GOP representatives storm deposition. TRANSCRIPT: 10/25/19, The Rachel Maddow Show.

Guests:
Ronan Farrow
Transcript:

ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST:  That is “ALL IN” for this evening and for this

week. 

 

THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts now. 

 

Good evening, Rachel. 

 

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST:  I am so glad you played that, Ali.  That was

excellent.  Thank you for doing that. 

 

VELSHI:  Good night.

 

MADDOW:  All right.  Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour as

well.  Happy Friday.  Happy to have you here. 

 

Well, this sort of changes everything.  One of the increasingly awkward

dynamics in the impeachment proceedings against President Trump is that

even the president`s most ardent supporters by large they have already

given up arguing that the president`s behavior was OK.  And that is perhaps

inevitable given this impeachment for this conduct.  I mean, it is hard to

argue that it is, you know, Coolio with the Constitution or with the

American people or even just with Republicans for a president to solicit

help from a foreign government in the form of stuff he can use against his

domestic political opponents. 

 

I mean, the president`s supporters and the White House tried for a while to

argue that it was OK that he asked for that stuff from a foreign government

because he was asking for it for free, there was no quid pro quo, and they

tried that for a while.  It was kind of a besides the point argument

because it doesn`t matter if you agreed to trade for information to use

against your political opponents at home.  It doesn`t matter if you give

them something in exchange for it.  You`re just not allowed to solicit. 

You`re not legally allowed to ask for it at all whether or not there`s a

quid pro quo. 

 

Even still, though, that besides the point no quid pro quo argument fell

apart like a paper suit in the rain, when we started to get mutually

corroborating testimony in the impeachment inquiry, that in fact yes, there

was a quid pro quo and the president had insisted on it personally.  Then,

of course, the White House chief of staff just flat out admitted to the

press.  So, it`s just – it`s just been a mess. 

 

They have had to abandon any defense of the substance of what the president

did.  They really can`t defend it, so they instead tried to argue maybe it

wasn`t as bad as it seems.  The White House has basically confessed to it

being just as bad as it seemed, so that is no longer operative. 

 

What they`ve evolved from thereafter – what they evolved into thereafter

was this argument about the process of impeachment, inside Congress that

has taken the form of Republicans complaining about how the committees have

been taking depositions from witnesses, even what room they`ve been doing

it in, the room is the problem.  I mean, this cockamamie argument and why

it`s not OK for Democratic-led committees to use closed door depositions

with witnesses, but it is OK for Republicans to have done that.  I mean,

it`s just been kind of weak, and I think that`s why it`s been kind of a

circus.  There`s usually is an inverse ratio between the volume of which an

argument is made and the quality of its logic. 

 

But now, tonight, it really does appear we`ve hit the end of the line for

the Republicans and for the Trump White House in terms of trying to argue

the impeachment inquiry away.  You might remember earlier this month, the

White House said officially in writing that the Trump White House refuses

to recognize the legitimacy of impeachment.  As “The New York Times” simply

put it in their headline the day the White House tried to pull this off,

quote, White House declares war on impeachment. 

 

I mean, the basis of this claim from the Trump White House was this sort of

astonishing letter signed by the White House counsel, Pat Cipollone, a

letter to Congress telling Congress that the entire administration, the

whole executive branch would be carrying on as if impeachment wasn`t

happening.  They would not be responding to any document requests.  They

would not be allowing any witness from any point in any part of the

administration to come forward and cooperate with the impeachment inquiry

because the impeachment is illegal.  It`s unconstitutional or illegal or

very bad or something. 

 

I mean, the letter was nut ball.  It started off, quote: I write on behalf

of President Donald J. Trump in response to your numerous, legally

unsupported demands made as part of what you have labeled contrary to the

Constitution, a scare quote, impeachment inquiry.  Oh, dear.

 

And then it`s sort of downhill from there.  President Trump and his

administration reject your baseless unconstitutional efforts to overturn

the democratic process.  President Trump and his administration cannot

participate in your partisan and unconstitutional inquiry. 

 

The White House counsel went on in his letter to attack the, quote, lack of

democratically accountable authorization that makes clear the illegitimate

partisan purported, scare quotes, impeachment inquiry.  They won`t even

admit it`s an impeachment inquiry.  They`re saying, you`re calling it that,

but we know it`s not.

 

I mean, it`s one thing for – we`re so used to the president arguing that

on Twitter or standing in front of a helicopter, but this a lawyer.  The

White House counsel sent this off the hook cross-eyed letter to the House

of Representatives and then they released it publicly because they wanted

to make clear that they intended this letter to be their final word on the

subject.  Based on this letter, nobody from any point in the administration

should participate in the fake impeachment because the fake impeachment is

fake. 

 

And the immediate reaction of the legal world to this letter was like,

whoa, are you sure that was written by a lawyer?  I mean, it was just

greeted with widespread ridicule.  It wasn`t a particularly legal or even

legal-ish argument.  But that is being put forward as the official position

of the White House. 

 

And that crazy letter from the White House has now been used and cited by

other government agencies in their efforts to try to block witnesses from

those agencies from testifying when they`ve been called to testify before

the impeachment committees. 

 

For example, the Department of Defense referred to this crazy White House

counsel letter this week when they warned the Assistant Secretary of

Defense Laura Cooper that she shouldn`t show up and testify to the

impeachment proceedings this week.  The Pentagon sent a lawyer to her –

excuse me, sent a letter to her lawyer the night before she was due to

testify. 

 

Quote: This letter forms you, the lawyer, and your client, Ms. Cooper, of

the administration-wide direction that executive branch personnel cannot

participate in the impeachment inquiry under these circumstances.  And then

it says, see tab C.  And what a Tab C is an attached copy of the crazy

pants White House counsel`s letter that says neener, neener, neener, we

don`t think this is real.

 

So, this is an odd strategy.  I mean, it`s all odd strategy.  This is the

Trump White House asserting the impeachment inquiry doesn`t exist.  It`s

illegal and unconstitutional, so we`re not going to allow you to use the

word. 

 

It`s one thing for the White House to assert that.  It`s another thing for

the White House counsel to assert that.  But now we are seeing that crazy

argument cited in writing as the basis for other government agencies

telling their own officials that they shouldn`t show up and testify because

the White House says the impeachment isn`t real. 

 

I mean, it`s a little bit nuts.  I should say, federal agencies have not

had great luck in trying to stop their officials from testifying to the

impeachment proceedings.  We`ve already seen eight witnesses that we know

of show up to give depositions or transcribe testimony including a bunch of

current administration officials who went and gave that testimony despite

the stern letters from the White House saying, no, no, we said this doesn`t

exist. 

 

But here`s the other part of this.  The Justice Department, led by Bill

Barr, has also been trying its own version of this in the courts.  I mean,

alongside the White House`s crazy letter arguing that the impeachment isn`t

real, it`s not a real impeachment, it`s not legal, it`s not constitutional,

we`re pretending like it`s not happening. 

 

Alongside that from the White House counsel`s office, the actual Justice

Department has also been arguing the same thing in court.  They`ve been

trying the court filings version of that bizarre White House letter.  The

Justice Department has been trying to argue in court that, like the White

House says, this impeachment isn`t real.  It isn`t legal.  It`s not really

happening. 

 

Well, that was ultimately destined to run into a brick wall and tonight, it

has run into a brick wall.  As of tonight, we have a ruling from the

federal judge saying quite bluntly that what the Justice Department is

trying to argue here is wrong.  Literally that`s on page 2 of the ruling,

it`s the shortest sentence I`ve seen a federal judge write.  The entire

sentence is it DOJ is wrong. 

 

It`s a long ruling, 75 pages from Beryl Howell, who is the chief judge in

the federal district court in Washington.  But it really rings clear as a

bell.  Permit me. 

 

The Department of Justice claims that existing law bars disclosure to the

Congress of grand jury information.  DOJ is wrong.  In carrying out the

weighty constitutional duty of determining whether impeachment of the

president is warranted, Congress need not redo the nearly two years of

efforts spent on the special counsel investigation, nor do they need to

risk being misled by witnesses who may have provided information to the

grand jury and the special counsel that varies from what those witnesses

may tell the judiciary committee. 

 

The committee`s application for an order authorizing the release of certain

grand jury materials related to the special counsel investigation is

granted.  So, this is Congress winning and the Justice Department, the

position of the Trump administration losing.  And there`s two major

findings here.  One is that the judge finds that the impeachment proceeding

is a real thing.  It`s legal.  It exists. 

 

She says, quote, contrary to the DOJ`s position, an impeachment trial is,

in fact, a judicial proceeding under Rule 6(e).  The reference to Rule 6(e)

there means that one of the major consequences of the ruling is all the

stuff that is redacted from the Mueller report as a grand jury material,

that is all given to the impeachment proceedings now.  That is all going to

be given to Congress.  The actual redacted words from the report, what`s

behind the black boxes, and also, the underlying transcripts of grand jury

testimony and exhibits that underlie those redacted portions. 

 

You might remember from Watergate, the way the Watergate investigation

evolved, right?  There were special prosecutors for Watergate, and then

ultimately the judiciary committee in the House drew up articles of

impeachment based on what the special prosecutors found.  Well, how did

that work?  How did the evidence get from one place to the other? 

 

Well, in Watergate, the Justice Department famously told the court that all

the grand jury material that had been collected by Watergate special

prosecutors, right, all the evidence that they had gotten from witnesses

talking to the grand jury about the president`s behavior, about the whole

Watergate scandal, all of that grand jury material collected by Archibald

Cox and Leon Jaworski, the Watergate special prosecutors, Justice

Department agreed that material collected in that grand jury investigation

needs to go to Congress, because Congress needs to decide if this is a

basis for impeaching President Nixon.

 

And in fact, that grand jury material was packaged up into what`s now

called the Watergate road map and that Watergate road map of grand jury

material is what the judiciary committee used to draw up the impeachment

articles against Richard Nixon which ultimately led to his resignation. 

So, that`s the relevant, most recent precedent here.  Clear as day. 

 

When it came to this special counsel investigation though, the Bob Mueller

investigation, the Justice Department under Bill Barr decided they didn`t

like that precedent and they flipped and decided they wouldn`t support that

kind of position anymore.  They would not support the grand jury material

collected by special counsel Mueller being handed over to Congress for

potential impeachment the way that happened in Watergate. 

 

The Justice Department said, yeah, we know we did this that way before but

we`re not going to do it this time. 

 

Well, Judge Howell addresses that in a sort of kidney punch of a footnote

here.  She says, quote, when queried about reconciling DOJ`s current

position with its historical support of providing grand jury materials to

Congress for use in impeachment inquiries, DOJ responded its position has,

quote, evolved.  The judge continues, no matter how glibly presented, an

evolved legal position may be estopped.  And consider yourself estopped. 

 

So, Attorney General Bill Barr tried to make it so Congress couldn`t see

the evidence that was collected by Robert Mueller.  This judge in this

ruling today says, actually, Congress gets that. 

 

Now, the other important implication here is that there`s been this

attempted argument among the supporters of the president in Congress and

you`ve seen it picked up some in conservative media.  There`s been this

argument, this sort of pseudo-legal argument that maybe the House could

have a more legal impeachment proceeding.  Maybe the House could be doing

something more proper if they took a full vote authorizing the impeachment,

right? 

 

That`s been part of what the president`s defenders have argued.  Unless the

House takes a full vote supporting this impeachment inquiry, then it`s not

a real impeachment inquiry. 

 

It`s been a weird claim all along because honestly if Nancy Pelosi

organized that, a full house vote on impeachment inquiry, she would get a

full House vote on it.  It`s weird they`re arguing she must do it or it`s

not real. 

 

The judge today sort of dispatches that one.  She said the argument in

favor that it`s not a real impeachment unless it`s a real House vote, she

calls that, quote, cherry picked and incomplete and she says more

significantly, this so-called test has no textual support in the U.S.

Constitution or the governing rules of the House or Rule 6(e), which is the

rule that concerns handing over grand jury materials to Congress. 

 

More broadly, she says the White House has brought this on itself.  Quote:

The White House`s stated policy of non-cooperation with the impeachment

inquiry weighs heavily in favor of disclosing these materials.  Congress`

need to access grand jury material relevant to potential impeachment

conduct by a president is heightened when the executive branch willfully

obstructs channels for accessing other relative evidence, meaning the case

for letting this stuff going on go to the Congress wouldn`t be nearly so

strong if you weren`t completely obstructing everything they`re trying to

do in this lawful impeachment inquiry. 

 

So, you could say you`re beating your chest and calling it fake, all of

these things you`re going to do, but ultimately, this is a court order and

you`re not helping yourself and that material is going to Congress for them

to consider as part of your impeachment. 

 

Now, in terms of what the impeachment committees are actually going to get

when they get this material, Judge Howell has ordered that it be handed

over by October 30th, presumably there could be an appeal that stops that

from happening on such a tight time frame.  But if they do get what Judge

Howell is ordering them to get, Judge Howell goes out of her way to

highlight a number of subjects that are addressed in this material that

Congress doesn`t yet have that she`s now ordering they should get.  She

goes out of her way to address subjects in this material that would seem to

be quite relevant to these impeachment proceedings against President Trump,

including, as she describes it, quote, evidence suggesting that then-

candidate Trump may have received advanced information about Russia`s

interference activities. 

 

She also describes indications that, quote, then candidate Trump may have

had advanced knowledge of damaging leaks of documents, illegally obtained

through hacks by the Russians.  She`s like, that`s what`s in the grand jury

material, evidence about Trump having advanced knowledge about what the

Russians were doing.  So, if you`re thinking about impeaching him in terms

of foreign election interference, you`re going to want to see this. 

 

So, I mean, there`s some major takeaways from this ruling.  The first, you

can see clear as day, plastered on the front page of “The New York Times”

tonight, quote, the impeachment inquiry is legal, judge rules, which means

that Republicans were already reduced to these process arguments about how

the impeachment inquiry is somehow unfair to them.  They`re now going to

have to try to find something else, just arguing that this isn`t a real

impeachment.  That`s going to be, that`s no longer going to fly. 

 

It`s no longer going to fly in Congress but no longer going to try for the

White House to use this as justification to try to block executive branch

officials from testifying in response to duly authorized congressional

subpoenas.  The judge says, no, no, this is legal.  This is a real

impeachment. 

 

But on the substance, this also means all the redacted grand jury material

from Mueller`s report is now turned over to Congress and – I mean, the

judge does a good job pointing out some of that material and how it may be

quite explosively related to the impeachment proceedings that are already

under way.  I don`t want to put too fine a point on it because we`ll see

this stuff when we see it, but if you`re only interested in what the

impeachment committees might be about to get on Ukraine specifically, its

sketchy dealings with Ukraine, since that`s the heart of what Trump is

impeached for, in volume I of the Mueller report, there is stuff in that

report that is clearly about sketchy dealings in Ukraine.  I commend you to

page 141, volume I of the report.

 

And now, if those grand jury redactions are going to go away, Congress is

about to get all of that stuff about whatever these sketchy dealings are

described in – having to do with Ukraine, that Mueller investigated and

got material about but hasn`t yet told Congress because it`s redacted for

grand jury purposes.  Those redactions are going to go away and Congress is

about to get all of that stuff in the midst of the impeachment inquiry that

it turns out has been legal all along, and is chugging along at quite a

pace. 

 

I mean, not only was the House impeachment of President Trump declared

absolutely legal by this federal judge today, it looks like the

investigators running the inquiry about to get access to a lot of new, very

germane, potentially very explosive information to help them in those

efforts. 

 

And the lesson here is when you have bad arguments, you tend to lose the

argument and when your bad argument is intended to keep the truth from

coming out, the truth in the end always has a way of coming out. 

 

Much more to get to tonight.  Stay with us. 

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

MADDOW:  It has been two years since the stories of sexual predation by

movie mega producer Harvey Weinstein burst into the national consciousness

through blockbuster reporting from Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey at “The New

York Times” and then very shortly thereafter by Ronan Farrow at “The New

Yorker” magazine. 

 

And whether or not Weinstein`s predatory behavior had been an open secret

in Hollywood or not, most of us don`t live in Hollywood.  And so what we,

the public, have now seen unspool over time has had a few different layers

and a few different layers of impact. 

 

I mean, first, it`s just the story of Harvey Weinstein`s predation itself. 

I mean, the scale and scope of the allegations of sexual harassment and

sexual assault and rape stretching over decades.  And it all follows the

same pattern – allegedly isolating young women, getting them alone, women

who are in a position of either directly working for Weinstein or being

professionally dependent on him as a big Hollywood producer, and then the

alleged behaviors, just textbook sexual harassment up to and including

serious allegations of serious sexual assault. 

 

The same description from all these different women over and over again,

him taking off his clothes and exposing himself, demanding sex, demanding

sexual contact of various kinds, refusing to take no for an answer.  And

then him allegedly retaliating against young women who managed to get away

from him, managed to escape, managed to rebuff what he was trying to do. 

 

And because there was such a distinct pattern in the allegations, because

the allegations stretched over such a long period of time, because it was

supposedly this kind of open secret in Hollywood, the reporting was really,

really disturbing, right?  I mean, it`s a horror show in terms of the

individual encounters that have been recounted by these women, but it`s a

story about America too, right?  This rot in the culture right at this apex

of American culture that allow this very powerful guy in the American movie

business to allegedly commit these acts over and over again with the

complicity of so many people, victimizing even women who are well-known and

seemingly powerful in their own right. 

 

Even if you didn`t care about Hollywood, this was a riveting story with all

kinds of very upsetting implications. 

 

The second part of the Weinstein story was the reporting about what he did

to keep his alleged behavior secret or at least shielded from the media or

from legal scrutiny for so long.  The high-power household name famous

lawyers and the very expensive PR firms, these folks making legal threats

for him, arranging financial payouts to his accusers that came with non-

disclosures agreements so that the accusers couldn`t talk, organizing smear

campaigns against the accusers when they did talk to make them seem crazy,

to undermine their claims. 

 

And then beyond that, there was this other layer of stuff we`ve really

never heard about before, which is about – I guess what you`d call the

more baroque tactics that he brought to bear.  Ronan Farrow reported

vividly on Weinstein hiring a foreign private intelligence firm staffed

largely by former agents of the Israeli intelligence service.  These agents

adopted a variety of fake identities.  They pretended to be all sorts of

different kinds of people to try to get close to at least one of

Weinstein`s accusers, to try to gain trust, to try to find out what this

accuser might plan to say about Weinstein.  Also to gather dirt to

undermine accusers to make them, again, seem nuts, seem unreliable. 

 

And it wasn`t just the people who Weinstein had allegedly attacked who

might speak about their experiences with him.  The reporters going after

the Weinstein story were also targeted by these intelligence operatives. 

 

While reporting on the story, Farrow writes about trying to shake off the

suspicion that he was being followed, only to later uncover evidence that

he was, he had been indeed been the subject of a surveillance operation. 

Ultimately, he met and then interviewed one of the men who had been

following him on foot and surveilling him through his phone. 

 

So, Weinstein deployed all of these intimidation tactics against the women

accusing him, and against the reporters and media outlets who are digging

into the allegations him.  He also deployed himself personally making calls

and sending emails to news executives, a lot of whom he knew through the

business.  According to Farrow`s reporting, sometimes, these calls were

belligerent.  Weinstein defending himself, demanding information, insisting

stories be submarined, trashing the women who are accusing him.

 

But also in emails Farrow obtained, it was clear that Weinstein could be

ingratiating and slippery, talking about deals he was really looking

forward to doing with those executives. 

 

Ultimately, though, the stories Weinstein tried to stop from coming out,

they did come out.  Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey were first with the story

at “The New York Times”.  Ronan Farrow published just days later at “The

New Yorker”.  Together, those reporters would win the freaking Pulitzer

Prize for those stories. 

 

For his part, Harvey Weinstein is currently awaiting trial on several

felony charges, including predatory sexual assault.  He`s pled not guilty. 

He`s denied all allegations of non-consensual sex. 

 

But the last part of the Harvey Weinstein story, the part that`s being told

right now is the story of how the story got told at all, the story of great

journalism and how it gets done. 

 

And in the last few weeks, we`ve had two of these journalistic thrillers

published.  Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey told their story in “She Said”. 

We spoke to them on the show last month.

 

Now, Ronan Farrow is telling his reporting story in “Catch and Kill.”  In

his book, Farrow describes the pressure brought to bear on him, and his

sources and his employers, and really everyone around him as he tried to

report this story.  The private detectives following him around, the legal

threats, the constant approaches from people representing themselves as

fellow journalists or as emissaries from decent-sounding non-profit

organizations, people it would later emerge were, in fact, intelligence

agents working on behalf of this Israeli private intelligence firm. 

 

It was also the alliance between Weinstein and executives at the “National

Enquirer”, which Farrow said published smear pieces about him when he broke

unflattering news.  Farrow reported that “The Enquirer” had gathered dirt

on Weinstein`s accusers and explored paying at least one of them for her

story not so they could run it, but so they could bury it. 

 

And if that sounds familiar, because that`s the carbon copy of the

relationship that “The Enquirer” had with Donald Trump, whose lawyer

Michael Cohen is currently in prison for his role in the hush money schemes

involving Trump and “The Enquirer” during the 2016 campaign. 

 

But one of the central allegations of Ronan Farrow`s book is that amidst

this atmosphere of relentless, even creative intimidation and pressure, the

story he was working on about Weinstein almost didn`t get told and Farrow

says that`s because his employer for the first several months of his

reporting, NBC News, slow-walked and even at times, tried to stop his

reporting.  Farrow says he was repeatedly told to pause any new reporting

while his story was reviewed by increasingly higher level executives at

NBC.  That some executives seem to feel the Weinstein story was not

newsworthy or not worth the trouble and yes, that`s while NBC executives,

as I described earlier, were getting repeated calls from Weinstein himself,

not to mention his lawyers. 

 

It was only when NBC News allowed Ronan Farrow to take his reporting

elsewhere that it found a home at the “New Yorker” magazine.  He had worked

on a story at NBC News for seven months when went to the New Yorker in

August 2017. 

 

Seven weeks after Ronan left NBC, “The Times” published their Weinstein

story, and five days after that, Farrow published his Weinstein story –

the piece he had started at NBC but it ran in the “New Yorker” magazine. 

And that piece included the most serious allegations against Weinstein to

that point, three allegations of rape. 

 

NBC News has strenuously denied the allegation, that it intentionally

stymied Ronan Farrow`s reporting.  They say his story was simply not up to

NBC`s standards nor ready for network TV in August 2017.  They said the

network was prepared to continue working on the story to get it into shape,

but that Ronan wanted to move more quickly, and so they allowed him to go

to a print outlet instead. 

 

According to NBC, when Ronan Farrow left, he had no Weinstein accusers on

the record.  Farrow says that when he left NBC, he had, quote, an

explosively reportable piece that should have been public earlier. 

 

NBC News says his “New Yorker” article bore little resemblance to his NBC

News reporting.  But again, that “New Yorker” piece was less than two

months after he left his reporting at NBC and took it somewhere else. 

 

NBC letting the story get away is – I think the best way I can put it is,

when you take NBC`s word for it, NBC letting that story get away is a

shame.  But in Ronan Farrow`s telling, it`s not a shame, it`s a scandal. 

 

NBC is saying, essentially, it`s too bad that story got away.  We were

really hoping to get it to air once ready.  Ronan Farrow is saying, no, you

were stopping me from getting it to air and that`s why I had to leave. 

 

But that`s not the only allegation that Ronan Farrow levels against NBC

News in his book.  About seven weeks after his reporting appeared in the

“New Yorker” in 2017, NBC abruptly fired the long-time host of “The Today

Show”, Matt Lauer, after what NBC called a credible allegation of

inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace that was brought to the

company`s attention.  The company never detailed what the specific

allegation was that led to Matt Lauer`s firing.  But “The New York Times”

and “Variety” quickly had reports out with multiple allegations against

Matt Lauer. 

 

In his book, Ronan Farrow interviews the woman who made the complaint to

NBC human resources that resulted in Matt Lauer getting fired.  She tells

Farrow that it was reading the accounts of Weinstein`s accusers in his “New

Yorker” piece that convinced her to make her complaint about Lauer in 2017. 

 

And now, in Farrow`s book for the first time, we learn what she alleges

happened between her and Lauer.  She says while covering the Olympics in

Sochi in 2014, Matt Lauer raped her in his hotel room while she was both

too drunk to consent and she says she repeatedly told him no. 

 

Matt Lauer has vehemently denied this account.  He says the encounter was

consensual.

 

Farrow alleges in his book that this woman was one of several NBC employees

with sexual misconduct allegations against Matt Lauer who received big

payouts, accompanied by non-disclosure or non-disparagement agreements. 

 

NBC says these payments, those agreements were all standard.  They weren`t

specific to anybody making any allegations against Lauer.  The company says

management was unaware of any allegations against Matt Lauer at all before

the one allegation for which they fired him. 

 

NBCUniversal did an internal investigation last year that said as much,

that concluded. 

 

But I`ll tell you, there has been consternation even inside this building,

inside MSNBC and NBC News, that that matter was handled with an internal

investigation, with the company, in effect, investigating itself rather

than hiring an external firm to do it. 

 

Now, NBC News is obviously our parent company here at MSNBC.  The

allegations about the behavior of Harvey Weinstein and Matt Lauer are gut-

wrenching at baseline, no matter who you are, or what your connection is to

this story. 

 

But accusations that people in positions of authority in this building may

have been complicit in some way in shielding those guys from

accountability?  Those accusations are very, very hard to stomach.  And I

can tell you that inside this building, this issue, the Weinstein story,

having to leave the building in order to get told and combine that with

another previous gigantic story on a related subject, the “Access

Hollywood” tape Billy Bush story, also leaving this building to get told,

the amount of consternation this has caused among the rank-and-file people

who work here would be almost impossible for me to overstate. 

 

I`ve been through a lot of ups and downs in this company since I`ve been

here.  It would be impossible for me to overstate the amount of

consternation inside the building around this issue. 

 

Since Ronan Farrow`s book was published, I`ve been trying to get answers

about some of his key allegations.  As to whether or not Ronan Farrow was

told to hit pause on any new reporting at a time when NBC didn`t think

there was enough to go to air with, we have independently confirmed that

NBC News did that.  That did happen.  He was told to pause his reporting. 

 

In light of Farrow`s assertions that there was a pattern at the company of

women making allegations against Matt Lauer and being paid off and signing

away their rights to speak about it, all before Matt Lauer was ever fired? 

Well, we`ve doubled back with NBC and they confirmed their denial that that

ever happened before Matt Lauer was fired.  But as far as we can tell,

there has never been an independent investigation of that.  So until there

is an independent investigation of that, if there is ever going to be one,

that remains NBC`s word versus Ronan Farrow`s reporting and assertions. 

 

In terms of the specific question of women signing away their right to

speak about any such incidents – well, there we actually have a little bit

of news tonight.  NBC News is now telling us on the record that there is

nothing in any non-disparagement or non-disclosure agreement anyone may

have signed with the company that can legally prevent you from talking

about your experience. 

 

Here`s the statement from NBC – from NBCUniversal.  This is from a

spokesperson from NBCUniversal.  Quote: Any former NBC News employee who

believes that they cannot disclose their experience with sexual harassment

as a result of a confidentiality or non-disparagement provision in the

separation agreement should contact NBCUniversal and we will release them

from that perceived obligation. 

 

So that`s new.  That`s news. 

 

As to whether or not any external review will be done of the handling of

the Weinstein story and why that story couldn`t be broken here, but it

later broke with another news organization, whether the company would

submit itself to an external journalistic review to try to restore some

confidence that the company isn`t just, you know, further investigating

itself and clearing itself on issues like this?  Well, again, we did get a

statement on this, this time from NBC News.  Short form, I`ll tell you, the

answer is no, that`s not going to happen. 

 

Quote: Over a year ago, NBC News released a 12-page transparent accounting

of the Weinstein reporting.  That`s another internal investigation.  They

told us tonight, quote, once again, we stand by it. 

 

So, since Ronan Farrow`s Weinstein reporting and the saga to get it to

print described in his book, you should know that he has gone on to break

stories about decades worth of allegations of sexual harassment by the

chairman of CBS, Les Moonves, one of the most powerful television

executives in the history of this country.  Those allegations led Moonves

to resign last year. 

 

Ronan Farrow also reported with Jane Mayer the stories of four women who

accused New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman of physical abuse. 

Schneiderman resigned his post as New York attorney general three hours

after that story broke in “The New Yorker.” 

 

Just last month, the director of the elite MIT Media Lab stepped down less

than a day after Ronan Farrow reported on emails and documents he obtained

showing that the lab was more deeply involved than it had admitted with

billionaire pedophile Jeffrey Epstein, and had accepted lots of money from

him even after they knew he was a convicted sex offender. 

 

Ronan Farrow`s reporting has changed how we understand sexual predation by

very, very powerful men in this country and how we understand the vast

resources they can bring even on powerful institutions to shield themselves

from accountability – and that`s worth talking about anywhere, anytime. 

 

And Ronan Farrow joins us here next. 

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

MADDOW:  Joining us now for the interview is Ronan Farrow. 

 

Along with Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey at “The New York Times”, Ronan

Farrow won the Pulitzer Prize for his reporting in “The New Yorker” on

Harvey Weinstein`s decades of predatory sexual misconduct.  His book about

reporting that story and the vast resources that Weinstein employed to try

to stop it and why he says that story didn`t make it out of the door at NBC

News, that book is called “Catch & Kill: Lies, Spies, and A Conspiracy to

Protect Predators”.  It`s everywhere. 

 

Ronan, thank you for being here.  I appreciate –

 

RONAN FARROW, PULITZER PRIZE-WINNING JOURNALIST:  Pleasure to be here. 

Thanks for doing this. 

 

MADDOW:  So, first, I summarized sort of my – the context of this story,

how I think your book fits into it and sort of what I`ve learned since. 

Let me just ask you if you – if I got any of that wrong or if you want to

push back on any of that (ph). 

 

FARROW:  I think that was a very accurate, very fair summary. 

 

MADDOW:  OK.  And I do believe that it is new, this statement from

NBCUniversal tonight that anybody who believes they`re constrained from

talking about sexual abuse or sexual harassment by non-disparagement or

confidentiality clause, if they come forward to NBCUniversal, they will be

released for that. 

 

FARROW:  It is new and NBC executives deserve praise for that. 

 

As of today, Rachel, I have spoken to multiple women who knew that I was

talking about this more and expressed agony over the fact that they are

constrained by these agreements. 

 

MADDOW:  Hmm.

 

FARROW:  Which to be clear, this a very meticulously fact-checked book. 

NBC`s response and rebuttals are woven into it, including their claim that

this was all a coincidence, that they were paying out these women who

happen to have these harassment complaints about Lauer and others. 

 

That said, these women, to a one (ph), consider these to be payouts to

silence them.  Executives involved told me they were payouts to silence

them.  The fact they are ending that and releasing these women is

significant.  It should be a model for other companies. 

 

MADDOW:  So, let me – let me ask you about that specifically, because I

have been trying to track this down myself.  It`s such a specific claim. 

It`s so empirical that I feel like I naively believe that I should be able

to get to the bottom of this by the time I had you on the show tonight,

independently verify (ph) –

 

(CROSSTALK)

 

FARROW:  It sounds like you made some headway. 

 

MADDOW:  Well, but on this issue of whether or not enhanced severance or

these other types of payment deals and the types of language people sign

when they leave, whether women who had allegations against Matt Lauer were

treated any differently other than other people who left the company under

circumstances that didn`t have anything to do with any claims of sexual

misbehavior, I – I feel like that`s – those are two data sets that you

could compare.  Did you actually get access to normal severance to compare

this to? 

 

FARROW:  Yes.

 

MADDOW:  OK.

 

FARROW:  And it`s laid out very clearly in the book.  You can judge for

yourself.

 

But this was described atypical, not part of the general process of people

leaving the company by just about everyone involved in these transactions. 

Except for these spokespeople putting out the statements now, on the

inside, not only the women who received these payouts and their agents but

also senior executives on the NBCUniversal side who brokered these

agreements described them openly as sexual harassment settlements. 

 

MADDOW:  OK.  In terms of this change that`s been announced tonight right

here from NBCUniversal saying that these non-disparagement or

confidentiality clauses don`t constrain women from talking about these

things, based on your reporting, what you just described, it`s an ongoing

reporting since the book, it sounds like you think that women will come

forward now once they`ve been released. 

 

FARROW:  That will be their choice, but I do know that – as I said, women

felt constrained, they were agonized over that, and I think this will go a

long way towards making them feel that they can discuss this openly. 

 

MADDOW:  Why do you think that you were told to pause for the reporting on

your Weinstein story at NBC News?  I got – I was able to independently

verify this.  NBC News confirming to me that happened, but they say it was

due to concerns about your reporting and a breakdown of trust between you

and the investigative unit. 

 

Why do you holistically, not in one of one of these instances in

particular, but holistically, why do you think they told you to pause your

reporting? 

 

FARROW:  Look, important to note, these past rounds of legal and standards

reviews, there was no breakdown of trust.  I was told specifically that

there were no issues with the reporting again and again.  And over the

course of the reporting that we laid out here, there is a paper trail of

the shutting down of the story. 

 

And includes Noah Oppenheim, the president of NBC News, on six occasions

ordering us to stop reporting.  The head of the investigative unit

underneath him ordering eight times to stop reporting.  That eventually

escalated to ordering us to cancel interviews. 

 

And, look, you can judge for yourself.  It`s laid out in the book, whether

what we had was enough.  We had a tape of Weinstein admitting to sexual

assault.  We had multiple named women in every version of this story. 

 

But that actually is not the point.  The order to stop was un-journalistic. 

 

And this is not just my account.  It`s my working level producer`s account. 

He recently wrote a piece for “Vanity Fair” saying, I witnessed all of

this.  It was inappropriate shutdown of exclusive reporting we had. 

 

And we were concerned that people were going to continue to get hurt. 

 

What the book lays out is that this was a set of executives making these

decisions, all the way up to our parent company, who were cornered on some

very difficult issues within the company.  And if, indeed, they are moving

towards more transparency, releasing women from NDAs, maybe eventually this

independent review that people inside this building have called for again

and again, those would be positive steps. 

 

MADDOW:  In terms of cancelling interviews, the interviews that you say NBC

cancelled, were those interviews in shadow?  Were those interviews on

camera?  Were those interviews off camera?  What kinds of – what kind of

interviews were they cancelling? 

 

FARROW:  So, that includes fully on the record offers to go on camera full-

faced. 

 

A wonderful brave woman named Emily Nestor who has gone on record in recent

days and talks about in the book how she offered while the story was on

NBC.  Rose McGowan was full-faced, on the record for many months.  Rose

McGowan was getting intimidated legally and was becoming frustrated with

NBC slow rolling the story for months and months, pulled out. 

 

The moment that happened, Emily Nestor said, I will record my interview

again.  She had previously been in shadow, full face.  The executives here

were not interested in that. 

 

So, it included a combination of interviews in shadow, which we do very

often in our investigative stories, including ones that I`ve aired on this

network, and also full-faced, on-the-record accounts that were very

explosive and ultimately were a part of the “New Yorker” story. 

 

MADDOW:  When NBC News told us tonight – again, I think this might be

unprecedented statement from them. 

 

Quote: We very much wanted to break this story, which is why we assigned it

and supported it editorially and financially for seven months.  We are

profoundly disappointed that we weren`t able to do so. 

 

That might just sound like expression of feelings.  I will say, inside the

building, that expression of profound disappointment that the story didn`t

get broken here is meaningful to me because I feel like I`ve been waiting

to hear that.  But I wanted to put that to you and ask you how that strikes

you and whether you might – whether – I don`t know, whether you share

this sense of that as a significant impression? 

 

FARROW:  The book is in many ways a love letter to and a tribute to fellow

reporters, including great reporters across this building, at NBC News. 

Many of them are sources that allowed me to tell this story.  They are

anguished over this.  They were lied to. 

 

The general counsel of this company in this book says, we had no

settlements in this period, where we ultimately lay out a paper trail of

seven settlements. 

 

There`s a feeling in this building, as you alluded to, that coverage is

being distorted and good journalists have a problem with that. 

 

I think the transition from an almost, sort of, Trumpian response of we dig

in, we reiterate the talking point that there wasn`t a “there” there to the

story, to something that more forthrightly acknowledges disappointment and

a need to release people from non-disclosure agreements – 

 

MADDOW:  Uh-huh.

 

FARROW:  – that is immensely positive.  And I can only imagine will be

received well here. 

 

MADDOW:  There`s one other aspect on this, Ronan, that I want to ask you

about that actually I`m going to ask you about both as a lawyer and a

reporter. 

 

But if you could stick with us through the break, I`ll ask you about that

right after this.

 

We`re back with Ronan Farrow, contributor at the “New Yorker” magazine, the

author of the new bestseller, “Catch and Kill”.

 

We`ll be right back. 

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

MADDOW:  We`re back now live with Ronan Farrow, author of a new book “Catch

and Kill: Lies, Spies and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators”.  It`s an

account of his Pulitzer Prize-winning reporting and allegations of

predatory sexual behavior by Harvey Weinstein, and why Farrow says that

ended up in the “New Yorker” magazine instead of at NBC News. 

 

Ronan, thank you again for doing this.  I appreciate it.

 

FARROW:  Thanks for having me. 

 

MADDOW:  I know it`s fraught to be here, and it`s – you know, it`s – I

feel like talking about this in this context like makes it feel like I can

feel the portentous music behind us while we`re talking. 

 

But – yes.

 

FARROW:  There`s a scene in great portent where you do the same – may I

say – brave thing after the story breaks and confront things forthrightly. 

And I think people speaking truth to power about their own bosses, their

own institutions is a really important part of how we can have an honest

conversation about this. 

 

MADDOW:  Let me ask you about what it`s like in this building, and

confronting your reporting and knowing – you know, as much as I do from

being here and trying to figure it out, trying to verify some of this

stuff, I feel like in a lot of different kinds of institutions, and the one

that keeps coming to me is, like, U.S. attorneys offices, but a lot of

different institutions and news organizations and legal institutions,

different places, there are – and there are moments when improper external

pressure will be brought to bear, and it is very important for the

integrity of the outfit that that external pressure not be such a shock to

the system that it actually blows up the product of that entity, but rather

it`s expected. 

 

And so, there`s an air lock, there`s an insulation, there`s some sort of an

anticipation for that in a way to structure the work of that entity in a

way that it isn`t infected by external pressure.  I feel like it ought to

be that way.  I feel like we have developed that a little bit in a small

way on my show. 

 

Do you feel like a big news organization like NBC News, especially when

it`s integrated into this much larger NBC family, can effectively do that? 

Is it possible to do that structurally?  Or do you have to rely on

individual – individual bravery?

 

FARROW:  I think it requires both.  We need to push our great news

organizations, and I put NBC News in that category, to be transparent and

accountable, and as you say, to have a firewall between the executive

suite, when it receives this kind of pressure, and reportorial decisions. 

 

That did not happen here.  Executives descended and – at a point where the

normal process was playing out and a request was issued to the president of

the news organization to go to comment, to seek comment from Harvey

Weinstein, that process was stopped. 

 

The point of this book and the reporting in it and the fact that we fact-

checked it so carefully is to make it clear this isn`t about a tit-for-tat,

it`s not about me, it is about a set of facts that are laid out that show

there was a lack of that firewall.  That shouldn`t happen at CBS that I`ve

reported on, or at AMI with “The National Enquirer” and all the reporting

about that that`s in the book, and it shouldn`t happen at NBC News. 

 

And I think you`re seeing a lot of great journalists in this building

asking tough questions.  It is not for me to say what should happen in

response to all of that.  I`m not an activist.  I`m a journalist.  But I`m

really happy that people like you are asking those hard questions. 

 

MADDOW:  Ronan Farrow, the book is called “Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies and

A Conspiracy to Protect Predators”, thanks for being here.

 

FARROW:  Thank you, Rachel, for all you do. 

 

MADDOW:  Thanks.  Yes, thanks.

 

We`ll be right back.  Stay with us. 

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

MADDOW:  Where does the time go? 

 

That does it for us tonight.  We will see you again on Monday.  Have an

excellent weekend.

 

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

tonight. 

 

Good evening, Katy.

 

 

 

                                                                                                               

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