CHRIS HAYES, "ALL IN" HOST: All right. Seth Meyers, always a pleasure.
Make sure you can catch him on "Late Night" weeknights at 12:35 Eastern on NBC, it`s a fantastic show.
SETH MEYERS, "LATE NIGHT" HOST: Thank you, buddy. See you in the elevators.
HAYES: That is "ALL IN" for this evening.
And THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now.
Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thanks, my friend.
HAYES: You bet.
MADDOW: And thanks to you at home for joining thus hour.
Steel comes from iron. Iron comes from iron ore. And iron ore you dig out of the ground.
The largest-known but untapped iron ore deposit in the whole world is in this one. It`s in the nation of Guinea. A Guinea is in a country in West Africa, sort of surrounds Sierra Leone. It borders Liberia. It`s one of the poorest country in the world, Guinea is.
And that is a stark thing when you have some of the most impressive untapped natural resources in the world. But Guinea got independence from France in 1958. And then they started essentially a long cycle of suffering under dictators who ruled for life and who took a long time to die.
Their first leader took power upon independence in 1958. He stayed in power from 1958 until he died in 1984, 26 years later. Then as soon as they were rid of him, they got another dictator in 1984. And he held on for 24 years, until he died too in 2008.
But for all the problems that Guinea has had as a country, for all that -- all the challenges it has struggled through, Guinea`s natural resources have not really been a help thus far. Yes, they do have the world`s largest untapped deposits of iron ore, but that has not necessarily turned out to be a good thing for them. Mostly what it has turned out to be for them is a scandal and a crime. And now that part of it is becoming part of our presidential politics here in America.
Reporter Jesse Drucker has a remarkable piece that just posted this afternoon in the "New York Times." It`s about more potentially criminal trailing ends that seem to have followed our new first family into their new lives in the White House. And although a lot of that story is about this remote West African country of Guinea, my favorite part of the story actually takes place in Jacksonville, Florida -- at the Jacksonville, Florida, airport.
Just a few years ago, 2013, the widow of one of the past dictators of Guinea, the widow of the dictator who died in 2008, she became a cooperating witness for the FBI. One day in the spring of 2013, she put on a wire. The FBI wired her up so they could surveil and tape her conversation. And she went to the Jacksonville airport. And she had a meeting at a diner at the Jacksonville airport with a representative from a large mining company with interests in her home country and in that big iron ore deposit.
In 2008, Guinea had awarded to this company the exploration rights to half of that gigantic deposit of iron ore. It was a little bit of an unusual deal at the time because the Guinean government had previously awarded all of the rights for that mine to a totally different company, but then inexplicably, a few years later, they just sort of changed their mind and decided that half the rights would now go to this other country.
It appeared at the time to be sort of a strange deal. But now we know why it seemed weird, because it was weird. The Guinean government now says that strange deal happened, that the awarding of half the rights to that mine happened, according to the Guinean government, because of a huge bribe paid by the company who got the mining rights. They said the company that got the rights to half of that iron ore deposit, they say that company paid Mrs. Dictator $8 million, in exchange for them getting those rights.
Now, the FBI eventually got involved in investigating that bribe. And at that airport diner in Jacksonville, in 2013, they set up Mrs. Dictator to wear a wire while she met with a representative of that mining company. And while she was meeting with that guy from the mining company, he told her in that conversation that she should destroy all the paperwork that she had that documented anything to do with the bribe.
And she was wired when he told her that. She was a cooperating witness. So, the FBI got all of his instructions to her about that on tape.
And they nailed him. They nailed this guy from the mining company. Charged. Pled guilty. Prison time.
And the company has since tried to say, oh, that guy was just a rogue actor, he wasn`t speaking on our behalf, we don`t know anything about what he was talking about, nothing to do with us. But that same mining company is also alleged by the FBI to have paid another large bribe to another official in the Guinean government the following year. And the reason we know that is because of a trial that`s happening right now this week in New York City.
The former mining minister of Guinea is on trial in New York right now. And the FBI alleges in documents that have been made public in conjunction with this trial, which have now been reported on by the "New York Times," the FBI alleges that this mining company was involved in arranging the bribery. So there was the bribe paid to Mrs. Dictator. Within one year of that another bribe paid to another Guinean government official, related to this iron ore mine.
Now, why is this trial happening in Manhattan? One nice thing about being the banking capital of the world is that financial crimes all over the world can often technically be charged in New York if prosecutors want to charge them there, because more often than not, any time significant amounts of money move around anywhere in the world, that money in some way will touch a New York bank as part of the transit of funds.
That also means when it comes to crimes like bribing government officials in other countries, even when the people involved are not Americans, the FBI is often on it. Even when it is not Americans involved, even when the bribery takes place far away. If you are involved in financial fraud or corruption of any significant scale, no matter where you are in the world, if the banking system is used at all in your fraud, your corruption, your bribery, it is likely that the FBI is on it. And you may find yourself on trial in the southern district of New York.
And in this case, they really did, you know, wire Mrs. Dictator at the Jacksonville airport for what that guy from the mining company otherwise thought was an innocuous meeting in a foreign country.
But that ubiquitous presence of the FBI amid that kind of financial crime, that means if you are in American business, it`s pretty easy to get caught if what you do wrong is that you end up doing business with corrupt people overseas. If you end up doing business with other companies, with other people, who pay bribes overseas, if you do business with otherwise corrupt businesses who launder money or finance illegal activities or whatever it is, whether or not you yourself are crooked, American firms and individuals are not allowed to do business with crooked businesses overseas. That`s illegal under our own laws. That`s illegal under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
You may never bribe anybody, but if you`re doing business with somebody who`s been paying bribes overseas, you`re going to get nailed. People get caught for that, the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, it`s a big deal. And frankly it follows the Trump organization around. Because of deals like their now-abandoned project in the capital city of Azerbaijan which was recently reported out in exquisite detail by Adam Davidson at "The New Yorker".
In that Azerbaijan project the problem for the Trump organization that is they partnered with the family of a notoriously corrupt government official who, for good measure, has financial ties to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, hm. Well, thanks to this new reporting from the "New York Times" and also from Bloomberg News today, we now know that the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act may not just be following the Trump organization around deals like its abandoned hotel project in Azerbaijan. We now know the foreign corrupt practices act may also be following around Jared Kushner.
And that`s because as this mining minister from Guinea is on trial right now in New York, with the FBI saying he facilitated bribes, paid for by that mining company, for them to get rights to that big iron ore deposit in Guinea, at the same time that that trial is happening in New York, the "New York Times" and Bloomberg news are now both reporting that the family who owns that mining company? That mining company which has been under FBI investigation in these bribery cases and which, according to "The Times" is also -- has also been investigated directly under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, that mining firm is run by the Steinmetz family.
And as of tonight, with this new reporting, we now know that the Steinmetz family has also apparently been Jared Kushner`s secret financier for over $100 million in very recent New York City real estate purchases.
You don`t have to be crooked yourself as an American company, you cannot legally do business with countries abroad and with individual businessmen abroad who pay bribes, who launder money, or otherwise engage in foreign corrupt practices.
So, we`ve got a new Department of Justice now, helmed by Trump appointees from Attorney General Jeff Sessions on down. Deputy attorney general was just confirmed yesterday, Rod Rosenstein. There`s been lots of attention to what it will mean to have the FBI investigations into the Trump campaign potentially colluding with Russia now overseen by a guy who is a Trump appointee.
But now, we also know that the Trump appointee is running the Justice Department, have also just inherited ongoing corruption, bribery, and Foreign Corrupt Practices Act investigations into the family whose money allowed Jared Kushner to roughly double his real estate holdings since 2012 in New York City to the tune of more than $100 million.
The Steinmetz family and their web of companies and their problems with these bribery scandals, these bribery investigations, this has not been secret. It was first reported by "The Financial Times" in 2012. It was reported everywhere thereafter, particularly in the financial press. But even after that reporting in 2012 and in 2013, Jared Kushner just kept making bigger and bigger deals with them.
In 2014, Jared Kushner appears to have become embarrassed or maybe cautious enough that he stopped putting the Steinmetz family name onto his deals, into the paperwork for his deals. I don`t know, maybe their guy going to prison after the diner conversation at the Jacksonville airport sent up some red flags so it was time to take their name out of the paperwork.
But still, even after that, even when he got more subtle about using their name in his real estate filings and his financial filings, he still kept doing more and more and bigger and bigger deals with them, including this relatively new real estate deal in Jersey City. I should mention that this one as Trump-branded property.
So we`re closing in on the 100-day mark for the new administration. In the campaign, Trump promised action on ten different major pieces of legislation in the first 100 days of his presidency. He has achieved none of those ten legislative goals. None of them.
It now also appears that his pledge to build a wall on our southern border, appears that is also dead or at least indefinitely delayed. One piece of major legislation they did try to pass was of course the repeal of Obamacare. That didn`t even come up for a vote in the Republican- controlled House before it blew up. We`re going to be talking later on this hour about whether they might be potentially launching a successful sneak attack right now to bring that legislation back at the last minute before the 100-day benchmark.
But today`s big reveal from the administration was what everybody was calling their tax plan, their tax plan. It`s one page. And here`s a hint. The U.S. Tax Code is thousands of pages long.
If this is your tax code, if your plan for comprehensively overhauling that tax code is one page, double-spaced, with deep indents and almost no numbers, that`s a lot of things but that`s not actually a tax plan. That`s not a plan for overhauling thousands of pages of the U.S. tax code.
As a hint about their seriousness on this tax issue, it should be noted that they are unveiling what they want you to call their tax plan, they are unveiling that today before they have even bothered to nominate anyone to be in charge of tax policy in this administration. The Treasury Department handles tax issues. They haven`t even picked somebody yet for the job of running tax policy in the Treasury Department. But still, they rolled out this one-page document today as if they`ve showed a tax plan before the 100 days, which is ridiculous.
The only substantive thing we got out of this today is something that made me frankly quite glad that we revealed two pages of the president`s 2005 tax returns on this show a few weeks ago. Because one thing we can tell from his one-page press release about his supposed tax priorities today is that even under this skeletal outline they released today, he is proposing something that would have saved him upwards of $30 million just in that one year. For which we got those two pages of that one return.
So, there`s a lot to chew on in terms of the new administration and what they`re doing. When it comes to what they are saying and what they are saying they are going to do, there`s almost nothing to chew on. Honestly, don`t bother. They didn`t unveil a tax plan today. They didn`t do their ten promised pieces of legislation. They`re not building a wall and Mexico`s not paying for it.
Don`t bother listening to what they`re saying, watch what they`re doing. What they`re saying about their other than behavior and actions is not worth the individually double-spaced deeply indebted piece of paper it is printed on.
Well, amid all of that, amid all of the understandable beltway focus on that stuff right now, there is a thing that is a big deal, and that is truly new about the first 100 days of this administration, and it is something we`ve never had before in this country. It`s the running of this administration like it`s a family business -- a family business that is also keeping its actual literal family businesses on the outside while they`re holding high political office.
I mean, a president having an outside business interest was literally a national scandal when that outside business interest was something as simple as a peanut farm in Georgia from which the president had divested himself. In this case, it`s a large-scale, ongoing, often international set of arrangements that in an unsettling number of cases seem to have attracted the interest of the FBI.
Whenever there`s scandal associated with an administration, there are always worries, well-founded or not, about whether the Justice Department and FBI are capable of an independent and rigorous investigation into a president`s actions as president. But when a president and his family and their ongoing business relationships stray into Department of Justice territory, we really have no template at all, we have no help from history in terms of what it means to keep those things on track.
I mean, as that mining company bribery trial rolls on this week in New York, as that minister of mines goes on trial in the southern district of New York over those bribes allegedly paid by that mining company, spin that out. I mean, Jared Kushner says that his involvement with financing from this family, doing his real estate deals, has nothing to do with the other parts of that family that are involved in the mining stuff and the bribery investigations and everything. Kushner folks say this is totally different part of that family that he`s working with.
But what if it`s not, right? What if this case that`s happening right now in New York, just what if it stretches out into, you know, U.S. companies knowingly doing business with a company that was bribing foreign officials? And that fact that they were under investigation for bribing foreign officials, that was no secret. And anybody considering doing business with them should have known better.
If it goes to that territory, if it goes to violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, just hypothetically, how conceivable is it to you that Jeff Sessions would ever green light charges being brought against Jared for his ties to that hypothetical scandal? You think Jeff Sessions would do that? Should he recuse himself from those decisions because he knows Jared is the president`s son-in-law? Does anybody not know that?
First 100 days are a now-standardized way to map the success or failure of a new administration. But for many of the most important things that are new about this new administration, we are totally off the charts in terms of precedent and in terms of knowing who`s above the law and how to stop that from happening.
We`ve got a big show tonight. Senator Cory Booker is here live. He`s fresh out of the all-senators briefing on North Korea which sounds like a doozy.
We`ve got lots ahead tonight. Stay with us.
MADDOW: In the event of an emergency you will have approximately ten minutes to prepare, and no longer. That is the new advice to the citizens of Japan from their prime minister. If North Korea launches a ballistic missile at Japan, the new actions to protect yourself guidelines that are posted on Japan`s civil defense national website tell the civilians in that country that they`ve got ten minutes to deal with that and get ready. The guidelines tell people to take cover indoors, to shut off all gas and water, to stay away from all doors and windows.
Japan maintains a civil defense website all the time to give just this kind of advice. But that website has seen more than 14 times its usual amount of web traffic over the course of this month.
Today, top U.S. -- the top -- excuse me. Today, the top U.S. military official in the Pacific Command said, as long as we`re on the subject, Hawaii could use some additional missile defense capability, given what North Korea has been showing off recently.
In the continental United States, it is still a hypothetical threat that North Korea could hit the U.S. mainland. But in Hawaii, it`s a different thing. And in Japan and in South Korea, they know for sure that they are already well within the range of weapons that we know North Korea already possesses.
This month, the Japanese central government has been holding meetings with local governments around Japan, advising them what they should do if their region is hit by a North Korean missile. It`s unprecedented, that`s something Japan has never done before in its post-war history.
Yesterday, North Korea staged its largest-ever live-fire exercises off its eastern coast. Those are all artillery pieces we just saw there. South Korean news reports said the exercises involved 300 to 400 artillery pieces. You see them shooting there, those artillery rounds, into the sea. The U.S. and South Korean navies have also been conducting their own military exercises. Yesterday off South Korea`s western coast.
Yesterday, the USS Michigan, a nuclear-powered submarine, arrived in South Korea. The USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier is also en route to the Korean peninsula now, for real this time. Things are already very tense right now.
And if you are feeling tense about that part of the world right now, I advise you next time you`re at the grocery store to not look too closely at the tabloid grocery store publication that our president has repeatedly endorsed and said should win the Pulitzer Prize, because this week`s cover of "The National Enquirer" is this. "World War III is coming! Top secret Pentagon report, the day and time all-out war will break loose. Navy destroyers bound for North Korea."
Now, after this came out today and started circulating online, defense folks noted that the destroyer they put on the cover is a Russian destroyer, not an American one. But, whatever.
For everything else that it is, "National Enquirer" honestly is sometimes a little peek into this new president`s mindset. If so, whoa.
Back here on planet Earth, the president invited all 100 sitting U.S. senators to the White House today for a highly unusual all-senators briefing on North Korea. That`s a lot of senators to bring up to the White House.
But they said they wanted to do this urgent briefing on North Korea. They didn`t want to do it in the secure facility where they usually do these things at the Senate. They wanted to do it at the White House for some reason.
In order to fit all the senators into one briefing they actually had to MacGyver a makeshift secure facility on the White House grounds. The senators then had to go through this weird perp walk rigmarole where they boarded buss and got shipped up to the White House like they were on a school field trip.
One reporter pointed out the added indignity the back window of one of the buses they put the senators on was held up with duct tape. And one of that bus` lights was dangling off the bus, held by a wire. Nothing but the best.
Once they got up to the White House, the senators got out of their hoopty buses, they were apparently greeted briefly by the president. They were then briefed by the secretary of defense, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and the director of national Intelligence, Dan Coats, also Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, although that was apparently a surprise to Rex Tillerson. As recently as two days ago the State Department, quote, "appeared unaware" that Tillerson would be delivering that briefing. But there it was today.
The briefing lasted about an hour. Why did it have to be at the White House? Why did all the senators have to get up on buses and go there for it? What was the important information that they needed to have imparted to them at the White House about this urgent situation in North Korea?
I don`t know. But senators seem underwhelmed.
Here, for example, was the Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Bob Corker.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FRANK THORP, NBC NEWS REPORTER: Senator Corker, how was the briefing?
SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: It was fine.
THORP: Did you guys learn anything in there you didn`t know before?
CORKER: I didn`t really. It was an OK briefing.
THORP: What do you mean it was an okay briefing? Didn`t really learn much?
CORKER: I -- it was -- it was okay.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: It was okay. Maybe not worth the trip?
Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey was another one of the senators who was there for that strange event today. Senator Booker joins us live next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
THORP: Senator Corker, how was the briefing?
CORKER: It was fine.
THORP: Did you guys learn anything in there you didn`t know before?
CORKER: I didn`t really. It was an OK briefing.
THORP: What do you mean it was an okay briefing? Didn`t really learn much?
CORKER: I -- it was -- it was okay.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Senator Bob Corker is chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. He did not seem psyched about how this big all-senators field trip went today for at the White House North Korea briefing.
Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey is a member of the Foreign Relations Committee. He was there today too.
And Senator Booker joins us tonight for the interview.
Senator, it`s really nice to have you here. Thank you for being here.
SEN. CORY BOOKER (D), NEW JERSEY: It`s good to be here. Thank you.
MADDOW: Let me just -- I don`t want to talk to you only about this briefing but I do want to get your impression. Senator Corker did seem underwhelmed there. Is that -- was that also your experience?
BOOKER: I think it`s fair. I mean -- look, first of all, it`s very good that the White House is actually having dialogue with us. And something I`ve been concerned about since I`ve been in the Senate is, whether it`s President Obama or the current president taking military action without going to the Senate, as the Constitution spells out for an authorization to use military force.
And so, I thought I was going into this thinking that this sort of unprecedented putting senators on two buses and taking us would be something pretty significant. But --
MADDOW: Meaning that you`d be briefed on significant information?
BOOKER: Significant information, new information, or in-depth details about a strategy, or maybe even something more dramatic given the language of our president, maybe it was to talk about an AUMF, an authorization for the use of military force. But we got there and it really was -- again, good dialogue is good, but underwhelming for the drama of bringing the Senate there, where you brought 100 people to the White House, when easily those four or five briefers could have come to an actual SCIF. I mean, to walk into this room that they had transformed, I mean, they had used MacGyver, putting a tent over a camera, I mean -- you can clearly see that they had tried to go through a lot of details to do it.
MADDOW: Putting a tent over a camera?
BOOKER: You want to make sure -- secure areas, usually turning your apple watch or your phone to make sure that these devices can be hacked into. Clearly, they had taken measures for the cameras that are usually in that room, to cover them up.
MADDOW: It was just an auditorium?
BOOKER: It was an auditorium they had to jerry-rig. When I was coming back, if we`re being fiscally conservative, the expense that was taken to jerry-rig that room, to transport 100 senators, when there are so-called SCIF, secure locations in the Senate, which is usually how we`re briefed.
And, frankly, I`ve been to briefings in the three-plus years I`ve been in the Senate that have been more dramatic, with more significant information about ongoing foreign policy crisis in that room, from this one which I think you saw from our chairman, who by the way the ranking member Cardin and Chairman Corker, they do a really good job of trying to suppress the partisanship and really keep us focused on national interests, national issues. So, these are straight shooters that lead this committee as I see it.
That unfortunately I think he was very candid there, more than I would have thought he would have been, about sort of -- again, important dialogue, important that the two branches of government are discussing critical issues, but I still don`t get it for why the drama of us all get on these two buses and going.
MADDOW: Yes, I don`t want to beat it to death because I realize we`re sort of talking about the staging of this now.
MADDOW: But do you have any sense of why they put you on those buses?
BOOKER: I think what you said is really the point. There was a lot of that that sort of in many ways distracted from the substance of the issue, which is we have North Korea violating international law, violating even understandings of the Chinese. They have nuclear weapons and they are now testing ballistic missiles to be deliverable.
This is a real credible threat. We have two allies that -- if those allies are attacked, South Korea or Japan, we have an obligation to defend them. There are 250,000-plus Americans within tens of miles of the North Korean - - the demilitarized zone.
There`s a lot going on here that is very serious. We should be having discussions with -- again, I disagree with the way they went about it today, it`s good that the two branches of government are talking.
I have serious concerns not just about North Korea but -- we had a hearing on Libya yesterday and serious issues that are going on there. We interviewed ambassadors for Western Africa as you covered today. Very important issues. We have a State Department right now that has been stripped to bear -- no deputy secretaries, no under secretaries, assistant secretaries --
MADDOW: They`re not even doing daily briefing right now.
BOOKER: There`s so much in the State Department we`re not arming up to do what experts are telling us we need to do, be focused on diplomacy, building civic society, the kind of things that we need to not have a military conflict, to solve our disputes. Even USAID which I learned in my years in the Senate is one of the more critical arms of the U.S. government in creating environments that fight against terrorism. That work against that create -- just basic needs. Water, food, helping to stabilize regions.
We don`t even have a head of the USAID yet. This is not because, as people saw with the cabinet secretaries, because we`re fighting over Pruitt and we`re -- no. These are --
MADDOW: No nominations.
BOOKER: No nominations. Democrats want these positions filled.
So, there`s a lot about going on with this administration that I don`t get right now. That`s confusing. When we have real crisis situations, not just Syria, not just North Korea, but famines on the planet Earth that we`ve never seen from South Sudan to places like Yemen. We have internationally displaced people and refugee crisis like we`ve never seen before.
America`s leadership is really needed right now and I don`t see this administration working. In fact, what was one of the more shocking and, again, this Trump administration continues to roll out things that just disappoint me. The budget that the president put forward that slashes the State Department, literally you have Secretary Mattis who was there today who said, if you cut the State Department, again, these are the folks that are critical to diplomacy globally, critical international coalitions that need to be built and sustained to put pressure on people like North Korea. Mattis says, if you cut the State Department, I`m going to need more ammunition.
And what does the Trump administration do? In their proposed budget savagely, savagely cut the State Department and these critical programs.
MADDOW: Senator Booker, there`s another matter that is reportedly brewing on Capitol Hill that`s not a lot of people very much on edge today, a domestic issue. Will you stick around for a second?
BOOKER: Yes, yes.
MADDOW: Senator Cory Booker is here for the interview tonight. He`ll be back with us in just a second.
MADDOW: Joining us once again is Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey.
Senator, thank you for staying with us.
BOOKER: Thank you.
MADDOW: Domestic issue to ask you about. A lot of new talk about the Republican effort to kill the Affordable Care Act, which failed quite spectacularly not that long ago. A lot of talk today about the effort to bring that back, not just substantively but sort of with a different cast to the politics. More conservative organizations signed on, more very conservative members of the House signed on.
Obviously, you`re in the Senate and that`s a different kettle of fish than the House. But what`s your assessment watching that? I know how important that issue is to you. Do you think that they do have a chance of actually moving it this time?
BOOKER: I`m happy to see their so-called moderate Republicans balking at signing on to this right away. The details that have slipped out to me, it`s getting rid of pre-existing condition requirements, getting rid of essential benefits. This is more craven in terms of hurting every American, hurting the very base that supported Donald Trump.
Again, he made a promise that he was going to have more coverage than the Affordable Care Act and better coverage. This -- what they`re trying to do right now is 100 percent opposite, dropping tens of millions of people from health care.
But more importantly -- I mean, more distressingly than that, taking away things like pre-existing conditions. Taking away -- making people not get essential benefits for health care or for contraception. This will change health care as we know it in this country. Even people who think they have health insurance or have access to it will be denied.
So, I just don`t think this has a chance in the Senate, which makes me feel good, but the fact that Donald Trump continues to push this really to me is a continued betrayal of his clear statements he made as a candidate. And I really do think just the fact that they`re trying again worries me, because every time they charge this hill, we may laugh and think they don`t have the competency to get up, but I just see danger every time they decide to charge.
MADDOW: And you think even if they could, either this time or the next time get it through the House, you still think the Senate, at this point it`s dead in the Senate?
BOOKER: Again, the best thing I saw -- again, there`s been numerous times since this new administration started on inauguration day where I just felt very frustrated and hurt. And what always seems to rise me up is the public`s coming out.
So, I think that health care bill died because I saw it in New Jersey, Republican congresspeople had folks ling up protesting, asking for visits, town hall meetings. Just when people thought they had a victory in stopping it, are going to have to get that energy back if they try to push this again.
MADDOW: Senator Corey Booker of New Jersey, nice to see you, my friend. Thanks for being here. Thanks.
BOOKER: Thank you. Thank you very much.
MADDOW: All right. Much more ahead. Stay with us.
MADDOW: (AUDIO GAP) March, the House Oversight Committee sent a bipartisan letter to the White House, asking them for any documentation relating to them hiring Mike Flynn to be national security adviser. In response, the White House said they had no documentation to share on that matter.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D-MD), OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE RANKING MEMBER: The White House has refused to provide this committee with a single piece of paper in response to our bipartisan request and that`s simply unacceptable.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: No documentation. Zero, zip, zilch, not a single piece of paper.
We know that at the time Mike Flynn was announced as national security adviser, he would have had to have re-upped his security clearance from his time when he left government in 2014. He would have had to at some point reapply for at least some level of clearance. So, there`s that part of it.
But then there`s also just the basic vetting. The White House telling the oversight committee they`ve got no documentation, not a piece of paper, nothing to pass on to them about hiring Michael Flynn means one of two things.
One, either the Trump White House didn`t vet Mike Flynn, they didn`t ask him to fill out anything, they just made him national security adviser on his own say-so? They wouldn`t do that, would they?
Or he was vetted. And he filled out security clearance documentation. They filled out vetting information, and he had to pass all sorts of strictures implied by the Trump administration before he was allowed to come on board in that very sensitive position. In that case, he presumably would have disclosed or they could have easily discovered that he had been paid tens of thousands of dollars by Russian entities and he had been working on behalf of a foreign government, that maybe was Turkey but maybe the money came from Russia in the first instance, and knowing that, they decided to hire him anyway.
So, either they vetted him or they didn`t, right? But either way the White House doesn`t want to share that documentation. If there was documentation and it`s really hard to believe there wasn`t, if there was any paper, if the White House won`t hand it over now, does that mean they are covering up? Either for him or for their own process around hiring him?
Former White House ethics lawyer during the George W. Bush administration, Richard Painter, said this about this situation on Twitter last night. He said, quote, "U.S. House must subpoena the documents. If no compliance, impeach. Zero tolerance for White House covering up foreign payoffs."
Yesterday, the ranking member, the top Democrat in the House Oversight Committee, Congressman Elijah Cummings, told us here on the show that he would like to work with the chairman of his committee, Congressman Jason Chaffetz, to issue subpoenas to the White House for their documents about Mike Flynn to find out what`s going on here.
It`s unclear at this point if Congressman Chaffetz is on board with that idea at all, though. I mean, I can tell you back in September when President Obama was still president, Jason Chaffetz felt very strongly about the committee`s role in doing oversight on the government and getting every document they requested, no exceptions. I can -- I remember it. I can also show it to you.
Here is Congressman Chaffetz in one of those long over four-hour-long hearing on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton`s e-mails and the FBI`s classification and redaction process. Watch him here.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JASON CHAFFETZ (R-UT), OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: What is it that I as a member of Congress or any member of Congress, either side of the aisle, what it is you believe we don`t have the right to see?
See, this is the way our government works. We get to do oversight. That`s why since 1814, this committee has been doing that.
See, it`s trust but verify is how it works. You don`t get to decide what I get to see. I get to see it all. I was elected by some 800,000 people to come to Congress and see classified information.
I was elected by my colleagues here to be the chairman of this committee. That`s the way our Constitution works.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: You don`t get to decide what I get to see, I get to see it all! He was very animated then.
But there are signs of concern that he is not going to be so animated now. Sources on the Oversight Committee have now started to express some serious concerns about whether or not Congressman Chaffetz will follow through and press the White House to respond to his own document requests.
The White House obviously blew off Chairman Chaffetz in a very public way yesterday when they refused to provide even a single document. Since then, though, he hasn`t said anything about scheduling a meeting with the White House, doing any follow-up with them at all, let alone subpoenaing them. Oversight committee sources tell us tonight that they are wondering if Chaffetz is just going to back down to the Trump White House on this.
Joining us now is Evelyn Farkas. She`s the former deputy assistant secretary of defense.
Ms. Farkas, thank you very much for being here.
EVELYN FARKAS, FORMER U.S. DEPUTY ASST. SECY. OF DEFENSE FOR RUSSIA: Thank you for having me, Rachel.
MADDOW: I`ve admired your work for a long time. It`s been too long for us to have had you without being on the show. Thank you for being here.
FARKAS: Thank you. Thank you.
MADDOW: I`m not sure I understand the security clearance process versus the vetting process here. What kind of documentation, what kind of process would you expect somebody like Mike Flynn to go through in terms of becoming national security adviser in the Trump White House?
FARKAS: Right. Well, first of all, there is a security clearance, which is to make sure you have no conflicts of interest, no foreign entanglements. Makes sure the government knows who you get your money from, who you associate regularly, whether you have relatives or other foreign contacts that you`re constantly in touch with, because they have to make sure that you don`t have a conflict of interest, that you`re putting the United States first because you are actually going into government. You`re going to take an oath to the Constitution, to the U.S. government.
The vetting process, that`s something separate. That`s actually more political, although there is an FBI component to make sure you don`t have a problem with, I don`t know, drunk driving or a criminal record that you didn`t disclose.
MADDOW: It`s kind of a background check component to the vet process.
FARKAS: Yes. So -- but they`ll also do a political vetting. What articles did you write? Did you write any articles that might cause embarrassment to the White House? But the most important thing really is this SF-86, the security clearance form.
Now, in the case of General Flynn you mentioned he would have had to re-up. It`s not entirely clear, because often times, someone like him coming out of the government, he was director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, right?
MADDOW: Right at the top.
FARKAS: It`s a really important job. And oftentimes, even if it`s a new administration, they want to have access to that person to be able to pull them back, to use them as a consultant, say you`re the new DIA director. You have a hard problem. You suspect your predecessor has some information or experience pertaining to that.
You can go back actually several administrations. And I know many former officials from previous administrations are still going in, getting briefings, having active security clearances.
MADDOW: And that means they`re able to maintain their clearance over time without having a government job that on the surface would require them to have.
FARKAS: Correct. So, that`s called an active security clearance if it`s active. Now, you can have an active security clearance for five years. And then you have to go and fill out all the paperwork again, especially if you`re not in government, but even if you`re in government.
FARKAS: Because you have to keep that form up to date. Maybe you have a new friend. Maybe you have a new relative due to marriage, right? Someone who is, say, a Turkish national. You want to be able to disclose that to the government.
And I mention -- I didn`t mention earlier, the other reason is you don`t want blackmail. You know, you want your government to know everything so there are no secrets so no other government or entity can actually blackmail you to do something counter to your government`s interest.
FARKAS: So, it`s all about transparency. It`s all about making sure we don`t inadvertently hire spies or people who are working as foreign agents.
MADDOW: And thus the idea that the White House says they have zero documentation related to Mike Flynn and his vetting seems a little --
FARKAS: Well, so related to the security clearance, it`s possible that they just took -- because what we know from public documents from reporting is that Mike Flynn got a new security clearance. He re-upped. He renewed his security clearance, that SF-86 form in January of 2016. And then, publicly, he became associated with Trump in February of 2016. But I think he probably just was up on that five-year deadline.
If he had renewed it in January of 2016, then it`s very -- it is likely that the NSC, the White House, the Defense Department would not have made him do a full SF-86. It`s a real pain in the ass, excuse my French. You have to write every country and as I mentioned already, all your foreign contacts and actually American contacts too. People have to reference -- give references and make sure, again, that you can be trusted.
OK. So once you do that, if you`re taking a new job, though, he has been out of the government, in the U.S. government. You may be required. The White House may have or should have made him update his SF-86. Give all the new contacts that he had since he filled out the form in January, unless he was reporting those regularly to the Department of Defense.
So, there are a lot of open questions with regard to what he was reporting. And then, of course, the financial disclosure forms, those he definitely would have had to give to the White House Office of Personnel Management, OPM for short. And that`s the office that the congressmen should be getting their information from.
FARKAS: They may not have very much. It may be coming from DOD and it may be that the White House didn`t give a full scrub of the security clearance information. And we don`t know what they did with regard to the FBI.
MADDOW: It`s all super important in terms of figuring out what the trail is that these members of Congress are trying to follow and where there is likely to be documentation, particularly given that they`ve just been blanked.
Evelyn Farkas, former deputy assistant secretary of defense, thank you for helping us put this together. I feel like it`s a puzzle and we`re filling in the frame before we get to the middle of it.
FARKAS: Thank you very much.
MADDOW: Thanks very much for your time. Thank you.
All right. We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: Today, the White House rolled out this double space deeply indented piece of paper they`re calling the president`s comprehensive tax plan. Tonight, the world`s foremost expert on what the president`s tax plan might mean for the president`s own personal tax, David Cay Johnston, is going to be live on this network on "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL," which starts right now.
Good evening, Lawrence.
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