Federal savings bank CEO indicted. TRANSCRIPT: 6/18/19, The Rachel Maddow Show.

Aaron Davis, Chris Murphy, Mike Lafferty

HAYES:  All right.  Zerlina Maxwell, Michael Steele, David Wasserman, thank

you for your time. 


That is ALL IN for this evening. 




Good evening, Rachel.


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

Appreciate it.


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

to implode. 


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. 




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  He vowed revenge.  He said “I will see you in the

gutter.  This will never be over.  You will pay for this.”




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. 





appropriate ever.  And certainly there`s never any justification for

attacking someone with a baseball bat. 




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. 



having me. 


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

that position. 


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. 


MADDOW:  Mmm-hmm. 


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. 


DAVIS:  Thanks. 


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

defense secretary. 


Joining us now is Senator Chris Murphy who is on the Senate Foreign

Relations Committee. 


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

particular nominee. 


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

will take? 


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.


MURPHY:  Thanks. 


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. 





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

town tonight. 


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

to endorse. 


“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

being here. 


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. 




Good evening, Lawrence.







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