At least 20 states reject settlement. TRANSCRIPT: 9/12/19, The Rachel Maddow Show.
ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST: Juliet, good to talk to you. Thank you for
joining me. Juliet Eilperin is with us tonight.
All right. That`s ALL IN for this evening.
“THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW” begins right now.
Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Ali. Much appreciated.
Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour as well.
A little bit of an ominous development today in the spy story that has been
unfolding over the past few days about the well-placed high-level source
the CIA apparently used to have inside the Kremlin. A source close enough
to Vladimir Putin that he reportedly could provide U.S. intelligence
agencies with photographs of documents on Putin`s desk.
He reportedly was able to give U.S. intelligence agencies the documentation
that they needed to be able to confidently say that the Russian attack on
the 2016 election had been approved of and ordered directly by Putin
himself. For reasons that remain unclear, that very, very, very valuable
human source inside the Russian government got exfiltrated from Russia, got
taken out of Russia on an emergency basis in 2017 by the U.S. He was
apparently brought back to the U.S. to live here instead.
And for reasons that also remain unclear, his existence and then soon
thereafter his identical and soon after that his exact address have all
been reported in multiple media outlets over the last few days.
So, this spy has been outed. And the Kremlin has now basically confirmed
that yes, that`s the guy. At least they`re confirming that was his name
and he was a Russian government official and yes, he mysteriously ended up
living in the United States and is no a Russian government official.
When this whole story comes out, it`s going to be an amazing spy novel.
It`s halfway there already. But I mentioned a somewhat ominous development
in this story today is that Russia has now put out an Interpol notice
seeking international assistance for the Russian government to locate this
person who, again, has just been named in multiple Western media outlets as
somebody who was working as a spy for the United States inside the Kremlin.
Now, that news is ominous because of the well-documented history of Russia
tracking down and killing its dissidents and critics and spies all over the
world. This report about them looking for this guy through Interpol comes
hot on the heels of this gonzo reporting in the “Wall Street Journal”
yesterday that U.S. officials now believe that the Russian government is
responsible for yet another assassination in a Western country just in the
past couple of weeks. We`re going to be talking about this incredible
story more on tomorrow night`s show. But U.S. officials are telling the
“Wall Street Journal” that last month when a Chechen guy was murdered as he
walked through a park in Berlin, in Germany, U.S. officials now believe
that was an assassination ordered by the Putin government.
Quote: The United States believes that Russia is responsible for this
So, while we`re getting fresh evidence about the Russian government`s
willingness to kill people it doesn`t like, Russians anywhere in the world,
track them down in any Western country, it doesn`t matter to them, they`ll
kill anybody anywhere on Putin`s orders. While we`ve got fresh evidence of
that, we`ve also got this spy inside the Kremlin who was working for U.S.
intelligence newly out and now apparently in hiding. Russia as of today
using Interpol among other things to try to find him.
While we are on the subject, you should also know that across Russia today,
there were more than 200 police raids in 43 different Russian cities, all
targeting supporters and colleagues of Russia`s leading opposition figure,
Alexei Navalny. In elections this weekend in Russia, pro-Kremlin, pro-
Putin representation in regional and city governments took a really big
hit. The opposition did much better than anyone expected.
Alexei Navalny is the highest-profile opposition leader in the country.
Those election results where the opposition did great, that`s now produced
what appears to be the largest police operation yet against Navalny and the
opposition that he leads. Again, more than 200 raids in more than 40
locations around Russia.
Navalny himself keeps getting arrested. He keeps getting physically
attacked. But this time, they`ve gone after hundreds of people who Russian
authorities say are associated with him including some candidates who stood
for office in this weekend`s elections.
“The New York Times” reporter on the scene, Andrew Higgins, also reports
today that the offices of an independent election monitoring organization
were also raided in Russia today alongside all of the pro-Navalny folks
because, of course, if there`s anything scarier to an authoritarian
government than a strong opposition, it`s fair elections. And so you have
to make sure you get your election monitors too.
Radio Free Europe has just today posted this CCTV footage of one election
monitor at this weekend`s elections in Russia getting sucker-punched,
getting punched out in St. Petersburg in a polling place while elections
officials on scene and police on the scene just pretended not to notice
that this had happened.
Here at home, there was some unexpected and still unexplained news out of
Congress and the administration that pertains to some of these matters.
Today in the Senate, they were due to hold a hearing where senators of both
parties – I kid you not, both parties, it would have involved Republican
senators too, we have it on good authority – senators of both parties were
set today to criticize President Trump and the Trump White House for
holding p a whole bunch of money that Congress had said should be sent to
Ukraine – $250 million worth of military assistance to Ukraine to help
them push back against Russia.
Trump has been blocking the dispersal of that money for almost a year,
which, of course, is a great gift to Vladimir Putin.
“Washington Post” also recently reported in a very provocative editorial
that the Trump administration was using that money to basically try to
extort Ukraine into helping President Trump with his re-election effort.
“The Post” reporting last week that the Trump administration had conveyed
word to Ukraine that if they really wanted to get that $250 million in
military assistance to help them fight off Russia, then if they want to get
that money, they should open up a prosecution of Joe Biden or a prosecution
or an investigation to some member of the Biden family or otherwise come up
with something that might help Donald Trump in his re-election effort in
the event that he ends up running against Biden.
In any case, there was going to be a hearing about why the Trump
administration and President Trump were blocking that money from going to
Ukraine. That was going to happen today. The Trump White House was about
to be criticized by both Democratic and Republican senators on this issue.
And then bingo, that`s apparently all this takes. The tiniest, teeniest,
teeniest little pushback, even the tiniest promise of a tiny pushback.
That is all it takes with this administration and this president. And
bingo, they caved.
The Trump administration apparently conveying word to the Senate overnight
last night on the eve of this hearing that in fact they are finally going
to drop the hold on that $250 million of military aid for Ukraine. I mean,
they`ve been holding it back for a year.
But they did not want to be criticized on this issue. They did not want to
have to explain in public why they were holding back that money. They
definitely do not want to have to answer any questions about it. They do
not certainly want to face any Republican pushback about it. And so they
Now, the State Department wouldn`t comment when asked about it today. Even
Senator Lindsey Graham, who is the one who made this sort of surprise
announcement in the Senate hearing room today that apparently subject of
the hearing was moot, they`ve freed up the money. Even he seemed to not
know how to explain it or at least not want to talk about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: What about the Ukraine aid? What exactly happened either today
or yesterday with the Ukraine aid –
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): I don`t know.
REPORTER: But you said that it was –
GRAHAM: I still don`t know.
REPORTER: It had been freed up?
GRAHAM: Yes. Last night. You need to ask them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Yes, I don`t know. I don`t know. You need to ask them. I don`t
want to talk about it.
But they`re not saying anything either.
I mean, big picture, it is amazing the stuff that Trump tries to get away
with, particularly as it pertains to policy that affects Russia. But it is
also worth noting that the Trump White House is very susceptible to
pushback on this issue. I mean, Republicans almost never push back on
anything Trump does, right?
But when they do he always caves every single time. If the Republicans in
Congress were anything like, you know, the Tories in Britain that have been
standing up to Boris Johnson on matters of principle as he pursues this
Brexit thing, if the conservatives in the United States were anything like
the conservatives in Britain standing up to their leader when they
disagreed with him on stuff, we would have a completely different political
situation in this country. We would have a completely different policy
situation in this country.
Trump always caves when Republicans push back against him. The reason we
are where we are is Republicans almost never can be bothered to push back.
But that may end up being an important dynamic going forward in a big
developing story tonight that we are following, along with help from a
couple of very well-informed guests who are going to join us in just a
One reporter who has been leading the way on this story today and one
former official to help give us some context.
But the story is – you might have seen these headlines about this today,
about what appears to be a maybe botched or at least somewhat haywire
effort to try to bring about a criminal prosecution of this man, Andrew
McCabe, who became director of the FBI right after President Trump fired
FBI Director James Comey. He had been deputy director. Comey got fired,
that made him director.
You might remember, one of the things that happened right after Trump fired
James Comey, literally two days after, that was that just by coincidence,
there happened to be scheduled a big intelligence hearing, an annual
oversight hearing on worldwide threats.
This is a hearing that happens every year. And it`s always a big deal
hearing. You get the head of the CIA, head of the NSA, head of the FBI.
They give you this big picture dramatic view of American national security
threats and American efforts to counter those threats.
The problem was when this happened in 2017, the problem was the FBI
director had just been fired by the president under absolutely bonkers
circumstances. Just 48 hours earlier. And so, now, the new guy, right?
Two days on the job. Had to go do that very high-profile hearing.
And he did it. It was very, very tense for everyone involved. New Mexico
Senator Martin Heinrich started off his questioning to Andrew McCabe that
day asking McCabe about his recent interactions, his very recent
interactions with President Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MARTIN HEINRICH (D-NM): When did you last meet with the president,
ANDREW MCCABE, FORMER FBI DEPUTY DIRECTOR: I don`t think I – I don`t
think I –
HEINRICH: Was it earlier this week?
MCCABE: – I`m in a position to comment on that. I have met with the
president this week but I don`t really want to go into the details of that.
HEINRICH: But Russia did not come up?
MCCABE: That`s correct. It did not.
HEINRICH: Thank you.
We`ve heard in the news that claims that director Comey had lost the
confidence of rank-and-file FBI employees. You`ve been there for 21 years.
In your opinion, is it accurate that the rank and file no longer supported
MCCABE: No, sir. That is not accurate. Director Comey enjoyed broad
support within the FBI and still does to this day.
We are a large organization. We are 36,500 people across this country,
across this globe. We have a diversity of opinions about many things. But
I can confidently tell you that the majority, the vast majority of FBI
employees enjoyed a deep and positive connection to Director Comey.
HEINRICH: Thank you for your candor.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Thank you for your candor.
I`ll tell you what they`re trying to prosecute him for now is an alleged
lack of candor. So that sticks out in hindsight. I`ll have more on that
in just a second.
But the tension in that room, right? McCabe having been flung into running
the FBI under really weird circumstances but also there testifying about it
two days into it at this big intelligence committee hearing with every eye
in the country staring at him trying to figure out what the heck has just
happened. It was just a very tense, very difficult scene.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. RICHARD BURR (R-NC): I`m going to recognize myself for five minutes.
Did you ever hear Director Comey tell the president he was not the subject
of an investigation? Could you do your microphone, please?
MCCABE: Rookie mistake. I`m sorry.
Sir, I can`t comment on any conversations the director may have had with
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: OK. Rookie – nervous. Right?
Looking back at that day now, we now know that in that hearing room that
day on that incredibly tense moment, right, with all these senators asking
about his interactions with Trump and what happened between Trump and Comey
on Russia and has Trump been talking to McCabe about Russia and him trying
to answer questions but really not wanting to talk about anything having to
do with Trump at all, well, we now know now looking back at that incredibly
tense day, that Andrew McCabe as he sat there had just had a disastrous and
ultimately career-ending meeting with Donald Trump himself in the Oval
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCABE: I`ve never been to a meeting in the Oval Office before. I`m a
career FBI agent, government worker.
INTERVIEWER: Oval Office was above your pay grade?
MCCABE: It certainly was. And the president immediately went off on a –
almost a gleeful description of what had happened with the firing of Jim
Comey. And then he went on to state that people in the FBI were thrilled
about this, the people really disliked Jim Comey, and that they were very
happy about this and that it was a great thing.
INTERVIEWER: He was telling you what the reaction inside the FBI was.
MCCABE: He was. It was very different than the reaction I had seen
immediately before I came to the White House.
INTERVIEWER: Which was what?
MCCABE: People were shocked. We had lost our leader, a leader who was
respected and liked by the vast majority of FBI employees. People were
But anyway, that night in the Oval Office, what I was hearing from the
president was not reality. It was the version of the events that I quickly
realized he wished me to adopt.
I was speaking to the man who had just run for the presidency and won the
election for the presidency and who might have done so with the aid of the
government of Russia, our most formidable adversary on the world stage, and
that was something that troubled me greatly.
INTERVIEWER: How long was it after that that you decided to start the
obstruction of justice and counterintelligence investigations involving the
MCCABE: I think the next day I met with the team investigate the Russia
cases and I asked the team to go back and conduct an assessment to
determine where are we with these efforts and what steps do we need to take
going forward. I was very concerned that I was able to put the Russia case
on absolutely solid ground, in an indelible fashion that were I removed
quickly or reassigned or fired, that the case could not be closed or vanish
in the night without a trace.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: So this is Andrew McCabe. He becomes the director of the FBI
after the president fires James Comey. After the president fires James
Comey, he then immediately invites the Russians, the Russian foreign
minister and the Russian ambassador, into the Oval Office and tells them
all the pressure he`s been facing about Russia is off because he fired
McCabe in his short time as FBI director approves the opening of two
investigations into Trump himself. First, did the president in fact fire
Comey for that reason that he explained to the Russians? Right? Did he
fire Comey or do anything else to try to impede the government`s
investigation into Russia`s interference in our election?
So McCabe approves, number one, the opening of an obstruction of justice
investigation into president Trump. He also approves expanding the FBI`s
existing counterintelligence investigation into Russia`s attack on our
elections to include President Trump`s potential role in that as well,
right? And that the central counterintelligence question of whether
President Trump had been compromised at some point by that foreign power.
I wonder whatever happened to that investigation. Anywho, Andrew McCabe is
the one who opened up both of those investigations into President Trump.
And for his trouble, he found himself relentlessly berated and slimed by
the president and by the president`s supporters in the conservative media
and by the president`s supporters in Congress.
And, you know, if you were looking to destroy somebody and destroy their
career and destroy their reputation and turn them into an unrecognizable
bogey man, Andrew McCabe would be a great candidate for that, right? He`s
the guy who approved these two incredibly serious investigations into the
sitting president, a guy who was himself an important witness in the
obstruction investigation into the president`s behavior toward the FBI,
somebody who could directly attest to James Comey`s behavior and what was
known about interactions between Comey and Trump before Trump fired him.
He also was willing to publicly attest that the president`s assertions
about Comey being hated at the FBI were not true. McCabe himself was also
an expert on Russian organized crime, which has turned out in the Trump era
to be not the kind of thing you want to highlight on your resume anymore if
you`re in law enforcement or intelligence.
In any case, the president decided that Andrew McCabe would become a
primary target of his ire and his insults. The president insisted not only
that McCabe was evil and corrupt and a traitor and he had to go. The
president specifically insisted that McCabe had to be fired from the FBI
and fired before McCabe could get his retirement benefits.
And after a relentless public campaign by the president to bring about that
result, indeed Andrew McCabe was fired, 26 hours before he would have
qualified to receive his retirement benefits after 20 years in the FBI.
That put McCabe within the ranks of all of the senior intelligence and law
enforcement figures who have been forced out of their jobs and/or vilified
by the president after playing key roles in the early stages of
investigating Russia`s attack on the U.S. to try to put Trump in the White
House, right? Everybody from the acting attorney general to the FBI
director to the next FBI director, McCabe, to the top counterintelligence
agent at the FBI, to the top Russian organized crime expert at the Justice
Department, to the director of national intelligence, to the CIA director,
from whom Trump tried to strip a security clearance, I mean, even the top
lawyer at the FBI.
All these senior people involved in the initial investigation, right? All
these people involved in investigating what Russia did to try to install
Trump in the White House, all these people who were involved in that
investigation or who crucially might have been witnesses to what happened
between Trump and Comey, all of them have since seen themselves and their
careers systematically targeted by President Trump and the Trump
administration and their helpers in conservative media.
But with Andrew McCabe, they`re now going an extra mile. They are
demanding not just the destruction of his career and his reputation but
they are now demanding his criminal prosecution. And the proximate charge
is related to an internal investigation at the Justice Department into who
at the FBI leaked information to the “Wall Street Journal” confirming that
there was an FBI investigation before the election into potential
wrongdoing at the Clinton Foundation.
Now, I know, why would a possessed anti-Trump partisan do such a thing,
right? Leak information about a Clinton investigation to the “Wall Street
Journal”? I mean, that`s a thing that would help Trump get elected. That
would hurt Clinton`s chances of getting elected.
Why would a virulent anti-Trump partisan do something like that? Yes. I
know it makes no sense.
The point here is not that you`re supposed to be able to follow a logical
string of evidence or argument here. The point is that he must be
destroyed. So, suspend your disbelief, right?
It was technically Attorney General Jeff Sessions who fired McCabe. That
itself is awkward given that one of the other criminal investigations
McCabe opened in his time at the FBI was a criminal investigation into Jeff
Sessions for perjury, for appearing to lie about his own contacts with the
Russian government during the Trump campaign while he was under oath before
the U.S. Senate. McCabe had opened that investigation into Sessions,
Sessions turns around and fires McCabe from the FBI.
But then after that they still wanted more, right? Eighteen months after
the inspector general report that was used to justify his firing over this
leak about the Clinton investigation, news started to burble out of the
Justice Department they were going to bring charges against McCabe too.
“The New York Times” had this report on it last month this article by Adam
Goldman. Quote: Prosecutors near decision on whether to seek an Andrew
McCabe indictment. Even in that first report, though, there were signs
that there might be what Goldman called headwinds for prosecutors as they
tried to lock him up.
Quote: Prosecutors may face headwinds if the case were to go to trial. One
prosecutor, for example, quit the case and has expressed frustration with
how it`s being managed. Also, a key witness provided testimony to the
grand jury that could hurt the government`s case.
Again, that was just the first report from the “New York Times” last month.
Well, now, today, we`ve got reporting from multiple news sources that the
Trump Justice Department really is trying to do this. The Trump-appointed
U.S. attorney in D.C., Jesse Liu, has reportedly signed off on bringing
criminal charges against McCabe. The deputy attorney general, Jeffrey
Rosen, also appointed by Trump has reportedly signed off on bringing
charges against McCabe.
These officials are all now letting it be known that they want it, they
would love for it to happen. They definitely want to lock him up. But
what`s very, very interesting about this story as of right now is that at
least as of tonight, it`s not happening.
Remember, it`s been 18 months since the supposed criminal referral here,
and it`s taken this long to get to yes, we want to charge him. But they
still haven`t charged him. And why is that?
Well, here`s Adam Goldman and Katie Benner in the “New York Times” tonight
with more on these headwinds that seem to be in the way of this
Quote: Hints of the case`s weakness have emerged. The investigation was
referred about 18 months ago, which is an unusually long stretch for an
inquiry with a limited set of facts and witnesses. It dragged on for so
long that the first grand jury examining the evidence expired before
apparently being called back this week.
One prosecutor assigned to the case recently left. An unusual step so
close to an indictment. Another prosecutor departed for a private law firm
and has expressed reservations about the merits of the case.
One key witness testified that McCabe had no motive to lie because he was
authorized as the FBI`s deputy director to speak to the media, so he would
not have had to hide any discussions with reporters. Another important
witness testified he couldn`t remember how the leak unfolded. Both of
those witnesses` testimony would have been crucial to any prosecution.
And “The Times” raises the prospect that maybe prosecutors took this to a
grand jury to try to get from that grand jury an indictment of McCabe and
maybe that effort failed. Maybe the grand jury said no, we`re not going to
Quote: If a grand jury declined to indict, that would be an embarrassment
Reporters Matt Zapotosky and Spencer Hsu at “The Washington Post” have more
detailed reporting today both on the internal dissent on trying to bring
this prosecution against McCabe and what might be happening with the grand
Quote: Internally, there was significant discussion about how best to
proceed. Two assistant U.S. attorneys at some point left the case. One
left the U.S. attorney`s office entirely. That person had concerns about
how the McCabe case was being handled, according to people familiar with
A federal grand jury investigating McCabe was suddenly recalled this week
after a months-long hiatus, an indication its members would likely be asked
soon to consider bringing charges. But the panel was released today with
no immediate signs of an indictment, a sign either that they balked or
they`ve been asked to return later or they perhaps filed a determination
All these Trump-appointed officials at the Justice Department are letting
it be known that they said yes to charges against Andrew McCabe. But for
some reason, the effort to bring charges against Andrew McCabe isn`t
One of the reporters who may have the keenest insight into why that is,
somebody who`s been leading the coverage on this story, joins us next.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: Joining us now is Matt Zapotosky, who over at the “Washington
Post” with Spencer Hsu, has been leading the fascinating reporting today on
this question of whether or not the former FBI director is about to be
criminally charged. Andrew McCabe is the FBI official who opened a
counterintelligence investigation and an obstruction of justice
investigation into President Trump himself.
Mr. Zapotosky, thanks very much for making time. Appreciate it.
MATT ZAPOTOSKY, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes, thank you for having me.
MADDOW: So, I just in the opening segment tonight tried to explain what we
understand about the Justice Department sort of trying to pursue criminal
charges against McCabe. Let me just ask you, have I got anything wrong or
if there`s anything else you can update us on at this point.
ZAPOTOSKY: I think you mostly got it right. It`s a real mystery. We
learned this week that the grand jury that hadn`t been seen in months was
suddenly summonsed back.
And usually, that`s an indication that charges are imminent, right?
They`ve presented all this evidence. They`ve had these high-level
discussions, some of which you talked about in the open. And they`ve
summoned the grand jurors back.
So, you expect they`re going to present an indictment. On Wednesday, when
the grand jury is back in, they leave, no indictment.
Today, McCabe`s team is notified, the deputy attorney general, the number
two official at the Justice Department has decided your appeal is sort of
void, we`re going to go forward with this.
The grand jury is in again. Nothing happens. It`s just very, very
strange. And I have to say, we don`t know what is happening.
There`s all sorts of possibilities. One is there are problems. Maybe this
grand jury is balking or has returned some kind of no bill. Another
situation could be that they have returned something under seal. Another
situation is that I guess they`re still just hearing evidence, though that
doesn`t really explain the months-long gap.
So, this is just a weird situation that, you know, we`re really trying to
get to the bottom of.
MADDOW: And just for context here, I was asking around talking to former
prosecutors and people who have experience with the Justice Department
today asking, you know, how often does it happen that a grand jury gets a
presentation from prosecutors who are seeking an indictment and the grand
jury says no? How often does a grand jury balk?
And what I was hearing just anecdotally is that is a very rare thing and
part of the reason it`s hard to read the tea leaves here is that just
doesn`t happen very often.
ZAPOTOSKY: Oh, it`s extremely rare. I mean, there are some high-profile
examples of that.
And to be clear, we don`t know with certainty that that is what happened
here. But it is extremely rare. I was looking at data, and I think in
2013, which was the last I was able to find data, it was like five in all
of the federal cases, which is tens of thousands. It just rarely, rarely
Often when it happens, you suspect that prosecutors didn`t really want to
bring the case. Like in police shootings where while they presented it to
a grand jury, but they didn`t ask them to do anything.
That is not the situation here. As the Justice Department has made very
clear, they`re on board with the prosecution. The U.S. attorney is on
board. The deputy attorney general`s on board. They`ve communicated that
But what is unclear is why a prosecution hasn`t happened if that`s the
MADDOW: Exactly. And actually just for clarification on this, you talked
about how weird it was that the grand jury came back. Is this actually –
did the first grand jury expire and this is now a second grand jury they`ve
convened to look at the McCabe stuff or did they bring back the one that
hasn`t been there for months but it`s still actually the same jurors?
ZAPOTOSKY: So I heard you read my friend Adam Goldman`s reporting on that.
I can`t corroborate that there were two grand juries. We understand one
grand jury that has been looking at this case and looked at it long ago was
So the same people that looked at this long ago went months and then were
brought back. I can`t speak to Adam`s reporting if there was maybe another
MADDOW: Matt Zapotosky, who covers the Justice Department at “The
Washington Post”, this is – it`s a sort of serpentine reporting in a way
but it`s also incredibly important and just fascinating. Thanks for
helping us understand it, Matt.
ZAPOTOSKY: Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. I now want to bring into the conversation a different
Matt, Matt Miller, former Justice Department spokesperson during the Obama
administration. Just for some perspective on what this all means – Matt,
thanks for making time. I appreciate you being here.
MATT MILLER, FORMER JUSTICE DEPARTMENT SPOKESPERSON: Of course. Thanks
for having me.
MADDOW: Let me just get your reaction to this reporting. The prospect of
criminal charges against McCabe and what seems to have evolved over the
course of this fascinating day where Trump-appointed officials keep saying
they want an indictment and none seems to be materializing.
MILLER: Yes. So, two things. First on the question of whether he should
be prosecuted or not – look, I think you have to look at both the question
of whether he actually did it, whether he committed a crime. And while
there is some evidence to that effect that McCabe and his attorneys have
presented pretty powerful arguments to the contrary.
But I think there`s a second question you ask, which is, is bringing a
prosecution appropriate? And one of the ways you answer that question is
by looking at similarly situated individuals and seeing if other people in
similar situations have been prosecuted. And it doesn`t take long to look
through just the last few years and find multiple examples of DOJ officials
who have lied to investigators, internal investigators, and not only
haven`t been prosecuted but haven`t even been fired.
In fact, there was a case just two weeks ago of a very senior official, a
deputy assistant attorney general, a job that`s often filled by political
appointees, who lied to investigators and wasn`t fired, was allowed to
resign quietly and prosecution was declined.
So, you know, this case is being handled differently, and I think you have
to ask why. And it`s hard to come up with any answer other than the
pressure the president has put on the department.
With respect to what happened today, it is very unusual. You can think of
a few things. Matt went through some of them that might have happened.
One is they`re continuing to investigate. They want to gather more
evidence. That would seem very strange given that they had been gone for a
few months. The other is that he is indicted and it`s under seal, but that
would be strange too. You usually do that when the investigation is
continuing or when someone is a flight risk and you need to arrest them.
That`s obviously not the case here.
And the other is that the grand jury either pushed back or outright as Matt
kind of speculated voted no. And if so, that would be surprising. It
would be a huge embarrassment for the department. And I think it would be
another sign of how weak this case ultimately is.
MADDOW: Well, if we look at this in context, I mean, there`s a few
different things that seem like they might be relevant here and weighing on
the relevant officials and prosecutors. I mean, this is the U.S.
attorney`s office that did just lose in court when they brought charges
against Greg Craig in a case that was an offshoot of the Mueller
investigation. This is also a case where the president has not only, you
know, inveighed against Andrew McCabe being a terrible person, he`s
demanded his prosecution, demanded his prosecution for specific things,
demanded his conviction.
And it`s hard not to see how that might actually poison an effort to
successfully convict somebody if – I mean, the jury would have to believe
this wasn`t selective or politically motivated prosecution. And in this
case, I feel like the president`s actions here might have made that a
really hard case.
MILLER: Yes. Look, both of those things are huge problems and are the
kind of things that would typically wave the department off or get them to
at least think very strongly about not pursuing this case. If you look at
all of the normal factors the department would consider, none of them
really argued for prosecution here.
The fact that it does look like a selected prosecution when you compare him
to other individuals inside the department, the fact that it looks so
political because the department – because of the president`s actions,
he`s tweeted about McCabe or attacked him at rallies or in speeches dozens
of times. He`s attacked his wife publicly. He`s called for him to be
fired and to be prosecuted.
The fact that the case is so weak and it looks very likely – I should say
there`s a strong chance that they could lose and you add to that the fact
you have it coming so closely on the heels of the Craig thing. All of
those arguments add up for a case you would typically pass on. McCabe has
said he`s going to air all of the department`s dirty laundry. That`s the
kind of case the department typically doesn`t want to bring.
And so, when you look at that and you say none of the normal factors argue
for indictment, you say what`s actually going on here, and the only thing
that you`re left with is saying the president wants him indicted, the
senior leadership at the department wants him indicted, and they`ve sent
that pressure down the line. The U.S. attorney is getting in line.
MADDOW: Yes, and you`ve had all of the people who are making it known
publicly that they want this prosecution too are all Trump-appointed
officials. And that shouldn`t matter when you`re talking about Justice
Department professionals. But in this case, it reeks.
Matt Miller, former Justice Department spokesperson, it`s been too long
since you`ve been here, Matt. Thanks very much for being here tonight.
Hope to see you soon.
MILLER: Thank you.
MADDOW: Thanks a lot. All right. Much more ahead tonight. Stay with us.
MADDOW: You may have seen these headlines yesterday and today about a big
potentially game-changing development when it comes to the opioid epidemic
that has claimed the lives of roughly 400,000 Americans and counting.
Purdue Pharma, the company behind OxyContin, which is the mega opioid that
started it all, they`re reported to have finally reached a settlement with
thousands of local governments and some states that have all sued them for
pushing OxyContin the way they did when they knew it was being dangerously
abused and all they did in response was push more of it in ways that would
maximize their own financial benefit from the overuse and abuse and
addiction to their product.
The reports about the settlement say the company`s going to hand over a
bunch of money. The family that runs Purdue Pharma will hand over about $3
billion of the fortune they made off OxyContin. The family will also give
up ownership of the company.
But honestly, that last bit might be a blessing for them at this point
because the family that owns Purdue Pharma, the Sackler family, they`ve
been in these negotiations with all these plaintiffs who have been
complaining among other things that the family was going to still keep
billions of dollars that they made off OxyContin. The reason those
negotiations broke down before now, the reason this settlement is at hand
now is because the Sackler family recently started warning that the
company, Purdue Pharma, is about to go bankrupt, with the implication being
hey, stop badgering us, stop trying to negotiate a better deal out of us,
stop trying to get more of our family money, you better take this deal
while you can or you might get nothing at all because the company`s going
to go bankrupt.
Well, here`s the beauty of that move for them. As the Sackler family is
now threatening that the plaintiffs ought to settle right now or they`re
going to get nothing because the company`s filing for bankruptcy, one of
the reasons Purdue Pharma appears like it is about to go bankrupt is
because the Sackler family appears to have started raiding the company,
taking billions of dollars of cash out of the company for themselves. As
soon as they realized they might have some real legal liability on their
hands for all the Americans who died with their product as the last thing
they ever ingested.
Look at this newly unsealed filing in Oregon state court which alleges that
the Sackler family started taking billions of dollars out of the company
for themselves as soon as the company`s legal troubles became apparent.
Quote: By 2007, the damage wrought by OxyContin and Purdue`s aggressive and
unlawful marketing of the drug had exposed Purdue to catastrophic
liability. Fearing that Purdue would collapse under the weight of criminal
and civil investigations and more than 100 lawsuits, the Sacklers engaged
in a concerted planned effort to siphon billions of dollars out of Purdue
Pharma and transfer it to themselves and other entities in the Sackler
Between 2008 and 2018, they directed Purdue to make nearly $11 billion in
total distributions to partnered companies, foreign entities, and
ultimately to trusts established for the benefit of the Sackler families.
So, this company is facing these thousands of lawsuits. Settlement talks
with breaking down because the family that owns the company was refusing to
give up more of their own money. Turns out the money they`ve got is money
they sucked out of the company when they realized the company was going to
be sued for all it`s worth.
And so now, oh, by the way, turns out there isn`t that much to take from
the company because it`s going bankrupt. So, sorry for your loss, we gamed
this out years ago, we took the money. We stashed it offshore.
So, over the last 24 hours, you have probably seen all these headlines
about this big settlement and how this is finishing the whole matter,
right? Well, maybe not. At least 20 states are now refusing to sign on to
this reported agreement over among other things that very sticky sticking
point of how much the Sackler family themselves will pay.
This global settlement proposal is a big deal. But Purdue threatening to
file bankruptcy while the Sackler family drained billions out of the
company for themselves, that appears to be the real story of how they`re
trying to make this all go away.
Watch these states that won`t settle on these terms. This is going to get
very interesting very fast.
MADDOW: NBC News investigative producer Laura Strickler had the scoop.
She was the first reporter to get the story last month that Purdue Pharma,
the makers of OxyContin, were looking to settle all the litigation before
them. The Sackler family, which owns Purdue, was looking to globally
settle thousands of lawsuits from cities and local governments and tribes
and states, all in one big settlement to make all their obligations go
away, one and done.
Well, now amid crackling hot allegations that the Sackler family may have
raided their own company and taken billions of dollars out of it for
themselves once they realized how badly they were going to get sued, now it
looks like at least some states have decided they`re not going along with
that settlement. Not if the Sackler family themselves gets off that easy.
Joining us now is NBC investigative producer Laura Strickler.
Ms. Strickler, thank you very much for joining us tonight. I really
appreciate you making time.
LAURA STRICKLER, NBC NEWS INVESTIGATIVE PRODUCER: Absolutely.
MADDOW: First of all, let me ask if the way that I have explained this
basically comports with what you understand in terms of the settlement
talks and these allegations against the family that may be throwing a
wrench in the works here.
STRICKLER: Yes. And those allegations, I will say that a source close to
the family has told us, has told NBC News that you know, they dispute those
allegations and say that the family took money out of the company, that $11
billion that you mentioned, Rachel, because they felt they were in the
clear from some of the litigation against them at that time.
MADDOW: OK. And so they wanted money then because they thought they would
never be tied up in a future settlement is their argument?
STRICKLER: I mean, at the time they were facing 100 lawsuits so it`s hard
to understand how they, you know, clearly there was a lot of litigation
pressure against them during that – during those ten years.
STRICKLER: But right now, what we`re seeing is that there`s 27 states.
That`s 23 states and four territories who are going for this deal, but we
found – NBC News has found that 26 are saying no. They don`t want to do
MADDOW: Really? So, a majority of states that are supposedly going to be
settled with in this would be global settlement, most of the states are now
saying “no” to it?
STRICKLER: Yes, and you know, it is a fluid situation. There are some
states that we haven`t accounted for just yet, but there are some surprises
like the state of Idaho told us earlier today they are opposed to this
deal, and that`s a Republican attorney general. Most of the A.G.s who are
in favor of this deal are Republicans.
MADDOW: In terms of what happens next, obviously the Sackler family has
sort of been saying leading up to this point, listen, take it or leave it.
The company`s going to go bankrupt, and this is the best chance you`ll ever
have at getting a settlement where you get real money.
If it is rejected by a significant number of the parties that would
otherwise be part of that settlement, is the idea of those states that are
saying no, that they think they should be able to get a better deal and
now? Or is the idea that they`re willing to ride this out and take it
through the bankruptcy process and let this whole process start over again?
STRICKLER: Yes, so what we`re seeing is that the – the expectation is
that the company will file for bankruptcy in New York very soon, and then a
lot of these decisions will be up to the bankruptcy judge, and that judge
will have a tremendous amount of power and will be able to then determine,
to shape the future of this final deal as to how much money will be given
out to the states in terms of, you know, to meet some of the treatment
needs that they have, which are quite desperate at this point.
MADDOW: Laura Strickler, investigative producer for NBC News, who`s been
such a leader on this story, thank you so much for helping us understand
this development. Thanks.
STRICKLER: Thank you. Thank you very much.
MADDOW: We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: This morning at 6:20 in the morning, 11 Greenpeace protesters went
to the Houston Ship Channel and they hitched themselves to the side of this
very tall bridge. The Houston Ship Channel is the largest thruway for oil
and gas in the United States, more than 700,000 barrels pass through the
Houston Ship Channel every day.
As all the Democratic presidential candidates were headed to the debate
tonight in Houston, Greenpeace said they were there at the Houston Ship
Channel to send the candidates a message about climate change and what they
described as a prospect of a world beyond fossil fuels.
The Coast Guard today did have to shut down a portion of the Houston Ship
Channel because of those protesters swinging overhead. There are nine
refineries along the Houston Ship Channel. Greenpeace`s action today
blocked off access to five of the nine of them.
The activists plan to stay tethered to that bridge for a full 24 hours
until 6:00 tomorrow morning. At first, it looked like the Houston`s
sheriff`s department was going to let them stay there. Law enforcement
thought it would be too dangerous to try to pull those climbers down.
But then, tonight, local police did start lowering themselves off the
bridge and lowering the climbers down onto boats in the channel below.
Greenpeace tells us that their activists wanted to stay in place and were
prepared to be there overnight, but they did not resist arrest.
We`re told police are still in the process of lowering all the activists
down. This is an ongoing situation.
Watch this very high up space.
MADDOW: Thanks for being with us tonight. Appreciate you being here.
That does it for us tonight. We are going to see you again tomorrow.
But, now, it is 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