GOP representatives storm deposition. TRANSCRIPT: 10/25/19, The Rachel Maddow Show.
ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST: That is “ALL IN” for this evening and for this
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
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
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
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
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
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,
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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,
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
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.
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.
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) –
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
FARROW: And it`s laid out very clearly in the book. You can judge for
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
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-
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
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 –
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
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.
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
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.
MADDOW: Where does the time go?
That does it for us tonight. We will see you again on Monday. Have an
Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD” where Katy Tur is in for Lawrence
Good evening, Katy.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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Copyright 2019 ASC Services II Media, LLC. All materials herein are
protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced,
distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the
prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter
or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the