Open arguments in Greg Craig trial to begin. TRANSCRIPT: 8/12/19, The Rachel Maddow Show.
ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST: Danielle Moodie-Mills, Rick Wilson, thanks to both
of you for joining me tonight.
That is all for this evening.
THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts now.
Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Ali. Thanks very much. I
VELSHI: All right.
MADDOW: Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour, as well as lots to
get to tonight. It has been a busy news day. Mondays in August are not
supposed to be busy news days like by definition. This is supposed to be
sleepy time. But those rules don`t apply anymore.
In particular, the Trump administration has been busy apparently leading up
to today so they could simultaneously launch two new hugely controversial
things. One of them is a proposed rule change that will gut the Endangered
Species Act. The other one is a proposed rule change to make sure that
immigrants don`t get let into this country unless they have lots of money.
Give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe
free. They`re not explicitly going out of their way to exclude people who
are tired or huddled. But poor apparently is definitely no longer part of
the equation as far as the Trump administration is concerned. I mean, each
of these two proposals from the Trump administration would be the most
controversial policy change in most presidencies over the course of an
They`re doing both of these ones today, this Monday in August, literally on
the same day targeting bald eagles and the Statue of Liberty because
America. They`ve been working on both of these proposals for a while.
They have both now been finalized as new rules. The rule change gutting
the Endangered Species Act will be entered into the federal register this
week and then it`s due to go into effect in 30 days. The anti-immigrant
one is due to go in effect in 60 days.
Realistically, though, you should consider those to be best case scenarios
for the Trump administration in trying to pull both of those things off
because well before 30 days or 60 days, they`re going to have their pants
sued off of them over both of these proposed changes. On the immigrant
rule, one of the amazing things about how they`re trying to do this is that
they`re trying, first of all, to ignore the quarter of a million public
comments that came in on this proposed rule change. Quarter of a million
public comments, almost all of which were against it.
They also just decided they were not going to bother to even estimate how
many people would be affected by this new rule, which proclaims that only
rich immigrants are welcome anymore. I mean, they literally don`t even try
to guess what the impact of this change would be. They`re just insisting
they`re going to do it anyway. It`s not the way that policy is supposed to
But the details of it, the details of that immigration change are things
that are very hard to square with what we know about ourselves as a
country. For example, this new rule change from the Trump administration
would make it grounds to turn you away from this country if you don`t have
private health insurance. You`re supposed to like arrive having that
already in hand. You know how weird private health insurance is around the
It would also be grounds to turn you away from this country if you have a
low credit score.
Think about that for a minute. You may be from an immigrant family. Or if
you`re not I can guarantee you, there are people in your life, there are
people in your community, people you interact with every day, probably
including people very close to you, who if they are not first generation
immigrants, their parents immigrated here or their grandparents immigrated
here or at least their great-grandparents immigrated here.
If you tart building those concentric circles out from yourself, all of the
first generation, second generation, third generation immigrants in your
daily life, among your circle of human beings, almost everybody in this
country will end up with quite a lot of people inside those concentric
circles in their own lives. My mom immigrated here. My dad was only a
generation ahead of her. My partner Susan`s grandparents on both sides.
I mean, honestly, just think about it. You know a ton of immigrants if not
immigrants` kids or if not immigrants` grandkids, and if not immigrants`
great grandkids, right? We all do. That`s what this country is made up
Think about those family stories if you know them. Or ask people in your
own life who you know have immigrant lineage in one of the last one, two,
three generations. Just ask. Ask if their family member who came over
here from another country came with their own positive credit score and a
private health insurance policy and lots of money in the bank. I mean, I
literally do not know a single person who I can describe – who can
describe their lineage that way. I don`t know a single person who is a
first, second, third generation immigrant who can say their family member
who came over here came over here flush, right?
And I mean, most people I know think of the American dream as this idea of,
you know, hard-working people overcoming adversity, coming here maybe with
nothing but believing in this country, believing they can make it here
because of freedom and opportunity and the rule of law in this country, so
they can build something here for themselves and their families and the
next generations of their families who will come after them because hard
work here is rewarded, because you can make it here, because this is a
country that is fair and has opportunity and no, we do not always live up
to that dream but that`s the dream, right? That`s the whole story of this
I mean, just getting read of the pretense of that and saying we`re only
taking rich immigrants from here on out, who do you know who came here as
an immigrant, who do you know whose parent or grandparent or great
grandparent came here as an immigrant who came here with plenty of money?
I mean, that`s going to be the new rule? They say within 60 days, that`s
going to be the new rule.
That`s not trying to make America great again. That`s trying to make
America into a whole new country we have never been before in all of the
243 years that we have existed. What they are trying to build, what they
are literally proposing with this rule change today is that we remake
America, whole new idea now, because this time it`s without immigrants and
also without grizzly bears or manatees or bald eagles or peregrine falcons
or humpback whales.
Both this immigration change and the Endangered Species gutted on the same
day. Richard Nixon established the Endangered Species Act when he signed
it in 1973. But his fellow Republicans have been trying to kill the
Endangered Species Act legislatively for years since. They`ve been trying
to chip away at it for decades.
It`s interesting, though. Even though Republicans have stood against it
for a long time since Nixon signed, public opinion polling shows that the
American people broadly love the Endangered Species Act and see it as a
great and historic success for all the obvious reasons. This new rule
released by the Trump administration will see it gutted in 30 days unless
the new rule is blocked in court.
Both of these dramatic changes unveiled by the Trump administration will
now go to court. Meanwhile, the courthouse future is very hard to predict
for one of the appalling and unsettling highest-profile criminal cases of
the 21st century. The case of Jeffrey Epstein, the elusive and well-
connected multimillionaire who was charged last month by prosecutors in New
York for having run an ongoing sprawling child sex trafficking ring for
It feels like a million years ago but it was actually only one month ago
today when a Trump cabinet official, Trump`s Secretary of Labor Alex
Acosta, resigned from the federal government, resigned from the cabinet
over his role in the Epstein case. When prosecutors in the Southern
District of New York last month brought criminal charges against Epstein,
that put this very uncomfortable hot spotlight on the fact that another
U.S. attorney`s office in Florida more than a decade ago had looked at much
of that same evidence against Epstein or at least very similar evidence
against Epstein and instead of charging him in federal court in Florida,
that U.S. attorney`s office decided they would enter into a non-prosecution
agreement with Epstein.
Alex Acosta, Trump`s labor secretary, was the U.S. attorney in South
Florida in 2007 when that happened. It was his office that entered into a
federal non-prosecution agreement with Epstein in which Epstein agreed to
plead guilty to state prostitution charges that resulted in him serving a
short jail sentence in the county lockup in Palm Beach close to his house
where they literally let him out all day every day and when he came back to
sleep at the jail at night, it appears that maybe he got to keep his door
In exchange for that inexplicable fate, Alex Acosta`s office signed off on
this promise that Epstein wouldn`t face any federal charges. Well, last
month when SDNY, in fact, brought federal charges against Epstein, they
proclaimed that they did not consider themselves to be bound by that
agreement that Epstein got from the Florida U.S. attorney`s office when
Acosta was in charge.
Well, now that Jeffrey Epstein is dead, he was found dead in his jail cell
on Saturday morning, now there are a whole bunch of urgent and interesting
questions as to what`s going to happen next, what`s going to happen next
for his alleged victims, what`s going to happen next for his potential co-
conspirators, what`s going to happen next to this prospect – to the
prospect of this whole sexual abuse ring that he was allegedly running in
multiple jurisdictions for years. One of the prospects for it ever being
fully unraveled. Some of these things I think are questions that we may be
able to get some answers to with the right expert help which we are going
to try to get tonight.
But let`s start with that non-prosecution agreement that Jeffrey Epstein
got from Trump`s Labor Secretary Alex Acosta back in Florida in 2007. Part
of the reason Alex Acosta got in so much trouble for his role in the
Epstein case, I think part of the reason he had to resign over it even
though it`s not like the Trump administration was pressuring him to, is
that he didn`t just sign off on the non-prosecution deal with Epstein. He
specifically did so without telling Epstein`s alleged victims that he was
giving Epstein that kind of a deal.
And that is not only shudderingly disgusting, it`s also illegal under the
Crime Victims Rights Act. There`s a statute that says crime victims need
to be notified about those kinds of decisions by prosecutors. Well, some
of Epstein`s alleged victims brought a lawsuit in federal court in Florida
alleging that their rights were denied under that Crime Victims Rights Act
because they weren`t notified about the kind of sweet deal Epstein was
getting from prosecutors.
Today on the first business day after Jeffrey Epstein turned up dead, today
that same group of Epstein`s alleged victims filed this new motion in
federal court formally notifying the court of Epstein`s death and asking
for one very specific thing as a consequence of his death. That non-
prosecution agreement that Alex Acosta gave to Epstein in Florida back in
2007, it not only promised that prosecutors wouldn`t bring any federal
charges against Epstein. It also said there would be no federal charges
brought against any of Epstein`s co-conspirators.
That was also part of the deal. Why would you give somebody that deal?
Well, now that Epstein is dead, his alleged victims say they want the court
to invalidate the provisions in the non-prosecution agreement that preclude
prosecutions of Epstein`s co-conspirators. Quote, because Epstein is now
dead, there will never be a criminal trial to hold him accountable, either
in the Southern District of Florida, the Southern District of New York or
Accordingly, the victims and the public will never witness his public trial
where the facts connected to sexual abuse will be fully aired. This means
that the informational remedies that the victims have sought regarding this
case assume enhanced importance and should be granted by the court. It
also means the public hearing should be held promptly to give the victims
some kind of day in court. The only objection the court received to that
hearing was from Epstein and his death moots that objection.
So, that`s one really interesting tributary of the Epstein case now that
he`s dead. The Southern District of New York was already not respecting
that non-prosecution agreement that Alex Acosta gave Epstein back in 2007.
SDNY said they did not feel bound by that when it came to Epstein. Well,
Epstein`s alleged victims want the non-prosecution agreement formally
dissolved now that Epstein has died. But specifically, they want it
dissolved when it comes to his co-conspirators as well.
Anything in that deal that precluded federal charges against any of
Epstein`s co-conspirators, they want that invalidated now that he`s dead.
If the people who helped Epstein allegedly commit these crimes,
participated with him in these crimes, were not being prosecuted because of
that deal that Acosta gave him more than ten years ago, they want that
wiped off the table. That has implications not just in federal court in
Florida, where this motion was filed today, but also potentially in New
In response to the news about Epstein`s death this weekend, the U.S.
attorney in New York in the southern district, Geoffrey Berman, released a
statement that said in part: Today`s events are disturbing and we are
deeply aware of their potential to present yet another hurdle to giving
Epstein`s many victims their day in court. To those brave young women who
have already come forward and to the many others who have yet to do so, let
me reiterate that we remain committed to standing for you and our
investigation of the conduct charge in the indictment which included a
conspiracy count remains ongoing.
Emphasizing and setting apart, which included a conspiracy count. The U.S.
attorney going out of his way to say hey, one of the things we charged
Epstein with here in SDNY was conspiracy. And, of course, you can`t
conspire alone. So who did he conspire with?
I mean, the implication of the statement from the U.S. attorney`s office is
that there are other people who will be brought to account in conjunction
with Epstein`s alleged crimes. I want to know more about what the U.S.
attorney means by that. I mean, thus far, SDNY hasn`t charged let alone
named any potential co-conspirators who helped Epstein do what he did even
though they did charge him alone with conspiracy.
Epstein is charged in SDNY with sex trafficking conspiracy but he is the
only defendant who is charged in this case. And because of that, with his
death that presumably ends that case against him. I mean, if they don`t
charge somebody else, right? You can`t have an indictment against no
living person. When prosecutors and SDNY brought their case against
Epstein last month, one of the things they included in the indictment was
that they wanted to seize Epstein`s house, reportedly the largest private
residence in Manhattan.
They gave the court notice that they intended to force Epstein to forfeit
any property, real and personal, that was used or intended to be used to
commit or to facilitate commission of the offenses outlined in the
indictment. That means that had Epstein gone on trial and been convicted,
the government had already given the court notice that they intended upon
his conviction to seize his assets, to seize his very, very valuable
assets. I mean, that one home alone in Manhattan would be worth tens of
millions of dollars, right?
Now that Epstein`s dead, you can`t put him on trial, which means you can`t
convict him, which means they can`t seize his assets that way. So, there`s
a couple of other things to watch when it comes to SDNY, right? There`s
this looming dramatic question as to whether they`re going to charge
anybody else, whether they`re going to charge any alleged conspirators who
conspired with Epstein to commit these crimes, right? Whether there`s
anybody else who may be a target of prosecution besides him now that he`s
dead otherwise the SDNY case goes away.
But there`s these other really specific things to watch, right, about the
money in particular. Prosecutors can`t seize his assets upon conviction
like they were planning. They could get at his assets one other way. They
could bring what`s called a civil forfeiture action where the prosecutors
would go to the court to try to convince the court to seize his assets and
hand them over to the government even without putting him on trial and
It`s essentially asking a judge to rule that under a preponderance of the
evidence the government should be allowed to rightfully seize those assets
from his estate because they were used in the commission of a crime. Those
assets should be liquidated and redistributed to his victims. Prosecutors
have the option to ask the court for that.
It is rarely used. It is hard to do. It has been done in the past.
That`s one thing that could happen in SDNY.
Another thing to watch closely when it comes to SDNY is that it has
appeared since Epstein got these criminal charges last month, sex
trafficking and conspiracy related to sex trafficking. It has appeared
since those criminal charges were filed against him that the SDNY
investigation into him branched out to include his finances. There`s been
a whole bunch of reporting since Epstein was charged in New York that the
FBI was getting documents from banks and financial institutions about their
dealings with Epstein. There`s been reporting that some people who Epstein
was going to be financially linked to have been handing over documents and
information to prosecutors and the FBI.
Epstein`s wealth say source of great mystery. Nobody knows quite where his
money came from. Nobody quite knows the extent of it. Nobody quite knows
how or if his enormous fortune relates to his alleged career of sexual
But “The New York Times” reports today in something of an ominous sign that
two of the attorneys who worked for Jeffrey Epstein, attorneys who dealt
with financial matters for him, things like dealing with his trusts and his
charities, two of Epstein`s own lawyers have now themselves hired criminal
defense attorneys for themselves. When your lawyers hire defense lawyers.
So that`s all worth watching in terms of SDNY. What`s going to happen to
that case, what`s going to happen to potential co-conspirators, and what`s
going to happen in terms of Epstein`s assets. Beyond SDNY, though, there
are a few other things that we just don`t know how they`re likely to unroll
in the wake of Epstein`s death. One of them is the obvious question of
whether or not Epstein`s many alleged victims are all going to bring civil
lawsuits against his estate.
He`s not going to be charged on criminal – in criminal court now, right?
He`s dead. But civil lawsuits against his estate by his accusers either as
a group or as multiple groups or one by one, I think that`s widely expected
given the attention to this case, what appears to be the magnitude of
Epstein`s wealth, what appears to be the magnitude of evidence against him.
Will those civil cases potentially lay bare for the public more of what
happened here and who else may have been involved? Very hard to say.
Also worth watching, another sort of wild card in this case, is that
Epstein was accused at various times in all his legal sagas, he was accused
at various times of witness tampering, pressuring or threatening people or
paying off people who might otherwise have been able to give investigators
information about his activities. But one of the ways that Epstein appears
to have kept people from talking to police and investigators is that
Epstein reportedly made everybody who worked for him sign non-disclosure
agreements. Well, now that Epstein`s dead, not only can he not cajole or
bribe or threaten people so they won`t speak to investigators, any non-
disclosure agreements that anybody was bound by during the course of
Epstein`s life may have just become considerably less compelling with
Epstein dead and gone.
If so, if the non-disclosure agreements that Epstein apparently passed out
like candy to people who worked for him in all sorts of capacities, if
those non-disclosure agreements have just become if not moot then at least
much less powerful with his death – well, that`s a potential goldmine of
information both for the public and investigators in terms of tracing what
Epstein did over all these years and with whom and who may have helped him
in his crimes.
And just one last thing that feels very much like an open door and you
definitely can`t see what`s inside there. A last issue to keep an eye on
is whether there may still be more public disclosure to come from the
existing cases that are already out there related to Epstein. I mean,
remember the timeline here of these last few days. It was Friday morning
when nearly 2,000 pages of court records were released to the public from
just one of the civil suits that was previously spawned in the Epstein
saga. Those 2,000 pages of material came out on Friday morning. And it
looks like sometime Friday night is when Epstein killed himself.
“Miami Herald” investigative reporter Julie K. Brown, whose work has been
the groundbreaking journalistic enterprise that broke the Epstein case back
open, one of the things she has been highlighting in these couple of days
since Epstein`s death is that from that one civil case alone that gave us
those 2,000 pages on Friday morning, we may be getting thousands more pages
unsealed in very short order. And that`s just one of the civil cases
around the Epstein saga. If Jeffrey Epstein killed himself in jail after
the first 2,000 pages came out, what did we expect from the next thousand
pages that are going to come down the pike?
Reporter Julie K. Brown joins us live here next. Stay with us.
MADDOW: She investigated the story for years. “Miami Herald”
investigative reporter Julie K. Brown tracked down dozens of Jeffrey
Epstein`s alleged victims. She picked through pages and pages and pages of
court filings and legal documents. The research was intense. It was
In the end, it was dramatic and dark. And it bore this fruit. This series
was called “Perversion of Justice.” And with this series, Julie K. Brown
blew the lid off the Jeffrey Epstein story more than a decade after it had
Her reporting was credited by New York federal prosecutors who charged
Epstein as helping to lead the way to the sex trafficking charges that were
brought against him last month. Jeffrey Epstein was found dead in his
federal prison cell early Saturday morning.
Julie K. Brown is here with us tonight.
Julie, thanks very much for being here. It`s nice to have you here in
JULIE K. BROWN, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER, THE MIAMI HERALD: It`s great to be
MADDOW: Let me just ask broadly speaking what your reaction is to his
BROWN: You know, I think just like everybody else, you know, I woke up
Saturday morning, I was working, actually, at the time and I got a phone
call, and I was just stunned. You know, I said, like everyone else, we
thought he was on suicide watch. So, your first thought is how does
someone who`s on suicide watch commit suicide?
And, you know, by the end of the day shortly thereafter we found out that
he was taken off suicide watch recently. So, then, my next thought was the
victims. And I called the women right away and they were pretty
distraught, to say the least.
MADDOW: Distraught because this has implications in terms of their ability
to get clarity and justice?
BROWN: Yes, and closure.
BROWN: And they had been so close. I think they felt finally, we`re so
close to getting him in prison and finally having our day in court, which
they were denied the first time around.
MADDOW: One of the things that we were just talking in the break as you
sat down that I thought was interesting today was to see some of the
alleged victims of Epstein`s, the ones who brought that case in Florida
saying they were wronged by the government when the federal prosecutors did
that deal with Epstein and didn`t tell them about it. They filed a motion
in court today saying that now that Epstein`s dead, the non-prosecution
agreement that federal prosecutors signed with him back in the day didn`t
just apply to him, it also said his co-conspirators would never face
federal charges. They`re asking for that now to be dissolved in the wake
of Epstein`s death.
That has also just been a complete mystery to me. The unnamed co-
conspirators of Epstein`s being essentially inoculated from prosecution.
Is there something about that that I don`t understand?
BROWN: I think there`s a lot about it that no one has been able to
understand and it is one of the things when I talk to legal experts about
it, it`s one of the primary things that makes people suspicious of why that
had to be added to the agreement. It`s one thing to give him a sweetheart
deal, and give a few other people, but they have sort of an infinite number
of people in this agreement by saying unnamed co-conspirators.
Well, what does that mean? It could be anybody. It could be his lawyers.
It could be some of these high-powered men that came out in the papers the
other day. It could be – I mean, we just don`t know who those people are.
MADDOW: What do you expect to happen going forward in terms of potential
co-conspirators, in terms of additional disclosure of information, in terms
of Epstein`s assets? All of these different sort of open questions now
about his case. How do you expect all those things to change with his
BROWN: Well, I think that of course they were probably already zeroing in
on Epstein`s accomplices. Look, he – there`s no way he did this by
himself. This was a whole sex trafficking organization, almost like an
organized crime family. He had – and these were almost like family
members because they were women who worked for him for years and years and
years. They kept his schedule. They went out and helped recruit girls
from various places, schools and spas and places where young people
So, there were an awful lot of people who were involved in this who
probably are a little bit worried today I would say.
MADDOW: One of the other questions I had was whether or not people who
worked for Epstein had non-disclosure agreements with him. That`s one of
the things you`ve reported on in the past. I wondered if his death might
weaken or invalidate those non-disclosure agreements, which might free up
some other people maybe who weren`t accomplices but who saw things to speak
in a way that they might not have been willing to before.
BROWN: Yes. Well, that was my first thought because I`ve tried to get
some of those people to talk and they`ve said that they have these non-
disclosure agreements. But then again, you know, because of the way that
he died, I think people are a little suspicious and worried now if there`s
any chance that there`s foul play. Then those kind of people would
probably not want to talk because they`ll be afraid.
MADDOW: They`ll be afraid that they might themselves be in danger.
BROWN: Yes. Yes.
MADDOW: What do you make about the president promoting this conspiracy
theory about Epstein`s death on Twitter? I was both surprised and not
surprised by it, but also sort of shocked that the conversation about
Epstein veered there so quickly.
BROWN: You know, I don`t like to talk about conspiracy theories because I
don`t like to perpetuate them.
BROWN: And I think that it`s just sad that people are getting their news
primarily from Twitter and Facebook and not by reading a newspaper or
reading a digital website like “The New York Times” or the “Miami Herald.”
I think that people need to pay more attention to reading books and reading
real news rather than getting their news off of Twitter, quite frankly.
MADDOW: You are a living example for why everybody within shouting
distance of the “Miami Herald” ought to be subscribed to that paper.
Julie, thank you very much for being here.
BROWN: Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: Nice to have you here in person.
MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: It was the signature chant at the 2016 Republican national
convention which nominated Trump. Lock her up. Lock her up!
Three-word chant. Lock her up. Three-word chant. Lock her up.
The Trump campaign chair at the time was Paul Manafort. He knew all about
locking up political opponents. Before taking over the Trump campaign,
Manafort had made millions of dollars working as a political consultant for
Ukrainian strong man Viktor Yanukovych, the head of a pro-Russian political
With Manafort`s help, the pro-Russian strongman won the presidency of
Ukraine in 2010 by defeating his opposition rival Yulia Tymoshenko. A year
later, with Manafort`s guy in charge of the Ukrainian government,
Tymoshenko was put on trial, sentenced to seven years in jail. They
literally fitted her up, framed her and locked her up.
Which as you can imagine didn`t look great to the rest of the world. But
part of Paul Manafort`s job was to make this “lock her up” operation look
legit. Legit enough.
To help with the PR cleanup, Manafort hired a sleazy U.S. PR firm and a
high-powered U.S. law firm that had a great reputation, a firm called
Skadden Arps. Manafort arranged for Skadden to be hired to write a report
on why the trial of the Ukrainian president`s political rival was all
aboveboard, all fine, and yes, the law firm found some little problems with
the trial but as “The New York Times” noted at the time, quote, the lawyers
from Skadden Arps seemed to side heavily with the government of President
Viktor Yanukovych, giving the Tymoshenko prosecution the “lock her up” seal
The main lawyer from that fancy law firm who worked on the report was a
very, very famous lawyer named Greg Craig. Craig had been President
Obama`s first White House counsel before leaving the White House to go into
private practice at Skadden. Greg Craig helped author that report. He
assisted Paul Manafort with its public rollout, and even though that report
was commissioned directly by the Ukrainian government, neither Greg Craig
nor his law firm registered as an agent of Ukraine. They tried to pass
this ting thing off as some sort of independent assessment.
Paul Manafort, of course, the president`s campaign chair, is now serving
seven-plus years in federal prison in part for failing to register as a
foreign agent for his work in Ukraine. But today in Washington, D.C., the
federal trial began for Greg Craig. He`s the only member of a Democratic
administration to be indicted in a case growing out of Robert Mueller`s
Seventy-four-year-old Craig faces one count of lying to the Justice
Department about the work he did for Manafort on behalf of Ukraine in 2012.
He was initially indicted on two counts but the judge dismissed one of
those counts last week. So, he`s just up on one felony charge.
“Politico`s” Josh Gerstein was in the courtroom for jury selection at Greg
Craig`s trial today. He says that the origins of the case in the Mueller
investigation came up a couple of times at the judge`s insistence. Quote:
Judge Amy Berman Jackson advised the 70 Washington residents of the jury
pool that they may be hearing from or about former Trump campaign chairman
Paul Manafort and deputy chairman Rick Gates. Jackson told the potential
jurors twice of the Mueller links.
At one point, she noted that part of the Craig probe was conducted by
Mueller`s office. The judge asked jurors notify her if anything about that
connection would, quote, prevent you or hinder you from being fair in
Craig`s trial. Craig was present in the courtroom. He stood for a time
unsmiling with his hands folded in front of him as the judge introduced him
to the potential jurors.
Opening arguments are set to get under way tomorrow, but joining us now is
Josh Gerstein, senior legal affairs contributor at “Politico”.
Josh, thanks for joining us. It`s good to have you here.
JOSH GERSTEIN, SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CONTRIBUTOR, POLITICO: Sure, Rachel.
Good to be back with you.
MADDOW: So, there haven`t been a lot of jury trials that have derived from
the Mueller investigation. There`s been a lot of indictments, there`s been
a whole bunch of guilty pleas, there`s been a lot of interesting legal
stuff but this is only the third jury trial that we`ve seen, I believe.
And Gregory Craig is an unusual cat to see in the courtroom here.
GERSTEIN: Yes. It`s somewhat strange. It feels a little bit like a hose
somebody might have let go of that is spinning around wildly. The notion
that Greg Craig window up on trial if somebody came to you at the beginning
of this Mueller saga back in May of 2017 and said that at the end of this
we`re going to see a former Obama White House counsel standing trial in
Washington, D.C. in federal court, you probably would have said you`re
So, it is a little bit surprising. But these are the loose ends that you
often see prosecutors run down with a vengeance when one of these
investigations gets up to full speed.
MADDOW: One of the interesting dynamics of the sort of Mueller era has
been watching the Justice Department get more aggressive than they`ve ever
been in the past on foreign agents. The Foreign Agent Registration Act has
existed since the 1930s or something, but it hasn`t been something where
there have been a lot of prosecutions. But we`ve seen it come up again and
again, both in plea agreements and in actual charges with a number of
different people who are caught up in Mueller`s investigation.
Do you – does it seem to you that Craig`s defense is going to be in part
challenging the fact that these types of things are charged at all, that
this isn`t the sort of thing that the Justice Department would pursue in
court in normal times?
GERSTEIN: Well, they`ve tried to raise that. I`m not sure how much of
that if any the judge will allow Craig`s defense to get into in court in
front of the jury. Those are usually the kind of sort of selective
prosecution arguments you have to make in front of the judge. But they
have raised that earlier in the case.
And they`ve said, look, things similar to what Craig did in terms of
releasing a report, having a press conference, other lawyers around town
have done that for foreign clients, even foreign governments sometimes
And it`s also worth noting, Rachel, that this case is not directly charging
Craig with failing to register. It seems like the statute of limitations
ran on that a little while ago. But it charges him with basically trying
to snooker the Justice Department, for lack of a better term, when they
started asking questions about what his exact role was in this report and
in the publicity that surrounded it.
MADDOW: And, Josh, are we expecting Gregory Craig to testify in his own
defense? Obviously, that`s unusual. Defendants don`t often – or at least
certainly don`t always get up and testify for themselves. Is he likely to
testify in his own trial?
GERSTEIN: He is likely to testify. They`ve talked about it several times
in front of the judge. It sounds like that`s the operative plan at the
moment. But they haven`t made a firm commitment to it.
I`ll tell you one other very funny Washington moment from the jury
selection, Rachel. When we were sitting in there today some of us noticed
a familiar face in the back of the courtroom sort of towards the end of the
veneer, the group of jurors, potential jurors that were brought in.
Another former White House official was actually called in the jury pool.
Bruce Reid, who was chief of staff to Vice President Biden and was head of
the Domestic Policy Council under President Clinton, was somehow called
into this group and in fact nodded at Craig. The two men obviously know
each other. There was a little hi exchanged. I don`t think that Bruce
Reid`s going to be seated on the jury but that`s certainly an only in
Washington moment that transpired today.
MADDOW: Wow, what a weird moment. That`s amazing. Josh Gerstein, senior
legal affairs contributor at “Politico”. Josh, great you have to here.
Thanks very much.
GERSTEIN: Sure, Rachel.
MADDOW: All right. Much more to get to this busy night. Stay with us.
MADDOW: This weekend in Moscow, tens of thousands of people took to the
streets on a rainy day for the biggest protest rally that city has seen in
years. An independent group that tracks demonstrations counted as many as
60,000 people at a march through Moscow city center.
It took bravery to be there. Russian police have been arresting hundreds
and hundreds of people at these demonstrations in recent weeks and they
have been beating people in the streets. But people turned out this
weekend. They chanted “Russia will be free. Russia will be free.”
The last time there were protests this large against the Putin government
was back in 2011 when people marched to the Kremlin to protest
parliamentary elections that were widely perceived as rigged in favor of
Putin`s political party. Putin was Russia`s prime minister at the time,
soon to become president again. During and after those big demonstrations
in 2011, Putin blamed the United States for those protests.
Specifically he blamed then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. He alleged
that she somehow convened those demonstrations and organized those
demonstrations herself when she spoke out about the evidence of those
parliamentary elections being rigged and when she called for a full
investigation into it. Well, now the protests are back at that size again.
This weekend`s protest was the fifth consecutive weekend rally in Moscow.
Russian protesters are furious basically over Putin rigging the next
election too, which is coming up September 8th. Essentially the way that
one`s being rigged is that opposition leaders are being banned from even
being allowed to run. So, it won`t be a real contest.
Like I said, it takes bravery to demonstrate in Moscow, even this weekend
with tens of thousands of people out, the largest protest in years.
Russian police are caught on camera punching people, beating people with
nightsticks, dragging people off once again. There were hundreds of
As for the president`s whereabouts during Saturday`s protests, he was on a
motorcycle ride in Crimea. Sure, why not? That`s him. Look. He`s got a
Neither Putin nor the Kremlin have commented directly on these weekend
rallies. Putin appears to be pretending they didn`t happen. So far,
they`re not blaming this iteration of protests in Moscow on the U.S.
government. They are interestingly blaming a U.S. company, though.
The Russian government is demanding that Google stop linking to videos and
posting videos about the Moscow protests on YouTube. They want all of that
stopped in the lead up to those September 8th elections. What are you
More ahead. Stay with us.
MADDOW: You may have heard the alarming and alarmingly still evolving news
over the last few days that originated in this sort of coastal region of
northwestern Russia. You see Nenoksa is marked there on the map.
It started off as a report of an explosion in Russia, some sort of missile
or rocket engine exploded. The initial reports were still worrying but,
you know, nothing nuclear, no radiation issues, everything basically fine.
It`s described as a liquid fueled rocket engine that blew up at a testing
site, two people dead, that`s it, don`t ask any more questions.
That story quickly evolved, though, after local officials in a town about
25 miles from the missile site reported they were experiencing elevated
radiation readings. Local people there rushed to the drugstore to buy
iodine to try to protect their thyroids from absorbing radiation.
Soon enough as the story continued to evolve, the Russian government
ultimately let it be known, OK, this wasn`t just any sort of rocket that
exploded, this was some sort of nuclear explosion involving a missile. And
by the way, the death toll wasn`t two people as Russia had initially said,
it was more like seven people killed in this mysterious accident including
five nuclear engineers.
And by this point you realize, huh, this is a completely different kind of
story than the one we first got. But I`ve got a lot of questions here as
the story continues to evolve. First of all, do we yet know what actually
happened? Or is the Russian government still lying about this? Is there a
possibility that people actually are in danger here beyond the people who
are already injured or killed in whatever this accident was? The changing
nature of the story is almost as unsettling as the story itself, right?
But also, here in the U.S., the discussion has been about whether this
might have been part of Russia`s attempt to build a nuclear-powered cruise
missile, which sounds crazy just like disambiguate those words a little bit
here, this is not a nuclear weapon with a nuclear warhead, this is a
regular non-nuclear weapon, but it`s powered by a nuclear engine. It`s
like got a nuclear reactor instead of fuel, right? That seems nuts.
But here`s my third question. If that is what the U.S. thinks was going on
here with this accident in Russia, isn`t it true that the U.S. tried to
make that same sort of weapon before, like in the `50s and in the `60s, and
it was a complete disaster? And if so, why is Russia trying to do it now?
Joining us now is Joe Cirincione, president of the global security
foundation that is called the Ploughshares Fund.
Joe, it is great to see you, my friend. Thank you very much being here.
JOE CIRINCIONE, MSNBC NUCLEAR SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR: Pleasure to be back
with you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Am I right that the United States tried something crazy like this
half a century ago?
CIRINCIONE: Yes. Starting in the 1950s, ending in 1964, we had something
called Project Pluto which was a very large nuclear-powered cruise missile.
The idea was you`d put a reactor in the back of this missile unshielded.
So, it would spew radiation wherever the missile went. It would carry
multiple bombs and the idea was it would loiter over the target area,
Russia, for weeks or even months, dropping bombs and radiating large
portions of that country.
We finally decided that that was too cruel, too insane, too ridiculous, and
we didn`t need, it we had ballistic missiles. The project was canceled.
MADDOW: So when Vladimir Putin at his state of the union this past year
bragged about how he was developing a nuclear-powered missile, the idea was
not new. But the way that he was describing it was as something that would
have essentially infinite range, that could stay aloft and hit anywhere on
earth at any pace.
Was the basic idea that U.S. missile defenses wouldn`t be able to shoot
down that kind of missile and that`s why it was so valuable? It didn`t
seem to me like he was bragging that he could use it to spread radiation
CIRINCIONE: That`s exactly right. Putin said in that speech last year
that he warned the U.S. not to pull out of the anti-ballistic missile
treaty, that this would force him to develop weapons that could evade U.S.
defenses. So, the ballistic missiles fly up, the defenses supposedly would
shoot them down. This cruise missile would fly under the defenses, loiter
around for weeks, even months technically if the thing worked, and that was
his answer to U.S. missile defenses.
He`s proud of this. It`s part of the new arms race that is happening
between the U.S. and Russia.
MADDOW: The idea of the – first of all, the new arms race itself is worth
getting our heads around. But the idea that part of the arms race is going
to be flying nuclear reactors. It seems very sci-fi.
CIRINCIONE: It does. It is nuts. This is by U.S. intelligence sources,
at least the 12th, maybe 13th, 14th test of this missile. Only one has
lasted more than two minutes, crashing into the sea.
In this case, seven people were killed. The explosion apparently spread
deadly radioactivity over an area. It`s going to be there for hundreds or
thousands of years. Seven brave people died. Five of them part of the
Russian nuclear agency, Rosatom.
And it is a tragedy, a tragedy for no reason. This weapon doesn`t work.
It`s highly unlikely it would ever work. And, of course, it`s not needed.
Russia has hundreds of ballistic missile warheads that can penetrate any
conceivable U.S. defense.
MADDOW: Is there any entity worldwide that can force Russia to be more
open about what just happened, that can make sure this is laid bare in
terms of what just happened in this accident?
CIRINCIONE: In short, no. The U.S. and Russia are very secretive about
accidents involving nuclear weapons. Most of them reveal information in
dribs or drabs. In the U.S., you have a free press that probe that. You
don`t have a free press in Russia.
MADDOW: Joe Cirincione, president of the Ploughshares Fund. I miss you,
my friend. It`s nice to have you here. We`re always talking about
something dark but it`s really nice you have to here tonight.
CIRINCIONE: It`s nice to see you, Rachel. Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. Thanks, Joe.
We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: That`s going to do it for us tonight.
In terms of tomorrow`s news, we`re going to be looking forward to the
opening arguments, the opening statements in the Gregory Craig trial in
federal court in Washington, D.C.
I also want to tell you that tomorrow night here on this program, the
interview is going to be Stacey Abrams, Georgia gubernatorial candidate and
all-around Democratic Party rock star. We have not been able to talk with
Stacey Abrams here on this show for a few months now. I`ve been really
looking forward to getting her back in the chair here.
She`s got a lot going on. She`s very much in demand. I`m very much
looking forward to that. I`ll see you then.
Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL”.
Good evening, Lawrence.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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Copyright 2019 ASC Services II Media, LLC. All materials herein are
protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced,
distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the
prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter
or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the