work

together if Dowd is informed and protect Donald Trump’s interests. 

 

MADDOW:  As Flynn’s case appears to be heading towards sentencing,

something is going on in the case that’s hard to discern from the outside. 

He’s fired his lawyers, the initial sentencing plan in December went

haywire when clearly there was a big disconnect between the lawyers in the

case and the jungle who basically told Flynn, you don’t want me to sentence

you right now.  Why don’t you see if you can cooperate more because –

essentially signaling he was going to throw the book at him. 

 

Something’s going on right now.  A lot of people have speculated that Flynn

may be in line for a pardon right now, and maybe that’s why he’s replacing

his legal team and the president might be heading toward that now.  Would

that be potentially problematic in terms of the president being liable for

obstruction? 

 

BLUMENTHAL:  I think it would be very problematic.  A pardon under these

circumstances would raise all kinds of questions of obstruction.  The

Mueller report alludes to the possibility that the president can be

prosecuted after he leaves office in volume one, pages one and two, talks

about preserving evidence, and not only documents, but also memories and

testimony. 

 

And so, what the president may well be doing is trying to stop that

prosecution after he leaves office.  And that’s not only problematic, it is

deeply concerning from the standpoint of Americans seeing justice, holding

the president accountable, and eventually making sure that he is brought to

justice as he would be if he were not president of the United States.  I’ve

written a letter with a thousand other prosecutors saying if he weren’t

president, he would be in handcuffs and indicted right now. 

 

MADDOW:  Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, member of the Senate

Judiciary Committee – sir, thanks for being here especially on a Friday

night.  Really appreciate it.

 

BLUMENTHAL:  Thank you.

 

MADDOW:  All right.  We’ll be right back.  Stay with us. 

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

MADDOW:  The first rule of presidential polling at this time of year is,

it’s way too early.  I mean, at this stage presidential primary polls

really do not matter at all.  If they did, we would have had Presidents

Rudy Giuliani, and Joe Lieberman and Gary Hart, and Jeb Bush. 

 

The second rule of presidential polling at this time of year is that it’s

super, super matters, it’s really important, in part because it’s how the

candidates get into debates.  Tomorrow night at 7:00 p.m., “The Des Moines

Register” is going to release its poll of the Democratic field.  The Iowa

poll is really the gold standard of polling in Iowa. 

 

In addition to providing an authoritative snapshot of Democratic voters’

preferences, this poll is one of the polls that’s going to be used by the

DNC to determine which Democratic candidates nails down a slot, one of the

20 available slots in the first debate. 

 

And all of that put together is why this weekend, I kid you not, 19

different Democratic candidates are all going to be in Iowa at the same

time.  There will be no room for Iowans in Iowa this weekend.  It’s going

to be Democrats running for president.  Nineteen of them all at once.  Pray

for good weather, right? 

 

One of the 19 has decided to start living in Iowa.  Marianne Williamson has

just signed a lease on a Des Moines condo.  I kid you not. 

 

Now, the one conspicuous absence from this weekend’s Democratic

presidential candidate action in Iowa is Joe Biden.  He will not be there

this weekend.  He’s the frontrunner right now.  But even so, he will be

there Tuesday, right after all the other ones have left, or at least most

of them have left. 

 

If you’re in Iowa this weekend, there’s a good chance you’re going to bump

into a Democratic hopeful or three.  And in a coincidence that you couldn’t

cook up if you tried, just look at today’s “Des Moines Register”.  Right

next to the story about this weekend’s all-important Iowa poll, we learned

that the world’s biggest bounce house has just arrived in Iowa just in time

for 19 different candidates to start bouncing around the state all at the

same time, trying not to bang into each other, each one hoping this weekend

will be the proverbial polling bounce they need to get into the first

debate. 

 

I mean, here comes an honest to goodness bounce house, the largest one in

the world in Iowa, specifically, at the time the 19 candidates were all

converging, with their polling bounce on the line. 

 

Iowa, you are amazing.  You always are. 

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

MADDOW:  So, last night, we brought you a special report about the state of

Missouri, which is on precipice right now of becoming the first state to

eliminate all legal abortion access since Roe v. Wade in 1973. 

 

As we are still waiting for a judge to rule on whether the state government

can shut down that last remaining clinic in the state, we found that the

Republican-run state government in Missouri this week started directing the

doctors at this last clinic to subject their patients to new medically

unnecessary manual vaginal exams as the price of asking for an abortion. 

This is a new thing the state of Missouri is doing that they were not doing

before.  But as they got the clinic on the ropes trying to shut them down,

this a new thing they’re making those doctors do before women are allowed

to get an abortion. 

 

Now, there’s one aspect of that story we’re going to follow up on tonight

which is how this is happening in Missouri right now.  This was not part of

the state’s new abortion ban that was debated by legislators or signed by

the governor.  This new policy that they’ve instituted in the past week was

instituted on the orders of a specific guy in state government. 

 

And it turns out he’s a really interesting case here.  And that story, part

two of our special report, is next. 

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

MADDOW:  To this is a coal-fired power plant in Belmont, North Carolina. 

It’s called the Allen steam station and it is run by the Duke Energy

Corporation. 

 

Now, one of the problems with running a coal-fire power plant like Allen –

I mean, don’t get me started.  I could go on.  There’s a lot of problems. 

 

But one of the problems with a coal burning power plant like that is that

after you burn the coal to fuel this plant, it produces leftovers.  And the

leftovers after you burn coal is something called coal ash.  From a plant

like this, the leftover coal ash is voluminous, there’s a ton of it, and it

is dangerous.  It’s toxins and heavy metals like arsenic, known

carcinogens. 

 

Well, Duke Energy stores that marvelous stuff in coal ash pits like these

ones.  They’re basically man-made little ponds designed to hold all of this

toxic sludge from the coal-burning power plants. 

 

Oftentimes, those pits aren’t even lined, which means there’s an increased

chance that the toxic materials from the coal ash will leak into not just

the ground, but into the local ground water.  And that’s what many people

believe happened in areas surrounding Duke Energy’s many coal-fire power

plants, including those in North Carolina, power plants like the Allen

Steam Station. 

 

In April 2015, North Carolina officials issued letters to people who owned

wells, 330 wells that were near the state’s coal-burning plants, and those

letters notified those people that their well water was contaminated. 

Wells showed us carcinogen levels higher than the state’s warning level. 

You were at risk of getting cancer if you drank from that contaminated

water.  That was the notice that homeowners and land owners got from the

state in April 2015. 

 

But within a couple of months, by July of that same year, something

interesting happened in North Carolina.  The governor of North Carolina at

the time was a longtime Duke Energy executive and a Republican, a guy by

the name of Pat McCrory, and he hired this man, a new state health director

for the state, a man named Dr. Randall Williams. 

 

Now, although Williams did not conduct any new testing of ground water or

these wells near coal ash pits and all this stuff, despite the fact that he

conducted no new scientific inquiry on the subject, the new state health

director, Dr. Williams, decided not long after he started at his new job,

he decided that the state had been not thinking clearly when it sent out

those do not drink orders, when it declared that well water unsafe.

 

And as a new health director of the state of North Carolina, he decided to

rescind those orders.  Remember that do not drink order you got about the

contamination in your well?  Never mind.  Never mind that.  I’m the new

health director.  I say it’s fine. 

 

The story did not go away as quietly as Dr. Williams might have hoped

however.  In a lawsuit later filed against Duke Energy, the state’s

toxicologist, a guy by the name of Kenneth Rudo (ph), testified that state

officials knowingly told people that their water was safe when we knew it

wasn’t.  Rudo had been the state’s toxicologist for nearly 30 years and he

blew the whistle on this specifically calling out the new health director,

Dr. Randall Williams, in this 220-page deposition saying the state’s health

director was to protect public health but in this specific instance, the

opposite occurred.  The state toxicologist called the reversal of the “do

not drink” advisory, quote, “highly unethical and possibly illegal.” 

 

The following month, his boss, the state’s epidemiologist, resigned in

protest, saying she could no longer work for a health department and an

administration and a new state health director that, quote, deliberately

was misleading the public.

 

So, state toxicologist blowing the whistle on what’s going on here.  State

epidemiologist resigns in protest, sends this blistering resignation letter

about how the public is being misled, this is wrong, this is unsafe. 

They’re saying this possibly illegal. 

 

But the new state health director, Dr. Randall, had a job to do and he

maintained that the epidemiologist and toxicologist, these people were

nuts.  He was sure the well water was safe to drink.  Why is everybody

being so hysterical?

 

Dr. Randall Williams ended up testifying in the resulting controversy that

he rescinded the “do not drink” warning noticed because he thought that

they were stirring up unwarranted fears.  Getting people all freaked how

the about safety issues where plainly there is nothing to worry about as

far as he’s concerned. 

 

Dr. Randall Williams lasted about 18 months in that job.  The one thing

he’s remembered for in his short stint running are the health department in

the state of North Carolina hired by the Duke Energy executive who was

governor at the time, the one thing he’s remembered for is his decision to

rescind the “do not drink the water” orders, you know, and all of the

fallout. 

 

The state epidemiologist quitting in protest, the state toxicologist

blowing the whistle, announcing that the state health department was

deliberately lying to the public and telling them their water was safe when

it was not.  I mean, that’s the scandal that he created in a very short

period of time running the state health department in North Carolina. 

That’s what he did in his year and a half as the state health director in

North Carolina.  Whoo, and then he was out. 

 

But then he got a new job.  May have been sort of a scratch and dent sale

kind of thing but for whatever reason, right after that debacle in North

Carolina, the new Republican governor of Missouri decided to hire him to

come up to Missouri and become that state’s new health director.  He was

appointed by the state’s Republican governor before that governor

ultimately had to resign in a big spooky scandal but he was confirmed by

the state’s Republican legislature. 

 

And it is this same guy, Dr. Randall Williams, who is now the man who is

shutting down Missouri’s last remaining abortion provider in the whole

state.  And it is he this guy, who has insisted himself that as that last

clinic fights to stay open and he is fighting to shut them down, it is he

who has decided that the doctors in that clinic must now make their

patients get unnecessary internal pelvic exams when they ask for an

abortion, on his orders. 

 

Republican-controlled states are of course, trying to ban abortion all over

the country right now.  They all want to get their state’s abortion ban

before the Supreme Court because they all think with Justice Brett

Kavanaugh on the court now, the court will overturn Roe versus Wade.  They

all want their state to be first to make abortion illegal. 

 

And that’s what’s going on in Missouri, too.  They’ve got their Republican

legislature.  They’ve got their new Republican governor, replacing the old

one who left in scandal.  It the new one is Mike Parson.  He signed their

abortion into law a couple of weeks ago. 

 

And now, today, the Republicans in Missouri state government are taking

further action to stop Missouri voters from getting to have a say on

whether or not that abortion ban will go into effect.  So, what’s happening

in Missouri in some ways parallels what’s going on in all these other

Republican-controlled states across the country.  They’re all trying to ban

abortion. 

 

But there is one aspect of the fight going on in Missouri that is

different, which is the active and very close to successful effort right

now by that state government to shut down the last clinic in the state that

is still allowed to provide abortions, in the last clinic in the entire

state of Missouri.  And it is a crucial thing to understand here that the

state is not using a new law to try to shut Missouri’s last abortion

provider.  This is not part of the abortion ban they just passed which is

going to be tested by the federal courts now.  They’re not using the

legislature to revoke the last Planned Parenthood clinic’s license to

perform legal abortion. 

 

What they are doing as they try to shut down that last clinic and stop the

last place in Missouri where a woman can get a legal abortion, what they’re

employing to try to do that is they’re using this guy, Dr. Randall

Williams, Mr. Drink-the-cancer-water.  He’s the one who is selectively

enforcing state regulations newly as of this week to try and get abortions

shut down in Missouri.  He is the one specifically who lit on this idea to

force Missouri women who still want to go to that last clinic to having an

unnecessary invasive, medically pointless pelvic exam as the new price of

asking for an abortion at that the last clinic. 

 

As of this past week, he is the one requiring doctors in that clinic that

they must do that to their patients.  Fresh off his last job making

national news for rescinding the do not drink the water noticed around the

cancer-causing coal ash pits in North Carolina, Dr. Randall Williams says

the reason he is fighting so hard to shut down the last abortion clinic in

Missouri is because of his grave, grave, overriding concern for patient

safety above all else. 

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

DR. RANDALL WILLIAMS, MISSOURI HEALTH & SENIOR SERVICES DIRECTOR:  What all

us Missourians expect me to do in a regulatory fashion is to enforce the

law, enforce the regulations and keep people safe.  It’s just our goal that

it’d be done in a safe way. 

 

Our purpose in all of those is to protect health, keep people safe.  We can

never sacrifice safety for that access.  We just can never sacrifice safety

for that.  We can never do that at the expense of safety. 

 

As I’ve testified in court five types now is that we can never sacrifice

safety for access.  We have to have both. 

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

MADDOW:  We cannot sacrifice safety says Randall Williams.  One of the

producers of the show, Kelsey Desiderio, was at the press conference with

Dr. Williams, the state’s health director.  She asked Williams whether

shutting down the last abortion provider in the state might actually lead

to an unsafe situation in the state, whether it might actually lead to a

rise in women seeking illegal abortions if he succeeds in getting rid of

the last legal abortion provider in the entire state of Missouri. 

 

I mean, since he’s the guy who is really superworried about women’s safety,

is he at all concerned about that. 

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

TRMS PRODUCER:  Are you worried that the lack of access will jeopardize

women’s safety because they’ll be forced to seek an illegal abortion, which

puts them in danger? 

 

WILLIAMS:  I do not believe that be true that you see an increase in

illegal abortions. 

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

MADDOW:  Why would that happen?  I’m not worried about that at all. 

 

If Dr. Randall Williams succeeds, if he gets the last abortion provider in

Missouri shut down, we’re waiting on a judge’s ruling right now to find out

if he’s succeeding in that, if he succeeds, Missouri will be the first

state in the country to go dark in terms of access to legal abortion since

the passage of Roe versus Wade in 1973.  But he really does not mind that. 

You know, big whoop. 

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

WILLIAMS:  Missouri is contiguous to eight states.  We in Tennessee share

that distinction.  The idea that we are a desert for any type of health

care is one that already doesn’t ring true.  I’m sure that there are many

people from all eight of those states who come to our wonderful health care

centers in St. Louis and Springfield and Kansas City all the time.  So,

people crossing the state lines to get health care is not an unusual

factor. 

 

REPORTER:  Abortion advocates say that’s a huge barrier that it’s a burden

for many people in rural areas to get services outside the state.  They

have to drive hours to get child care, they’re low income. 

 

WILLIAMS:  Well, again, I believe that there are facilities in Illinois

that are 12 miles from her. 

 

REPORTER:  From here but not from parts of rural Missouri. 

 

WILLIAMS:  Exactly.  So, once again, it gets back to the point that I made

earlier, that access is incredibly important.  We can never sacrifice

safety for that access. 

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

MADDOW:  We are waiting for a judge to make a decision any day now. 

Anytime now as to whether or not the last clinic in Missouri will be

allowed to keep its doors open to women in that state, even the one who

have to traverse the entire large state in order to get there. 

 

But meanwhile, any woman who makes it there will have to take off her

clothes and submit to a medically unnecessary vaginal exam on the orders of

Dr. Randall Williams as of this week.  Despite her wishes, her doctor’s

wishes, that’s his wishes as state director.  He’s the one who came up with

that.  And so, women have to do it. 

 

Watch this space. 

 

That does it for us tonight.  We’ll see you again on Monday.

 

Now, it’s time for “THE LAST WORD” where Ali Velshi is in for Lawrence

tonight.  Good night.

                                                                                               

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