Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW Date: October 3, 2016 Guest: Susanne Craig, David Barstow
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC ANCHOR: Good evening, Chris. Thank you, my friend. Appreciate it.
And thanks to you at home for joining us tonight.
Big night tonight. It is, of course, as Chris was just saying there, it is the eve of the vice presidential debate. By this time tomorrow night, you`ll be able to tell those two guys apart. NBC historian Michael Beschloss is here with us tonight to talk about tomorrow night`s debate.
Also, we`ve had what appears to be the October surprise for this year`s election -- at least the first October surprise. "The New York Times" has found a piece at least of the white whale of political reporting for this year. They have published a portion of what appear to be Donald Trump`s tax returns.
"The New York Times" reporters who broke that incredible story are here with us tonight live, in just a moment.
That is all coming up.
First, I must wish you happy first Monday in October, which if you are a politics or law geek, you know it`s a significant date. On this date, 16 years ago, everybody thought the huge U.S. Supreme Court case that year was going to be about drug-sniffing dogs in Indiana.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TV ANCHOR: The Supreme Court begins a new term today. On the docket for the high court, several key cases that will test the reach of the long arm of the law. NBC`s Pete Williams reports.
PETE WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS REPORTER: The city of Indianapolis wants the court to uphold the use of traffic checkpoints to find illegal drugs. Several drivers won in court when they sued the city saying it improperly stopped them without any reason to suspect that they were carrying drugs.
JOELL PALMER: They put the dog in the car and I`m like, man, isn`t that going through my stuff?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Yes. Yes, in fact, Indiana resident, that was going through your stuff, officially. The Supreme Court heard that case and they agreed that year that Indianapolis` intrusive drug-sniffing dog checkpoints, they were in fact unconstitutional. They were struck down by the Supreme Court in a 6-3 ruling on November 8th, 2000.
And nobody noticed, because by November 28th that year, the year 2000, we as a country had been twisting in the wind for three solid weeks already not knowing what the results were of the presidential election that had happened that year. The presidential election, right, George W. Bush versus Al Gore, who will be the next president after Bill Clinton, that was supposed to be settled on the night of November 7th, but absolutely still undecided three weeks later when Indiana`s drug-sniffing dogs got put out of work.
And it was still going on two weeks after that when the Supreme Court ultimately got involved to decide the matter for themselves. In a 5-4 ruling in December, Supreme Court overturned the Florida Supreme Court and stopped the ongoing recount of ballots in the state of Florida and that famously is how we got President George W. Bush and everything that befell the country thereafter.
Today, it`s once again the first Monday in October. And so, the U.S. Supreme Court had its first day of school today for 2016.
This year, everybody thinks that the big decisions are going to be probably on race and criminal justice. Potentially, there`s a big ruling to be had on voter suppression in Texas. Who knows? We`ll see where the court goes, what cases they hear, what lands with a huge splash. You cannot always tell in advance. Just ask the year 2000.
But let`s say, just for the sake of argument, that history does repeat itself this year. Let`s say that, once again, just like the last time there was an open seat in the White House and we were deciding who would be the next president after two terms of a relatively popular Democratic president, let`s say history repeats itself again and let`s say, like the year 2000, let`s say it`s really close. I mean, it`s not hard to imagine it being really close, regardless of what you think of the two candidates this year.
If you watch this show on Friday night, you might remember Joy Reid was here and I was teasing her the fact about she`s always playing 270 to win on her phone, like it`s 1981 and that new game just came out for the Atari called Kaboom! where it`s the mad bomber and you got the buckets of water and you got to catch them as they drop them. I was obsessed with that game when I was 8.
Well, now, thanks to Joe Reid, I`m equally obsessed with 270 to win. And actually, it`s not unique. There`s a lot of different things where you can game out how the election might go and what the Electoral College would be.
It`s one of these thing, though, that when you realize pretty quickly, when you start gaming out potential feasible electoral maps this year, you may realize that Kaboom!, it is very possible this year, it is easy to come up with a realistic scenario this year in which we would have essentially an Electoral College tie. It`s easy to imagine this year that the election might be really, really close, like the year 2000 close.
I mean, it`s hypothetical. But just for example, start off with the premise that the mostly reliable red states are going to go red and the mostly reliable blue states are going to go blue and you end up in that circumstance with arguably a semi-plausible list of 11 wing states in the country, those are the states that are black on this map. Divide them up the way they conceivably might go, who knows.
Let`s say we`ll give Hillary Clinton Michigan and Nevada, let`s say she gets New Hampshire. Let`s say she gets Virginia. Actually, her numbers are very solid in Virginia. Give her Florida as well.
Then, give all of the other swing states to Donald Trump. That would be a big night for him based on what the polls look like right now. But let`s say it goes that way. Let`s say Donald Trump wins Ohio and Pennsylvania, given North Carolina, Wisconsin, Colorado, Iowa.
Let`s say that`s what happens. IF the other states in the country go the way they are broadly expected to go, let`s say this is the breakdown of how the swing states breakdown this year. That would be, in fact, a tie in the Electoral College, 269 to 269.
Now, imagine that in any one of those states it`s really, really, really close. And we think we know which way it`s going but there`s a recount. We can`t really tell who won. It`s recount close. It`s contested recount close. Every partisan interest in the country flooding into which ever poor state has had this happen.
And ultimately, we know the whole election, not just this one state, is going to be decided in court because there`s litigation in this one state and it determines the way it`s going it go. Let`s say we get another Bush v. Gore like we did in the year 2000. Here`s the question: how on earth would that work this year?
Because happy first Monday in October. This year, the United States Supreme Court has an empty seat. There will be no 5-4 rulings to settle the presidential election this year like we had in the year 2000.
As traumatic as it was for our democracy to have a 5-4 decision choose the next president of the United States, how about a 4-4 decision where the Supreme Court deadlocks, divide on roughly partisan lines. What happens there is that the Supreme Court ruling would not be binding. If that happened this year, the next president would end up getting picked, what, by one state Supreme Court somewhere? Maybe it would be one where they have partisan elections for judges. I don`t know. Maybe it would be some lower federal court in some corner of the country that nobody has ever intended or expected to have the power to choose the next president.
The names that we`re going to scroll here, these are the names of the chief judges in all of the federal appeals courts circuits around the country. Do you see any familiar names to you? Is one of them going to pick the next president? Maybe. Does that seem like a good way to do it?
No matter who you personally want to win the presidency this year and no matter whether or not you usually pray, there is reason to pray for the sake of our democracy itself that the election is not so close this year that it comes down to a single determinative recount somewhere in a single state, because if it`s that close again, like it was, 16 years ago, if it gets to the point where it gets decided in court, congressional Republican`s decision that President Obama shouldn`t be allowed to fill Justice Scalia`s vacancy on the Supreme Court, that means we have a 4-4 Supreme Court and that means that a potentially deadlocked 4-4 Supreme Court decision on a presidential election would set us up for an absolutely unprecedented national crisis.
We have not had a year-long vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court since before the U.S. civil war, right? But that is what we are heading in to now in this Supreme Court term that started today. The Supreme Court term that very shortly is about to feature a hard-fought presidential election.
If you`re looking for a super, super, super scary Halloween costume this year, go as a poll that`s tied 50-50 or you can go as this electoral map which I pulled up just moments ago. That`s the scariest thing our country can possible see conjure this year and that makes it not only speculative interest to wonder and to ask whether or not the election will be that close, it makes it a matter of institutional importance for us as a country, a very close election might be a very scary thing this year. Is this going to be a very close election?
One snapshot answer to that right now is, of course, the polls. The polling that`s come out in the swing states and national polling that`s come out since last week`s presidential debate, all of that polling shows Democrat Hillary Clinton pulling back out into the lead.
For example, there`s a new CNN national poll, the last time CNN had a national presidential poll was early September. That one showed Donald Trump leading nationwide by two points. Well, tonight, the new nationwide CNN poll has just come out and it shows Hillary Clinton leading by 5.
It`s a swing in the similar direction in the new CBS poll. The last time they did a presidential poll, the second week of September, that national CBS poll last month had Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump tied at 42 percent each, well, CBS` new poll that`s just out tonight has Hillary Clinton leading by four points. She`s now up 45-41.
In both of those new national polls that are now tonight, both the CNN poll and CBS poll, if you cut out the minor party candidates, the Libertarian and the Green Party candidates, just do it head to head, Trump versus Clinton, both CNN and CBS have Hillary Clinton leading head to head right now by six points nationwide. So, that`s one snapshot of how things are going, and whether we are at risk, can we call it that, at risk as a country of it being a super close election.
But here`s another snapshot of how things are going right now. This is from the news tonight. One of the things that`s happening structurally between -- that`s different between the two parties, between the two sides right now is that on the Democratic side of the race right now, you`ve got all of these top-level surrogates and highest profile Democrats in the country flooding the zone for Clinton and doing campaign events for her. She`s doing her own events but so are all of these other people.
It doesn`t work like that on the Republican side. Nobody else really does events for Donald Trump other than Trump himself and his running mate Mike Pence.
On the Democratic side, right, it`s like Bernie Sanders is doing events, her primary rival. He`s doing a whole bunch of events this week. Top level surrogates like Elizabeth Warren have been on the campaign trail for her and will be this week. First Lady of the United States Michelle Obama, she`s now independently doing events for Hillary Clinton. President Obama himself is campaigning in earnest in the swing states for Hillary Clinton doing his own events.
And tonight in Sarasota, Florida, it was Vice President Joe Biden and he gave very interesting remarks today in Sarasota, specifically in response to something Donald Trump said earlier today about veterans who have come home from war with post-traumatic stress and the problem of veteran suicide.
This was Joe Biden`s response to those remarks today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Where in the hell is he from? No, no, no, no, this is deadly earnest. My son spent a year in Iraq, came back a highly decorated veteran, bronze star and a lot else. I`ve been in and out of Iraq and Afghanistan over 29 times.
I found myself in Iraq being asked by (INAUDIBLE) to pin a silver medal on a young captain who had pulled someone out of a burning Humvee, risking his life, and when I went to pin it on him in front of the entire brigade, he stood and looked at me and said, "Sir I don`t want the medal, I don`t want the medal." You know why? He said, "He died. He died, Mr. Vice President, I don`t want the medal."
How many nights does that kid go to sleep seeing that image in his head, dealing with it?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Vice President Joe Biden tonight in Sarasota. Angry. Not upset.
But angry about comments Donald Trump made today about post-traumatic stress and post-9/11 veterans. In the vice president`s remarks tonight, he actually sort of gave Donald Trump the personal benefit of the doubt in terms of what Trump`s intentions were behind what he said today but, still, vice president made no bones about how he feels about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: I don`t think he was trying to be mean. He is just so thoroughly, completely uninformed. I`ve been saying this and when I said it 15 years ago I got criticized. But I make no apologies.
We only have one obligation, one sacred obligation. To care for those we send to war and to care for them and their families when they come home. They are going to need extended medical help the rest of their lives.
What are the chances that this guy will honor that commitment? I`m serious. I`m serious. It`s not just that he doesn`t get it. He has no interest in finding out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: "It`s not that he just doesn`t get it. He has no interest in finding out."
Vice President Biden today, he was responding to these remarks that were made by Donald Trump in Herndon, Virginia.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When you talk about the mental health problems when people come back from war and combat and they say things that maybe a lot of folks have seen in this room many times over and you`re strong and you can handle it, but a lot of people can`t handle it, they see horror stories. They see events you wouldn`t see in a movie, nobody would believe it.
And we need a mental health help and medical and it`s one of the things that I think is least addressed and it`s one of the things that -- like your question, it`s one of the things that I hear most about when I go around and talk to the veterans.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Donald Trump today making remarks about veterans and mental health and how did Vice President Biden put it there? He said -- he said, "I don`t think he was trying to be mean."
A lot of people have reacted to these remarks today from Donald Trump by saying that Trump appeared -- at least appeared to be trying to empathize or sympathize, he appeared to be trying to voice support for veterans on mental health issues and the concept of post-traumatic stress.
But that equation of strong people not needing help, strong people being able to handle it and people who are presumably not strong, not being able to handle it, that is a construction around mental health, that is a stigmatizing framework for talking about mental health and post-traumatic stress and suicide prevention that veterans and every responsible person anywhere near that field has been trying desperately to undo for years now.
That`s like the one thing you don`t say if you know anything about this issue, if you have ever talked to anybody involved in it, if you have ever taken it seriously. That`s the framework that they have been trying to undo any way they can.
Take, for example, the way that President Obama talks about this same issue.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have instructed the joint chiefs and up and down the chain of command that they have a responsibility to de-stigmatize mental health issues and issues of PTSD, and help to explain to everybody in all of the units under their command that there`s nothing weak about asking for help. If you break your leg, you`re going to go to a doctor to get that leg healed. If, as a consequence of the extraordinary stress and pain that you are witnessing typically in a battlefield, something inside you feels like it`s wounded, it`s just like a physical injury, you`ve got to go get help and there`s nothing weak about that. That`s strong and that is what will allow you, then, to continue with your service and there shouldn`t be a stigma against it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: President Obama. "There`s no weakness in asking for help. There should not be a stigma about it. That is strong. There`s nothing weak about that."
Between issues of post-traumatic stress and suicide among American veterans, those are such a crisis in our country that there really has been such a huge, concerted, complex national effort in the military and among our national leaders to try to get rid of this idea that you`re weak if you need help and that strong people don`t have post-traumatic stress and that strong people don`t need help and that strong people don`t come up against the threat of suicide.
And the reason this took over the news cycle today is that Donald Trump reasonably I think not trying to diss veterans, not trying to attack somebody, just got it fundamentally and dangerously wrong. And for somebody who`s running for president to so fundamentally misunderstand that issue is a big deal.
And his campaign today was outraged at the outrage. They are very upset about the headlines like this about this incident today. "Donald Trump, military suicides happen to service members that can`t handle it." "Trump appears to suggest veterans with PTSD are not strong." "Trump suggests military members with mental health issues are not strong and can`t handle it."
The Trump campaign was very upset with headlines like that because they kept insisting, that`s not what he meant. That`s not the way he meant it. Yes, but that is what he said.
And this was not him attacking American prisoners of war. Like when he went after John McCain, I like people who weren`t captured. It wasn`t an attack on U.S. military leadership, like when he said America`s generals are an embarrassment to this country and they have been, quote, "reduced to rubble". It was not an attack on the U.S. military itself which he has twice now called, and I quote, "the gang who couldn`t shoot straight."
It was not Trump attacking the parents of a U.S. army captain who was killed in Iraq like he did after the Democratic convention calling them vicious. It was not him saying that he always wanted a purple heart like he did back in August. It was not him equating his time in an expensive military theme boarding school with time spent in the actual military, like when he told the autobiographer, quote, "I felt like I was in the military in a true sense."
He also claimed that during his time in boarding school he had, quote, "more training militarily than a lot of the guys that go into the military."
This wasn`t the same as any of the other times that he has attacked and disrespected and denigrated the military and military families and equated his own life in which there has been zero public service to the lives of the military and their family who is have sacrificed so much. This time, it appears to have just been a stunningly ignorant and painful and dangerous misstatement on an incredibly important issue that a lot of people take very seriously.
But the reaction to it today shows you how much patience people have for him on these issues now after the year he has had in blowing it on the military and on veterans issues on the campaign trail.
So, no, the answer is the election right now does not feel close. Not with somebody who talks about veterans that way.
It has been one week exactly since Donald Trump significantly underperformed what were already low expectations for the first presidential debate. Since then, we`ve had the 5:00 a.m. tweet telling America to check out the sex tape. We`ve had four straight days of him attacking a former Miss Universe in part on the basis of her weight. We`ve had the "Newsweek" report that Donald Trump`s company knowingly violated the Cuba embargo.
We`ve had "The Washington Post" report that his charitable foundation is not actually a license charity, not licensed to solicit donations from other people. Today, the New York state attorney sent a cease-and-desist letter to Donald Trump`s charity on the basis of that report.
We`ve had the "Associated Press" report today that more than 20 people who served as cast and crew on the reality show "The Apprentice" attested to the "A.P." to Donald Trump`s lewd and harassing comments to female members of the casts and crew on that show. We`ve also had "The New York Times" published the only three pages of his tax returns that have ever been made public and just those pages turned out to be an almost unimaginable bombshell. And that was all before he started opining today on veterans who come home from war, but they`re not strong and so they can`t handle it.
I don`t know if it`s going to be close on November 8th this year, but this week, it is not close.
The reporter who wrote that "New York Times" story joins us ahead. Stay with us.
MADDOW: So, we have a big show tonight. "The New York Times" reporter who broke the story about Donald Trump`s tax returns will be here live in just a moment.
Also, presidential historian Michael Beschloss is joining us to talk about tomorrow night`s big debate, which might be a bigger deal than you are expecting it to be. Also, if the show goes on longer tonight, I might calm down, maybe.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: On a map, Trump Tower and "The New York Times" building are not all that far apart. And "New York Times", of course, has been a burr under the saddle for both presidential candidates this year, to the extent that they are both New Yorkers, that hurts extra because that "The Times" is their home town paper.
Hillary Clinton lives just north of New York City, in Westchester County. Her campaign headquarters are in Brooklyn, New York. Donald Trump`s campaign headquarters are right there in same building he lives in midtown, Manhattan, just a mile away from "The New York Times" headquarters. Just a mile away from the physical mailbox of a certain metro reporter at "The New York Times" who has recently attached herself to the issue of Donald Trump`s business finances.
And lo and behold, a week and a half ago, reporter Susan Craig went to her physical mailbox at "The Times" and she found that she had been mailed three pages of state tax forms, one each from New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. They were sent anonymously, postmarked New York City and return address was Trump Tower in Manhattan. Hmm.
The tax pages appear to have been signed by Donald Trump and his then wife Marla Maples. They showed Mr. Trump reporting in 1995 a loss of $916 million.
And the way taxes work, that`s a big enough declared business loss that he could conceivably use a loss of that size to avoid paying federal taxes entirely for 18 years. So, your reporter at "The New York Times," something like this pops up in her mailbox, question one is, is this real, right?
One section in particular did look a little fishy in these documents. In the gigantic number that Mr. Trump appears to have declared as a business loss, there is something off, see the way it appears in the documents, see that? Something off about the hyphen and ht first two digits of that line. They seemed sort of weirdly staggered from the rest of the digits.
Well, reporter Susan Craig and her colleagues solved that mystery of that hinky line of numbers when they tracked down the accountant listed as the filer for Trump`s taxes that year. He`s now 80 years old, lives in Florida.
David Barstow, Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter of "The Times", he flew down to Florida to meet the 80-year-old accountant. Apparently, they met at a bagel shop and at the bagel shop, the accountant explained those hinky digits.
The computer program he was using back then in 1995, he said it apparently, it couldn`t fit on to that line on the form all of the digits necessary to declare Donald Trump`s declared loss of $916 million. So, he told David Barstow that he used his typewriter, his IBM typewriter, to manually add in that hyphen as a minus sign followed by the first two numbers. That`s why they were off-center a little.
He also verified the documents overall, not incidentally, quote, he stabbed his finger into the document and said, "This is legit." All at the counter of a bagel shop.
I should tell you, untoasted, that the Trump campaign did not reply to "The New York Times" request for a formal comment about that story. But after the story came out, the campaign did issue a separate statement in which they didn`t confirm or deny the authenticity of the documents but they argued that the, quote, "alleged tax document was illegal obtained" and they said that Donald Trump has paid a lot of other kinds of taxes over the years. I think that means we can score that as a scoop for "The New York Times."
Now, the Trump campaign initially at least threatened to take a legal action against "The New York Times" for publishing these documents. You might remember, just a few weeks ago, the executive editor of "The Times" said he would be willing to risk jail time in order to publish Donald Trump`s tax returns this year if he ever got his hands on them.
Is that a possibility now that "The Times" has published three pages of them, and is there still more to be revealed in this story? That provocative prospective is already being raised by David Barstow, the guy who went to the bagel shop.
He and Susanne Craig join us live, next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Here`s my question: what kind of genius loses a billion dollars in a single year? This is Trump to a T. He`s taken corporate excess and made a business model out of it. He use abuses his power, games the system, puts his own interests ahead of the country`s. It`s Trump first and everyone else last.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: As a businessman and real estate developer, I have legally used the tax laws to my benefit, and to the benefit of my company, my investors and my employees. I mean, honestly, I have brilliantly -- I have brilliantly used those laws.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: I have brilliantly used those laws.
Surprise. Happy October. "The New York Times" ruined Donald Trump`s plan to become the first major party presidential nominee since Nixon to not release his tax returns. "The Times" has published three pages of what appear to be Donald Trump`s tax returns from the `90s.
They do raise the prospect that Mr. Trump may have avoided paying federal income tax for 18 years. Tonight, as you saw, Mr. Trump is defending himself by saying he followed the tax code brilliantly.
Joining us now are two of "The New York Times" reporters who broke this story over the weekend, Susanne Craig, who received the documents in the mail. David Barstow, who among other things flew to Florida to verify them with Trump`s former accountant.
Thank you both very much for being here.
DAVID BARSTOW, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Sure.
SUSANNE CRAIG, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Thanks.
MADDOW: Let me ask, first -- I`m no tax expert. I am following your inferences and other people`s reporting about what this means. With just having these three pages, do we have any way of knowing how much Donald Trump did or did not pay in taxes or is that something that can only be answered by his full returns?
BARSTOW: That is something that can only be answered by his full returns.
MADDOW: The thing that is surprising though and the reason the inference is raised is because of the size of this business deduction?
BARSTOW: This $916 million loss. Most people don`t realize, if they don`t apply this fancy thing called the net operating loss carry forward, what that means, what that could mean for someone like Donald Trump and what it means is why we were trying to make this clear in the story is that, in his case, over this 18-year window that`s permitted by the IRS, he could avoid paying taxes on up to $50 million a year in taxable income.
Our assessment of his finances at the time -- everything we`ve learned about his business dealings in that time frame -- we don`t see an easy way that he was making anywhere near $50 million a year at that point in time, which is why I think it`s at least certainly a very clear possibility that he didn`t pay any income -- federal income taxes at all and certainly everything that he and his surrogates have been saying since the story published seems to suggest they are not taking an issue with that premise either.
MADDOW: Susanne, you were the first person who received these documents, a dramatic story about how they were mailed to you. They just popped up in your inbox.
MADDOW: You obviously don`t know who sent them to you.
CRAIG: They came from just an address at the Trump Tower. It was anonymous. Yes. We were left with a lot of questions when we opened that envelope.
MADDOW: And in terms of -- there`s two sides to this. Part of it, as David was saying, folks have responded to this, but there`s also the efforts that you made as a reporting team to verify that these documents were for real. You feel 100 percent confident that these are what they appear to be. They are documents from that year and they have real amounts on them in terms of what he filed.
BARSTOW: That thing that clincher for me was when we showed that anomaly that you`ve described about the numbers to Mr. Mitnick and he immediately went -- oh, yes, of course. I can explain exactly what that was. Yes, the tax software wouldn`t print that out so, yes, I took my typewriter. It was an IBM, right?
BARSTOW: So, when you hear something like that, for people that do what we do, that`s a moment when you`re like, OK, this is real. And then when he does, you know, this is legit, it gave us a huge amount of confidence that we in fact had the real thing.
CRAIG: We also have a number of other data points around this same time. The New Jersey Gaming Commission had reports that were put out that suggest that he had a very substantial net operating loss in 1991 and 1993. So, we had other data points that fed into this as well. I mean, we did a lot of reporting around it but that was the moment where we went, OK.
MADDOW: At this point, we don`t know -- in terms of how complicated his business interests are, we don`t know what part of his business or what combination or parts of his business this loss would be attributed to.
BARSTOW: There is so much that we still don`t know about this $916 million number in terms of that created that number, precisely, how it flowed on to his tax returns. The tax experts that we hired to look at this stuff, based on just these three pages, don`t see anything on its face show any kind of illegality. But what we also has to say is, unless if you have the full, gigantic tax return, you really can`t make a full assessment of whether or not there was any funny business going on.
And so, I think what we`re doing, obviously, and what a lot of reporters I`m sure are doing, I`m sure, right now, are we`re using this new information to ask new questions.
CRAIG: And find out, you know -- we still don`t even know, unless you see the tax returns going forward, how he applied it and how he was able to reduce his income and by how much. The only thing we have are those returns. But there were assumptions that could be made and people could speculate based on it.
MADDOW: One of pieces that I have to ask you about is that part of the Trump response to the article being posted on Saturday night was essentially a legal threat against "The Times" raising the threat that it`s not legal for "The Times" to have published this document. I don`t know if you can comment on that at all.
BARSTOW: You know, I can tell you, there were a lot of newly difficult parts of bringing this to the public on Sunday, weighing the legal threat from Donald Trump was actually the least difficult part of this.
CRAIG: We obtained them legally.
MADDOW: Can I just ask you, is there more to come? Is there a second part of this story?
BARSTOW: Our address is 620 8th Avenue and we look forward to checking our mailboxes.
MADDOW: David Barstow, Susanne Craig of the "New York Times" -- keep us apprise. Thanks for coming on and helping us understand. Appreciate it.
All right. Lots more ahead tonight. Please do stay with us.
MADDOW: Point of personal privilege for a moment. Also, best new thing in the world. Look. Meet Nana Esi Asafowaa Sarpong. She`s the daughter of Rachel Maddow show staffer Ace Sarpong.
I should tell you, in terms of her name, Nana is part of a royal title from Ghana. The rest of her name is -- it`s the new way we pronounce perfect around here.
Nana Esi, welcome. Congratulations to mom and dad.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RONALD REAGAN, FORMER PRESIDENT: Next Tuesday is election day. Next Tuesday, all of you will go to the polls, you`ll stand there in the polling place and make a decision. I think when you make that decision, it might be well if you would ask yourself, are you better off than you were four years ago?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Are you better off than you were four years ago? Some great line, memorable line, we can all spit it out all these years later.
A week after, that Ronald Reagan went on to win the presidential election. There was only one debate that year and that was in, in 1980. But then four years later, re-election time, President Reagan entered into multiple debates and his opening one was terrible -- disastrous performance from Ronald Reagan in his first debate in 1984, Walter Mondale.
President Reagan was so off his game in that first debate in 1984 that he couldn`t even get his own good line right.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REAGAN: Four years ago in similar circumstances to this, I ask you, the American people, the question, I asked, are you better off than you were four years before? The answer to that obviously was no. And the result, I was elected to this office and promised a new beginning.
Now, maybe I`m expected to ask that same question again, I`m not going to because I think that all of you -- or not everyone, those people that are in those pockets of poverty and haven`t caught up, they couldn`t answer the way I would want them to, but I think that most of the people in this country would say yes they are better off than they were four years ago.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The bumper sticker for that one only fits on a very large vehicle. You wouldn`t answer the way I wanted but some of you, most of you, I think missed it by that much.
President Reagan had been comfortably ahead but after that very bad debate, he did start to slide in the polls. Ultimately, in that time of the election year, though, the bleeding was stopped in part by Vice President George H.W. Bush and his performance in the vice presidential debate four days later. It was George H.W. Bush against Geraldine Ferraro, who was the Democratic VP nominee.
And I think what most people remember if they remember anything that VP debate in `84 is George Bush patronizingly explaining foreign policy to Geraldine Ferraro and her calling him out for it. But what I think people forget about that vice presidential debate is that at the time, contemporaneously, most people thought Vice President Bush won that debate.
"The New York Times" write-up the next day said analysts from CBS News and NBC News gave Mr. Bush the edge in the debate while an ABC News poll of 504 people found that 43 percent said Mr. Bush won compared to 32 percent for Mrs. Ferraro.
So, if you have a lousy showing in your first debate, sometimes your running mate can bail you out and the vice presidential debate which comes next. It`s become a new principle of modern American politicking. You could argue that Dick Cheney did that for President George H.W. Bush after his bad debate in 2004. Polls showed President George W. Bush losing that first debate in `04 convincingly to John Kerry.
You could also argue that a fired up Joe Biden did it for Barack Obama in 2012. President Obama is a good debater but he had a bad showing in his first reelection debate against Mitt Romney in 2012. So, your number two can help you out. They might even save you after you stumble out of the gate.
And that is the predicament right now for the Trump/Pence campaign. In the past week, multiple polls have confirmed the instant analysis that Donald Trump just got clobbered by Hillary Clinton in the first presidential debate last week. Tomorrow night on the debate stage in Virginia, Mike Pence will do what he can to keep this modern theme going of bad presidential candidates being rescued by their running mates, or if they`re not bad presidential candidates, maybe they`re just good presidential candidates who have bad first debates. But most of you wouldn`t answer that the way that I wanted it to. And so, what we need to do is get a bigger bumper.
Sometimes, stuff doesn`t come up right. But in this year`s presidential debate, Mike Pence has a chance to throw Donald Trump a bit of a life ring.
NBC News presidential historian Michael Beschloss joins us next. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. PAUL RYAN (R), WISCONSIN: We should not be imposing these devastating defense cuts, because what that does, when we equivocate on our values, when we show that we`re cutting our own defense, it makes us more weak. It projects weakness, and when we look weak, our adversaries are much more willing to test us, they`re more brazen in their attacks, and our allies less --
BIDEN: With all due respect, that`s a bunch of malarkey.
DEBATE MODERATOR: And why`s that so?
BIDEN: Because not a single thing he said is accurate.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Oh please, let there be more malarkey tomorrow night. Tomorrow night, Tim Kaine and Mike Pence will face off in this country`s tenth vice presidential debate.
Joining us is NBC News presidential historian Michael Beschloss.
Michael, it`s great to see you. Thanks for being here.
MICHAEL BESCHLOSS, NBC NEWS PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Thank you, Rachel. Rachel, same here.
MADDOW: We have only regularly had vice presidential debates since 1984. We had one in `76, right? But before that, nobody even thought to do them. Why haven`t we had them until relatively recently? And are they important?
BESCHLOSS: Well, 1960, when Kennedy met Nixon there wasn`t a discussion of a vice presidential debate because in those days, vice presidents didn`t seem that important.
You then get to 1976. The sitting president, Gerald Ford, and his two predecessors had all been vice president before people realized it was a really important office. And that`s when these things began.
MADDOW: In terms of the importance of the presidency, part of that is the role of vice presidents as governing.
MADDOW: But there is also the issue of how the vice presidential contest affects the presidential race overall. It would seem to me, looking at this history that the pressure is on Mike Pence to try to sort of clean up for his ticket, for the Trump/Pence ticket after what Trump has what everybody believes is a bad performance last week.
BESCHLOSS: Yes. Great point. And, you know, those three contests that you mentioned were there were debates that helped to stop the bleeding where a presidential candidate had done badly the first time. You know, that`s the opportunity that Mike Pence has I think tomorrow night.
So, if you look and you think that the worst parts of Donald Trump`s performance last week were perhaps his unsteadiness and being erratic and perhaps even unfit, it would make a lot of sense for Pence to be able to project the qualities of steadiness, experience. And also to suggest that, you know, if you`re worried -- if you`re thinking about voting for Trump and you`re nervous about Trump, that here is Mike Pence, whose steady as a rock will be a partner in government.
Problem is that Trump has run this campaign as so much as a one-man show, hard to imagine Pence doing that tomorrow night.
MADDOW: Looking back at the vice presidential debates, I`m struck by the number of things I can remember from them off the top of my head.
BESCHLOSS: Me too, right.
MADDOW: Especially compared to the small number of them there have been.
BESCHLOSS: That`s right.
MADDOW: I mean, the malarkey thing, you know, "can I call you, Joe," "You`re no Jack Kennedy", I mean, we have some of the great points.
Do you have a favorite vice presidential moment or one that you thought was --
BESCHLOSS: Can`t do better than `88 when Lloyd Bentsen said to Dan Quayle, when Quayle was trying to say, he was as experienced as John Kennedy, and Bentsen said, you know, Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine, senator, you`re no Jack Kennedy and I knew him well. It completely, you know, took Quayle down not only for that moment.
He was a burden for George Bush when they ran that fall. Even as late as 1992, Quayle`s reputation never recovered. A lot of people were saying to Bush 41, take Quayle off the ticket, because a lot of people think he is not -- you know, up to the level of president. Quayle himself tried to run for president, 2000, did not get to first base.
MADDOW: Michael Beschloss, NBC News presidential historian, always great to have you here -- thanks, Michael.
BESCHLOSS: Can`t wait until tomorrow night, right, Rachel?
MADDOW: All right. Thanks.
BESCHLOSS: Thank you.
MADDOW: We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Here`s what you`re doing tomorrow night, ready? The space time bending intergalactic vice presidential debate showdown starts tomorrow at 9:00 Eastern. It`s going to be held at Longwood University in Farmville, Virginia.
Our coverage here on MSNBC is going to start with Chuck Todd at 5:00. Chris Hayes at 6:00. Chris Matthews at 7:00 p.m. eastern.
And then, Brian Williams and yours truly will start hosting our official pre-debate coverage at 8:00 p.m. Mike Pence and Tim Kaine will start the debate at 9:00.
And then you will recover from your vice presidential debate drinking game and your popcorn over-indulgence with us again starting as soon as the debate ends at 10:30 p.m. We will start at 10:30 and go until forever. Big day tomorrow. Very excited for tomorrow night.
That does it for us tonight. We will see you again then.
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL".
Good evening, Lawrence.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END