Federal savings bank CEO indicted. TRANSCRIPT: 6/18/19, The Rachel Maddow Show.
HAYES: All right. Zerlina Maxwell, Michael Steele, David Wasserman, thank
you for your time.
That is ALL IN for this evening.
“THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW” starts now.
Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thanks, my friend.
HAYES: Thank you.
MADDOW: Thanks to you for joining us this hour. Happy Tuesday.
Once upon a time, the president`s campaign chairman came up with a genius
plan to finagle himself a few million dollars. It was the middle of the
presidential campaign. He was in charge of the campaign for the Republican
presidential nominee, kind of in the cat bird seat, and from that position
he found a little bank in Chicago, a small bank that was oriented
specifically toward lending money to veterans. And it turns out that
little bank was run by a guy who was a Trump supporter.
Now, the president`s campaign chairman was not himself a veteran, which
you`d think might be awkward in terms of his interactions with that bank,
given the particular focus of that bank on lending to veterans. But if you
think something like that was going to trip up this plan, you underestimate
the genius of the scheme here.
The president`s campaign chairman, what he did is he applied to this little
bank in Chicago for millions of dollars in loans and he was not applying,
shall we say, purely on his financial merits. Prosecutors later spelled
out how he falsified records and materials in his loan applications. And
he didn`t even do a great job of fudging that stuff that he fudged. He
kept getting caught out, kept apologizing, kept resubmitting different
numbers, different materials.
Bank employees at that little bank, we now know, they did not want to
approve these loan applications for the president`s campaign chairman.
They didn`t want to give him these loans. They didn`t think he qualified.
These were not the kind of loans the bank usually did. They were huge
loans relative to the bank`s size. These loans would make him the single
biggest borrower for the whole bank.
But those employees were overruled. The bank`s CEO repeatedly intervened
in the loan applications for that one potential lender. The bank`s CEO
intervened personally to make sure that Paul Manafort, the president`s
campaign chairman, would get those millions of dollars worth of loans
anyway. That he would be approved.
Prosecutors say that bank exec intervened the way he did because of what
they describe as a neat quid pro quo arrangement with the president`s
campaign chair. The campaign chair, Paul Manafort, would get those
millions of dollars in loans, biggest loans the bank had ever given, loans
on which the bank would ultimately lose millions of dollars, and in
exchange the CEO of the bank would get a position on the Trump campaign.
And according to prosecutors the quid and the quo were both delivered.
Paul Manafort did get the millions of dollars in loans and the bank
executive who personally intervened to make sure those loans got approved,
he was in fact appointed to an economic advisory group on Trump`s campaign.
And then beyond that, prosecutors say the biggest payoff in this planned
exchange was that the president`s campaign chairman would then put up that
bank exec to become the next secretary of the United States army, to become
the army`s top civilian leader, to be appointed to that job by the new
president, Donald J. Trump.
Now, ultimately, that part of the quid pro quo did not work out, right? As
you know, the president`s campaign chairman, he, of course, now lives in
prison where he is serving a 7 1/2-year federal prison sentence and he is
awaiting the start of yet another trial on additional charges from New York
state. The most recent controversy over Paul Manafort concerns this letter
in which the number two official in the Justice Department, Trump`s newly
appointed deputy attorney general, has written to the New York state
prosecutors who have brought charges against Manafort inquiring as to
Manafort`s health and dispensation in prison and the question of where he`s
going to be held while he`s awaiting trial on these New York state charges.
There had been earlier reporting that Manafort was going to be transferred
to New York City`s notorious Rikers Island jail complex to await the start
of his state trial. Now, it appears he won`t go to Rikers. Instead, he`ll
be staying in federal custody in New York federal lockup while he waits for
his next trial to start instead.
And whether or not his conditions of confinement have been influenced by
the top Trump appointees at the federal Justice Department, it`s not
exactly clear yet as this reporting has continued to evolve – but, I mean,
even before we get clarity on that, I mean, bigger picture, right, this is
how things have worked out for the president`s campaign chairman in all
Like, these are the questions about Paul Manafort at this point. Is he
going to Rikers or is he going to the federal lockup where El Chapo`s in
charge, right? Or is he staying at his federal work camp in Pennsylvania?
I mean, that`s the range of possibilities for the president`s campaign
chairman Paul Manafort at this point, none of which is good, no matter how
you answer any of those questions about his current fate.
As for the other guy in that arrangement, the guy who thought he was going
to get to be secretary of the U.S. army because of his dealings with
Manafort, he is also not good right now. He has been indicted on federal
bribery charges related to his interventions on those loans and related to
that proposed job offer for him to be army secretary. The bank CEO pled
not guilty to that federal charge. He`s due to get a trial date next
So that first plan, that once upon a time plan for how the new Trump
administration would staff up and appoint the most senior civilian
leadership in the greatest army on the face of the earth, that plan “A” did
not work out for them. Don`t worry, though, they had a plan “B.”
The president found another guy to nominate for that same job. Quote:
Whether it is his distinguished military service or his highly impressive
track record in the world of business, Vinnie has proved throughout his
life that owe knows how to be a leader and deliver major results in the
face of any challenge.
That was the announcement. That announcement, Vinnie Viola, that plan “B”
seemed to be going well until this part of that nominee`s track record was
released by the local police department in Saratoga Springs, New York. A
police incident report about the new Trump army secretary nominee punching
a guy out at a high-end horse auction in Saratoga Springs.
It wasn`t like a youthful indiscretion from his sealed juvenile record or
something. The punching the guy out at the horse auction which led to the
police report and all that, that was all less than six months before Trump
announced him as his plan “B” nominee to be secretary of the army. I guess
they didn`t Google him.
So that was weird, but their plan “B” for army secretary didn`t work out
either. That meant it was time for plan “C” for an army secretary. You
might remember that as the brief interregnum where the president`s nominee
to be Army secretary was yet another guy who didn`t end up in the job. It
turns out he couldn`t get the support of Trump`s newly appointed defense
secretary at the time. This is when Jim Mattis was defense secretary.
Secretary Mattis declined to answer when he was asked if he supported the
plan “C” nominee to run the U.S. army, a guy named Mark Green. Plan “C”
Mark Green was a doctor from Tennessee who was a self-proclaimed
creationist who said on tape, and I quote, “transgender is a disease.” He
also mused on tape at a Tea Party event about putting down the armed member
insurrection in this country.
Secretary Mattis, are you OK with this guy running the United States army,
sir? Sir, sorry, did you hear the question, sir? We didn`t hear your
answer. Do you –
So that one didn`t work out either. Time for plan “D”, right? After all
of those earlier experiences, president Trump still needed somebody to be
the top civilian leader of the United States army. His plan “D” choice
after running through all those other carefully chosen best people was that
he eventually arrived at the top lobbyist for Raytheon.
Raytheon, one of the biggest defense contractors on earth, which means
literally its income derives from military contracts. That is ultimately
who President Trump decided to put in charge of the U.S. Army, the top
lobbyist for Raytheon. Put him in charge of the army because, you know,
drain the swamp.
Well, now today that lobbyist has just been promoted. As of today he`s the
acting secretary of defense, because incredibly yet another Trump nominee
has been caught up in a lurid and sad and in his case somewhat terrifying
personal spectacle, and it has all now become public business because
apparently there is no vetting whatsoever when it comes to the Trump
administration filling the most important jobs in the U.S. government,
including those in the military and national security fields. They just
put in guys who look the part or who, like, somebody said once would be
I mean, remember the new V.A. secretary we were going to have? Hey, how
about Ronnie? Hey, Dr. Ronnie, you happen to be, like, on the plane and
within sight when we started talking about needing somebody to run the V.A.
There you are, like, handing out the Ambien in the central aisle of the
plane. Hey, the president likes you, Ronnie. Aren`t you in the navy? Do
you want to run the second largest organization in the western world with
the responsibility of the care of tens of millions of American veterans?
You seem like a nice guy. You seem like you`d be good. You want that job?
Tell the Senate. Here he comes. That`s enough vetting.
The president likes him. He`s got a good reputation. Look how friendly.
I mean, that`s basically how they tried it with the V.A. of all things. I
mean, they did this with the secretary of the army multiple times and
worse. We`re now living through them doing it with the secretary of
defense, which you`d think would be a job they`d take more seriously.
And in some ways the implosion today of the defense secretary nomination
for Patrick Shanahan, in some way this one stands alone in terms of its
bloody and personal misery and we`re going to be talking in just a moment
with “The Washington Post” reporter today who really broke this story open
of what exactly the Trump administration was letting him twist in the wind
all this time for, what they were just hoping no one would notice about him
and maybe the FBI would let it slide in his background check. We`ll talk
in just a second about what exactly turned up in Patrick Shanahan`s life
that the Trump administration apparently never vetted out of him, and so
now it`s all come out in public and now he`s the latest of these nominees
But for everything uniquely terrible about this latest personnel disaster
and cabinet disaster today with the Shanahan nomination going away, I think
it`s also important to see this thing that just happened with the defense
secretary nominee as just one in a long line. I mean, honestly, lots of
people have criminal histories. Lots of people have been involved in
possibly illegal or shady or violent stuff. Lots of people have been
caught cheating or stealing or beating people up.
I mean, we`re all more than the worst thing we have ever done, but one of
the core functions of a functioning White House, that we didn`t used to
have to even spell out because we thought it was intrinsically obvious,
right? We thought they`d at least see it as in their own interests enough
to do it.
One of the I can`t believe we have to say this basic rules of a functioning
White House is that people who have been caught up in criminal activity or
shady activity or cheating or stealing or violence or lying about any of
those things or trying to keep their involvement in closeness to any of
those things secret so people don`t find out. I mean, one of the things a
White House at a basic level is supposed to do is make sure people who are
compromised in that way don`t get high-ranking jobs in the federal
government. I mean, you are supposed to check for that sort of stuff
before you put people forward for high-ranking jobs in the government.
Particularly national security and military jobs, right?
I mean, even if it`s not something bad that you necessarily did or it`s
something that`s not all your fault, even if it`s just something that you
really want to keep secret, therefore you are vulnerable to blackmail for
anybody figures it out and tries to use it against you, right? Even if you
didn`t do something all that bad but it`s something you find embarrassing
or otherwise so un – not the way you want to think about yourself that
people could use it against you as leverage.
That kind of thing, anything serious like that would generally disqualify
you from getting a high-level security clearance. It would turn up in your
FBI background check when you`re up for Senate confirmation. It should
turn up in the aggressive vetting you`re supposed to undergo from the White
House itself even before anybody floats that you might eventually be
considered for a potential nomination.
But not with this presidency. I mean, even 2 1/2 years in now, how many
times is this going to happen? Now that it`s happening with the defense
secretary are they going to take this seriously?
I mean, this has happened over and over again. I mean, between losing his
plan “B” and plan “C” nominees for army secretary, between the forced
withdrawal of those two consecutive, totally unvetted nominees to be army
secretary, you might remember there was also Trump`s nominee for labor
secretary, Andy Puzder, who it turns out had had his marriage featured on
an episode of “The Oprah Winfrey Show” that was titled “high-class battered
Andy Puzder`s wife had filed allegations during his divorce in which she
said he hit her and threw her to the kitchen floor and unplugged the phone
after she tried to call police. She said that he assaulted and battered me
by striking me violently about the faces, back, shoulders neck without
provocation or cause. She outlined what she said were her injuries.
Andy Puzder denied this and his wife later recanted them. It`s part of a
child custody agreement later on. She later said, no, no. She took it all
back. He never abused her at all.
But in 1990, there was Andy Puzder`s ex-wife wearing a disguise and big
glasses and using a pseudonym describing allegations of physical abuse by
Trump labor secretary nominee Andy Puzder on TV, the one she had also
testified to in their divorce proceedings two years prior.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He vowed revenge. He said “I will see you in the
gutter. This will never be over. You will pay for this.”
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The day that – the day that politico.com obtained that tape of
that TV show featuring Andy Puzder`s ex-wife talking about what she said
happened in their marriage, the day that take finally surfaced, Andy Puzder
was out as Trump`s nominee to join the cabinet and run the Labor
Department. Trump instead picked Alex Acosta, who has since been told by a
federal judge that he and his fellow former prosecutors acted illegally
when they agreed to a, frankly, inexplicable plea deal with a serial child
sex offender who is accused of molesting dozens of young girls.
Alex Acosta agreed to an inexplicable non-prosecution agreement with
billionaire child sex offender Jeffrey Epstein that precluded trying
Epstein on any federal charges and that precluded investigations or charges
against any of his potential accomplices. Acosta is who did get the labor
secretary gig and still has it, after Andy Puzder was deemed too
controversial to get it.
Before long, the Trump administration would also have to see off the staff
secretary in the White House who worked every day in the oval office in the
immediate company of the president, seeing every piece of paper that
crossed the president`s desk no matter its classification level. All of
this despite the fact that his own application for a permanent security
clearance just couldn`t seem to get through. It turns out Rob Porter
wasn`t getting his security clearance because the FBI was getting stuck on
the serious allegations of physical abuse that had been made against him by
not one but both of his ex-wives.
Two days after Rob Porter had to leave the White House over those serious
domestic abuse claims, a Trump White House speechwriter was also forced out
after his ex-wife also explained to “The Washington Post” that she too had
spoken to the FBI about her contention that she was subject to violent
abuse by her husband during their recent marriage including her fearing for
her life at his hands. He denied the allegations.
Quoting from “The Washington Post” at the time, quote: Trump`s speechwriter
David Sorenson`s ex-wife called it scary that someone like her ex-husband
had access to the White House. Quote: Everyone can think you`re the most
wonderful guy but you`re throwing women into walls by night.
What may be most remarkable about all those Trump staffers and nominees
losing their jobs over these – and losing their nominations over these
various abuse allegations is that most of them actually did at least lose
their jobs, even in this administration for stuff like this. I mean, that
itself was a surprise from the very start.
Do you remember when Steve Bannon was first hired to run the Trump campaign
in the summer of 2016 after Paul Manafort got fired because of his
undisclosed ties to Russian interests and Ukrainian oligarchs?
Steve Bannon was hired to run the Trump campaign in the first place despite
absolutely lurid domestic violence allegations against him as well,
including the publication of these police reports which detailed what
police saw when they were summoned to his home in California, including the
injuries to his wife and the destruction of the phone that could have
otherwise been used by her to summon help after the alleged assault moved
from the driveway back into their home. Bannon was charged with domestic
violence, battery and witness intimidation. The court in southern
California issued a domestic violence protective order against him.
Now, I mentioned that witness intimidation was one of the charges against
Bannon. Ultimately the way that criminal case against him resolved is that
his ex-wife, in fact, did not show up to the trial to testify against him.
The basis of the witness intimidation charge against him was that he was
allegedly trying to terrify his wife into getting out of town and not
turning up at the trial so she couldn`t testify against him.
In the end, she got out of town and did not show up for the trial so she
could not testify against him. But because she didn`t show up, the charges
were dropped. And then Steve Bannon put in charge of the Trump campaign,
hired on as White House senior adviser and now swanning around Europe
trying to Trumpify European politics as well.
This is how it`s bee since before the beginning, without even talking about
the president himself. Who is going to vet him?
I mean, now the president`s running for re-election. His kickoff re-
election campaign rally is tonight. And today his acting defense
secretary, his nominee to run the defense department, that nomination blew
up in a way that did not have to happen, that you`d think would have been
caught early in any serious vetting effort by any White House, except for
the fact that this White House 2 1/2 years in still doesn`t do any of that.
As Patrick Shanahan`s defense secretary nomination was being withdrawn
today, reporters Aaron C. Davis and Shawn Boburg at “The Washington Post”
went to the press with this remarkable “stop you in your tracks” story that
is based in part on an interview they were able to secure with Patrick
Shanahan last night.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
PATRICK SHANAHAN, ACTING DEFENSE SECRETARY: I don`t believe violence is
appropriate ever. And certainly there`s never any justification for
attacking someone with a baseball bat.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: For attacking someone with a baseball bat.
Patrick Shanahan speaking to “The Washington Post” last night, having to
explain his belief that there`s never any justification for attacking
someone with a baseball bat.
Over the brief 2 1/2 years that the Trump administration has been in there,
we have seen a remarkably high number of Trump appointees and nominees
resign or get pulled or at least get called out for a remarkable rogues
gallery of alleged and admitted behavior. Nothing like this, though,
tonight with Patrick Shanahan.
As “The Washington Post” went to press with the fruits of that interview
today, the president announced that Patrick Shanahan`s defense secretary
nomination was being pulled. The story that made that happen and the lead
reporter who got that interview is going to join us next.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: So this was the first national news report on the subject this
morning in “USA Today.” Quote: The FBI has been examining a violent
domestic dispute from nine years ago between Acting Defense Secretary
Patrick Shanahan and his then wife as part of a background investigation
ahead of his possible confirmation hearing to be president Trump`s
permanent defense chief.
That was this morning in “USA Today.” Then this afternoon, in “The
Washington Post,” this is how we knew it was all over for Patrick Shanahan
as Trump`s nominee to be secretary of defense. And I know this is, you
know, just the latest Trump cabinet official or nominee to blow up in
scandal, but this one is definitely different. I will warn you it`s also a
little bit hard to stomach.
Quote: In the months that he has served as President Trump`s acting
secretary of defense, Patrick Shanahan has worked to keep domestic violence
incidents within his family private. His wife was arrested after punching
him in the face and his son was arrested after a separate incident in which
he hit his mother with a baseball bat. In November 2011, Shanahan rushed
to defend his then 17-year-old son in the days after the teenager brutally
beat his mother. The attack had left Patrick Shanahan`s ex-wife
unconscious in a pool of blood, her skull fractured and with internal
injuries that required surgery, according to court and police records.
Two weeks later, Shanahan sent his ex-wife`s brother a memo arguing that
his son had acted in self-defense. Quoting from the memo: Use of a
baseball bat in self-defense will likely be viewed as an imbalance of
force, said Shanahan, however, Will`s mother harassed him for nearly three
hours before the incident.
In an hour-long interview Monday night at his apartment in Virginia,
Shanahan, who has been responding to questions from “The Post” about the
incident since January, said he wrote the memo in the hours after his son`s
attack before he knew the full extent of his ex-wife`s injury. Shanahan
said Monday, meaning yesterday, he does not believe there can be any
justification for an assault with a baseball bat. He now says he regrets
writing that passage.
Quote: Quite frankly, it is difficult to relive that moment, and the
passage was difficult for me to read. I was wrong to write those three
sentences, Shanahan said.
Quote: I have never believed Will`s attack on his mother was self-defense
or justified. I don`t believe violence is appropriate ever and certainly
never a justification for attacking anyone with a baseball bat.
“The Post” goes on to explain based in part on extensive divorce filings,
Patrick Shanahan`s own behavior in the immediate aftermath of the baseball
bat fractured skull attack, including him renting a hotel room where he
hold up for days with his son while police were looking for him.
Joining us now is Aaron Davis, investigative reporter with “The Washington
Mr. Davis, I appreciate your time tonight, this is quite a scoop.
AARON DAVIS, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Thanks for
MADDOW: So you mentioned that Mr. Shanahan had been discussing these
incidents with “The Post,” with you since January. It`s remarkable that
you guys have had this reporting project in the works for all this time
while when he was not long ago confirmed as deputy defense secretary, this
never turned up in any of the documents that were handed over to the
senate. Senators say they had no idea. This apparently didn`t pop in any
of his background stuff that was made available.
DAVIS: Well, Shanahan in his interviews with us says there was some
litigation of this very issue the first go-round when he was up for the
number two slot in the Pentagon, that that was communicated that a FBI
background check was communicated to then chairman McCain and ranking
member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
It does seem, though, there`s been a much more fuller investigation by the
FBI in the course of this much larger role as secretary of defense. We do
not know – I mean, there`s a few things we don`t know about this
situation. We don`t know where the FBI is in their process of
investigating this. We don`t know if they`ve actually finished their
investigation, given it to the White House and they`ve been sitting on it
because of this or some other thing.
But we do know that it became clear to Patrick Shanahan in recent days as
just so many weeks had gone by without his nomination papers being
officially transmitted to the Congress that this story, these domestic
violence episodes were eventually going to have to be confronted by him in
Now, it`s – to your point earlier about the vetting issue, it`s pretty
remarkable because for the past five months now or six months nearly
Patrick Shanahan and those close to him, his family, people working with
him in the Pentagon, have been working to, you know, make sure this didn`t
come out in the press, to make sure that Congress never asked about this
when it came to the confirmation hearing.
So you have a situation, you know, where the very purpose of a confirmation
hearing, of vetting nominees so that there isn`t something, as you said,
that could be used as blackmail, we are very close to Patrick Shanahan
being put before Congress for a confirmation hearing, possibly having this
never come up. You know, if there hadn`t been such a delay around the
latest FBI investigation. But possibly a very long time before, you know,
this was out there and he was trying to keep it from getting out there and
who knows how that could have been used against him.
MADDOW: And him serving nearly six months as acting secretary of defense
with this potential leverage pending against him while he tried to keep it
secret as well. I mean, obviously an acting secretary doesn`t have exactly
the same power as a secretary of defense, but it`s not like he` been shy in
I want to ask you something about some of the documents you turned up. In
your reporting with Shawn Boburg at “The Post”, you`ve obviously gone
through more than 1,000 pages of divorce documents. You`ve gone through
the police documents, including incredible detail. Sarasota police wrote
that the young man struck several blows to his mother`s head and torso,
left her in a pool of blood and unplugged the landline phone cord,
depriving the victim and the young brother the use of 9/11, or excuse me,
911 to render aid.
I mean, this incredible detail from the police reporting on this. And then
also this memo that Shanahan himself wrote to essentially try to shield his
son from getting in trouble on this stuff. Is the memo that you guys have
reported here, which is such an important part of the story, is this the
first time it has become publicly known, that he did that memo?
DAVIS: Yes, that`s the first public reporting on this memo. And the memo
is, as you said, it`s pretty important because the lines that he used in
trying to very early on decide if there was some mitigating factor, as he`s
told me, you know, how did this happen, how did it come to be that my son
did this? He was really looking for what would be the defense and what
would be the explanation.
And he wrote this memo that he circulated with his attorneys that later was
sent to another family member and found its way into the public court file
where he did use this equivalency almost of a verbal assault with a
physical assault. And I think people who have heard that on the Hill have
had kind of a visceral reaction to that sometimes, the way he phrased that.
He now says he regrets writing it. He wrote it poorly. Doesn`t mean it
and doesn`t believe there is any justification for using a baseball bat,
but this discussion, I do believe in my conversations with him last night
and this morning have perhaps him hearing the words come out of his mouth
and rereading this memo, perhaps for the first time visualized what a very
public airing of this would look like.
DAVIS: And I think it became too much for him. There is a document in the
court file where it says Patrick Shanahan is not without fault in this
whole situation. He was never, you know, the person who used the baseball
bat. That was his son against the mother of his three children, but he was
not without fault in that he knew there was a very complicated and tense
situation going on with his ex-wife and the children and he should have
done more in that situation.
I think, you know, reading by what he has done today, stand up and walk
away from the nomination, that this is a chapter two and perhaps a way for
him to, you know, be the parent perhaps that earlier on in the course of
this very awful, sad and tragic family history that he was, you know,
somewhat criticized for.
MADDOW: Aaron Davis, investigative reporter with “The Washington Post” who
broke this story wide open today, as Mr. Shanahan has stepped out and will
not become the secretary of defense, Mr. Davis, thank you for helping us
understand your reporting tonight. Much appreciated.
MADDOW: I will say that, you know, getting – this story being made public
about the Shanahan family, you can`t be put forward for a Senate
confirmable important national security position while having a big secret
that you don`t want to come out that some people know about you that could
be used against you, for one. But when people do have secrets or they have
things in their family that they cannot allow to become public for family
reasons or even the most beneficial of reasons, that`s the stuff that comes
up in a vetting that means you don`t get put up for the job in the first
place, and that is the White House`s failing here, not Shanahan`s failing,
the White House`s failing that they even tried it with him and they`re the
reason this stuff is out in the open in a way that Shanahan`s family would
rather – would rather anything, right?
Much more to come tonight, including Senator Chris Murphy joining us next.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: So we haven`t had a confirmed secretary of defense no nearly six
months. That`s a record – over that six-month period, we`ve got ongoing
U.S. operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and Syria. We`ve had the Trump
administration threaten brand-new wars against both Venezuela and Iran, and
now today, Patrick Shanahan, the longest ever non-confirmed only acting
defense secretary in U.S. history is himself out because the White House
apparently did its usual bang-up job of vetting high-profile important
nominees and they never noticed the huge bloody domestic violence crime and
tragedy in his family`s recent history, which Shanahan has been desperately
trying to keep secret while he was also expecting to be confirmed as
Joining us now is Senator Chris Murphy who is on the Senate Foreign
Sir, thanks very much for joining us tonight. It`s nice to see you.
SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D-CT): Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: So one of the consequences of this story is I think some senators
have expressed concern that they didn`t know about this. Shanahan was
confirmed as a deputy defense secretary in the past. He was well into the
nomination process at this point. They`d had no word. The FBI paperwork
on him had not been handed over.
How concerned are you about this?
MURPHY: Well, I`m very concerned about it, understanding that there is
likely a different amount of background investigation done for a deputy
secretary versus a secretary, but as you point out, we`ve been waiting for
six months for a secretary candidate to be sent to the United States
Senate. It`s unprecedented to have this much time go by without anyone as
the formal head of our military, and had the president decided back in
January or February that he was going to forward Shanahan`s name to the
United States congress, this information would have come out much earlier
and we could have moved on to the next nominee.
What is particularly perilous is that this hasn`t ended yet. We have
another announcement of a new acting secretary, and it could be that for
the better part of an entire year, we are not going to have anyone formally
leading the entirety of the United States military, and given, as you
mentioned, all of the different crises that are erupting around the world,
that is as concerning to me as the lack of information about this
MADDOW: What is the practical consequence of having an acting secretary in
there versus a confirmed secretary? Obviously, we`re seeing the Trump
administration act in ways that are, you know, concerning to a lot of
people on Venezuela, certainly right now on Iran. There`s been lots of
confusion in terms of whether or not the president ultimately did give an
order that U.S. troops should leave Syria or not and what happened to that
I mean, ever since James Mattis left, there`s been no clear indication
about how the administration handles matters involving civilian control of
the military anyway.
What have we seen that tells us about the difference of having somebody in
there who is not confirmed?
MURPHY: So, Mattis was a commanding presence, and while he lost the faith
of the president at the end, he was someone that the White House listened
The problem is two-fold. One, when you`re in an acting capacity, everyone
wonders whether you`re going to be there for the long haul, and so, your
influence is naturally diluted.
Two, this particular acting secretary had absolutely no experience in the
military or in national security policy. He had not really worked at any
substantial level inside a big bureaucracy before and he was by all
accounts very ineffective and very quiet during the time that he was there.
So I think you have both of those problems.
And you can see how this plays out. The military doesn`t have a direct
line into the national security adviser. Their advice is supposed to flow
through the secretary of defense.
So, for instance, our military leaders in Iraq have been pretty clear with
those of us who have visited that they think it was a pretty terrible
decision for the administration to name the Iranian Revolutionary Guard as
a terrorist organization. They told the administration that that would
result in the relationship falling apart and attacks being launched against
U.S. troops. But without a formal secretary of defense to channel that
information to the executive branch, it didn`t get listened to and we are
now in a situation of crisis in part because of that one very bad decision
that our military leaders counseled against.
MADDOW: In terms of what happens next here, we have a new acting secretary
of defense, as you mentioned. The president chose him for his current job,
which was secretary of the army, from having been the chief lobbyist for
Is this a nominee who you are inclined to feel – to feel confident about?
Is this somebody who you think will ultimately be nominated to be the
defense secretary? Do you have any expectation in terms of how long it
MURPHY: Well, listen, I hope that the president puts a name before us as
soon as possible. I don`t think there is any excuse for the president to
take more than a few weeks before he submits this name or someone else`s
name to be in that position permanently. I am very worried about this
broad trend in the administration to put lobbyists for the industries that
these agencies do business with inside these positions.
Raytheon as we speak has a very controversial sale pending before the
United States Congress. They make the precision-guided missiles that we
sell to Saudi Arabia that they have used to drop bombs inside Yemen. The
idea that we would have someone that has worked for Raytheon that may want
to go back to work for Raytheon setting defense policy that has deep
objections on both sides of the aisle is alarming.
You know, I understand there is unfortunately a resolving door in which
lots of people on both the Democratic and Republican side of the aisle come
in and out of the private sector, but this seems to be a trend line
throughout the administration, the EPA, the Department of Interior, the
Department of Defense, that suggests this administration is not so serious
about cleaning up this swamp they talk about all the time.
MADDOW: The shock. Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut, thank you for
joining us, sir. Good to having you here.
MADDOW: All right. Much more to come tonight. Stay with us.
MADDOW: This is the “Orlando Sentinel” editorial page today.
Quote: Our endorsement for president in 2020: not Donald Trump.”
Today, “The Orlando Sentinel” published this blistering editorial basically
opposite endorsing the president`s reelection. Quote: Donald Trump is in
Orlando to announce the kickoff of his re-election campaign. We are here
to announce our endorsement for president in 2020, or at least who we`re
not endorsing, Donald Trump.
Some readers will wonder how we could possibly eliminate a candidate so far
before an election and before knowing the identity of his opponent. Well,
it`s because there is no point pretending we would ever recommend that
readers vote for Trump. After 2 1/2 years, we`ve seen enough, enough of
the chaos, the division, the schoolyard insults, the self-aggrandizement,
the corruption, and especially the lies, so many lies, from white lies to
whoppers, told out of ignorance, laziness, recklessness, expediency or
opportunity. Trump`s capacity for lying isn`t the surprise here, but the
frequency is the tolerance that so many Americans have for it.
There was a time when even a single lie, a phony college degree, a bogus
work history would doom a politician`s career. Not so for Trump who
claimed in 2017 he lost the popular vote because millions of people voted
illegally. They didn`t.
In 2018, he said North Korea was no longer a nuclear threat. It is. In
2019, he said windmills cause cancer. They don`t.
Just last week, he claimed the media fabricated unfavorable results from
his campaign`s internal polling. It didn`t.
The editorial goes on from there in detail. Trump has diminished our
standing in the world. He reneges on deals, attacks allies and embracing
The nation must endure another 1 1/2 year of Trump but it needn`t suffer
another four beyond that. We can do better. We have to do better.
“The Orlando Sentinel” is a paper that usually endorses Republicans for
president. This un-endorsement today in “The Sentinel” is a blow to the
president in a state he has to win for re-election, but do not look past
the fact that it has been published in Orlando as the president arrived
tonight in Orlando to launch his re-election campaign.
According to “The Sentinel`s” editorial board, that was the point and their
editorial page board editor joins us straight ahead. Stay with us.
MADDOW: In what may be a new genre of political endorsements, “The Orlando
Sentinel” newspaper today offered up an anti-endorsement of the president`s
Quote: Our endorsement for president in 2020, not Donald Trump.
They say this as the president arrives in their town tonight to launch his
re-election campaign. “The Sentinel`s” editorial board saying essentially
they don`t know who is going to be running against him yet, but they know
already, they don`t want Florida voters to vote for the president, no
matter who he`s running against.
Joining us now for the interview is Mike Lafferty, editorial board page
editor at “The Sentinel”.
Mr. Lafferty, thanks for making time. Appreciate you being here.
MIKE LAFFERTY, EDITORIAL BOARD PAGE EDITOR, THE ORLANDO SENTINEL: You`re
MADDOW: So, the president launching reelection campaign tonight in
Orlando. I think that`s a sign he thinks he`s in Trump country in your
What has been the reaction to this today from your readers?
LAFFERTY: Well, it`s been mixed. That`s probably a typical answer, but we
sat down and counted up the number of notes that we got, letters to the
editor. We got about 112 that liked what we wrote. We got 108 that did
It`s about the same split for the things that came directly to me and to a
couple of others in the – in the editing ranks. So, it was pretty
Some people were really unhappy with it and, you know, they thought it was
an insult to the president. They thought it was an insult to the people
who came to see him here. And so, that`s what they thought.
MADDOW: Was it a hard call to do this? Obviously, you knew that this
would be national press. You`d be asked to talk about it on national TV
given the platform the president effectively gave your editorial decision
by you making sure that it ran coincident with this speech tonight.
LAFFERTY: Yes, when we heard the president was coming to town for a rally
and then heard the president was coming to town not just for a rally but to
relaunch his campaign, we sat down and thought about what could we do to
comment on that, and the idea emerged, let`s just go ahead and write the
endorsement editorial. And we – yes, we knew that it would get some more
attention that way. I don`t think there`s anything wrong with that.
And we also knew that there would be some – there would be a lot of
pushback on it, but, you know, we think this is an important issue and this
was a good way for a lot of people to see it and so that`s why we did that.
MADDOW: Once you know who is running against him, you have a funny riff at
the end of the editorial where you talk about how this non-endorsement
isn`t defaulting to whomever the Democrats choose. You have a history of
endorsing Republican candidates for president in general elections.
Once you do know who is running against him, do you think and the editorial
board members will make another decision about whether or not to actively
endorse his opponent or might this be it, just a non-Trump endorsement?
LAFFERTY: We, you know, we`re going to have to talk about it once we find
out who it is. And there are a couple of scenarios. We could endorse that
person. We could decide not to endorse that person. We could decide not
“The Sentinel” did that in 1980 when Ronald Reagan ran against Jimmy
Carter. The paper just didn`t endorse. Found it couldn`t stomach either
one of them for a variety of reasons. So, that`s an option.
I just want – I thought it was important for us to say that, you know,
this is not a default to the Democrat. We want to know what that Democrat
says, what they want to do.
Our paper has a pretty long history of being fairly financially
conservative. We worry about deficit spending. We worry about debts,
national debt. So, those are things that will be important to us when we
talk about this.
MADDOW: Mike Lafferty, editorial page editor for “The Orlando Sentinel” –
this was super provocative and interesting and well-argued. I really
appreciate you giving us insight to your thinking behind it. Thanks for
LAFFERTY: Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Former White House communications director Hope Hicks name checked
in the Mueller report more than 180 times. The vast majority of them in
volume two which is on obstruction of justice.
Tomorrow, Hope Hicks will become the first fact witness from the Trump
administration to testify before Congress on the Mueller investigation.
The White House is still trying to stop her, though, asserting today that
Hicks is, quote, absolutely immune from being compelled to testify about
her time in the White House. This was the White House today basically
telling the committee they`re going to put a chaperone in the room with
Hope Hicks tomorrow to try to keep her from answering questions about her
time in the White House and to try to keep her from answering questions
probably about the presidential transition as well.
But here`s a little breaking news for you. We just got this. The
Judiciary Committee`s chairman, Jerry Nadler, has just responded to the
White House claim that Hope Hicks is immune from having to testify.
He tells the White House tonight: I reject that assertion. Questions will
be posed to her and we will address privilege and other objections on a
question by question basis.
Chairman Nadler goes on to say, quote: The committee plans to ask Ms. Hicks
about instances she witnessed in which the president took actions that may
constitute criminal offenses, including obstruction of justice –
essentially, implicitly claiming there that it can`t be a privileged
communication if in fact what that conversation was about was the
commission of a crime.
One other thing to keep an eye on with that Hope Hicks testimony tomorrow,
Democrats are also reportedly planning to ask her about the hush money
payments that were made to two women who are planning to make public
statements about alleged affairs with Trump before the campaign. Those
happened during the campaign before the election, so not when Hope Hicks
was working in the White House. Not when she was working in the
Michael Cohen has already gone to prison in part for his confessed role in
arranging those payments. He didn`t invent that scheme on his own. Will
Hope Hicks be asked about it tomorrow? Will they be able to stop her from
talking about what she knows about it? We shall see.
That does it for us tonight. Hope Hicks will be there 9:00 a.m. there
tomorrow. We`ll see you again tomorrow night.
Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL”.
Good evening, Lawrence.
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Copyright 2019 ASC Services II Media, LLC. All materials herein are
protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced,
distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the
prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter
or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the