Show: The Rachel Maddow Show Date: March 15, 2017 Guest: Neal Katyal, Bill Pascrell
CHRIS HAYES, "ALL IN" HOST: That is "ALL IN" for this evening.
THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now.
Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thank you, my friend.
HAYES: You bet.
MADDOW: And thanks to you at home for joining us.
There`s a lot going on in the news tonight. This is going to be a big show, crowded.
First of all, the big headline, as you`ve been hearing is that, the second attempt by the Trump administration to institute a Muslim ban was supposed to go into effect at midnight Eastern tonight. A federal court has blocked the ban from going into effect. We`re going to have more on that in just a second, including a live discussion with the lawyer who won the case and stopped the ban.
Beyond that breaking news, though, I have to say, this is just turning out to be kind of a bad day for Trump priorities all around. Tonight we`ve also got news from the Netherlands about the electoral fate of the man who many people considered to be -- forgive me -- sort of an extra racist Dutch version of Donald Trump. His name is Geert Wilders.
Here he is speaking at an event held on the sidelines of the Republican National Convention this summer. Notice the pictures behind him? It was sort of a soft porn Aryan anti-Islam fest that they called Twinks for Trump.
Geert Wilders is an anti-Muslim radical. He`s a crusading anti-immigrant far right nativist of a sort that hasn`t been seen in top tier Western European politics in decades. But Geert Wilders was expected to win the national elections in the Netherlands. He was expected tonight to become the new Dutch prime minister.
He did not win. He will not be prime minister. We`re going to have more on that election result coming up tonight as well. I should tell you a lot of Trump partisans in this country are very upset with Geert Wilders` loss in the Netherlands tonight. But that`s underway tonight.
Tonight is also starting to look basically like deflation day for the biggest Republican policy priority effort of them all. The effort to kill the Affordable Care Act, to repeal Obamacare, appears to be in political freefall right now. It will face a vote in a House committee tomorrow. It might pass that committee.
The fact that it`s uncertain is remarkable given that Republicans have eight more seats on that committee than Democrats do and it still might not pass that committee. If it does pass that committee and it does ultimately pass the Republican-controlled House -- which itself is not sure -- even then what would happen next is it would head to the Senate and Republicans can only afford no votes on this bill from three Republican senators.
Vox.com has been doing a tally about Republican senators balking at the bill. They can only lose three. Vox`s count right now is up to 12 Republican senators who are saying uh-uh to this bill.
The White House conceded this week that if the Republicans don`t kill Obamacare with this bill, that`s probably it. There`s no plan "B." And today, frankly, it looked like the White House gave up on it.
Remember how once the bill was introduced, once we got the bill leaked and then introduced, the president went out of his way to say that he would work personally to get it passed, he was going to twist arms and he was going to do a charm offensive, and that he was going to do everything possible to get it passed? It`s telling on the day when the highest profile Republican priority of all, this repealing Obamacare thing, it is telling that on the day the bill is dying in Washington, the president himself didn`t even stick around in Washington to lift a finger to try to save it.
Instead, the president today went to Michigan and when he was in Michigan he did not mention health care once. He instead complained to the Michigan governor that he didn`t endorse Trump in the presidential election. So, today has been -- today I think has been a difficult day for the administration and for Republicans in Washington.
I`m also going to ask you to sort of stick a pin in weird news that we got today out of Russia -- and I do not quite know what to make of it, but there`s a vary specific part of it that it is worth sticking a pin in because at some point we are going to figure out what this means and we`ve got to notice these things when they pop in the news.
All right. Today, the Justice Department, you might have seen these headlines, the Justice Department today brought criminal charges against four Russian intelligence operatives for an alleged -- for their alleged role in a giant hack of yahoo.com a couple years ago, a hack that stole information on hundreds of millions of people. The indictment says that that hack of yahoo.com, it wasn`t just a commercial theft or some kind of malicious prank, it was a Russian intelligence operation that was designed, among other things, to target journalists and foreign officials. So, they charged four Russians in conjunction with that hack of Yahoo today.
Now, two of the four people who they indicted were young hackers that were reportedly working with the FSB, with the Russian spy service, one is in Russia and hasn`t been picked up, one of them is in Canada and has actually been arrested. So, those are the two outside hackers.
But the other two people named in the indictment were actually Russian intelligence agencies, FSB agents. And this is interesting because we`re told today this indictment about the Yahoo thing had nothing at all to do with last year`s Russian intelligence operation and hacking attack against our presidential election and the Hillary Clinton campaign, they say it had nothing do with that.
But check this out. One of the two Russian agents, one of the two FSB agents who was charged in this indictment today on the on the Yahoo thing is the same person reportedly arrested in Moscow in December and charged with treason for allegedly cooperating with U.S. intelligence and that was an arrest that many observers believe actually was tied to the Russian hacking and attack on our election, specifically to the unmasking of that attack. Same guy. Same FSB guy.
Arrested in Moscow in December, named in this indictment today?
Right now, the same guy already under arrest for treason in Russia, that same guy has turned up in an American indictment on a totally unrelated hacking attack on the United States. Hmm? That is, as I say, stick a pin in that because we don`t yet know what that means but essentially, we are going to sort out this Russia stuff.
We are going to sort out this stuff about Russia and its attack on our election. And we are going to figure out what these red flags mean. Right now, that`s just a red flag to leave stuck on a pin in that story. A weird development today. It comes amid all sorts of new consternation in Washington over the ongoing investigations into that Russian attack and into the Trump campaign`s connections with Russia.
The first public hearing on Trump and Russia is going to be on Monday in Washington. The FBI director briefed two senators from the Judiciary Committee today on Russia and its connections to the Trump campaign, but neither one of the senators nor Director Comey would talk about it other than that conversation. Director Comey is due to testify at that hearing on Monday on Trump and Russia.
In the meantime -- that`s going to be a House committee on Monday. In the meantime, senators, including Republican senators, are threatening that they`re going to hold up nominations for high-ranking administration positions unless the FBI comes to the Senate and describes ongoing FBI investigations into the Trump/Russia attacks.
So, the Russia investigation stuff is about to get public. Some of it is already happening obviously behind the scenes. Some of it is being disclosed secretly to individual lawmakers. We`re about to get public disclosure of some kind of Monday. Senators are demanding even more public disclosure beyond what we`re going to get from that hearing.
It`s getting a little hurly-burly on that issue and in general, it got a little hurly-burly today in Washington. I should also mention -- last night, there was also the publication of the first federal tax returns from Donald Trump, which it turns out raise all sorts of interesting questions. We`ll have more on that ahead tonight.
But, again, where we started -- the news that has just landed like an anvil on the Trump administration and their hopes and dreams comes from a federal court tonight in Hawaii, of all places.
I`ll just take personal privilege to point out what I believe is the best Twitter reaction to this court ruling so far, hands down. This one, "In an epic act of trolling, a Hawaii judge is responding to Trump`s Muslim ban by showing him America`s birth certificate."
A federal judge, indeed, has tonight used America`s birth certificate, has used the Constitution to block President Trump`s revised Muslim ban just hours before it was set to take effect. This is the administration`s second try at banning both refugees and just everyday travelers and visitors and immigrants from a grab bag of majority Muslim countries.
The first version of the Muslim ban, you`ll remember, it was signed one week after the inauguration. That led to spontaneous, big, sustained, rolling protests at American airports all across the country. That was just one week into the Trump administration. Tens of thousands of people were just outright caught in limbo by that order, either unable to make their planned trips or detained for long hours when they arrived.
That first version of the Muslim ban was blocked in the federal courts quickly. Blocked in a series of federal district courts and then ultimately by the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last month. The president`s first iteration of the Muslim ban didn`t even really get off the ground other than that first few days of chaos and the massive protests that followed.
Well, the White House, after that got blocked, after that got absolutely shut down in the courts, they tried again. They tinkered with the old order. They said this time, it wouldn`t run into a buzz saw in the courts. Well, now, tonight, it`s run into a buzz saw in the courts.
They removed -- for the second version, they removed any the language specifically mentioning Muslims. They removed "Iraq" from the list of countries. OK, why is that on the list of countries any way again?
They also gave noticed this time. They didn`t just do it with no notice. This time, they had the president sign it last week, announcing it wouldn`t go into effect until midnight tonight. But it`s not going into effect at midnight tonight. This federal judge in Hawaii looked at those changes, looked at that tinkering and said basically, "This is the same thing you tried the last time." And the judge has blocked the ruling nationwide.
Quoting from the ruling, quote, "A reasonable objective observer enlightened by specific historical context, contemporaneous public statements and specific sequence of events leading to the order`s issuance would conclude that the executive order was issued with a purpose to disfavor a particular religion." Which you cannot do under the Constitution.
The ruling also just rips apart the Trump administration`s claim that this time it`s not really a Muslim ban. This from the ruling, quote, "The government defends the executive order principally because of its religiously neutral text." Meaning the new version of the order doesn`t say it`s a Muslim ban.
Quote, "The government does not stop there. By its reading, the executive order could not have been religiously motivated because the six countries represent only a small fraction of the world`s 50 Muslim majority nations." The court continues, "The illogic of the government`s contentions is palpable. The notion one can demonstrate animus toward any group of people only by targeting all of them at once is fundamentally flawed. It is a discriminatory purpose that matters, no matter how inefficient the execution."
The ruling then uses the president`s own words against him saying, quote, "A review of the historical background here makes plain why the government wishes to focus on the executive order`s text rather than its context. The record before this court is unique. It includes significant and unrebutted evidence of religious animus driving the promulgation of the executive order and its related predecessor."
The ruling then quotes at length a whole bunch of anti-Muslim statements by the president, explaining the need for this ban and then it holds him to those statements. Quote, "These plainly worded statements made in the months leading up to and contemporaneous with the signing of the executive order and in many cases made by the executive himself, these statements betray the executive order`s stated secular purpose."
Quote, "When considered alongside the constitutional injuries and harms discussed about and the questionable evidence supporting the government`s national security motivations, the balance of equities and public interest justify granting the plaintiff`s temporary restraining order." And that temporary restraining order is in effect right this second.
So, no Muslim ban at midnight and it`s in effect nationwide. And this was only the first swing that the federal courts took at this version of the Muslim ban. There are more federal cases about it, more federal cases against it brought by more states that are all pending tonight. Stacked up like planes ready to land after this one.
As far as actual policy enacted, this administration has achieved very little in their first two months, the Muslim ban was a cornerstone of the campaign, it was supposed to be the first major policy shift of the Trump presidency, it was the flag they were going to plant on capitol hill, the nationalist foundation upon which everything else was going to be built.
The answer from the courts, the answer from the courts, the answer from the Constitution is nope, not today. Not here, not anywhere.
Joining us now is Neal Katyal. He`s the lead attorney for the state of Hawaii`s challenge to travel ban.
Mr. Katyal, I really appreciate you making the time to be here. You joined us the night when you filed this case, and I`m happy to have you here when you had this ruling.
NEAL KATYAL, LEAD ATTY. FOR HAWAII`S CHALLENGE OF NEW TRAVEL BAN: Glad to be back. Thank you.
MADDOW: What do you make of the scope of this ruling? One of the things we didn`t know even if this decision was going to go your way, how broad the court`s order would be? But as far as I can tell, this is a nationwide stop on the ban.
KATYAL: Yes, I did. It`s absolutely. It`s a nationwide stop on the ban because Judge Watson found this Muslim ban was truly a Muslim ban, that it constituted an establishment of religion and betrayed really the ideals that our founders had when they created this country.
MADDOW: This is a temporary restraining order. What does temporary mean in this case?
KATYAL: Well, temporary means that that was argued up quickly, indeed, it was just a week ago tonight that I think I was on your show when we announced we were filing the complaint and indeed maybe it was the day before that the executive order was issued.
So, temporary means there`s been a need for speed. The judge would like us to come back and discuss the issues and so on with more time. But I take it from what the president said tonight in the campaign speech -- he said a lot of stuff, but one of the things he sounded like he was saying was he wanted to take this to the Court of Appeals and the United States Supreme Court.
MADDOW: In terms of the overall sort of landscape of challenges against this ban -- and I know you can`t speak for other cases that aren`t your own, but as an expert in this field, as an observer in these matters, we`ve been keeping an eye on a number of other challenges brought by Washington state. There`s a Maryland case, Massachusetts and California, other states have expressed interest or joined cases also challenging this ban. And everybody`s case is a little bit different.
What happens to all of those other cases that are also in process now, now that this restraining order is in effect? Is it possible one of the rulings on one of those other cases might go in the government`s favor and that would overturn the restraining order that you got tonight?
KATYAL: It`s certainly possible that there might be a decision somewhere else that disagrees, but that wouldn`t be -- a district court, a trial court decision wouldn`t be able to overturn this judge`s decision. It would require the Court of Appeals out on the West Coast to reverse Judge Watson`s decision today. Some judge sitting somewhere else wouldn`t be able to do that.
And I do think that`s an important point, Rachel. I mean, this is now the fourth time that the Trump administration has lost a Muslim ban argument, a Muslim ban before the federal courts. And, you know, I used to represent the federal government in their Supreme Court and litigation proceedings, and I think we always thought, if you`re the president and you assert national security as your reason for doing something, it`s really hard to lose in federal court. It`s like failing a class at Yale or something. You`ve got to try really hard. You`ve got to work at it.
But now that -- you know, and indeed, there`s been a handful of presidents that have lost cases on national security grounds over an entire history and here, President Trump has lost it four times just in about 50 days. I mean, that`s not a good omen for the future.
MADDOW: And he says, I should mentioned tonight in this campaign speech tonight saying that he looks forward to appealing this case and going all the way to the Supreme Court with it if he -- if he can. We shall see.
Neal Katyal, lead attorney for the state of Hawaii, its successful challenge to the travel ban tonight -- congratulations on this win tonight and thanks for helping us understand it, Neal.
All right. I should also mention that that is in the eight-plus-year history of the show, the first time there has ever been a Yale joke on THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW. See? We made it this long.
We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: Last night on this show, we published the first federal tax return information that has ever been released about President Trump. Now, tonight, I`m able to explain a little bit more about how we got that document.
First of all, this is one thing I was not able to show you last night but I can show you tonight. This is the envelope. This is the envelope the tax return arrived in.
You might remember when the "New York Times" obtained a few pages of state tax returns from Trump from the 1990s, those pages were mailed to "The Times" in a plain manila envelope that has Trump Tower listed as the return address. Well, for the tax return that we got last night, the envelope looks different. It was addressed to David Cay Johnston at his home address in Rochester, New York. There was no return address on the envelope at all. There was a stamp on the envelope, American flag stamp.
And there was a postmark. It was postmarked Westchester County, which is a county just north of New York City.
Although this is the first federal tax return information ever released about Donald Trump, and we`re very happy to have it and to have been able to put it into the world -- honestly, we still have no idea who sent it to David Cay Johnston. We do know it`s authentic because the White House put out a statement insulting us and calling us all sorts of names but also verifying that this document we had obtained is authentic.
Weirdly, after the White House said the document was authentic, the president himself then got on Twitter this morning and said that it was fake. It was fake news. But, I mean, I don`t really know what to make of that. I don`t think we`re supposed to read too much into things he says. I don`t know.
Ultimately, in terms of the content of that tax return, there is nothing particularly embarrassing or scandalous in the tax return itself. I mean, one of the things we have seen today as tax experts and analysts has gone through these two pages is that there are some questions raised about -- questions raised through this return about whether or not Donald Trump`s tax policies as president would put millions of dollars into his own pocket, right?
With just this little window into his taxes, that`s already enough to raise interesting questions about whether or not he`s going to have a significant personal financial stake in tax reform issues like the alternative minimum tax and the various loopholes that people in businesses like real estate use to avoid paying taxes -- the way certain high end business people can roll over losses from year to year and use those losses to avoid paying taxes this year and into the future, even though their losses were incurred in the past, right?
So, there`s -- there`s questions as to whether or not there are Trump family, Trump personal consequences to the kinds of things he said he`d like to do to the tax code. I mean, the Republican plan to kill Obamacare seems to be tanking in Washington. As that`s happening right now before our eyes, President Trump is already moving on. He said tonight in an interview that he`s eager to move on from Obamacare repeal and instead start working on changing the tax code.
Well, what we have been able to obtain about his federal taxes, this first federal tax document from him, it does give us a starting list of questions to ask whether his proposed tax reforms will be designed to benefit himself. Past those immediate policy questions, though, there really are two main questions that this gives rise to.
Number one is, where did this come from? Who signed that -- you know, who licked the flap of the envelope, right? Who sent that envelope to David Cay Johnston with this inside? Where did this come have? Number two.
And number two, is there more? Is there more where this came from? And can we please have it? Is this -- you know, more that would be released by any means? Whether or not it has to come in an unmarked envelope to David Cay Johnston`s house, is there more of this?
On the question of where these documents came from, how David got them, how we were able to put them on TV last night, there`s been a lot of focus today on the prospect that the president might have leaked this document himself or might have OK`d the leaking of this document by somebody he knows, you know, both because it`s a welcome distraction from what is otherwise a pretty terrible news cycle for him, but also maybe because he likes the financial picture that this particular tax return, this portion of this particular tax return paints of him. Maybe he likes the way this makes him look. So, maybe he leaked it to make himself look good.
The president said in an interview he did tonight on FOX News that the leak of this tax return definitely didn`t come from the White House, but then he immediately pivoted to say that there`s nothing embarrassing in this tax return at all. And that is basically true.
If it is not an accident that this particular tax return happens to show the president in a positive light -- well, if all his other returns similarly show financial information that he finds not embarrassing, that he`s happy to have out there -- well, the White House could very easily prove that by releasing other tax returns from other years. If this wasn`t cherry-picked, show us that. If this is typical of a Trump tax return, then show us that. If it`s all good news, show us. I mean, that`s what all the other presidents do, why not this one?
But if 2005 is the only year we`re going to get, I will tell you there are a few things about that year in particular that make it stand out as possibly an atypical year in his finances -- an atypical year for his tax preparation strategy.
First of all, you see at the top of this document that this is a joint return. 2005 is the year Mr. Trump married his lovely wife Melania. This was their first jointly filed tax return as a married couple. In 2005, when they got married, the year for which this return was filed, Mrs. Trump was not a U.S. citizen. She was a holder of a green card, she could work her legally, but she was not a citizen. She didn`t get her citizenship until the following year, in 2006.
And if you go to the U.S. Customs and Immigration Service page about how you should prepare for your citizenship interview, U.S. Customs and Immigration advises you that, quote, "Your tax returns are very important proof that you are eligible for naturalization", meaning proof that you`re eligible for becoming a citizen. Quote, "On the day of your interview, bring certified tax returns for the last five years or three years if you are married to a U.S. citizen."
So, when Melania Trump went for her citizenship interview in 2006, she would have had to bring tax returns, including from this first year when she was married to Donald Trump and that tax return would be used as a very important piece of evidence as to whether or not she should get citizenship. So, you better believe the 2005 tax return is going to be sterling, right? That it`s going to display excellent citizenship and no red flags whatsoever. OK. That`s one thing that is unusual about 2005.
Another thing that would be unusual about 2005? 2005 is the year a book called "Trump Nation" was published by a "New York Times" reporter named Timothy O`Brien. This book drove Donald Trump absolutely nuts because although he cooperated on the production of the book, although I`m sure he loved the cover photo, one of the book`s central claims is that Donald Trump is not a billionaire.
Tim O`Brien claimed in this book, in "Trump Nation" which, again, was published in 2005 he claimed Mr. Trump`s net worth was not in the billions. It was probably somewhere closer to $250 million. He wasn`t even a half billionaire.
And I say that this book and that claim in particular drove Donald Trump nuts because we can tell. We can tell it drove him nuts because Donald Trump filed a lawsuit against Tim O`Brien when this book was published. He sued him. And what he sued him for was $2 billion. Sure, why not?
The lawsuit ended up being an embarrassment for Mr. Trump. I mean, he`s claiming that this author -- he`s suing, saying that this author had dramatically understated his net worth. But that meant that the trial was effectively about Donald Trump`s net worth, and about whether he could prove he was a billionaire. And in the trial, he could not prove he was a billionaire.
His depositions from that case are littered with embarrassing examples of him overstating and weirdly fantastically stating his income and his net worth. He publicly stated, for example, that he`d been paid a million dollars for a single speech. Turns out he overstated that by more than a half million dollars for that particular speech. He also claimed that his net worth went up and down based on his feelings, which was a weird thing to assert.
In the end, Mr. Trump`s lawsuit against this author, this $2 billion lawsuit, the lawsuit was dismissed. Mr. Trump appealed, his appeal was thrown out. He lost the appeal.
He lost. He couldn`t prove his billionaire status in court. He could not prove that anything Timothy O`Brien claimed about his net worth was false. But it was clearly something that drove him nuts.
Donald Trump is very sensitive about his net worth and that book, again, came out in 2005 and what we`ve got is Donald Trump`s tax returns for 2005. 2005, a time when he might conceivably have been acutely motivated to try to portray his finances as super heroically as possible. So, maybe this was kind of an atypical filing for him.
And there`s one more reason why 2005 was both potentially a unique year and also a year that desperately makes you want to see other years to compare it to this, and that is that in 2005, Donald Trump reportedly entered that year into a partnership with a development company called Bayrock.
Bayrock has become one of the more controversial points on Donald Trump`s financial resume because of its reported ties to Russian organized crime. This development deal Trump entered into with Bayrock in 2005 was to pursue the creation of Trump Tower Moscow. And Trump Tower Moscow was something that never came to pass.
But that development deal was entered into in 2005, the year of this tax return. What came of that? I mean, in the world, we know what came of that, right? Ties to lots of shady Russian guys. And also, no Trump Tower Moscow.
But in the financial world, I want to know what came of that? What were the financial entanglements if any that grew out of that Russian business adventure that he embarked on in 2005? By 2007, from another deposition, we know that Donald Trump was claiming, quote, "Russia is one of the hottest places in the world for investment. We will be in Moscow at some point."
Why did he think so? Were there financial ties with Russia that would give him such confidence about that pronouncement which he made very shortly after he signed this tax return?
So, 2005 might be kind of a weird year for him. May have been an outlier in Donald Trump`s financial history, in his tax history for any number of reasons. The only way we will know that is if we get his other taxes to compare it to. That`s why presidents and presidential candidates don`t release a year of taxes or two pages of tax returns. They release whole swathes of them, multiple years, so we can actually understand the financial entanglements that might affect the president of the United States while he or she wields immense power hopefully on our behalf and without his personal finances or some divided loyalty influencing his actions.
That`s why tax returns are a norm. That`s why we expect to get them. That`s why it`s still so weird that we don`t have them from him and this is the only thing anybody has been able to pry loose.
When the White House finally, finally, just before we went to air last night, when they finally confirmed the authenticity of this document, honestly, that was very good news for anyone concerned about the presidency, concerned about in particular the national security implications of us not knowing about our president`s financial ties. It`s good news that they confirmed the authenticity of this document because, number one, it means that somebody somewhere safely figured out how to get a real Donald Trump tax return into the public domain and maybe it`s just this one year, maybe it was because -- maybe it was Trump himself and this was his favorite year and that`s why he let it out, but maybe not, in which case maybe more returns will follow.
Number two, this proves to the White House, this release of this document last night on this show, proves to the White House that the president`s taxes can be released without any picayune embarrassment to the president. We now know he does have a lot of money. He does pay tax. No audit real or imagined was screwed up by the disclosure of this information about the White House confirming its authenticity.
If the White House can happily verify this tax information about the president, why can`t they verify more of it? To prove this isn`t just an outlier? So there`s a lot of weird things going on that year.
Honestly, a lot of people all over the country are worried about what may be in Donald Trump`s tax returns. What kind of potential entanglements and conflicts might conceivably be compromising him as president?
If, as the White House says, there`s nothing to worry about in that regard -- now, we know, they can just let it out. They can prove it. You won`t be embarrassed.
You weren`t embarrassed by this last night. You can just let this all out. You can let the other years out. You can let the supporting documentation out and the other years out and if they say what you say they will say, we will all stop worrying. Right.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
REP. STEVE KNIGHT (R), CALIFORNIA: I believe that President Trump should release his tax returns.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
REP. DAVID YOUNG (R), IOWA: You`re running for president, you`re president, you should release your tax returns. It`s a distraction.
REP. MATT GAETZ (R), FLORIDA: Let me say right here right now, absolutely, Donald Trump should release his tax returns.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
MADDOW: It keeps happening. Republican members of Congress get badgered by their constituents into holding town halls so that these members of Congress can hear what their constituents have to say, so their constituents can ask them direct questions face to face.
And time after time, when these Republican members of Congress get asked a direct question about it face to face by their constituents, they tell their constituents, "OK, yeah, I, too, would like to see Donald Trump release his taxes." We have seen that with Congressman Steve Knight from California. We have seen that from Congressman David Young from Iowa. We have seen that with Congressman Matt Gaetz from Florida, and others.
Time and time again, we have seen this from Republican members of Congress. But then when they come back to Washington and they have a chance to vote on that, they vote no. It keeps happening. They say one thing to their constituents. They come back to Washington and, ooh.
It happened again tonight. Tonight, for the third week in a row, Democrats in the House introduced a resolution telling the president to release his tax returns. They tried this on February 27th. They tried this on March 7th. They did it tonight.
The vote tonight was like it was all the other nights, party line. Tonight, it was 223-183. Only one Republican congressman voted with the Democrats, Walter Jones. All the rest of the Republicans who are telling their constituents they think Trump ought to release his tax returns, when they go back to Washington, they are not standing by those assertions.
Joining us now is Congressman Bill Pascrell. He`s a Democratic member of the House Ways and Means Committee.
Congressman Pascrell, it`s nice to see you. Thank you for being here.
REP. BILL PASCRELL (D-NJ), HOUSE WAYS AND MEANS COMMITTEE: Hey, Rachel. Thanks for your courage.
MADDOW: Well, we are sort of talking about courage here. Is this one of those things where you`re going to keep having the Republicans vote on this? You`re going to keep having the Republicans try to put their money where their mouth is and eventually, you`ll expect a different result?
PASCRELL: They haven`t seen anything yet. We`re doing it not only on the floor of the house, we`re going to do it continuously in the Ways and Means Committee, which is one of three committees under a code that passed in 1924, the IRS code, this was added to it that there are three committees, the Ways and Means, Financial Committee in the Senate, and the Joint Committee on Taxation. And those committees have the authority and the power, their chairman, to summon that tax return.
So, look, we want dignity and integrity of the three branches of government. This is our way of standing up. So, you can`t say one thing back home, Rachel, and come to Washington and then cower and then hide under the desk. It doesn`t work.
MADDOW: In terms of the leverage that you`ve got, obviously, you said there, you`ve got these votes that have happened on the House floor. You`re talking about a vote in the ways and means committee which will bring acute pressure on Republican members of that committee, particularly if any of them have been talking about this through the other side of their mouth to their home constituents.
You introduced a resolution of inquiry asking the treasury secretary to provide the House with these years of President Trump`s tax returns. How would Steve Mnuchin play a role in this? Has the Treasury Department engaged with this issue at all? Do you expect them to?
PASCRELL: Well, we`ve asked last Friday, and under the law, under the rules, Kevin Brady, who was the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, must have a hearing. And what I`m asking for, an inquiry.
We have several paths that we are going to look down because the American people have a right. Remember they said the American people don`t care about this? You cannot believe how many people are involved in this. It`s the most talked-about thing to sign at the White House. Over one million three hundred thousand people have signed on already.
We`re not going to stop. We have a right to know this. This is a president that has over 550 investments all over the world. We need to know who his partners are, where his money came from, how he`s going to spend that money.
And if you`re not hiding anything, Mr. President, please, let us know what the story is. We have a right to know if there`s any conflicts of interest, and that goes for everybody in the executive branch of government.
MADDOW: Congressman Bill Pascrell is a member of the House Ways and Means Committee. He`s pushing as hard as anybody on this issue.
Congressman, thanks for being with us tonight. Keep us appraised, sir.
PASCRELL: Thank you, sir, ma`am.
MADDOW: That`s all right. I answer to both.
It`s actually convenient in really unexpected places, you`d be surprised.
We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: So, we covered this story on Monday night here on this show. This is not the update I expected to be giving you tonight.
Voters in the Netherlands have gone to the polls today in an election that attracted international interest because of the man who is expected to win, this very controversial figure, Geert Wilders. He`s a right wing nationalist aggressively anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim candidate.
He`s been found guilty of inciting hatred against Muslims in his country. He`s campaigned on a promise that he would shut down mosques, essentially make it illegal to be a Muslim in the Netherlands. This was an election being watched all over the world both for its own sake and what it might portend for the rest of Europe.
Well, that election was today, turns out didn`t happen. Geert Wilders appears to have lost. Exit poll results suggest the country`s current prime minister won the Dutch elections tonight easily, easily beating Geert Wilders.
Tonight, the country`s prime minister has essentially declared victory. He`s called the election a rejection of, quote, "the wrong kind of populism."
That said, we don`t have a final count. There`s always the outside chance that more Dutch voters went for Geert Wilders than led on for the country`s exit pollsters. Maybe they didn`t want to admit that they backed an anti- immigrant anti-Muslim candidate.
We`ve got those exit poll results. We have an all but declaration of victory from the prime minister and we will get official results next week on Tuesday, and then the country`s different political parties will get to work forming their new government.
Watch this space.
MADDOW: Tonight, thirst as a metaphor with Jimmy Fallon.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: I think the reason people got so excited about the news, when I tweeted out in the 7:00 hour, we`ve got it and we`re going to put it on TV, I think the reason people are so excited about it is because it`s really weird that the president hasn`t released his financial information.
JIMMY FALLON, TV HOST/COMEDIAN: It`s odd.
MADDOW: It`s really odd. And there`s reasons to worry about it, like we`ve had that from every president since Nixon. Why is this the one who won`t release it, especially because of the increasing worries day by day, further increasing worries about his contacts with foreign countries like Russia. I think people are really concerned to see what`s in those tax returns.
And so, when we found out we had one, it was like speaking to a group of people dying of thirst in the desert. And we were like, behold, we have found a drop, a drop! We have a drop.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: This is my way of letting you know that I will be on "The Tonight Show" tonight with Jimmy Fallon on NBC. Comes on at 11:35 p.m. That`s later tonight.
But we`ve got one last story tonight for you on this show. It is a spooky one, and that`s straight ahead.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: General Mike Flynn was fired February 13th after only 24 days on the job as national security adviser. The timing of that firing still doesn`t make sense in terms of how the White House has explained it. The administration said Flynn was fired because he lied to Mike Pence about the content of his calls to the Russian ambassador during the transition.
But for some still unexplained reason, the White House waited for three weeks to fire him after the Justice Department notified them about him lying. That gap, that almost three-week gap remains unexplained.
There are also questions about Mike Flynn`s retroactive declaration last week that he was acting as a foreign agent for the Turkish government during the campaign and transition. And the multiple confirmed reports now that the campaign was notified multiple times about Flynn working for the Turkish government. So, there are also big unanswered questions about why they named Mike Flynn national security adviser even though they knew he was a foreign agent.
There`s also very uncomfortable questions about Vice President Pence who was head of the transition when they were notified by Mike Flynn`s lawyers more than once that Flynn was working as a foreign agent. Mike Pence now says he had no idea about any of that, never heard of it, which really makes no sense. It`s an utterly implausible assertion from the vice president.
But there is one other big lingering unexplained question about Flynn, where it`s starting to feel like we might actually get an answer. And that`s the thing he got fired for. For all the drama around why he was there in the first place and when they fired him and all the rest of it, the reason he was fired was because of him misrepresenting the content of his communications with the Russian ambassador. And the reason we know that is because we were told there were surveillance of his contacts with the Russian ambassador.
Surveilling a Russian official, any foreign official isn`t weird or even -- it`s not unusual. U.S. intelligence agencies do that all the time. But it`s definitely strange for an American to be wiretapped by U.S. law enforcement or intelligence agencies, unless there was some court-approved reason for doing that. And that lurks behind all the other drama surrounding Flynn. It may also, honestly, be the non-crazy thing lurking behind the president`s repeated assertions that Barack Obama was tapping his microwave or whatever.
Whatever you think about the president`s tweets on this subject and the weird statements about it from the White House, there is a legitimate question about what open investigations there are, whether Mike Flynn, either as top adviser to the president or national security adviser in the White House, there is an interesting question as to whether he was the target of a criminal investigation or a counterintelligence investigation. That`s a really big deal.
We might be about to get an answer on that. Today, the leaders of the House Intelligence Committee, the Republican Chairman Devin Nunes and Democratic ranking member, Adam Schiff, the two of them sent a letter to the FBI, the NSA, and the CIA saying they want any answers those agencies can provide on that subject.
Why was Mike Flynn on that wiretap? Why was anybody else associated with the Clinton campaign or the Trump campaign on a wiretap if they were? Who were those people on wiretaps?
Who was caught? Why were they kept? Why were those recordings, why were those transcripts of those calls not minimized, not taken out? Because that should have been only a foreign warrant?
We`ve got those questions now posed by the chairman and the ranking member of the intelligence committee. They`ve told those agencies they want the answers right away. They want the answers by the day after tomorrow, Friday.
Intelligence Committee will also, of course, hear testimony from FBI Director James Comey and NSA Director Mike Rogers at a public hearing on Monday. No word on whether they will get these answers they`re looking for, but at least somebody is asking in an official way and in a bipartisan way, which we`re not used to seeing.
I still don`t understand the baseline truth that undergirds this whole mystery, but we`re starting to get at least more clarity about the right questions to ask. Maybe soon we`ll start to get answers.
That does it for us tonight. We`ll see you again tomorrow.
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL".
Good evening, Lawrence.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END
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