National security experts testify. TRANSCRIPT: 6/12/19, The Rachel Maddow Show.
BASIL SMIKLE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I think that`s absolutely right. A
lot of people have said that Sanders, for example, needs to go after Biden.
But I think his real opponent is Elizabeth Warren here.
STEPHANIE RUHLE, MSNBC HOST: Isn`t that – they want to go after Biden.
But you know who wants that the most? President Trump. Sitting back at
the White House, eating popcorn saying, bring it.
SMIKLE: What`s going to be interesting is if Biden uses the tactic to say,
I`m not going to engage my opponents. I`m just going to engage Donald
Trump. I don`t know if everybody else on the stage has the same
RUHLE: Well, I know I`ll be watching. Steve, Basil, thank you so much.
And thank you for watching. It has been quite an evening.
Here at ALL IN, I`m Stephanie Ruhle. You`re in luck, Chris Hayes will back
And you`re in even greater luck, because I`m now handing off.
“THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW” starts right now.
Good evening, Rachel. You got a lot of news.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: I do. And you are creating like a big
expectation here. I feel like I need to lower the temperature a little
bit. It`s not that big a deal that I`m here. It`s 9:00. It`s sort of a
RUHLE: Well, it`s a great thing. Have a good show.
MADDOW: Thank you, my friend. Well done.
And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
You know, it has become a regular feature of our lives now as Americans
that we have a president who says very disruptive, very shocking things.
Now frequently the president says these shocking things beyond the hearing
of the outside world. We just get reporting about them, right?
Like the time last year when he asked a room full of lawmakers in the Oval
Office about immigration policies for countries including Haiti and El
Salvador and several different countries in Africa. The president
reportedly asked those lawmakers in the Oval Office, quote, why are we
having all these people from bleep-hole countries come here?
He said that inside the White House, inside the Oval Office, and the
multiple people who heard him say it were so shocked that his comments
ended up making their way outside the White House into the national news.
Now, depending on your perspective, what the president said that day was
embarrassing or unfortunate or maybe it was just tough talk depending on
how you think about it, but he said it. People around him who heard it
were shocked enough about it that they told reporters about it. He
weathered the criticism that poured in after. That`s one of the ways this
happens around him.
There is also the time during the campaign when it emerged that he had been
riding around in 2005 on the “Access Hollywood” bus talking about grabbing
women by the privates, and how they let you do that when you`re a star.
Again, it was – in that case, that was on tape, and it was, again,
something shocking. We had the audiotape of that. It was shocking to hear
a major party nominee for the office of the president of the United States
talking like that.
But again, he said it. That tape sat around for a long time. It
eventually came out during the campaign. There was a torrent of criticism.
In that case, he actually apologized for it, but once again, he weathered
the criticism that poured in after those remarks.
I mean, mostly what happens is the president says shocking thing. It
upends one or two or three or ten news cycles, depending how shocking, and
then he weathers it and gradually equilibrium gets restored until shocking
new thing said by the president. Rinse, cycle, repeat.
On occasion, though, our president with this tendency to say shocking
things, on occasion, he manages to say something that is not merely
shocking, it turns out to be consequential. On occasion, he managed to say
manage so shocking that it isn`t just short-term destructive, it maybe
changes the course of history, because it`s something that sticks and is
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I was going to fire Comey.
There is no good time to do it by the way.
LESTER HOLT, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: In the letter, you said, I accepted their
recommendations. So you had already made the decision?
TRUMP: Oh, I was going to fire regardless of the recommendation. He made
a recommendation. He is highly respected. Very smart guy.
The Democrats like him. The Republicans like him. He made a
recommendation. But regardless of recommendation, I was going to fire
Comey, knowing there was no good time to do it.
And in fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, you
know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: What the president told NBC`s Lester Holt that day saying he had
the Russia investigation in mind when he decided I know there is no good
time to do it, but I got to fire the FBI director, when he said that one,
yes, that was shocking, but that was more than shocking. I mean, first of
all, the president said that in public on audio and videotape. He came
right out and said to it the anchor of a major national newscast on tape.
And when see said about firing the FBI director because of Russia, that
stuck because it raised a lasting legal question. Six weeks before, James
Comey had confirmed for Congress that the FBI was investigating the Trump
campaign and whether it worked with the government during Russia`s attempts
to clear the 2016 election in Trump`s benefit.
Comey revealed to the House Intelligence Committee on March 20th, 2017,
that the investigation at the FBI was under way. The president then fired
James Comey on May 9th, and it was two days later that the president
explained what he had not previously made public.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: And in fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I
said, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: So we are used to this cycle, right? From back through the
campaign, maybe even back before the campaign, maybe him as a public
figure, but certainly him as a political figure. We`re used to this cycle,
Trump says shocking thing. People are shocked. Some level of criticism
levied at Trump because of shocking thing he said. Trump weathers
criticism. Country moves on.
We`re used to this cycle, right? I think the president does it on purpose
a lot of times because he enjoys that cycle. But when he said this thing
about firing Comey because of the Russia investigation, that wasn`t just
your typical shocking thing, that was potentially an admission of criminal
behavior, an admission specifically of criminal intent, right? What the
president did there was he drew a connection between the investigation into
his campaign about Russia and his decision to fire the man in charge of
And so that raised the question as to whether or not the president had just
confessed to the criminal intent necessary to prove criminal obstruction of
justice. The firing of James Comey and to a certain extent what the
president said about why he did it ultimately led to the appointment of
special counsel Robert Mueller and the Mueller investigation to look into,
among other things, whether or not the president obstructed justice.
And now, we`ve got these multiple expanding investigations still going on
in Congress about Mueller`s findings and the standoffs over witnesses and
subpoenas, right? All of that began with the shocking thing said by the
president that stuck, right? It still stuck to him despite his best
efforts to shake it off.
Because of that investigation, we now have memorialized in the Mueller
report the gleeful response from the Trump campaign when the Russians came
calling in 2016 with an offer of dirt on Hillary Clinton, right? Donald
Trump Jr. wrote back almost at once, if it is what you say, I love it,
A foreign adversary, a long-term foreign adversary, comes calling offering
one presidential campaign dirt on their opponent. The future p president`s
own eldest son says, oh, yes, if the Russians have dirt on our opponent, I
love it. Let`s hear it, let`s set up the meeting.
Donald Trump Jr. got that message in June 2016. Today, three years later,
June 2019, he is back on Capitol Hill today testifying in the Senate
Intelligence Committee. They called him back in part because they`re
trying to figure out whether Donald Trump Jr. was telling the truth about
how much his father knew about that offer from the Russians and that
subsequent meeting with the Russians to get dirt on Trump`s presidential
And this situation here presents a couple of difficulties for the president
and his family. I mean, first of all, there`s the question of whether the
president lied to Congress at any moment. Members of Congress have said
they suspect he has done so. So, he`s back under oath today. There is the
question of whether or not he has told any lies that could be potentially -
- that could potentially pose legal jeopardy for him.
Secondly, there is the question of whether getting help from a political
campaign foreign source is illegal, right? How that meets up with the
federal laws about what campaigns in this country are allowed to do. Those
are questions that tend to stick. Those questions have stuck.
If you spent all of your presidency so far dealing with those questions,
beating them back, fending them off, you might want to rethink going down
that road if the choice got presented to you again.
But tonight, when the president himself was asked on tape about his son and
the Russian offer of help during the campaign, he was asked by ABC News
anchor in an interview today, the president said something that once again
is shocking, but this is another one of those things that we will be
talking about for a long time to come, because this one has reason to
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS ANCHOR: Your son Don Jr. is up before the
Senate Intelligence Committee today. And again, he was not charged with
anything. In retrospect though –
TRUMP: Not only wasn`t he charged, if you read it, with all of the
horrible fake news – I mean, I was reading that my son was going to go to
jail. This is a good young man, that he was going to go to jail.
STEPHANOPOULOS: In June of 2016, just months before the election, Don Jr.
received an email from a business associate promising dirt on Hillary
Clinton from the Russian government. Don Jr.`s response: If it`s what you
say, I love it.
The conversation led to a meeting in Trump Tower that included the
president`s son, his son-in-law Jared Kushner and a Russian lawyer. Don
Jr. insists nothing came of it.
And special counsel Robert Mueller concluded there was not enough evidence
to charge a conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia.
TRUMP: And then the report comes out and they didn`t even say –
STEPHANOPOULOS: Should he have gone to the FBI when he got that email?
TRUMP: OK. Let`s put yourself in a position. You`re a congressman.
Somebody comes up and says hey, I have information on your opponent. Do
you call the FBI?
STEPHANOPOULOS: If it`s coming from Russia, you do.
TRUMP: I`ve seen a lot of things other my life. I don`t think in my whole
life I`ve ever called the FBI. In my whole life, you don`t call the FBI.
You throw somebody out of your office, you do whatever –
STEPHANOPOULOS: Al Gore got a stolen briefing book, he called the FBI.
TRUMP: Well, that`s different. A stolen briefing. But this is stuff –
this is somebody who said we have information on your opponent. Oh, let me
call the FBI. Give me a break. Life doesn`t work like that.
STEPHANOPOULOS: The FBI director says that`s what should happen.
TRUMP: The FBI is wrong.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Your campaign this time around, if foreigner, if Russia,
if China, if someone else offers you information on an opponent, should
they accept it or call the FBI?
TRUMP: I think maybe you do both. I think you might want to listen.
There is nothing wrong with listening. If somebody called from a country,
Norway, we have information on your opponent. Oh. I think I`d want to
STEPHANOPOULOS: You want that kind of interference in our elections?
TRUMP: It`s not interference. They have information. I think I`d take
it. If I thought there was something wrong, I`d go maybe to the FBI, if I
thought there was something wrong.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: If I thought there was something wrong about getting help from a
foreign country with my election, if I thought there was something wrong
with it, maybe I`d go to the FBI. If I thought there was something wrong
about it, but, yes, I`d want to see what any other country was offering.
Call the FBI? Who says you have to call the FBI. The FBI director says
you have to call the FBI? Well, the FBI director is wrong.
I mean, this is not the president riding around on the “Access Hollywood”
bus saying grab them by the genitals. I can get away with it. I`m famous.
And then the tape comes out.
I mean, this is the president saying on tape, the president who has been
saying no collusion, no collusion. The Russians were trying to help me?
Well, I didn`t – that wasn`t me.
This is that same president saying yes, I would want to see information
from a foreign power, never mind the FBI director`s opinion about that. I
mean, again, it`s not like this is a hypothetical concept that has never
come up before.
I mean, literally today, in Congress in the Intelligence Committee, even
the Republicans` witness, who the Republicans brought in to try to
discredit the whole Russia investigation, even that witness brought in by
the Republicans today conceded in the intelligence committee literally
today that, yes, you know, if a foreign government comes to you with
something, you`ve got to call the FBI.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MIKE QUIGLEY (D-IL): Putting yourself in the place of those who
receive the contacts, at any of those points, would you have called the
ROBERT ANDERSON, FORMER EXECUTIVE ASSISTANT DIRECTOR, FBI NATIONAL SECURITY
BRANCH: Well, would I have called the FBI?
ANDERSON: I call the FBI for things probably a lot less serious than that
QUIGLEY: Thank you.
ANDERSON: You know, I do think –
QUIGLEY: How ever else you feel about the report, do you think someone
should have called the FBI?
QUIGLEY: Thank you.
ANDERSON: I think there is no question, and my colleagues here have worked
counterintelligence I`m certain would tell you, we always want information,
any information that would be helpful to us in apprising what the likely
intentions of potentially hostile powers are.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: You`re here called by the Republicans to undermine the whole
Russia investigation and the whole Mueller report specifically, but even
you admit that when they got contacted by the Russians, they should have
called the FBI. Yes, of course, they should have called the FBI. Yes, you
call the FBI.
You don`t take stuff for your campaign from the Russians. Of course, you
call the FBI says the guy the Republicans called as their witness to try to
undermine the whole Russia investigation.
But it turns out, what he asserted about his colleagues who worked in
counterintelligence, they did certainly agree with him, that, yes, yes, you
don`t take stuff from a foreign country if a foreign country comes with
stuff to help you in your campaign. You go to the FBI.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUIGLEY: What counterintelligence risk is this when a campaign uses this
information about a political opponent that was stolen and released by a
foreign adversary, Mr. Anderson?
ANDERSON: Thank you, sir. First of all, troubles me that no one – if
they did not communicate this type of information to some government agency
just because of the facts laid out in the report and what you just brought
up. Individuals that are giving information as Stephanie said are being
tasked and then receiving information, that is the initial way you vet any
asset or any person that you`re targeting for a possible either unwitting
asset or recruitment in the future.
STEPHANIE DOUGLAS, FORMER EXECUTIVE ASSISTANT DIRECTOR, FBI NATIONAL
SECURITY BRANCH: I`d just like to add, I think if you`re a foreign power
and you have a campaign or individuals who are willing to entertain
receiving information that you were collecting for their benefit, I think
that is a tacit approval of that action, and I think that`s where we have
to be careful of allowing people to communicate to either a foreign
government, a foreign actor that what they`re doing, which is illegal by
hacking and collecting information and then releasing it, giving that kind
of approval by a head nod or a suggestion or, you know, any kind of
inference that it`s OK is a tacit approval of that kind of behavior. And I
think that puts us at greater risk.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That puts us at greater risk.
Literally today in Congress, there are former senior counterintelligence
officials from the FBI warning about how dangerous it is as a national
security matter for a campaign to take information surreptitiously shopped
to them from a foreign government.
Yes, that`s how you compromise people in the U.S. government. That`s how a
foreign government, particularly a hostile foreign adversary would
compromise people in the U.S. government. That`s how a hostile foreign
adversary would conceivably get power over our government, and, of course,
over our elections.
But when the sitting president said today, yes, he would happily take
derogatory information on opponent from a foreign government in the next
election, no, you wouldn`t call the FBI. It`s interesting. The president,
in making those remarks today, he was also fleshing out what the special
counsel Robert Mueller investigated as to the potential criminality of the
president`s campaign taking a meeting in the summer of 2016 at Trump Tower
to accept supposed dirt on the Hillary Clinton campaign that was being
offered to them by the Russian government.
I mean, Mueller investigated that as a potentially criminal act by Trump
and his campaign. And in explaining what they found when they investigated
that acceptance of an offer of information from the Russian government,
Mueller and his team wrote this.
Quote: The communications setting up the meeting and the attendance by high
level campaign representatives support an inference that the Trump campaign
anticipated receiving derogatory documents and information from official
Russian sources that could assist candidate Trump`s electoral processes.
This series of events could implicate the federal law election ban on
contributions and donations from foreign nationals. The special counsel`s
office considered whether this evidence would establish a conspiracy to
violate the foreign contributions ban. The solicitation of an illegal
foreign source contribution or the acceptance or receipt of an express or
implied promise to make a foreign source contribution.
Quote: There are reasonable arguments that the offered information would
cute a thing of value within the meaning of these provisions. However, the
office determined that the government would not likely be able to obtain
and sustain a conviction on these counts.
And why would they not be able to obtain and sustain a conviction for the
behavior around the Trump Tower meeting that the upper echelons of the
Trump campaign took in June 2016 when the Russian government came to them
and said hey, we`ve got dirt on Hillary, you want some? Why did they not
think they could obtain and sustain a conviction for that behavior by the
Well, they said there was a big problem with potentially trying to bring
charges about that. The big problem is that they, quote, did not obtain
admissible evidence likely to meet the government`s burden to prove beyond
a reasonable doubt that these individuals from the Trump campaign acted
willfully, i.e., with general knowledge of the illegality of their conduct.
Quote: To prove the defendant acted knowingly and willfully, the government
would have to show that the defendant had general knowledge that his
conduct was unlawful.
Quote: On the facts here, the government will be unlikely to prove beyond a
reasonable doubt that the June 19th participants had general knowledge that
their conduct was unlawful. The investigation has not developed evidence
that the participants in the meeting were familiar with the foreign
Yes, so when the Trump campaign accepted that offer of foreign assistance
from Russia back in June 2016, you know what their best defense is? They
were a bunch of political newbies, right? Why would they know there is
some obscure little law against accepting help from a foreign government in
your campaign? How could they know?
It`s not like that had ever been a controversial thing. It`s not like any
of them had ever been asked about something like that or had to worry about
something like that. Back in June 2016, Mueller`s team concluded they
couldn`t have known, or couldn`t prove that these people knew that these
people in the Trump campaign knew taking dirt like that, taking anything of
value for their campaign from the Russians would be illegal. How could
they have known back in June of 2016?
Well, now, of course, I mean, they`d have to know. Right now, after all of
this controversy, now, if those guys set out to accept something from their
campaign from a foreign country, now obviously, they would know that sort
of thing is illegal given the past few years of controversy over this
matter. Now they`d know. Now if they did it, prosecutors would have no
problem proving that they had criminal intent if they did it, if that
prospect came up, say, today on ABC News.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: This is somebody that said we have information on your opponent.
Oh, let me call the FBI. Give me a break. Life doesn`t work that way.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The president tonight promising that he would happily take illegal
campaign contributions in the form of dirt on an opponent from a foreign
government, and no, he wouldn`t call the FBI. Which is direct irrefutable
evidence on tape of criminal intent, right? That`s the criminal intent
that Mueller said he couldn`t quite nail down the last time Trump`s
campaign actually did take help from a foreign country.
But now, there it is, out loud on tape as he is promising to do it again in
the next election.
Joining us now is Congressman Adam Schiff, the chairman of the House
Sir, thanks very much for being here. I really appreciate your time.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): Great to be with you.
MADDOW: So what is your reaction to this news tonight in which President
Trump said he wouldn`t call the FBI if he was approached by a foreign
country with information he could use on his 2020 opponent. He might
accept that information. He says FBI Director Chris Wray is wrong if he
thinks the correct thing to do there would be to call the FBI.
SCHIFF: Well, like many things with Donald Trump, at first you`re shocked,
and then of course you realize, yes, that`s exactly him. There is no
ethical standard. There is no bar below which he will not go.
What I find so striking about this is he went to such trouble to deceive
the country about that Trump Tower meeting. He dictated that false
statement about adoptions to mislead people. So, if this was so perfectly
OK as he would have us believe, then why did he go to such trouble to
deceive the country about that meeting?
I think what the president is really saying is, yes, I knew this was
unethical, maybe illegal, and I would do it again.
Plainly, I think we`re going to have to spell it out crystal clear in the
law that getting dirt from a foreign power is considered a prohibited
foreign contribution to a campaign. We can call it the Donald Trump act if
we need any further clarity, but plainly, he hasn`t learned the lesson.
Rudy Giuliani is going off to Ukraine or was going to go off to Ukraine to
see if they could drum up some more dirt on one of the president`s
Giuliani, certainly, as the president`s lawyer, hasn`t learned a thing.
Jared Kushner also wouldn`t commit to notifying the FBI if he was contacted
in this way. They plainly have learned nothing from these two and a half
years of our exploration of this and of all the public censure around this.
MADDOW: Do you think there is a possibility the president is essentially
in doing this interview the way that he did tonight is essentially inviting
interference by other countries, that he is welcoming anything that other
countries might want to dish up for him on any of his potential 2020
It seems sort of like a strange thing to ask, but we know from Mueller`s
report that after the president did solicit hacking assistance in his
campaign in 2016 from the Russian government, the Russian government was in
fact listening, and within five hours of him making that public
proclamation, they did mount their first attempt on trying to access
Hillary Clinton`s private email server.
Do you think the president could potentially be asking for what he wants
SCHIFF: Well, I think without a question, that`s going to be the affect of
this. Foreign nations, particularly our adversaries watch every word said
by the president of the United States, and they analyze it, what does this
mean. If you take two things the president recently said, one in his
conversation with Putin where he said he still thinks this whole Russia
intervention on our election was a hoax, and if you combine it today with
him saying I wouldn`t necessarily call the FBI if the Russians offered me
dirt again, you put two and two together and the Russians know as long as
they intervene on Trump`s behalf, he is too weak to ever call them out, and
he may even be grateful for it.
So, yes, I think it gives a green light to other nations to once again
interfere in our election.
MADDOW: If the president`s remarks tonight are to be taken literally and
seriously, when he was confronted by George Stephanopoulos who said the FBI
director says that you should contact the FBI if a foreign government
offers to intercede in an election or provides you of something in an
election, the president responded bluntly to that by saying the FBI
director is wrong.
In terms of the independence of the FBI, the independence of the Justice
Department, the president`s role as the head of the executive branch, is
that potentially the president giving a directive to the FBI that something
like that shouldn`t be prosecuted?
SCHIFF: Look, I have faith that Christopher Wray is a person of principle
and he is going to speak truth to power as he did when he was asked that
question before. I`m sure he knew this was going to be anathema to the
president`s ears, but he is approximately absolutely right that should be
reported to the FBI.
So, I have confidence he will continue to run the FBI properly. But others
may be influenced by Donald Trump, wearing them down, battering them down,
urging them to do unethical things. It does take a toll.
And I think you see in actions of the administration, unethical actions by
others in the administration that they`re following the president`s
example. We saw in our own committee just last week, we did a hearing on
the national security implications of climate change, and we found out
after the hearing that no written testimony was provided by one of the
witnesses because the White House tried to censor in references to the
cataclysm of climate change.
So, it does have an affect on those who are too weak to stand up to the
president. I don`t think Christopher Wray is one of them.
MADDOW: Congressman, I`m interested to hear you talk about FBI Director
Chris Wray in that way, particularly because you suggested today that he
and his agency may be about to receive a subpoena from you. If you can
hold on for just one moment, I`d like to ask you about that on the other
side of the break.
MADDOW: Congressman Adam Schiff is the chairman of the House Intelligence
Committee. He is right in the middle or it in about ten different ways
today. We`ll be right back with him right after this. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Today, the Intelligence Committee in the House held its first open
hearing on the Mueller investigation, specifically on its
counterintelligence implications. Right after the hearing was concluded,
the chairman of that committee spoke with reporters and basically
threatened that what might happen next here is him giving a subpoena to the
FBI to try to prize information out of the FBI about the
counterintelligence findings of Mueller`s investigation.
That chairman telling reporters today, quote, we are determined to get
answers, and we are running out of patience. If necessary, we will
subpoena the director of the bureau and require him to come in and provide
those answers under oath.
Joining us once again is Congressman Adam Schiff, the chairman of the House
Sir, thank you again for sticking was.
Why do you think it might be necessary to subpoena the FBI and the FBI
SCHIFF: Because we can`t get answers. And there is no reason why the FBI
should be holding back. They`re required by law under the national
security act to keep us currently apprised of any significant intelligence
or counterintelligence activity, and there are few more significant
counterintelligence investigations than the one that involved the president
and people around him.
When James Comey was fired, that counterintelligence investigation went
into a black hole. Whether it was completely subsumed within the special
counsel`s work, whether there was separate agents who were embedded in his
team that reported become to headquarters, but there were also other FBI
agents working on it within the team, we don`t have clarity.
But at the end of the day, we need to know what happened to those
investigations. Are any of them still ongoing? If some were concluded,
what were the findings? And we have been searching with answers for the
bureau, and I don`t know where the bottleneck is, but I` am running out of
And if necessary, we will subpoena the director to come in and answer those
questions under oath, because we need to find out if there are steps we
need to take to protect the country from people who may have been
MADDOW: You had threatened a potential contempt citation against the
attorney general when you were trying to prize information from him from
the Justice Department broadly that was were unable to get. You basically
pulled back on that threat when the attorney general, when the Justice
Department did agree to start handing over some material.
Is there overlap here between what you have been able to get from the
Justice Department and what you`re expressing frustration about right now
in terms of what the FBI isn`t giving you?
SCHIFF: Well, I think there should be overlap. But these are not
documents. This is not information that they have yesterday provided to
us. And if necessary, we will take the same steps we were prepared to do
with the department of justice officials with the FBI.
I hope that won`t be necessary. I think the director understands the
requirements of the law, and if he is under some pressure that committee
can`t see that`s not being disclosed to us, then they need to level with us
and tell us what the circumstance is. But at the end of the day, we`re
going get this information.
MADDOW: Congressman Adam Schiff of California, the chairman of the
intelligence committee in the House, sir. Thank you very much for being
with us. I know it`s been a busy day.
SCHIFF: Thank you.
MADDOW: I want to bring into the conversation now, David Laufman. He`s
the former chief of the Justice Department`s Counterintelligence Section
under President Obama and during the first year of the Trump
Mr. Laufman, it`s a real honor to have you here. Thank you for making time
for us tonight.
DAVID LAUFMAN, FORMER CHIEF OF DOJ`S COUNTERINTEL & EXPORT CONTROL SECTION:
Good evening, Rachel.
MADDOW: So, we are continuing to cover the surprise news involving the
president tonight, did an interview with ABC News in which he flat-out,
bluntly asserted under fairly open-ended questioning that he would be
basically happy to accept foreign assistance in the next election, that he
would not necessarily contact the FBI if a foreign government contacted him
to give him things that would help him beat his opponent in the next
election. This struck me as I was reading this and my staff as we were
trying to sort out the implications of those comments as remarkable and
striking and potentially touching on some of the thresholds for criminal
intent that were described in the Mueller report when we talked about the
president`s campaign having accepted foreign assistance during the 2016
I want to just get your reaction to it tonight.
LAUFMAN: Well, my first reaction was I was somewhat shocked that I
remained capable of being shocked. But when I got over that, I was rather
dumbfounded to hear those words coming out of the mouth of a sitting
president of the United States that can be described as only fairly
construed as a scenario for a foreign influence operation part two, in the
context of a sitting administration.
There is only one right answer to the scenario that Mr. Stephanopoulos
presented to the president, and that is, A, you don`t take the meeting.
But if you become aware of such an overture, you instruct your staff to
pick up the phone and call the FBI and report what is an overture by a
foreign government to engage in an influence operation in the United
States, ostensibly, again, to subvert our democratic process.
MADDOW: Today at the Intelligence Committee in the House, we just spoke
with the chairman of that committee. There were former FBI officials who
testified at experts who talked about why foreign governments might want to
offer a candidate in a U.S. election assistance with dirt on their opponent
or something else that they could use to help them get elected, why that
might be an influence operation.
Can you – as somebody who has done counterintelligence work like this from
the perspective of the Justice Department, can you tell us how this work
from an intelligence perspective, why a foreign government would want to do
that, and what is dangerous about it to our national security?
LAUFMAN: Well, assessing motivations depends on the facts that present
themselves. It could be see they see their national interests, the foreign
government`s interests better advanced through a particular candidate,
particularly one they think may have legs and a capability of winning
election. They may see it as creating a kind of kompromat with respect to
that candidate, something some of previous guests talked about, gaining
some sort of leverage over that person. This is a secret, after all, that
the Trump campaign in 2016 worked studiously to protect from disclosure.
And in some instances, it`s simply an effort to create havoc in the United
States, as we saw in, for example, the Mueller team`s indictment of the
Internet Research Agency by sowing divisiveness and fractiousness amongst
us as a people. That weakens us, makes us more susceptible to the aims of
our foreign adversaries.
MADDOW: When the president tonight said the FBI is wrong when George
Stephanopoulos told him that the FBI director would say that a campaign
should contact the FBI if they ever are on the receiving end of this kind
of a foreign overture, when the president said the FBI director is wrong,
what sort of impact will that have in the law enforcement community at the
Justice Department, at the FBI in terms of how they approach potential
notifications like this in the future, how they follow up on threats like
this? Is that – could that conceivably be seen as an order from the
president as to how these things should be handled when it comes to
counterintelligence, when it comes to law enforcement?
LAUFMAN: Well, my guess is this kind of weariness that settled over the
law enforcement and intelligence committee because of the many utterances
excited or otherwise that come out of the president`s mouth. But be that
as it may, this is a deeply disturbing comment for the president to make
for the men and women of the FBI, other members of law enforcement and the
intelligence community who work strenuously every day to protect our
country against threat, foreign and domestic.
And he took an oath to protect the United States against all enemies,
foreign and domestic. And to invite them in, if you will, through
welcoming the receipt of derogatory information about another candidate
runs entirely contrary to his oath and to his obligation to protect us from
At the end of the day, I don`t think it`s going to have any material impact
on the effort that the FBI or the intelligence community continue to put in
day in and day out to protect us, but it certainly sends the wrong signal.
And I would hope that Director Wray would choose an appropriate time to
push back against what the president said today.
MADDOW: David Laufman, former chief of the Justice Department`s
Counterintelligence Section – sir, thank you very much for your time
tonight. I really appreciate you being here.
LAUFMAN: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: All right. We`ve got much more ahead here. A very, very busy
news night. Stuff keeps happening.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: Trump national security adviser Mike Flynn is currently awaiting
sentencing. He pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with
the Russian government during the presidential transition. After pleading
guilty, he became a cooperating witness for the government, and now he is
awaiting pronouncement from a judge of how much time he gets, if any.
Six months ago, back in December, as Flynn was heading into what he thought
would be his sentencing then, prosecutors told the judge in his case that
they were so happy with Flynn`s cooperation over the previous year, that
they were recommending to the federal judge overseeing his case that Flynn
get no jail time at all.
If you`re Mike Flynn, obviously, that`s exactly the kind of sentencing
advice you want the government to be giving your judge, right? I mean,
yes, you have to submit your own sentencing memo, but I can write it from
I`m very sorry for all I`ve done. I throw myself on the mercy of the
court. I swear I`ll never do it again. Thank you so much, Your Honor.
I`m really sorry. I mean, full stop.
And they`re recommending no jail time for Mike Flynn. Just keep your mouth
shut and don`t do anything to distract the judge from that fact.
Instead, Mike Flynn and his lawyers decided to give the judge a memorandum
ahead of his sentencing that described how Flynn basically felt like he was
being railroaded by the FBI because the agents who interviewed him never
warned Flynn it`s a crime to lie to the FBI because, of course, who
wouldn`t know it`s a crime to lie to the FBI? I mean, the implication of
their sentencing memo to the judge was that the real villains here were
these dastardly investigators who were looking at Flynn in the first place.
They set him up.
They didn`t have to do that, but they did, and the judge in Flynn`s case
was having none of it. The judge said out loud in open court that arguably
– he said arguably, quote, Mike Flynn, you sold out your country.
The judge asked prosecutors if Flynn could have been charged with treason.
It was at that point that Flynn decided if he really wanted to get the no
jail time he had been hoping for and that prosecutors recommended, maybe it
would be best to postpone his sentencing hearing and see if he couldn`t do
anything to get this judge look more kindly upon him at a future date.
Well, we are now closing on that future date. It has now been months since
that blown-up sentencing hearing for Flynn. This week, Flynn is
potentially back before that judge. He`s got a status update in his case
Leading up to that status update, things have been a little hinky for Mike
Flynn. Just in the last week, we have seen that judge release the voice
mail of President Trump`s lawyer calling and appearing to dangle a pardon
for Flynn when it became apparent to the president and his lawyers that
Flynn was going to flip and start cooperating.
We`ve also seen a bunch of materials unredacted in Flynn`s case, including
lots more information that we didn`t have before about other contacts Flynn
had with Russia that were previously undisclosed. And in advance of
getting before the judge again, after the judge started releasing all this
stuff, Flynn fired his lawyers. He fired his lawyers who were the ones
representing him the last time he went up for his botched sentencing effort
Now, we didn`t know when he fired his lawyers a few days ago who he was
going to replace them with, but now we know. And given what he`s been
through just over the past few months, Mike Flynn has gone in maybe the
opposite direction from what you might have expected, because this is
Michael Flynn`s new lawyer. And yes, that`s all Fox News.
She is a frequent guest on the Fox News Channel where what she does, what
they hire her to do, what her role is on Fox is that she opines about the
Mueller witch hunt. You can also read her frequent op-eds in the
conservative press about how Robert Mueller destroyed evidence and
obstructed justice, and Mike Flynn should withdraw his guilty plea because
it was a wrong guilty plea because he didn`t do anything wrong.
Over at her website which features these lovely caricatures of Robert
Mueller and his top prosecutors under the tag line “Creeps on a Mission”,
you can buy her book, which is all about what she says the corruption of
the Justice Department and how Robert Mueller`s top prosecutor on his team
is an epic villain for the ages.
You can also buy one of her t-shirts with that fun logo with all those
creeps like Robert Mueller on it. Sliding scale, $25 to $30.
Mike Flynn`s new lawyer also likes to tweet about how the judge in his case
is way out of line and has crucial facts wrong, and that judge doesn`t make
any sense. I mean, six months ago, there was like a hair`s breath of this
kind of stuff in that sentencing memo from Flynn`s old lawyers, and that
was enough to blow up Flynn`s case, to blow up his sentencing. Now he`s
gotten rid of them and hired somebody who basically that`s her entire
expertise is describing Mueller and Justice Department prosecutors as
villains and Flynn as railroaded and Flynn`s guilty plea as a mistake. I
mean, that is what she makes her living doing, right? Selling that
literally on t-shirts and books and TV appearances.
Now, rationally, why would a person like Flynn do that in his sentencing
given the way the judge responded to just a hint of this kind of thing six
months ago? I mean, either Mike Flynn has a great desire to spend a really
long time in prison. I mean, what? It`s rent free, what are you think?
Or perhaps Mike Flynn is planning on not being sentence beside they judge,
coming up with some way to get around that. I mean, it would make sense to
throw away all your normal attorneys who made the mistake of allowing you
to hint at all that stuff, go instead with somebody who is going to go all-
in on that stuff. It might make sense if you`re making your legal strategy
into a 100 percent presidential pardon Hail Mary strategy, right?
My client was a victim of the Mueller witch hunt. He is standing up to
this injustice and this terrible Justice Department and this terrible
Mueller investigation that has been so criminal in its own right. You hear
that, Mr. President?
Today, Flynn`s new lawyer told the conservative press that she plans to ask
the judge for a 90-day delay before Flynn`s next status update. She
doesn`t want to go before the judge right away. She wants another 90 days.
During that time, if she`s not able to make her case for leniency for Flynn
to the judge, presumably, she could spend that time making that case on TV,
making that Fox News, which means making that case to the president,
because that were the president gets all of his information.
So, this adds a whole new really suspenseful element to the weird case of
Mike Flynn, right? But it also means the case of Mike Flynn is not a
historical case. It`s not over.
The reason Mike Flynn features so prominently in volume two of the Mueller
report, it`s not just about his contacts with the Russians in volume on,
it`s about the dangling of that pardon to him, right, in volume two that is
described as one of the potentially criminally obstructive acts by the
Well, if the president is now going to grant Flynn the pardon, that means
the obstruction investigation, the investigation, the president potentially
being implicated in that, trying to affect Flynn`s cooperation, trying to
affect what he might say to investigators, trying to interfere with any
investigation that Flynn might otherwise be helping with. I mean, that
makes the obstruction issue live once again.
At today`s open hearing in the House Intelligence Committee on the
counterintelligence implications of Mueller`s report, there was further
light shed on the counterintelligence implications of what Michael Flynn
got in trouble for in the first place.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOAQUIN CASTRO (D-TX): Michael Flynn used secret back channel
discussions with the Russian ambassador to in effect undermine the Obama
administration`s ongoing foreign policy. So my question is, what counter
intelligence concerns arise from this type of back channel coordination
between an incoming presidential administration and a foreign adversary.
ANDERSON: When it comes to back channel communications on political or
national security issues or views from the White House, one of the things
that Russia and other significant nation states, intelligence organizations
tried to have that created. And the reason they will do is they try to get
the current administration, whether it`s the one currently in there now or
whenever, having their public face confuse with what either the State
Department is saying or people saying stuff through a back channel. This
is absolutely the exact same thing that was going on with the Maria Butina
case, which I was the expert for for the Department of Justice four weeks
ago in sentencing.
And they will do it at different levels. The key here is Russia wants to
get the administration, whatever administration that is, off balance. What
their real political views are and potential back channels.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Trying to get things off balance. That`s just what Justice
Department counterintelligence chief David Laufman told us a moment ago
live here on the show, that`s what a former FBI official told the
Intelligence Committee as you saw there today.
As the president today tells ABC News that he would welcome anything he
could get from a foreign country to help him in an election.
I mean, the back channel secret communications Mike Flynn had with the
Russians during the presidential transition, that`s the kind of stuff
Russia uses to keep adversaries off balance. And then Flynn lied about
those contacts and Donald Trump fired the FBI director who wouldn`t shut
down the investigation into Flynn, and then Trump`s lawyer seemed worried
enough what Flynn might tell prosecutors he appeared to dangle a pardon for
Flynn depending on how Flynn was going to talk to prosecutors about the
president and now Flynn has hired somebody as his new lawyer who makes a
living off of demonizing Robert Mueller and calling the whole thing a witch
Whatever has been going on with Mike Flynn is not over it appears to still
be red hot. Watch this space.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: This is somebody that said we have information on your opponent.
Oh, let me call the FBI. Give me a break. Life doesn`t work that way.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: We`re still gathering reaction and perspective tonight to the
president telling ABC News that is yes, he would appreciate a foreign
government helping him out in his next campaign and no, he would not
necessarily alert the FBI.
We`ve just had reaction from the man right now leading in all the polls in
the Democratic presidential primary, former Vice President Joe Biden
responding to tonight with this. Quote: President Trump is once again
welcoming foreign interference in our elections. This isn`t about
politics. It`s a threat to our national security and an American president
not should seek to aid and abet those who seek to undermine democracy.
Joining us now is Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney of New York. He`s a
member of the House Intelligence Committee.
Sir, I know this has been a busy day. Thanks for being here tonight.
REP. SEAN PATRICK MALONEY (D-NY): My pleasure.
MADDOW: Let me just ask your reaction to those words tonight from the
president, that we were not planning on covering this at all. We had a
whole different show planned and then the president came out with that and
it stopped everybody in their tracks.
MALONEY: Right. It`s as if he rejects the standard. It`s as though
Richard Nixon said so what if I organize the cover-up of the break-in of
the Watergate hotel, everybody does that.
In other words, at least Richard Nixon when caught in the lie bought into
the basic standards of right and wrong. He knew we had him and he had to
give in. Trump rejects standards. That`s very pernicious.
And what he`s doing in that interview is really threatening the very
institutions at their core because they`re rooted fundamentally on shared
MADDOW: If the president goes through with what he was promising to do
today. If the president openly solicited or surreptitiously solicits and
gets found out later on he is actually working with a foreign government of
some stripe to try to obtain information that he can use against his
opponents or some other form of advantage that he can get in the election,
how do you think the Congress would react? How do you think law
enforcement would react? What should the country do if something like that
is revealed for 2020?
MALONEY: Well, we don`t need to guess. He`s already done. And we`ve got
200 pages in volume one in the Mueller report that details it.
So, unfortunately, we live in a time where because he rejects the
standards, because the Republican Party in Washington is bankrupt morally
on this issue, he`s getting away with it, to a degree. I do think Congress
is not powerless and we could for example, have mandatory disclosure of
contacts with foreign nationals or with entities that could be linked to
foreign governments. We could require campaigns to do the right thing. We
shouldn`t have to. But we could do that.
But the fact is that the American people will get the final word here. We
need to hold him accountable at the polls and everywhere else.
MADDOW: In terms of the president`s directive tonight that the FBI
director is wrong to suggest that campaigns should contact the FBI if they
get an overture like this from a foreign country, would you expect as a
member of the intelligence committee and as a member of Congress, would you
expect the FBI to have to rebut that from the president?
MALONEY: Well, you know, in the hearing I participated today in the
intelligence committee, the Republican witness was asked that question by
my colleague Mike Quigley and I followed up on it, and the Republican said
I would expect them to tell the FBI. Their own witness said it.
The fact is that only Donald Trump thinks it`s a good idea to keep from
your own government the fact that a foreign government may be trying to
undermine our election. Again, he`s rejecting a standard that shouldn`t be
in question and we all need to stand up for what`s obvious and what`s
MADDOW: Congressman, there`s one other matter I wanted to ask you about
briefly in the minutes that we got left. You`re on the Transportation
Committee, as well. We`ve been covering the sort of snowballing series of
corruption allegations against Elaine Chao, who`s the secretary of
transportation. It`s a sensitive matter because she`s a cabinet minister,
but also because she`s married to the Senate Majority Leader Mitch
I wanted to know if you know of any plans for the Transportation Committee
to hold hearings on any of those allegations, if there`s anything else
happening from an oversight perspective on those things?
MALONEY: Well, I`m glad you ask me that. I chair the Marine
Transportation Subcommittee. My committee has jurisdiction over the issues
raised by “The New York Times.” and more broadly, the larger committee has
jurisdiction over the issues raised in the “Politico” story and you better
So, the chairman has given me the green light to proceed with an inquiry on
this subject. We intend to get the facts about what happened. And we`re
not going to prejudge it. We`re going to be fair.
But there are serious allegations that the secretary of transportation has
used her position to benefit her family`s business, that`s the first story.
And to help her husband, that`s the second story.
That`s wrong. It`s not politics as usual. It`s nepotism. And the public
deserves to know what the truth is.
MADDOW: Congressman Sean Maloney, member of the Intelligence and
Transportation Committee making news here with that pronouncement. Sir,
thank you very much. We`ll follow up with you on that in coming days. I
really appreciate you helping us understand that tonight.
MALONEY: Thank you very much.
MADDOW: All right. That does it for us tonight. We will see you again
Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL”.
Good evening, Lawrence, on this busy night.
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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