Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW Date: June 16, 2017 Guest: Bob Bauer, Amy Klobuchar
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: That is "ALL IN" for this evening.
THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now. Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thanks, my friend. Have a great weekend.
HAYES: You too.
MADDOW: And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
We got a lot going on in the news tonight, particularly a bunch of news out of Washington tonight here on this show. We`ve got President Obama`s White House counsel joining us tonight for the interview. I`m very much looking forward to that. We`ve got a lot to get to.
Before we dive into some of that news tonight, though, this hour, I do want to first update you on this strange and I have to say now bad story off the coast of Japan tonight. This is the USS Fitzgerald. It`s a U.S. Navy destroyer. That`s a large ship. It`s about 500 feet long. There`s nearly 300 crew onboard.
And as you can see from these images, the Fitzgerald has sustained some pretty serious damage. It got that damaged when it collided tonight with this other ship. This is a Japanese container ship, it`s a commercial vessel. You can see it`s the damage to the container ship is comparatively lighter, It`s to the front left side of the Japanese container ship, the port side of the bow.
These two very large ships apparently collided with each other, about 60, 65 miles off the coast of Japan, in the middle of the night local time, 2:30 a.m. local time, that`s about 1:30 p.m. East Coast time in the United States. And you know, we`re not sure exactly why this collision happened. Things like this do not happen very often. I mean, it`s a big ocean and these are too immense and modern ships.
But NBC`s excellent Pentagon producer Courtney Kube who has been on this story since it first broke, she tells us tonight that the Fitzgerald suffered significant damage, as you can see on its right side on its starboard side, and the damage is apparently both above and below the waterline, which is bad.
Just for reference, for visual reference, let me show you these pictures here -- can we actually drop the banner for a second so we can see a fuller -- yes, there we go. This is what these two ships look like on a normal day before this collision. That`s container ship on the left, the Navy destroyer on the right. That`s what they looked like on a good day. This is the damage that both of them have sustained after this collision.
Now, we`re told that another U.S. Navy destroyer of the same class as the Fitzgerald, a destroyer called the USS Dewey has been dispatched to the scene to go help. We`ve also been told that two Navy tugs are being dispatched as quickly as possible to the scene.
In terms of injuries and potential loss of life here, the news is worrying. We`re told that at least one U.S. service member onboard was medevaced off the Fitzgerald via helicopter. Beyond that for a long time after this happens today and into tonight, we have been having a hard time getting a clear indication as to whether there were other U.S. Navy sailors hurt or missing in this incident. We know that Japanese Coast Guard and the U.S. Navy have both been very actively involved in what is now a pretty big response effort here.
But just in the last few minutes, a U.S. military official -- excuse me, a U.S. official has told NBC`s Courtney Kube that in addition to that U.S. Navy sailor who is medevaced off the Fitzgerald after this incident happened, an additional seven U.S. sailors are unaccounted for. And that is very worrying news. So, again, this happened off the coast of Japan about 60, 65 miles off the coast of Japan. It happened in the middle of the night, local time. That is about 1:30 p.m. East Coast Time in the United States.
So, we are several hours into this rescue effort now, you can see some of the damage -- you can see the damage that appears clearly on the container ship, the damage on the Fitzgerald is again both above and below the waterline. It`s turning into a large response and again that very worrying news about those unaccounted for U.S. sailors.
We will keep you posted on that over the course of this evening as we learn more tonight. As I say Courtney Kube is NBC`s Pentagon producer and who has been reporting aggressively on this since it happened. We`re going to be in touch with Courtney over the course of the hour as we get more.
I should also tell you tonight that we are also keeping an eye on the twin cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul this evening. This afternoon, a jury returned a not guilty verdict in the case of a St. Anthony, Minnesota police officer who had been charged in the death of Philando Castile. You remember that name because this is a case that got a lot of nationwide attention. Philando Castile was killed by that police officer during a routine traffic stop.
The officer today was acquitted but then immediately after the not guilty verdict came in, his police department announced that he was fired from his job. But again, he has been found not guilty. We`re keeping an eye on possible protests tonight in the Twin Cities. You see a live shot there as people are starting to gather in response to that verdict. We`re going to keep you posted on that developing story as we learn more over the course of this evening.
I should also tell you we are going to be joined in just a few minutes by Minnesota Senior Senator Amy Klobuchar.
So, that`s all that`s all coming up. As I say, there`s a lot going on in the news tonight. This is not a night to check out because it`s Friday. This is a news -- a night when the news is going to keep happening not only through this hour, but I think late into the night.
That said, because it is Friday, if we`re being honest, because it is a day that ends in Y in this era, there is a lot of news, including late-breaking news tonight coming out of Washington as well.
In terms of the Washington news tonight, I need to tell you a story that starts with Bill Clinton who went to college at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. Bill Clinton as a young man got there as an undergraduate in 1964. He graduated in 1968.
And one of the stories about Bill Clinton`s college career ends up being sort of relevant tonight to what we`ve just learned in Washington. Legend has it, legend has long had it that at some time during Bill Clinton`s early college years when he was at Georgetown when he was a young man maybe when he was about so maybe when he was a freshman, young Bill Clinton went to a party in Massachusetts that was a beach party. And political legend has it that at that beach party, he was swimming in the ocean and he basically got grabbed by a riptide and started to get pulled out to sea.
And when that happened, another young man, another, you know, 19-ish year old man, a Harvard student, came to his rescue. And the man who came to Bill Clinton`s rescue and that possibly apocryphal near-drowning story was a man named Fife Symington Fife Symington was a Harvard student at the time this supposedly happened. He also went on to be a very famous politician in his own right.
Fife Symington was a Republican. He ended up becoming governor of Arizona. Bill Clinton, of course, was a Democrat who ended up becoming governor of Arkansas and then president of the United States.
I have to tell you. I`ve heard the story a million times, I have always suspected that the 1960s beach party riptide Fife Symington/Bill Clinton rescue story might be holy or at least in part apocryphal. But I`ve heard it a million times and it is one of the things that people talked about a lot.
Years later, in 2001, at the end of Bill Clinton`s time in office, when he issued -- surprise -- a presidential pardon to Fife Symington, the guy who maybe saved him from drowning all those decades earlier.
In 1997, Fife Symington had been convicted of seven felonies related to his business life as a commercial real estate developer. Fife Symington was charged with a whole raft of corruption charges. He was ultimately convicted of filing false financial statements. Basically, he was convicted of bank fraud, ultimately down the road an appeals court would overturn his convictions and then later, in 2001, he would get a presidential pardon from bad swimmer Bill Clinton.
But when that case was brought, when those convictions happened that was a big traumatic legal case in the country broadly but obviously specifically for Fife Symington. He was a very popular figure at Republican politics. People were looking at him as a person of potential presidential timber. Those convictions in 1997 forced him out of office immediately as Arizona governor and ultimately ended his political career.
His lawyer as he went through that trauma and those convictions was a guy named John Dowd. John Dowd also represented, I should tell you, Arizona Senator John McCain in the Keating Five scandal. John McCain called his own involvement in that corruption scandal, quote: The worst mistake of my life.
John McCain politically survived that scandal. He ultimately did not get criminally charged like a lot of other people did, he didn`t get thrown out of Congress for his involvement in it, but it was bad for John McCain. The ethics committee in the Senate ripped him for his involvement in that scandal. They ripped him for his poor judgment. They basically said the only reason they didn`t go after him further for some of his own financial entanglements in that scandal was because McCain was in the House at the time he did those things, and the Senate Ethics Committee didn`t feel like they had jurisdiction over him for his wrongdoing when he was just a member of the House of Representatives, instead of the Senate.
So, John McCain survived the Keating Five scandal but by the skin of his teeth, and his lawyer in that matter was the Fife Symington guy, it was this guy, John Dowd.
John Dowd is also famous for this case from 2011. This is a case that went very badly. I will just read you the lead sentence from "The New York Times" report on this case the day the ruling came down.
Quote, The fallen hedge fund billionaire Raj Rajaratnam received the longest prison sentence ever for insider trick -- for insider trading on Thursday. That fallen hedge fund billionaire, his lawyer when he got the longest prison sentence ever for insider trading, his lawyer was John Dowd. John Dowd, Fife Symington. John Dowd, John McCain. John Dowd, longest insider trading prison sentence ever.
And that same lawyer, John Dowd, is now going to be Donald Trump`s new lawyer.
President Trump had reportedly had a hard time finding name brand D.C. lawyers and D.C. law firms to represent him in the ongoing investigations into the Russian attacks on the presidential campaign last year, and the question of whether or not his campaign might have helped in that Russian attack. Those investigations have now also reportedly expanded to include potential obstruction of justice by the president himself and maybe by other people in his administration.
That resistance from big D.C. lawyers and big D.C. law firms him calling them looking for representation, and firm after firm telling him no, that has meant that the president`s legal team as he has assembled his legal team for these scandals it`s been a little unorthodox for somebody who was facing scandals as serious as the ones this president is facing.
The first lawyer he signed up famously with a lawyer named Marc Kasowitz. He`s a lawyer who has done things like real estate law and divorce law for the president in the past but he has never done anything like anything of the Washington legal troubles that the president finds himself in now.
In addition to Marc Kasowitz, we also got indirect notice that the president had signed up a notable litigator from the religious right, a guy who started off representing televangelists, a guy who does cases about like, you know, displaying the Ten Commandments and stuff like that. He was a very good lawyer but he`s known for a very specific kind of law, we got indirect notice that the president had also signed up Jay Sekulow to his legal team when Mr. Sekulow started appearing on TV shows defending the president and speaking for him apparently as one of his private lawyers. That`s the way we found out he got that job.
Well, now, to that unlikely presidential legal team, the president has apparently today added John Dowd who at least, at least he has been involved in some high-profile political scandals in the past and Mr. Dowd is well-regarded in his field even though some of the stuff he is most famous for is stuff where his clients did not come out all that well at all. His team of lawyers that the president is putting together to defend them and his various scandals, this, of course, is a team that the president will end up paying for himself or at least we the taxpayers won`t have one that won`t end up paying for those lawyers. These are private lawyers who are totally separate and apart from the official White House counsel whose salary we do pay.
I imagine though that the matter of paying for his private lawyers is like the least concerning element of all of this for President Trump, right, if only because he is so personally wealthy. We got a reminder of in a lot more detail about the extent of his personal wealth today when the White House released new financial disclosure forms for the president himself. We`ll be talking about those a little later -- a little bit more later on in this hour.
But I have to tell you as we got that new evidence of the president`s wealth and we got new news about the president adding to his legal team, we also just in the past hours got news that another senior member of the administration, someone who is not wealthy at all, has also just hired himself a top dollar, very well-regarded lawyer to represent him in these ongoing scandals. And right now, as we speak, Vice President Mike Pence who just hired that new expensive lawyer, he`s back home in Indiana tonight and specifically, he`s at the Marriott Hotel in downtown Indianapolis because he is holding a fundraiser there.
Interesting, though, Mike Pence tonight is not holding the fundraiser for the Republican Party. He`s not holding a fundraiser for any of the subsidiary elements with the Republican Party like its Senate campaign fund or its House campaign fund. He`s not holding a fundraiser for like you know that Republican candidate in next week`s congressional election in Georgia.
Now, it`s interesting, tonight, Vice President Mike Pence is holding that fundraiser in Indianapolis for his own political action committee, his own PAC. Never before in the history of the country has a vice president set up and operated his own political action committee while he was still serving as vice president and not technically running for anything. The people attending Mike Pence`s fundraiser for his PAC tonight in Indianapolis paid a lot of money to go do it, anywhere from $1,000 just to get into the reception up to $5,000 a plate to attend something they`re calling the leadership committee round table, which I think is just nonsense fundraising speak for I paid more money so I could be in a smaller room. But five people are paying five thousand bucks a pop to go round table with Mike Pence tonight in Indiana.
Now, it`s unusual, full stop, that a vice president has a political action committee. But on top of that there is now this intriguing question as to how Mike Pence is going to pay for his very expensive private lawyer who just announced the hiring of yesterday. I mean, this is the person who`s going to defend Mike Pence and represent Mike Pence in anything having to do with the Trump-Russia scandal or the obstruction of justice investigations. This is a lawyer who gets paid a lot per hour and it`s probably going to be working a lot of hours.
Is it possible that this fundraiser for Mike Pence`s PAC tonight in Indianapolis, is it possible that`s actually going to be a way for people to fund Mike Pence`s legal defense?
We called the vice president`s spokesman tonight to ask whether the money that the vice president is raising right now tonight for his PAC, whether that money might be used in the future for Mike Pence`s legal defense. The vice president`s spokesperson would not really say exactly. But this is the exact response we got from him. Quote: His legal fees will be paid by non-tax dollars. Quote: That`s all we are saying. We have not discussed it except to say that it is not tax dollars.
That was in response to us asking if this fundraiser for his PAC tonight is going to raise money for his legal-defense. It won`t be tax dollars. That`s all we`re saying.
So, we don`t know if that means that donations to Mike Pence`s PAC are going to be used to pay his legal defense. If that`s now going to be how he spends his time as vice president doing fundraisers to pay for his lawyers. The only assurance that we have from the vice president`s office is that you know he`s not going to have a taxpayer-funded defense but we knew that already he can`t have a taxpayer-funded defense.
I should tell you, we then tried to contact Mike Pence`s PAC itself. The vice president`s PAC is called the Great America Committee. There is a person who`s listed on their FEC forms as the contact person for the PAC. We found that person tonight and spoke with her, find out if tonight`s fundraiser might ultimately be used to fund the vice president`s legal fees, she told us that she has forwarded our question to the appropriate contacts. But we don`t know what that means that we have anything further. So, we`ll let you know that may be a new part of how the vice-president spends his vice presidency.
The vice-president and his family do not have particularly deep pockets. They`re going to have to raise money somehow for his legal fees.
Now, whether that`s already started with the creation of this PAC in this fundraiser tonight in Indianapolis, we honestly don`t know. We do intend to find out.
You know, a lot of the focus on the scandal surrounding the White House has shifted this week to potential obstruction of justice, right? This week will be remembered for this blockbuster reporting that the special counsel Robert Mueller has now made the president the subject of an ongoing FBI criminal inquiry into whether or not there was obstruction of justice by the president to try to somehow floor or pervert the FBI`s ongoing investigations into the Russia issue.
And that`s a very, very big deal. But even as that -- the media focus has shifted to that question because of that new reporting, is shifted to obstruction of justice, the original question about whether or not the Trump campaign colluded with Russia, colluded with the Russian government in the Russian attack on the election, that`s still the central question, that`s still at the center of the bullseye in terms of what investigators are looking at both in Congress and at the FBI.
And that came back into a very sharp focus with the other big news that just broke tonight and that`s next.
MADDOW: Tonight, CNN was first to report that the guy who ran digital strategy for the Trump 2016 presidential campaign is about to be called to testify before the House Intelligence Committee that`s investigating the Russian attack on our election and the question of whether the Trump campaign colluded. And that`s really interesting. I think it`s also a sign of what`s going to be coming down the pike in the next couple of weeks. In general, I should tell you that over the next week or two, it looks like we`re about to get back to a focus on that that collusion issue and on the Russian attack itself.
Next week on Wednesday, the House Intelligence Committee is going to hear from Jeh Johnson. He was homeland security secretary during the Russian attack, right through the end of the Obama administration. That same day, the intelligence committee in the Senate is going to take testimony from a bunch of experts and elections officials who are going to be talking about the Russian hacking attack as they experienced it, as it targeted state and local election systems.
Beyond that Russian hacking attack on state and local election systems though, which we`re learning more and more about all the time, and beyond the Russian hacking attack on the Democratic Party and the Clinton campaign, the other prong of the Russian attack last year was, of course, their open source social media stuff. Russia appears to have had paid operatives and automated bots using propaganda and disinformation and mounting these kinds of swarming style attacks to disrupt the messaging of the pro-Clinton anti-Trump side and to promote and circulate pro-Trump anti-Clinton news and disinformation.
And if CNN is right in this report tonight, and the investigating committees are now going to start questioning Donald Trump`s digital campaign chief from his presidential campaign about that part of the Russian attack, then it would seem that they`re getting -- the investigative committees are starting to focus pretty intently on that original basic question of whether or not anybody associated with the Trump campaign was a confederate, was an American confederate helping the Russians mount this attack on our country.
As CNN describes it in their report tonight, quote: The committee`s are interested in how Russian bots were able to target political messages in specific districts, in critical swing states. Senator Mark Warner on the Senate Intelligence committee asked about this publicly at an open hearing in March, saying, quote, would the Russians on their own have that level of sophisticated knowledge about the American political system if they did not at least get some advice from someone in America?
Again, CNN reporting tonight that Trump digital director the presidential campaign digital director Brad Parscale will be called before the House Intelligence Committee, quote, soon. They also report that the -- and they also note, I should say, that the executive in charge of data operations overall for the Trump campaign was Trump`s son-in-law Jared Kushner, who keep circling -- his name keeps surfacing in all sorts of reports about the ongoing investigations.
Now, in terms of the investigatory committees in Congress, we were first to report today that although it is the Judiciary Committees in the House and Senate who have oversight responsibility for the Justice Department and the FBI, it`s the judiciary committees who therefore would be investigating credible allegations of high-level obstruction of justice in the White House, we were first to report today that although the Senate Judiciary Committee is taking up that investigation, the Judiciary Committee in the House is not.
The Republican chairman of the Judiciary Committee in the House is named Bob Goodlatte and a Judiciary Committee staffer today gave us this statement, which is very vaguely worded but I`ll give you the bottom line - - they`re not doing any investigating into obstruction of justice in the House.
Now, in the Senate, they certainly are. Boy howdy, are they?
Dianne Feinstein, the Democrat, Chuck Grassley, the Republican, those are the top two senators who are senior on that committee, and the two of them have been exchanging increasingly detailed public letters about all the things they want to investigate related to potential obstruction of justice.
Senator Feinstein sent a letter yesterday in which to explain to Senator Grassley that these are all the people she wants to testify as that committee starts to dig in on this obstruction of justice question. She says she wants testimony from the Attorney General Jeff Sessions. She says she wants testimony from fired FBI Director James Comey and if he keeps saying no to their asking them -- they`re asking him she wants him to be subpoenaed.
She also wants Director Comey`s memos. She also wants to question all of the senior FBI officials who James Comey says he told about his conversations with the president. She wants to interview the deputy director of the FBI and the chief of staff - the FBI director and the general counsel of the FBI and the number three person at the FBI, and she wants to interview the head of the national security branch in the FBI. She wants to interview Dana Boente, who is the number four person in the Justice Department. She wants to interview the Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats. She wants to interview the head of the NSA, Mike Rogers, and she would like to do all of that very soon please.
I don`t know if Republican Senator Chuck Grassley, the chairman, will agree to that list, but she has made her list public. She has argued her case publicly for why that committee needs to hear from those people if we are ever to get to the bottom of these obstruction of justice allegations.
One point here though -- even with that giant list of people that that investigatory committee apparently wants to talk to, there is one name that is not on that big long list that puzzles me for not being there. Part of the reason everybody wants to keep talking to the Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats. You know, he gave hours of testimony in open session last week, he apparently gave three hours of testimony in classified session yesterday, three hours alone in classified session with the Judiciary Committee -- sorry, with the Intelligence Committee.
Now, the Judiciary Committee wants to talk to him too. It has been reported by "The Washington Post" and "The New York Times" and NBC and "The Wall Street Journal" that Robert Mueller also plans to interview Dan Coats sometime very soon if he hasn`t already. And part of the reason everybody wants to talk to him, part of the reason Dan Coats is so important to the question of obstruction of justice, is because the obstruction of justice thing isn`t just about firing James Comey. Nobody thinks Dan Coats was involved in the firing of James Comey.
There is a question beyond that of whether or not the White House, the president himself maybe, tried to pressure the FBI into dropping their investigation beyond just the threatening and firing of James coming. And "The Washington Post" reported that on March 22nd, President Trump asked Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence, in person, in the Oval Office, if he could contact the FBI and try to get him to drop their Russia investigation. If that reporting is true, if the president said that to Dan Coats, if that`s what`s driving all of the interests and all of these committees of the special counsel and talking to Dan Coats, if that`s what`s driving all the imperative to get his testimony about this, it should also be noted that that report from "The Washington Post" says there was a witness to that conversation between the president and Dan Coats, there was somebody else in the room when President Trump reportedly made that request. It was the CIA Director Mike Pompeo.
With all these gigantic lists now of people who have been, you know, advised to get lawyers and told to get ready for their interviews of the special counsel and get prepared to be interviewed if not subpoenaed by the investigative committees in Congress, Mike Pompeo, he was reportedly in an in-person direct witness to one of the most overt alleged acts by the president to obstruct justice in this case, but nobody seems to want to talk to him.
Tonight, we can report that at the end of last month, at the end of May, Chuck Grassley and Dianne Feinstein sent him a letter. They sent a letter to CIA Director Mike Pompeo, asking him to tell them what he knows about whether White House officials tried directly or indirectly to pressure the FBI about its Russia investigation. They sent him that letter on May 26, telling him they needed his response by June 9th. June 9th was a week ago.
We can report tonight that Pompeo never responded to that.
These investigations are as red-hot as they have ever been. We`re going to be talking tonight about the speculation, I would even say the indications that the president may be gearing up to try to fire the special counsel, and he -- and maybe other senior justice officials on it on his way toward that goal. But stick a pin in this thing about the CIA Director Mike Pompeo. I mean, maybe -- I don`t know maybe there is something magic about being CIA director that means investigating committees and special counsels don`t interview, they don`t call you as a witness even if you were in the middle of something they are investigating.
But unless there`s some magic CIA rule like that protecting him from being questioned, it does seem strange so far that Mike Pompeo appears to have like a little force field around him, deflecting any concerns about his actions and what he knows and what he saw, while everybody else around him up to and including the vice president and the president start lawyering up.
We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: The president woke up this morning and he made a public statement on Twitter which is not the sort of thing that would usually grab my attention. This one I think has ended up being important though because something appears to have gone wrong in his lawyer`s response to it.
The president statement this morning started with these exact words, quote, I am being investigated.
Things went hinky shortly thereafter. After the president made that public statement today starting with those key four words, we got this at NBC News: A source close to Trump`s outside legal counsel tells NBC News that the president definitely was not confirming that he is under investigation when he made that statement on Twitter this morning. That statement again, I am being investigated.
Now, I am not a lawyer and I know that sometimes lawyer talk is magic talk that regular humans can`t understand. But when you say, quote, I am being investigated, that is not a subtle thing. That`s not open to a lot of interpretation, right, unless maybe they`re trying to say that being investigated is something different than being under investigation maybe that`s the divide -- is that a distinction? Is that a difference?
Look, unless the president`s lawyer is trying to make us believe something that insane, he appears to be already having some basic trouble handling even the basic public utterances of his client. His client is saying in public, I`m being investigated. His lawyer says my client never said that.
With the news today that the president has added another lawyer to his personal legal team, it does look like the president`s private counsel will be getting some help, but jeez, this is not the way you would expect a very serious multi-pronged investigation into a sitting president to be unfolding in the modern era. I think it is unfolding the way you might expect on the prosecutors side, but not so far on the president`s side. Not at all and I`m not sure that`s good for people who like the president or people who don`t.
Joining us now for the interview is Bob Bauer, who is an excellent lawyer. He was White House counsel to President Barack Obama.
Mr. Bauer, thank you very much for being with us tonight. I really appreciate your time.
BOB BAUER, WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL FOR OBAMA ADMINISTRATION: Thank you. Pleasure.
MADDOW: As a legal matter, it`s, of course -- I mean, it`s of interest to us non-lawyers, it`s of interest to us in the public that the president is confirming that he`s under investigation. But is there a legal reason why his lawyer would try to dispute that? Is there any legal consequence to the president admitting publicly that he is under investigation?
BAUER: No, lawyers going to want the client to be shouting from the rooftop but he`s under investigation and that certainly would be true with the president of the United States. There was another aspect to the tweet this morning there was quite striking another attack on law enforcement and that too would have to concern the president`s counsel.
The president after all is worried that he`s being investigated for obstruction of justice and for him, then oddly enough, to begin attacking the people who are conducting the investigation is not the presentation that he wants to make, that after all the whole point is he doesn`t want to appear to be impeding the administration of justice not by tweet, not by any other actions that he takes in the Oval Office. So, his communication strategy does not seem to be aligning very well with his legal defense.
MADDOW: Let me ask you, though, again coming at this from a non-lawyer perspective the president`s argument made in you know Twitter ease, you know, characters or less was that he`s under investigation for firing the FBI director by someone who advised him to fire the FBI director. He`s obviously referring to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein there.
Does the president sort of have a point that if the Comey firing is being looked at as potential obstruction, nobody who had any role in that firing should be overseeing that investigation?
BAUER: That question came up today. There were reports that the deputy Attorney General Rosenstein was thinking about recusing himself. Later in the day, his office put out the word that in fact he wasn`t prepared to do so, but that that opinion could change at any time. And that the investigation proceeds he`s going to have to make a judgment about whether he`s going to be drawn into this obstruction investigation as a witness perhaps, in a way that makes it impossible for him to supervise the investigation and then if he refuses of course it goes to another departmental official to take over the responsibility of supervising the special counsel.
MADDOW: So, are you saying that if the obstruction investigation does come to focus on this issue of the firing of the FBI director, the special counsel might have an option whether or not to call on Mr. Rosenstein as a potential witness if he doesn`t, if he chooses to leave Mr. Rosenstein`s involvement beside the point and outside the scope of his or outside that the bounds of his investigation that might protect Rosenstein in his role and allow him to stay on board overseeing the investigation overall?
BAUER: It`s difficult to see that he`ll never contact Mr. Rosenstein. I think maybe what Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein is waiting to see is what precisely is the line of questioning that he will face have deeply drawn in, he will be what role effectively he`ll play in the investigation and it may be on that basis that he decides whether he`s required to recuse himself if the rule.
If fairly is minor, that may be one thing. It`s not clear at all just exactly how he`s going to apply the recusal standards in this case.
MADDOW: We`re all learning about that you know order of succession at the Justice Department, thinking about that prospect the number three in succession, Rachel Brand, the number four in succession, Dana Boente, they`re now becoming very interesting figures political in terms of their political leanings and what people think about them in the legal profession, it`s all hypothetical at this point until that recusal happens.
But on the other side of this Mr. Bower, I wanted to ask you about the legal team that the president has started to assemble thus far. I don`t want to ask you to be personal than any of these lawyers, I don`t know if you even know any of them personally.
But do you think that he`s got the right kind of counsel to give him the best possible defense?
BAUER: Well, he`s adding different lawyers with different experience. What is most notable is that the lawyer that he has at the pinnacle, the one who`s in charge, doesn`t have any Washington or meaningful white-collar criminal experience would be brought to bear in a case like this and in the end you know the team is really defined by its leadership. But perhaps, you know, the lawyer will find the appropriate balance and he`ll build sort of in Lego-like fashion what he needs to represent the president effectively.
MADDOW: Bob Bauer, former White House counsel to President Barack Obama, Mr. Bauer, thank you very much for your time tonight. I hope you come back and talk to us again soon.
BAUER: Thank you.
MADDOW: Thank you.
All right. I have -- I have more questions on this topic, particularly tonight on the Senate investigation side of this, which seem to be heating up very fast. Luckily, we`ve got a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee on this show tonight. That`s ahead, plus lots more.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: So, it`s at scandals surrounding the Trump presidency in Washington the investigative focus on Capitol Hill has shifted sharply in the last couple of days to the Senate Judiciary Committee. Senator Amy Klobuchar is a member of that committee. Senator Klobuchar is also doubly, triply at the center of news we`ve been covering today and tonight because in the Senate, she has also been a staunch advocate of lifting the embargo with Cuba.
Today, the president partially rolled back President Obama`s efforts in that regard. Also, Amy Klobuchar is the senior senator from Minnesota and protests tonight are starting to take shape in Minnesota. We`ve been expecting that tonight in the twin cities region after a controversial verdict acquitting the police officer who killed Philando Castile in a St. Paul suburb last year during what was otherwise a routine traffic stop.
Joining us now is Senator Amy Klobuchar, who is at home in Minnesota.
Senator, it`s really nice to have you back with us again tonight. Thanks for being here.
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D), MINNESOTA: Thank you very much, Rachel.
MADDOW: Let me -- let me first get your reaction to this verdict today in the Philando Castile cases. Thirty-two-year-old African-American man shot by police after being pulled over in his car last year. There`s been a not guilty verdict for that officer and we`re seeing protests start to take shape in the streets.
KLOBUCHAR: Well, I met Philando Castile and his family, attended the funeral, and I can tell you, he was loved by so many students. He was a cafeteria worker for a number of years, and a lot of people from that school miss him dearly.
So, this is going to be a hard day and a hard weekend in the Twin Cities, hard for our community. I will tell you there were top-notch prosecutors assigned to this case from not just the Ramsey County attorney`s office but the also the U.S. attorney`s office. And as the St. Paul mayor has asked for this son of St. Paul that was that bet died that we have peaceful marches we have a large history of activism and social activism in Minnesota, and our hope is that we will have peaceful marches this evening.
But people certainly have a right to express their views.
MADDOW: Do you have faith in local authorities and local police that they are capable of policing large even angry large demonstrations and keeping order without things -- without things getting violent?
KLOBUCHAR: Well, we hope so. This had been planned. We knew that the verdict would come out and the plan had long been from the community to go to St. Paul, to go to the capitol the day that the verdict came out not knowing what it would be.
And so, so far, they are peaceful protests and we hope that will continue. It`s very important that people have the right to express their views.
MADDOW: Senator, let me also ask you about a controversy that you`ve been very outspoken on, an international matter of the embargo with Cuba. President Trump, I forgive -- I don`t mean this in a mean way, but he hasn`t accomplished much in terms of policy.
KLOBUCHAR: You be mean? No.
MADDOW: I know, I tried never to be me especially when I talk to you Minnesota nice.
MADDOW: But, I mean, obviously got Neil Gorsuch confirmed in the Senate, they had to change the Senate rules in order to do it. He hasn`t really passed any substantive policy at all. The Republicans haven`t passed anything. They have however rolled back a number of initiatives from the Obama administration, including today, taking a big whack at the policy change that President Obama initiated towards Cuba.
What`s your reaction to that?
KLOBUCHAR: Well, this made no sense to me. Seventy-three percent of the American people believe that we should continue to open relations with Cuba, and here you have a policy that he announced today that while is not a full rollback, which is no surprise, it`s a setback not a rollback.
But it basically chills tourism. It makes it harder for people to visit. There`s talk about auditing them within the next five years, you don`t know when you`re going to be asked why did you go to Cuba and, yes, it`s supposed to show the Treasury Department, your records.
And I don`t think this is a positive development. We now have senators on the bill to lift the ban to travel to Cuba, 55 senators including a number of Republicans. We have many senators on my bill to lift the embargo with Senator Enzi, Republican from Wyoming.
And so, my concern is that that`s really going to slow that momentum down at a time where Russia is starting to invest, China starting to invest, the Spain -- Spanish companies are building hotels and it makes no sense to me at all the way you change human rights in Cuba, as the pope believes, is by opening up Cuba to the rest of the world.
MADDOW: Senator, you`re also on the Judiciary Committee. I said you`re in the middle of all of our different stories of recovering tonight. The Judiciary Committee is now taking a newly assertive role in the investigation into these scandal surrounding the Russia attack, the potential collusion by the Trump campaign with the Russia attack, and specifically on your committee the question about whether there`s been an effort to obstruct justice, trying to impede those investigations in any way.
Do you support that move by your committee? Do you think it`d be better to handle it all in intelligence rather than spreading it out among the different committees and other jurisdictions?
KLOBUCHAR: Intelligence is playing a very important role here. They are looking into a foreign power influencing our election and they`ve done it in a bipartisan basis, and they must move ahead.
But remember, the jurisdiction over oversight of the FBI and the Justice Department is squarely in the Senate Judiciary Committee, and I think it is very important that Senator Grassley has agreed with Senator Feinstein to move forward with our own hearings, because we`re going to have the new FBI nominee before us. We have to determine what happened with this firing. Senator Sessions, it`s unprecedented that he would go now attorney General Sessions before the Intelligence Committee which is fine, but to do that before judiciary, we not only want to ask about Russia and is meeting with the ambassador. We also want to ask about what they`re doing with the refugee order with voting rights? What is happening with the criminal justice reform or the lack thereof?
There are a lot of things that the attorney general must come before the Senate Judiciary Committee to discuss.
MADDOW: Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, it looks like it`s going to be a tough night tonight in Minnesota with those big protests and people very upset about that verdict. Good luck tonight and stay in touch with us over the course of this.
KLOBUCHAR: Thank you so much, Rachel.
MADDOW: Thank you, Senator.
All right, we got more to come here tonight. Do stay with us.
MADDOW: We got one more story we`re going to close with tonight before we get to that last story I just want to quickly mention something that MSNBC is going to do this weekend that I think is going to be kind of awesome. You might have seen the promos for this, but trust me, it`s really good.
We`re going to be airing this thing, "All The President`s Men: Revisited". "All the President`s Men" is, of course, one of the greatest American politics movies of all time. It`s about the Watergate scandal and the reporters who broke the story.
But this thing that we`re doing Saturday night puts together that amazing movie and the real-life story that it`s about. It sits together all the president`s men and the actual Watergate scandal. The real stuff into the movie about the real stuff together, and it`s really good. This Saturday night, it`s airing at 9:00 p.m. here on MSNBC. I have seen it it`s really good. You should watch it. There.
I`ll be right back.
MADDOW: Before Lawrence takes over for the night, I just want to update you on the story that we started with this hour, that U.S. Navy destroyer, the USS Fitzgerald, that collided with a Japanese container ship off the coast of Japan today. We have now confirmed that seven U.S. sailors are unaccounted for after that collision. We`re told by the Navy that the ship itself and the Japanese coast guard are looking for those seven missing sailors.
And I had said earlier that one sailor was medevaced off the ship after the collision we can now report based on the statement from the U.S. navy that the person who was medevaced off the ship was actually the commanding officer of the ship, Commander Bryce Benson. We`re told that other injured sailors are being assessed, and again there are seven sailors unaccounted for.
As what we know right now the commanding officer of the Fitzgerald is at the U.S. naval hospital in Yokosuka in Japan, who`s reportedly in stable condition. But again, he was removed from that ship after the collision by helicopter.
So, a serious situation off the coast of Japan tonight. We will continue to monitor it through the evening.
That does it for us tonight though for this hour. We`ll see you again on Monday.
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