Russia confirms radioactive materials. TRANSCRIPT: 8/16/19, The Rachel Maddow Show.

Ellen Weintraub

ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST:  That`s “ALL IN” for this evening.  Chris Hayes

will be back in the anchor seat on Monday.  You can find me weekdays on

“VELSHI AND RUHLE” 1:00 p.m. Eastern, and again, “MSNBC LIVE” at 3:00. 


“The Rachel Maddow Show” starts now. 


Good evening, Rachel.


RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST:  Ali, before you go, I just want to say to you

that you do have a lot of shows, particularly right now.  You have been

doing double duty, triple duty this week, including hosting this prime time

show.  I just want to tell you, it has been inspiring to watch.  You make

me reconsider my own work ethic.  You have done great, my friend. 


VELSHI:  Not at all.  You`re too kind, Rachel.  You have a great weekend. 


MADDOW:  You too.  I appreciate it.  Much deserved for you.  And I hope you

at home have a good weekend too, because I`m sure you deserve it too.  I

can tell. 


But before we get there, I have to tell you, we do have kind of a doozy of

a show tonight, including some of the weirdest news stories we have covered

in quite some time. 


We`re going to start tonight in New York state where this is the duly

elected attorney general of the state.  Her name is Letitia James, Tish

James.  She was first elected to the attorney general job this past

November, won by a huge margin.  She`s very popular in the state. 


She is the first woman to ever be elected attorney general of the state of

New York.  She`s the first African-American to ever serve as attorney

general in the state of New York.  She is the first African-American woman

to ever be elected to state-wide office of any kind in New York. 


And so, Tish James is a big deal in New York.  She`s a high profile public

official in the state of New York.  She`s also, I think, likely to end up

being a pretty high profile national figure if her career continues the way

it is going thus far. 


But today, Tish James ended up in the headlines for an unusual reason,

which is that today, she was sued.  She didn`t sue somebody or bring a case

against somebody.  She herself was sued by the NRA. 


The NRA, this sort of legendary powerful right wing pro-gun advocacy group,

if you have been following news about the NRA recently at all, you know

they are embroiled in all sorts of legal drama right now.  I mean, the New

York Attorney General Tish James is not the only entity that has issued

subpoenas to the NRA and its constituent parts over the last few months. 


The New York state investigation that Tish James is leading, though, I

think is particularly threatening to the group because New York state

happens to be where the NRA is chartered as a nonprofit organization.  Back

in April, Letitia James opened an investigation into allegations of self

dealing at the NRA, meaning nonprofit being illegally operated for the

benefits of the board members instead of for the nonprofit purpose.  I

mean, that investigation doesn`t just cover potentially criminal

malfeasance by the group and its members or its executives. 


That investigation theoretically could put the nonprofit status of the NRA

at risk.  And that might sound like a technical thing, but that could

technically put the ongoing existence of the NRA at risk. 


Well, within the last few weeks, Tish James widened her investigation and

she issued subpoenas to more than 90 people, who are either on the NRA`s

board of directors right now or they have been in the past.  And that is

apparently what led to the NRA suing Tish James today.


And it`s interesting.  The reason they`re suing her is because the NRA is

apparently quite freaked out about the prospect of what Tish James might

hear from one of the people she has subpoenaed.  Again, she`s issued more

than 90 subpoenas. 


But what the NRA is suing her about, what they are freaked out about is one

of the subpoenas she sent to Oliver North.  Yes, that Oliver North, the

felon from the Iran Contra scandal.  He`s one of the people who has gotten

Tish James subpoena. 


The NRA is now suing Attorney General Tish James today specifically because

they insist that they want their own attorneys present and in the room when

Tish James and her team start questioning Oliver North pursuant to that

subpoena.  Why?  What are you so worried about in terms of Oliver North`s



One of the complicated legal fights the NRA finds itself in right now is a

series of lawsuits and counter-lawsuits within the organization itself, and

between various parts of NRA leadership and some of their vendors and

former leaders.  I mean, nobody is quite sure what exactly happened when

Oliver North got forced out as the group`s president earlier this year. 

Part of the reason it`s been so hard to track this stuff is that everybody

involved honestly is such a drama queen. 


I mean, Oliver North insisting he was a heroic whistleblower uncovering

terrible behavior at the NRA, and NRA insisting, oh, no, no, Oliver North,

you are an extortion artist and a con man.  You are launching a failed

coup.  We`re going to head off your coup at the last moment and off with

your head and we want to be cheered for pushing you out, because that means

– honestly, junior high school has less fights around the graduation dance

than these guys with each other over the last few months and it couldn`t

happen to a nicer bunch. 


But whether or not you care about their drama, and how they are or are not

resolving things amongst themselves, what is it that Oliver North might say

to the New York attorney general that has the NRA so freaked out that they

want their own lawyers there for questioning?  I don`t know. 


Whether or not all this drama engages you, whatever is going on at the NRA

with all these guys, it has resulted over these last four months or so in

just a cascade of terrible and increasingly embarrassing revelations about

what the NRA does, about what happens to the donations that they get from

their members and their donors.  It all started in April with this

reporting in the New Yorker magazine, based on federal tax forms and

charity records and contracts and corporate filings and internal

communications, all of which were obtained by a reporter named Mike Spies. 


Quote: According to interviews and documents that I obtained, a small group

of NRA executives, contractors and vendors have extracted hundreds of

millions of dollars.  Hundreds of millions?  From the nonprofit`s budget

from gratuitous payments, sweet heart deals and opaque financial

arrangements.  Hundreds of millions of dollars? 


That article was published in mid-April in the New Yorker.  And it seems to

have gone off like a small sort of like depth charge inside NRA

headquarters.  I mean, not only was Oliver North ousted as president of the

NRA amid a huge flurry of competing melodramatic assertions and

accusations.  But soon enough, this trickle of super embarrassing very

specific information started to flow out about what exactly the NRA spends

its money on. 


When they persuade people to become members of the NRA or donate money to

them, when people buy NRA swag or decide to hit that button online or

respond to that direct mail thing or that telemarketer and give the NRA 10

bucks, 20 bucks, 100 bucks, we soon started to learn all the gritty details

of what exactly the NRA has been spending all that money on. 


Within a week of that initial story, we got this from the “Wall Street

Journal” indicating that for some reason the NRA had set aside more than

$200,000 of money from its donors to pay for a wardrobe for Wayne LaPierre,

the CEO of the NRA.  Within two weeks of that report “The Wall Street

Journal” had more.  It turns out it was not just hundreds of thousands of

dollars in outfits for Wayne LaPierre, it was also nearly a quarter of a

million dollars that the NRA had spent for him to go to a five-star resort

in Lake Cuomo, Italy, and also to the Four Seasons in Budapest, and also on

a really long, really nice trip to the Bahamas.  Why were NRA members

paying for that.


In that report, we also got a little bit more detail on Wayne`s outfit that

the NRA was paying for.  Quote, many of his wardrobe expenses were incurred

at a Beverly hills California store that sells clothing by the Italian

luxury brand Ermeneglido, I don`t know how to say the first name, Zegna.  I

don`t know how you say the first part of it.


Bottom line, sorry, Wayne LaPierre was getting Italian designer suits,

Zegna suits, at a boutique in Beverly Hills which NRA members were paying

for when they bought their hats and shirts and stickers and stuffer, you

were buying Italian luxury suits for Waynne LaPierre, from a Beverly Hills



Within two weeks of the reporting, we could put a finer point on that.  If

you want to understand how NRA members were spending hundreds of thousands

of dollars on one man`s clothing, how do you even add up to that?  In

trying to do that math, it helps to know that that man could spend $39,000

in a single day on his clothing.  At that one Beverly Hills clothing

boutique $39,000 for one day of shopping, charge it to the members of the



In that same “Wall Street Journal” report in mid May, we also got details

of how much NRA members have been paying specifically for Wayne LaPierre`s

private jet costs.  We don`t actually have a total number in terms of how

much the donor funded and member funded private jets added up to over time,

but we do know that during one one-month period, a one-month period that

spanned from late 2012 into early 2013.  Basically over the holiday period

and the new year`s period in that one month, NRA members and donors paid

more than $200,000 just for Wayne LaPierre`s private jet expenses in part

related to a two-week trip over Christmas to the Bahamas. 


Now, if you think back to what was going on around that time, that $200,000

that members of the NRA spent just for the air transportation costs for

Wayne LaPierre to go to the Bahamas for two weeks around the holidays, that

was late 2012 into early 2013.  So, that would have been immediately after

the elementary school massacre at Sandy Hook in Newtown, Connecticut. 

That`s what the NRA did in response.  They spent $200,000 to send Wayne to

the Bahamas. 


“The Washington Post” would later flush out some of the further details

about that.  Apparently, Wayne and his wife charged that entire trip to the

members and donors of the NRA.  Where they stayed apparently was this

island.  Look.  According to “Washington Post”, it is known for its pink

beaches.  We did not photo shop that.  That`s an actual pink beach. 


And, you know, I`m sure members of the NRA who paid for that two-week trip

plus the private jet fair to and from, I`m sure they would be happy to

cough up extra to make sure that Wayne had pink sand on his beach, not just

normal sand.  Again, it was a very stressful time. 


Again, in addition to the private jets, though, there was more.  There was

also some interesting chauffeur expenses.  Now, I mentioned the NRA and its

– the members had been made to cough up more than – thousands of dollars

to put up the group`s CEO at five-star resort in Italy and at a Four

Seasons Hotel in Budapest. 


“The Wall Street Journal” was able to report in mid May that on that trip,

the Italy and Hungary trip, that trip also specifically included NRA

members and donors paying more than $18,000 just for Wayne LaPierre to have

a European chauffeur on that trip, $18,300 for his chauffeur on the

European trip, all paid for by members of the NRA. 


So, why has all this stuff been coming out?  Like, at least every couple of

weeks, often once a week, sometimes one day after another.  There`s like

another one of these revelations about what the NRA is doing with the money

it takes in in donations and membership fees. 


All these revelations appear to be the product of whatever complex cat

fight is going on among these boys as they, you know, sue each other and

countersue each other and denounce each other and force each other out and

declare victory. I mean, who actually knows what`s going on among these

fellows.  But we`re getting the revelations apparently because of the fight

amongst them, and whether or not you care about the fight amongst them,

bottom line is, we getting a ton of information. 


What`s been revealed over this weird period is that the NRA as legendary as

it supposedly is for its wealth and its huge membership and its

unparalleled sway in Washington.  They are really spending their donor`s

money on like Italian suits and private jet trips and awesome resorts. 

Just within the past couple weeks new reporting from “The Wall Street

Journal” has taken it to a more ridiculous level, with the revelation that

as recently as last year, the NRA had been pursuing the prospect of buying

Wayne LaPierre, a 10,000 square foot mansion. 


Now, this is not, like, shaming Wayne LaPierre as a rich guy who wants to

live in a rich house.  Who cares where Wayne LaPierre wants to live?  The

issue here is that this was the NRA using money from their donors and

members to set Wayne LaPierre up in this 10,000 square foot mansion that he

and his wife picked out in Texas. 


Have you seen the pictures?  Here`s the view up the drive.  You might think

that`s the front of the house, but no, false front.  That`s just the front

of the house that opens on to the formal courtyard which is where the real

magic begins. 


Here`s, like, sort of a view of the main room.  Here`s the kitchen with

gold fittings on the stove.  Also see the fireplace in the kitchen?  Behold

what would have been Wayne`s master suite.  This is a bathroom where I

believe you could get really, really clean. 


Here`s the men`s closet area.  In case you get exhausted in your closet,

you can freshen up.  This closet area is just for the men.  It`s separate

from another whole closet area.  You should stick a pin in that for a

moment, because as you can tell n this kind of closet space is wholly

inadequate for somebody like Wayne. 


Here`s the gym.  We got the photo of the gym.  Here is, I think, where you

punish kids when they`re bad.  Here`s where you go when you`re bad. 


Here`s a detail on the antique marble fireplace.  Here`s the – I think

they call this an outdoor room where if you don`t want to look at the lake

or at the golf course, you can look at the TV.  Here`s another view of the

lake from the hot tub.  Here`s the full employment program area for topiary



Here`s the view of the house from the lake.  It gives you a sense of the

scale.  But I think this is – this one, this drone shot really gives you

the full appreciation.  Just feast your eyes on that for a second. 


If you have an uncle wound up about gun rights so he paid his hard earned

money and he joined the NRA thinking this is a good way to protect his gun

rights.  I mean, this is the kind of thing that the NRA has been doing with

his money. 


The NRA when this was first reported, initially denied that this whole

mansion thing had anything to do with them.  Not a cent of NRA money went

toward this house. 


And it is true that this house ultimately did not get bought.  You can

still buy it today if you would like to.  I have to tell you, it has nine

bathrooms.  You`re going to need to invest in – you know, a lot of

bathroom stuff.  


Nine bathrooms?  There`s four bedrooms.  Nine bathrooms.  If you put a

person in every bedroom, each of those people gets their own bathroom plus

another one, and then there`s a spare.  Nine bathrooms. 


After the initial denials by the NRA to “The Wall Street Journal” that they

had anything to do with this, “The Washington Post” was able to ferry out

some more details about what actually happened here. 


Quote: LaPierre and his wife were intensely involved in the selection of

the property, rejecting an upscale high-rise in Dallas in favor of a 10,000

square foot estate with lake front and golf course views in Texas on the

market for about $6 million.  The couple wanted to secure a social

membership at the exclusive golf club in the gated community as well.  They

also sought the purchase of two vehicles and to keep the current owner`s

golf cart, if possible. 


Now, it wasn`t all roses, one aspect of the property that concerned Mrs.

LaPierre was the lack of space in the men`s closet in the master bedroom. 

“The Washington Post” actually got the email attesting to that.  Quote: The

men`s master bedroom and bathroom need some changes.  There`s not much

closet space. 


Yes, not if you`re spending $39,000 a day at a Beverly Hill`s suit



Quote: The discussions about the estate, which was not ultimately

purchased, are under scrutiny by New York investigators.  The transaction

was slated to be made through a corporate entity that received a $70,000

wire from the NRA in 2018. 


Hold on a minute.  I thought the NRA said they didn`t spend a time – huh. 

The actual check, there it is.  The $70,000 check was published in the

newspaper.  Less than a week later by “The Wall Street Journal.”


Now, as this story kept trickling out and kept outpacing their denials, the

NRA got more and more wound up in their denials about the mansion.  Quote,

not one dime of the NRA`s money was spent on this venture.  OK.  Fine. 


But then the day after “The Wall Street Journal” published the $70,000 NRA

check for the mansion, we found out where the rest of the money to buy the

mansion was slated to come from as well.  Quote: A top NRA executive signed

a document agreeing that the NRA would be a 99 percent owner of a company

formed to buy a $6 million Dallas mansion for the NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre. 

That`s according to a copy of the document reviewed by “The Wall Street



The document also shows the NRA agreed to contribute $6.5 million to that

company that was being formed to buy the property.  Quote: This raises yet

more questions about the NRA`s previous statements that none of the NRA`s

money was to be used to purchase the house for Mr. LaPierre. 


Now, today, inevitably, there`s more.  I mean, at this point it`s

embarrassing to even say this stuff.  But “The Daily Beast” got this story

today.  Quote: The NRA spent tens of thousands of dollars bringing hair and

makeup artists around the country for the wife of its CEO.  The expenses

included plane flights and luxury hotel stays for Wayne`s wife`s stylists. 


Whatever you think of the NRA, maybe you`re a member of the NRA or you know

somebody who is.  I have NRA members in my extended family.  I mean,

whether or not you know anybody who belongs to the group or gives them

money, I mean, you`ve definitely seen the NRA member stickers in the back

of people`s cars and trucks and stuff. 


Now you know that every time you see one of those, you can hold it in your

heart a little bit the fact that what that person`s NRA membership dues

went toward.  What their donation to the NRA went toward was Wayne`s wife`s

stylist`s being flown all over the country to a company for her events,

hair and makeup.  The stylists also got airfare and hotels in addition to

being paid for their services for Wayne`s wife, all paid for by NRA members

and donors. 


Also, pink sand Bahamas vacations.  Also, the initial payments on what they

almost bought here for Wayne and his wife if only, if only it had had

enough closet space for his Italian suit wardrobe which your NRA member

buddy paid for with his or her donation. 


NRA fundraising appeals are always a portrait of desperation, right?  Stop

the NRA shutdown.  Please give as generously as you can.  Help save the

NRA.  The NRA cannot survive without your help right now.  As you well

know, gun haters have tried for decades to destroy your gun rights.  The

NRA cannot survive without your help.  Save the NRA.  Contribute by phone. 


When they use lines like that to get gun owners to part with their hard-

earned money, we now know what those membership dollars actually fund.  And

this is important whether or not you care about the NRA.  This is important

for the country.  Because, I mean, once again, we`re having another serious

moment as a country where in revulsion after more mass shootings, we`re

thinking seriously about the prospects for gun policy reform. 


I mean, we`re heading into a presidential election season.  And there`s a

reason that Democrats are feeling their oats on this issue.  Heading into a

presidential election season, it is hard to ignore that such huge

majorities of the public, like 90 percent majorities of the public actually

do want something like universal background checks nationwide in order for

anybody to be able to buy a gun. 


There have been recent reports that the NRA and specifically Wayne

LaPierre, have been whispering in President Trump`s ear, telling him

directly, oh, no, you can`t support background checks.  You said you liked

background checks?  That was a mistake, you definitely can`t support that. 

That will look terrible for you if you support that. 


And OK, that`s to be expected when it comes to the NRA.  But now, after

these four or five months about what we`ve learned from the NRA, now we

know the advice is coming from the guy who everybody knows has been using

his members` money to try to buy himself 10,000 square foot mansions and to

fly his wife`s hair and makeup artists all over the country when she wants



I mean, it has been an amazing few months in terms of the revelations about

this all powerful group.  Well, now, new trouble.  And that story is next. 


Stay with us. 




MADDOW:  This was January, 2018, a big scoop from McClatchy wire service. 

FBI investigating whether Russian money went to NRA to help Trump in the

2016 campaign.  The story said the FBI was looking into whether a top

Russian banker with ties to the Kremlin illegally funneled money to the NRA

to help Donald Trump win the presidency. 


That Russian banker tied to the Kremlin we know is Aleksandr Torshin, seen

here with his very famous protege Maria Butina.  Butina pled guilty last

year to a conspiracy to infiltrate the NRA and other American conservative

groups as an unregistered agent working on behalf of the Kremlin. 


Despite a ton of reporting on Russia and Maria Butina and the Russian

efforts to infiltrate and influence the NRA, we ultimately never heard of

what became of that reported FBI investigation into whether part of what

was going on with the NRA is that Russia was using the group to funnel

foreign money into the 2016 election to help Trump.  Soon after that

McClatchy story first appeared, a watchdog group filed a complaint asking

the FEC to look into the complaint. 


It was never clear how the FEC actually responded to that, or what their

response amounted to.  Today, we got a little bit of an answer to that with

an exclamation point.  Democratic FEC Commissioner Ellen Weintraub has just

gone public with this statement, saying that the Republican appointees on

the FEC basically throttled the investigation to make sure that these

allegations were never really looked into. 


Quote: This agency barely lifted a finger to find out the truth behind one

of the most blockbuster campaign finance allegations in recent memory.  The

FEC`s Republican commissioners have blocked the commission from taking even

the smallest step to investigate whether Torshin and Butina violated the

ban on foreign national contributions.  We still do not know the answer to

this foundationally, imminently knowable question. 


For the Republican commissioners to turn a blind eye to the possibility

that a foreign adversary secretly funneled tens of millions of dollars into

a presidential campaign is to bring their obstruction to a new and

breathtakingly damaging level.  She closes: further investigation was and

is required. 


Joining us now is Ellen Weintraub, Democratic member and current chair of

the Federal Election Commission. 


Commissioner Weintraub, thanks very much for being here.  I appreciate your

making time. 


ELLEN WEINTRAUB, FEC COMMISSIONER:  Thank you for having me, Rachel. 


MADDOW:  So, help me understand what you mean about the distance between

what the FEC, what you and your colleagues could have done here and what

has been done.  You say your Republican colleagues made sure the FEC would

barely lift a finger to look into this.  What could they have done versus

what they did do? 


WEINTRAUB:  Well, we could have done an investigation.  The FEC has a

process.  Anybody can file a complaint with the FEC, and our lawyers will

review it and then the commission gets to decide whether we`re actually

going to investigate or not. 


And the reason – what happened today was the file was made public that

showed that the FEC did not do any investigation in this case, did not take

the most basic step of even calling the FBI.  The complaint was based on

that “McClatchy” article which said the FBI was investigating. 


So I said to my colleagues, well, let`s at least call the FBI and ask them. 

And then we`ll know whether the article was well-founded or not.  We`ll

have that basic question answered, are they investigating or aren`t they? 

If they aren`t, they might have some interesting information for us.  But

in any event, we would at least know whether the article was based on real

information or not. 


And this really was dumbfounding to me.  I could not get agreement from my

colleagues for our staff to make a single phone call over to the FBI, a

sister agency, a law enforcement agency, wouldn`t have bothered any

American citizen or in any way impaired their First Amendment rights.  All

we needed to do was call another government employee and say, are you or

are you not investigating this issue?  Couldn`t get the votes.  Couldn`t do



MADDOW:  If that had happened, hypothetically, and it didn`t, would the FBI

have told you?  I mean, I don`t understand how the relationship between

agencies works on something like this, but would the FBI have had to tell

you if they were, in fact, involved in this investigation?


WEINTRAUB:  They don`t have to tell us, but they often will tell us.  They

will tell us basic information.  Sometime they`ll tell us we`re in the

middle of an investigation, and we`d rather that you just sit tight for a

while and let us sort it out and see what we can find out first.  And, you

know, that`s fine.  The FEC will often agree to abate their investigations

while the Justice Department or FBI is looking into something. 


Or sometimes they`ll say, we`ve decided it`s not a criminal matter.  It

might be a civil matter.  We`re happy to share information with you. 

Sometimes they say, there`s really very little we can tell you, or they

could certainly fairly easily say, we don`t know what that article was

talking about.  We`re not investigating at all. 


We just don`t know the answer. 


MADDOW:  Could you as FEC chair, as an individual commissioner call and try

to get the FBI to tell you that information, or it has to be the vote of

the commission to direct your staff to make the call? 


WEINTRAUB:  We have a memorandum of understanding with the Justice

Department.  The normal procedure is for the staff to call and make that

request on behalf of the agency.  It`s not something that individual

commissioners usually do, and the FBI would probably want to respect that

memorandum of understanding.  They`d expect to hear from the legal staff,

from our counsel`s office, not from commissioners. 


And our staff would be, you know, probably afraid to make that phone call

without the direction of or at least the approval of the commission. 


MADDOW:  Does anything about the fact that the Maria Butina case has

evolved, that she`s pled guilty to unlawfully acting as a secret foreign

agent on behalf of the Russian Federation, through the NRA with an eye

toward influencing the 2016 election, I mean, that was a big development in

this saga.  Did any of that inflect the way that this moved or didn`t

through the FEC?  Were your fellow commissioners at all moved by that? 


WEINTRAUB:  Well, they certainly were aware of it.  They just didn`t find

it a persuasive fact in terms of investigating this complaint. 


MADDOW:  Unbelievable. 


Ellen Weintraub, a Democrat serving on the Federal Election Commission, as

right now its chair, thank you for I guess sending the flag up the flag

pole to let people know this is how it happened.  Thanks also for helping

us understand it tonight. 


WEINTRAUB:  My pleasure, Rachel. 


MADDOW:  All right.  We`ve got much more to get to.  A busy Friday night. 


Stay with us. 




MADDOW:  So, both sides have had their opening statements now.  After the

prosecution and the defense each made their opening statements, then the

prosecution gets to go first to lay out their case, right?  The prosecution

calls their first witness.  The witness testifies about his law firm and

its involvement in this case that led to this remarkable criminal trial. 


The criminal trial of Gregg Craig, the only person from a Democratic

administration caught up in a trial derived from the Mueller investigation. 

Craig is on trial for allegedly lying to federal investigators about his

involvement in one of Paul Manafort`s schemes in the Ukraine.  And this

trial is strange far lot of reasons.  Not least because he`s President

Obama`s former White House counsel, because he`s a Democratic

administration official who for some reason was caught up with Paul



I mean, it`s been particularly weird to see him in court in D.C. where like

half the jury pool seems to know him, right?  People who worked with him at

the White House.  A CIA analyst who specialized in Ukraine.  One woman

whose boyfriend is a “New York Times” reporter who has been covering the

Mueller investigation.  I mean, it has been small worldville like you can`t



But one thing Gregg Craig is, is a very experienced, very esteemed lawyer. 

And for everything else that`s nuts about this trial, it makes it freaking

astonishing that his lawyers had to formally apologize to the judge on his

behalf today because after the prosecutors rolled out their first witness,

but before the defense had their chance to cross examine the first witness,

Gregg Craig apparently took it upon himself to walk up to the witness in

the courthouse and say, quote, I know I`m not supposed to do this, but I

just wanted to say hello. 


I mean, even if you`re not like one of the most famous lawyers in America,

you probably know the general rule which is, don`t touch the witnesses who

are being called to testify against you in your ongoing trial.  Don`t go

talk to the witness and touch him or her in between his or her testimony

and that person being cross examined. 


I mean, the judge actually said to Greg Craig today, Mr. Craig, I would

like to caution you.  I don`t think it`s appropriate as you apparently

didn`t either to go up to a witness and greet him in the middle of the

trial.  Mr. Craig, this witness was in the middle of his testimony.  He is

still on the witness stand.  He is not to be interacted with nor are the

other witnesses in the case to be interacted with. 


Which you would think Gregg Craig would know – but that happened today. 

Truly weird. 


And not the weirdest thing that happened in that particular judge`s

courtroom today in conjunction with a Trump administration scandal.  That`s





MADDOW:  OK.  This is a little bit nuts.  I told you all the stories

tonight are weird.  But this is really weird.  You remember Roger Stone,

long-time friend and advisor to the president, now under indictment on

multiple felony counts. 


He`s charged with obstruction.  He`s charged with false statement. He`s

also charged with witness tampering. 


This is how his indictment explains the witness tampering part.  Quote: On

multiple occasions, including on or about December 1st, 2017, defendant

Stone told person two that that person should do a Frank Pentangeli before

the House Intelligence Committee in order to avoid contradicting defendant

Stone`s testimony. 


That indictment continues: Frank Pentangeli is a character in the film “The

Godfather Part 2”, which both Roger Stone and person two had discussed. 

Frank Pentangeli is a character who testifies before a congressional

committee and in that testimony he claims not to know critical information

that he does, in fact, know. 


So, “The Godfather Part 2” thing is in the indictment.  It`s been there

from the beginning.  It`s not there because the prosecutors think that

Roger Stone`s behavior is like something out of the Corleone family in “The

Godfather”, right?  I mean, they`re only bringing it up, they`re only

putting it in the indictment because they`re saying that he in real life

cited the plot of “The Godfather” directly to the witness he was trying to

intimidate in order to show that witness what exactly he wanted him to do

when he was directing him to lie at his congressional testimony. 


Well, that`s crazy enough, right?  But it has led since then to this

bizarre legal saga about “The Godfather” where prosecutors and Stone`s

defense team have been fighting formally in court about whether or not the

jury can be shown the relevant scene from “Godfather Part 2”, the scene

that Roger Stone was referencing when he allegedly told this witness to lie

to Congress just like it went in “Godfather Part 2”, except this time in

real life to protect Roger Stone. 




UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Were you at any time a member of a crime organization

headed by Michael Corleone? 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I don`t know nothing about that.  Oh.  I was in the

olive oil business with his father.  But that was a long time ago.  That`s

all.  I kept saying Michael Corleone did this and Michael Corleone did

that.  So I said, yes, sure. 




MADDOW:  So, when Roger Stone is telling this guy who has just been

subpoenaed to testify in Congress, hey, do a Frank Pentangeli, prosecutors

want to play that clip, probably a little more from the film, so the jury

will know what exactly Frank Pentangeli did in “The Godfather” which was to

unexpectedly lie under oath in order to protect someone else.  To say oh,

the FBI told me to say all this stuff.  I`m not going to say that stuff. 


I have no desire to be a lawyer.  I have no special desire to be a federal

prosecutor, ever, right?  But I would absolutely have job swapped for a day

with whoever the prosecutor was whose job it was today to write this for

the Roger Stone case.  Quote: In several communications with person two,

defendant Roger J. Stone referenced a character from the movie “The

Godfather Part 2” named Frank Pentangeli.  In emails and text messages sent

after Stone become aware that person two had been served with a subpoena by

the House Intelligence Committee, Stone quoted Pentangeli`s lines from the



When Stone sent these messages to person two, he intended to conjure a

specific image in person two`s mind, a scene in which Pentangeli gives

false testimony before a congressional committee.  To establish that Stone

sent these messages in order to influence the testimony of person two, and

that Stone did so with corrupt intent, the government, your honor, should

be permitted to show the jury the image that Stone intended to create in

person two`s mind by playing for the jury the scene in which Frank

Pentangeli delivers the lines that Stone quoted. 


Stone does not deny that the short movie clip is relevant.  Stone argues

that the clip wrongly suggests a connection between Roger Stone, the mafia

and violence.  Contrary to Stone`s argument, the clip is not offered to

suggest that Stone has a character of a murderous mafioso or to otherwise

establish his criminal disposition. 


The government does not intend to suggest that Roger Stone is an organized

crime figure.  Stone referenced this film scene in communications that

allegedly constitute witness tampering.  The scene is, therefore, part of

the very act at issue. 


So, we`re waiting on a ruling on that one from the judge.  And yes, I

should tell you this is the exact same judge who had to tell former White

House counsel Greg Craig today that he needed to stop talking to the

witnesses against him and stop shaking their hands.  Same judge, same

courtroom, same day. 


Joining us now is Joyce Vance, former U.S. attorney for the northern

district of Alabama. 


Joyce, thank you for being here tonight. 


JOYCE VANCE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY:  Thanks for having me.


MADDOW:  I am often bring you in here on serious and totally disturbing

stuff.  In this case, I`m just gobsmacked that this is somebody`s job. 


VANCE:  This is almost as good as playing in “My Cousin Vinnie” for a jury,



MADDOW:  Well, so they`re fighting about whether or not the jury can see

this clip, since Stone was referencing it when he was communicating with a

witness.  I mean, it`s hilarious that this is all about “Godfather Part 2”

and this is the way Roger Stone talks and this is the subject of all these

multiple court filings, but is the government going to get what they want

here, in terms of showing this to the jury? 


VANCE:  You know, I think the government does get what it wants here.  This

is part of the core criminal conduct that Stone engaged in.  And all good

that prosecutors put on is prejudicial, right?  It`s all intended to prove

to the jury that the defendant did bad things. 


So the question is whether it`s unduly prejudicial.  Does the prejudice

outweigh the probative value, the value it has to the jury in determining

the truth.  And here Stone is the one who raised it.  And, in fact, it`s

sort of protecting him in a funny way, because his argument is, if you talk

about “The Godfather”, the jury might think that I`m a mafioso, that I`m



And by playing this very limited clip, that makes it clear that they`re

talking about intentional lying to a House Intelligence Committee holding a

hearing, they sort of minimize any risk of prejudice. 


MADDOW:  So, the jury will know that Stone was referencing “The Godfather”,

because that`s in the indictment, right?  So, the jury will definitely know

that.  If they don`t know, specifically what part of “The Godfather” he was

referencing, they might think it`s about sawing off some horse`s head or

something.  They wouldn`t know it`s just about lying to Congress.


VANCE:  They could think it`s worse, and, of course, the judge can give a

limiting instruction saying you can only consider this evidence for the

purpose of considering whether he was intimidating the witness.  You can`t

use it to draw bad conclusions about Mr. Stone`s character. 


MADDOW:  In terms of the core of this allegation against Stone – I mean,

again, it`s so weird to engage with the plot of “The Godfather” in order to

get there, but if he did direct a witness through this illusion of this

movie that the witness should lie under oath, unexpectedly so as to keep

his testimony congruent with what Roger Stone had already said.  So, Roger

Stone`s testimony would be supported rather than contradicted under oath,

is that witness tampering? 


VANCE:  That`s witness tampering. 


MADDOW:  OK.  Witness tampering is not only trying to intimidate somebody

from not showing up or not telling the truth, it`s specifically trying to

maneuver them into something that will help you and hurt them? 


VANCE:  Exactly, exactly.  It has a number of different possibilities.  The

government has alleged a number of them here.  This is sort of the least

possible bad conduct that Stone engaged in. 


MADDOW:  Joyce Vance, former U.S. attorney for the Northern District of

Alabama, I knew you were exactly the right person to ask about this today. 

Much appreciated, my friend.


VANCE:  Thanks.


MADDOW:  Thank you.


All right.  We`ll be right back.  Stay with us. 




MADDOW:  Yesterday marked one week since this mysterious explosion in

Russia that we still have very little understanding about.  Other than to

know it was something nuclear and to know that the Russian government isn`t

being forthright about what happened.  On the night of the explosion which

again was Thursday last week, according to “The New York Times”, some

Moscow TV broadcasts were mysteriously interrupted for as long as 53



A government broadcast agency later described the disruption as a

malfunction of a storm warning system.  TV screens in Moscow went blue, but

then also a text went out urging people to stay at home because of a storm

with strong winds.  That said, no such storm ever arrived. 


That weirdness in Moscow which is like 250 miles away from the site of the

blast still hasn`t been explained by the Russian government.  But that`s

just one of the number of misleading and odd government statements that

continue to surround this accident.  What exactly happened and how

dangerous it might continually be. 


The initial reports for the public, remember, initially said this had been

an explosion involving a liquid fueled rocket.  The government went out of

its way to say in its initial reports there was definitely nothing toxic,

definitely nothing radioactive.  They later admitted the explosion did have

a nuclear component of some kind. 


Government`s initial statement also said the death toll from the explosion

was two, and later admitted it was seven with multiple injuries as well. 

The government also misled about whether there was release of radiation. 

They initially explicitly said there was no release of radiation, even as

local communities observed they were reporting radiation spikes. 


The Russian government took a few days to get there, but they ultimately

conceded that, yes, OK, maybe radiation levels had spiked to up to 16 times

normal levels. 


The government then made some sort of initial move to evacuate a town quite

nearby to the blast site.  They even sent a special train designated to

take the townspeople away.  After telling the townspeople they would have

to evacuate and sending that train, the government then changed their mind

and said they wouldn`t after all.  A local governor then insisted the

evacuation hadn`t been planned at all and it was nonsense to say otherwise. 


I mean, that`s where we are on this story.  That`s the nonsense we`ve been

getting from the Russian government.  Well, now, today, there`s more, and

you will find it unsettling. 


That`s next. 




MADDOW:  New reporting today from Radio Free Europe.  Lots of reporters are

now chasing the story of whatever it has that happened with this nuclear

explosion in Russia last week. 


Doctors and other medical personnel who worked at the hospital where the

injured were brought are now telling new sources that they themselves may

be at risk.  Radio Free Europe says today, several medical staff from the

regional hospital were sent to Moscow themselves for evaluation after

coming into contact with people injured in the blast.  Multiple new sources

also now reporting the staff from the hospital were told nothing about

possible radiation exposure as they treated these injured people.  We`re

also getting reports that those medical staff were told to sign

nondisclosure agreements. 


Here`s the lead paragraph in today`s story from the “Moscow Times”.  Quote:

The three injured men arrived at the hospital around 4:30 p.m. naked and

wrapped in translucent plastic bags.  The state of the patients made staff

suspect they were dealing with something very serious but the only

information they had at the time was there had been an explosion at a

military site nearby. 


One of the surgeons told the “Moscow Times” by phone this week, quote,

neither hospital directors nor health officials nor regional officials nor

the governor notified staff that the patients were radioactive.  The

hospital workers had their suspicions but nobody told them to protect



“The Moscow Times” also has this detail according to three of the doctors

at the regional hospital, one of the physicians who was flown to Moscow to

be checked was found to have Caesium 137 in his or her muscle tissue. 

They`re not saying whether it`s a male or female doctor, but Caesium 137 is

a radioactive isotope that is a byproduct of nuclear fission. 


If this report in “Moscow Times” today is correct, doctors turning up with

Caesium 137 in their bodies is a very bad sign of what happened last week

in Russia.  What exactly happened in that explosion, how bad was it, how

dangerous does it continue to be, have they cleaned up whatever it is that

happened, have they cleaned up the blast site itself? 


We are over a week out now.  We still really have no idea.  I will tell

you, though, that the nation of Norway is now saying they`ve detected

radiation on their Russian border. 


This whole story is still unspooling.  We will keep you apprised as we

learn more.  Watch this space. 


That`s going to do it for us tonight.


Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD” where Ari Melber is in for Lawrence



Good evening, Ari.









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