Colt suspends production of AR-15. TRANSCRIPT: 9/19/19, The Rachel Maddow Show.
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: – park, to the utterly insane situation with
California`s emissions standards and the president, and, of course, we`ll
have the highlights from day two of our 2020 candidate forum. The full
forum will be streaming live on NBC News now, starting at 9:00 a.m.
Thanks so much to everyone who joined us here tonight at Georgetown. I
really appreciate it.
THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now with some breaking news.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. I do have some breaking
But I have to tell you, I had no idea how this whole thing was going to
work today. I didn`t have my head around it.
HAYES: I didn`t, either.
MADDOW: It`s been fantastic. It`s really, really awesome. I can`t wait
for tomorrow. It`s amazing.
HAYES: Thank you very much. I`m going to watch the breaking news right
MADDOW: OK, very good. Thanks, Chris.
All right. And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
Boy, has this been an incredible day of breaking news. I just want to jump
right in because we have a lot to get to.
First, I`m somewhat amazed to get to report to you right now that the Trump
administration has completely reversed themselves on a story that we have
been covering pretty intensively for the last couple of weeks. It`s this
astonishing policy decision by the Trump administration to specifically
target dying kids or kids who are receiving medical care that was keeping
them alive in this country and that they can`t get in other places. The
Trump administration specifically targeted those families last month and
sent them these letters, boilerplate letters, advising them they had 33
days to stop their life-saving medical treatment and get out of this
country. With no way to appeal, with no second chances, nothing. Initial
contact, final declaration.
The Trump administration never announced this policy decision. They just
sent out these letters and I guess maybe hoped that they would get to do
this without too many people noticing because, hey, it`s just immigrants,
so who cares? Well, those brave families went public with the fact that
they had received these letters. In some cases, these kids went public
with the fact that their families had received these letters.
The resulting publicity and nationwide revulsion, I think it`s fair to say,
over this action by the Trump administration, which would quite literally
single out these kids and young people and end their lives, deliberately,
right, you`re getting life-saving medical care that you can`t get anywhere
else, and that`s the grounds on which you have been legally in this
country, they`re ending that telling you to end that life-saving medical
care and leave, that`s singling out individual known human beings for
So Trump administration does this quietly. I think they think they`re not
going to get any bad press for it. They get some bad press for it.
They initially tried to claim they weren`t actually getting rid of this
program, they were just transferring it to a new agency. Well, that other
agency inside the Trump administration denied knowing anything about that.
Then they tried a new announced ending the program overall, the kids and
young people who had gotten this round of negative press attention from the
Trump administration because of what the administration was trying to do,
those kids would have their individual cases reviewed but nobody else would
be allowed to stay.
Well now, as of tonight, they have finally reversed the whole thing. A
homeland security official quietly notifying individual members of Congress
that the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is reinstating the old
policy. And so this time it appears to be well and truly over.
Now, what may have gone on here is that Democrats on the Oversight
Committee in the House had announced that they were going to hold another
hearing on this policy. The previous hearing they heard from some of the
kids and young people who would be killed by this policy change. Democrats
had announced that at the next hearing next week, they expected the head of
this Trump administration agency that had gotten rid of this program, they
expected him there in person to testify on this policy next week.
Well, as soon as the policy was rescinded today, that acting head of that
agency sent this letter to those House Democrats notifying them with sort
of palpable relief that now that the policy has been reversed as of today,
he has no intention of showing up for that hearing.
Isabel Bueso is one of the young people who spoke at the first hearing. We
had her here on this program last week talking about the threat to her own
life, the near certainty that she would be killed by this action from the
Trump administration. She said today in response to the administration
finally caving on this, quote, I am so grateful to all the leaders who
spoke with me last week in D.C. and played a role in helping reinstate the
deferred action program. While we have not received any official
confirmation that my deferred action case will be approved, we are
cautiously optimistic about this news.
Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley from Massachusetts who played a leading role
in fighting against what the Trump administration was trying to do here,
she put out, as did several members of Congress today, she put out a long
statement in response to the policy`s reversal today, what was notable I
think about Congresswoman Pressley`s response was it landed on this
concluding line. Says, quote: When we fight, we win.
So that happened today. Knock me over with a feather.
In addition, it looks like the nickname, Moscow Mitch, being attached to
Republican have aggravated and upset him just exactly the right amount if
today`s about-face by Mitch McConnell is any indication. After resisting
for months any effort to do anything to protect U.S. elections from foreign
interference, despite what happened in 2016, Senator Mitch McConnell, who
has recently been dubbed Moscow Mitch for his willingness to apparently
sort of aid Russian interests whenever they cross his desk, Senator Mitch
McConnell today finally reversed course, and announced that actually now he
will support and, indeed, co-sponsor what has otherwise been a lonely
mostly Democratic effort to spend $250 million on election security against
foreign interference for 2020. Knock me over with a feather.
Also in the realm of news you didn`t think was possible that nevertheless
broke today, the gun manufacturer, Colt, which I think holds the original
patent for the ar-15 assault rifle to be marketed to civilian populations,
Colt announced today that they will no longer manufacture AR-15s for the
civilian market. OK.
So there`s this whole succession of breaking news tonight that`s all stuff
that could be filed under, right, they said it couldn`t be done. Oh, yes,
it is, and yes, it is, and yes, it is. I think all those stories today fit
You would need a very different category, however, to characterize the big
sort of shocking legal news of the day. And this happened in one of the
many cases where the president`s financial records and his tax returns are
being sought by one prosecutor or one investigator or another.
There was some actual down to the wire drama in this one today. This was a
subpoena for eight years of the president`s personal and business tax
returns that was served last week by prosecutors in New York. That
subpoena required the president`s accounting firm, Mazars, to hand over
those eight years of tax returns under the terms of the subpoena by 2:00
Well, I said down to the wire. Just hours ahead of that deadline, today,
the president`s legal team asked a judge in the Southern District of New
York for a restraining order to block Mazars from having to respond to that
subpoena at 2:00 p.m., which would have resulted in them handing over all
the president`s tax documents. So I said this came right down to the very
In the end, the judge did decide to grand at a restraining order which
blocks Mazars from having to hand over those tax documents at least yet.
So, we got sort of close to the deadline then ultimately the president got
some respite there and his tax returns weren`t handed over.
Aside from little bit of temporal drama, last-minute legal action, that
last-minute restraining order, aside from that, though, what really ended
up being the big news in that story today is the filing that the
president`s lawyers made on his behalf defending him against the threat of
his tax returns being released by this subpoena.
In this case, the legal case made by the president`s lawyers was so
radical, and, indeed, so potentially historic, it is literally on the front
page of “The New York Times” right now. Quote: Trump lawyers argue he
cannot be criminally investigated – and that is actually what the
president claimed today in federal court in New York. Quote: The president
cannot be subject to the criminal process while in office. That is from
page 3 of their filing today.
Here it is on page four, even more emphatically. “The president cannot be
liable to arrest, prison, or detention while he is in the discharge of his
office, nor can he be investigated, indicted or otherwise subjected to
Nor can he be investigated? Wait a second. Now, again, the case, they`re
making this claim specifically in the context of this subpoena to the
Mazars accounting official to get President Trump`s tax returns and they
tie this argument specifically to that one subpoena.
Quote: Because the Mazars subpoena attempts to criminally investigate a
sitting president, it is unconstitutional. But, again, the basic and
broader point they`re making here, you can`t investigate a president. I
mean, make no doubt about it, there`s a reason this is on the front page of
“The New York Times” right now. The president is not just claiming that
you can`t indict a sitting president. The president is now claiming that
you can`t investigate a sitting president.
You might be remember that the president was quite recently the subject of
a very high-profile criminal investigation. One conducted by special
counsel Robert Mueller, right?
Mueller`s report, Mueller`s public defense of his report, said despite the
fact Justice Department policy says you can`t indict a president, that same
Justice Department policy, quote, explicitly permits a president to be
investigated. That`s why the Mueller investigation happened.
Well, apparently that may have been true within the U.S. Justice Department
as of May of this year, but now, it`s September. And now it`s the
contention of the Trump administration that not only can a president not be
indicted, he can`t be investigated at all for anything, no matter what he
does. And so, and the good thing here is at least they`re putting all
their cards on the table and they`re doing so in court in a way that that
contention – in a way that means that contention will presumably now be
tested in court?
But it is a remarkable thing to see it in black and white. And that is
just what they are claiming that the president really could stand in the
middle of 5th Avenue and shoot someone in cold blood. Not only are they
now claiming that he could not be indicted for doing that, they are now
claiming he could not be investigated as to whether or not he did it no
matter how many people saw him do it in broad daylight.
And that brings us to by far the biggest news of the day, which is this
whistleblower story which is now going officially nuts. Now, this story`s
been percolating since late on Friday night. It really blew up in the 9:00
hour last night in the middle of our show when the “Washington Post”
published this sort of headline for the ages: President`s communications
with foreign leader are part of whistleblower complaint that spurs standoff
between spy chief and Congress.
President`s communications with foreign leader, what`s that about? “The
Post” reporting last night that this whistleblower complaint that has been
brewing in Washington has a sort of spooky and unplaceable story, “The
Post” reporting last night it was sparked by President Trump`s
communications with a foreign leader. Quote: Trump`s interaction with the
foreign leader included a promise that was regarded as so troubling that it
prompted an official in the U.S. intelligence community to file a formal
whistleblower complaint with the intelligence community`s inspector
So that lands with a gigantic thud last night in the 9:00 hour. Since that
initial “Washington Post” reporting 24 hours ago, the main substance of
that report has been matched by NBC News, “The Wall Street Journal,” CNN,
“The New York Times,” a whole bunch of other outlets. We still don`t know
who this whistleblower is or how exactly he or she came to know the alleged
contents of President Trump`s communication with a foreign leader,
including his alleged startling promise.
But we do now know that whoever this whistle-blower is, he or she has just
hired a lawyer and a real heavyweight lawyer who is, himself, ex-Department
of Defense and an ex-CIA officer. According to his law firm, he is
considered to be one of the nation`s leading experts on whistleblower
reprisals, meaning people who get attacked, fired or otherwise punished for
legally whistle-blowing on alleged misbehavior in government.
This lawyer apparently created the program inside the CIA to investigate
and prevent reprisals against whistleblowers inside that agency. So, we
don`t know if this unknown whistleblower retained this heavyweight lawyer
before or after the whistleblower filed his or her complaint on August
12th, but it seems like picking up this lawyer might have been a prudent
thing to do, because what has emerged over the course of the past 24 hours,
astonishingly, is that the Trump administration at multiple levels appears
to be handling this whistleblower complaint in such a way that they may be
basically threatening prosecution of this whistleblower for coming forward
with whatever this disturbing information is about President Trump`s
Now, the complaint at least appears to be getting treated here as if it is
outside the bounds of the law that protects whistleblowers. The law that
protects whistleblowers from among other things being prosecuted for
bringing forward sensitive information like this through the appropriate
Now, why would that be? It has emerged over the past hours that the
Justice Department led by William Barr for some reason they have been
brought into this process. They`re not supposed to be within the
whistleblower process, but the Justice Department has now been brought into
this and it appears that they have provided some sort of legal argument,
which nobody has seen, but the legal argument is reportedly that this
complaint, this whistleblower complaint, isn`t a real whistleblower
complaint and shouldn`t be treated this way. This whistleblower should not
be treated as a real whistle-blower who was protected by the law. And,
therefore, this whistleblower complaint doesn`t need to be handed over to
That appears to be the legal analysis provided here by the Justice
Department under William Barr, nobody knows why they were even consulted
but this is apparently how they have insert inserted themselves into the
CNN is reporting today in addition to the Justice Department getting
involved here, the Trump White House has been directly involved in the
handling of the complaint, which if you think about it is bizarre, right?
Here`s CNN`s reporting, quote: The White House and Justice Department
advised the director of national intelligence that the complaint regarding
President Trump is not governed by laws covering intelligence
So, it seems clear from multiple sources, including Congress, that this is
the advice that William Barr and the Justice Department have provided on
this issue. CNN is reporting it`s also advice the White House is providing
as well. Think about that for a second. The fact that the White House was
consulted on this at all, this is a whistleblower complaint about allegedly
very troubling behavior by the highest ranking occupant of the White House.
So, you bring that complaint to the White House to ask how you should
handle it? I mean, that itself is a complete deviation from how
whistleblower complaints are supposed to be handled. You`re not supposed
to go to the subject of the complaint, the person about whom the complaint
has been registered and ask them how they think this matter should be taken
If this matter was, in fact, brought to the White House, has this
whistleblower`s identity been protected even to the White House?
But that`s apparently how the Trump administration is handling this matter.
After the intelligence community`s Inspector General Michael Atkinson met
behind closed doors with the House Intelligence Committee for hours today,
the chairman of that committee, Adam Schiff, raised the prospect publicly
that not only is this unknown whistleblower potentially at risk of being
retaliated against now and potentially even prosecuted by William Barr, but
the inspector general who received the complaint might also be at risk here
from the Trump administration and their reprisals.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): And the inspector general is doing his very best
to be very careful that he follow the law. And in some respects, the
inspector general is in the same position of the whistleblower which is, if
the inspector general steps one foot outside of what he`s authorized to do,
then he`s not protected. And so this shows how someone is trying to
manipulate the system to keep information about an urgent matter from the
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Whether or not the inspector general, himself, is at risk of being
prosecuted by William Barr for the crime of receiving this whistleblower
complaint about the president`s behavior, the inspector general appears to
be doing everything he can under the law to try to make sure that this
complaint is actually investigated, and that it is actually handled over to
the intelligence committees in Congress which are supposed to have
oversight over things like this and which are specifically supposed to
receive whistleblower complaints without any interference from the subject
of the complaint.
The Intelligence Committee today released a letter today from the inspector
general in which the inspector general says that he considers himself to be
bound by the administration`s decisions but he respectfully disagrees with
their determination that this complaint doesn`t have to be handed over. He
said, quote: The complainant`s disclosure not only falls within the DNI`s
jurisdiction but relates to one of the most significant and important of
the DNI`s responsibilities to the American people.
He also complained that while the backstop here is supposed to be the
whistleblower him or herself should be allowed to convey their complaint
directly to Congress, through secure and legal channels made available to
them for this purpose, the Trump administration appears to be blocking the
whistleblower from doing that as well. The inspector general also says he
asked for permission to at least convey the general subject of the
complaint to the intelligence committees today and he was denied permission
to do so.
So, the inspector general got this complaint, has tried to do the right
thing with it. This inspector general who looked into it, find it
credible, found it to be urgent, found it something that needed to be
investigated, that needed to be handed over to Congress, he is now in this
anguished position saying what the Trump administration is doing here is
blocking him from protecting this whistleblower which he`s legally
obligated to do, Trump administration is also blocking him from making sure
this serious and properly conveyed complaint is delivered to Congress.
It`s his statutory responsibility to ensure that and they`re blocking him
from doing it. So, he`s absolutely stuck and Congressman Schiff is
signaling that that inspector general might, himself, find himself
prosecuted or retaliated against just for receiving this complaint and
trying to do the right thing under law with this matter.
Congressman Adam Schiff is going to be joining us live in just a moment.
We still, of course, do not know what the complaint, itself, is, but I have
to tell you, “The Washington Post” just moments ago posted the next big
development in this story. This is a story from “Washington Post” which
has just posted, it cites two sources in saying that the whistleblower`s
complaint about President Trump involves the nation of Ukraine.
There`s been a bunch of speculation about this over the course of the last
24 hours, in part just because of the tile timeline here. I don`t mean to
be weird, this is going to sound weird, but don`t take it that way. If you
have been watching this show over the past few weeks, you are probably
better equipped to understand what`s going on here, this latest version of
this story. You are probably better equipped to understand what`s going on
here than your friends who have better things to do at 9:00 p.m. Eastern on
So, this story, this part of the story in this new development that this
complaint about President Trump may involve the nation of Ukraine, this is
– this ought to ring a bunch of bells for you because we`ve been covering
this pretty intensively. Two weeks ago on September 5th, “The Washington
Post” ran this on the editorial page and even though it was on the
editorial page, it contained this remarkable claim.
You see the headline there. Quote: Trump tries to force Ukraine to meddle
in the 2020 election – meaning the 2020 U.S. election. Explaining that
the newly elected president of Ukraine appears to be a real reformer and a
real small “D” democrat and that, therefore, ought to be a cause for
celebration in Washington.
“The Post” argues that nevertheless the new Ukrainian president has
received the cold shoulder from the Trump administration. He, quote, has
so far failed to win the backing of President Trump. Not only has Trump
refused the grant the Ukrainian leader a White House visit, he`s also
suspended the delivery of $250 million in U.S. military aid to this country
that is still fighting Russian aggression in its eastern provinces. Some
suspect Mr. Trump is once again catering to Russian President Vladimir
Putin who, of course, is dedicated to undermining Ukrainian democracy and
But “The Post” says, we`re reliably told the president has a second and
more venal agenda. He`s attempting to force the Ukrainian president to
intervene in the U.S. 2020 election by launching an investigation in
Ukraine of the leading Democratic candidate Joe Biden. Mr. Trump is not
just soliciting Ukraine`s help with his presidential re-election campaign,
he`s using U.S. military aid that that country desperately needs in an
attempt to extort it. So, again, we still do not know if that`s exactly
what this whistleblower complaint is about that`s currently blowing up
Shane Harris from the “Washington Post” tonight is reporting that the
whistleblower complaint has something to do with Ukraine, but the timeline
here may be instructive. This is what we know of the timeline: President
Trump has a phone call with the new president of Ukraine July 25th. Three
days later, the director of national intelligence, Dan Coats, is out. He
submits his resignation.
Less than two weeks later, there`s a strange incident in the White House
first reported by CNN in which that outgoing director of intelligence, Dan
Coats, for some reason steps into a meeting being led by his deputy, Sue
Gordon, and he tells her in the middle of the meeting, in front of a bunch
of other people, hey, Sue, you need to resign. And Sue Gordon, in fact,
submits his resignation that day.
Four days later, the whistleblower complaint is filed with the intelligence
community`s inspector general. Three days after that, Dan Coats and Sue
Gordon leave the White House. Before that week is out, President Trump
says publicly that whatever Russia did to Ukraine to get themselves kick
out of the G8, that should basically be forgiven. Russia and Vladimir
Putin should be let back into the G8.
Before the next week is out, Politico is first to report that Trump has put
on hold $250 million in military aid to Ukraine, money that was
appropriated by the Congress to help Ukraine stands up to Russia. Before
the next week is out, the White House announces that it is cutting almost
the entire military construction budget in Eastern Europe that is
specifically designated to help other nations on Russia`s border stand up
themselves against Russian aggression of the type faced by Ukraine.
Two days after that, “The Washington Post” publishes its op-ed about Trump
allegedly demanding help from Ukraine for his re-election effort and
threatening to deny Ukraine U.S. military assistance unless and until he
And now, there`s a new acting director of national intelligence that isn`t
letting the whistle-blower complaint that`s reportedly about Ukraine be
forwarded to the intelligence committees which they`re legally required to
Somewhere out there right now in America is a whistleblower from the
intelligence community who has gone through channels and done things by the
book and sought whistleblower protection under law to alert Congress in
good faith about a serious and urgent matter that reportedly involves the
president, his communications with foreign leaders, some sort of promise
that he has made to foreign leaders, and potentially some shenanigans
involving the nation of Ukraine.
Bit by bit, the substance of the complaint seems to be coming to the
surface while hour by hour, the Trump administration appears to be fixing
its crosshairs on the whistleblower, and on anybody who helps him or her
make this story known.
At a fundamental level, this is repulsive in terms of how whistleblowers
are supposed to be treated in our country or in any. But this is also
ongoing. This is live. It`s happening right now.
Shane Harris joins us next. Congressman Adam Schiff will be with us in
just a moment. Stay with us.
MADDOW: A team of “Washington Post” reporters, Ellen Nakashima, Shane
Harris, Greg Miller, Carol Leonnig, have been leading the way on this
remarkable and still expanding story, about an unknown intelligence
community whistleblower who`s come forward with a reportedly credible and
urgent complaint concerning behavior by President Trump – a complaint that
the intelligence community inspector general is apparently trying to share
with Congress although the Trump administration is blocking him.
Well, “The Post” just in the last hour has reported that that whistleblower
complaint about President Trump has something to do with the nation of
Ukraine. Very shortly after “The Washington Post” published that story
tonight, “The New York Times” matched that detail of their reporting.
Joining us now is “Washington Post” national security reporter Shane
Shane, thanks for getting to a studio for us on short notice. I really
SHANE HARRIS, NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: No problem,
MADDOW: So you heard me explain sort of my understanding about how the
story has developed and the context here. I just want to ask you if
anything that I said struck a sour note or seemed wrong or if there`s
anything that I should correct there.
HARRIS: No, I think that that narrative right. And it`s important to
piece these things together. We sometimes forget how they do line up in
retrospect, don`t they?
MADDOW: OK. Yes. And for me, it`s not so much connecting the dots, it`s
remembering what all the dots are.
MADDOW: Because they seem to connect in different ways with each new news
You and your colleagues are reporting that the complaint centers on
Ukraine, but you don`t in tonight`s story offer any further detail on what
about Ukraine or whether, in fact, it was a conversation with the president
of Ukraine that was the nature of this.
Can you expand at all in terms of what you know about the Ukraine part of
HARRIS: Yes, what we know is what`s in the story, and I realize that it`s
frustrating to people. But we`re trying to be careful in making sure we
understand each of these details here as we go. But I think a key piece of
this is understanding that that whistleblower complaint does follow by a
very short period, only 2 1/2 weeks, that conversation, that phone call,
that President Trump had with the president of Ukraine.
And as you laid out these other dots, it`s clearly happening sort of in the
same timeframe. So, I think we build on the reporting that we had
yesterday where we knew that this was some allegation involving a promise,
clearly some sense of wrongdoing by the whistleblower against the
president, now we know that that centers on Ukraine. I think we`re kind of
getting closer to the nexus of these facts.
But right now, all we know is what we put in the paper and that`s all we
were prepared to report tonight.
MADDOW: And, Shane, there has been some reporting from various news
organizations over the course of the day that maybe the whistleblower`s
complaint isn`t about one thing that was done by the president, maybe it
was about a series of events and this phone call with the foreign leader
may have just been one thing.
Do you have any clarity in terms of whether or not this is about a specific
single incident or whether this might be a broader complaint about a
broader pattern or sequence of behavior?
HARRIS: Yes, I think we got some more of that today. There`s reporting
that we have on our story as well, I believe it`s in “The New York Times”
reporting tonight, too, when the inspector general for the intelligence
community testified today, and we understand that in that closed-door
session with lawmakers, he said that this allegation by the whistleblower,
it doesn`t center on just one single event.
So, it`s important that we`re not simply focused on the phone call or the
communication, it seems like there`s more to it than that. It could be a
series of events. It could be a pattern of behavior. We don`t know.
But we shouldn`t be thinking about this as just a single incident, it
sounds like, that this whistleblower saw, it sounds like there is more kind
of a tapestry here, too, to try and examine.
MADDOW: To the extent that a presidential phone call is at least part of
the basis of this complaint, does it seem clear to you, either from direct
reporting or just from the way what you know about how these things work in
the White House, that we can narrow down how this whistle-blower might have
come into knowledge of what was said on a presidential phone call with a
foreign leader? Does the White House still produce transcripts of these
calls or notes on these calls? Do we know who sees them?
HARRIS: There is still documentation, it`s my understanding, on some of
these although the distribution of that is much more tightly controlled, in
part because of reporting that colleagues of mine did in 2017 on President
Trump`s discussions in the Oval Office with two senior Russian officials
where he actually ended up divulging the source on an important
counterintelligence source of information for the United States that was
being managed by Israel.
After that, we understand sort of the paper that gets produced after a lot
of these meetings, kind of seeing what was going on, is less distributed.
That doesn`t mean it`s not distributed. So, of course, there are still
channels that these things can get out.
But, you know, there are a lot of people working in the White House on a
lot of these issues. So, I don`t know that it necessarily narrows it down
very much. But this person would have conceivably could have been in a
position to either have direct knowledge of this information based on those
kinds of readouts or to be in a kind of universe of people who understand
what`s going on when the president does things like has a phone call with
the president of Ukraine.
MADDOW: “Washington Post” national security reporter Shane Harris, thank
you for your time. First of all, thank you and your colleagues for your
reporting on this. You`ve done more than anyone else to help clarify this,
thus far, and thanks for helping us this understand it tonight.
HARRIS: It`s always good to talk to you. Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: Thanks, Shane.
All right. The chair of the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff,
joins us live next. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): We will be releasing the inspector general`s
letters but I want to read one sentence from them.
Mr. Atkinson wrote: I set forth the reasons for my concluding that the
subject matter involved in the complainant`s disclosure not only falls
within the DNI`s jurisdiction but relates to one of the most significant
and important of the DNI`s responsibilities to the American people.
This is what`s being withheld from Congress right now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff today quoting
the intelligence community`s inspector general about this whistleblower
complaint, which is now consuming Washington, right? It`s a complaint that
reportedly concerns President Trump. The Trump administration is basically
refusing to treat the complaint as if it is a whistleblower complaint under
law which means they are not protecting the whistleblower from potential
retaliation or even prosecution here.
They`re also refusing to hand the complaint over to Congress which
whistleblower law requires.
Congressman Schiff joins us now live.
Mr. Chairman, it`s really good to have you with us tonight. I know it`s a
very busy time.
SCHIFF: Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: We just spoke with Shane Harris of the “Washington Post” about
their new reporting that this whistle-blower complaint may center on the
nation of Ukraine, combined with earlier reporting from “The Post” and
another others that might suggest this complaint has something to do with
presidential communication with a foreign leader, potentially with the
president of Ukraine, something else having to do with that country.
Just have to ask you, as the chairman of the intelligence committee, does
that jive at all with what you know? Do you have any further information
about the nature of the complaint?
SCHIFF: You know, I can`t comment completely in answer to the question.
We haven`t received the complaint. Some of what we`ve been able to
determine has been based on what the inspector general and the director of
national intelligence have told us, and divining sort of between the lines.
But I can tell you this with certainty, and that is the inspector general
found this complaint to be credible after doing an investigation. Found it
to be urgent and found something else which has not really been focused on
and that is that this does not involve a policy disagreement. So, a lot of
people have been speculating, does this involve a presidential
communication, does it not, and if it does, doesn`t the president have a
right to be confidential?
This doesn`t involve some policy disagreement. This involves an allegation
of serious wrongdoing. Something that the inspector general felt needed to
be presented to Congress, was squarely within the jurisdiction of the
director of national intelligence, and it is unprecedented for a director
to withhold that information from Congress and I just want to say what`s at
stake here, and why this is so serious for us.
The intelligence committee in both House and Senate do their work in closed
session because we`re dealing with classified information, but the result
of that is outside stakeholders don`t get to weigh in, don`t get to correct
the record, don`t get to say that the intelligence agency representation on
this isn`t accurate. We rely on the agencies to self-report when they have
problems. And much of the time, they do.
But when they don`t, we are totally reliant on whistle-blowers which means
if you can nullify that process, which the Department of Justice is
effectively doing, it means the ability to do oversight is just crippled.
And it means that serious problems, urgent problems that affect our
national security, go unaddressed like this one, and it means that other
whistleblowers who are watching – I want to say to the whistleblower if
the whistleblower is watching you tonight, that we are grateful for their
courage in coming forward. We`re going to do everything we can to make
sure this urgent issue is addressed and you`re protected.
MADDOW: If this whistle-blower whether or not he or she is watching
tonight, if you are, hi – if this whistle-blower does want to come
directly to your committee and to the Senate Intelligence Committee,
because the Trump administration is otherwise trying to throttle this at
the level of the DNI, when I look at the comments of the inspector general,
and I`ve been reading transcripts of your own remarks on this today,
reading them closely trying to figure these out, it seems to me like the
whistle-blower should be able to legally and securely come to you directly
with his or her complaint provided that sort of channel for them to legally
do so is open.
Is that channel available to them, is there a way you can directly tell the
whistle-blower on TV tonight, here`s how you reach me, here`s how you
connect legally with our committee?
SCHIFF: Look, we would love to talk with the whistleblower directly. And
it was certainly our expectation when we wrote this statute that there
would be an opportunity for anyone in the I.C. to come to the committee and
expose wrongdoing, and that`s always been the case because whistleblower
complaints, even when they were found not credible, even when they were
found not urgent, were referred to our committee and the whistleblower was
told you can talk to the committee.
Here, the director is refusing to tell the whistleblower that. In fact,
the Department of Justice is effectively telling the whistleblower you are
SCHIFF: Which means there is a real risk even in coming to Congress and
that is obviously a supreme problem. I would love to be able to say that
the president won`t be vindictive, that the Justice Department won`t be
vindictive but I can`t make that assurance if the Department of Justice is
taking the position you`re not covered.
And, you know, the people who do come forward, they`re assured that if they
do, their complaint will get to Congress. And so, a lot is riding on this
if those promises are hollow, then it means these important sources of
information about wrongdoing are going to dry up.
MADDOW: Congressman Adam Schiff, chairman of the House Intelligence
Committee – sir, thank you so much for your time tonight. I know this is
an ongoing fast-developing story. We`d love to have you back whenever
we`ve got further developments to talk about, sir.
SCHIFF: Thank you.
MADDOW: Thank you very much.
All right. Much more to come tonight. Stay with us.
MADDOW: About two years ago, a pair of excellent reporters at “The New
York Times” started breaking a story about allegations of rampant basically
institutionalized sexual abuse carried out by a very powerful movie
executive named Harvey Weinstein. That story set off a movement that
touched not only movie executives but actors, comedians, musicians, chefs,
doctors, senators, casino owners, attorneys general and, and, and.
Now, those two reporters, Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, have written one of
the world`s great books about journalism, which is also the story of how
they broke that story. I`m going to read a little bit because I want you
to have a little idea of what I mean.
This is Jodi Kantor tracking down an internal memo from inside the
Weinstein organization that details basically Weinstein`s sexual abuse.
Quote: Jodi reached into her bag, drew out a printout sheet prepared a few
hours before and passed it to the Weinstein executive. Jodi explained that
this was an account she heard from a well-known actress, to describe how a
woman arrived unsuspecting to a meeting in a hotel room with Harvey
Weinstein. To her surprise, she`d been shown upstairs instead.
When she got there, Weinstein was waiting in a bathrobe and asked for a
massage. He tried to pressure her into sex by saying he could help her
career. She fled.
As Jodi had guessed, the executive appeared aghast at hearing this. She
told him that this actress was far from alone. That she and Megan Twohey
had heard variations on this same narrative again and again.
Jodi and Megan didn`t know how many women had these kinds of stories about
Weinstein, but based on what they were hearing, they believed the number
might be very high. Jodi asked the executive again for the memo. He had
already read her a few quotes which she had jotted down, but she wanted to
understand the document better.
Could he pull it up again on his phone? He started to read the memo aloud
then paused, he said, I`m going to pay a visit to the little boy`s room.
He threw Jodi his phone. Open to the email with the memo. He rose from
the table and left her alone.
Later that night, when they read the memo in full, the moral stakes of the
investigation suddenly transformed and expanded. What had once been a
historical corrective suddenly seemed a far more urgent pursuit. No one
has ever stopped this man. If the reporters failed to publish their
findings, he might go on to hurt someone else.
The reporters who broke that story and wrote this new journalistic thriller
which is going to spawn a million young people to go to journalism school,
they join us next. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Joining us here in studio are Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, two
“New York Times” reporters who broke the Harvey Weinstein story, which of
course has propelled the #metoo movement into the cultural and political
force that it has become. Their new book is about how they chased down
that story and put this bend in the arc of history. It`s called “She Said:
Breaking A Sexual Harassment Story that Helped Ignite a Movement.”
Ms. Kantor, Ms. Twohey, congratulations.
JODI KANTOR, REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Thank you very much.
MADDOW: It`s really good to have you both here.
Megan, I actually want to ask you an inappropriate first question.
MEGAN TWOHEY, REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: OK.
MADDOW: Which is you came back from maternity leave in July 2017. You`re
given the option of reporting on Trump Tower Moscow or Harvey Weinstein.
Was that like close my eyes and pick? I mean, that`s two very difficult
doors to choose between. Why did you pick the way you did?
TWOHEY: Well, that`s right. I mean, I took a day to contemplate that
question and consulted with some colleagues. I had colleagues who had been
reporting on Trump as I had before I`d gone off on maternity leave who said
here`s the story of a lifetime, you`d be crazy to go off and look into this
supposedly sleazy producer.
And I did actually have some questions about the investigation in terms of
famous actresses. It was hard for me to conceive famous actresses as being
victims. As investigative reporters, we really want to help give voice to
But in consulting with Jodi, she had really made the case that like
actually if people like Gwyneth Paltrow and Ashley Judd had been
victimized, if they`d been victims of sexual harassment, nobody is immune.
And if we can help get to the bottom of this and bring this to light after
so many years of silence, we may be able to make a difference.
MADDOW: And there is this story about getting people to put their names to
the story, finding the victims. Once you found the victims, once you`re
hearing the story, once you`re recognizing the similarity between all the
stories, getting people to put their names on them. But that`s not it.
That doesn`t get you to where you need to be.
And, Jodi, I feel like the decision to write this essentially as a
journalistic thriller is to put at the center of the story this idea of
provable fact. It`s not just accusation. It`s not just coming out. It`s
about telling the story in a provable, objectives way.
KANTOR: Absolutely. In part because these events have come to mean so
much to so many people, we realized that people did not know the true
surprising story of how this unfolded behind the scenes. And so, we wanted
to put that to paper and to take you into all of these situations. The
first very tentative phone calls with these actresses. The final
confrontations with Harvey Weinstein in the offices of the “New York
Times,” which were in part about trying to be fair to him and giving him a
chance to respond to the allegations.
And showing exactly what you`re saying, that we weren`t just trying to put
one or two hotel room stories in the newspaper, we were trying build a
solid body of evidence about 25 years of allegations.
MADDOW: Yes, and the fact – I mean, one of the things that I think has
been such a – has propelled this and ignited a movement is that it does
reach the elite in every way. And I also feel like that`s kind of a
product of the reporting process here.
I mean, if what you`re able to follow, if the money you`re able to follow
is financial settlements and non-disclosure agreements, those are the tools
of elite institutions used to protect elite men. And in non-elite
environments, those might not be the tools that are used to cover these
things up. And so, this reporting process is almost destined to bring down
men at the highest echelons of society.
TWOHEY: Right. I mean, this story goes way beyond Harvey Weinstein. This
is really an x-ray into abuse of power.
TWOHEY: So, in our first article we had been able to connect some of the
dots of Weinstein and his alleged predation and how he had covered it up
over the years. But since then in the reporting of this book, we were able
to bring together so many other pieces of the puzzle to really pull the
curtain back on the machinery that was in place, to silence accusers and
cover up his tracks, and these legal settlements that had been paid to
silence women. Harvey Weinstein had paid at least eight settlements from
1990 through 2015, and those – that was basically (AUDIO GAP) covering up
his tracks. So, we call into question those legal settlements that are
used not just in the case of Weinstein but in sexual harassment and sexual
assault cases across the country.
MADDOW: Well, the elite lawyers who come out worse than almost anybody in
your story in part tells the story of how the elite legal profession has
not only greased its own wheels doing this but has created a vehicle by
which money gets you off, money allows you to do this sort of thing.
Do you feel like that`s punctured?
KANTOR: Well, there is a shocking memo in this book – we included a lot
of original documents here.
KANTOR: So people could just see and examine them for themselves, kind of
join our partnership in puzzling through this stuff. There is a document
that Megan got that Lisa Bloom, the famous feminist lawyer, wrote. And
it`s essentially her job audition memo for Harvey Weinstein where she`s
saying, I`m going to use my experience as a victims` advocate and I`m going
to cross over to your side and put all of that experience and credibility
to work for you.
(AUDIO GAP) memo on how she`s going to sort of fight back Rose McGowan`s
allegation. And she is seen very explicitly I will cheat for you – excuse
me, I will manipulate for you, I will smear on your behalf.
MADDOW: For $895 an hour.
MADDOW: You can use my reputation as a victims` advocate to get rid of the
victims that are haunting you.
MADDOW: What about the use of the security firms and these other sort of -
- forgive the term. These sort of hit men of the industry that are used
not only to go after and silence sources but to try to intimidate
journalists who are doing this kind of work?
TWOHEY: Well, that`s right. Harvey Weinstein used a variety of private
investigative firms to try to silence accusers and go after journalists as
well, which in some ways was not that surprising to us. But the fact that
he had used Black Cube, a firm that`s made up of former Israeli
intelligence officials and agents who adopted fake identities to try to
extract information from women who he thought might go public as well as
reporters was like just jaw-dropping to us. I mean, Ronan Farrow was the
first to break that news back in 2017. But you know, one of those
contracts was basically a promise to those former Israeli intelligence
officials that they would be paid a $300,000 bonus if they could bring a
stop to our investigation.
MADDOW: Specifically if your article wouldn`t run.
TWOHEY: It was like a hit on our investigation.
MADDOW: Yes. Well, the investigation obviously was brought to fruition
not only through your intelligence and your diligence but through the
support of the institution of the “New York Times” that had the resources
to get this done. People coming out is necessary. It is not necessarily
sufficient. You do need the kind of work that you guys did and the kind of
support you had to do it in order to make this happen. And you did.
KANTOR: Thank you so much.
MADDOW: Thank you.
TWOHEY: Thanks so much.
MADDOW: It`s great to have you here.
TWOHEY: Thanks so much.
MADDOW: All right. Jodi Kantor, Megan Twohey, two of “The New York Times”
reporters behind the book. It is called “She Said: Breaking the Sexual
Harassment Story that Helped Ignite a Movement.” You should read it.
A lot of people are comparing this to “All the President`s Men.” And when
it gets compared to “All the President`s Men,” “All the President`s Men”
does not come out on the long end of the comparison.
That does it for us tonight. We`ll see you again tomorrow.
Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL”.
Good evening, Lawrence.
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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