Trump inaugural facing federal & state investigations. TRANSCRIPT: 8/2/19, The Rachel Maddow Show.

Abby Livingston, Jamal Simmons, Jason Crow, Ron Wyden


Reid, in for Rachel. 


Good evening, Joy.


JOY REID, MSNBC HOST:  Good evening, and what a weird world. 


HAYES:  I mean, I just – I don`t know. 


REID:  What is there to say except wow.  Yes. 


HAYES:  Lord help us. 


REID:  Thank you, Chris.  Have a good night. 


OK.  Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. 


We have lots to get to tonight.  But we start tonight with news about a key

figure in Trump world and now a key witness in the Mueller investigation. 


Rick Gates served as deputy chairman of the Trump campaign.  Gates had been

Paul Manafort`s right hand deputy working for Ukrainian oligarchs before

Manafort joined the Trump campaign and brought Gates along.  Manafort was

pushed out of the Trump campaign in August 2016, but Rick Gates stayed on

right through election day.  Gates then served as the number two official

on the Trump inaugural committee. 


Because he held those key positions, Rick Gates was an up close first

person eye witness to what was going on inside the Trump campaign at a very

high level.  In October of 2017, he was first charged alongside Manafort on

multiple counts, including conspiracy, money laundering and acting as an

unregistered foreign agent.  After prosecutors hit him with another round

of felony charges for a total of 31, Rick Gates flipped.  He pleaded guilty

to two charges while agreeing to cooperate and provide information to

Robert Mueller`s team. 


And this was a pivotal moment in the special counsel investigation.  Rick

Gates who knew so much about the inner workings at the very highest levels

of the Trump campaign was now willing to spill secrets to Robert Mueller`s





RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, “TRMS”:  Cooperation agreement he just signed is

probably a nightmare scenario for a number of other people. 


Rick Gates has been potentially witness to much more than Manafort saw. 

Rick Gates becoming a cooperating witness I think is a big leap forward in

terms of how much of a window the Mueller investigation is going to have in

all different phases of the Trump candidacy and the Trump presidency. 




REID:  OK, that was February 2018.  Rick Gates pleading guilty and agreeing

to cooperate with Mueller and prosecutors. 


Now, you can think about the Mueller report in two parts.  It has the first

volume that explores possible collusion or conspiracy, and the second

volume that explores possible obstruction of justice. 


If the president`s first White House counsel Don McGahn was the key witness

when it came to obstruction of justice in volume two, then Rick Gates was

unquestionably Robert Mueller`s key witness when it came to volume one. 

Rick Gates was at the center of and in many instances the source for some

of the most damning findings in Mueller`s report, whether it related to

WikiLeaks, the Trump Tower meeting or the funneling of internal polling

data to Russian oligarchs by way of an associate with suspected ties to

Russian intelligence. 


It was Rick Gates who was behind the Mueller assertion that within the

Trump campaign, aides reacted with enthusiasm to reports of WikiLeaks

hacks.  That is how Mueller attributes it.  It was Rick Gates who recalled

candidate Trump being generally frustrated that Hillary Clinton`s emails

had not been found. 


In one particularly tantalizing and heavily redacted passage, Mueller

writes based on information provided by Gates that not only was the

campaign strategy centered around the leaks, but Trump himself appeared to

be aware of the upcoming data dumps.  Quote: According to Gates, by the

late summer of 2016, the Trump campaign was planning a press strategy, a

communications campaign and messaging based on the possible release of

Hillary Clinton`s emails by WikiLeaks.


Then after some further reactions, quote, while Trump and Gates were

driving to LaGuardia Airport, redaction, redaction, redaction, quote,

shortly after the call, candidate Trump told Gates that more releases of

damaging information would be coming. 


Rick Gates was also there in the August 2016 meeting at a New York City

cigar bar that included Paul Manafort and his longtime business associate

Konstantin Kilimnik, a man whom Mueller notes Rick Gates thought was a

Russian spy and whom the FBI assessed has ties to Russian intelligence,

quote, Manafort briefed Kilimnik on the state of the Trump campaign and

Manafort`s plan to win the election.  That briefing encompassed the

campaign`s messaging and its internal polling data.  According to Gates,

that also included discussion of battleground states which Manafort

identified as Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Minnesota. 


Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania – three states which nobody

considered battlegrounds in the summer of 2016, and which Trump won by a

margin of fewer than 70,000 votes out of almost 14 million cast. 


Now, it has been well more than a year since Rick Gates pleaded guilty.  In

recent months, his sentencing has been repeatedly delayed, with prosecutors

telling the court that Gates has continued to cooperate in several ongoing

investigations.  Well, now, we`ve learned that Rick Gates has nearly

finished his work as a cooperating witness. 


Today, the judge in his case granted a joint motion by Rick Gates as

lawyers and government prosecutors for the probation office to begin the

process of drafting its pre-sentencing investigation report so that Gates

sentencing can be scheduled soon after his cooperation has been completed. 

That means they`re getting ready to tally up a recommendation for how much

time Rick Gates will spend in prison with a maximum of four to six years

likely less than that.


The new joint motion from prosecutors and defense lawyers noted that Gates

as a potential witness in three upcoming trials.  One of them is a trial of

longtime Trump associate Roger Stone on seven counts of false statements,

witness tampering and obstruction of an official proceeding related to

WikiLeaks publishing stolen Democratic emails.  That trial starts November



Gates` testimony in that trial could shed light on the redacted parts of

the Mueller report when it comes to who knew what and when about the

campaign`s communications with WikiLeaks.  Gates is also reportedly a

witness in the ongoing criminal investigation into the Trump inaugural

committee, testifying in those cases looks likely to be Rick Gates` last

chance at cooperating and reducing his own time in prison.  For him and for

the cases spun out of the Mueller investigation, the end of the road is

getting closer.


What Mueller left in the two volumes of his report is now in the hands of

Congress for lawmakers to decide how they want to respond, and that`s where

we go from the Mueller report to what if anything will be done about what

the Mueller team found. 


Today, California Congressman Salud Carbajal became the 118th Democrat to

publicly support the start of an impeachment inquiry of the president. 

That means a majority of Democrats but in the House of Representatives now

support.  It also marks the 25th member to come out in support of an

impeachment inquiry since Robert Mueller`s testimony last week.


While Nancy Pelosi has thus far declined to back an official impeachment

inquiry, today, the House speaker released a statement on the progress of

House investigations, heralding Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler`s decision

to go to court last week to abstain to obtain the redacted grand jury

testimony in the Mueller report, and noting ominously that, quote, in

America, no one is above the law.  The president will be held accountable.


And while the investigations continue and calls for impeachment grow on one

side of the aisle, on the other side, more Republicans are heading for the

exits.  The latest, Congressman Will Hurd of Texas, became the sixth

Republican in just over a week to announce their retirement.  Hurd`s exit

causes more headaches for a party that already lost Susan Brooks, one of

just 13 women in the House, and Brooks had been in charge of recruiting

more women to run as Republicans.  They`ll have to give that job to

somebody else.


And Republicans say that there are more retirements to come.  Hurd`s

decision not to run again has put the GOP ahead of its pace in retirements

ahead of 2018.  In that midterm election, 34 Republicans decided not to

seek reelection, and then Democrats won in a rout, smashing the Watergate

era record for the largest margin of victory in a midterm election while

winning back 40 seats in the largest Democratic House gain in over four



So I have questions.  Why exactly are we seeing this wave of Republican

retirements?  How does the Democratic push for impeachment affect the

political calculations on both sides of the aisle?  And what does this mean

for 2020?


Joining us now is Democratic strategist Jamal Simmons, and Abby Livingston,

Washington bureau chief for “The Texas Tribune”.


Thank you both for being here.


And, Abby, I`m going to start with you.  What should we take from Will Hurd

stepping down?



to take from this.  But I`ll think I`ll just start initially with the

majority – or the majority is at play are not at play here.  So, Hurd

represents the Texas 23rd district.  This is one of those seats that`s

competitive.  There are very few left in America.


And so, it`s very rare that a House majority can have like that Democrats

or Republicans can hold the majority without having the 23rd but on top of

this, Hurd retiring – Hurd was one of the best candidates in the country. 

Every Friday night, he was flipping a coin at a high school football game

in this massive district.  He was a huge fundraiser for himself and the

NRCC, and not having an incumbent in that seat makes it much more difficult

to hold.


And so, the central question right now in Washington is, is Hurd the first

of incumbents who are in vulnerable seats to step down?  And if that`s the

case, this could be a very rocky year for the Republicans.


REID:  Right, and you know, Jamal, there is a sense that when the president

in your own party feels like he`s in trouble, but you have two choices,

right?  When this happened with Bill Clinton, you had two choices.  You can

get behind him and rally, or you can get the heck out of Washington, D.C.,

and avoid him.


This feels like Trump avoidance is beginning to kick in.


JAMAL SIMMONS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST:  Oh it does feel like that.  I mean,

listen, Will Hurd is actually one of the more decent members of Congress

and certainly for the Republicans.  You know, Mia Love lost in that last

election, so that means the Republican Party won`t have any African-

Americans to this point in the Congress next year, unless somebody wins

that we don`t know about and don`t suspect.


So, you know, for him to get out and decide to leave, I suspect a lot of

this probably had to do with running upstream with Donald Trump at the top

of the ticket and having to answer questions about Donald Trump every

single day.  I can`t imagine any worse way to spin a gear in my life, but -

- and I guess Will Hurd sort of agreed, it`s very possible that that any

chance the Republicans had to at least get back to parity climb back out of

the hole is starting to slip away by all of these retirements and this

might just be as they say over the Hill where I work, this might as be the

tip of the iceberg.


REID:  Right, can we just put this graphic up?  This is the House of

Representatives and the Congress.  There are 54 black Democrats and there

was one black Republican, and that would be Will Hurd.  So, there will soon

be none and that`s really weird.  And also, the woman who was touted to

recruit more women – because they don`t have a lot of women either, they

only had 15 – and now, the recruiter is gone.  So, that`s not a good sign.


And, Abby, you know, Texas has been one of those states that`s always been

said, you know, it`s coming, it`s coming, it`s coming, that it`s going to

become purple.  Texas had a very close Senate race for Ted Cruz.  You`ve

now got Cornyn now, and lots of people are talking about, you know, it`s

not certain that he gets back in.  It`s obviously it`s more likely than



But if Texas is starting to see people say I`m not sure that I can carry

Donald Trump on my back in this election in 2020, that sounds like a sign.


LIVINGSTON:  Well, I almost didn`t take this job in 2014because there was

almost no general election activity.  Will Hurd`s district was the only

one.  And ever since, with the assent of President Trump, he is just

radically changing the state`s politics.  It is becoming a city versus

rural divide, and we are on the brink of this map in 2011 that was drawn to

protect a bunch of Republican incumbents backfiring on them.


And so, it is – what I foresee happening in Texas over the next decade and

I could be wrong and it could be much faster, but every year, every cycle,

Democrats pick one or two – one or two House seats up and it starts to

build the party from the bottom up, rather than a savior coming in at the

top of the ticket.


REID:  Yes, you know, let`s talk about the way impeachment might impact

this, Jamal, because what people will be carrying in theory – you know,

you have this – there is a conventional wisdom in Washington that

impeachment would help Trump, that it would actually energize and energize

his base. 


But if he can`t keep sort of regular order Republicans like Will Hurd from

staying in their jobs, I`m not sure how he would build, you know, who`s he

going to build with?  Who would be the troops out there that rally to his

defense?  It`s just the people he`s already got.


Is it your sense as a Washington politico, an insider guy who knows the

town, what would impeachment do to Donald Trump`s reelect and what would it

do to the House members reelect?


SIMMONS:  Yes, I – you know, I – Joy, I was deputy communications

director for Al Gore in 2000, as you know, when he ran for president after

the Clinton impeachment, and this logic that people have about Clinton is

really kind of misty-eyed.  I mean, they don`t quite remember this



One thing that happened is Bill Clinton in August before that midterm

election, he actually took responsibility for what he did, he went on

national television, he admitted what he did wrong and he apologized the

nation, and every Democrat after that came out and lambasted him and then

they ran for re-election. 


Remember, Joe Lieberman actually became vice presidential nominee because

of the speech he gave on Senate floor going after Bill Clinton.  So, Donald

Trump is not going to take responsibility for anything that he`s done and

so, I don`t know the he`ll have the same fate as Bill Clinton did. 


And I think ultimately – remember, Al Gore didn`t get the White House and

neither did Hillary Clinton in the two times she ran for president, she

didn`t win the White House either.  So I`m not sure impeachment politics

worked out really well for the Democrats.


REID:  And when you worked on that campaign, it wasn`t as if you guys were

asking Bill Clinton to campaign for Al Gore, where there were a lot of

requests for Bill Clinton.  Yes, he was still popular with the public, but

did he get a lot of requests for people to come out and hang around them

once he had been impeached on their campaigns.


SIMMONS:  No, no, and I`ll tell you this, the polling was very mixed.  I

remember someone explained to me they said listen when you ask people about

Bill Clinton, there`s how they feel.  They feel like they would your

sister`s cheating husband, right, who got caught and getting run into him

in the grocery store.  You really like that guy, but you just can`t ever

tell your sister you spent 30 minutes talking to him in the grocery store,

you know? 


So I`m not sure that – I`m not sure that this way shakes out very well. 

Bill Clinton`s rehabilitated as to his image a lot over the years since,

but at the time in 2000, it was not a very clear – not a very clear



REID:  And, Abby, I give you the last word on this, there a sense inside

Cornyn world that an impeachment would be great for John Cornyn`s reelect,

an impeachment of Trump.


LIVINGSTON:  I don`t hear impeachment come up in the campaigns very much,

and I – especially in the Cornyn`s sphere, what I can say is down ballot

House Democrats don`t want to talk about this and I think that`s where

Pelosi is coming for in her resistance to this.


REID:  All right.  Well, we will see where it goes. 


Democratic strategist Jamal Simmons and Abby Livingston, Washington bureau

chief for “The Texas Tribune”, really appreciate both of your time tonight. 

Thank you.


SIMMONS:  Thanks, Joy.


REID:  Much more to get to tonight including a little bit of math.  That is

fun.  I love math.  We`ll be right back.




REID:  The first time we saw anything on this scale was the summer of 2009. 

All over the country, voters descended on town hall meetings hosted by

their members of Congress.  The Obama administration was on the cusp of

passing health care reform and lots of Republican voters spurred on by

groups funded by some of the richest people in America organizing under the

Tea Party banner turned out to try and stop it by any means necessary,

essentially organizing massive resistance against expanding health care.


But Tea Partiers flooded congressional town halls in huge numbers,

demanding that their members say no to health care reform, which the

Republican methods machine dubbed Obamacare. 


We saw the inverse in the summer of 2017, when Republicans tried taking

that very same health care, Obamacare, away.  Democratic activists made

schedules to show up at town halls organizing through the group

Indivisible.  They occupied the local offices of their members of Congress

to tell them to save Obamacare, which unlike in 2009 had become really

popular, as millions of people got access to health coverage in some cases

for the first time in years. 


This kind of ground-level action, this level of organization as a way to

talk to lawmakers has become kind of a thing that happens in the month of

August.  It`s become part of the atmosphere of the House of Representatives

August recess.  The lawmakers go home to their districts, their month-long

break from D.C. is not strictly vacation.  They use the time to check in

with their constituents. 


And in the new model for activism, they really do hear from them a lot. 

The August recess for the full Congress, House and Senate, officially

started this week.  Lawmakers have already scheduled dozens of town hall

meetings all across the country over the next month, and already, there`s a

crystal clear message breaking through from the voters who plan to show up. 


A coalition of four different progressive grassroots organizations are

teaming up to pressure members of Congress during the August recess to

start impeachment inquiries against the president.  They`re calling it

impeachment August.  And in the tradition of Indivisible, it comes with an

instruction manual. 


Quote: Find a town hall or plan your own district office visit and ask a

representative this, will you uphold your oath to support and defend the

Constitution and support an impeachment inquiry into crimes committed by

Donald Trump?


So, keep an eye on these town halls over the next few weeks.  I expect some

interesting answers to that question.  Meanwhile, the number of lawmakers

getting on board the impeachment train continues to tick up in the weeks

since Robert Mueller`s testimony.  Just in the last few days, a handful of

House Democrats has said they now support impeachment inquiries. 


That brings our count here at NBC to 118 House Democrats who support

impeachment, plus newly minted House Democrat Justin Amash.  One of those

new calls for impeachment inquiry comes from Colorado Congressman Jason

Crow.  Congressman Crow is a freshman member of Congress.  His district has

been a Republican stronghold for more than a decade until he flipped it

blue in 2018.


Which means coming out for an impeachment inquiry is kind of a gamble for a

Democratic congressman running for re-election in a recently red district. 


Congressman Crow says, quote: I didn`t run for office because I dislike

Donald Trump.  I ran because I love our country.  It`s that same pride in

our democracy and respect for our Constitution that fuels my support for an

impeachment inquiry.


And joining us now is Democratic Congressman Jason Crow from Colorado.


Congressman Crow, thanks so much for being here.


REP. JASON CROW (D-CO):  Hi, Joy.  Thank you for having me.


REID:  And I know there`s a slight delay, just for the audience to know.


So there were – so there was some surprise among members of the media when

Justin Amash who also he comes from a Republican district, he still was a

Republican at a time, went to a town hall and heard, you know, just an

uprising from people in that town hall about Donald Trump and about the

things that he is accused of doing. 


Have you been hearing from your constituents with regard to impeachment

thus far?


CROW:  Absolutely.  I mean, I have heard from my constituents on both

sides.  I mean, it`s a very deeply rooted issue.  People have strong

feelings on both sides in a district like mine where we have a lot of

unaffiliated voters.  You know, you have people from different backgrounds

and I`ve had to take that into account in my seven-month process of

assessing this issue.


REID:  Yes, and I grew up not too far from you.  So I know that Colorado

can be an interesting state and that it`s you know there are a lot of

people who are hunters, there`s a lot of people who sort of lean Republican

for a lot of reasons, but they`re environmentalist.  People are

interesting, right?  You don`t have a lot – you have some hard rights,

but, you know, you have a lot of people that are sort of in the middle. 

When you`re looking at impeachment are you thinking of it from the point of

view of the electoral aspect of it or for you is just a purely principled

issue that you think that you`ll be able to pull over some of those people

who are kind of in the middle Coloradans?


CROW:  You know, my life has been defined by the oaths that I`ve taken.  I

took an oath when I first enlisted in the Army.  I took another oath when I

became an army officer and then yet another oath about seven months ago

when I raised my right hand and joined 116th Congress.


And all of those oaths had the same phrase that I swore to defend the

Constitution of the United States.  And I`ve seen people, I`ve known people

who have made great sacrifice to do that.  So, for me being where we are

now and seeing the actions of this administration, the stonewalling of

Congress, I know that that for me and for my district, the next steps are

to give Congress all of the tools that it needs to conduct the oversight

and to hold this administration accountable.


REID:  And if there`s one thing that Donald Trump is alleged to have done

that really pushed you over the line, what would it be?


CROW:  You know, there have been a number of things, right?  You look at

all the obstruction elements that have been outlined in the Mueller report,

which he again you know underscored last week.  You look at the fact that

he`s just continuously stonewalled Congress.  When I was in Iraq and

Afghanistan, I saw in the eyes of those people what it is like to live in a

society where there`s no rule of law, you know, where there`s hopelessness

and where people know they can`t have justice from their government.


And then I fast forwarded from my time in Iraq and Afghanistan to on the

campaign trail a couple of years ago, and very early on my time in the

campaign trail, I had people that would tell me, you know, you seem like a

nice guy, they liked what I had to say, but you know they just were so

disenchanted with the system.  They said the system was rigged and they`ve

had lost hope.


And I thought back to that time in Iraq and I started to see the same

elements of that hopelessness in our system here at home.  So, for me, rule

of law and upholding our checks and balances is so important and if this

Congress can`t do that, if we can`t uphold our obligation in rule of law in

our system, then, you know, I think we have a real problem and that`s what

I know we have to do.


REID:  Very eloquently said.


Congressman Jason Crow, Democrat from Colorado, thanks so much for some of

your time tonight.  Really appreciate it.


CROW:  Thanks for having me on, Joy.


REID:  Thank you.


And a quick thing, a minute ago, I said Congressman Justin Amash is a newly

minted Democrat.  I think I might have misspoke there.  He`s a newly minted

independent.  It hasn`t gone all the way to the D side.


All right.  And coming up, the news version of the call is coming from

inside the House.  That`s next.  Stay with us.




REID:  The Jupiter inlet lighthouse is in Jupiter, Florida, on the eastern

side of the panhandle, about 90 miles north of Miami.  The lighthouse has

been around for more than a century since 1860.  During World War II, the

Jupiter lighthouse was a U.S. intelligence spy station.  Today, it`s a

rusty red beacon poking up along the shore.  The lighthouse is surrounded

by 120 acres of gorgeous farmland.  There is a hiking trail, lots of trees,

a lagoon, breathtaking views of the coast.  Tens of thousands of people

visit there every year.


In 2008, Congress designated the land around the lighthouse for federal

protection and placed into the custody of the Bureau of Land – place it

into the custody of the Bureau of Land Management. 


The BLM is the custodian of more than 245 million acres of land in the

United States.  That federal agency manages not just lighthouses and hiking

trails, but also deserts and canyons and beaches, lands with minerals and

oil and gas, and big open spaces with wild horses.  It`s the job of the

Bureau of Land Management and the people in charge there to protect the

land in their custody, to develop the resources on that land safely and

sustainably, and to make sure that public lands are kept in good shape for

the long haul for everyone.


Just this week, Donald Trump put a new person in charge of the Bureau of

Land Management as the acting director.  His name is William Perry Pendley. 

He is a conservative lawyer and a former senior Reagan administration



The other thing to know about William Perry Pendley who is now in charge of

protecting all of the public land is that Mr. Pendley does not think there

should be public land in his country at all.  No, I`m not kidding. 


Here`s how “The Washington Post” described Pendley.  Quote: Trump`s pick

from managing federal lands doesn`t believe the government should have any. 

Since his time in the Reagan administration, Trump`s picked to lead the BLM

has sued the Interior Department on behalf of the oil and gas industry. 

He`s tried to undermine protections for endangered species and publicly

campaign to slash the amount of public land in this country, so that it can

be developed by private companies instead.


In 2016, he called for the federal government to sell all of its public

land, to just fork over 245 million acres of pristine landscape for private

individuals and corporations to do who knows what with it.  He claims

that`s what the Founding Fathers wanted.


William Perry Pendley will be the acting director of the Bureau of Land

Management until the president gets around to picking a more permanent one. 

Mr. Get Rid of All the Public Lands and Give It All to Private Developers

will be in charge of all the public lands for the foreseeable future. 


And maybe that`s the point.  It is certainly in keeping with the theme of

this presidency to deconstruct the administrative state as alt writer Steve

Bannon described it, to dismantle the core functions of government from the

inside out.


Hold that thought.




REID:  Well, that was fast.  It was just Sunday afternoon when Donald Trump

announced by tweet that Republican Congressman John Ratcliffe was his pick

to replace Dan Coats as director of national intelligence.  Five days

later, poof, Ratcliffe self-destructed.


This afternoon, Trump announced it actually just kidding.  Ratcliffe is his

pick for DNI after all.  He blamed the media for Ratcliffe bursting into

flames five days in without any mention of the bevy of self-inflicted

wounds that sank his nomination, from apparently padding his resume and

rounding up his track record, to his lack of experience in national

security or intelligence, to say nothing of the lukewarm reception

Ratcliffe got from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.


Now, if you feel like you`ve heard this song before with a Trump pick for a

big job imploding out of the gate, well, you`re not wrong.  By our account,

this is the 35th time one of Trump`s nominations went busto, forcing Trump

to pull a 180.


When asked what Ratcliffe`s demise says about the White House`s vetting

process, Trump did a 180 of his own.  Watch this.





great vetting process.  You`ve vet for me.  When I give a name, I give it

out to the press and you vet for me.  The vetting process for the White

House is very good but you`re part of the vetting process, you know?  I

give out a name to the press and they vet for me.  We save a lot of money

that way.




REID:  Oh, OK, man, so your vetting process is our fault.  Got it.  You`re

also saving money by not actually betting anybody letting us do it for you. 



So, maybe, we shouldn`t be surprised that Ratcliffe met this fate, but as

we wait for round two of presidential roulette DNI edition, it`s worth

taking a moment to see the proverbial forest for the trees here, because

this is more than just a mere hiring decision.  The DNI, a position created

in the wake of 9/11, is the top intelligence official in the nation,

coordinating all of the other intel agencies.  It`s on the intelligence

community`s Mount Rushmore. 


Who the president picks for that gig matters.  It determines the strength

of the entire intelligence community and it`s not hard to see why Donald

Trump might want to rein in the intelligence agencies as he put it.  The

intel community has been a thorn in his side, particularly when it comes to

Russia, taking every opportunity to point out that, yes, Russia interfered

in our election in 2016, Russia never stopped and Russia is trying to do it



In January 2017, they put out that withering report on how Vladimir Putin

ordered the attack on our election in order to help Trump, something that

according to the Mueller report so upsets Trump because it feels to him

like a challenge to his legitimacy.


Now, we can extrapolate from Ratcliffe`s qualifications for the DNI job

what this – what is White House – what this White House occupant is

really looking for in the next director of national intelligence, what

Trump`s help-wanted ad would say.  It might say things like, must be

willing to attack special counsel Robert Mueller during his confirmation

hearings, must want to settle Trump`s scores and exact vengeance for the

Russia investigation, or as the economist put it, quote, Donald Trump wants

a loyalist as America`s top intelligence official. 


Whoever the president picks next, the hunt is on, and it might end sooner

than we think.  Trump today says he`s got a short list in his pocket with

three names on it and he`ll be mulling it this weekend, while you pay for

his latest vacay at his golf resort in New Jersey.


But somebody else put out an alternative help-wanted ad of sorts, the

director – for the director of national intelligence.  Senator Mark

Warner, vice chair of the Senate Intel Committee, who said the president

should nominate, quote, someone with a deep knowledge of the intelligence

community, respect for the hard work intelligence professionals do to keep

us safe and the independence and integrity to speak truth to power when



And we shall see which of those help-wanted ads prevails.


Joining us now is Senator Ron Wyden, Democrat from Oregon, and a member of

the Senate Intelligence Committee.


When the president tweeted that he was withdrawing the Ratcliffe nomination

today, Senator Wyden clapped back: Maybe try vetting your nominees first.


Senator Wyden, thanks for being with us tonight.


SEN. RON WYDEN (D-OR):  Thank you, Joy.


REID:  Well, it`s – Donald Trump said that we vet his nominee, so

apparently, that`s the news media`s job.  So maybe he won`t listen to you

on that.


WYDEN:  Most bizarre theory of vetting I`ve ever heard, Joy.  I mean, I

know the standards have changed a lot with the Trump administration, but we

are not talking about national dog capture here.  We`re talking about

director of national intelligence.  And in particular, we need somebody who

will tell it straight to Donald Trump, not twist the facts for Donald



REID:  But isn`t it the case that if anyone tells it straight to Donald

Trump, they`re going to tell him again that Russia attacked our election

and that other foreign countries are potentially working up to attack our

election, and that makes me feel insecure.  So, is it – is it – how

likely is it that he would ever pick someone who would be willing to tell

him hard truths?


WYDEN:  I think you can`t do this job responsibly unless you`re willing to

lay those facts that are actual facts on the table, like we understand,

this is not about Donald Trump nominating a Democrat or any of this kind of

thing.  But we have to have somebody who`s experienced, who`s objective and

it is not in question that Russia attacked our election system.  And

serving on the intelligence committee, I can tell you, Joy, what we`re

looking at in 2020 in terms of attacks from hostile foreign actors going to

make 2016 look like small potatoes.


REID:  Well, we know that Donald Trump, you know, wanted what he got in

William Barr, and that it`s pretty clear that he would like, you know,

given that Mr. Ratcliffe was even on the table, that he would like to have

someone like that running intelligence.


My question would be, whether or not the leader of the Senate, Mitch

McConnell, who tends to be very accommodating to Donald Trump, was he the

person that finally convinced Donald Trump to say no, and would he allow

Donald Trump to put a William Barr-esque person in as DNI?


WYDEN:  My sense is that Republican senators are really wrestling with

this, because they know Donald Trump has got one more election.  He`s very

popular with primaries, but they are branding their party for the longer

term and when you look at Devin Nunes, and Ratcliffe and the like, a lot of

the Republicans on the Intelligence Committee have been leaning a little

bit more towards an institutional approach and acknowledging that the

Russians attacked us. 


Now, let`s see if Trump`s going to go along with that. 


REID:  And I think that the challenge is, is that, you know, the Republican

Party for a very long time prided itself as being Russia hawks, like in the

Reagan era, and I wonder if when you talk to your colleagues behind the

scenes, how far are they willing to let Donald Trump degrade the

intelligence community, essentially just to make himself feel better

because he doesn`t want to hear what Russia did to help him in 2016. 


WYDEN:  I`ve had plenty of differences of opinion with my colleagues.  I

was the one no vote on the election security report because I thought there

needed to be a more activist role for the federal government.  When you`re

getting attacked by the Russians, you don`t send the county I.T. person out

there to fight on the Russians.  But I do think my colleagues now on the

intelligence committee are going to say, no Ratcliffes, no Nuneses.  We

want somebody who acknowledges what the real threats are.


And Trump is going to have to make a call.  Is he going to try and say I

only care about somebody who shares my conspiracy theories or am I going to

go with the Senate Republicans, particularly on the Intelligence Committee

who are going to say we`re not going there?


REID:  Well, one of the concerns about people when they looked at Ratcliffe

was the fact that he would then have access to all of the information about

the ongoing investigations, national security investigations that still

relate to what happened in 2016.  Is there any chance at all that McConnell

and the Republicans would allow somebody on that committee that would

undermine the committee?  I mean, I guess that`s my question. 


Do you have faith in Republicans on the other side of the aisle that they

would protect the DNI from Donald Trump`s access to that kind of



WYDEN:  So far, the Republicans on the Intelligence Committee have drawn a

line.  They have said, look, we are supportive of the Trump administration,

we understand that the president sees things differently than we do on a

number of occasions.  But now, they`re going to have to actually fight back

against people who aren`t objective and aren`t willing to have some

connection to the facts.  It comes down now, finally, America once again

has a chance to get a qualified nominee in there. 


If Donald Trump isn`t willing to have that kind of person, I`m going to do

everything I can, A, to oppose a unqualified person, and push my Republican

colleagues in the Senate to recognize this the question of country first.


REID:  Senator Ron Wyden, member of the Senate Intelligence Committee,

really appreciate you being here, and I thank you.


WYDEN:  Thanks for having me.


REID:  Thank you.


And still ahead tonight, a new investigation from House Democrats takes us

back to the very, very beginning, day one, square one of the Trump

administration, and what they found is amazing.  That story is next.  Stay

with us. 




REID:  We are two and a half years and two weeks into the Donald Trump

administration, and it is remarkable how much we continue to learn and how

much prosecutors continue to investigate about Donald Trump`s very first



The Trump administration has come under investigation by federal

prosecutors in the Southern District of New York, also federal prosecutors

in the Eastern District of New York, also federal prosecutors in Southern

California, also, the attorney general in New Jersey, also, the attorney

general in D.C., and that`s not even counting the congressional



You just start with the fact that the inaugural committee raised an

unbelievable amount of money, over a hundred million dollars, more than

twice what Barack Obama`s first inaugural raised, even though Trump`s

inauguration was much, much smaller, despite what Trump you have you

believe.  No one has convincingly accounted for where all that money came

from or where it went. 


There was the political consultant and one-time business associate of Paul

Manafort who admitted to illegally funneling a $50,000 foreign donation

into the inaugural.  Some of the inaugurate – some of the investigations

into the inaugural are reportedly looking into whether there were other

such donations. 


The vice chairman of Trump`s inaugural committee, Elliot Brody is

reportedly under investigation by a federal grand jury, examining whether

he used his position to drum up business deals with foreign leaders. 

Possibly the weirdest story out of the inauguration involved Trump national

security adviser Michael Flynn, who at the time of the inaugural was

working a side gig, getting paid to pursue a plan to build nuclear power

plants in Saudi Arabia.  A witness who later testified in an investigation

by House Democrats claimed that on inauguration day, literally, during

Trump`s inaugural speech, Flynn was texting one of the businessmen involved

in this plan to pursue this nuclear power deal.  He texted him during the

inauguration that their plan was good to go.


The man who presided over the inauguration is Tom Barrack, Trump`s longtime

friend and top fundraiser for his campaign.  Tom Barrack was chairman of

the Trump inaugural and until now, he`s managed to kind of skate above the

fray of all the grossness and hints a potential corruption that went on

around the event he managed. 


But not anymore.  First, we learned just how flimsy Barrack`s explanations

have been for the inaugural`s vast spending.  Ever since the inauguration,

he`s repeatedly assured reporters that a full and clean external audit had

been done on the inaugural committee`s finances.  So there was nothing to

worry about, all of the hundred million dollars was accounted for.  But

when a government watchdog group last month got a hold of what appeared to

be that audit, Barrack was always talking about, it was kind of thin.


For instance, there`s a line in there that says that the inaugural spent

almost $27 million on, quote, executive production.  What`s executive

production you asked?  No idea.  The audit doesn`t say.  But, hey, there`s

that $27 million accounted for.  Nothing to see here.


Now, this week, a new report from investigators with the House Oversight

Committee finds that Tom Barrack leveraged his close ties to President

Donald Trump and the administration to promote his own interests, including

by pushing Mike Flynn`s cockamamie Saudi nuclear plan.  Oversight Chairman

Elijah Cummings wrote, quote, the Trump administration has virtually

obliterated the lines normally separating government policymaking from

foreign – from corporate and foreign interests. 


As an example, the report says that Barrack and Trump campaign chair Paul

Manafort worked together during the campaign to try to put language that

had been drafted by Saudi and Emirati officials into a Trump energy speech. 

Emails obtained by “The New York Times” show Manafort and Barrack

discussing how to change Trump speech, and even Republican platform

language to, quote, make our Gulf friends happy.


Then, during the transition, Barrack negotiated with the Trump

administration for a position, as Middle East envoy or ambassador to the

UAE, while at the same time pushing for the Flynn Saudi nuclear plant,

which would benefit Flynn and friends.  The plan would also give Barrack`s

Saudi friends the nuclear technology they wanted.


And also, Barrack was planning for his own company to purchase the American

manufacturer of the nuclear technology that the Saudis would be buying. 

And voila, everybody gets rich. 


Barrack and Flynn, and Flynn`s partners continue to push for this deal from

inside the administration and for at least the first year of the Trump

administration, even as career government officials warned that it was

unethical and possibly illegal because it would be an end run around



And we learned this week that it`s not just congressional investigators

interested in Tom Barrack.  “The New York Times” reports that federal

prosecutors have been looking at whether Barrack violated the Foreign

Agents Registration Act, the law that Mike Flynn, Paul Manafort and

Manafort deputy Rick Gates have all admitted to violating. 


Quote: Questions about whether Mr. Barrack complied with FARA arose during

the Russia inquiry led by special counsel Robert Mueller and were referred

to the United States attorney`s office in Brooklyn. 


Quote: The inquiry has proceeded far enough last month that Mr. Barrack was

interviewed at his request by prosecutors in the public integrity unit

there.  Now, for the record, Barrack spokesman says that prosecutors told

them they have no more questions for him.  And Barrack has not been accused

of wrongdoing. 


But it really is remarkable.  That here we are, more than two and a half

years into the Trump administration and we are still learning about things

that were happening on the very first day.  We`re still learning about

investigations into Trump`s inaugural, into his inaugural chairman.


And we`ll be right back. 




REID:  As the chairman of the powerful Senate Judiciary Committee,

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham has been trying for weeks to change the

laws about dealing with migrants at the southern border.  Among other

changes, Graham wants to increase the time migrant children can be detained

with their families from the court-ordered maximum of 20 days to 100 days,

even though a court said you cannot do that. 


Democrats have been able to keep the bill stuck in committee which has been

frustrating for Chairman Graham.  He is up for re-election next year and

really needs to show Donald Trump that he is doing Trumpism really, really



Well, yesterday, the chairman decided to use a little more parliamentary

muscle.  Over Democratic objections he was breaking the rules, Graham held

a vote to force his bill out of committee and over to the full senate.  And

what happened next?  Well just roll the tape. 




SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC):  The clerk will call the roll. 




GRAHAM:  The clerk will call the roll. 




GRAHAM:  The clerk will call the roll. 


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Mr. Chairman, I`ve been – this is unprecedented. 


GRAHAM:  No, it`s not. 


SEN. PAT LEAHY (D-VT):  These rules are no longer in effect.  The same

Republicans who voted for them six months ago say the heck with it.  Tear

them up.  Tear them up.  That`s what we`re doing.  Just tear them up. 


GRAHAM:  What you`re telling me is that I should ignore what you did to me

last week.  I will not.  You`re not going to take my job away from me.  I

take this very personally. 


This committee is not going to be the dead-end committee on things that





REID:  And voila, just like that.  Senate Judiciary Committee approves

Graham asylum abuse fix.  Lindsey Graham`s legislation now heads to the

full Senate and potentially Democratic-controlled House where it will be

killed by the Democrats. 


So, this was a full on stunt.  But at least Senator Graham did his part for

the Trump agenda and for his own conservative base.  Happy re-election



That does it for us tonight.  I`ll see you tomorrow on my show “A.M. JOY”,

10:00 a.m.  Eastern, right here on MSNBC.


Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD” and my friend Ali Velshi is here sitting

in for Lawrence tonight.


Hello for the second time today, Ali. 







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