Show: The Rachel Maddow Show Date: March 29, 2017 Guest: Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Adam Schiff
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Including the many flights I`ve been taking just about every single day. I`m looking forward to being back on Trevor`s show. If I`m in your area, if I`m going to be in Chicago and you could come by, it would be great if you could come by. I might see some of you in a little bit in Seattle.
All right. That is "ALL IN" for this evening.
THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts -- does not start right now apparently. So, I -- she is there. There you are.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: I am here, sorry. It was actually me and a member of our ground crew both here about to start the show together.
HAYES: Oh, OK. Perfect. Well, go to it, then.
MADDOW: Thank you very much, Chris. Thank you.
And thanks to everybody who works here who has such patient with me arriving at the set usually four seconds before this camera turns on. Tonight, arriving four seconds after the camera turned on. Very sorry about that.
Thanks to you at home for joining us for the next hour.
As you might imagine, as you might be able to tell from my composure right now, we have a big show tonight. We have here tonight live, the former secretary general of NATO. Very much looking forward to that interview and that discussion tonight.
We`ve also got Congressman Adam Schiff here tonight. Congressman Schiff is the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee. We`re going to be talking with him tonight, as it is increasingly becoming the common wisdom in Washington that his committee, House Intelligence Committee, and their investigation into Trump and Russia is over -- not that it`s over because it`s complete, but it`s over because it has blown up.
And, in fact, the whole and House -- whole House Intelligence Committee seems to have ceased to function entirely, even beyond just doing that investigation. They`re apparently no longer even meeting as a committee to do business other than the Trump-Russia investigation. They`ve apparently stopped altogether and it appears like the investigation itself is done now.
Now, I will tell you, Congressman Schiff disagrees with that assessment. He disagrees with that common wisdom. He is, as I mentioned, the top Democrat on that committee, so he`s in a position to know what they`re doing. But honestly, it is starting to feel like the Trump White House has effectively shut down that part of the investigation into what happened between them, between the Trump campaign and Russia last year, while Russia was mounting its attack on the United States.
Now, it`s obviously a big political risk, potentially even a big legal risk for the White House to sabotage or undermine an official congressional investigation into the White House, the fact that they were willing apparently to take that risk implies that they believe they really had something to fear from that investigation, you know, that it was worth getting caught in a cover-up potentially, it was worth potential obstruction of justice. It was worth that because they believe they really had to stop that probe from going forward.
I mean, it seems clear honestly that the administration would have nothing to fear from the chairman of that committee, who after all, was part of the Trump campaign and a Trump transition official himself. I don`t think they`re worried about Devin Nunes. So that means if the White House has played a role in shutting down or trying to shut down the House Intelligence Committee investigation of this matter -- well, then the reason they were so afraid of it the man they were so afraid of in that investigation wasn`t Devi Nunes, it was the other senior person running that investigation who didn`t work for them, who was not part of the Trump campaign, and that would be the top Democrat on that committee, Adam Schiff.
If the White House really did shut this thing down, if the common beltway wisdom is correct and the House Intelligence Committee investigation into Trump and Russia is over, it`s been blown up it is shut down if the White House had any role in achieving that outcome, it`s because they were afraid of what Adam Schiff was going to do and Adam Schiff is here tonight live.
So, it`s a big show tonight.
Meanwhile, today, was the start of the biggest rupture in Europe since the end of World War II. The British people voted narrowly last summer to leave the European Union. Today, Britain`s representative at the E.U. presented the formal paperwork that starts the process of the U.K. actually getting out of Europe, getting out of the European Union. The president of the European Union responded with a statement that ended with these four words, quote, "we already miss you."
It will take Britain two years to fully extract itself from Europe financially and legally. It will be an unprecedented process. Nobody knows how it will end up in the details.
But we know the bottom line results which is that the process will result in a smaller Europe. There`s also a question as to whether the process will result in a smaller U.K. And this is a big deal for us, right? This is this is our closest ally in the world, at least the closest ally in the world that doesn`t touch our own borders and the U.K. prying itself out of Europe will have the effect of breaking up Europe.
It really might also break up the United Kingdom as well. Scotland now says it will vote again on whether Scotland should be its own independent country. The Scottish independence referendum did not pass a couple of years ago, but this time, if Scotland gets to vote on it again they will be voting knowing that a yes vote to be their own independent country this time, this could be their one and only option for staying in Europe, while the rest of the U.K. leaves, which is something Scotland really wants. Scotland voters said overwhelmingly last summer in that referendum that they did not want to leave the European Union, even as the U.K. as a whole voted yes. That has put perhaps more pressure than there`s ever been before on this centripetal process of Scotland breaking away from the United Kingdom becoming its own country.
And then there`s Northern Ireland. As you know, the island of Ireland is divided in two. Most of the island is the independent nation of Ireland. That is happily staying part of the European Union. But the six counties in the northeastern part of that island, the part that make up Northern Ireland, those six counties are part of the U.K. And just like Scottish voters wanted to stay in the E.U., voters in Northern Ireland wanted to stay in the E.U. too, but they were outvoted by the rest of the U.K.
If Northern Ireland stays part of the U.K., they will be forced out of Europe against their will, forced out of the E.U. against their will. Incidentally, that will also require the border between Ireland and those six counties in the North, it will require that border to be fortified or built up to whatever extent is required by a border that will then be between the European Union and a non-European Union country. I`m sure the building up of that border is going to go over great in Northern Ireland. I`m sure that won`t be controversial at all.
So, what Britain did today in starting the process of prying themselves off from Europe and splitting up the European Union, that is also adding a whole new impetus, a whole new dynamic to the age-old bloody, bloody question of whether Northern Ireland should stay part of the U.K. or whether those six counties in the North should be part of a united island called Ireland. Troubles, anyone?
The two major multinational institutions that reshaped that whole part of the world after World War II, so we wouldn`t have another World War again as quickly as World War II had followed World War I, the two main multinational institutions that were created to and have succeeded in staving off World War III, thus far, the two big multinational organizations that have done the work of stopping World War III in that part of the world, the two big ones, are NATO and the European Union.
And all things considered, if you factor in military power and economic power and international influence, I think it`s fair to say that the U.K. is the strongest and most important cornerstone member of the European Union, and now, as of today, they are starting the process of getting out. It`s happening. And that alone is profoundly stabilizing in lots of ways to that part of the world, into the U.K. itself, who is probably our greatest ally on earth.
We are also about to have two hugely important elections in two of the other cornerstone countries of Europe. Both Germany and France are heading toward very, very important national elections which will not just determine the immediate short term future of politics in those countries, it will determine whether or not Europe splits apart entirely. The strongest anti-European candidate in France is Marine Le Pen. She`s the head of a French party called the Frente Nacional, the National Front, which was founded by her father in the early 1970s. Essentially, for decades, the Front Nacional has been basically the fascist party in France.
Jean-Marie Le Pen founded the party. He denies the Holocaust. He made a career of accusing all his political opponents of being secret Jews. He`s inveighed against Muslims being allowed to immigrate to France. That`s a position incidentally that his daughter shares as she campaigns to be president of France now.
Part of her campaigning to be president of France last week resulted in her taking a detour to the Kremlin. So, weird day, nobody quite knew where Marine Le Pen had gone for the day and then she suddenly turned up without warning in this meeting with Vladimir Putin. This one-on-one.
The Russian government is essentially openly supporting the far-right National Front candidacy of Marine Le Pen as she runs for president in France. Russian banks have made loans of millions of euros to the Frente Nacional during this campaign.
Today at their press conference on the Senate Intelligence Committee`s investigation into the Trump-Russia connection, Intelligence Committee chairman, Senator Richard Burr, said there was no doubt that Russia was trying to influence the outcome of the presidential elections in Germany and in France. He said there was no doubt that Russia after interfering in our election was now interfering in Germany and France.
And in the case of this proto-fascist candidate in France, you know, it is possible that the reason Russia likes her so much is because of her domestic politics, because her party is so right wing and forgive me, just frankly racist, I mean Vladimir Putin I don`t know how he thinks, but he might see that as a feature not a bug.
Next week in St. Petersburg, Russia is going to be hosting something called The International Russia Conservative Forum. They say they want to promote the establishment of a comment constant-acting Russian European conservative elite group uniting the political, industrial, economical and religious elites in Russia and Europe.
This is -- this is the second one of these international Russian conservative forums that Russia has hosted in the last few years. The first one was in 2015. It was sponsored by a branch of Putin`s political party, was also in St. Petersburg.
That one in 2015 attracted American far-right racist fringe characters like Jared Taylor, who is a prolific pseudo-academic American white supremacist. You might remember him from the post-election alt-right gathering in Washington, D.C., where everybody did the Nazi salute and shouted "Heil Trump". I`m sorry they said, they said, it was "hailed Trump" not "Heil Trump". But, you know, with the stiff arm salute getting in the way of the camera lenses it was kind of hard to read their lips and get that subtlety.
Regardless of whether or not Russia likes the proto-fascism and the racism and the anti-Muslim bigotry of the Front National, regardless of whether or not that`s the attraction, Russia definitely likes Marine Le Pen. And one thing I know they like about Marine Le Pen is that if she gets the presidency of France, she will do her damnedest to pry France out of Europe as well.
Russia supports anything to increase the centripetal force that is pulling apart institutions of the West. Russia`s overall goal in global strategy is to knock the United States down, as many pegs as it can, in terms of our global standing, and they want to disrupt and divide and undermine and hopefully split apart any Western alliances and international institutions that serve as a counterweight to them in the world that, in fact, serve is defining any sort of international small d democratic liberal values Western order. All of the institutions that support that, Russia sees as the enemy, and they will do anything to undermine them as best they can. And when they have the advantage when they have the momentum, they will take it.
And that that Russian idea of defeating your adversaries by splitting them up, by promoting divisions among them and within them, it seems almost ridiculous to think about it, but that strategy even extends to us as well. It even extends to us in the United States of America in a very specific way. You might have heard about the newly energized current iteration of the California secessionist movement, the California separatist movement. There have been low key, low-profile kind of California insurrectionist movements for years.
It`s generally conservative parts of California that say California should split up, and the liberal and urban and minority heavy part of the state should be its own thing, while the conservative rural white part of California should become like a -- you know, southern Idaho or something. That kind of thing has existed for a long time.
What`s new in California is the surprisingly slick online organized, moderate or even progressive seeming effort that California as a whole should secede from the United States of America. I`m from California. My whole family lives in California. I know lots of people in California who have talked to me half-joking or not about how appealing this Calexit idea is since Donald Trump was elected president.
But the leader of the organization that has spearheaded that movement, the leader of Yes California, he really does live in Russia. He lives in Siberia.
Last September, the Yes California guy who conveniently lives in Russia, the Calexit guy, and also some right-wing Texas separatists, all got invited to Moscow, to the Ritz Hotel in Central Moscow for a Kremlin-funded conference called the Anti-Globalization Movement of Russia.
And I know it sounds nuts, look it up on Snopes.com if you don`t believe me. There you will find links to the Embassy of the Independent Republic of California, with the tweets announcing its founding half in English, half in Cyrillic. And an explanation from the Calexit founder who lives in Russia, that the separatists California embassy office space is being loaned to him in Moscow free of charge.
He says he doesn`t actually know who owns the office space. Maybe it`s privately owned, he doesn`t know. Maybe it`s the Russian government who can tell. But it`s sure nice to have free office space for his California separatist movement that he`s running from Russia.
It is a -- that is -- that`s a ridiculous story, right? That is a ridiculous idea. It is cartoonish, but it`s real.
And imagine if your goal was to take the United States down a few pegs in the esteem of the world in terms of global leadership, in terms of the way the rest of the world looked up to the United States for help or for advice, or, you know, conceivably as an exemplar of democracy, certainly as a pinnacle economic power. Imagine how helpful it would be if your goal was to erode all that, to hurt all of that. Imagine how helpful it would be to that goal if you had a chance, even a slim chance, even a hilarious cartoonish tiny chance of splitting off from the United States one of its fifty states that on its own terms is the sixth largest economy in the world.
You pry California off the United States, California literally has a bigger economy than France does. I mean, yes, it would be nice to pride Germany out of the E.U. Pry France out of the E.U.
But, you know what, the E.U. is splitting apart on its own, we`ll do what we can to help, but let`s think big.
Theresa May is the British prime minister who will now be tasked with managing Britain pulling out of the European Union. She is not the politician who was credited with Britain`s decision to leave the E.U. That honor goes to Nigel Farage who was the leader of the U.K. Independence Party which spearheaded the Brexit campaign.
Nigel Farage has become mildly famous in this country for his frequent appearances alongside Donald Trump and at Trump Tower, and at the White House. Oddly, the day that WikiLeaks held its press conference to crow about the fact that they were releasing a devastating document dump that experts say essentially exposed the entire cyber arsenal of the CIA, on that same day, Nigel Farage was at the embassy of Ecuador, where WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange lives and from which he gave his press conference that day.
A "BuzzFeed News" reporter saw Nigel Farage leading me leaving the embassy that day, asked him what he was doing there. Nigel Farage responded by saying that he couldn`t remember. He said he had no idea what he had just been doing inside that building.
More recently, this past week, Nigel Farage has been in California, raising money among conservatives and Trump supporters in California to support California seceding from the United States, or at least splitting itself in two.
Today, the Republican and Democratic senior members of that Senate Intelligence Committee, they announce that they`ve got names on their list, of people they want to talk to for their investigation into Trump and Russia. They hinted that former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates are among those people. They confirmed that the president`s son-in-law Jared Kushner will be one of the people who they speak to.
On the House side, the House investigation may or may not be blowing up. We`ll hear more about that tonight from Congressman Schiff. But that Senate investigation is going ahead. Their first public hearing will be tomorrow, it`s not something you will want to miss if you are interested in this issue.
But just one point about that, last point I`m going to make. Republican chairman of that committee, Richard Burr, confirmed today in no uncertain terms but there`s one thing that committee will not be looking at, and that is the question of whether or not the Russian attack is over, whether Russia is still doing their thing, whether they are in fact basically collecting their payment from the Trump administration now in exchange for their part in throwing the election Trump`s way. That the committee is not going to be looking at.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID SMITH, GUARDIAN REPORTER: Can I ask, will you also be looking at potential rewards Russia got for this, whether it`s questions of changes to the Republican Party platform at the convention or the way the president constantly refuses to criticize Vladimir Putin. Is that part of what you`re looking at?
SEN. RICHARD BURR (R), SENATE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: That`s not in the scope of the investigation. I`ll leave that up to you guys to report. Yes, ma`am?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Yes, ma`am? Next question.
Senate Intelligence Committee will not be looking at whether or not this Russian attack this Russian campaign is over.
In terms of what that committee is going to investigate, I think we all fully expect that they will look at what the Russian attack on our election was. I think our country doesn`t necessarily expect but at least hopes that they will look at whether Russia had helped in pulling that -- pulling off that attack on our election, whether the Trump campaign or any other American confederates helps them in their attack. We hope that they will look at that too and they say they will.
But they made it -- made clear today, they made explicitly clear today, that they will not look, they will not even consider questions about whether Russia`s attack on the United States is still underway or whether anybody who might have helped them in that attack last year might still be helping them today to get what they want.
As Richard Burr said today, he hopes the press will follow that question. So, that part`s all on us now.
Congressman Adam Schiff is here tonight. The former secretary general of NATO is here tonight.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: We have an exclusive tonight. We`ve got some brand-new polling data from Public Policy Polling. They`re out a new national poll tonight that`s at teeny, tiny little bit explosive. They`re going to publish this tomorrow, but they`ve given us an exclusive first look at it here tonight. So, you haven`t seen this anywhere else.
I`m just going to give you the top-line polling result that I think is going to make the biggest headlines here. It`s actually a two-part question.
So, here`s the first part. Again, this is a -- this is a national poll. This is a first look at these new results.
Here`s the question, quote, "Do you think that members of Donald Trump`s campaign team worked in association with Russia to help Trump win the election?" It turns out a plurality of voters says narrowly, "Yes, I believe Donald Trump`s campaign worked with Russia to help him get elected." Forty-four percent of the country believes that, 42 percent does not. OK, that`s good to know.
Now, the follow up, if it turns out -- if an investigation does turn up conclusive evidence that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to manipulate our election, do voters have a clear idea of what should then happen next? Turns out they do. This is the second part of that question. PPP asks, quote, "If evidence comes out that proves conclusively that members of Donald Trump`s campaign team worked in association with Russia to help Trump win the election, should Trump continue to serve as president or should he resign?" Answer, resign. The majority of the country, 53 percent, says if he or anybody from his campaign worked with Russia to swing the election in his favor, Donald Trump should resign as president.
So, at least for a majority of the country, that would be a presidency ending development.
Now, as far as the investigations looking into this mess, there is quite a considerable national appetite for those investigations to keep going, keep digging. CBS news is also out with a new poll today. This is not exclusive to us. They have published this already. But CBS asked voters whether the FBI should be investigating the president`s ties to Russia, whether voters think this inquiry at the FBI is necessary, respondents basically did the polling equivalent of screaming a collective yes into their telephones. Two-thirds of the country roughly, well, almost two- thirds of the country sixty-three percent thinks that the FBI investigation into the Trump campaign is necessary. It should keep going.
While these investigations chug along at the FBI and in Congress more or less, voters quite clearly have questions that they want answered, they want results, and it sounds like they want dramatic results of these investigations turn up a worst-case scenario answer.
Congressman Adam Schiff is the ranking Democrat in charge of the investigation in the House. He says from his position at that committee he has seen evidence that he would describe as more than circumstantial that the Trump campaign did collude with Russia and their attack on our election last year. Congressman Schiff is going to join us in just a few minutes to help us answer some of those questions or at least find out which ones are going to continue to be asked.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: Yesterday, the House Intelligence Committee was supposed to hold an open hearing, including testimony from former Intelligence Director James Clapper, on the left side of your screen, former CIA Director John Brennan on the right, and also former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates who was expected to testify about her notifying the White House, the Trump White House that then-National Security Adviser Michael Flynn had been lying publicly about the content of his communications with the Russian government.
It has been reported that Yates told the Trump White House that their national security adviser was compromised, meaning that he was vulnerable to blackmail and therefore coercion by a foreign power. And that`s a bad thing for anybody in high government office. Just today, a long time State Department employee was arrested and charged with having undisclosed and allegedly corrupt contact with the Chinese government. That person got arrested today at the State Department.
It`s a really bad thing to have those kinds of undisclosed or compromising contacts with a foreign government if you`re anyone with any sort of rank in the federal government. But it`s a potential national security disaster for somebody who has access to all the most sensitive national security and intelligence information in the government because they`re serving as the president`s national security advisor.
So, Sally Yates was expected to testify about that yesterday, about what she brought to the White House, what she told them about the national security advisor and his contacts with Russia. That was supposed to happen yesterday, the Republican chairman of that committee canceled the hearing, hasn`t rescheduled it.
Today, the chairman and senior Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee said they`ve got a list of about people that they want to talk to for their Trump Russia investigation. Before their press conference today, NBC news reported that one of the people they`re trying to speak with is Christopher Steele. He`s a former British MI6 officer. He is the author of the partially uncorroborated dossier of alleged Russian dirt on Donald Trump that was such a salacious scandal when it was first published in January but it`s now reportedly been partially borne out by subsequent investigations.
Senators Burr and Warner today would neither confirm nor deny that they are trying to get Christopher Steele to testify to their committee, but the reports that they want to put an even hotter spotlight on the central allegations of Steele`s dossier, central allegation is that not only did Russia attack the U.S. election last year, which we now know they did. The central allegation is that Russia did that with the knowledge and cooperation of the Trump campaign and that the Trump campaign promise in return that they do a few things that Russia might like. They would downplay the Russian invasion of Ukraine as an anti-Russia political issue in this country and they would agree to stoke divisions in NATO, which Russia sees as its greatest adversary in the world.
Downplay Russia invading Ukraine and play up the things that NATO countries like to yell at each other about, like, for example, whether or not all NATO countries are paying their fair share for the costs of that alliance. Now, to be fair lots of U.S. presidents have hit that issue with our NATO allies from time to time. That said, none of them before now went as far as presenting the German chancellor with a bill, with a $372 billion invoice when she visited the White House.
But there were European reports last week that that`s exactly what our new president did when Angela Merkel paid her visit to D.C. European reports last week say that Trump gave her a bill for $372 billion for unpaid NATO spending.
Now, the White House is denying it did any such thing to Angela Merkel. But the reports raise the questions, right, how much is NATO in the crosshairs right now? How much is NATO potentially at risk and why?
Joining us now for the interview tonight is Anders Fogh Rasmussen. He is the former secretary-general of NATO. He`s former prime minister of Denmark. He is also the author most recently of "The Will to Lead: America`s Indispensable Role in the Global Fight for Freedom."
Mr. Secretary General, I`m really honored that you took the time to do with us tonight. Thank you for your time.
ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN, FORMER NATO SECRETARY GENERAL: You`re welcome. Thank you.
MADDOW: From your five years leading NATO, what did you come to understand about Russia`s posture toward now? What`s their strategy when it comes to NATO?
RASMUSSEN: Their strategy is exactly what you have described. It is to split the Western alliance and it is to ensure that people have mistrust in democracy. And when I`m witnessing the debates, the dispute across the Atlantic, when I`m following the debate here in the States, I think Mr. Putin has more or less achieved his goal.
MADDOW: How vulnerable is NATO? Is that alliance to the kind of splits you were talking about there? Obviously, there are always disagreements and points of contention between -- even the closest of allies, but the kinds of divisions, the kinds of splits, the kinds of sort of sore subjects that he apparently wants to push, how vulnerable is the alliance?
RASMUSSEN: Well, he cannot split the NATO alliance. Of course, it was a matter of concern when candidate Trump raised doubts about the American commitment to defending all allies. But after he was elected, he has appointed a security team which has reassured allies that the American commitment is unchanged. That`s good.
And furthermore, he has also provoked I would say a valuable discussion about the European investment, both economically and politically, in the transatlantic bond. They understand in Europe that they cannot take the transatlantic bond for granted, so now, we have to reconsider how can the Europeans contribute more.
MADDOW: I hear your analysis there, but I feel like there`s an uncomfortable tension in part of it, which is that you seem to think that you are -- you seem to be saying that you are reassured by people other than the president in the U.S. government, even if you are still worried about the president himself in terms of his approach to NATO. Is that essentially what you mean, that you still have concerns about him, but not about his team?
FOGH RASMUSSEN: Well, we will see. I mean, there will be a NATO on the 25th of May. I would expect a clear signal from that summit, where President Trump will participate, that the American commitment is unchanged. But also the European allies will contribute much more.
But when we listen to Vice President Pence, Secretary of Defense Mattis, Secretary of State Tillerson, et cetera, they have reassured the European allies about an unchanged American commitment.
MADDOW: As Britain breaks off from the E.U. in a process that starts today, a lot of people are foretelling that the breakup of Europe in some more, in a bigger way. People are looking forward to the elections that are happening in other cornerstone E.U. countries.
Do you feel like those fears are overblown? That the centripetal force that we see operating on alliances like the E.U., if not on NATO itself, that those things are as strong as we`re worried about?
FOGH RASMUSSEN: Well, I have no doubts that President Putin opened a bottle of champagne after he learned about the Brexit vote, because it`s in his interest to weaken the Western alliance. However, now, we have to listen to the will of the British people and get the best out of the divorce negotiations, and I have no doubt that the U.K. will now feel even more committed to NATO and contribute even more to European security.
MADDOW: Anders Fogh Rasmussen, former prime minister of Denmark, former NATO secretary general -- sir, as I said, it`s an honor to have you with us here tonight. Thank you for talking with us. I really appreciate it.
FOGH RASMUSSEN: Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. We`ve got another big interview still to come tonight. Congressman Adam Schiff joins us in just a moment. Lots ahead. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. DEVIN NUNES (R-CA), HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: There`s nothing to report, guys.
REPORTER: There`s always something to report, sir.
Did you -- who at the White House gave you access to the intel?
NUNES: Guys, there`s nothing -- there`s nothing to report. I appreciate your attention. But thank you.
REPORTER: Did White House know -- somebody at the White House know about the intel before you briefed them on that?
NUNES: Thank you, guys. I`ve answered all the questions over and over again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The head of the House Intelligence Committee is a popular man in the halls these days. That`s in part because I`m sure he`s a very nice guy.
It`s also in part because there`s still no explanation for his now admitted middle of the night excursion to the White House last week to view secret documents from a secret source that he then called a press conference to talk about the next day and then ran back into the White House because he said he needed urgently to brief the White House on what he had just learned at the White House the night before. Until that make sense, expect more scenes like this of him being chased down Capitol Hill hallways by inquiring reporters.
Here`s a very, very, very simple part of it though -- the question of who let him in, who went so we get open the gate, who cleared Devin Nunes to enter the White House grounds last Tuesday night? That is an answerable question. That`s a question that the White House should be able to answer.
Monday this week, two days ago, the White House promised it would work on getting that information. It`s now Wednesday. They have not provided that information and reporters are starting to get a little antsy about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Do you have any information to live up to the commitment you made here on Monday, to provide more details about how that happen, in a process you just told us that again is aboveboard and totally appropriate?
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I don`t have anything for you on that at this time.
REPORTER: Have you looked into it (ph)?
SPICER: I have asked some preliminary questions, I have not gotten answers yet, and I think there`s -- but -- so, no, I don`t have anything further on them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Sean Spicer not saying who let the intelligence chairman onto the White House grounds that night. That information is probably easy to find. I mean, you can`t check White House visitor logs online, the ones that we got used to being posted by the Obama administration. Those have remained offline since the president took office. The White House has declined to say whether it will ever post White House visitors log online.
But the White House presumably does keep a log. They know internally.
Yahoo investigative reporter Michael Isikoff reports that staffers on the intelligence committee are now openly speculating that the documents might have been handed at the White House to Devin Nunes by a lawyer named Michael Ellis. He`s a lawyer who previously worked for Nunes on the committee. He was hired earlier this month to work at the White House counsel`s office.
But, honestly, we still don`t know, and until we get the answer even do a simple question like that, the House Intelligence Committee investigation will remain basically on ice. There`s still no new date for this week`s canceled hearing, which was supposed to feature testimony from former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates.
Today, Chairman Devin Nunes said there will likely be no public hearings at all until at least after the Easter break. It`s time to start getting ready for Easter now, you guys.
As of today, all nine Democratic members of that committee have called on Chairman Nunes to recuse himself from this investigation. It is tempting to feel like that investigation is dead, that everybody should just pivot away from it and instead rest their hopes on the Senate and their investigation. One person who I`m quite sure doesn`t believe that is the top Democrat on that House committee.
Joining us now is Congressman Adam Schiff, top Democrat on the Intelligence Committee.
Congressman Schiff, thank you very much for joining us tonight. I appreciate you being here.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: You bet. Good to be with you.
MADDOW: What can you do in terms of updating us on the status of your committee, the question everybody has on their mind, which is whether or not this investigation is still live in the House of Representatives?
SCHIFF: Well, here`s the situation and you certainly introduced it in the right way -- we can`t have a credible investigation if one of the members, let alone the chairman, is freelancing. We can`t have a situation where the chair goes to look at evidence and basically says, I alone can see this evidence and I`m only going to share it with the president.
And it`s not as if this is just keeping Democrats out of the loop, that would be one thing, but none of the committee members have seen this, none of us, Democrats or Republicans know exactly who he met with or what he saw. We only have his representation. And you just can`t conduct an investigation that way.
So, you know, we certainly want to get back to the business of serious investigation. We have never stopped our work, not through this, but we`re not going to stop our work. But I do think it`s important, as I said all along, that this have credibility, being conducted in a nonpartisan way.
Now, I think we have this cloud over the investigation in the sense many people have raised questions, is the chair truly impartial? Is there some distance between the chair and the White House? And until those questions are cleared up, I don`t know how much credibility our investigation is going to have.
MADDOW: From a pure numbers perspective, Senators Burr and Warner today said they`ve got about 20 witnesses scheduled for their investigation. They say they`ve got seven professional staffers working on this.
Can you tell us anything in terms of the House side metrics like that for your committee?
SCHIFF: Sure. We have probably a roughly equivalent number of staff cleared to work on this investigation. So, the resources, although very small, frankly, on both sides of the Capitol, are about the same that are being devoted to the investigation.
Our witness list is probably about the same size as that in the Senate. I do think we ought to be making sure we go through all the documents we want and obtain the documents before the witnesses come in. We don`t want to have the witnesses jammed on us, frankly, before we`re able to do the preparation for those witness interviews.
But it`s, I think, very much as you described or the senators described, same witnesses probably for the most part and the same staff resources devoted to it.
MADDOW: Congressman Schiff, one of the terms that happened today was that the chairman of your committee who you have called on to recuse himself from this investigation, he took some shots at you and the other Democrats on the committee. If you have just a moment, I`d love to get your response to those comments from the chairman if you can stick with us for one more segment?
MADDOW: All right. Congressman Adam Schiff stays with us right after the break.
MADDOW: Joining us once again is Congressman Adam Schiff. He is the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee.
Congressman, thank you again for sticking with us.
SCHIFF: You bet.
MADDOW: The chairman of your committee, Republican Chairman Devin Nunes, said today that, quote, "It appears that the Democrats aren`t really serious about this investigation." He said, quote, "As far as I know, they have done very little to even look through the documents that the intelligence agencies have provided."
I just wanted to get your response to that and find out what you think he is talking about there.
SCHIFF: You know, I`m not sure, Rachel. And I don`t want to get into a back and forth with the chair.
I will say this. We`ve submitted witness lists to the majority. We offered the majority and for days we made this offer to try to get things started. And that is if they would like to bring Directors Rogers and Comey back in closed session, we`re fine with that. Let`s schedule that and the open hearing.
But if what they`re really trying to do is essentially prohibit Sally Yates from testifying publicly, we`re not OK with that. We think the public has a right to know what led up to the firing of Michael Flynn. Why did the president wait so long after learning that Michael Flynn had lied to take action or even inform the country it had been misled I think unwittingly by the vice president?
These are questions that ought to be aired publicly. And I don`t think we ought to use the subterfuge and say, well, we want these other witnesses in close session. And therefore, somehow we`re prohibited from doing two things at once.
Let`s schedule both hearings. I think it`s certainly more than a reasonable request. And we`re waiting to hear back from the chair.
MADDOW: I know you`re hoping for the best. I`ve been told you`re going to meet with chairman yourself tomorrow. If things don`t go well, can you envision a scenario in which you and the other Democrats on the committee would hold an unofficial public meeting somewhere that wasn`t technically a hearing of that committee in order to have public testimony or do public questioning of somebody like Sally Yates if the chairman won`t convene that?
SCHIFF: Rachel, I think what`s going to happen really regardless of whether the chairman recuses himself or he doesn`t. The investigation is going to go on. It has to go on. The only question is, how credible will it be?
But Democrats are going to continue to work in a very straight forward way. We`re going call all the witnesses that we feel are relevant and appropriate. We`re going to follow the evidence where it leads. If the majority walls off certain things, we`ll be very public about it. I imagine they`re going to continue to want to call witnesses and move forward.
I do think, you know, to get back to a point you raised at the outset, one of the things that the Russians have done is they have used financial entanglement in Europe to try to exert influence over business people and politicians. That should not be beyond the scope of our investigation. Well need to look at this issue as well.
And so, I don`t think we ought to write off anything. Some of the witnesses on our list do pertain to issues, for example, why there was this opposition at the Republican Convention to an amendment that would have been in support of providing defensive weapons to Ukraine. If that changed as a result of anything that Ambassador Kislyak did or any other coordination, we ought to find out about it.
So, I do disagree with my Senate chairman counterpart. I think these are well within the scope, at least of the House investigation.
MADDOW: Congressman Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee -- Congressman, thank you for your time tonight. I really appreciate it.
SCHIFF: Thank you.
MADDOW: What he just said there about financial entanglements and that should be part of the investigation, that`s really important, and it`s news that he said it.
Stay with us. We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: Today, two high-ranking former aide/appointees of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie were sentenced to prison for Bridgegate, the days long traffic nightmare dreamed up by the Christie administration to punish a mayor who didn`t endorse Christie`s reelection.
Christie`s former deputy chief of staff, Bridget Anne Kelly, will serve 18 months in jail. Bill Baroni will serve two years in jail. The judge handing down the sentences today said this was and is about abuse of power. She called it a sad day for the state of New Jersey.
It wasn`t necessarily a sad day for Chris Christie, though. At the exact same time those prison sentences were being dropped on his staffers and appointees, Chris Christie was at the White House today for his big debut on my staffers and appointees, Chris Christie was at the White House today for his big debut.
On "my staffers go to prison" day, Governor Christie got his photo op at the White House and a role in the administration, working directly for Jared Kushner, whose dad was sent to prison by Chris Christie years ago when he was a prosecutor. Funny how things work out. Did I mention that Governor Christie sent Jared`s dad to prison and now he works for Jared? Can`t spell karma without a messed up misspelling of the word "car".
That does it for us tonight. We will 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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