The Rachel Maddow Show, transcript 3/24/2017

Guests: Chuck Schumer

Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW Date: March 24, 2017 Guest: Chuck Schumer CHRIS HAYES, "ALL IN" HOST: That does it for us.  That is "ALL IN" for this evening. 

THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now. 

Good evening, Rachel.

MADDOW:  Good evening, Chris.  Thank you, my friend. 

And thank you at home for joining us at this hour.  Happy Friday. 

If you are one of the millions of Americans who called your member of Congress or went to a demonstration, or wrote a postcard, or wrote a letter to the editor, or made a sign or went to a vigil, or screamed your guts out at a town hall to try to save the Affordable Care Act, for you, this is a very happy Friday indeed.  Twenty-four million Americans are not going to lose their health insurance because the Republican plan to get rid of Obamacare failed today in a quite ignominious way. 

Tonight, we`ve got the senior most Democrat in Washington, the top Senate Democrat, Chuck Schumer, here with us this evening to talk about what really is just an epic collapse by the Republicans and the Trump administration on what was supposed to be their easy layup, right?  Their big first priority, the thing they knew they definitely could do if they couldn`t do anything else, they knew they could kill Obamacare and do it fast. 

Well, they`re not killing Obamacare.  Their efforts to do so died at 3:31 p.m. Eastern today when the president called Robert Costa at the "Washington Post" of all people and said, "Hello, Bob", and told him with no further preamble that he had pulled the kill Obamacare bill. 

The Democrats are definitely taking a victory lap tonight.  There have been many, many jokes, perhaps too many jokes about "The Art of the Deal".  But the big question after a big win is how you capitalize on it and what you do next. 

And this really was an epic political event.  I mean, it made headlines not just here, it made headlines around the world.  Other governments commented on this.  Other country`s newspapers are leading with this. 

But when you think about it in terms of what happens next, I think it`s actually important not just to think about what happened today but consider what else is going on for these guys right now as this central thing collapsed for them.  I mean, it`s not like things were going great for them anyway and then they had this one thing go wrong.  Things are really -- this has happened, the collapse of their central policy idea, their central legislative idea, the one thing that all Republicans agreed they could do, the collapse of that doesn`t just happen in the abstract.  It would be bad enough if it happened in the abstract.  It would be bad enough if everything was going awesome for them and that one central thing went bad, but actually what happened is that one central thing has gone bad while things are otherwise in freefall for them. 

I mean, think about this week.  This week started with the FBI confirmed in an opening hearing of the House Intelligence Committee that there is an open counterintelligence investigation under way into this White House.  It`s been open since last July.  They`re investigating the Russian attack on our elections last year and the possibility that the president`s campaign knowingly colluded in that foreign attack. 

The FBI director describing it as a counterintelligence investigation, one that will become a criminal investigation if the evidence leads in that direction.  That`s how the week started and things have gone downhill since then. 

You might remember this past weekend, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee said the only evidence he had seen of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian attack on our election, he said the only collusion evidence he`d seen could be described as circumstantial evidence.  That was his perception as of Sunday morning.  Well, that perception changed this week.  As of the middle of this week, Adam Schiff was no longer describing the evidence that way, saying instead that the evidence is now more than circumstantial.  More than circumstantial evidence now, that there was collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia in their attack on the United States. 

Shortly thereafter, CNN reported the ongoing FBI investigation into the Russian attack into potential Trump collusion with that attack, CNN reports that that FBI investigation is increasingly focused on the evidence that investigators have uncovered about collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians. 

And so, it`s been a bad week even before today and this whole thing was poised to only get worse for the administration.  The first open hearing of the House Intelligence Committee where the FBI announced the investigation, that was this past Monday.  The next open hearing of the same committee was scheduled for Tuesday morning of next week. 

Today, without warning and apparently without consulting anybody else on his committee, the Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, himself a Trump campaign official and a Trump transition official, today he abruptly canceled the next public meeting of the House Intelligence Committee and their investigation into Trump and Russia.  This is the hearing -- this Tuesday hearing he just canceled today.  This is the one where former CIA Director John Brennan is due to testify, former National Intelligence Director James Clapper and, importantly, the former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates.  All three of them were confirmed and due to testify in an open session on Tuesday morning talking about what they know. 

Remember, Sally Yates is the one who reportedly brought to the White House evidence that the national security adviser was in contact with the Russian government and was lying about it.  She has never discussed those reports publicly.  She has never said publicly what happened there.

And the timeline of how that went down is one of the biggest flashing red lights in the investigation into the White House and its Russian government ties, because the White House has settled on this narrative about Michael Flynn that doesn`t make any sense.  They say they fired him because of those Russian government conversations once they realized he had lied about them.  That explanation makes no sense and needs a little probing because as far as we know from open source reporting, Sally Yates actually brought the White House the evidence that Michael Flynn was lying about that stuff nearly three weeks before they acted on it. 

Why did they wait for three weeks?  What was going on in those three weeks? 

Again, Sally Yates was due to speak publicly about this matter for the first time ever on Tuesday morning.  Republican chairman of that committee acting alone cancelled that meeting.  Cancelled that hearing or rescheduled it for half past never.  There`s no new date. 

I mean, I know there is a lot going on but this is a remarkable thing, right?  Whatever Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee saw this week that made him conclude that there is now more than circumstantial evidence that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia in its attack on the United States, whatever he saw that made him say that, you know what?  As the ranking member on the intelligence committee, anything he has access to, Devin Nunes, the chairman has access to as well. 

So, whatever it is that made Adam Schiff start talking about this investigation in a different way, Devin Nunes has access to this information, too, then he cancels the next hearing and sets no new date for it, and does so alone unilaterally without even telling anybody else on his own committee. 

And now, look at what`s happening at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue.  Andrea Mitchell reporting today here on MSNBC that White House officials, people currently serving in the White House, and people who were part of the Trump transition are now reportedly purging their own electronic devices, purging their phones because they are expecting to be subpoenaed. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANDREA MITCHELL, MSNBC HOST:  Let me ask you very quickly something I`ve learned from a single source, you`re a lawyer. 

REP. DAN DONOVAN (R), NEW YORK:  Yes. 

MITCHELL:  I`m told there are a lot of former transition team members in and outside of the White House purging their private phones, afraid that they`re going to get subpoenaed by these various investigators.  What is their legal risk of purging their phone of any transition comments? 

DONOVAN:  You know, I`m not sure.  If you`ve been subpoenaed to preserve those messages then you`d be violating the law so I`m not privy to --

MITCHELL:  What if you`ve gotten a letter from the White House counsel or someone else telling to preserve? 

DONOVAN:  That told you to preserve?  Then there might be legal ramifications. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOWE:  Andrea Mitchell reporting today on MSNBC with careful sourcing.  She`s citing one source saying that White House officials are now purging their phones in anticipation they are going to be subpoenaed.  They would, of course, be in legal jeopardy if they are doing that after they have been advised they need to preserve any communications.  In fact, on March 1st, the "Associated Press" reported that the White House counsel notified White House staffers that they must preserve electronic communications pursuant to any investigation. 

So, if they`ve been told to preserve and they`re purging this stuff, all of them who are doing that, all of you who are doing that, if you`re watching me, you are potentially in legal jeopardy for doing that.  That`s in the White House. 

And if you have any doubts about the scope of the investigation, whether it`s the one in Congress or the one being carried out by the FBI or the ones being carried out honestly by the fourth estate, as every investigative reporter in the country starts pulling on this forest of loose threads that is hanging off the White House denials and this story you need look no further today than the tiny island nation of Cyprus.  Cyprus is a notorious banking hub for criminal Russian money laundering. 

NBC News chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel was reporting from Cyprus today on the financial trails of the Russian government and the Russian oligarchs and the question of whether any of those trails lead to the president or his campaign.  The A.P. is now reporting that there is a serious American financial crime investigation that has followed to Cyprus the financial trail of Trump`s Russia-linked campaign chairman Paul Manafort. 

And I actually have a few things we can report on that front tonight which have either been swamped in today`s news or otherwise not previously reported.  It`s fascinating stuff.  It`s all bad news for the administration. 

A few points here.  First, we can report tonight that the attorney general of Cyprus says that that country`s government has now handed over to U.S. investigators information about Paul Manafort`s financial transactions in Cyprus.  Again, Cyprus best known in the financial world as the largest international hub for laundering dirty Russian money.  That government is cooperating with U.S. investigators and handed over documentation of Paul Manafort`s financial transactions in that company.  That`s one. 

Two, we can also report tonight that New Jersey Senator Cory Booker, who has taken a particular interest in the money laundering part of this investigation and this conundrum, New Jersey Senator Cory Booker has demanded an explanation from the newly confirmed Trump administration commerce secretary, Wilbur Ross, about his role in the notoriously corrupt Bank of Cyprus, where he`s a major shareholder and, until recently, was vice chairman.  Senator Booker gave Wilbur Ross, the commerce secretary, until today to explain his connections through that bank or otherwise to another major Bank of Cyprus shareholder who also happens to be the Russian oligarch who did this otherwise inexplicable real estate transaction with Donald Trump in Palm Beach a few years ago which netted President Trump over $50 million in profit. 

The deadline for Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to respond to the senator`s inquiry about that was today.  We can further report tonight that the commerce secretary has given no response to that letter. 

We can also report -- and this is definitely new, this has not been reported elsewhere and this is potentially a big deal -- we can report exclusively tonight that there is more turmoil beneath the surface when it comes to another criminal investigation of another bank that has been implicated in multibillion dollar Russian money laundering.  A bank that happens to be the single largest lender of any kind to Donald Trump himself. 

Of course, we haven`t seen much of his tax return but from the president`s own financial disclosures, it appears that he owes more than $300 million to a bank called Deutsche Bank.  Deutsche Bank appears to be his single largest lender.  The Justice Department is currently prosecuting Deutsche Bank over currency trading practices and their role in the mortgage crisis and the financial collapse in this country, and also Russian money laundering. 

We can now report that Senator Chris Van Hollen of Maryland is writing to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, urging the attorney general that he needs to recuse himself from m overseeing that at the Department of Justice.  If there`s going to be settlement negotiations with Deutsche Bank over the issue of Russian money laundering, Senator Sessions should recuse.  That case is being made by Maryland Senator Chris Van Hollen. 

He`s also demanding to know from the attorney general, demanding to know from Jeff Sessions and the Justice Department, quote, "Were any investigations of Deutsche Bank a factor when president Trump decided to fire former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara after initially telling him he could continue in his position during this administration?"

All of those cases against Deutsche Bank, all of those cases against the major lender to Donald Trump, including the Russian money laundering one, they are being run out of the U.S. attorney`s office for the southern district of New York.  Now that they fired Preet Bharara as the head of the office, the lack of a U.S. attorney there means that technically, Attorney General Jeff Sessions is in charge of all those investigations now. 

Can he do that fairly? 

This letter from Senator Van Hollen represents the first shot across the bow from Democrats telling the attorney general, basically, don`t interfere.  Literally get yourself out of the way of these independent criminal investigations which may conceivably touch not just the Russian money laundering side of this, but conceivably the president`s finances as well since he is so personally tied up in that bank to the tune of a hundred million dollars.  OK?

And into the middle of that omelet today, "The Wall Street Journal" cracked this new egg today.  This is absolutely bonkers.  That`s a technical term, sorry. 

Former CIA Director Jim Woolsey, he`s a neoconservative hawkish intelligence guy.  He emerged as a real hawk not just over things like the Iraq war but over lots of different international conflicts.  He served under four different presidents including CIA director under President Clinton.  He was a senior adviser to the Trump campaign, both during the campaign and into the transition. 

There was -- you might remember, a weird flurry of speculation and concern when former CIA Director Jim Woolsey suddenly quit the Trump transition effort effective immediately in the first week in January, nobody knew why. 

Well, now, today, he has told the "Wall Street Journal" a truly bizarre story about Mr. Loose End himself, former National Security Adviser Mike Flynn.  Jim Woolsey now tells the "Wall Street Journal" that one week after he joined the Trump campaign on September 19th of last year, he was invited to a meeting at a New York hotel called the Essex House. 

When he got to Essex House, he was greeted for that meeting by Michael Flynn, also by the foreign minister of Turkey and also by the son-in-law of the Turkish dictator who also happens to be that country`s energy minister.  That`s how these things tend to go in countries like that, Ivanka. 

Sorry.  But Jim Woolsey, former CIA director, now says, now tells the "Wall Street Journal" today that what that meeting was about, what was discussed at that meeting in September was a plan to basically kidnap a guy.  There is an exiled Turkish cleric who has a green card to live in the United States, he`s a legal permanent resident of the country, he lives in Pennsylvania in the Poconos, the Turkish government is fixated on him and blames him for the coup they had to deal with, blames him for all unrest and bad things in that country.  They have been desperate to have the United States extradite him back to Turkey so they can draw and quarter him -- I mean, put him on trial for his alleged treason in Turkey. 

What we now know because Michael Flynn retroactively registered as an agent for a foreign power, we know while he was the senior adviser on national security matters to the Trump campaign and during the Trump transition, we now know that Michael Flynn was being paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to work for the Turkish government at that time.

And according to former CIA Director Jim Woolsey who says he was in the room for it, one of the things Michael Flynn was doing for that contract, for that money, was convening this meeting in New York in September where they talked about basically pulling off a kidnapping to get around these pesky U.S. extradition laws and subvert the U.S. government and spirit this guy off to Turkey in the dead of night. 

Quote, from the "Wall Street Journal."  Quote, "Mr. Woolsey said the idea was a covert step in the dead of night to whisk this guy away." 

You know, it was weird and abrupt and unexplained when Jim Woolsey quit the Trump transition in January.  He implies to "The Wall Street Journal" in this story today that he is telling the story about Michael Flynn now because he was very disturbed by this meeting at the time when he went to it back in September. 

But if he was disturbed by it on September 19, why did he stay on the Trump campaign and then on the Trump transition until January?  And what has changed in his thinking about Michael Flynn and what might come to be known about this period in American politics that has suddenly made him decide to come forward now and declare himself to have not been part of that kidnapping discussion at all. 

We asked Director Woolsey to please come on this show tonight to discuss with us what happened there exactly, whether it was Mike Flynn`s kidnapping plan that was being discussed or the Turkish government`s kidnapping plan and Mike Flynn was helping them work out the details or maybe even trying to talk them out of it.  I would love to also love to hear what led to Director Woolsey`s change of heart that this is a matter that should now be put out in the open after he sat on it for sixth months and said nothing before today. 

There is a counterintelligence investigation at the FBI.  There are congressional investigations that have already led to bombshell revelations despite the White House, those investigations having White House friendly leadership, there`s an obvious effort by the chairman of one of those investigations to throw it off the rails, or at least stop that investigation from doing anything that can be seen in public anymore.

There is, we now know, a far-reaching international financial investigation that has resulted already in the transmittal of financial records by Trump campaign senior officials.  They have transmitted those records from known Russian money laundering hubs to investigators in the United States.  There are other far-reaching criminal financial investigations that touch on both Russian money laundering and the president`s leading lender and in those cases those investigations are already in the hands of U.S. attorneys.  They are already that far along. 

And the White House is pretending they`ve never heard of the president`s former campaign chairman whose financial transactions have just been sent to U.S. investigators from Cyprus.  The president`s former campaign chairman is volunteering to testify.  No one has seen hide nor hair of Michael Flynn.  Nobody knows whether he will testify or where. 

We`ve got direct evidence, actually, and weird evidence we`re going to get to that the White House might be trying to blame the whole thing on Mike Flynn.  That might be convenient for the White House.  I doubt Mike Flynn would think it`s convenient for him.  That creates a very interesting dynamic about his potential role as a witness. 

This is like "The Hunger Games" part of the Trump administration and we`re less than 70 days in.  Hasn`t even been ten weeks.  We`ve already got senior people being held out as sacrifices and other people clearly moving to protect themselves. 

If Andrea`s reporting is correct about White House officials purging their White House devices because they`re expecting subpoenas, A, those people may be in legal jeopardy but, B, let`s suffice to say this is not the best of times for the administration.  This is -- this is not what a honeymoon looks like.  This is a dire period of scandal that you would put up against any modern presidency at any time in any scandal. 

And yet there has been this effort in Washington all along this week to kind of carry on as if this is normal and this is a more to wall week.  Yes, we`re considering our Supreme Court nominee why not?  We`re moving forward on our campaign promise to take health insurance away from 24 million Americans.  Why not?  Our big health care plan that is approved of by 17 percent of the American people and if you ask them who strongly approves of the plan, the number drops to 6 percent. 

Before the administration started, the day after Election Day, there was no question the Republicans would be able to kill Obamacare.  They`d be able to repeal the Affordable Care Act, that was the low-hanging fruit, that was the obvious thing they could do with only Republican votes.  Yes, sure, they only have a two-seat majority in the Senate but they`ve got a 44-seat majority in the House. 

Some other things might be hard for them but repealing Obamacare, no problemo.  That`s how it looked before these guys actually got in there.  But then these guys actually got in there. 

And it turns out they are operating from a position that is not just profoundly weak and unpopular, it`s a catastrophe.  And they blew it and completely belly flopped and humiliated themselves on their biggest legislative priority, which they`ve been prepping for and bragging about and promising for seven straight years.  What is even more amazing than that is that that is the least of their problems.

Senator Chuck Schumer, top Democrat in the Senate, is here to give us his reaction to this, to tell us what to expect next from the Democrats. 

Stay with us. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  You know, a normal news day, it would be big news, it would be really big news if a former CIA director told "The Wall Street Journal" that he went to a meeting with the president`s national security adviser where the topic of discussion was kidnapping a guy in the Poconos and then illegally spiriting him out of the country to evade U.S. extradition laws. 

On a normal news day, "The Wall Street Journal" could expect to dominate the news cycle with a story that lurid, with the former CIA director`s out of the blue bizarre accusation about the president`s fired national security adviser.  Normal day, that would be all we are talking about. 

But you know what?  Today is not a normal day.  Today was the day we learned that 24 million Americans will not get thrown off their health care, because the fight to save the Affordable Care Act succeeded.  The Republicans conceded defeat this afternoon.  Their bill never made it out of the House where they`ve got a 40-seat majority.  The Republicans in the White House pulled the bill. 

It is a huge win for the people who fought to save the ACA.  It is an absolutely crushing and embarrassing defeat for this new administration that just cannot seem to pick itself off the ground. 

Now what?  If you are against what this president has been trying to do, how do you make the most of this moment?  How do you make sense of what just happened and how to decide what to do next? 

Joining us now for "The Interview" tonight is Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.  He`s the senior senator from New York. 

Senator, it`s nice to have you here.  Thank you. 

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MINORITY LEADER:  Good evening, Rachel. 

MADDOW:  Is this a happy day for you?  Is that how you describe it?

SCHUMER:  No, it`s not happy but I, like many Americans, breathe a sigh of relief because the Affordable Care Act did so many good things and Trumpcare was going to do so many bad things so the fact that it`s at least temporarily gone -- let`s hope permanently.  We don`t know with these folks -- is a very good thing. 

But not a happy day.  It`s a good day.

MADDOW:  The president today said he blames Democrats. 

SCHUMER:  Yes, Nancy and me. 

MADDOW:  Nancy and you, which you`re always there for him for that purpose.  There were no Democratic votes that we know of in either chamber for the Trumpcare bill, as you called it.  And the Republicans, had they been able to hold their own numbers together, should have been able to catch it without any Democrats.

Did they even try to get Democrats on this? 

SCHUMER:  No, they never talk to us once.  Look, on day one, the president said, "I`m going to introduce repeal."  Now, we Democrats have been against repeal from the get-go.  They never talk to us once. 

And this president, wherever he runs into trouble, he points fingers.  He`s got to learn to lead.  Look and see what he did wrong and try to improve himself.  But that`s not his way.  He points fingers of blame on something that was absurd. 

And, you know, look, if they are willing to say repeal is off the table, we`ve said all along, we`ll sit down and try to, we think the ACA is a good bill, we could make it better, we have some ideas of how the make it better, maybe they do, too.  But they`ve got to take repeal off the table and I think now they`ve seen, learned the hard way, how bad repeal is.

But it`s a -- two other things, one other thing, Rachel.  This seems to be indicative -- it`s a metaphor for the administration how they behaved on this. 

A, incompetence.  Totally incompetent.  I can`t believe they introduced this bill and had so many of their own Congress members against it from the get-go.  You don`t do that on a major bill.

If I have a major proposal to introduce, I talk to my Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.  I talk to my Joe Manchin and Mark Warner and say, "What do you think?"

Then, they try the old technique, "Well, we`ll threaten them, we`ll run people against you."  That`s what President Trump said.  And then he tried his other technique, "We`ll walk it away and leave it on your shoulders."  None of it worked.  "The Art of the Deal" is out the window, or at least it doesn`t work in Washington. 

But their second problem is even worse.  Trump campaigned as a populist against the Democratic and Republican establishments.  Everything he has done has been hard right. 

So, this bill -- what was the number one motivation for this bill?  To reduce taxes on the wealthiest people by a huge amount.  The average tax break for the top 1 percent of there, .1 percent, would be over $200,000.  And that break would force people to pay more, senior citizens to have huge increases, opioid treatment gone, Medicaid cut. 

If they keep doing that, they`re going to fail because the country is not hard right.  Trump didn`t win as a hard right person but Pence and all the others have pushed them a hard right direction.  If you look at the budget they introduced, even Republicans said it`s dead on arrival.  If they do tax reform and tax reform means tax cuts just for the rich or almost predominantly for the rich, they`re going to fail again and again.

And the problem here, I think the president doesn`t act like a president.  A good president would say I made a mistake, everyone does, I`m going to do better.  Instead, he blames people who had nothing to do with it, us. 

(LAUGHTER)

MADDOW:  You are the minority leader, obviously.  Democrats widely outnumbered in the House.  You`re down by two seats in the Senate.  Democrats do not hold the White House.  Nevertheless, it feels like you are operating from a position of strength on a day like this. 

SCHUMER:  If you -- exactly.  If you would have told me on January 3rd, the day I was sworn in as minority leader that on issue after issue Democrats would be on offense and united and Republicans would be on defense and divided I`d say forget about it.  That`s exactly what`s happened. 

MADDOW:  What do you -- what do you learn?  A, do you get stronger when you win fights like this and what do you take away from this in terms of what`s the next best fight, what`s the way to fight and how do you factor into that, this incredible outside the Democratic Party pressure movement that has sprung up around the country in all 50 states.  That`s been such an impressive thing to watch. 

SCHUMER:  It`s a great thing.  I cut my eyeteeth in the Vietnam War protest movement.  You know, I just happened to bump into it, I was cut from a basketball team, a guy knocks on my door and says, "How would you like to join the young Democrats, we`re working in New Hampshire, against the Vietnam War."  I was against the Vietnam War. 

The energy was tremendous.  The energy -- I`ve never seen so much energy on the streets as in the Vietnam War protests until now.  We toppled the most powerful man in the world. 

So, this energy among the public is huge.  On the ACA, a month ago, no one had heard of Trumpcare.  Now, 57 percent of Americans think it`s a terrible idea and a very small number as you showed on your chart think it`s a good idea. 

MADDOW:  Six percent strongly support it. 

SCHUMER:  We helped -- we tried to help spread that, but let me tell you, without a grassroots organization and without all these organizations that usually are not mobilized and usually are pretty stayed, the AARP for elderly, the AMA for doctors, out there.  This wouldn`t have happened, and this is going to happen again and again and again and again. 

Why?  Because the Trump administration is so far to the right that the American people won`t swallow it. 

MADDOW:  Senator Chuck Schumer is the leader of the Democrats in the Senate. 

Senator, I have a couple other things I want to ask you about, including leading this filibuster on the Supreme Court.  I also want to talk to you about some of what`s going on with the Trump and Russia investigation.  Can you stick with us? 

SCHUMER:  I sure can. 

MADDOW:  All right.  We`ll be back with Senator Schumer right after this.  Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCHUMER:  You can bet if the shoe were on the other foot and a Democratic president was under investigation by the FBI, the Republicans would be howling at the moon about filling a Supreme Court seat in such circumstances. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Back with us now is Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.  It has been remarkable, Senator Schumer, from my perspective, to see this incredible ornate and still unfolding scandal around the Trump/Russia stuff and the FBI investigation and then to see some of the stuff that`s sort of trying to be politics as usual, moving the health care bill, moving the Supreme Court nominee. 

Are you making the argument essentially that nothing should happen?  That the president shouldn`t do anything -- particularly anything big as long as this FBI investigation is under way. 

SCHUMER:  No, I think that`s not the case but with the Supreme Court justice who has a lifetime appointment and has such profound influence on all of our lives, yes.  Plus the fact, that whose seat is this?  Mitch McConnell, he was held -- I mean, sorry, Mitch McConnell did it but it`s the seat that Merrick Garland was nominated for.  Mitch McConnell held it up for a year. 

Well, if they can hold that seat up for a year just to elect a new president under a president who had no investigations, they should delay it for a while.  I`m not saying forever.  I`m not saying an amount of time but let`s see where these investigations lead because to have a president under investigation appoint a lifetime appointment, that`s wrong. 

MADDOW:  It seems to me like if you sort of worst case scenario that situation, let`s say that Judge Gorsuch was confirmed subsequently President Trump had the worst possible outcome of that investigation, he was said to have colluded with Russia, he`s impeached or thrown out of office because of having been an agent of a foreign power, for the length of time that Judge Gorsuch is on the court for the rest of his natural life, that affects everything he does as a justice. 

SCHUMER:  That`s exactly the point.  If this were a five-year appointment or two-year appointment, I would haven`t said that. 

MADDOW:  On the filibuster plan, how do you think that`s going to work?  Do you think you`ll be able to slow down or stop the nomination?

SCHUMER:  Yes, Gorsuch didn`t -- you know, despite the pundits who fell for all this nice, erudite, humorous, homesy, folksy stuff, he did not impress our colleagues.  His refusal to answer questions, I mean, if you can`t answer a question, is a Muslim ban -- a simple legislation that no Muslim can enter the United States, if you can`t answer whether that`s unconstitutional or not, you`re hiding something. 

I`ll give you a second point that has mattered to my colleagues.  If he`s so down the middle and neutral, why did the Federalist Society push so hard for him?  They`ve tried to move the courts to the right.  Why is dark money, $10 million of money, coming in?  They`re not coming in to get a neutral, down-the-middle justice.

And so, there`s a strong suspicion on my side that the reason he`s not answering these questions is his views are so far over that if he did he might not get approved.

MADDOW:  Do you think that you will be -- with this tactic, as I understand unusual tactic -- do you think you`ll be able to slow it down or stop it? 

SCHUMER:  Well, I think that a large -- 

MADDOW:  Obviously, you want to.  But can you? 

SCHUMER:  -- a large number of my colleagues are very -- you know, are really concerned about the points I mentioned and it will be hard for him to get 60 votes. 

MADDOW:  Let me ask you -- 

SCHUMER:  Which, by the way, this idea among the hard-right pundits, oh, this is terrible.  Kagan got 60 votes, Sotomayor got 60 votes, Roberts got 60 votes and Alito on a filibuster motion got 60 votes.  Everyone cast and should and they get 60 votes. 

MADDOW:  On the -- 

SCHUMER:  And by the way, so my other point which I will make to my colleagues and have made, and if a judge can`t get 60 votes, a nominee, you don`t change the rules, you change the judge.  Change the nominee. 

MADDOW:  Let me ask you one last question about the Trump-Russia situation.  Obviously, we`re all wondering where these investigations are going to go.  There`s investigations at the FBI, we have been told this week that there are investigations through the criminal division of the Treasury Department, in terms of the financial side of this. 

We also know there are congressional investigations, the intelligence committee in the House and Senate.  As the security agencies and intelligence agencies brief those investigators on what`s going on with the question of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, do you get the same briefings that the intelligence committee gets on those things because you`re the leader?

  SCHUMER:  I am now part of the so-called "Gang of Eight". 

MADDOW:  OK.

SCHUMER:  I get more classified information.  So, I know more, but it means I can say less. 

MADDOW:  I understand.  You will not characterize that information.

Is it your expectation that both the Senate and the House will continue with these investigations?  There`s so much controversy in the House.

SCHUMER:  Well, in the Senate, Mark Warner has done a very good job.  I think Richard Burr for a while was out of line when he called the newspapers on behalf of the Trump administration, but in recent weeks, he`s been OK.  Nunes is way out of line and seems to be much more of an advocate for the administration and this troubles me. 

We have had a bipartisan tradition on the intelligence committees, more than any other committees.  You know, where you leave your politics at the door, when you enter that briefing room where no penetration, we call it a skiff.  You know, no one can listen in, and I think Nunes is ruining that.

And I hope -- I`ve said this, I hope Speaker Ryan may appoint somebody else.  He`s so jaundiced his impartiality, he`d have to do a lot to recover given how he`s behaved.  Schiff is a great guy and I have a lot of faith in him.  So, maybe Nunes has learned from this incident where he was just lambasted, correctly, where he had to apologize to the committee.  But if he doesn`t, if we see one more little scintilla, this guy should be out. 

MADDOW:  And Ryan could make that decision alone.  It`s his decision alone.

SCHUMER:  Alone, correct, and, you know, I would urge him to think about that really seriously. 

MADDOW:  New York senior senator, the leader of the Democrats in the Senate, Senator Chuck Schumer -- thank you on a Friday night.  Good to have you here, sir.

SCHUMER:  Great to be here, Rachel. 

MADDOW:  Thank you.

SCHUMER:  Thank you, thank you. 

MADDOW:  All right.  It`s a big night, it`s been a big day, but it`s still a big night ahead. 

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  Controversial statement coming, ready? 

OK.  The "National Enquirer" is not a great source of news.  But it`s important for understanding the news about our country right now to know that our president thinks the "National Enquirer" is awesome. 

Remember Ted Cruz`s dad hangs out with the assassin of JFK, right? 

The president reads the "National Enquirer," he is a booster of the "National Enquirer", he is friends with the publisher of the "National Enquirer."  And so, even though it`s the freaking "National Enquirer," it`s also a little of a Rosetta stone now for decoding where this White House is going next. 

Believe it or not, I swear it`s true.  And that is why it actually matters that this is the new cover the "National Enquirer" right now.  "World exclusive: Trump catches Russia`s White House spy."  Turns out, according to the "National Enquirer," that the White House spy is -- Mike Flynn, former national security adviser to President Trump. 

Read all about it, quote, "Trump catches Kremlin`s White House mole Michael Flynn."  Quote, "Still unfolding details continue to worm their way into the public eye about Trump`s own White House turncoat, now ousted national security adviser and retired general, Michael Flynn.  Flynn was booted from Trump`s cabinet after intercepted phone calls exposed how he had colluded with Russian officials."  Oh, he`s the colluder. 

Quote, "An administration source who spoke to the Enquirer on the condition of anonymity says Flynn was in essence the Russian spy in Trump`s midst.  Trump was lucky to root him out when he did."

And then look at this.  This is great.  "The unfolding Russian spy drama will overshadow the House of Representatives intelligence committee investigating alleged ties between Trump`s campaign and Putin, sources said."  Sources said. 

That intelligence committee investigation into Trump and Russia, that is definitely overshadowed, that`s totally boring now, not important any more.  Pay no attention.  Not since Trump rooted out the Kremlin spy in the White House, Mike Flynn, he sure found him out. 

That is the "National Enquirer`s" line right now and, honestly, it`s consistently been a window into where this White House is at, believe it or not.  The "National Enquirer" has been propping up this presidency since the early days of the campaigning, on the supermarket wracks of America and now they have decided that the investigation can be ended because Trump caught the spy and it was Mike Flynn. 

If you want to know what throwing somebody under the bus looks like, before it`s news, it`s right here.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  Hey, I want to give you a heads up about MSNBC tonight.  I know it`s Friday.  And that sometimes means we don`t have live shows late into the night.  But there`s so much going on tonight and in this big day in the news that nobody is going anywhere. 

Lawrence O`Donnell is going to be here live after me tonight at 10:00 p.m. Eastern. 

Then, at 11:00 p.m. Eastern, Brian Williams is going to be here with a special edition of "THE 11TH HOUR".  And you should definitely plan to watch that because Brian is going to have "Washington Post" reporter Robert Costa. 

Bob was the first reporter in the country to get the news the Republicans pulled their bill and failed to repeal Obamacare today.  And the reason he got that news and got it first, got that national scoop on that is because the president of the United States called Bob up, out of the blue, on his cell phone and told him the news directly.  That was weird. 

But Bob Costa is here tonight with Brian at 11:00 to tell that story.  We are up all night, no sleeping. 

More ahead.  Stay with us.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  This is the local Starbucks in Morristown, New Jersey.  This is the Morristown office of Republican Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen.  He`s been in office for over 20 years. 

Morristown, New Jersey, is a pretty reliably red district -- at least it sits in one.  But just about every week since mid-January, a group of Congressman Frelinghuysen`s constituents have met up at that Starbucks and then they marched as a group over to his office around the corner.  They have been getting him to vote to save the Affordable Care Act. 

In early January, a few of his constituents started a Facebook group called New Jersey 11th for Change.  They wanted the congressman to hold a town hall on the ACA.  When they got no answer on the phone or by email, three of his constituents showed up to his office to inquire about one.  The following week, the day the congressman first voted to move forward toward repealing the ACA, about 30 more people showed up to his office.  This time, they brought baked goods for the staff. 

The following week, the number rose from 30 to 130.  The following week, even more people showed up, and then the following week, and then the following week until it was a thing.  Fridays with Frelinghuysen.  People bring signs and yell, where is Rodney, where is Rodney?

They left signed petitions requesting he hold a town hall.  They sent him valentines on Valentine`s Day.  They followed him to Philadelphia for the retreat, his constituents from New Jersey followed him to another state. 

They did not let up.  He became the subject of negative newspaper editorials in his district.  There were mock die-ins outside his local office even just this week. 

And we have seen this sort of thing in districts across the country, but New Jersey`s 11th congressional district is an interesting case here.  I mean, they started off as a very small, but motivated effort.  They turned into a pretty big, and ultimately kind of legitimate political movement. 

That group New Jersey 11th for Change, they have registered to become a super PAC now.  All this in the matter of weeks. 

The moment of truth came today when they would find out if the effort would pay off, all those petitions, all that pressure, all those protests, would it work?  And it did.  In those crucial hours before the House was scheduled to vote on the Republican bill to kill Obamacare, Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen put out a statement saying he would no longer support the bill. 

Quote, "Unfortunately, the legislation before the House today is currently unacceptable.  It would place significant new costs and barriers to care on my constituents in New Jersey."

So, today, New Jersey 11th for Change celebrated by doing what they do.  They came back to his office.  This time, to say thanks. 

They may have won this fight, but they do not appear to be shrinking away anytime soon.  We have been documenting on this show the organic protests that popped up around the country in an effort to save the Affordable Care Act and to resist other elements of the Trump and Republican agenda.  It has been fascinating to watch it unfold, right?

What everybody thought was an impossible battle to protect Obamacare when Republicans could get rid of it on their own terms.  And so, for a lot of people who fought this fight, there`s a lot to celebrate today.  But I`m telling you, there is nothing in activism that helps you win something like having won something and, boy, was this a big win for those folks to save the Affordable Care Act against all odds.  What are they going to win next? 

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

Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL".

Good evening, Lawrence.

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